Harrisburg residents tell city leaders what needs to be fixed

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As part of a new effort to figure out what’s working and what isn’t in Harrisburg, dozens of people met Tuesday in the City Hall atrium to tell city leaders where they want to see them focus.

The event, organized by Penn Live and the Patriot News’ new venture #HBGNext, gave residents a chance to directly question city leaders about things like why their streets aren’t being plowed sufficiently and what new initiatives will be undertaken to combat crime.

“The oil truck came to deliver oil and could not get down the street because of the ice and the snow,” said Paula Eiland Murphy, who lives in Harrisburg.

Public works director Aaron Johnson said this year’s frequent snow and recent ice storm presented unique challenges but offered to try to improve response on streets that still need to be cleared.

“When that ice hit, we couldn’t stay on top of it. So, you’ve got six inches of ice by the curb. And right now we have to take our loaders and take the bucket and break it up,” said Johnson.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse talked about his decision to move the city’s codes enforcement into the police bureau in an effort to more seriously address persistent issues with blight and trash in the city.

“Historically, we haven’t had the bite on the enforcement side,” said Papenfuse. “I think that there are repeat offenders that live within the community, and they need to get the message that they’re going to have clean up their act, or we’re going to come and get them.”

Papenfuse added warrant sweeps will begin soon. He also wants to upgrade some violations, such as causing a public nuisance, to misdemeanor status.

Police Chief Thomas Carter talked about an effort to reconfigure the zones police patrol, so that more officers are put in “troubled areas” such as Uptown and Allison Hill.

He said last month police arrested 91 people for felonies, 60 percent of which were drug crimes. Carter said 12 of the people arrested were juveniles.

With officers spending more time walking their beats, Carter pledged a crackdown on issues related to trash.

“We think it’s horrible that when a child walks outside, the first thing they see is trash,” said Carter.