Thompson gives tearful State of the City address

“Harrisburg strong” is how Mayor Linda Thompson described the city during her final State of the City address Friday morning.

Tensions boiled over, business owners were concerned over the financial status of the city, frustrations were unleashed – that was last year.

On a rainy Friday morning, the breakfast at the Harrisburg Hilton was less contentious than previous years. Thompson attributed much of the city's success to the Harrisburg Strong plan, the city's court-approved recovery plan.

Between bacon and eggs, the meat and potatoes on Harrisburg Strong were served to members of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and CREDEC.

Moments before Thompson took to the podium to begin her address, she was given a standing ovation.

“There is a mood of renaissance and rejuvenation across the city, the capital region,” she said. “We have worked our way out of the worst financial crisis in the capital city's history.”

Thompson ran down a laundry list of her achievements over the past year, which hinged mainly on the recovery plan. Receiver William Lynch tip-toed on the line between allowing Thompson to tout victory yet let people know the plan must be executed.

“It's not over yet. Not by a long shot,” Lynch said.

He explained the deals involving the Harrisburg incinerator and parking system must be finalized. The bulk of the plan hinges on both being sold by the New Year.

Harrisburg must also eye up the bond market, which is currently doing well, he said. However, Lynch said a prolonged federal government shutdown could jeopardize future borrowing.

In Lynch's words, the state of the city is “cautiously optimistic.” Coming from where Harrisburg was, that's the best the city can get for now.

While the topic of leadership personalities in the city came up, Lynch was quick to credit the mayor for the Harrisburg's success.

“This is a tough lady,” he said. “Ask me how I know.”

His dry wit gathered a good chuckle from the crowd, many who have butted heads with Thompson in the past.

Governor Tom Corbett declared Harrisburg a fiscal emergency in October 2011. Two years later, the wounds have begun to heal. For the first time since the fiscal crisis, Thompson said the city will have a balanced budget heading into 2014.

In the waning days of her administration, Thompson has begun to reflect on the past four years and the tumultuous journey that conspired. In the final seconds of her final state of the city address, Thompson shed her hardened shell with a tearful farewell.

“I thank you for this opportunity to serve this city that I love,” she said,” a city in which I was born, a city that raised me, educated me, and provided me with my morals and values. I am deeply honored and grateful.”


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