After surveying Harrisburg residents and businesses for more than a month, entrepreneur Dave Schankweiler, announced his candidacy to be the capital city’s next mayor.
He will challenge incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse in the May primary. Papenfuse, who previously told PennLive he planned to seek a third term, was not immediately available to comment on Schankweiler’s candidacy.
Schankweiler, founder and former publisher of the Central Penn Business Journal, announced his decision today in a video message filmed at Harrisburg University. Schankweiler spoke of the realities of being a resident in a city that doesn’t work for everyone.
“In the 24 neighborhoods that make up this capital city, you can almost see the invisible lines that divide the healthy from the sick parts—the safe from the unsafe,” he said. “It’s been like this for years, hasn’t it? And it’s not getting better. It’s an unspoken realty that entire blocks are written off as unsavory or unworthy of investment.”
Schankweiler announced in early December that he was sending surveys to residents, students and businesses and going door-to-door to hear from the community before deciding to run.
In an interview with the journal, he said that during his community outreach there were four problems residents pointed to time and time again: Harrisburg’s rising crime rates, the city’s schools not working for everyone, roads in need of repair and a local government system that does not respond to residents’ problems fast enough.
“The city has had eight years to get those basics taken care of and the residents have had enough,” said Schankweiler. “People are outraged that the mayor doesn’t pay attention to their neighborhoods. They say, downtown is important because that’s where the business district is but why don’t we see him, why don’t we see him in our neighborhood taking care of these issues?”
On his first day as mayor, Schankweiler said he would organize a Citywide Action Summit on Violence Prevention. The summit, which would include Harrisburg City Council, public safety officials and business, school, church, non-profit and neighborhood leaders, would develop an action plan to ultimately end violence in the city.
In his first year as mayor he pledged to create a responsive, reliable administration; make streets safer; support student focused, performing schools; deliver housing that’s stable, affordable and safe; a post-COVID business plan; and create a blueprint for thriving neighborhoods.
As mayor, Schankweiler would establish a number of advisory bodies including: a Unified Neighborhood Council to coordinate the recommendations of the summit on violence prevention; a Mayor’s Commission on Housing and Home Ownership to create a plan to provide affordable housing; and an Office of Minority Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth to attract businesses to the city.
“You have to start by listening; it’s business 101,” said Schankweiler. “You collect those thoughts and ideas and the mayor has got to identify, along with representation from the city, city council and the nonprofit, educational and business community, what do we want to see the city be in five to ten years?”
The former Republican turned Democrat founded Journal Multimedia, the parent company of media outlets the Central Penn Business Journal, NJ BIZ and Lehigh Valley Business journal, in 1984 and sold the company in 2016.
He has since held roles as the chairman of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority overseeing the finances of the City of Harrisburg, member of the board of directors for the United Way of the Capital Region as well as many more board positions at nonprofits including the Allied Arts Fund, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities and more.
Schankweiler is also a founder, founding board of trustees chairman and director emeritus of the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.
Financially, Schankweiler said that the city needs to modernize its revenues, looking at successful models of other cities and towns to develop no-tax revenue generation.
“I’m not in this to raise taxes. We can’t do that to our citizens,” he said.
During his tenure at the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the local entrepreneur said that he was able to see the inner workings of the city, which he says operates on 40-year-old systems.
“If you look at the city’s audit for the last 15 years, the auditors give you our weaknesses- the same 20 things have been in that audit for a good number of years,” he said. “Why aren’t we listening to those auditors and righting those wrongs?”
For his plan to work, Schankweiler emphasized that the city’s safety must be taken care of first, noting that if the city is safe, attractive and easy to do business in, it will attract more enterprise throughout the city’s neighborhoods.