The capital of Pennsylvania is bankrupt and it is not difficult to see why: excess borrowing for ridiculous unproductive or mismanaged projects.

Steven Malanga writes in the Wall Street Journal, How Harrisburg Borrowed Itself Into Bankruptcy 10/28/11:


Under seven-term Mayor Stephen Reed, who governed from 1982 to 2010, Harrisburg had a long love affair with borrowed money, using it to spur projects of dubious value. The city invested millions of dollars in a stadium in the late 1980s to attract a minor league baseball team. When the Harrisburg Senators threatened to leave in 1995, the city bought the team with borrowed money. In 2009, even as the fiscal clouds darkened, it sank another $45 million, including $18 million in new debt, into upgrading the stadium. The team was attracting 2,488 fans per game.

Then there are those historical artifacts. Mr. Reed, once described by a local newspaper as a man who “never met a municipal bond he didn’t like,” wanted to borrow to open a network of museums. He spent some $39 million on a National Civil War Museum that opened in 2001. It has struggled for years to attract crowds. Undeterred, the mayor borrowed some $8 million to buy artifacts—including a Gatling gun, a Wells Fargo coach and a document signed by Wyatt Earp—for a proposed Wild West museum, though most of the purchases were made without the knowledge and consent of the city council. Plans for a Wild West museum and a National Sports Hall of Fame, financed by a $30 million bond offering, mercifully fell through.

Spending taxpayer money on ball parks and museums are the road to ruin.  These rarely fulfill the rosy revenue projection offered and are the first to be sacrificed during financial downturns. Yet the obligations remain when the cities can afford them the least.

Cities do not prosper because of ball parks and museums.  They prosper because of low crime, good schools and good roads.  People VISIT cities with museums and ball parks; they choose to LIVE in cities with  low crime, good schools and good roads. When you can focus on these three items you will not have to bribe companies to bring new jobs with tax abatements that the existing residents have long been denied.