Tag Archive for linda thompson

How Harrisburg’s American Music Fest Failed

This was originally posted July 8, 2010. I would have wrote a new post about the 2011 Harrisburg Jazz And Multi-Cultural Fest, but it would have been redundant. It seems the only thing that changed from last year to this year is there were fewer attendees.

It’s easy to be a “Monday Morning Quarterback” after watching any event fail. But being someone who makes his living booking, promoting and presenting nationally touring bands nearly two hundred nights per year, I feel that my opinion on the abysmal failure of the “Harrisburg Jazz and Multi-Cultural Festival” and how it could have been better is clearly both valid and warranted.

Yesterday, I had lunch with an unnamed source who was close to the inner-workings of this years festival and, combined with the information I was given from my source and the knowledge of the industry I hold, the following are my assertions on how the festival failed and how to ensure that never, ever, EVER happens again.

First and foremost-

1. Changing of The Name
Harrisburg’s American Music Fest – despite it’s lackluster calendar- was an annual event that hundreds of thousands of people from the region attended. What’s in a name? Well, simply put, the American Music Fest was called the American Music Fest because it was a pretty good choice of a pretty broad representation of music. No one can argue that the lineup for the previous years American Music Festivals weren’t varied. World, Blues, Gospel, Rock, Country, Bluegrass, Singer/Songwriters were all represented. And if that isn’t “multi-cultural” in itself, then I don’t know what is.

Additionally, I heard from several vendors, attendees and even performers that “Jazz and Multi Cultural Festival” …how do I say this…sounds pretty, um…urban? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when factoring in the demographics of the greater 200,000 people living in a 30 mile radius, I’d want a festival to have a welcoming name. And really, what was wrong with “American Music Festival”?

What it boils down to – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

2. Mayor Thompson either fired or lost her top fundraisers for Parks and Rec

Gloria Giambalvo and Tina King were a dynamic duo of fundraising awesomeness for the many programs held throughout the year in the city. I don’t have the exact figures, but Gloria and Tina certainly raised considerable amounts of dough for festivals like Kipona and the American Music Fest. And without them on her payroll, who was going to raise the money? Festivals like this are great exposure for corporate contributors and, while there were the usual, low-hanging-fruit like Comcast and Blue Cross, the festival lacked the long-tail funding that it has had in years past.

So, in a nutshell, you get what you pay for. $160,000 isn’t nearly enough to stage a three day, outdoor, riverfront festival designed to bring in a couple hundred thousand attendees.

3. Chuck Schulz- acting director of Parks and Rec- resigned two weeks before the festival.

Word on the street is that the Parks and Rec department whittled down from five or six people in the office to only one – Chuck – and one man simply cannot keep all the plates necessary spinning.

4. There weren’t any local bands on the bill
If you book twenty local acts on a festival like this, they’ll create buzz strong enough to garner the attention of the community. That’s how the Stage on Herr stage at Artsfest succeeded. Regardless of budget or how much (or how little) the acts were getting paid, having a couple dozen local acts playing throughout the weekend equals a couple dozen acts (of four or five people each) telling their entire mailing lists, Facebook friends, Twitter followers and word-of-mouth benefactors where they are going to be.

5. Save the preachers for the churches
I got a text message from a friend at 3:40PM on Saturday the 3rd which said “Main stage had some guy talking about God and the savior. No band. Just prerecorded backing country music. He was inviting members of the 20 people there on stage to share their love of Jesus”.


Nobody wants to see that at a city-sponsored event. Period.

6. There’s nothing wrong with admitting defeat. In fact, it’s more respectable.
My sources tell me that Linda was urged on multiple occasions to just cancel the event. Save the money and the embarrassment and simply call it off. That would have been the prudent thing to do. But based on the recent departure of the final of her top-level cabinet staff, all signs point to “Linda don’t listen to nobody but Linda…and God” and that’s no way to run a city.

None of these six points contained anything other than realistic, honest-to-goodness analysis. Sure, it’s her first term in office and she’s going to make a few mistakes…but this is getting out of control. It’s time to batten down the hatches and start to admit that she has faults…or the same body who elected her will remove her from office sooner than she can yell “Praise Jesus!”

Addendum one – Read this story about the state-funded Philly Jazz festival and it’s failures.

Weighing In on Act 47

How fucked up is it that Senator Piccola is setting a landspeed record to push through legislation enabling the state’s takeover of a third-class city and prohibiting a city from filing for bankruptcy..while at the same time, Harrisburg City Council is racing to “prepare to prepare” to file Chaper 9 Bankruptcy before the Act 47 approval deadline hits?

How fucked up is it that Team Thompson and the current city council have had about eighteen months to file for Chapter 9 and they haven’t done it yet?

The way I see this whole situation is simple: Harrisburg has enormous debt that – even on a modest payment plan- would take hundreds of years to pay off. On top of having hundreds of years worth of debt on the table, the current budget needs aren’t being met by the revenues generated by the city assets, taxes and fees. And when your debt and budget needs aren’t met by available resources, what the hell else is there to do?


Brad, Wanda, Susan, Gloria, Patty, Kelly and the other new girl…grab your balls and DO IT.

I’d apologize about the blunt nature of this blog post, but I’M NOT SORRY!

Two of three options leave us totally, utterly and completely…redundantly….FUCKED.

1. Accept the Act 47 plan in it’s current state: lease or sell the parking garages (lose annual revenue), sell the incinerator (lose annual revenue), eliminate a number of city departments, police officers, firemen and other services in order to meet the budget and still try to pay back the debt…but WITHOUT REVENUE FROM THE ASSETS.

2. Reject the Act 47 plan in it’s current state and risk being TAKEN OVER BY THE STATE (I can’t even believe that’s an option. A state takeover!? Think about how crazy that is!!). And when the state takes over, they’re going to: lease or sell the parking garages (lose annual revenue), sell the incinerator (lose annual revenue), eliminate a number of city departments, police officers, firemen and other services in order to meet the budget and still try to pay back the debt…but WITHOUT REVENUE FROM THE ASSETS. (Sound familiar?)

And the 3rd and final option (as I see it) – Brad, Wanda, Susan, Gloria, Patty, Kelly and the other new girl can grab their collective balls and do what should have been done 18 months ago and file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Just do it. Rip the band-aid off. We’ve been dancing around this for years now. How much worse can things get?? So we suffer a ding on our credit for a few years? So what! It’s the AMERICAN WAY!

Oh, but the bondholders? FUCK EM! That’s what THEY SAID when the debt was issued. SOMEONE at some point in this whole debt-accumulation process MUST HAVE said “Hey guys, you know what? These bonds don’t really seem like the most…um…ethical? things to be issuing…things might not work out well for the taxpayers of the city at some point in the not-too-distant future…maybe we should consider alternative financing options…or call the whole thing off altogether”

To which, someone likely replied “The taxpayers? FUCK EM! My kids don’t go to the city schools. Shit, we barely ever cross the Harvey Taylor Bridge. Let’s go swimming in my new pool!”

What’s that you say? The state doesn’t want the stigma of the Capital city going officially broke? FUCK EM! Where was the concern for the past two decades while this was happening? Too many of our state politicians were getting kickbacks and payoffs from the seeming ponzi scheme of deals in this city.

And the bond market? Does the bond market care about safe streets in Harrisburg? Does the bond market care what the kids of the Harrisburg school district have at their educational disposal? Does the bond market give a flying fuck whether or not the giant sinkhole at the corner of Third and Boas EVER gets repaired? Does the bond market care about whether or not Metro Bank gets off it’s ass and sends someone out to MOW THE FUCKING JUNGLE that’s grown in front of the failed Capitol View Commerce Center on Cameron Street?

I think you know the answer…

Chapter 9 is Harrisburg’s ONLY ANSWER…if we want any semblance of control of our destiny as a city…we NEED the parking garages. We NEED a better and fuller police force. And we NEED to eliminate the albatross that is the massive debt suffocating this fine little city by the river.

C’mon, council. You’re in a heated race. We voted for you because we had faith in you. Would SOMEONE please step up and do something for the residents of this promising little city?

Because either you can do it…or the suits from the Capital will.

BBC on Harrisburg

It’s gone from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal and Bond Buyer magazine; now, it’s global. The Harrisburg debt crisis was featured in a piece on the BBC World News yesterday.

And here, my friends, is the clip.

BBC Harrisburg Debt

James Gordon reporter, copyright BBC.

Thoughts On The Valentines Day Rally

Sort of feel like I’m coming out of political-blogging retirement by even typing this post, but I feel strongly enough about the gravity of what’s about to occur that I cannot stand by without expressing my thoughts on this.

So I’ll make this quick…

1. Consider the source.

This “rally” is being spearheaded by Lisa Paige. For the uninitiated, Lisa Paige is a long time Reed supporter, apparent former strategist with Triad Strategies and former Communications Director with the Harrisburg School District who “resigned” after being faced with an unpaid suspension stemming from violating a previous PAID suspension of her sixty two thousand dollar per year salary. She claims it was because of her support of Gerald Kohn.

2. On the Triad tip…

Consider this: Triad Strategies co-owns a building with Jacob Frydman who is still patiently waiting in the wings to purchase our parking garages and meters.

Just last week, Thompson tried to sneak in an audible change of council to have Rhoades and Sinon represent the Harrisburg Parking Authority. (James Ellison’s law firm…the James Ellison who is also Linda’s puppeteer and campaign treasurer…who is also facing an investigation about shady corporate campaign contributions to Linda’s campaign.)

So all of this considered – combined with Lisa Paige’s Letter to The Editor today where she says “…I implore your writers and bloggers to stop kicking former Mayor Steve Reed, who doesn’t even bother defending himself (never did even while in office) because he is quite aware that self-defense is wasted breath. Reed’s dedication and accomplishments simply weren’t acknowledged by most city residents”- makes me wonder what the real motivations are for this “rally”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that some sort of civil uprising against the current Mayor isn’t justified, I’m saying that it IS. But an effective, safe and successful rally will be spearheaded by either a small committee or a leader with experience in organizing such events. What we have the potential for on Monday is an angry mob with no clear voice.

“Demand The Resignation of Linda Thompson”?

Please. Why don’t you demand the repeal of all taxes while you’re at it? Or the legalization of the recreational use of cocaine. Or allowing drunk driving? Because all three of those causes have the same chance of happening as Linda Thompson “resigning”.

Without proper leadership, a rally of this kind – fueled by anger and high emotion – has the potential to turn violent mighty quick.

Action DOES need to be taken to clean up the clusterfuck that has become of City Hall, but a rally on Monday isn’t going to do us any good.

Especially considering it has been organized by someone so closely tied to the old guard, Reed administration.

If you DO decide to rally at City Hall on Monday, please be smart and be peaceful.

I won’t be attending.

Another Fifteen Hundred Wasted

The most frustrating thing about the Thompson Administration is that the constituency of Harrisburg WANTS to succeed and the right people to get the various jobs done efficiently and honestly ARE available…but for reasons unbeknown to any of us…she simply doesn’t want to accept the help that is right in front of her face.

Case in point: this past Friday, August 20, the City Parks and Recreation department had a concert at the Levitt Pavilion. It was part of the “Levitt Live” summer series. The band was called “Trey Eley Experience”. A reliable source told me that the band’s payment was $1,000.00. The sound company gets paid around $500.00. Plus, there are additional costs involved like park staff, electricity and, of course, the band’s “rider”.

So the stage is set – a beautiful night this past Friday, giant open pavilion and a lawn that can seat thousands.

My source tells me there were fifteen people in attendance.


But wait! It gets better. Around ten of the fifteen in attendance were Mayor Linda Thompson and her entourage (including her personal security detail).

SIDEBAR- In case you haven’t noticed, much space here hasn’t been given to the general disarray of the City of Harrisburg lately, rather, I’ve tried to focus on the areas that I’m 100% certain about. In this case, how to promote a concert.

And looking at the Levitt Live! website, I wasn’t surprised to see a number of cancellations. And the 2010 Summer Concert series still says “To Be Announced” (Today is August 23…when, exactly, will the Summer Concert Series be announced?)

It doesn’t take a Wall Street consultant or analyst to advise the city on how best to spend it’s entertainment and marketing budget. All it takes is a phone call.

Linda: stop wasting our money and start hiring the people who know what they’re doing.

Oh, and by the way- when is the Kipona Music schedule going to be announced?