World’s Strangest

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The Most Indebted City in the USA

lot of cities in the United States are broke and in debt, but Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania, has the dubious distinction of having the most debt per
capita of any U.S. city. The city’s 50,000 residents collectively owe
$1.5 billion. That’s a whopping $30,000 per person.

In a matter of weeks, the city will run out of money. Zoe Chace of NPR’s
Planet Money has the story, which begins and end with the town’s trash
incinerator which she dubbed "a fire-breathing, money-burning dragon
of debt that sunk the town."

When the incinerator was first built, in 1969, Harrisburg officials
hoped it would allow the city would collect fees from towns all over
the state for burning their trash.

But by the time Unkovic got to Harrisburg, the incinerator had accumulated
$300 million worth of debt. And it had never, in four decades, really
worked properly.

When Unkovic first arrived in town, he thought it was just bad management.
Now, he thinks it’s something more sinister.


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September 1st, 2012

Stranger to the World


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