I met a muniland superstar, Pennsylvania State Senator John Eichelberger, in Philadelphia while taping a final segment on distressed municipalities for Pennsylvania Cable News (PCN). The series, hosted by PCN’s Corinna Vecsey Wilson, brought together municipal officials, state legislators and policy experts to examine the condition of the state’s distressed communities and look at what solutions might be available.
State Senator Eichelberger, a Republican, chairs the Local Government Committee. He has dived into some of the most vital areas of state oversight. A state law, Act 47, takes distressed municipalities under partial state control. The law is over 20 years old, however, and has lost its effectiveness. Of 27 municipal units that have entered the program, only seven have exited. Pittsburgh, for example, has remained under Act 47 supervision for over 20 years. Eichelberger has legislation to reform and strengthen Act 47. From the Altoona Mirror:
‘A major change that we hope will happen would be a five-year limit on a community staying in Act 47. This was never intended for communities to stay in it for decades. We are stressing an early intervention program to help them to get in and out,’ Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, told members of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club Thursday at The Casino at Lakemont Park.
Eichelberger, who co-chairs a task force studying reforms to Act 47, which Altoona joined last year, said some municipalities might be dissolved.
‘We will have a couple of municipalities – not Altoona – that are not viable any more. They will be disincorporated, and DCED will work with them and try to merge them with another community,’ Eichelberger said.