2012-12-12 / Local & State

Backlash Follows Spoof Of Pa. Capital Debt Crisis

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The president of a Harrisburg regional business advocacy group has apologized for an awards ceremony video that satirized efforts by city officials to deal with a crushing debt and prompted shock from some city leaders and calls for him to resign from others.

Initially, Harrisburg Regional Chamber President David Black insisted the video shown Wednesday at the chamber's annual awards night was in good fun, but he apologized later, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported.

“Upon further reflection, I am issuing an apology if the skit ... has offended anyone. That was clearly not the intent,” Black said Thursday. He also said, “We believe in our city and its future.”

City Councilwoman Sandra Reid said Black is supposed to boost the city, not belittle city leaders in front of an influential audience. She said Black should step down from his chamber post. City Council President Wanda Williams said she will no longer sit with Black on the Municipal Financial Recovery Advisory Committee that is part of the state's takeover of Harrisburg.

Black, who is Gov. Tom Corbett's appointee to the panel, said he will not resign either job.

The video, a sendup of the 1985 hit “We are the World,” shows chamber staff and members portraying Mayor Linda Thompson and the song's artists asking for cash. The Patriot- News posted a recording of the video online that was captured at the event by a cellphone.

Thompson, who was not invited to the dinner, said through a spokesman Friday: “He (Black) needs to focus more on advancing economic development in the city rather than indulging in tasteless entertainments.” But she accepts his apology, the statement said.

The city is on the brink of bankruptcy with about $340 million in debt on its municipal trash incinerator, largely because of an expensive retrofit that went awry. The facility can't generate nearly enough money to pay the debt, and some city leaders have tried to resist the state's push to raise city taxes and sell or lease assets until creditors agree to forgive some of the debt.

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