Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, Founder, Harrisburg Hope
By Frank Pizzoli
If hope springs eternal, it must have had a talk with Alan Kennedy-Shaffer.
As founder in 2010 of Harrisburg Hope, the 27-year-old attorney has been able to do what no one else has been able to accomplish – get warring parties in a two-year old fiscal stalemate to talk to one another. He’s also created a level of trust between himself and Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson.
Dec. 1, 2011 about 125 people packed Harrisburg’s Midtown Scholar Bookstore when Kennedy-Shaffer brought together Attorney Mark Schwartz, who represented four Harrisburg City Council members filing for federal bankruptcy on behalf of city, a move since denied by a federal judge; PA Sen. Jeff Piccola, author of Harrisburg City takeover legislation; and Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Preis. The county is guarantor on loans made to the city.
Dec. 8, 2011 Kennedy-Shaffer drew in about 150 people when he hosted Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson in an “open mike” forum.
A Yale University and William & Mary Law School graduate, Kennedy-Shaffer is fitted to the role of convener.
“Harrisburg Hope is the only forum in which members of the audience get to ask the questions,” Kennedy-Shaffer explains. He starts off with his own short list of questions and then adroitly moderates for another hour or so, relying on time keepers to alert speakers that their time is up. And he enforces the time limit. He also doesn’t allow for “stun gun” questions. He politely acknowledges the questioner and then moves right along. His emerging signature gesture at the end of each program is to present all panelists with a “Civility Award”.
His sensitivity to civility may be his mom’s doing.
“My Mom used to take me and my brothers to gay pride marches in New York City, starting when I was 1-year old in a stroller,” he said. “I specifically remember the Stonewall 25th anniversary march (1994),” he said. He was 10 years old and today is no stranger to lgbt issues.
Kennedy-Shaffer is author of The Obama Revolution and Denial and Deception: A Study of the Bush Administration’s Rhetorical Case for Invading Iraq. He’s served as a regional field director for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in Virginia and subsequently elected vice chairman of the Dauphin County Democratic Party. The Harrisburg resident is president of Danzante Community Art Center and former chairman of Broad Street Market.
Dec. 1`9, 2011 Kennedy-Shaffer hosted the recently court-appointed fiscal receiver David Unkovic. He is charged with crafting a plan from what seems like a mountain of previously proposed fiscal recovery scenarios that have all stalled out over various objections from one or another party to the problem.
In his simple but direct way, Kennedy-Shaffer is attempting to bring a measure of civility and order to what has become a dialogue of chaos and confusion. Currently an attorney with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and previously an attorney for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and he seems to have a fix on both bureaucracy and bullpucky.