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Pennsylvania mayor’s Old West idea bites the dust

first_img“I was shocked,” Councilwoman Linda Thompson said. “I was shocked that the mayor would even think that this was something that would generate tourism for Harrisburg.” Reed has defended his spending as perfectly legal. Asked in 2003, why a Western museum, he responded: “Why not?” As recently as Tuesday, he said, “I still think it’s a good idea,” but added: “We need the money right now.” To buy the items, Reed tapped an account at the Harrisburg Authority, where his expenditures were approved by officials he had appointed.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre “If we get less, then it’s just a big mistake and it’s unfortunate for the people of Harrisburg,” said Councilman Dan Miller. For sale are covered wagons, marshal’s badges, boots, chaps, saddles, “Wanted” posters, letters, photographs, maps, furniture, pottery, artwork, pistols, rifles, knives and more. One item expected to fetch tens of thousands of dollars is a bright red Wells Fargo & Co. stagecoach, in working condition. When Reed became mayor of this city of 47,000 in 1982, his dream was to transform the decaying, shrinking Harrisburg into a cultural destination. Under his leadership, hotels and restaurants have opened downtown and the number of businesses on the tax rolls has more than quadrupled. A minor-league baseball team now plays in a park that rose from a trash dump. In 2001, Reed opened the National Civil War Museum, even though none of the war’s major battles played out in the city. (Gettysburg, though, is 36 miles away.) As for his dream of building the National Museum of the Old West, council members were outraged – not only by the way he bypassed them and the amount of money spent, but by the seemingly ludicrous notion of a Wild West museum 1,400 miles east of Deadwood, S.D. HARRISBURG, Pa. – Halfway across the continent from where Buffalo Bill roamed and Custer made his last stand, the mayor of this debt-ridden city spent millions in public money on everything from six-shooters to covered wagons for a museum about cowboys, Indians and the Wild West. And he did it without telling the City Council, whose members felt as if they had been hit by the swinging doors of a frontier saloon when they found out from a reporter in 2003. Today, the other dusty cowboy boot will drop when hundreds of the items go on the auction block in Dallas in a sell-off ordered by the City Council. With Harrisburg hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, city officials will be watching closely to see how much can be reclaimed from the roughly $6.5 million Mayor Stephen R. Reed said he spent on the Old West collectibles. last_img read more

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