Hippo’s message important
Former Altoona Mayor Wayne Hippo’s suggestion at a Government Study Commission meeting on Oct. 22 that Altoona needs to act like the big city that it is squares with the city’s desire to rid itself of Act 47 state fiscally distressed status.
However, Hippo, who is a commission member, could have expanded that suggestion.
Beyond expressing his belief that Altoona needs a full-time mayor with strong power, like what exists in many of Pennsylvania’s larger cities, Hippo should have emphasized that this city needs to work beyond – as well as within – its municipal borders.
Altoona officials, whether it be a full-time strong mayor or a delegation of local officials, should consider it essential to travel to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., several times a year to keep lines of communication open with officials in those higher levels of government.
Those trips would be an opportunity to make this city’s needs known and explore possible funding for those initiatives.
Hippo reminded the commission about his having taken three days off work from his full-time job, while Altoona’s part-time mayor, to attend a municipal government conference where, as Altoona’s mayor with limited power, he met with mayors of other Pennsylvania cities, many of whom were full-time, strong mayors.
Hippo told the study commission he perceived himself at a disadvantage in delivering a message about Altoona when in the company of those more powerful officials.
He believes that Altoona, as Pennsylvania’s 10th-largest city, needs a strong mayor instead of a mayor without any more power than other Altoona City Council members – even if, under home rule, the city would maintain its city manager position.
His opinion merits more discussion and consideration.
A strong mayor could be the person with the political and governmental clout to be Altoona’s ambassador during occasional visits to departments of the Pennsylvania and U.S. governments.
Regardless of the fate of home rule, Altoona needs a more determined pursuit of state and federal grants and loans.
The city should not expect state and federal lawmakers to do all of the legwork for it.
With Altoona’s proximity to Harrisburg and Washington, such trips would not involve excessive cost to the city, since the trips, in most cases, would not have to involve overnight stays.
The main requirement would be that Altoona’s advocate or advocates be fully prepared to discuss whatever topics are on the agenda.
If Altoona doesn’t pursue available state and federal funds – regardless of how limited – other communities will.
That is one of the messages Hippo should continue to deliver as the study group continues its work.
Many communities large and small allow years to pass, waiting for something good to happen to them. Those places that record successes do so because of aggressiveness on behalf of their needs, not reliance on others or good luck.
Altoona must constantly be striving to ramp up its image as one of Pennsylvania’s large, progressive cities and pursue projects for improving it.
With his experience and insight, Hippo can remain a part of the mission.