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Looking for a way to resolve $300 million in debt, the city council defied Thompson and voted to file for bankruptcy this month. Not only did a majority of the council go against the mayor's wishes, but the council members also decided not to even tell her of their decision.

The situation comes as no surprise to many who live here. That's because in Harrisburg, a city of about 50,000, the balance sheet isn't the only thing out of whack.

This is why local knowledge is often helpful when investing in munis. An outsider could have easily bought these bonds in 2008 or ealier thinking they were properly backed by local assets and the good faith of the elected officials.

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