Harrisburg comes first

Forced to choose between infrastructure and ice hockey, Governor Rendell chose infrastructure

As every voter in the state knows, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s love for sports is legendary. Especially when it comes to sports teams from Philadelphia, the city he once ran. But it’s a love that recently was forced to take second place to a greater love.

In June, Rendell went to a city council meeting in Harrisburg, the near-bankrupt state capital, “to share some of his own experiences about city finances”, a spokesperson told news website PennLive.com.

“Such is his love of the city of Harrisburg,” the spokesperson added, “that he is passing up an opportunity to attend Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Flyers and Blackhawks to be there.”

That’s Flyers as in Philadelphia Flyers – the City of Brotherly Love’s ice hockey team.

While the Flyers battled it out with Blackhawks for the series title, Rendell urged Harrisburg officials to lease their parking garages to stave off financial disaster. A series of expensive improvements to the city’s trash incinerator left Harrisburg on the hook for $288 million of debt it guaranteed for the incinerator’s owner, the Harrisburg Authority. It was the gift that just kept on giving: the city’s debt ratings went from Baa2 to Ba2 to B2.

But the city has so far declined to accept a reported $215 million offer made for the garages by Lambdastar Infrastructure Partners’ Jacob Frydman in 2008.

At least Rendell didn’t miss much: the Flyers lost to the Blackhawks, who hail from a town that’s already leased out its garages and much more: Chicago.