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Editorial: Harrisburg must keep moving after bright moment

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The City of Harrisburg took a giant leap toward a brighter future this week when receiver William Lynch filed a recovery plan in Commonwealth Court.

It's been a long road, filled with finger-pointing and negativism, and the deal's not done yet. City Council must act on a number of items, and the court must approve the plan.

But let's take a moment to pause and congratulate the parties involved for getting the city to this point.

To recap the complex plan's highlights, it will allow the sale of the incinerator and enable the leasing of the city's parking system. These two items in combination will retire the bond debt relating to the incinerator and provide a cash infusion to address the city's current and near-term budget needs.

It will also establish a "growth" fund with three purposes — a health care trust fund to address anticipated increases in employee health care costs for current and retired city workers; a nonprofit economic development corporation; and a nonprofit infrastructure improvement corporation.

Everyone involved — the city, the county, the state, bond holders, suburban rate payers and city taxpayers — gets something out of this deal. Just as important, everybody gives something up. For one thing, city residents will be expected to pay the "temporary" 2 percent earned income tax at least until 2016.

The deal is an outcome many, especially those advocating for bankruptcy, saw as impossible.

Bankruptcy would have been the easy way out of Harrisburg's financial mess, but it was not a long-term solution. The recovery plan looks beyond short-term fixes.

It gives the city the opportunity not only to set itself right but also to begin investing in itself again. It also can be a positive example to other small cities, because it shows that negotiating settlements fair to all can be done.

That's no small thing for a city that's drawn national attention solely for its failings. When negotiators go to the table in other municipalities, "They did it in Harrisburg" will be another lever to employ as they work toward resolution.

In the glow of moment, however, let's not forget the recovery plan is still just a proposal at this point. We urge City Council and the court to act quickly to set the plan in motion. Rates are beginning to rise, and in any economic environments, a good deal can go bad fast.

The sooner Harrisburg moves from idea to execution, the better.

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