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KNOWN UNKNOWNS


With a little digging and networking, you can find answers to your many questions. BY TARA LEO AUCHEY


I


get asked a lot of questions about Harrisburg. Sometimes, they are basic questions with easy answers. “What’s the rule about trashcans in the city?” Per the ordinance, all garbage must be placed in plastic or metal receptacles with tight-fitting lids,


securely fastened and watertight. Tere. Answered. Sometimes, though, the questions are more complex. “How did the city get into such a financial mess?” My response to this one inevitably starts with a deep breath and includes sundry chapters and digressions. I get questions about city rules, ways of life and states of being. I get questions asked in sincerity, curiosity, confusion, frustration,


facetiousness and indignity. Te fact is many people have many questions about the city of Harrisburg. Tey want answers and the scoop. It isn’t a problem that there’s a plethora of questions. Te problem is that people just aren’t quite sure how to find answers when they need them. Tat’s because there really isn’t a centralized source for information about Harrisburg. Te exact who, what, when, where and how can be elusive. As a consequence, a significant number of people feel excluded and frustrated with the entire system, which hardens divisions. Sure, there is some information in some places, but people complain those places aren’t necessarily familiar or accessible or up-to-date or accurate. Te city’s website would seem the logical place to go, but, as of now, it’s still a work in progress. And a call or visit to City Hall doesn’t guarantee clarity. Overall, people have to work hard to access information. Questions end up coming my way because I have made it a mission of sorts to acquire information and share it. I try to discover it and impart it massively, which can be a daunting task indeed. Often, I get the comment, “I was told to ask you because you would know.” Tat’s not true. I don’t always know. And, in matters that reach


beyond factual answers, I’m not constantly poised to engage. Although, there are times when I do share my theories and perspective. In those instances, I’m sure to support my positions with evidence and reasoning. Te rest is open to a spirit of fair debate. Tat being said, the thing I think I do well is find out what’s going on. I seek the answers. I go places and talk to people. I ask questions and


verify responses. I read. I listen. I engage. Over the years, it’s gotten easier. I know more people and am aware of more points of view. I know where to find reliable sources and documents. I’ve learned processes and protocols. If I don’t know the direct route to answers or explanations, I’ve figured out which direction to look. Harrisburg is a small place. When it comes down to it, it’s a manageable place with manageable information. I came to that realization with time and effort, though. I had to make an effort to know where to go, who to ask or how to find out things. I had to gather information and try to make sense of it all. Much of my knowledge comes from spending hours and hours in a


variety of places around the city. While I may spend much more time in locating information than the average person, I’d argue even a bit of effort by anyone could make for a better informed citizen. City Council meetings, zoning hearings, and press conferences—


even going once in awhile—puts you in touch with several resources. Public projects, initiatives and gatherings are other good places to meet people and exchange information. Even sitting on the front porch and walking around the neighborhood help make connections and expose you to multiple types of knowledge. Participating in community endeavors unavoidably gives you an earful, much of it valuable and useful. By doing all of the above, I discovered an incredible network of people and resources. I met people who care, people who are accomplished and who want to make Harrisburg better. Tey, too, want to know more.


“MANY PEOPLE HAVE MANY


QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CITY OF HARRISBURG. THEY WANT ANSWERS AND THE SCOOP. THE PROBLEM IS THAT PEOPLE JUST AREN’T QUITE SURE HOW TO FIND ANSWERS WHEN THEY NEED THEM.”


Plus, they are willing to share what they do know. It’s a network of rich diversity of perspective,


experience


and information. Of course, serious trust issues exist, but that can’t be surprising for a


city in reconstruction. It takes some determination to tap into the network. When I first


moved here eight years ago, I didn’t know how to do that. When I researched, I found that most of the information came from the top down. Tere lacked a mass community exchange, especially one that stretched across the city. Accurate information was some sort of privilege granted a few. Te network seemed small, tight and exclusive. Fortunately, it’s not like that anymore. Tat system crashed and


can’t easily be rebuilt because now there are too many people paying attention. More of us share knowledge and willingly pass it along. Tere’s more engagement and consensus on what the facts are. More people are participating and expanding the system of communication in Harrisburg.


Tara Leo Auchey is creator and editor of today’s the day Harrisburg. www.todaysthedayhbg.com


12 | THE BURG | 08.14


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