Three female Democratic Delaware County state representatives who hope to tip the balance of power more toward southeastern Pennsylvania and women in the General Assembly will be seeking leadership positions when the caucus convenes in Harrisburg Tuesday.
“I believe the future of the Legislature comes from the southeast, and I think we deserve a seat at the table and the ability to be involved in key decision-making,” said state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Nether Providence, who will be seeking the position of Minority Whip.
“If you combine Philadelphia and the southeast, the greater southeast, that would constitute the majority of those members in the Democratic Caucus,” said state Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164 of Upper Darby, who is looking to replace outgoing state Rep. Madeleine Dean as chair of the Southeast Delegation. Dean won a seat in the U.S. Congress from Montgomery County in Tuesday's election. “However, there’s only one person from Philadelphia that’s in the seven-member leadership capacity, and it’s the only woman as well," Davidson noted.
That would be Rosita C. Youngblood, D-198, who made history three years ago when she became the first black woman in the state’s history to hold a leadership position as minority caucus secretary.
“When you look at the budget impasse from when Leanne and I first got elected in 2015, in both chambers … there was not one woman at a top position – no women leaders, appropriations chairs or women whips,” said Joanna McClinton, D-191, of Philadelphia, who will seek the Minority Chair position. “I think that women are able to look at things differently, we have a different outlook because we have a different perspective in life and we’re able to bring that different experience to our leadership roles.”
Davidson said studies have shown that women are better negotiators than their male counterparts and organizations with at least one third of women in their employ tend to be more efficient and profitable.
Krueger-Braneky noted women made up 19 percent of the Legislature before last week, but at least 10 new female Democrats will join those ranks in January. Dana Brown, executive director for the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, said 52 Democratic and Republican women statewide were elected to the House in the Nov. 6 General Election, including incumbents. But she noted there are still some recounts taking place, including one in the 168th District, where incumbent Republican Chris Quinn is in a tight race with Democrat Kristin Seale.
“Initially, when the Women’s March (happened) and women were so upset after the Trump election, based on all the grassroots organizations that popped up after 2016, the question was, ‘Will that translate to political action?’ And we now see the answer is a resounding ‘Yes,’” said Davidson.
Krueger-Braneky pointed to prior leaders like state Sen. Dominic Pileggi and state Rep. Bill Adolph, both Republicans who she said fought hard for the county but whose absence has not been replaced from a leadership perspective.
Once dominated by Republican state representatives, the Delaware County delegation in Harrisburg has dwindled to just two in Quinn and Steve Barrar, R-160 of Boothwyn. Barrar indicated Monday that he has more work to do as Majority Chair of the House Veterans Committee and would not seek another leadership role.
As Whip, Krueger-Braneky said she would be responsible for helping set the agenda, marshaling votes and engaging the caucus. The position had been held by state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-76 of Clinton County, who is retiring this year.
McClinton is also seeking an open spot, as state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-23 of Pittsburgh, who has held the Chair position since 2011, will seek the Appropriations Chair.
McClinton said she would make sure caucus meetings are conducted in an orderly and respectful manner, and that all members would have the opportunity to discuss the merits or disadvantages of voting for proposed legislation.
Davidson said she would likewise provide leadership to vulnerable newcomers as chair of the Southeast Delegation, including three from Delaware County, and ensure they are putting forward progressive legislation.
Bucknell students present observations about AOAA event
SHAMOKIN — Five students from Bucknell University presented their observations to the Shamokin Revitalization Committee about last weekend's event that brought out an estimated 1,000 off-road vehicle riders to the city's downtown.
At the meeting held at the Antioch Place on Thursday night, sophomores Lucy Donovan and Colin Fee and juniors Ashley Vecchio, Jake Schaeffer and Arianne Evans, of the university's Managing for Sustainability Class, discussed Taking it the Street, hosted by the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area.
Dave Porzi, the operations manager for the AOAA, said the presentation was impressive.
"I don't want this (Taking it to the Streets) to be an event, I want this to be every day life," he said.
The AOAA, which caters to off-road motorized vehicles, hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, is located along Route 125 on 6,500 acres of forest and reclaimed coal land in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships. The park is owned by Northumberland County and managed by the AOAA Authority. Nearly 19,000 passes were sold in 2017.
The event allowed riders to go on the streets on a pre-determined route from the AOAA trails to downtown Shamokin and back. Riders were permitted to park downtown and enjoy local restaurants and stores.
The students spent the day of the event talking to business owners and riders, and reported to the group that the majority of people had positive responses to the event. There were concerns, such as noise pollution and the short term success, but not many, they said.
The students suggested a variety of future ideas, including a passport program that would allow rewards at local businesses, a gift shop to sell merchandise connected to the AOAA and historic Shamokin, promotions at local restaurants and more activities for riders. They also discussed government grants and funding, as well as beautification efforts for the city.
State Rep. Kurt Masser, R-107, noted the city of Shamokin has been struggling for decades.
"If there's anything to save this town, it's this," Masser said. "We need to grab it now."
Mayor John Brown assured the committee that another event would happen next year.
WRITTEN BY READING EAGLE
CUMRU TOWNSHIP, PA — A local senior living community honored its veterans Monday.
At a luncheon at The Heritage of Green Hills in Cumru Township, the more than 50 veterans who belong to its veterans association were recognized for their service.
The event provided the residents with an opportunity to reflect on their sacrifices. It included live entertainment featuring several military tunes as well as a performance by one of its residents - a member of Bugles Across America, an organization formed to ensure that "Taps" can be played live at every military funeral.
State Rep. Mark M. Gillen was on hand to pay tribute to those who served and continue to serve. He was also asked to deliver a Christmas tree on behalf of the Heritage veterans to the Berks Military History Museum in Mohnton.
The tree is decorated with American flags and topped with an image of the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima during World War II.
Gillen was a driving force behind the creation of the museum, and Heritage veterans spent four months building an installment of a December 1944 battle between American and German forces, the last major German offensive in the war.
Lay group that advises U.S. bishops will review Pa. grand jury report, church coverup
BALTIMORE — A lay advisory board to U.S. Catholic bishops is doing a "deep dive" into the Pennsylvania grand jury report into sexual abuse and coverup in the church , with its findings due by March, according to its chairman.
Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, briefly mentioned the review when asked during the bishops' meeting here today whether bishops can learn from the law-enforcement work that has policed them more than they have policed themselves.
Mr. Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Massachusetts, did not detail what the review of the grand jury report would entail.
A committee of the board is doing the study of the landmark Pennsylvania report, which sent shock waves worldwide for its descriptions of a history of sordid abuse across the commonwealth over a seven-decade period. It reported allegations of abuse by more than 300 priests and coverup by bishops.
That further aggravated a growing scandal following revelations that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington had sexually abused minors and sexually exploited adult seminarians for decades even while rising through the hierarchy.
Bishops had come to Baltimore prepared to vote on proposals to establish a code of conduct for bishops and a special commission to review allegations of their own misconduct or failure to respond to that of priests under their supervision. But under the Vatican's insistence, they agreed to delay votes until after Pope Francis convenes a March summit on the crisis, which is now flaring worldwide.
The National Review Board and a separate National Advisory Council both issued presentations strongly urging adoption of these and related policies.
Mr. Cesareo cited a "lack of accountability for many bishops for their role in the abuse crisis. While much the guilt has been placed on priests, bishops have often escaped punishment."
Anita Raines of the National Advisory Council echoed the comments. The council also called for investigation into how the Archbishop McCarrick scandal could have festered for so long before becoming public.
"More should be expected of our bishops, not less," she said.
Bishop is at national meeting of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which planned to vote on new measures until the Vatican said to wait.
Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence Persico said he was ready to act on the clergy abuse crisis when he met with his colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national meeting in Baltimore this week.
On Monday, those efforts slowed — the result of action from the Vatican rather than from Persico and his American counterparts.
“I was disappointed when we were told this morning that we are not to vote on several items we had on our agenda,” Persico said in a statement that the Catholic Diocese of Erie released.
“The final meeting of the Administrative Committee on Saturday, during which we finalized the agenda, was very positive. We were ready to dialogue, to vote and to begin our work.”
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opened its fall general assembly meeting on Monday by announcing it will delay for at least several months any votes on proposed new steps to address the clergy sex abuse crisis that is rocking the church, particularly in Pennsylvania.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, said the delay was requested by the Vatican, which asked that the U.S. bishops wait until after Pope Francis presides over a Vatican-convened global meeting on sex abuse in February.
The bishops’ fall national meeting — they also met in June — is their main assembly of the year and their first since the abuse crisis intensified with the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report in August.
The U.S. bishops, including Persico, wanted to leave the meeting with a plan of action, similar to what occurred when the bishops met over the abuse crisis in Dallas in 2002. But those rules focused on preventing abuse.
This week, the U.S. bishops had been expected to consider several steps to combat abuse but also to address how the hierarchy has addressed the crisis. The bishops were to review a new code of conduct for themselves and the creation of a special commission to review complaints against the bishops.
The bishops will discuss the new measures this week though they will end their meeting in Baltimore on Wednesday without voting on them. The suggestion to continue discussions came from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, of Chicago.
Cupich also recommended that the bishops hold a special assembly in March to vote on the measures after considering the results of the global meeting in February. The U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee drafted the proposals in September with the expectation that the full conference would vote on them this week.
“I am grateful for Cardinal Cupich’s intervention and recommendation that we should proceed as planned, even if we don’t take an official vote,” Persico said. “That way, Cardinal DiNardo will be able to represent us well when he attends the meeting about the abuse crisis with the Holy Father.”
Persico said the bishops on Monday also spent much of the day praying and reflecting on the abuse crisis.
“We listened to two victims speak during our Holy Hour, a man and a woman. I found it very moving, “Persico said. “They were victimized many years ago, but of course, they are still dealing with their pain.
“We’ve all listened to victims before, but the experiences we heard today were a good reminder of the urgency of our work. We must act and we must act now.”
The members of the conference represent the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States: 10 cardinals, six retired cardinals, 271 active bishops and 185 retired bishops. Persico is one of 162 active diocesan bishops in the United States.
DiNardo, the head of the conference, also expressed disappointment about the Vatican-requested delay but told the U.S. bishops, “I remain hopeful that this additional consultation will ultimately improve our response to the crisis we face,” according to the Associated Press.
In his opening address, DiNardo told survivors of clergy abuse that he was “deeply sorry.” The church, he said, should not revictimize survivors “by demanding they heal on our timeline.”
The Vatican’s request to that the U.S. bishops delay a vote drew criticism.
“When it comes to sexual abuse and bishop accountability, Pope Francis is apparently less enthusiastic about bishops’ conferences and ‘synodality’ than he’s led us to believe,” Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org , said in a statement.
“This bizarrely self-contradictory behavior looks like something else, outside the Vatican bubble. It is a crushing blow for survivors and yet another stumbling block for good Catholics everywhere. Once again, in its own terms, the Vatican is causing scandal.”
“The Vatican just made a big mistake in asking US bishops to delay their votes on clergy abuse protocols,” tweeted John Gehring, the Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a Washington-based clergy network. “The optics are terrible, and it sends a message, intended or not, that Rome doesn’t recognize the urgency of the moment.”
Persico, the leader of the 13-county Catholic Diocese of Erie since 2012, has often stood alone among bishops in his response to the abuse crisis. Most notably, he released in April the first list of clergy and laypeople in the diocese who had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse or other improper behavior with minors.
The list was unusual in that a Catholic diocese released it at all, but was even more unprecedented in that it included the names of laypeople rather than just clergy. The Catholic Diocese of Erie since April has regularly updated the list as it receives new information.
The newest list, updated at the end of October, has 76 names — 49 clergy, 26 laypeople and one nun. The first list had 51 names — 34 priests and 17 laypeople. The accusations date to the 1940s, and many of those on the list are dead.
Persico published the first list in advance of the release, in August, of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s grand jury report on child sexual abuse in six of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses: Erie, Allentown, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. The dioceses for Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown had been subjects of previous grand jury reports.
The August grand jury report found that 301 “predator priests” had abused more than 1,000 victims since the 1940s. The report said 41 of the priests served within the Catholic Diocese of Erie.
The investigations are continuing. In October, the Erie diocese and others throughout the state confirmed that they had received federal grand jury subpoenas for records related to clergy abuse.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ed Palattella can be reached at 870-1813 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNpalattella.
By Roger DuPuis - email@example.com
A retired Scranton bishop who allegedly helped cover up decades of sex abuse cases defied the diocese and attended a national Catholic conference at which U.S. bishops were considering new steps to address the abuse crisis in the American church.
Bishop Emeritus James Timlin, permanently banned from representing the diocese, attended the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore against the wishes of current Bishop Joseph Bambera, a diocesan official confirmed Monday night.
“While Bishop Timlin is forbidden from representing the Diocese of Scranton, membership in the USCCB and attendance at conferences is beyond the control of Bishop Bambera,” spokesman Bill Genello wrote in a brief email to the Times Leader on Monday night.
As first reported by the Times Leader, Timlin appeared in an Associated Press photo riding an escalator with other clerics at the gathering.
“Bishop Bambera asked Bishop Timlin not to attend,” Genello concluded.
Timlin, 91, led the diocese from 1984 to 2003. He has not been made available for interviews since this summer’s release of statewide grand jury report on clerical abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses cited records showing that he had knowledge of more than two dozen cases before and during his nearly 20-year tenure.
Efforts to reach a USCCB spokesperson to inquire about Timlin’s role — and whether he has any voting rights — were not immediately successful.
Abuse vote postponed
The event’s first day made national headlines as the group abruptly postponed plans to vote on proposed new steps to address the clergy sex abuse crisis — at the Vatican’s insistence, the Associated Press reported.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he was told on the eve of the meeting to delay action until after a Vatican-convened global meeting on sex abuse in February, the AP added.
“We are not ourselves happy about this,” DiNardo told reporters in an unusual public display of frustration at a Vatican pronouncement.
“We are working very hard to move to action — and we’ll do it,” he said. “I think people in the church have a right to be skeptical. I think they also have a right to be hopeful.”
Timlin was thrust into the spotlight when the grand jury report was released in August. It detailed decades of abuse and cover-up, alleging more than 1,000 children had been abused over the years by about 300 priests, with 59 Scranton Diocese priests on the list.
In numerous cases, the allegations of abuse — including rape, sexual assault, underage drinking and an abortion — were suppressed or dismissed by Timlin, the grand jury found.
Many of those cases were detailed in an August report by the Times Leader , including one in which Timlin wrote a letter to the Vatican on behalf of a Luzerne County priest, The Rev. Thomas D. Skotek, who impregnated a teenage girl and then helped her obtain an abortion.
The grand jury uncovered records indicating that Timlin frequently did not take formal action against accused priests, or simply moved them to other parishes.
Skotek was not formally removed from ministry for nearly 20 years after the incident, being allowed to continue in his vocation long after Timlin was first informed; he never faced prosecution and remains a priest.
“It is important that I make this very clear: Bishop Timlin did not abuse children, nor has he ever been accused of having done so. Instead, he mishandled some cases of abuse,” Bambera said then.
“He presided over the Diocese of Scranton for nearly 20 years — a time in which the diocese fell short of its duty to protect children. And, in many of the cases detailed in the grand jury report, Bishop Timlin fell short, too,” Bambera’s statement continued, adding that he would refer Timlin’s case to Rome.
There has been no public word on the status of that referral since.
Outrage on many fronts
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has been a critic of the church’s reaction to the allegations, including initial attempts to block release of information in the grand jury report.
When he released the report in August, a visibly disturbed Shapiro read an excerpt from Timlin’s letter on behalf of Skotek, although he did not specifically mention the former bishop by name.
On Monday, Shapiro took to social media in response to larger events at the USCCB assembly.
“As I’ve said many times…the Catholic Church can not be trusted to police itself,” Shapiro tweeted . “They’ve failed for decades to protect children from predator priests and the bishops who enable the abuse. Proper oversight requires law enforcement and outside agencies.”
The bishops are meeting through Wednesday and had been expected to consider several steps to combat abuse, the Associated Press reported, including a new code of conduct for themselves and the creation of a special commission, including lay experts, to review complaints against the bishops.
Their plan to proceed with discussing these proposals, which were drafted in September by the bishops’ Administrative Committee. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, of Chicago, suggested the bishops could hold a non-binding vote on the proposals while in Baltimore and then convene a special assembly for a formal vote after considering the results of the global meeting in February.
DiNardo said the bishops didn’t complete a final draft of their proposed anti-abuse actions until Oct. 30 and the Vatican, with relatively short notice, sought to delay voting because of potential legal complications.
Outside the conference hall, news of the delay in voting angered some protesters who were demanding the bishops take strong action against abuse.
“I know that they answer to the Holy See, but there’s a bigger imperative here, which is that children and victims need them to step forward,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, who works at the abuse database BishopAccountability.org. “By complying so meekly with what the pope has demanded of them today, they are surrendering their responsibility.”
Associated Press reporters David McFadden and David Crary contributed to this report.
Retired federal judge Lawrence Stengel to oversee compensation for Philadelphia clergy abuse victims
Retired federal judge Lawrence Stengel of East Hempfield Township will serve on an independent oversight committee to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Philadelphia area.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia announced today that a new reparations program will provide victims with a confidential and respectful way to receive compensation “without the uncertainty, conflict and stress of litigation.”
Stengel, who retired Aug. 31 as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will serve on the three-member panel. The other members are former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who will serve as chair, and Kelley Hodge, a former interim district attorney in Philadelphia.
Stengel expressed confidence that the program will be fair and independent in giving victims due process and in addressing their claims of abuse.
"Importantly, these opportunities to be heard will not be adversarial.”
“Each survivor who comes forward will have the opportunity to provide full details about the abuse they suffered and the impact that abuse has had on their life,” Stengel said in prepared remarks. “Importantly, these opportunities to be heard will not be adversarial.”
Stengel said archdiocese officials will not be present when victims share their stories.
“The archbishop has told us in no uncertain terms that we and the administrators are to run the program as we see fit, without input or control from the archdiocese,” he said.
Chaput said compensation will come from the Philadelphia archdiocese’s assets, the sale of archdiocesan properties and borrowing. No funds will come from routine church appeals to parishioners, he said.
The archdiocese, comprising Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, said it has already provided more than $18 million to victims.
The archdiocese was not part of a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August . That report focused on clergy sexual abuse in the Harrisburg Diocese, which includes Lancaster County, and five other dioceses across the state.
But the archdiocese was the subject of grand jury investigations in 2005 and 2011.
“I deeply regret the pain that so many victims carry from the experience of sex abuse,” Chaput said in a statement. “I hope this program will bring them a measure of peace.”
The Diocese of Harrisburg recently announced it will establish a survivors’ compensation program early next year for victims who were sexually abused within the diocese.
WRITTEN BY BETH BRELJE
A 29-year-old Schuylkill County man is accusing a former Allentown Diocese priest with ties to six Berks County churches and schools of sexually abusing him at a Carbon County church between 1999 and 2001.
The man, identified in the lawsuit as “John Doe,” claims that church officials failed to protect him from a known pedophile and that, when he was 10 to 12 years old, he was abused by the Rev. Bruno M. Tucci at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Nesquehoning.
Tucci served in Berks County between 1971 and 1981.
A state grand jury report released in August detailing hundreds of abuse cases in the church mentions a victim reporting abuse by Tucci in 1977-78 but does not identify the location.
The suit was filed electronically Monday in Lehigh County Court, said Philadelphia attorney Gerald J. Williams, who is representing the 29-year-old. The courthouse was closed Monday for Veterans Day, so the filing will not appear docketed until Tuesday.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of compensation from Tucci, the diocese, former Allentown Bishop Edward P. Cullen, current Allentown Bishop Alfred A. Schlert and the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a Missouri-based rehabilitation organization with a location in New Mexico for priests accused of sexual abuse.
The Allentown Diocese responded in an emailed statement Monday.
“Since becoming bishop on August 31, 2017, Bishop Alfred Schlert has acted immediately on any allegations, removing the priest from ministry and notifying law enforcement,” it said. “Abuse is abhorrent and has no place in the church. Bishop Schlert has apologized to victims and has set a clear tone of zero tolerance, and of keeping children safe.”
According to the suit:
The diocese was notified in 1991 by a 14-year-old boy that Tucci had molested him several years earlier.
Tucci admitted to the allegations. The diocese did not discipline him or inform parishioners of the misconduct.
Tucci was sent to the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete for treatment. He was cleared and discharged several months later with no recommendations for supervision or further treatment.
Servants of the Paraclete was regularly used by the diocese to house, evaluate and treat priests who were known sex offenders and child abusers. Employees at the institution were not licensed professionals.
Tucci was returned to active ministry in the same parishes, including Our Lady of Mount Carmel, where he had regular contact with children.
In 1993, the victim who had initially complained reiterated to church officials his complaint and concerns for other potential victims but nothing changed.
The lawsuit also alleges that because the diocese failed to take action, Tucci was serving at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and had the opportunity to victimize John Doe, who was an altar boy there.
On one occasion, the lawsuit says, Tucci instructed Doe to put his arms out like Jesus on the cross. When he complied, Tucci unbuttoned Doe's pants and molested him.
Doe's youth, Catholic upbringing and the devout Catholicism of his family weakened his ability to resist Tucci or report the misconduct, especially given Tucci's status as a priest and the accompanying moral authority. That caused him to suppress his feelings about his traumatic experience, exacerbating its psychological and social consequences, the suit said.
Because of this, John Doe's suit says, he has suffered chronic mental health issues, drug addiction, alcoholism and a deterioration in his academic and behavioral performance. These factors led him to act out in destructive ways, including criminal conduct resulting in his arrest, conviction and probation on drug-related charges in 2012.
The suit claims the diocese was negligent in supervising priests and accuses it of providing priests with cover and rationalizations for abusive misconduct.
Tucci retired in 2002, was removed from the priesthood in 2007 and now lives in Salisbury, Md.
The Catholic Church has advocated for a victims compensation fund administered by the church that would be less costly than lawsuits settled by attorneys or juries.
“The diocese recently announced the formation of a compensation and reconciliation program to assist victims and survivors of past clergy sexual abuse,” the statement from the Allentown Diocese said. “Although compensation alone cannot repair the damage caused to those who were harmed, this program will meaningfully assist in recovery and healing for victims and survivors and their families.”
Williams, Doe's attorney, calls the victims fund a good first step for the church because it is acknowledging responsibility for the abuse, but he said it is not the proper solution.
“To permit the church, which committed the wrong, to decide what the compensation would be, is another way of keeping things in the dark that should be brought to light,” Williams said.
Doe came forward after seeing how many victims were mentioned in the grand jury report, Williams said.
“He felt he had to do something,” the attorney said.
In 2002, Pennsylvania's statute of limitations was changed to allow victims of childhood abuse to sue until age 30. At 29, Doe was running out of time to sue.
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Muhlenberg Township Democrat and a victim of childhood sexual abuse, has pushed for a temporary window of time that would allow victims outside the time frame to bring suit against their abusers.
“Very few of the victims and survivors described in the grand jury report are within the statute of limitations,” Williams said. “They will be left in the cold if the statute is not changed.”
April 1971-April 1972: St. Margaret, Reading.
October 1971-April 1972:Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Berks County.
April 1972-June 1972: Cardinal Brennan High School, Fountain Springs, Schuylkill County.
April 1972-June 1972:Annunciation Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Shenandoah, Schuylkill County.
June 1972-September 1972: St. Canicus, Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County.
June 1972-June 1977: Marian High School, Tamaqua, Schuylkill County.
September 1972-June 1974: St. Canicus, Mahanoy City.
June 1974-February 1975: Sts. Peter and Paul, Lehighton, Carbon County.
February 1975-June 1977: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Nesquehoning, Carbon County.
June 1975-August 1975: Marian High School, Tamaqua.
June 1977-June 1979: Holy Name High School, Reading.
June 1977-September 1977: St. Columbkill, Boyertown.
September 1977-June 1978:Most Blessed Sacrament, Bally
June 1978-April 1981: St. Peter, Reading.
June 1979-April 1981: Central Catholic High School, Reading
April 1981-June 1986:Immaculate Conception, Kelayres, Schuylkill County
June 1986-March 2002: Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Immaculate Conception, Nesquehoning.
March 2002: Retired.
February 2007: Dismissed from priesthood.
Source: Pennsylvania attorney general's 2018 grand jury report
By Dave Davies
Should President Trump worry about the results in Pennsylvania’s congressional races last week?
Trump’s narrow and surprising win in Pennsylvania two years ago was key to his victory in the Electoral College, and he’ll want to win the state again in 2020.
His problem is not just that Democrats picked up congressional seats – that was likely to happen after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court drew new, more Democrat-friendly districts.
But even if you compare winning Republican congressional candidates’ margins last week to Trump’s margins in those same geographic boundaries two years ago (see chart below), the contrast is striking.
Take the 16th Congressional District in far western Pennsylvania.
Voters there went for Trump by 20 points in 2016. Incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Kelly held off Democratic challenger Ron DiNicola last week by just four points.
Dickinson College political scientist Sarah Niebler said that wasn’t an exception.
“It’s significant for Trump, mostly in the fact that it’s across the board,” Niebler said in a phone interview. “The shift was not just concentrated in urban areas or in rural areas, but it was in the entire state.”
Republican Congressional candidates last week trailed Trump’s 2016 margins in 17 of the state’s 18 congressional districts by an average of more than eight points.
This, of course, is after polls, pundits, and the president himself described the election as a referendum on Trump’s presidency.
Statewide, there were 474,000 more votes cast for Democrats than Republican congressional candidates – a margin somewhat inflated by the fact that the GOP failed to run a candidate in the 18th District in Pittsburgh, netting it no votes in an area where Trump won a third of the votes in 2016.
The one Republican candidate who beat Trump’s performance in his district was Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in the 1st District in Bucks County.
Jason Gottesman, communications director for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, acknowledged that Democrats had performed well last week, but noted that Republicans held onto several contested seats, including Fitzpatrick’s and Kelly’s.
“2020 will present a whole different landscape,” Gottesman said. “We don’t know if there will be the same level of Democratic enthusiasm, and the president himself will be on the ballot, which adds an X-factor.”
Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna agreed that the results are meaningful, but not predictive.
“Right now, you’d have to say President Trump is going to have a difficult time carrying the state,” Madonna said. “But we’re still a long way off and we still have no clue who the Democratic nominee is going to be. We have no clue what the president’s job performance will be. Game on, as they say.”
Trump Margin 2016
PA-01 Brian Fitzpatrick
PA-02 David Torres
PA-03 Bryan Leib
PA-04 Dan David
PA-05 Pearl Kim
PA-06 Greg McCauley
PA-07 Marty Nothstein
PA-08 John Chrin
PA-09 Dan Meuser
PA-10 Scott Perry
PA-11 LLoyd Smucker
PA-12 Tom Marino
PA-13 John Joyce
PA-14 Guy Reschenthaler
PA-15 Glenn Thompson
PA-16 Mike Kelly
PA-17 Keith Rothfus
PA-18 No candidate
Tim Darragh Of The Morning Call
A first-ever survey on where Lehigh Valley residents get news found they are more likely to believe information their family and friends tell them and have a “fairly substantial” mistrust of local media, higher education and businesses.
Local government scored lowest in trust, it said.
The survey, taken in September by The Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium, covers quality-of-life issues in the Lehigh Valley and will be completed in the coming weeks, said Christopher Borick, institute director.
The survey of 408 Lehigh and Northampton county adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent.
It found that majorities had high or moderate levels of trust in all their local sources of information, with family and friends at the top at 83 percent, followed by higher education, 69 percent; business, 66 percent; the news media, 61 percent; and government organizations, 51 percent.
Still, a summary of the survey, released Monday at the consortium’s State of the Lehigh Valley annual meeting, looked at the flip side of those numbers and found it concerning.
Among local residents, 42 percent reported low or no trust in local government. The low- or no-trust numbers for the other institutions were 20 percent for higher education; 30 percent for local business and 36 percent for the news media.
“The fairly substantial percentage of Lehigh Valley residents who have little or no trust in information from major sources has significant ramifications for the community,” the report said.
For instance, it noted residents’ concern about the quality of the Lehigh Valley’s air and drinking water. But if the public doesn’t trust the institutions’ data, as reported in the news media, “it is reasonable to question how individuals are determining their concerns,” the report said.
The survey did not examine why people lacked trust in information from local institutions. Borick, however, said he had “very little doubt” that they were reacting to “cues that are being provided by our leaders,” such as President Trump’s labeling the news media “fake news.”
The primary source of news for about a third of residents was television, the survey said. For 24 percent of survey-takers, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter serve as the primary source of news. Other rankings of the primary source of news were websites, 17 percent; newspapers, 14 percent; radio, 6 percent and no information on local news, 4 percent.
There is some overlap in the data, Borick said, noting that people may get their news from newspapers’ websites, for example.
In addition, the survey shows that nearly half of valley residents 18-29 get their news from social networks, while only 5 percent of those 65 or older do. The opposite was true too: More than three-quarters of seniors get their news from the traditional sources — television and newspapers -- while only 19 percent of young adults do.
DeSales University criminal justice professor Michelle Bolger, who also spoke at the meeting, said she is concerned that so many of her students get their news from social media, where information may not be validated.
“They are often surprised at some of the things they come across in class when they use journals and reputable news sources,” she said.
The full quality of life survey will cover other broad topics, such as the overall quality of life and race relations in the Lehigh Valley.
Borick teased some of its findings, such as 91 percent reporting that life in the valley was good or excellent, with 56 percent saying things were getting better. Twenty percent the quality of life was getting worse, while 13 percent said it hadn’t changed, Borick said.
Voter participation jumped in every town and was equally high in towns that historically vote both Democrat and Republican, records show.
Bucks County had a wave, but it was less blue, and more mauve or magenta.
Early and, as yet, uncertified voter returns from the Bucks County Board of Elections suggest 64 percent participation in Tuesday’s midterms . In neighboring Montgomery County, an estimated 67 percent of registered voters made their voices heard .
In fact, turnout jumped in every town and was equally high in communities that historically vote both Democrat and Republican, records show.
Such participation is remarkable for a non-presidential election year. Just 30 percent of registered voters participated in last November’s general election for local offices such as town councils and school boards, and only 12.1 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the May 2017 primary , according to county estimates.
In Bucks, a congressional midterm generally draws about 50 percent of registered voters to the polls. An estimated 57 percent of registered voters took part in the congressional midterm of 2006 when then-President George W. Bush was coming under fire for his handling of the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.
Tuesday, though, was a totally different story.
In blue Bensalem, the largest township in Bucks, an estimated 22,704 voters took part in Tuesday’s election compared with just 15,134 Bensalem residents who voted in the 2014 midterm. That’s a 50-percent increase in midterm election turnout.
In smaller, more conservative towns like Plumstead, some 6,960 ballots were cast compared with just 4,241 votes from the 2014 midterm election. That’s a 64-percent increase in voter participation in a town with some 4,719 registered Republicans and 3,387 Democrats, election records show.
“We were trying to get more Republicans out in the election and we were successful, and so were the Democrats,” said Pat Poprik, the GOP chairwoman in Bucks County.
For 30 years, Republicans have held Pennsylvania’s 143rd state House District, representing portions of central Bucks County in the state’s General Assembly. For 12 years, that district was held by Republican Marguerite Quinn. Yet, campaigning there was hard, said Joe Flood, a Republican on the Doylestown Borough Council who lost the race to Democrat Wendy Ullman by 525 votes.
“We were definitely working against the wind, and we knew that from the start,” said Flood. “Some people, no matter who you were and no matter how much they liked you, they were going to vote straight Democrat.”
One of the biggest challenges was wrangling votes in Doylestown Township, a community that typically swings Republican , said Flood. “A lot of Republicans were not happy. I spoke with Republicans who said they were unhappy with the national party and so they weren’t going to vote for me.”
Quinn herself lost her bid to represent the 10th District in the state Senate to Lower Makefield Democrat Steve Santarsiero.
Flood and other Republicans could have an even tougher time getting elected in in two years when President Donald Trump is on the ticket seeking re-election, said John Cordisco, Bucks County’s Democratic Party chairman . “It’s going to be even more
problematic for many of these folks two years from now that are running on the Republican ticket,” said Cordisco.
Election results reported so far by the county do not include all absentee ballots, votes cast overseas, including those submitted by military personnel, as well as provisional ballots for cases where it was unclear whether the voter was eligible to vote at a particular polling place.
On Friday, the Bucks County Board of Elections began reviewing all such ballots for an official certified count. Military/overseas and absentee ballots will be counted through Wednesday, said Larry King, county spokesman.
So, technically, this year’s wave is still in process.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Cumberland County's West Shore suburbs show large leftward shift in voting
Cumberland County’s voting patterns appear to be changing in step with some national trends, even if it isn’t as obvious in Central Pennsylvania as it is elsewhere in the country.
Precinct-level returns for the county from the Nov. 6 election indicate the rapid acceleration of a movement that started in 2016, in which the county’s suburban zones have turned sharply toward Democratic candidates at the top of the ticket, but less so for down-ballot candidates.
“The bottom line is that Republicans have a lot of work to do on the West Shore (the eastern end of Cumberland County),” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist and member of the party’s state committee. “In some ways, [the election result] was a reflection of the type of campaign that was waged, but in other ways, we’re looking at larger trends.”
Cumberland County, as a whole, split its ticket this year — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf carried the county, something a Democrat has not done in some time. GOP candidate Lou Barletta took 52 percent of the county’s votes in the U.S. Senate race — still a majority, but much less than the 59 percent of the county that voted for Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016.
Republican Congressional candidates John Joyce and Scott Perry received a combined 55 percent of the vote in Cumberland County. In 2016, Perry and Barletta took home a combined 65 percent of the county’s vote in the Congressional races.
The driving factor behind closer margins for Republicans — and a flip in the case of the governor’s race — lies in the county’s suburban districts along the West Shore.
Camp Hill Borough, with a census population of about 8,000 people, has been the region’s bellwether in that respect, flipping from voting for Mitt Romney in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The borough, with one of the county’s highest rates of college education according to Census data, moved even more sharply to the left this year, voting overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates all the way down the ballot.
Whereas Camp Hill supported GOP incumbent Sen. Toomey over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty in 2016 by about 4.5 points, Barletta lost the borough to Casey this year by a whopping 14 points.
Camp Hill also voted for Perry in 2016 over his then-challenger, Democrat Joshua Burkholder, by 15 points. But two years later, those numbers flipped with Perry’s 2018 challenger, George Scott, who carried Camp Hill by more than 11 points.
Even statehouse candidates felt the pinch. GOP Rep. Greg Rothman won re-election this year despite losing the Camp Hill section of his state House district by 7 points to Democrat Sean Quinlan. Rothman carried the borough by about 10 points in 2016.
“[Camp Hill] used to be a rock-ribbed Republican stronghold, and it no longer is,” Gerow said.
Precinct results also indicate that the suburban shift to the left that started in Camp Hill two years ago is also spreading geographically.
New Cumberland Borough, with about 7,300 people, is a much more conservative West Shore enclave, voting for Donald Trump in 2016 by 8 points.
But in 2018, the borough favored Wolf by 16 points, Casey by 6 points and Scott by two points. The only GOP candidate with a strong showing in that borough was state Rep. Sheryl Delozier who bested her Democratic opponent by 14 points. Lemoyne Borough, with 4,600 people, featured roughly the same results, with Delozier gaining the upper hand while Perry, Barletta and Wagner did not.
That trend, in which conservative voters stick by the Republican state House candidates they know but then abandon candidates farther up the ticket has been on pollsters’ radar for some time.
“That’s exactly what our polls have showed, that Republicans are more likely to split their ticket and create that crossover,” said Terry Madonna, a political scientist and pollster with Franklin & Marshall College.
While much of the national conversation has focused on that shift around large urban areas there’s no reason that it wouldn’t happen in Central Pennsylvania’s suburbs as well, Madonna said.
“It’s not just the suburbs around Philadelphia, it’s the suburbs around many cities, anywhere that has a high percentage of college-educated voters, particularly female college-educated voters,” Madonna said.
The cause for Republican top-ticket candidates’ massive underperformance in these West Shore areas and statewide could either spotlight a national mood shifting away from the GOP or this year’s Republican headliners not being strong candidates.
“I don’t know that it’s a reflection of national mood or national trends as much as it is a weaker top of the ticket than Republicans have ordinarily been able to field,” Gerow said.
Madonna submitted that it was a combination of both. With Trump’s position on the national stage being a major motivator for voters — both in support and opposition — Wagner and Barletta could not break out of the box created by their close allegiance to the president.
“Neither found a signature issue that resonated with the voters ... and you had two reasonably popular incumbents [Wolf and Casey] who didn’t have any big negatives, or at least not any that their opponents could make stick,” Madonna said.
Perry still pulled out a victory, but his margin was razor-thin with Scott losing by about 2.5 points for the district as a whole, which includes Dauphin and parts of York and Cumberland counties, including York city and Carlisle.
Carlisle continued to be strongly left-leaning, voting for Scott by about 25 points. But Carlisle’s turnout was relatively low at just under 50 percent compared to the county’s more reliably right-leaning areas where Republicans held their performance.
Middlesex and Monroe townships — two jurisdictions that have seen some growth, but remain predominantly rural — featured Perry getting roughly 65 and 63 percent of the vote, respectively, nearly matching the 30-point advantage Trump saw in those counties 2016.
In Hampden Township, Cumberland County’s most populous municipality at around 29,000 people, Perry finished 6 points ahead, which was a smaller share of the vote than Republican candidates have enjoyed in the past. But even that smaller advantage pays big dividends given Hampden’s sheer size and voter turnout. Almost 66 percent of Hampden Township voters cast ballots this year, and Perry’s six-point lead in the district amounted to 933 votes — more than enough to negate Scott’s margins in Camp Hill and New Cumberland combined.
Upper Allen Township also presents another test case—a rapidly suburbanizing and relatively wealthy municipality of around 20,000 people, where Republicans lost ground rapidly at the top of the ticket, but retained enough down-ballot to carry their candidates. After siding with Trump
in 2016, Upper Allen voted for Wolf over Wagner by 5 points, but backed Perry over Scott by 10 points.
The shift still isn’t in Republicans’ favor, especially if voter turnout increases in left-leaning areas in 2020 with a presidential contest on the ballot. Perry’s campaign initially struggled to find it’s footing in a much less conservative district, a result of re-mapping via the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s anti-gerrymandering decision earlier this year.
“He was thrown from a red-meat Republican district into a much more purple one, and it took him a while to get on track,” Gerow said, a hiccup that Republicans may not be able to afford in 2020.
This could also include state House candidates, Gerow said.
Rothman, for instance, won his re-election this year by about 12 points overall, less than half the 25-point lead he carried in 2016. Camp Hill flipped to his Democratic challenger, and Rothman’s lead narrowed in suburbs further afield, such as Hampden and East Pennsboro townships.
National Democrats and liberal groups have yet to put significant amounts of money into such state House races, but if they do in 2020, Gerow said, local Republican candidates will need to step up their campaigns in a significant way.
WRITTEN BY ANTHONY OROZCO
READING, PA — When the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race was called in favor of incumbent Tom Wolf, a room full of Latino voters erupted into applause.
The election viewing party at the Reading headquarters for the state's largest Latino advocacy organization, Make The Road Pennsylvania, was brimming with excitement and camaraderie.
"Venceremos! Venceremos! (We will overcome! We will overcome!)," people in the crowd at 501 Washington St. sang in unison.
Celebrants noted, however, that although they supported Wolf in his campaign for a second term, they would continue to hold his feet to the fire on a number of issues.
Voter turnout in Tuesday's midterm elections was strong across the nation, and the momentum was felt in Reading, where well over 6,000 more ballots were cast than in the last midterm election in 2014, according Berks County Election Services.
Beyond the political tensions fueling voter participation, local groups have been on a mission to push voters - particularly Latino voters - to head to the polls.
Latinos make up over 63 percent of Reading's population, according to a 2016 U.S. census estimate, and that demographic presents a target for organizations aiming to boost the Latino vote.
There are 27,066 Latinos in the city who are eligible to vote, or 52.8 percent of all eligible city voters, according to the census estimates.
Make The Road Action Pennsylvania, a Latino political action group and sister organization to Make The Road Pennsylvania, reached tens of thousands of voters in the months leading up to the election, according to state director Adanjesus Marin.
"We knocked on 240,000 doors in Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, Lackawanna, Luzerne and Monroe counties," Marin said. "We also had an extensive digital outreach program, which included texts and social media."
Make The Road Pennsylvania also registered around 7,000 voters since the beginning of the year, the majority of those being people of color, Latinos, working-class whites and Puerto Ricans who resettled in Pennsylvania after Hurricane Maria, Marin said.
Raiz, a Latino organizing group under Planned Parenthood, held a block party in the north side of Reading before the election and knocked on doors to spark excitement.
The Daniel Torres Hispanic Center also pushed for voters to have their voice heard, registering more than 750 voters, according to Michael Toledo, CEO and president of the center in Reading.
"The numbers are unbelievable and show the community came out and voted," Toledo said.
Although there's no way to tell how many of the 15,450 people who voted in Reading on Tuesday were Latino, the turnout marked a 66 percent increase over the 2014 midterm
election when 9,301 residents voted. It also was a 220 percent increase over the 4,823 voters who cast ballots in the 2017 general election.
Only the 2016 presidential election, which brought 25,099 city voters to the polls, saw more voters in recent years.
As part of the Unity Coalition of Berks, the Hispanic Center also rolled out the Leaders Organizing for Voter Engagement, or LOVE, movement days before the election. The initiative pushed individuals to encourage others to vote.
"Tuesday was a transformational change for the city," said Toledo, longtime advocate for voter engagement. "To have these kinds of numbers in the city of Reading means we can have a voice, that we will have a voice going forward. In numbers there is strength, and in strength there is power."
Though Reading had a stronger turnout Tuesday than in previous elections, the numbers were still less than the county average.
There are an estimated 51,922 eligible voters in Reading, according to the 2016 U.S. census community survey. If that estimate is accurate, it means that 88 percent of eligible voters are registered.
And the 15,450 Reading residents who voted Tuesday represent just about 34 percent of registered voters. In comparison, Berks County recorded 141,109 votes Tuesday, or 55 percent of 256,617 registered voters.
Even though Reading's turnout was comparatively less than the county's, Cindy Reales, bilingual coordinator for elections office, said her team of 70 interpreters reported a significant increase of voters who primarily speak Spanish.
"I usually follow up with my interpreters after elections, but they've been the ones calling me," Reales said Wednesday. "They said they were happy they could utilize their skill and training they learned."
Of those 70 interpreters, 19 were stationed around Reading. Others were spread throughout the county and a few remained in elections office to help with calls that required a Spanish speaker, Reales said.
This map of Reading's precincts show voter turnout in the November election. The darker the color, the higher the turnout. Click on the map to see votes cast and registered voters.
Across the United States, Latino voters were more engaged in Tuesday's election than in previous years, according to a recent Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends study.
The survey of 1,501 Latinos ages 18 and older found that 55 percent of respondents were "more enthusiastic" about the 2018 midterms than they were about previous congressional races. However, Latinos were less likely to know facts about their congressional candidates than non-Latinos knew - 47 percent vs. 59 percent, respectively, the report notes.
Manuel Ramos, 73, of Reading was among the crowd at the Make The Road election event Tuesday in Reading. Ramos, who hails from Ecuador and has been a U.S. citizen for 15 years, said he only voted for one candidate, a Democrat.
"I voted for (state Rep. Thomas R.) Caltagirone," he said. "I was not very well informed of the other candidates and, because I didn't have information about them, I could not vote for them. That would be irresponsible."
Latinos also seemed more inclined to lean to the left in the midterm, according to Pew analysis, with 63 percent of survey respondents saying they would vote for Democratic Party candidates.
Jonathan Candido, 19, brought his 13-year-old sister, Ashley Candido, with him to the polls at St. Paul's Lutheran Church.
"This is my first time voting," Jonathan Candido said. "My parents encouraged me to vote, and I wanted to experience it for myself."
Jonathan said he came out to vote to show unity with the Democrats.
"I think it is important for me to vote so the government hears my voice and to support my party," he said.
Cesar Rodriguez, owner of L&J Supermarket at North Ninth and Penn streets, said he voted a straight Democratic ticket to oppose the administration of President Donald Trump. Rodriguez said that since he became a citizen in 2006, he has taken voting very seriously.
"I vote in every election," he said. "It is an obligation, as a citizen and as a human being, to vote. It is a shame that so many of us (Latinos) do not vote."
According to Marin, the greatest barrier in Make The Road Pennsylvania's effort to get people to vote is that they feel the government is corrupt and that voting is futile.
However, he noted that Wolf's victory and the turning of the U.S. House of Representatives demonstrated to Latinos, who are more likely to vote Democrat, that their vote can create change.
Contact Anthony Orozco: 610-371-5015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WRITTEN BY JEREMY LONG
BERKS COUNTY, PA — High school students throughout Berks County had an opportunity to witness history Tuesday as scores of voters went to the polls
"It was really exciting," said Erin Doyle, 18, a senior at Wilson High School. "We had a really big turnout, which made it a neat experience."
Doyle was one of the 30 high school students from Berks County who spent Election Day working polling places across the county.
"We are very appreciative of the participation of the schools and the students that work on Election Day," said Karen Barsoum, who as assistant director of election services in Berks has overseen the student poll worker program for the past nine elections.
This election, 72 students from 11 school districts applied to be poll workers, Barsoum said.
Students serve as either machine inspectors or clerks and are paid $120 for a workday that lasts from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
"They are fully part of the (election) board," Barsoum said. "The are definitely a very important part of our process here."
Chris Wagner, a social studies teacher who also teaches AP government and politics at Wilson High School, has been sending his students to work at the polls for five years.
"I have not had a negative response," Wagner said. "They always come back with an interesting story with the people that work there or interacting with the voters."
When Wagner went to vote at his polling location Tuesday, he came across a pleasant surprise.
"One of my students was there," Wagner said. "Three of my former students were in line waiting to vote. So I'm really feeling good about the whole thing then."
Colin Lynch, 17, a senior at Wilson High School, said he always had an interest in politics but didn't know anything about voting and working the polls.
"It makes it seem so freaking easy," Lynch said. "I absolutely plan on voting when I can."
The highlight of his day was when he got a kiss on the cheek when he opened the door for an 85-year-old woman.
"It's a long day but it's nice, because you get little bits of conversation here and there," Lynch said. "And that's enough to keep me going."
Even though the students are at the polls only one day a year, Wagner believes it can make a difference in how they view elections.
"In the classroom, it's all theoretical," he said. "When they can get practical experience, hands-on, even as simple as operating a voting booth, it has more of an impact."
Nikki Aquino, 17, a junior at Wilson High School, said the chance to work at the polls was one she didn't want to miss.
"It was a great opportunity," she said.
And she did it with gusto, according to Paul Laincz, 80, judge of elections at Cumru Township's Precinct 1 polling place at Christ (Yocum) Evangelical Lutheran Church.
"I keep trying to get her to take a break, and she won't," Laincz said, smiling. "She knows what she's doing, and she's doing it."
Aquino said she was enjoying her day during a brief interview early Tuesday afternoon.
"It's been a lot of fun," she said.
And it was an inspiring experience, too, she said, noting the line outside the door when the polling place opened.
"People were recognizing their right, and exercising it," she said. "I thought it was cool."
(Assistant News Editor Joseph Hainthaler contributed to this story.)
Margee M. Ensign, For the Inquirer
America's young voters were the unsung heroes of last Tuesday's midterm elections. In New York, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history by becoming the youngest woman elected to Congress. Across the country, the 18- to 29-year-old demographic, often maligned for Election Day absences, showed up to the polls in droves. Preliminary analysis shows a nearly 200 percent surge in young voter turnout from just four years ago. Some have dubbed that surge the Youth Wave.
The core of this wave, which those of us in higher education find exciting, are college students who found their voices in this election. They are learning the values of civic engagement and the importance of exercising the right to vote. They are learning how to be lifelong contributors to our democracy, and they look to their faculty and administrators for nonpartisan leadership. Civic engagement and a deep understanding of democracy and its challenges are truly cemented during the college years. We must not fail them.
The voting numbers are important, not just because our students took an active role in helping to shape their future, but because they foreshadow a trend. Research has shown that, for young people, voting is habit-forming . Those who cast a ballot in this election are significantly more likely to vote in future elections. Institutions of higher education must foster that interest, not let it wane. The midterm election is over but the youth wave has just begun, and college and universities must play an important role beyond the classroom.
Take inspiration from Haverford College, where students, who make up the majority of the precinct, previously had to travel a mile and a half to reach their polling place. Persistence on the part of the college and nearby residents, and critical reporting by the Inquirer , helped sway the Delaware County Board of Elections to move the polls to a location on campus that welcomed voters with a pleasant experience, including ample signage and parking.
I also take inspiration from faculty and administrators at Dickinson College, where I am president. Dozens of faculty members and staff served as "celebrity drivers," shuttling students to a nearby polling place. And, in the months leading up to Election Day, a newly formed "Dickinson Votes" committee spent countless hours organizing voter registration drives, holding bipartisan public forums to discuss candidates and the issues, and training poll greeters.
On Election Day, I accompanied students to the polls and watched their happiness as they emerged from the polling place. I was reminded of an election in Nigeria that I monitored a couple of years ago as president of the American University of Nigeria. There, I saw students stand for hours in the blazing sun, proud of their own civic engagement. I saw a similar pride in our students, but one exited dejected. Her name had not appeared on the list of registered voters, and she was turned away. With her college president by her side, she reentered the polling place and asked for a provisional ballot, which had not been offered. That student then voted.
At a time when higher education is often criticized and its relevance debated, I'm proud of the role we're playing in educating students, removing barriers to voting and encouraging them to know their voting rights. My own experience in Nigeria taught me how precious democracy is. I'm optimistic thinking of the work ahead as we look to 2020 and beyond. We can't just ride this youth wave. We must sustain it. We must help the youth wave surge.
Margee M. Ensign is president of Dickinson College.
International students have choices. Are some now looking past the U.S.?
When students overseas weigh college study in the U.S. -- for most, a journey into the unknown that can stretch family income -- the calculus includes not just strength of programs here and cost, but this: What kind of country awaits?
For some, the answer may be a country increasingly wary of foreigners, where mass shootings make headlines more frequently. Or it could be a place where they will be embraced on and off campus, where instruction is so enriching that American higher education is worth it, no matter the price.
Or it could be none of that matters -- at least as much -- since an increasing number of other countries are effectively wooing those students with everything from scholarship aid to a path to citizenship.
A new study on international enrollment in the U.S. released Tuesday paints a complicated picture, officials said. On one hand, total enrollment grew by almost 2 percent, topping a million students for the third consecutive year, another record high. But the rate of that growth has slowed, and the number of new foreign students is down substantially -- by nearly 7 percent.
Leaders of the Institute of International Education, which publishes the report, point to various factors and note that the pattern varies significantly by campus. That was true of numbers from Pennsylvania.
The largest campus in this state, Penn State University at University Park, saw a 5 percent decline in 2017-18, while the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania secured gains of 6, 12 and 5 percent respectively.
Economic and birth rate shifts globally, as well as how much student aid sending countries offer, all impact enrollment levels here, as do shifts in visa rules and other government actions that affect arrivals.
Allan Goodman, president of the New York City-based IIE, said it’s hard to emphasize any single factor, though he did not dispute that attitudes about immigration and perceptions of violence are among family concerns.
“The international education consumer is always concerned about access, diversity, quality, cost and safety,” he said.
“We’re not hearing that they feel they can’t get in,” he said of government rules. “We’re hearing that they have choices.”
The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange is produced yearly by IIE, a not-for-profit organization advocating global education. The report puts total enrollment of foreign students at 1,094,792 for 2017-18, the most current year available, an increase of 15,970 students from 2016-17.
It was smaller than the 3 percent gain the previous year and a 7 percent increase the year before that. This year’s growth is mainly in the Optional Practical Training program (OPT) that allows students to stay in this country for up to 36 months in some cases to practice their skills.
A more limited survey of new international students was conducted this fall. However, results are not yet available.
A parallel study by IIE finds the number of students studying abroad grew by a little over 2 percent to 332,727 for 2016-17, the most current data. Officials said about one in 10 undergraduates now enroll in study outside the U.S. for academic credit at their home institutions.
Officials with IIE said the U.S. remains the top draw for foreign students, about double the next closest nation. Their time here leads to better understanding of the U.S. and injects $42 billion yearly to the nation’s economy, officials said.
International students account for about 6 percent this country’s 20 million college students. In the past few years, those working with international students on some campuses have expressed concern that hardening rhetoric coming from this country and immigration policy changes under the Trump administration might give some families pause.
In Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, one of the city’s three largest universities, has felt the downturn. But an administrator there remains confident that numbers will grow, given its programs, its values-based education and location within a city that has qualities of the East Coast and cultural aspects of the Midwest.
Joseph DeCrosta, executive director in Duquesne’s Center for Global Engagement, said many students want more immersion into American culture than they get simply by being on campus, and the Catholic university obliges with such outreach as “Twenty Dinners,” a program where faculty and other employees open their homes to visiting students for meals and conversation.
“We’re trying our best to get them out into the local communities,” he said.
Fabiana van der Wegen, 22, a Duquesne student from Uden, Netherlands, recalled her visit last year to the Shadyside home of a health science professor who cooked Italian and invited her own family to join the students.
“Not only did I get to know other international students better, but it was nice to have that personal connection with the professor,” she said.
The Duquesne senior, a double major in international business and supply chain management, belongs to a student organization that brings together experienced overseas students at Duquesne with new campus arrivals.
Mr. DeCrosta said Duquesne’s 9,300 students include about 700 from other countries, most notably China, Saudi Arabia, India, Canada, Nigeria, Germany, Vietnam, Turkey, Brazil, Bangladesh and Colombia. The total was 800 a few years back, and Mr. DeCrosta said he hopes to eventually enroll about 1,000 international students.
One of the represented countries at Duquesne, Saudi Arabia, sent nearly 16 percent fewer students to the U.S. in 2017-18, attributable to factors including a reduction in available aid in that country.
Among all countries, China topped the list. It sent 363,341, up by about 4 percent; next were India, 196,271, up by 5 percent; South Korea, 54,555, down 7 percent; Saudi Arabia, 44,432, after a 16 percent decline; and Canada, 25,909, down 4 percent. They alone accounted for two-thirds of foreign enrollment in the U.S.
The biggest percentage increases were Nepal at 14 percent and Brazil at 12 percent.
California was the top host state with 161,942 students; Next was New York at 121,260, followed by Texas at 84,348, Massachusetts at 68,192 and Illinois with 53,362. Pennsylvania was the sixth with 51,817 students.
Penn State was the 14th-largest destination among U.S institutions with 8,636 students at University Park. Carnegie Mellon University ranked 15th, with 8,604 international students.
Next largest Pennsylvania draws were the University of Pennsylvania, 6,819; the University of Pittsburgh, 4,246; and Drexel University, 3,908.
Among foreign students, engineering was most popular field, followed by business and management and math and computer sciences. They alone account for two-thirds of international students.
Among study abroad students, the STEM fields of science technology engineering and math are top, followed by business. They represent 46 percent of students. Those students are becoming more diverse. In 2006-07, 18 percent were non-white, but 29 percent as of 2016-17.
The IIE has conducted an annual statistical survey or international enrollment since its founding in 1919. This year’s report was released jointly by its partner since the 1970s, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Bill Schackner: email@example.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @Bschackner
Cheney, in UPJ visit: Defense cuts ‘big mistake’
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he’s concerned President Donald Trump is reversing course on his pledge to rebuild the nation’s defense – less than a year after championing the first significant military spending increase in nearly a decade.
Trump told reporters three weeks ago that his administration would be requesting $700 billion – a nearly 5 percent cut to the current allocation – for the 2020 fiscal year budget, a move Cheney sees as “a big mistake.”
“President Trump ran on the basis he’d rebuild the military and that’s one of the main reasons I supported him,” said Cheney, who served as the nation’s Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush during the Persian Gulf War. “I think it’ll be a huge disappointment for me personally, if he reverses course and goes along with defense cuts.”
Trump helped push through an effort last year to get defense spending cuts lifted – and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle joined him in passing an appropriations plan that boosted defense spending to nearly $730 billion, up $70 billion from the year before.
It ended an eight-year trend of steep “sequestration” cuts ushered in by lawmakers during the Obama presidency, one that decimated the nation’s military size, investment in the tools and technology its troops rely on and overall readiness, in general, Cheney said. It also saw defense industry-reliant workforces in areas such as Johnstown dwindle.
“That $730 billion, it’s a start,” Cheney said, adding that eight years’ worth of cuts have had consequences.
“We now have a situation where (new) aircraft won’t fly. We have significant problems in readiness,” he said, noting there’s a still a shortage in the number of military personnel, despite recent efforts to ramp that up.
With new aircraft still a work in progress and older models being retired, the nation’s military pilots have been largely grounded, logging far too few flight hours, Cheney added.
He pointed to two recent Navy aircraft crashes over the past month in the Philippines – the latter an aging $57 million strike fighter called the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Malfunctions were blamed for the more than 20-year-old aircraft’s crash.
“We’re in big trouble,” Cheney said.
Cheney spoke with media as part of a visit to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown that included a VIP reception and the first in what will become a series of forums sponsored by the John P. Murtha Foundation.
The former vice president and another fellow former defense secretary, Leon Panetta – who spoke via video conference from his home in California – talked about Murtha, a former colleague, and their concerns about Russia and nationalism during an hour long session in front of a crowd of several hundred students and community members.
On Putin, politics
In Cheney and Panetta, the crowd received insight from a pair of former defense secretaries who served under a combined five different presidential administrations.
Cheney served under presidents Gerald Ford and both Bush administrations, overseeing the nation’s entry into the Persian Gulf War and the war on terror a decade later.
Panetta, who worked under presidents Bill Clinton and served as CIA Director and, later, defense secretary under Barack Obama when Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was found and killed.
Both Panetta and Cheney – who served in Congress during the Cold War – said they have “real” concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive trend in the world – whether its his acts to undermine NATO, threaten former Soviet countries or support deceptive cyber operations in America.
“I’m concerned about him ... I think he’s deadly serious about his aspirations,” Cheney said, adding that efforts to meddle with an American election should be viewed as a “national security threat.”
To Panetta, “we’ve entered a new chapter of the cold war.”
“The problem is, if Putin senses weakness, he’ll take advantage of it,” he said. And over several Presidential administrations, he’s tried to do that when the opportunity was right, Panetta said.
“There comes a time ... you have to make it very clear that there are lines that cannot be crossed,” he said.
The global rise in nationalism – in Europe and America most alarmingly – also must be taken seriously, both men said.
“We went through this in the (19)30s. We saw what happened with Germany ... Fascist Italy and Japan,” Panetta said, adding that nationalism paves a dangerous path. “You don’t want to use terms that convey the idea you don’t have to respect others.”
The world’s democracies are stronger when they work together, he said.
He described NATO, the 29-country North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as one of history’s great diplomatic success stories, and noted that the world wouldn’t have brought an end to the Soviet Union without a united front.
The problems fueling nationalistic views – immigration, among them – are widespread – and should be addressed as such, both said. The free world’s leaders have to lead and work together, he said – and set examples for their countries to follow.
“And the United States has to take the lead,” Cheney said.
Defense spending at crossroads
Cheney voiced his concerns about defense cuts during a brief press conference with media prior to the forum.
With Democrats often far more concerned with domestic spending, the fact they will assume control of Congress next year could serve as another blow to efforts to bolster the U.S. military, he said.
“Unfortunately, there really isn’t anybody in the Democratic party anymore that I can think of ... that’s a real leader on defense like (the late U.S. Rep) Jack Murtha was,” he said.
That’s why ... it’s so important to have a Republican president supporting our defense.”
Trump has offered few details into his plan but said he hopes to “trim the fat” from the defense department and others by 5 percent across the board.
To Cheney, it signals last year’s pledge to ratchet up defense spending was a short term one – and not the start of a sustained effort to reinvigorate the nation’s military.
Either Trump’s plan to reduce is “based on some concept I don’t understand” ... or he doesn’t understand the consequences,” he said.
A small group of less than 10 area residents – carrying signs that read “Dismantle the War Economy”– protested Cheney’s visit, arguing that the nation has spent enough already on the military and the 16-year-long war on terror.
“The war on terror is going to cost $5.6 trillion, according to a recent Brown University study – that’s a huge chunk of money for a country with communities like Johnstown, where there’s a 30 percent poverty rate,” said Larry Blalock, a member of the human rights-minded nonprofit Put People First! Pennsylvania.
That multi-trillion dollar sum will have to be paid for – and it’ll be Americans across the nation suffering because government will end up cutting human services and other vital programs to pay the tab, Blalock said.
Murtha remembered as a ‘friend’
In a stop that also included a VIP reception and a forum with Pitt-Johnstown students and faculty, Cheney spoke to media Monday at the recently opened John P. Murtha Center For Public Service and National Competitiveness as part of an ongoing series.
Cheney and Murtha both served in Congress together for a decade beginning in 1979.
Both men served on the House’s ethics committee – and when Cheney was picked to serve in George H.W. Bush’s cabinet as defense secretary in 1989, breakfast meetings between the two inside the Pentagon became common, Cheney said.
“By then, he was chairman of the (House) Defense appropriations subcommittee. He was the go-to guy on many of the things I was doing. From my standpoint ... the most important member of congress,” he said.
He described Murtha as a defense “giant,” a friend and colleague.
“The important thing to know about Mr. Murtha, is that he was a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine,” Cheney said.
The pair didn’t always agree “but we could always work out our differences,” he said.
Cheney didn’t discuss Murtha’s criticism of second Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq in the mid-2000s.
Murtha vented at the time that “demoralized” troops were under-supported, weren’t being given a plan to win and end the war – and that the Bush-Cheney White House was unwilling to listen.
After the longtime congressman – a Vietnam veteran – called for the U.S. to withdraw forces in 2016, Murtha became a GOP target.
And while Cheney has never wavered from his stance on the war, he defended Murtha from the attacks he was facing in 2005.
“I disagree with Jack and believe his proposal would not serve the best interest of this nation. But he’s a good man, a Marine, a patriot, and he’s taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion,” Cheney said at the time.
Joe Torsella, For The Inquirer
Pat worked for more than three decades as a nurse and educator. First as a school nurse, and then in a state hospital, she took care of the developmentally disabled and provided comfort and support for their families. She worked hard, eventually getting her doctoral degree, and came back to teach to a new generation of caregivers at a state university. Now retired, she spends the monthly pension income she earned on her home, her health care, and gifts for her grandchildren, of course.
I could tell you a lot about Pat, because she's my mom. And she's just one of the 724,000 Pennsylvanians that rely on one of our two public pension systems in the Commonwealth, PSERS and SERS.
Keeping the promises we've made to those Pennsylvanians isn't negotiable. The only question is how to do it.
Recently, it was revealed that over the last 10 years, Wall Street money managers pocketed around $3.8 billion more from our pension funds than was previously disclosed to the public. In the aftermath of those reports, some have — oddly — claimed that the $3.8 billion isn't really a fee, or a cost, or really anything to be concerned about at all. Nothing to see here, folks, so please be on your way.
Much of the $3.8 billion comes from something called "carried interest," which is a fancy way of saying it's money taken out of the profits from an investment. For that reason, many of those same people claim this $3.8 billion is actually something we're privileged to pay, because it means we made money.
The point they miss is simple: That money didn't go to the Pennsylvanians who worked all their lives to serve others, who now rely on these pensions to live in dignity in their retirement. That $3.8 billion went into the pockets of Wall Street money managers instead.
And there's another point they miss. Where I grew up, the town Pat still lives in, finance jargon like "carried interest" doesn't fool anyone. If someone keeps some of your profits, it's a fee whether they call it that or not. If a mutual fund company told my mom they would manage her money "for free"… as long as they could keep some of her dividends … she'd hang up the phone.
To be sure, we will always have to pay something to invest our public money. But Pennsylvanians deserve to know where every single dollar of their money goes and to pay as little to Wall Street as possible for the best results.
Those two positions have been painted as something radical. They shouldn't be.
Pennsylvanians need negotiators on their behalf who are brutally tough. While we will have to pay something, $4 billion in fees is not a good deal if we could have paid $2 billion for the same results.
The Wall Street money managers who pitch their services to us are not our friends, and they don't have any legal obligation to work in the best interests of Pennsylvanians. While we may decide to do business with the manager, when it comes to investment fees, every last dollar that goes to them is one that doesn't go to Pennsylvanians who need the system to be there when they retire.
The Pennsylvania nurses who cared for those who suffer worked harder than a Wall Street money manager. So have the state troopers who kept us safe, and the teachers who taught us to read. They deserve full transparency on where every dollar in our pension systems go. And they deserve every dollar we can keep in Pennsylvanians' hands.
Paying fees to Wall Street isn't a privilege. It's an unfortunate necessity. And it's time to reduce it as much as possible.
Joe Torsella is treasurer of Pennsylvania. @JoeTorsella
At stake were 50,000 high-paying 21st Century jobs, so no wonder 20 top cities, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, did all they could over the past year to woo Amazon’s HQ2 project.
The exact details of those highly secretive, incentive-laden bids remain under wraps. But David Black, head of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC -- and who competed in the initial round on behalf of central Pa. -- said whatever the cities did was well worth it.
“It’s got to be considerable staff time they put in,” Black said of the economic development entities of both Pittsburgh and Philly. “But this was a game-changer for communities. These are the 21st Century jobs. This wasn’t an Amazon fulfillment center. These were the high-paying jobs.”
And having gone through the year-long Amazon HQ2 process as two of 20 big city finalists, both Pittsburgh and Philly are the better for it, Black said.
“Every experience you go through makes you a little better for the next one,” he said. “There is justification your staff got better and the region is better positioned for the next one.”
But as for those prized, high-end Amazon HQ jobs, they will be divided among the two HQ2 winners -- northern Virginia and Queens, NY. Each winning city should get about a 25,000 job share, as Amazon splits its 50,000-position HQ2 among them.
Already, there is talk of the $1.5 billion in incentives New York reportedly offered Amazon. But Black says the company’s decision likely came down to finding the right workforce for its East Coast expansion.
“I think at the end of the day, the decision was based more on workforce than incentives,” said Black.
In the end, he said, none of the cities offered exactly the pool of talent Amazon was looking to dive into, so the company settled on two locations.
“Workforce was a problem anyplace,” Black said.
But the huge government incentives paid out to a huge profitable company will get headlines. And all the publicity surrounding the year-long Amazon HQ2 process that played out like a reality show could tip the public sentiment away from so aggressively wooing companies in the future.
“This corporate welfare thing is a relatively recent development,” Black said. “People say, ‘why are we giving all this money to companies?’ It’s because places want vibrant communities and they want jobs.”
That said, with the economy strong and unemployment low, there is less emphasis on bringing in new companies and economic development efforts are shifting away from grants and other upfront incentives in favor of tax credits when these business actually begin pumping money into communities, Black acknowledged.
“I think the appetite for this is becoming a little less than what it was,” Black said. “Economic development is not the priority it was 20 years ago.”
Still, the standing of both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia when it comes to landing future business is all the better for having both been an Amazon finalist, Black said.
“It is a good exercise, and it’s going to get noticed,” he said. “‘Pittsburgh, Phlly -- oh they were Amazon finalists.’ They will probably get some additional looks as a result of this. I think it is a particularly good thing for Pittsburgh. That is a town that has been reinventing itself for 30 years now. This is another step in making the final list. It’s a win for them.”
Just not the kind they wanted.
Amazon’s two new headquarters will not be in Pennsylvania , but local officials still have not shared the details of offers they made to entice the online-retail giant to the Keystone State.
New York City and Arlington, Va. have been selected as two new headquarters locations, Amazon officials announced Tuesday.
But both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were among 20 finalist cities considered by Amazon for the second headquarters locations.
Pittsburgh officials did not immediately answer questions about what offers they made as part of the selection process, but that information will be shared at an upcoming news conference, they said.
“When that occurs, the community will see that there were only two local investment packages offered and neither included using any existing city or county tax money/revenues,” officials said in a Tuesday statement. “Rather, the proposal included a strategy to make sure if Pittsburgh invested in Amazon, Amazon would have invested in us, to the benefit of all residents.”
Similarly, Philadelphia officials responded to a morning inquiry about their offer with an email statement from Mayor Jim Kenney.
"While Philadelphia was not ultimately chosen for Amazon’s HQ2, I thank Amazon for its consideration and am honored that we were among the top contenders. I also recognize the value of this competitive process, which has benefited our city in many ways. It put Philadelphia in the national (and international) spotlight – increasing our visibility to other companies and showing our viability for other large-scale projects. It also required key stakeholders from various sectors to come together like never before and unite around a shared message and strategy for our city. I am hopeful that we will continue to harness the energy found throughout this process and apply it to future business attraction, retention, and expansion efforts in Philadelphia."
City Spokeswoman Deana Gamble also announced a Tuesday afternoon news conference about the topic, promising that city officials would be available for comments about the Amazon decision.
Officials in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have fought requests asking them to publicly disclose their offers to Amazon.
The search for a second headquarters was announced in 2017, launching a nationwide competition, with officials from from numerous cities making offers in an attempt to entice Amazon.
Earlier this month, it was announced that Amazon officials had instead decided to set up shop in two cities , creating a couple of smaller offices, employing about about 25,000 each.
The company’s Seattle headquarters holds 45,000 workers.
Amazon officials said each new headquarters will amount to a $2.5 billion investment to the selected communities.
In New York, Amazon is to receive incentives of $1.525 billion, and in Virginia, the company is to receive incentives of $573 million.
A finalist but not the winner: Amazon officially says it won't put HQ2 in Pittsburgh
There will be no HQ2 in Pittsburgh.
The Steel City lost out on Amazon's second headquarters. The big prize, the subject of a heated year-long competition, ended up being a split decision with Amazon dividing the headquarters between the New York and Arlington, Virginia. Also getting a small piece of the pie is Nashville, where Amazon is opening an operations center of excellence — the company says it will create more than 5,000 jobs there.
Pittsburgh joins 16 other disappointed finalists on the losing side of HQ2. The e-commerce giant had kept the finalists in suspense since January, when it narrowed the list of contenders to 20 from the 238 proposals it received in fall 2017.
City and county leaders had pitched the Pittsburgh region's quality of life, its housing stock, talent pool and relatively low cost of living as chief selling points. But in the end it wasn't enough to convince the online retailer to choose it over Long Island City in New York and Arlington, Virginia, or even Nashville.
Amazon announced in September 2017 that it was accepting proposals for HQ2 before whittling the list to 20.
It then spent much of 2018 visiting the finalist cities before finally making its much-anticipated announcement on Tuesday. Word leaked recently that Amazon was in advanced talks with Northern Virginia, Dallas, and Long Island City in the Queens neighborhood.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, hadn’t heard from the company since the spring, according to Mayor Bill Peduto.
“We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and northern Virginia,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”
Amazon referred to the northern Virginia location as National Landing, which apparently is an umbrella term that includes Crystal City and Pentagon City in Arlington and Potomac Yard in Alexandria.
In the competition, the Steel City likely was hurt by its less-than-stellar infrastructure, a smaller talent pool than that available in some of its larger competitor cities, and an airport that did not have nearly the number of flights or destinations as the winner.
While disappointed, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald didn’t view Amazon’s decision as a loss for the region.
He compared it to getting to the Super Bowl but not securing the victory.
“It’s better than being 8-8 and not making the playoffs. You’ve reached the finals. Yes, you want to win, but the fact you’re there is a big deal,” he said.
Being a finalist has helped to raise Pittsburgh’s profile, has provided plenty of national and international press, and has help to put the city on the map with other tech companies that have settled here. There’s no downside to that, he said.
Despite losing HQ2, the region likely will see more growth from Amazon, Mr. Fitzgerald predicted. The online retailer has a tech hub at the SouthSide Works , where more than 80 engineers are working on the company’s popular Alexa voice technology and machine learning. It also has warehouses in the region, including one it opened recently in Aleppo.
“They’re such a big worldwide company that Pittsburgh will continue to be an important part of Amazon’s future,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “They will continue to grow and do different things.”
He called the loss of HQ2 “one minor setback to continued economic growth in Western Pennsylvania.”
“I think it was an extremely positive experience and a positive endeavor for this region. I couldn’t have thought of anything that would give us this level of notoriety and positive publicity,” he said. “It highlighted great things about Pittsburgh, that Pittsburgh’s on the move, that the next generation of technology is occurring here.”
Asked what the region needed to improve to be more competitive in the future, Mr. Fitzgerald said it must continue to work on its infrastructure, transportation, and workforce development. It also must produce more development-ready sites and more flights out of Pittsburgh International Airport.
The county executive said that while there have been discussions with Amazon in the past, in the last month or so “it became evident that they were talking to cities other than ours.”
In a recent interview, Mr. Peduto dismissed the idea that the city’s bid was all for naught given the eventual winner. He said those involved in helping to put together the bid “gave us the exercise of having to work together.”
“I think that the combination of the organizations that were involved in working on the Amazon plan was completely unique in Pittsburgh, and it has established very strong relationships between foundation, corporate, city, county and institution [officials],” he said.
“And that’s the type of collaborative effort we need to be able to attract companies to move to Pittsburgh. I think HQ2 was that exercise that we needed to be able to pull those fragmented forces together.”
That, he maintained, should help in the future in “really showing the strengths of why a company should locate here.”
"There's a lot of takeaway from this," Mr. Peduto said Tuesday after the announcement. "Right now, my concern is, how do we use the information we submitted to be able to create better economic development strategy for the city and the region?"
Even though the decision has been made, Pittsburghers still will have to wait at least a couple more days to find out what the region was offering in its bid to land Amazon. Mr. Fitzgerald said a press conference would be held in the coming days, perhaps Thursday, to go through the proposal.
Everything would be released that is not subject to a nondisclosure agreement, he said. That could mean some details may remain secret.
A joint release issued on behalf of Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Peduto and Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development stated the proposal included two local investment packages, neither of which involved using existing city or county tax money or revenues.
“Rather, the proposal included a strategy to make sure if Pittsburgh invested in Amazon, Amazon would have invested in us, to the benefit of all residents,” the statement read.
County Controller Chelsa Wagner said the bid should be released immediately.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County had been fighting in the courts to keep the bid secret despite a ruling from the state Office of Open Records and county Common Pleas Senior Judge W. Terrence O’Brien that it should be public.
Local officials have argued that releasing the pitch, which included local and state incentives, would put the region at a competitive disadvantage in the race.
“With even this highly questionable justification for skirting the law now moot, it is time for our residents to know what our elected leaders were willing to promise the world’s wealthiest man,” Ms. Wagner said.
New York and northern Virginia will pay handsomely for the 25,000 jobs and the $2.5 billion in investment Amazon is promising both.
In New York, that will include $1.5 billion in performance-based incentives tied to the jobs to be created. Part of that will be a refundable tax credit up to $1.2 billion based on a percentage of anticipated Amazon salaries over 10 years. It equates to $48,000 per job with an average wage of more than $150,000.
Amazon also will be receiving a $325 million cash grant based on the square footage of buildings it occupies in the next 10 years.
In exchange, in addition to the jobs and investment, the online retailer is promising 4 million square feet of energy-efficient office space with potential to grow to 8 million and more than $10 billion in incremental tax revenue over 20 years.
Amazon, in Virginia, will receive $573 million in performance-based incentives based on the number of jobs and an average salary of more than $150,000. That includes a cash grant of up to $550 million based $22,000 for each job created over the next 12 years. It will only receive that incentive if if creates the promised jobs.
It also will get a $23 million cash grant over 15 years from Arlington based on incremental growth in an existing hotel tax.
The state also is planning $195 million in infrastructure investment, including improvements to the Crystal City and Potomac Yards metro stations and a pedestrian bridge connecting National Landing and Reagan National Airport.
In addition, Arlington is offering $28 million from an existing tax increment financing district for on-site infrastructure and open space
The competition for HQ2 sparked a fierce bidding war, with Maryland dangling $8.5 billion in incentives, the largest of the publicly known offers. New Jersey promised $7 billion. Pennsylvania is believed to have offered at least $1 billion, although that has not been publicly disclosed.
Mark Belko: 412-263-1262; firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Adam Smeltz contributed to this story.
Daniel Patrick Sheehan Of The Morning Call
The Associated Press reports that Amazon plans split its new headquarters between Crystal City in Virginia and Long Island City, N.Y., which is just across the East River from Manhattan.
According to 2015 data from the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies, nearly 3,300 Lehigh Valley residents work in New York. Will the presence of the online retail behemoth’s headquarters tempt more of us into one of the world’s worst commutes?
A few considerations:
Distance from Allentown to Long Island City: 100.2 miles. According to Google, that would make the commute by car on I-78 roughly 2 hours and 41 minutes, assuming there are no excessive delays. There are always excessive delays.
Be sure and calculate the cost of tolls — $15 for the Holland Tunnel, for example — and gas, which is about $2.70 a gallon now. By 2020, the anticipated opening date, both costs may be a few pennies higher.
Also, add in wear and tear on the car and the cost of essential oils, scented candles and other stress-reducers.
Distance from Allentown to Crystal City: 192.2 miles via I-476 and I-95. That would be about 3.5 hours, a commute that could only tempt a masochist.
Mass transit: Buses, of course. There is no direct train service from the Lehigh Valley to Manhattan, despite the decades-long pleas of a desperate populace.
The bus to the train: Sure, but consider this, from CNBC: “The 7 train, the subway line that runs through much of Queens, is already straining to service the influx of new residents in the Long Island City area. That would only get worse with 25,000 Amazon workers commuting into Long Island City every day.”
Helicopter: 55 minutes! But, about $400 a day, based on a quick survey of charter rates. Put this option on the back burner, unless Amazon owner Jeff Bezos agrees to subsidize it. He’s worth $112 billion, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Relocating: The median home price in Queens, the borough where Long Island City is located, is $640,000. And we’d sure hate to lose you, neighbor.
It’s hard to see how Deborah Dailey expected to win this argument.
Dailey is a former chief deputy prothonotary and clerk of courts for Philadelphia. In May 2014 she was fired for stealing more than $70,000 by misusing her office’s credit cards.
Nine months later, Dailey pleaded guilty to theft, repaid the $70,000 and was sentenced to 2 ½ years of probation.
Then she filed for and received a $6,500-a-month pension from the city. That lasted only three months before the city pension board turned off the tap because of her criminal conviction.
A Commonwealth Court panel has seconded the board’s decision, rejecting Dailey’ claim that she is legally entitled to that lucrative retirement benefit.
In the state court’s opinion, Judge Michael H. Wojcik discounted Dailey’s claim on appeal that the denial of her pension is unconstitutional because it violates the prohibition against the imposition of excessive fines.
The pension denial isn’t a fine, the judge found. It occurred, he concluded, because Dailey, now 57, breached her contractual obligation to the city to be honest.
Dailey’s assertion that she didn’t realize her guilty plea to the theft charge would imperil her pension is irrelevant, Wojcik found.
“We conclude that the (pension) board’s determination did not result in an unconstitutional forfeiture of Dailey’s retirement benefits,” he wrote. “Rather, Dailey’s malfeasance in office...rendered her ineligible to receive those retirement benefits.”
Patients packed Altoona’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Herbology, on its opening day Monday.
As he waited to pick up his medicine, one patient who did not want to be named said he was very excited about the dispensary’s opening at 514 E. Pleasant Valley Blvd. in the Rosehill Plaza.
“I can get it legally. I don’t have to be worried about being drug tested at work. I feel like I am doing the right thing,”he said.
Herbology pharmacists serve patients with cannabis products, including flower, ingestible and topicals, cannabidiol products, concentrates, oil vape cartridges and disposable vape pens, all of which must be taken off-site before use.
The Altoona location is much more convenient for patients, including Steven Carroll, 38, of Tyrone, who uses medical marijuana to treat a seizure disorder.
He said he used to have to drive to a dispensary in Pittsburgh. Then, when a dispensary opened in State College, that reduced his drive. But now, he is only 15 minutes away from the new dispensary in Altoona.
“I’ve waited years or this to happen. It helps me with transportation, and it gives me something I don’t have to worry about becoming chronically dependent on,” he said, referring to prescription opioids and painkillers.
“It is better for people in Pennsylvania to have this as an option,” he said.
Herbology opened at 11 a.m. Monday and closed at 7 p.m. In the middle of the day, about 3 p.m., 60 patients had purchased medical marijuana and 20 others were waiting, said dispensary operations manager Will Agganis.
Herbology is the management company for Lebanon Wellness Center LLC. The company received a state permit to open the Altoona dispensary in June 2017, but faced some obstacles.
“It took a while to get everything open. It’s a regulatory process with security aspects and procedures. Beyond that, it was construction,” Agganis said. “I know it’s been months and people were waiting.”
On Monday, medical marijuana patients seeking a dispensary in Altoona didn’t have to wait any longer.
“It’s been crazy. Patients have been fantastic and very forgiving of the state’s glitchy computer system. That’s been frustrating. It slows down the process,” Agganis said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health qualifies a variety of ailments to be treated with medical marijuana.
Agganis noted that patients use medical marijuana and wean themselves off of dangerously addictive opioid medications.
“People with these ailments use opioids usually. And they can be super addictive. Cannabis can be addictive too, but studies have shown it is less addictive than coffee,” he said.
Before patients can purchase medical marijuana, they must first be diagnosed with one of the qualifying ailments and be registered for a medical marijuana card by a doctor.
The cost is between $100 to $250 for registration, depending on the doctor, Agganis said. In addition, the state charges $50 for the actual card.
Some doctors can bill the fee to insurance, but the actual purchase of the marijuana products won’t be covered by insurance.
“I hope that will be addressed,” Agganis said. “The health insurance system … the federal government doesn’t recognize cannabis as medicine.”
The act authorizing medical marijuana defines a “serious medical condition” as any one of the following:
Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
Inflammatory bowel disease
Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective
Sickle cell anemia
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health
By Staff Reports
The Wolf administration has united advocates for the elderly and a Pennsylvania nursing home trade group in opposition to a proposal that would reduce by half the amount of continuing education required of nursing home administrators.
"This is awful," said Diane Menio, executive director of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly in Center City.
"We're not on board," said Russ McDaid, chief executive of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. "This is a complex industry right now."
So where did the proposal — scheduled for consideration Wednesday at a meeting of the State Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators — come from?
"The proposal is part of the governor's licensing reform initiative to remove employment barriers and strengthen the state's workforce," said a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, which includes the licensing branch, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.
That effort led in June to the elimination of 13 job licenses, including those for auctioneers, barbers, cemetery brokers, and orthotic fitters.
"We must cut red tape, reduce the bureaucracy, and ensure overly burdensome rules and fees do not block hardworking people," Wolf said, "from getting a good job, supporting their families, and growing our economy."
Requiring licensing for selected occupations has long been seen, from one perspective, as a form of consumer protection that ensures basic levels of competency but from another as an anticompetitive measure that restricts the supply of people in those jobs.
Pennsylvania's 48-hour continuing education requirement over two years for the state's 2,377 nursing home administrators is currently above average for the Northeast, according to information from the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards. Cutting it to 24 hours every two years would put the state in the bottom tier nationally.
For advocates and industry representatives, the proposal runs counter to claims by Wolf's Department of Health that it has made it a priority to improve the quality of care in nursing homes.
A Department of Health spokesman referred an inquiry about the change to the Department of State, which said the proposal would reduce "the requirement to the statutory minimum to reduce some of the regulatory burdens of licensure, while continuing to protect the public health and safety by assuring continued competence of nursing home administrator licensees."
McDaid, of the nursing home trade group, said his organization is not hearing from nursing home administrators that getting 48 hours of training every two years is too burdensome.
"Forty-eight hours is not a significant barrier for them is what we hear from nursing home administrators," he said.
Jim Hook , Chambersburg Public Opinion
UPDATE: Transource Energy has pledged $7,500 to the Franklin County Planning Commission for tree plantings and riparian buffers, according to Transource spokeswoman Abby Foster.
Franklin County has talked with Transource about tree plantings, but has not received an official proposal, according to Franklin County Assistant Administrator Steve Nevada.
County commissioners have spoken out against the Transource powerline.
County planning chief Phil Tarquino said, "We're going to look for a decision (from commissioners' office) before we deposit a check."
CHAMBERSBURG -- The energy company that wants to plant 135-foot-tall electric transmission monopoles through Franklin and York counties is planting seedlings in the two counties.
Volunteers and partners with Transource Energy recently planted 600 seedlings along the East Branch of Codorus Creek in Spring Valley Park, York County, according to Transource spokeswoman Abby Foster. Future volunteer efforts around this initiative will follow in Franklin County.
The tree plantings are part of a $25,000 commitment from Transource to support local conservation efforts to improve water quality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Opponents to the Transource project however are skeptical of the gift.
“It is nice of Transource to donate a few trees,” said Barron Shaw, a York County orchardist and opponent of the powerline. “But, I don't think anyone is going to be fooled into believing that building dozens of miles of new high-voltage lines is good for the environment, especially when both Transource and PJM have expressly refused to consider using existing capacity owned by other utilities.
Transource was created to route and string 230 kV wires on 13-story towers from Shippensburg to Ringgold, Md., and through southern York County into Harford County, Md. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2019, with an in-service date of November 2020.
The project would bring cheaper electricity to the Baltimore-Washington metro area, but it has drawn the ire of local farmers and landowners.
Karri Benedict, a spokeswoman for Stop Transource in Pennsylvania and Maryland, said she is proud of the grassroots effort by friends, neighbors, business owners and community leaders "to stop something that would cause everlasting harm to our beautiful valley."
The Transource tree planting is "a puny public relations stint meant to buy us off," Benedict said. "The amount that Franklin County might get from it will in no way make up for the damage they are going to do."
“No one really believes this project is necessary after hearing that the project will actually cost Pennsylvania and other states 98 cents for every $1 saved by residents of the Washington, D.C., area,” Shaw said.
Transource seeks approval for the lines from regulators in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Opponents have hired lawyers to argue their case before the utility commissions.
“At Transource, we look for opportunities to work with communities to advance shared priorities,” said Todd Burns, Transource director. “Streams play an important role in the natural ecosystem and community recreation, and we strive to construct our facilities in ways that limit disturbances while maintaining safety during installation, operation and maintenance of the electric facilities.”
Transource recently gave to the Franklin County Planning Commission, the York County Stormwater Consortium and local watershed conservation groups in Harford and Washington counties in Maryland, Foster said. The donations are earmarked to support future tree plantings and stream cleanups related to watershed improvement plans.
Planting trees and reinforcing riverbanks effectively prevent the impacts of runoff and pollutants. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency published a cleanup plan to reduce pollution and restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed by 2025. Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and their partners are developing and implementing plans to EPA standards.
Transource gave money to Donegal Trout Unlimited to supply the seedlings and planting materials at Spring Valley Park, Foster said. Transource worked with the York County Parks and Recreation Department and local Trout Unlimited chapters to identify the sites for protecting wildlife habitat remediating runoff.
Transource is a partnership between American Electric Power and Great Plains Energy.
Jim Hook, 717-262-4759
By Chris Ullery
While there are big changes — crews will add a third travel lane in both directions of Route 1 — ahead for the corridor, PennDOT officials are committed to keeping traffic moving.
Road work ahead.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is embarking on a major Route 1 reconstruction project that will see crews sharing the busy road with motorists from now through at least 2025 as they widen the road, replace bridges and more in an estimated, nearly $300 million overhaul of almost five miles between the Bucks County line in Bensalem to just past the Pine Street Bridge in Langhorne.
And while there are big changes — crews will add a third travel lane in both directions of Route 1 — ahead for the corridor, PennDOT officials are committed to keeping traffic moving.
“We are keeping four lanes,” PennDOT Project Manager Sibty Hasan said in a phone interview Thursday about the plan to keep the lanes open at all times.
“Throughout the project ... if there are lane closures those are only going to take place (during off-peak travel hours),” Hasan said.
While the plan is to keep traffic flowing as much as possible, Hasan added that disruptions still are possible. He added that any businesses near the route, be it the Red Roof Inn, the US 1 Auto Mall or the Neshaminy Mall, can still be reached via Route 1 during construction.
Hasan’s comments came a day after he and other project staff met with residents and local officials at a public open house meeting in Middletown last week.
The entire project is expected to be under construction at least until 2025, but PennDOT has divided the road into three separate construction projects starting at different times.
The meeting focused on the final plan development of the second section, a 1.5-mile stretch from the Neshaminy interchange at the Pennsylvania Turnpike to just south of the Old Lincoln Highway intersection.
That project will increase the height of the bridge that carries Route 1 over Rockhill Road as well as add a new travel lane and widen the shoulder in both directions of Route 1.
Work on this second section, estimated to cost about $115 million, will start in about three years and end sometime in fall 2025.
Drivers won’t get a reprieve on construction work on the busy road, however, as crews already are preparing to start widening Route 1 near Street Road and the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bensalem this spring. Crews will spend the next three years working on the 1.3-mile section there.
Preliminary work in the area started in October with utility relocations, upgrades and other work in all three sections to prepare for traffic shifts along the road, PennDOT officials said.
Crews from contractor Allan Meyers, of Worcester, Montgomery County, will begin portions of work in this first section over multiple stages, according to the project’s website.
Starting this spring through the following year, crews will begin work as follows:
The first section also includes work on a new ramp from Street Road to Route 1 near Roosevelt Cemetery and realigning another turnpike slip ramp on Horizon Boulevard, which begins in summer 2020. Similar work on Southbound U.S. 1, including median work on Bristol Road and turnpike ramp changes, begins near the end of 2020, with certain parts of the Bristol Road median work continuing through fall 2021.
Final work on the Bristol Road overpass and reconstruction of two local roads, North River Drive and Belmont Avenue, begins in the spring 2022.
Meyers is currently only the contractor for this first $95 million section of the project, but a contract award for the second section should be completed in March 2020.
General details on the upcoming sections of the project are available at www.us1bucks.com , but more specific information will be added as it comes in, Hasan said.
Right now, Hasan said his staff is reviewing comments and concerns about noise and environmental impacts of the project raised during Wednesday’s meeting.
A noise wall in some areas of the route already has been planned, as well as mitigating the impact to several identified wetlands along the road, according to Hasan and the project’s website.
Middletown supervisor Chairwoman Amy Strouse attended last week’s meeting and said Friday she was generally pleased with the level of local input PennDOT was considering as work in her community progresses.
Strouse said residents on North River Road, which abuts Route 1 near Neshaminy Creek, have been meeting with PennDOT officials on various aspects of the sound barrier to be put up, and will even get to vote on various design aspects of the wall in the near future.
Strouse added that storm water management is an import part of mitigating environmental impacts, and said PennDOT appears to be addressing those issues early for a project not officially set to start for a few more years.
“It’s hard to think about because (work on the second) section is so far in the future, but I’m really pleased to see that PennDOT is taking the time early (to review it),” Strouse said.
While PennDOT is finishing the design of the second section, Hasan directed anyone with comments or concerns for any part of the project to the main website.
“We do receive the comments and we do look through the comments ... whether they (come through public meetings) or through the website,” Hasan added.
There are no specific details on the third and final section of the Route 1 project, a roughly 2.5-mile stretch that crosses the CSX railroad, but the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s website on long-term projects does offer a rough timeline for the project.
That section should be put out to bid sometime in early 2022, with work starting the same year.
Most of the work on the estimated $83 million section should continue through spring 2023, and the entire project is expected to finish up by early 2024.
There are, however, still many hurdles PennDOT will need to clear that could disrupt that timeline.
On top of the design work on the final leg of the project, PennDOT will also be acquiring the necessary public and private rights of way as work progresses.
Hasan said some of those easements have been acquired and some are being discussed, but the remaining ones should not disrupt the project’s timeline as of now.
Jill Harkins, For The Philadelphia Citizen
"Ideas We Should Steal" is a regular feature of the Philadelphia Citizen, which will be holding an Ideas We Should Steal Festival on Nov. 30 .
Cat Goughnour returned home to Portland, Ore., from London with a master's degree in sociology from the London School of Economics under her belt, excited to pursue a job in the field and move in with her brother, who owned a home in North Portland. Instead, she spent a year living with her mom in a friend's garage because her brother's house was foreclosed on, partially as a result of rising property costs.
Goughnour had been displaced, she and her family collateral damage of a neighborhood they could no longer afford, a common occurrence in Portland, considered the most gentrified city in America. She joined a few regional housing advisory councils, and quickly noticed that even when city residents sat on these councils, they often weren't the people +— poor and African American — who would likely be negatively impacted by new city developments.
So Goughnour founded Radix Consulting Group, a certified B Corp., to develop a process for community-inspired and community-led urban development that would benefit everyone. Along with an antidisplacement group, ADPDX, Radix developed 11 community-focused principles of land use, including shifting some funds to help keep people in their homes, emphasizing "permanently affordable" models of home ownership, instituting renter protections, and deliberately including lower-income community members of color in the development planning process.
"What we've found is there is an understanding that gentrification is happening but there isn't a focus on people," she says. "There's a lot of focus on place. It's not looked at as a public health issue, which it is."
A version of those principles were included in Portland's 2035 Comprehensive Plan, published in 2016. The comprehensive plan only went into effect this past May, but Goughnour spent the intervening months demonstrating how it could work in real life. Radix took on the Albina District, the historic heart of Portland's black community, and created a master plan for the area that included a pedestrian corridor to connect neighborhoods, with an entertainment venue, a community resource center, and a food market, as well as increased building of small housing as an affordable option for residents who might otherwise be pushed out.
The development plan, Right to Root , has not yet been adopted, but Goughnour is talking to the city and others – like Detroit and Minneapolis – about how to implement some of its ideas.
"The goal is to really show that for a very nominal amount of money or a land transfer of underutilized land, we could build a hub for everything else to happen," explains Goughnour.
Unlike in Portland, Philadelphia is at a point where gentrification can still be managed. As a Pew Report noted in 2016, most Philly neighborhoods, even those around Center City, are not experiencing the financial upheaval that signals gentrification. But there are significant indicators of what's at stake. In Graduate Hospital, the percent of mostly working-class African American residents dropped from 90 percent to 38 percent from 2000 to 2014. In parts of North Philly, the median home value tripled between 2000 and 2012, while the median income decreased by 6 percent.
Right now, says John Landis, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia's approach to property development is progressive on paper. If a developer wants to embark on a project that isn't up to code — and the vast majority of them are not — they must apply for a variance. To get that variance from the Zoning Board, he must obtain a letter from the neighborhood's Registered Community Organization, or RCO, which engages with the community, provides feedback, and either supports the project or doesn't.
But not all RCOs are created equal and many projects can be approved without their support. Take the Temple football stadium, for example. The project is roiling residents' tempers; though no
residents would be displaced, neighbors fear rowdy crowds and higher rents and complain that besides students, the university has not engaged the community in its planning.
Ensuring collaboration would mean a shift in how planning happens in Philadelphia. Landis says the best way would be for the city to hire urban design consultants to work with RCOs to bring the ideas of community members to fruition, something Vancouver, British Columbia, has dabbled with. Otherwise, the work is simply "an exercise in community aspiration."
In Portland, Goughnour acknowledges that it will take more than just changing the planning process to ensure people can stay in their homes. She has also begun tackling the problem in other ways, by setting up community markets allow black small-business owners to build financial capital and starting a collective that supports black women in Portland creating or scaling up small businesses.
Jill Harkins originally wrote this for the Philadelphia Citizen.
Christopher Norris, For the Inquirer
Last Monday evening, Mayor Kenney sat at a round table and issued a challenge to a group of frustrated South Philadelphia residents: Write up your ambitious plan to reduce gun violence through economics, and then we'll have another invitation-only meeting, he told them. And the next meeting will include the Commerce Department, so that we can contemplate how to turn ideas into action.
The mayor's pledge was made without fanfare, but it's one that should be celebrated for its altruism as well as its pragmatism.
While crime, including murder, rates generally declined in America's 30 largest cities in 2017, Philadelphia saw an increase in its homicide rate. Last year, a total of 315 people were slain here. This year, the city is on track to equal or exceed that total. Nearly 82 percent of homicides involve firearms, according to 2017 data from the city Department of Public Health.
"Guns are a significant problem. … It's particularly an issue with teens. … Most of these victims haven't had a chance to live their lives," said Police Commissioner Richard Ross on Oct. 31, following a news conference which occurred hours before a 14-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother were shot while trick-or-treating in Olney.
The city has tried many strategies to reduce Philadelphia's prevalent gun violence.
There's been stop-and-frisk, a widely condemned tactic that exacerbated tensions in some neighborhoods between police and citizens, largely failed to remove illegal guns from the streets, and was the catalyst for a 2010 class-action lawsuit against the government.
There's also been the "tough on crime" approach, when the city tried arresting its way out of the problem. The result was Philadelphia having the highest incarceration rate per capita of the 10 largest American cities.
Focused deterrence was another experiment in making Philly safer. In April 2013, Mayor Michael Nutter pinpointed South Philadelphia to test a law enforcement strategy that identifies those most likely to commit crimes and then corrals them together to offer them social services. According to a study from Temple University, this strategy led to a 35 percent drop in shootings in three police districts but had no effect on gang-related violence.
At the meeting last week, Kenney said that he's no fan of focused deterrence and confirmed that the program has been nearly phased out.
"Gun laws in the commonwealth leave a lot to be desired," Ross said to a few journalists who managed to bend his ear after the Oct. 31 news conference. The commissioner said the gun violence in Philadelphia keeps him awake at night.
As a result, Philadelphia is left with several failed experiments and a high homicide rate. Our goal now should be to execute bold new approaches, and having the Commerce Department at the table when discussing violence reduction through economic empowerment certainly fits that bill. The mantra should be peace through prosperity.
Most people agree that poverty and gun violence are closely related. Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country , with a poverty rate of 26 percent. And according to the city's own data set, firearms homicides occur most frequently among residents in the lowest income neighborhoods, and are the leading cause of death for young non-Hispanic black males.
Reducing poverty and the reliance on the underground economy could have a positive impact in reducing gun violence.
In Southwest Philadelphia, this option is already in play.
Turning a New Corner, an initiative spearheaded by the Southwest Police Division in partnership with employers, workforce developers, and community leaders, executes street-corner job
interviews in the city's most challenged areas. So far, 40 people have secured jobs, according to the Police Department.
This alone won't solve Philly's gun violence problems.
But if we, as a city, can move the needle on poverty and economic issues, relieving the other impediments to safe streets gets easier.
The mayor's productive meeting in South Philadelphia, and the successful ground game in the city's Southwest neighborhoods, are glimmers of hope in a city too often scarred by untimely death.
Christopher "Flood the Drummer" Norris is an award-winning journalist, online content producer, and professional drummer currently serving as the CEO of Techbook Online and host of the Drumming for Justice podcast.
Kwame Ajamu and Kirk Bloodsworth, For the Inquirer
If the justice system worked in America, we never would have met. Kwame grew up in Cleveland. Kirk grew up in Maryland. Kwame was a teenager with no criminal history. Kirk was a former Marine, also with no criminal history. We were both just starting our lives when we were arrested for murders we didn't commit and sent to death row.
In Kwame's case, the police coerced a 13-year-old boy to identify him, his brother, and a friend as the killers of a money order salesman. He spent 28 years in prison, including three years on death row, before the witness told the truth, and Kwame and his co-defendants were exonerated with evidence of their innocence.
Despite having an alibi, Kirk was convicted of the rape-murder of a 9-year-old girl. In prison in 1992, he read about a forensic breakthrough called DNA fingerprinting and fought for testing. After eight years, he became the first capitally-convicted person in the U.S. to be exonerated by DNA testing .
We wish we could say our stories are unusual, but they are not. Since 1973, 164 people have been exonerated from death row. In fact, for every nine executions, one death-row prisoner has been freed because of evidence of their innocence. As long as humans are in charge, mistakes will be made – including irreversible mistakes.
Death-row exonerees have every reason to stay home and disengage. But many of them have joined the Philadelphia-based Witness to Innocence, the only organization in the U.S. composed of and led by exonerated death-row survivors and their families, and are dedicating their lives to making sure that what happened to them never happens to anyone else. Take Sabrina Butler . She was a teenager in Mississippi when she was convicted of murdering her baby and sentenced to death. She spent more than five years in prison before she was able to prove her son died of natural causes.
This week, Witness to Innocence reached a milestone, our 15th anniversary. As we enter our next phase, we have launched Accuracy & Justice Workshops to bring together exonerated death-row survivors and criminal justice professionals, including police officers, prosecutors, and judges, with the goal of reducing wrongful convictions. Reform-minded prosecutors across the country are hosting these discussions, and our next session, in December, will be with the 300 prosecutors in Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's office.
Of course, the only surefire way to avoid executing an innocent person is to stop imposing the death penalty. And over the last several years, capital punishment has been in steady decline. In 1996, 315 people were sentenced to death. Last year, 39 people received death sentences . Public support is at its lowest level in 45 years, according to Gallup . Less than half of Americans believe that capital punishment is applied fairly.
Our leaders are getting the message. Last month, the Washington Supreme Court found that the state's death penalty was applied in an arbitrary and racially biased manner and struck it down as unconstitutional. With the Washington State ruling, 20 states have abolished the death penalty by court order or legislative action. The states that continue to carry out executions tend to be the same states that had slavery, which should tell you something.
Pennsylvania is one of three states that have a moratorium, and rightly so, given that the bipartisan Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment recently concluded that many systemic problems were intractable and "there is no way to put procedural safeguards in place that will guarantee with 100 percent certainty that the Commonwealth will not execute an innocent person."
Based on the empirical data and our own life experiences, we believe it is time to end capital punishment across the U.S. Some people support capital punishment in theory, but in practice, it is too broken to be fixed. We need to get the death penalty right every time, and we don't. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.
Kwame Ajamu is chair of the board and Kirk Bloodsworth is acting executive director of Witness to Innocence.
Want to invest in veterans, but need ideas? We asked around Philadelphia's veterans' groups to find out how.
There are upward of 200,000 veterans in Philadelphia and surrounding counties, according to Hugo Lentze, founder of the Delaware Valley Veterans Consortium. He started the loose coalition that aims to be a meeting place for Greater Philly's veterans' groups to exchange ideas and event information.
To learn more, visit the website for the Delaware Valley Veterans Consortium ( https://dvvc.weebly.com ). The outfit meets quarterly to help counties and regional veterans' advocates work together and effect policy change.
"My vision, my goal is Philadelphia becomes the destination for military families, because of the benefits of living here as a veteran," Lentze said.
That's not even his day job.
Lentze works full-time at the Travis Manion Foundation, which was founded by Manion's parents and sister Ryan Manion in Doylestown. Marine First Lt. Travis Manion was killed by a sniper in Iraq in April 2007. The foundation trains veterans to speak to high school students about why character matters. The foundation ( www.travismanion.org ) has worked with more than 250,000 kids. Widows, families of fallen veterans, and even those once engaged to them also come together to participate in foundation service projects and to heal.
"This is going to be our best year," said Lentze, chief strategic partnerships officer at Travis Manion Foundation. "We're in nine cities and up to 50 employees. Now we're digging into where we are."
Kevin O'Brien founded Veteran Recruiting as a virtual job fair for veterans, their spouses, and families. Veteran Recruiting , based in Doylestown, is the leader in virtual career fairs for the military community. More than 212,000 veterans have been hired since 2011 through the organization. For more information, visit the website: www.veteranrecruiting.com. Contact O'Brien at email@example.com or 215-525-5776.
Philly-based JDog Junk Removal & Hauling just opened its 200th franchise.
"They're hiring veterans and giving them a chance to own a business," said Ralph Galati, board member of the JDog Foundation.
"If you want to get involved with veterans, go local," he recommends. "Then you see where your money is helping in the community."
Elissa Bloom, executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, on Monday will honor women vets at the Loew's Hotel for the second annual Women's Entrepreneurship Day .
She'll be honoring four women vets who are also business owners: Kym Ramsey, founder, The Willow School; Rhonda Smith, founder, The Skirted Soldier; Carol Eggert, senior vice president for military and veteran affairs, Comcast NBCUniversal; and Erica Webster, founder, Dub Fitness.
Women entrepreneurs who work in technology, business, the nonprofit sector, and education will meet at this full-day conference. For more information, and to register, check out the website: www.wedphiladelphia.wordpress.com .
Trade with a veteran next time you buy and sell securities. Cauldon Quinn, a service-disabled veteran, last year opened Bancroft Capital, a certified veteran-owned small business operating an institutional broker-dealer and investment adviser. Based in Fort Washington, Bancroft Capital will donate all of its net profits on Veterans Day to the Travis Manion Foundation.
"Bancroft is committed to the restoration of veterans and disabled veterans to their rightful place of leadership within society, community, and foremost, to their individual family," said Quinn.
The sixth annual Veteran Shark Tank takes place Monday, Dec. 3, at the Union League of Philadelphia, 140 S. Broad St. To register or support the event, visit the website: http://veteransharktank.com.
Veteran entrepreneurs pitch business ideas at Veteran Shark Tank, which was created by Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network as a way to help veterans who are starting their own businesses, and is similar to the popular television show Shark Tank. Winners take home a cash prize of $25,000.
The Pennsylvania Treasury holds over $98,000 in unclaimed financial property that belongs to nonprofit organizations providing vital services for Pennsylvania’s veterans: American Legion and
Pennsylvanians searching for their military decorations may search here . Treasury's Bureau of Unclaimed Property can also be reached toll-free at 1-800-222-2046 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org , to help conduct a thorough search for unclaimed property.
Finally, Terry Williamson is looking for donations for the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial, located at Spruce Street and Columbus Boulevard ( www.pvvm.org ).
The memorial board has raised $126,000, half of its goal. The monument is scheduled for completion next year.
For more information, contact Terry Williamson, president of the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at 610-637-0980.
Carlton Williams, For the Inquirer
Thursday is America Recycles Day , a national initiative sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, to highlight recycling practices across the nation. On Nov. 15, the Philadelphia Streets Department will host a celebratory pop-up event in Love Park, with an emphasis on cleaning the recycling stream to reduce contamination.
Philadelphians should be commended for their recycling habits. For nearly 20 years, the Philadelphia Department of Streets has generated revenue by collecting such recyclables as paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, and metal. Collection has nearly tripled since 2006 to more than 100,000 tons per year. At one point, the City was receiving upwards of $65 per ton for the materials, generating millions in revenue.
But we face an uphill battle. Due to changes in the overseas market, we now pay more than $75 per ton to sort and market our recycling , more than we pay for trash disposal. Stringent new regulations have had a major impact on the recycling market, driving up costs drastically for many municipalities and cities. Our recycling stream must be cleaner to meet acceptable contamination rates, which is an ongoing challenge.
To keep our recycling rates high, residents can help the city and our planet by reducing what they consume, reusing or repurposing items often, and recycling right. One key rule to remember: When in doubt, keep it out. Here are a few more tips:
Long-term solutions will require companies to innovate and make products that break down easily, invest in better technological processing, and modify the materials accepted curbside.
It's going to take a team effort. On America Recycles Day, join us by taking the pledge to clean up our recycling stream and practice the three R's: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Carlton Williams is commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Streets.
De-escalation training is just one of the programs being offered by Central Bucks Regional police to officers as part of a comprehensive wellness and resiliency initiative being rolled out during the next two years.
The Central Bucks Regional Police Department is going beyond the badge, focusing on its officers’ physical and mental wellness, in a multi-faceted program being rolled out during the next two years.
According to an overview of the initiative, it’s meant to help officers “bounce back from adversity” and give them the “capability to endure trauma, tragedy, stress, strain and hardship.”
As part of the wellness and resiliency program, the department is hosting two days of de-escalation training to benefit its officers, those in other area police departments and the public safety officers at Delaware Valley University where the classes will be held Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s just one part of the diverse offerings of the program.
“It’s my responsibility to take care of these officers as people first,” said Chief Karl Knott, noting that the job, over the years, can put a strain on officers’ home life and families. “We want to be a leader and an innovator in this field.”
Nutrition, exercise, healthy sleep habits, mindfulness and general quality of life of officers will be nurtured through a variety of classes and events funded through grants, insurance carrier Delaware Valley Insurance Trust, along with money raised by the recently-formed Central Bucks Regional Police Foundation . Officers are taking part in a FitBit challenge and can be reimbursed for gym memberships.
Knott acknowledged that maintaining mental wellness for a cop can be tricky.
“What’s worked best for me is to just try to leave the job at the job,” he said. “You go home, decompress and enjoy your family or your free time and really try to step away as best you can and come in with a clear focus and a new energy each and every day. Because this job will beat you down.”
But that approach might not work for everyone, he admits. Officers need to be careful not to bury issues inside and know they can express their stresses to counselors, peers or the command staff.
“It’s so important that we don’t keep that trapped up within us,” he added.
Also in the works is a team-building retreat.
Though the location has not been finalized, Knott says it will be a valuable way for the department to have some time away from the station but still be learning.
“It’s about stripping down rank and years of service and just working together to solve problems in a fun atmosphere to help critical thinking and morale.”
The aspect of the program that most excites Knott is an appearance by Kevin Gilmartin, an author and former police officer who worked in Tucson, Arizona where he headed up the behavioral science and hostage negotiation teams. His book “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” has made him one of the nation’s most sought-after experts on the issue.
Knott said Gilmartin’s 20-plus year policing career gives him “the credentials to come in and actually talk to cops. That can be difficult to do with the A-type personalities we have in this profession.”
The eight-hour seminar at Aldi Mansion in Doylestown Township set for June 14 will be open to other police departments. Officers from Middletown, Upper Southampton and Abington have already reserved seats, said Knott.
This week’s de-escalation training addresses a growing issue in police work, especially for the officers in the Central Bucks Regional force, who work in Doylestown Borough, the county seat.
Whether it be hosting political candidates, controversial speakers or passionate public demonstrations, the intersection of Court and Main streets often serves as backdrop. And with hot-button issues usually come fiery crowds.
Keeping the peace while protecting the right to free speech is the balancing act that CBRP officers — who also cover New Britain and Chalfont boroughs — are tasked with performing during potentially turbulent times.
“When we have these big events, being the county seat, I’m going to need everyone’s help (from neighboring departments),” said Knott.
The training, which is funded by a CRI-TAC through the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing and the Department of Justice, is built around three principles — tact, tactics and trust.
DelVal’s Director of Public Safety Cindy Transue said officers have had similar training alongside state police, but they are eager to get more.
“Dealing with people in crisis, whether under the influence of drugs or alcohol or dealing with emotional issues, or sometimes both, is always difficult,” she said. “We appreciate the opportunity to expand our experience. Having those skills and abilities would help us in many situations.”
While any protest must be monitored, it’s the counterprotest which can be a concern, according to Knott.
No matter which side of any argument a person is on, when the two sides come together, it can obviously lead to friction, Knott added.
Case in point, in May, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside of Central Bucks West High School carrying signs with anti-gay and anti-Muslim slogans . When backlash ensued, security stepped in, leading to a security officer and a demonstrator trading assault accusations.
Police investigated but no charges were filed.
The next day, the social justice organization Rise Up Doylestown — a group that Knott says has always worked cooperatively with police — held a “Love Over Hate” rally as a response to the incident.
The de-escalation training, Knott says, will only help to ensure that future expressions of the First Amendment will go smoothly.
“We want to get everyone in the same room, on the same page and talking the same language and knowing these tactics to de-escalate any type of situation,” he said.
If you didn’t get a raise for 13 years, you might have a tough time paying your bills.
You could dip into your savings, free up money by refinancing debt and raise cash by selling belongings.
Eventually, though, you’d likely reach a point where you couldn’t make ends meet without bringing in more money.
It seems that Allentown has reached that point.
Or maybe the city now has a mayor who is more concerned about the welfare of the city and its residents than about his political aspirations.
Allentown is facing a budget deficit next year — again.
No municipal government wants to raise taxes. But at some point, it must be done. The cost of running a government increases over time, just as the cost of running a household or a business does.
Taxpayers don’t want to hear that. I know I don’t. But I also know that the alternative to raising taxes is cutting services. That wouldn’t go over well, either. We can’t have it both ways.
I give O’Connell credit for sticking his neck out. Too often, no matter how dry the financial well is, elected officials refuse to propose or vote for a tax increase because they fear it will be used against them when they run for re-election.
O’Connell’s predecessor, former Mayor Ed Pawlowski , didn’t raise property taxes, the city’s largest source of revenue, during his 12 years in office.
He raised new money in other ways, such as increasing the earned income tax and levying a stormwater fee. His administrations dipped into the city’s savings, refinanced bonds and leased out the water and sewer system.
Pawlowski refused to consider increasing the property tax rate. He had aspirations to hold higher office, and a tax hike would not have looked good on his record.
O’Connell is putting his political future at risk even by suggesting a tax hike. His two-year interim term to replace the imprisoned Pawlowski ends next year, so he would be campaigning if he wants to stay in office. His proposal also puts City Council on the hot seat, as three members’ terms are up next year, too.
It would be easier for taxpayers to stomach a tax hike if the Allentown school district didn’t raise taxes so often. In June, it raised taxes 3.7 percent. Last year, it raised taxes 3.8 percent. There were increases in other years, too.
City officials are aware of the burden that school taxes place on residents. They pay them, too. But officials can’t forgo meeting the city’s fiscal needs because of what the school district has done.
I haven’t scrutinized Allentown’s books for alternatives to a tax increase. I suspect there are inefficiencies, as that’s the nature of government.
The city’s recent decision to pay up to $200,000 to demolish a warehouse on Franklin Street after it was destroyed by fire doesn’t look like a wise use of resources — the property owner has said he was going to do the job before the city butted in.
Officials this year had to pull $3.5 million from the city’s savings to cover a budget mistake made more than a decade ago. The city’s computer system was vulnerable to a virus that cost nearly $600,000 to fix.
The city’s finances wouldn’t be robust even without such missteps and inefficiencies, though.
Standard & Poor’s downgraded the city’s bond rating last month, citing decreasing cash reserves and other fiscal woes, including its debt load. Borrowing isn’t an option for the next five years because of how much the city already owes, the finance director told council this summer.
While some taxpayers will complain, the mayor’s proposal deserves consideration — up to a point.
O’Connell wants a 1.5 mill increase, which would generate an extra $7.6 million a year. He says that plan would cover the deficit projected for next year and beef up the city’s depleted savings. For a homeowner with a house valued at $150,000 with another $20,000 in land value, that’s an increase from $903 to $1,139.
Raising money to balance the budget is one thing, but governments must be cautious when hiking taxes to put money in the bank. Governments can raise taxes again in the future if they need more revenue. They must have some cash on hand for emergencies, but they don’t need as much as some of them stuff away. Some school districts are notorious for sitting on piles of money.
The Commonwealth Foundation published a report in May saying that nearly half of Pennsylvania’s districts have fund balances exceeding the recommended reserve of 20 percent of total spending.
Allentown’s savings aren’t excessive because the city has dipped into them often — too often — in recent years.
The balance is projected to be about $6.6 million at the end of this year, according to the proposed budget, and rise to $7.6 million at the end of next year if the tax hike is approved. At the beginning of 2016, the balance was about $10 million.
If the proposed tax increase goes through, the city must spend the additional money wisely so another hike isn’t needed for a while. But when it is needed, officials shouldn’t be afraid to do it because of political ramifications.
Paul Muschick’s columns are published Monday through Friday at themorningcall.com and Sunday, Wednesday and Friday in The Morning Call. Follow me on Facebook at PaulMuschickColumns , Twitter @mcwatchdog and themorningcall.com/muschick .
Emily Opilo Of The Morning Call
Allentown was slapped this year with a $2,700 fine for excavation and tree cutting work at the Allentown Municipal Golf Course that allowed sediment and pollutants to filter into the Little Cedar Creek.
The fine, paid in June, was levied by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and stemmed from an April project on the golf course. Course employees cleared 400 feet of a stream bank and regraded the area, destroying work done in 2005 to restore and protect the bank, according to an inspection report filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Additionally, a large embankment along Trexler Road was disturbed, creating unwanted “erosion gullies.” Subsequently, mud washed down a hillside and across a cart path, the inspection report states.
The Lehigh County Conservation District, which inspected the course for the DEP, cited the city on April 16 after it was found to be violating four sections of state law. They included discharging sediment or pollutants into state waters, and creating the potential for more pollution.
After the citation, golf course officials were required to submit a sediment and erosion control plan to the conservation district and take action on that plan.
But during a follow-up inspection in May, the conservation district again cited the golf course for failing to control the situation. The stream bank was not permanently stabilized, the report noted, nor was the area along Trexler Road mulched — a requirement until vegetation grows back. Additionally, a soil pile kept near the stream was not stabilized as a previous report required.
Allentown’s own Stormwater Bureau also cited the city-owned golf course in May. In a letter to then parks and recreation director Lindsay Taylor, Craig Messinger, the head of public works, said the work on the golf course violated three city ordinances as well as the city’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.
Messinger’s letter, made public in response to a Morning Call right-to-know request, also noted that golf course staff were briefed on the history of the creek before they undertook the work on the golf course.
The Little Cedar Creek, which flows through the course, was designated “impaired” in 1996, according to the letter. A maximum sediment load standard was set for the creek in 2004.
Sediment pollution causes $16 billion in environmental damage annually across the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sediment in stream beds leads to declines in fish population. The debris disrupts the natural food chain by destroying the habitat where the smallest stream organisms live.
The Little Cedar Creek is considered a high quality water source and is home to cold water and migratory fish, according to emails released by the DEP. The stream naturally produces trout, those emails state.
Sediment also can increase the cost of treating drinking water and can result in odor and taste problems.
The Little Cedar Creek drains into a series of creeks, including the Little Lehigh Creek, a source of local drinking water. The Little Lehigh Creek eventually drains into the Lehigh River, a backup source for Allentown’s drinking water.
David McGuire, a former Allentown councilman and environmentalist, said removing the plants along a water source increases the possibility for insecticides, fertilizer and other pollutants to enter the stream.
“The general rule is don’t have any plan to dig up stream banks or things leading to stream banks without a fairly intensive study,” McGuire said.
Golf course crews have been removing trees on the course over the last few years to create better vistas and to restore the course to how it was originally designed, golf course superintendent Chris Reverie told The Morning Call in 2017 .
Reverie reported to Allentown City Council last week that the golf course was making moves to be more environmentally friendly by removing pesticides and fertilizers. Operators also are looking at creating pollinator gardens as habitats for declining species, he said.
City Council’s parks and recreation committee was not briefed on the environmental violations on the course, Chairwoman Cynthia Mota said. Neither was the city’s Environmental Advisory Council, according to Chairperson Arundhati Khanwalkar.
“The EAC’s liaison, Joseph Hoffman, had monthly meetings scheduled with the Department of Parks and Recreation, at which this type of matter should have been discussed,” Khanwalkar said. “It is our sincere hope that the new director of the department will be more transparent and collaborative with us than her predecessor was.”
Taylor was terminated as director of parks and recreation in July. Her replacement, Karen El-Chaar, was confirmed in October.
The Morning Call requested records related to the citations on the golf course in September from Allentown, the Pennsylvania DEP and the conservation district. As of September 5, “enforcement action” against the city was still pending, according to emails circulated among several DEP employees.
Mike Moore, the city’s spokesman, said the city’s parks department complied with “corrective action remedies,” but Allentown has more to do to be in full compliance.
“Golf course personnel have been instructed to communicate with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Allentown Stormwater Bureau to ensure future projects are in full compliance with all requirements,” Moore said.
Christina Tatu and Charles Malinchak Of The Morning Call
Following complaints that include public urination and panhandling, Bethlehem officials are now requiring anyone staying at a cold-weather homeless shelter on East Market Street to undergo criminal background checks.
Problems associated with the overnight shelter came to the attention of City Council last week when resident Louis James, owner of James Funeral Home, detailed what he said happened outside the facility during its first four months of operation.
James, whose business is located across the street, said he was speaking on behalf of 30 residents.
Besides public urination and panhandling, James said issues included trespassing, screaming at all hours of the night, loitering, littering and an incident of indecent exposure toward a group of young girls leaving a funeral.
As James addressed council, about 18 residents stood in a show of solidarity.
The shelter is run by Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering, which uses space at Christ Church United Church of Christ, 75 E. Market St.
The nonprofit received approval from the city last November to operate at the church from Dec. 1 to March 31 and has capacity for up to 70 residents.
“An important part of that variance notes that it ‘will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located… nor be detrimental to the public welfare. Unfortunately, our experience is that it did both of those things,’’ said James in a prepared statement.
BES has hosted nightly shelters for men and women each winter since January 2009, but shelter locations rotated on a nightly basis among a dozen or so city churches, according to a November 2017 story in The Morning Call.
At the time the shelter was approved, three neighbors, including James, took issue with the proposal. James told city officials at the time of the approval that he thought a seven-night-a-week shelter would negatively affect his business.
Neighbors also expressed concerns the shelter would have on parking in the neighborhood, particularly along Center Street, which is also a snow emergency route.
The shelter is not scheduled to open for the cold-weather season until Dec. 1.
The problem was brought to the attention of Mayor Robert Donchez and city Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, who said the police department received about 20 phone calls about the shelter last year.
Most of those calls were related to medical issues residents were having, but there were also calls about trespassing, loitering, drinking and drug use, he said.
DiLuzio said he can’t afford to have an officer at the shelter every night, so Bethlehem police are going to try a voucher system instead.
Robert Rapp, manager of the shelter, said on Monday that shelter officials proposed the idea earlier this year after talking to residents about their complaints.
Anyone who wants to use the facility must first go to the police department to obtain a voucher, which will require the person to present identification and undergo a criminal background check, including for sexual assault.
If the person has a clear record, they will be given a voucher to take to the shelter which would allow them entry. Shelters in Allentown use a similar system, DiLuzio said.
“We [police] can’t run a homeless shelter so this is the best we can do. We’re trying to give some kind of guidelines. And we will increase patrols around the shelter,’’ he said.
Rapp said he was unaware that residents planned to speak at Wednesday’s meeting, and he was surprised because he said shelter officials last met with neighbors two months ago and they seemed pleased with the solutions shelter officials presented.
The shelter is in the process of hiring a security company, and also hired two monitors to oversee things at the shelter during operating hours, Rapp said.
“BES wants to be a very good neighbor and we understand some folks just don’t want to see this in their neighborhood, but we have to house our street neighbors somewhere,” he said Monday.
Kristen Wenrich, director of the Bethlehem Health Bureau, said city officials had a meeting with BES in the spring and the group is actively working to address the issues.
Wenrich said the group also continues to look at other potential locations in the city.
“It’s one of those things where the service is needed, but you have to balance the need with making sure you aren’t negatively impacting the quality of life in the neighborhood,” Wenrich said.
Christ Church UCC is in a residential area. Organizers of the shelter hope to eventually find space in a less residential setting where they can operate 365 days a year, she said.
“I hope this dialogue continues. More changes can be made if necessary,’’ said Council President Adam Waldron on Wednesday.
It’s not that the neighborhood is against the shelter’s existence. James said it’s the opposite.
“We are a caring community and are thankful for and supportive of groups who share in the mission to help the under-served: the methadone clinic open daily on East Broad Street, the soup kitchens at Trinity and Christ Church … They enrich the community. They are good neighbors,’’ he said.
BES does not have the experience or resources to run a mixed gender shelter and has not addressed the residents’ concerns, James said.
“While the zoning permit was granted to Christ Church on the basis of the church’s mission to provide for the less fortunate, BES is not holding true to another commonly accepted tenet — love thy neighbor,’’ he said.
By Jennifer Learn-Andes - email@example.com
Requests for repairs and maintenance are adding up in Luzerne County’s proposed 2019 budget.
Nearly half of the additional $424,341 sought by the operational services division next year falls in maintenance/repair budget lines, a review shows.
Up for discussion at Tuesday’s council work session, the division’s budget covers the building and grounds, emergency management, road and bridge, engineering, boiler plant, planning and zoning and 911 departments.
If granted, the increase would raise the division’s allocation to $4.965 million.
The engineering department is requesting $75,000 more for architectural and engineering expenses next year, which would raise that allocation from $450,000 to $525,000.
The administration points to an expected increase in unscheduled maintenance countywide and the “decreasing capital fund balance,” according to the budget worksheet submitted to council.
The county has $864,246 left in the capital fund from past borrowing to cover future projects.
Even if the capital fund is replenished with money left in a 2018 budget contingency, additional borrowing has been mentioned as a possibility next year to pay for a 911 radio upgrade and new voting machines.
In addition to the $75,000 engineering increase, division departments are seeking these higher allocations for repairs and maintenance next year:
• Emergency management, $33,700 more for roof and HVAC repairs and fiber cable replacement.
This would increase the repairs/maintenance earmark from $12,500 to $46,200.
• Building/grounds, $20,000 more for an anticipated rise in “building repairs that will be needed in the coming year.”
That increase would boost the repairs/maintenance budget from $30,000 to $50,000.
• Boiler plant, a new $5,000 allocation for building repair/maintenance.
• Road/bridge, $75,000 more to address “poor road and drainage conditions” and “increased vehicle maintenance costs by vendors.”
With this increase, the department’s earmark for repairing and maintaining roads and vehicles would rise from $25,000 to $100,000, the budget shows.
These figures don’t include segregated accounts to fund county-owned roads and bridges that are not part of the general fund operating budget. For example, one of these separate accounts budgets $2 million in receipts from the $5 vehicle registration fee and a state match.
The division employs 156, with four new positions added this year.
While road and bridge eliminated a union position, one was added in building and grounds. County 911 increased its staff by four, adding another non-union position and three unionized ones, budget worksheets say.
Overall, the operational division is set to generate $882,247 in revenue next year, or $42,626 more. Most of this — approximately $625,000 — would come from planning/zoning.
A breakdown of the total budgets requested by each department: planning/zoning, $594,178; building/grounds, $1.4 million; boiler plant, $282,337; emergency management, $343,472; road/bridge, $1.39 million; engineering, $861,727; and 911, $89,500.
The remaining expenses for 911, proposed at $6.75 million, would be covered by state reimbursement and are not part of the general fund budget, records show.
Operational Division Head Edmund O’Neill is set to present his budget after Tuesday’s 6 p.m. council voting meeting and work session at the courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.
County Manager C. David Pedri’s proposed $140.95 million general fund operating budget includes a 3 percent tax hike. Council is free to alter the proposal before final adoption, which is set for Dec. 11.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.
Norwin is hoping to get state aid to improve school security by buying internal and external security cameras at the high school, football stadium and administration building, purchasing hand-held metal-detecting wands for use in school buildings and during school activities and acquiring radios for communicating across the district’s facilities.
The school board Monday discussed the administration’s request to apply for $310,000 in state aid for the school security measures. Among the other identified safety needs would be implementing a state-approved anti-bullying program for all students, buying emergency medical supplies for all classrooms and paying for professional development for faculty and staff that would focus on a “trauma-informed” classroom.
The school board is expected to consider authorizing the administration to apply for the state money at a Nov. 19 meeting.
A portion of the grant could be used to help pay the cost of the new school police officer, Jeffrey Pritts, who was hired last month.
The district has committed to spending at least $25,000 of its own funds for the school police officer, said Ryan Kirsch, business affairs director. Pritts, a former Mt. Pleasant Area School District police officer, will be paid $28 an hour and will work 190 days during the school year.
Pritts, a retired Greensburg police officer, underwent orientation last week. He is to appear before the Westmoreland County Court on Friday to be approved to serve as Norwin’s armed police officer, Superintendent William Kerr said.
Hiring a school psychologist is an additional priority that may be identified in the future.
“We feel there is a growing need,” for a psychologist, Kerr said. That job could be part of any future restructuring in the district, Kerr said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council to hear Peduto's budget pitch -- no tax increase included
Pittsburgh would hold the line on city taxes while adding staff in the police, fire and medic bureaus under Mayor Bill Peduto’s budget plan for 2019.
Mr. Peduto is set to detail the proposal during his annual budget address Tuesday morning, when he will make his first formal appearance in a council meeting since the Tree of Life synagogue shootings Oct. 27.
In an interview last week, he said unsolicited gifts since the massacre will help equip and train emergency responders “to a much greater degree than what we had going into Squirrel Hill.” Eleven Jewish congregants died — and six people were hurt — in the attack along Wilkins Avenue.
Four Pittsburgh police officers were among the wounded.
“From a SWAT perspective, we know that there is certain equipment that would’ve been able to protect our officers better, especially those members of SWAT who are members of [Emergency Medical Services] and those [who] are going in to” treat people, Mr. Peduto said.
He wasn’t immediately certain how many charitable dollars may flow into the new Public Safety Support Trust Fund , which the city developed after the shooting to handle unexpected contributions that will support training, equipment and supply purchases in the Department of Public Safety. The department includes Pittsburgh police, firefighters and paramedics.
Department officials have an “extensive wish list” stemming from the fund, which the city will put to use next year, Mr. Peduto said. The money may qualify the city for matching funds from grant programs elsewhere, he said.
The Peduto administration revealed his 2019 budget blueprint in late September — about a month before the massacre — and submitted the proposal to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. Among highlights in the plan:
The proposal features a $586.1 million operating budget , up about $12 million over 2018 and supported by nearly $10 million in projected new revenue. Capital spending for 2019 would reach about $132.9 million.
Council has until Dec. 31 to review and finalize the 2019 budget. This cycle marks the first time in about 14 years that Pittsburgh will set a municipal budget without oversight under state Act
47, which guided the city back from the brink of bankruptcy. Pittsburgh emerged from the program in February.
The ICA, a remnant of state oversight, remains in place but ran out of funding earlier in the year. Without funding, the ICA board couldn’t meet to review the city budget proposal, interim executive director G. Reynolds “Renny” Clark said Monday.
As a consequence, the proposal has “deemed approval” under state legislation that authorized the ICA, Mr. Clark said. That doesn’t negate the need for council’s separate review and approval.
The ICA is slated to dissolve automatically in June unless the General Assembly eliminates it sooner. Mr. Peduto’s budget address is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday in council chambers, in the City-County Building, Downtown, and will appear on City Channel Pittsburgh (Comcast channel 13; Verizon channel 44).
An online live stream should be available at https://pittsburgh.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx . The mayor’s office has billed his remarks as “State of the City.”
Adam Smeltz: 412-263-2625, email@example.com, @asmeltz .
Mercer County might combine election precincts to reduce cost of new machines
By ERIC POOLE Herald Assistant Editor | News
MERCER — The costs of buying new voting machines could provide the impetus for cutting the number of voting precincts in Mercer County.
Jeff Greenburg, the county’s director of voter registration and elections, said his office had identified about 10 of the county’s 100 voting precincts that could be eliminated. At this time, though, the benefits of eliminating polling places don’t outweigh the inconvenience to voters and election officials.
That will likely change next year, Greenburg said.
With all 67 Pennsylvania counties under a state mandate to adopt new voting systems, the cost of purchasing new election devices could force Mercer County to make the move to decrease the number of voting districts, and thus, the number of voting machines it has to buy.
Under the state order, Mercer County will have to purchase devices that create a paper log of individual votes, without linking actual votes to individuals. Four voting system vendors made presentations over the summer to county officials, and some of those vendors will return in December to make a second pitch.
The counties must have new systems in place by the 2020 primary election, although Mercer County is planning to complete the change for the 2019 November general election.
Greenburg said he would probably recommend a system that uses paper ballots, with an optical-scan counting device at every precinct. The county would also have to have a touchscreen device to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
The estimated cost of such a setup, according to John Logan, the county’s fiscal director, would be about $1.4 million, almost all of which would be paid by the county. Gov. Tom Wolf committed $14.15 million for the entire state in assistance for new machines. Assuming that aid is spread equally based on population, the state funding would cover less than 10 percent of Mercer County’s costs.
Pennsylvania could provide additional funding, but that wouldn’t come until the 2019-20 state budget in June at the earliest, and Greenburg said Mercer County is planning to have selected a vendor by then.
All four of the vendors that made presentations last summer before county officials offered similar pricing programs, with the optical-scan counting machine system to cost more than $3,000 per precinct. Greenburg said last summer that eliminating 10 districts could save the county $100,000.
By Jim Martin
“The engineering report found it was less expensive to rebuild new.”
The next addition to Erie’s bayfront will apparently begin with subtraction.
The Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority has placed a legal advertisement seeking bids for the demolition of the McAllister building on East Dobbins Landing.
The 49,505-square-foot complex — three connected buildings, the oldest of which dates to 1928 — will soon lose their largest tenant. Jim Manges, who announced his retirement several weeks ago, is expected to close Anchor Marine Ltd. by the end of November.
Leases for two other smaller tenants, including Bayfront Gallery, expired Oct. 31, and have been given notice that the building will be demolished, said Brenda Sandberg, executive director of the port authority.
Sandberg had said in a recent interview that the 1.74-acre property might ultimately be worth more without the existing buildings.
“The engineering report found it was less expensive to rebuild new,” Sandberg said Monday. “Overall, it’s just in very poor shape.”
The authority, which is asking that bids for demolition and site restoration be submitted by Dec. 10, hopes that starting with a clean slate will help reignite redevelopment efforts that date to at least 2006.
Back then, the authority had been planning for the demolition of McAllister building and the construction of a five-story mixed-use building with a parking ramp.
“That was put on hold when the recession hit,” Sandberg said.
In 2015, the port authority agreed to pursue a development deal with the locally-based McBrier Properties Group. The proposal called for McBrier to buy the McAllister building and transform it into McAllister Place, a commercial and residential complex with a restaurant and 23 townhomes.
McBrier withdrew its proposal in October 2016.
Since then, Sandberg said, “I have taken countless developers through the building.”
The authority hopes that “by taking this first step at our cost we will make the building more developable,” Sandberg said.
A developer also stands to benefit from other improvements. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also has approved $1.6 million to help reconstruct the northern dock wall on East Dobbins Landing.
Expectations for the project have changed, Sandberg said.
While housing units haven’t been ruled out, they are no longer considered a primary focus, she said.
The authority’s master plan calls for the development of restaurants, retail and recreational space. That could mean bowling, restaurants, rock-climbing walls or art galleries, she said.
While Sandberg isn’t speculating about the cost of the demolition, the authority would like to see the work done by spring.
“We just really feel this is the opportune time to remove barriers to development,” Sandberg said.
Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETN Martin.
The opioid crisis, health care, U.S. economics and a newly democratic House of Representatives – just days after the general election, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) sat down with The Daily Review as part of his yearly tour to every county across the state to discuss the election’s impact and current hot topics.
Toomey stated that though the House tinted blue with Democratic majority following Nov. 6 voting, to him it was “not surprising, not unexpected” and “not very unusual” and that fewer seats were lost than is typical in a midterm election.
The senator pointed out that recent elections also brought about an expanded Republican majority in the Senate and expounded on his belief that the Congress of the past two years has been successful despite a sometimes negative reputation.
“Believe it or not and after a long time getting here we’ve ended up actually having a very productive and constructive Congress this two year period,” he said. “The headline story is always wherever there’s a conflict, wherever there’s tension, the less widely discussed fact is that we have been very, very productive and so I’m pleased.”
Toomey stated that while the Congressional term began on a “disappointing note” with the “high profile failure to repeal Obamacare” in the summer of 2017, it has had far more accomplishments including the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh (who he believes will be an “outstanding justice”) to the Supreme Court as well as 29 circuit court justices across the nation (more than other other president in the first two years of their term.)
Toomey also listed the repeal of “dozens of regulations” that were stifling economic growth, the biggest tax reform in 31 years, the introduction of an energy policy that has helped Pennsylvania and beyond develop natural energy resources as achievements for the former Congress that held a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate.
Looking to the future, Toomey stated that after a “lame duck session” prior to the holidays that will be focused on finishing old business Congress will push forward into a new political configuration adapting to a Democratic House with Nancy Pelosi potentially at it’s point.
“That’ll be challenging, frankly, but we’ve got to find a way to work together and try to continue to be productive. The American people gave us divided government so that’s what we’ve got to work with,” he said.
While the new year may bring a large adjustment in congressional leadership, Toomey stated that well known issues will remain on the floor including the opioid epidemic, health care and immigration.
The Senator explained that the opioid crisis is one of few national problems to draw bi-partisan cooperation and that several bills have been passed in the last two years, including at least half a dozen he himself spearheaded to make a “specific incremental improvement” with the epidemic.
Toomey pointed to the American government, more specifically Medicare and Medicaid programs as contributors to the crisis by mismanaging opioids and stated that while there is no single solution to the issue national leaders are working on solutions that deal with multiple areas of treatment, education and legislation.
Toomey also explained that the dairy crisis has “no simple solutions” and that while Congress has blocked a potential set back in the form of European restrictions to cheese labeling, an offensive move to encourage Canada to open trade with American products has seen “very little progress.”
The Senator, however, did state that he would like to see an elevation of corn used for ethanol that could reduce farming costs and help level the field of revenue and expenditures for farmers.
Toomey predicted a need for bipartisan cooperation in the arenas of health care and immigration, stating that the issue of healthcare is too important to delay until an opportunity for a Republican House arises but that his own side of the ally can not compromise too heavily.
With a spot light on immigration, Toomey noted that democratic votes are needed for border safety and patrol and that even rural areas, such as those in Pennsylvania could be affected by both security and economic repercussions if immigration is not handled properly.
While a multitude of hot button issues continue to crowd the congressional floor and national leaders prepare to adjust to a new split majority normal, Toomey assured that his focus will remain on bettering economic policy and the “always moving target” of opioid addiction across the Commonwealth and the country.
Connect with Bri: (570) 265-2151 ext. 1627; firstname.lastname@example.org ; Facebook @Brianne Ostrander Daily Review.
Steve Esack Call Harrisburg Bureau
The winner of Pennsylvania’s soon-to-disappear 15th District congressional seat should be announced today, the last day counties have to tally provisional ballots and three types of out-of-state absentee ballots.
The candidates are Democrat Susan Wild, Republican Marty Nothstein and Libertarian Tim Silfies. The winner will be sworn in this week and serve the final eight weeks of a term vacated by former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican.
The 15th District, created as part of the state’s 2011 congressional map, starts in part of Northampton County and runs west, covering all of Lehigh County and portions of Berks, Lebanon and Dauphin counties.
The district will be dissolved when the congressional term expires on Jan. 3. It will be replaced by a more compact 7th District, which was created under a 2018 state Supreme Court ruling that found the 2011 map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor GOP candidates.
Wild, a lawyer, won the 7th District, which has more Democrats, by 10 percentage points on Election Day. She will be sworn in on Jan. 3 and serve a full two-year term.
Nothstein held a 58-vote lead over Wild in the 15th District race two days after Election Day, with ballots still to be counted.
Not every county’s total then included provisional ballots, which voters submit if there is a question about eligibility at the polls on Election Day. The counts also did not include absentee ballots for military personnel, federal workers and overseas employees — which are due Tuesday.
Nothstein has vowed to serve if elected. He’d have to relinquish his elected post as a Lehigh County commissioner per the county’s Home Rule Charter, which disallows an elected official to hold another political office.
If Nothstein resigns as county commissioner, the Board of Commissioners would have 45 days from the date of the vacancy to appoint a replacement from the same party.
WRITTEN BY READING EAGLE
A winner has not yet been determined in the 15th Congressional District race. Republican Marty Northstein has a 58-vote lead over Democrat Susan Wild. Both candidates are from Lehigh County.
With military ballots yet to be counted, it is too close to call. Military ballots are received up to a week after the election, so it could be Tuesday before the winner is named, said Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Department of State.
The 15th District, formerly served by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, includes part of Berks County.
When Dent and U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan of the old 7th Congressional District vacated their seats in the spring it left those districts without representation for months. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a special election for the seats to run on the same ballot as the general election.
Democratic congressional candidate Mary Gay Scanlon of Swarthmore won the special election in the old 7th District, which covers part of Berks County. Scanlon also won in the new 5th District, which is near the old 7th but does not include Berks. She can get sworn in, start serving now and continue in the 2019 session.
But it may not be so tidy in the 15th district.
If Northstein maintains his lead, he will serve in Congress less than two months.
Wild and Northstein also competed in the newly drawn 7th District (not to be confused with the old 7th), which is no longer part of Berks County.
Wild won in the new 7th and will get started in January.
Reading native Jeff Bartos, a Republican, slept-in the day after losing his bid for lieutenant governor. After hitting the gym, he and his wife binge-watched "Ozark" on Netflix.
Bartos, 45, grew up in Reading but now lives in Merion Station, Montgomery County. He is a real estate developer and was back at it within 16 hours of learning the election results, but he is open to other political opportunities.
"It's no secret, I loved meeting people all over the commonwealth and learning about their work," Bartos said.
He is interested in anything that will help grow the economy and help business expand.
"I learned so much about agriculture and the challenges facing our farmers and I remain keenly interested in that," Bartos said.
Across the state, he heard farmers say they felt that the Department of Environmental Protection treated farmers like criminals by overzealously cracking down on water pollution. But, he said, multigenerational farmers say they are good stewards of the land because they intend to leave that land to the next generations.
"The biggest surprise on the campaign trail for me was how interested I became in agriculture policy," Bartos said.
Bartos started a campaign for U.S. Senate in April 2017. But then the congressional districts were redrawn, and while he was considering his next move, Scott Wagner, the Republican candidate for governor, asked Bartos to partner with him and run for lieutenant governor.
Newly elected Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman also has ties to Berks County. He, like Bartos, was born in Berks.
Fetterman grew up in York County and returned to Reading to attend Albright College, where he earned an undergraduate degree in finance and graduated in 1991. While at Albright, Fetterman played on the offensive line for the Lions and served as president of his class during his junior and senior years.
More bills are proposed than passed each year in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Some proposals get stuck in committee or are tabled indefinitely. If time runs out, bill backers often reintroduce their pet bill, sometimes year after year.
Here are some bills that stalled this session.
Keystone Mothers' Milk Bank Act would regulate and license donor human milk banks in Pennsylvania.
The proposed legislation, House Bill 2516, calls on the Pennsylvania Department of Health to license donor milk banks for operation and define license fees and prohibited practices that preclude the direct or indirect sale of human milk by any entity not licensed in Pennsylvania.
Many mothers face obstacles to producing enough milk for their own babies. When a mother's own milk is not available, donor human milk can provide a lifesaving health benefit for high-risk infants as a supplement or bridge when determined to be medically necessary and physician-prescribed, a memo for the bill said.
The bill calls for the Department of Health to prepare a biennial report that provides the number and locations of licensed milk banks and a summary of the amount of donor milk donated, processed and distributed. The bill was co-sponsored by State Reps. Thomas R. Caltagirone, a Reading Democrat, and Mark M. Gillen, a Robeson Township Republican.
Jeeps could be legally driven with doors off on Pennsylvania roadways as long as the vehicle was manufactured with removable doors, the road's speed limit does not exceed 55 mph and no one in the vehicle is under 18. Doorless Jeeps would not be allowed on limited access highways.
House Bill 976, introduced by state Rep. Kurt Masser of Elysburg, would change the vehicle code's rule on Jeep doors.
Pennsylvania law currently prohibits vehicles to be driven on roadways when "any item of vehicle equipment which was required to be installed at the time of manufacture" has been removed or rendered inoperative.
In his first race for political office, Dr. John Joyce bested his opponent by 100,000 ballots and earned the title of U.S. Congressman.
The Republican candidate netted 175,835 votes, or 70.4 percent, against Democrat Brent Ottaway’s 73,791, according to the Associated Press.
“I was exhilarated by the results,” Joyce said the day after the election. “To win by more than 100,000 votes was a resounding affirmation by the voters.”
The newly-drawn 13th district includes parts of 10 counties in southcentral Pennsylvania. Joyce said the ballots cast in his favor show the voters’ faith in him.
“I present myself as a listener,” Joyce said, “People wanted to be heard.”
Joyce’s wife Alice will continue working at the dermatology practice they started together in Altoona, but he will leave the position to focus on his new job.
Along the campaign trail, Joyce was surprised by how many people connected to him because of his Christian faith. Joyce often told the public he and his wife spent a lot of time thinking and praying together about his Congressional run.
“People would often come up to me and say, ‘I respect you for praying with your wife,’” Joyce said.
Voters also seemed to relate to Joyce’s pro-life and pro-Second Amendment positions, he said.
“I’ve been humbled by this experience,” Joyce said.
Looking ahead, Joyce said health care is at the top of his priority list. He said it’s the reason he chose to run for federal office, rather than the local level.
“To have an impact I knew I would have to make the decision to go for this open seat,” Joyce said.
He’s interested in serving on committees related to health care. Joyce said he believes in a less expensive, more fair market health care system.
Recognizing Republicans will be in the House minority, Joyce said it is crucial to work through problems with “civility,” and voters want the same.
“We are tired of seeing the acrimony that occurs between one side and the other,” Joyce said.
Since Joyce was declared winner, his phone has been ringing off the hook. One of the first calls he received was from Ottaway, who congratulated him on the victory.
Congressman G.T. Thompson (R-5), just elected to the new District 15, called Joyce to give him advice on how to transition from the private sector to politics. Congressman Scott Perry (R-4), who barely won the new 10th District, will also be an ally of Joyce’s.
“It’s wonderful to start this with friends,” Joyce said.
Joyce plans to estabilsh an office in Adams County.
Rothfus offers salute to area veterans
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus formally participated in a Johnstown Veterans Day ceremony for probably the last time on Monday.
He spoke for about two minutes, thanking Army veteran Harry Plows – the inspiration for creating the city’s Veterans Day parade, and Gold Star families, while also mentioning Portage-area Navy airman Walter Edward Mintus, whose remains were laid to rest this past weekend after his plane went down, 74 years ago during World War II.
“We have a solemn obligation to stand with you because you stood for us,” Rothfus told the veterans.
Speaking after the ceremony at Central Park, Rothfus added: “Johnstown does it right. I have often said that it’s towns like Johnstown that built America.
“And, frankly, it’s towns like Johnstown that defended America. When you look at the number of folks who have put on the uniform and to be here to recognize what Harry Plows started 22 years ago, this town does it right to honor its veterans. It’s a real privilege for me to be participating.”
In recent years, Rothfus, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013, has supported several pieces of legislation that he feels have benefited veterans, including the Veterans Choice Act, VA Mission Act and Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.
Rothfus said he has worked toward “making sure that the Veterans Administration is being reformed the way it needed to be reformed.”
“We had a situation, when I first started, with a scandal bonus in Pittsburgh where we had top executives at the VA in Pittsburgh getting bonuses not withstanding the death of veterans due to Legionnaires’ disease and the mistakes that were made there,” Rothfus said. “(We’ve been) looking at the VA across the board, making sure that we’re getting the backlog of appeals down because veterans should not have to die waiting for their benefits.”
Rothfus currently represents Pennsylvania’s 12th District, which includes Johnstown. Earlier this year, the state’s Supreme Court redrew the congressional maps, putting his Allegheny County residence into the new 17th District, where he recently lost a re-election bid.
“I wouldn’t say it’s one of my last times in Johnstown,” Rothfus said.
“I like visiting Johnstown. Johnstown has been very good. I look forward to continuing the friendships I’ve made here and more visits.”
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor .
To hear the spin Wednesday morning, you’d think Democrats swept the map on Election Day.
But the reality is — and it pains me to say it — President Trump had a very good night. The sooner Democrats accept that, the sooner they can figure out how to go about defeating him in 2020.
This midterms hardly provide a clear roadmap. Their superstar all-ins were roundly brushed back. Andrew Gillum in Florida, Beto O’Rourke in Texas and more than likely Stacey Abrams in Georgia had the emotional adoration of their party, but not enough actual votes.
Losses in Ohio, where Republican Mike DeWine beat Richard Cordray for governor; Missouri where Josh Hawley defeated Democrat incumbent Claire McCaskill in the Senate; and Indiana , where Mike Braun defeated Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly in the Senate are just a few of the reasons for more agony than ecstasy for Democrats on Wednesday .
Yes, the Democrats took the House, won governors’ mansions in critical states and made other gains . These are significant accomplishments , but they don’t add up to the decisive rebuke the party was hoping for.
Democrats’ pickup of, so far, four more seats in the House than they needed to win control is not a wave. It’s barely a ripple. And if they want to defeat Trump in 2020, they’ll need to figure some stuff out, and quickly.
One: A national message
In the months before the election, Democrats lurched from one message to another. It included, at any given time, impeaching Trump, not impeaching Trump, abolishing ICE, impeaching Brett Kavanaugh, a call for civility, a call for incivility, and finally it landed on health care. Micro-targeting can work for House races, but this mess of a message will not work for 2020.
While Democrats did predictably well in suburban districts where voters were turned off by Trump’s campaign of fear and loathing, they still have not figured out how to capture a silent minority of voters who turned out in surprising numbers for Republican candidates in Florida, Ohio, Missouri and elsewhere.
They were voters the party did not anticipate in 2016. They came out again in 2018, and they will come out of the shadows again in 2020. Not being able to see them leads to things like over-spending in unwinnable races, discounting the motivations and anxieties of voters and talking over wide swaths of people who, in turn, feel dismissed.
Three: Measuring outrage
Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing was the perfect example of the left’s inability to distinguish volume from intensity.
As angry and outraged as liberals were by the Kavanaugh hearings, so, too, were conservatives by what they saw as a witch hunt. But you wouldn’t know it, because Democrats and many in the media focused almost exclusively on Kavanaugh’s opponents. The passion among his supporters, though, was just as intense and energized Republicans in ways some of us felt but most could not measure. Actress Alyssa Milano’s anger doesn’t count any more than an average Republican voter’s. This bites Democrats every time, but it shouldn’t.
This isn’t to suggest there aren’t harsh lessons out there for Republicans, too. Women and minorities were elected in record numbers, and women, minorities and first-time voters turned out in record numbers. If the GOP thinks it can keep squeezing by on the backs of old white men, it’s in for a rude awakening one day.
But not this day. This time the GOP was able to pick up seats in the Senate, retain a solid number of state houses and keep Democrats from a 1994 or 2006 level trouncing in the House.
The party in power was supposed to get crushed Tuesday. It most certainly was not.
If Democrats choose to spin this as a wave, instead of the reality check it should be, they will lose big time in 2020.
And yet again, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on HLN. Email her at email@example.com.
Despite predictions of giant “Blue Waves” or even an indigo tsunami, Tuesday’s pivotal midterm elections produced only a pink trickle here, an aqua one there and some purple puddles elsewhere.
While there were huge surprises in 2016, this year produced precious few. Things turned out just about as most prognosticators had predicted.
Democrats re-took the House, but by nowhere near the margin of previous midterm shifts. Although several seats remain too close to call, the Democratic pickup of 2018 paled in comparison to the 54 seats that flipped after Bill Clinton’s first midterm, and even more so the 63 seats Barack Obama lost for his party in his initial midterm election.
Republicans, meanwhile, won the bragging rights and an expanded majority in the Senate. They not only held serve but picked up seats in the upper chamber. How many has not yet been finally determined because of races still too close to call and a run-off election scheduled in Mississippi.
With those new majorities come questions about how they happened and what will result from them.
The Democrats’ new majority in the House was largely a function of history. Few doubted that 2018 would break with tradition and keep the House under Republican control. Midterms have historically been very tough on the party that occupies the White House. Ordinarily there is a more than 30-seat gain for the party out of power. That was far more than the 23 Democrats needed to flip in order to take the House this year.
The Democrats were able to win their seats through a combination of good candidates, including a large number of women, veterans and moderates who pledged not to support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. They were aided in Pennsylvania, where they picked up several new seats, with the “judicialmandering” of congressional district lines by the state Supreme Court.
Democrats also drove an emotional issue, health care coverage for those with persisting conditions. Although they weren’t truthful about the Republicans’ real position on the issue, their storytelling ability and the strong emotional connections they were able to make helped them carry the day in several tight races.
Republicans, meanwhile, were not as adept at telling their own story. The economy, always the strongest driver of opinion, has been exceptionally good recently and has improved the quality of life and outlook of millions.
They needed to tell voters about the economy in the same emotional terms as Democrats were talking about health care.
Instead, too often the Republican message was wrapped around statistical data which, while true and important, didn’t connect emotionally with voters. The discussion needed to be right brain focused, not geared to the left side.
Republicans needed to paint a 21st-century picture of “Morning in America” to capitalize on the optimism being expressed by voters about their economic and family’s future.
There’s the challenge for my party as we move towards 2020. How well the GOP successfully advances on storytelling and their appeal to three vital constituencies -- college-
educated women, millennials and minorities -- will largely determine whether they keep the White House in 2020, maintain control of the Senate and again capture the House.
Those key factors were also vital to the races in Pennsylvania.
Republicans were expected to lose seats in the General Assembly. After all, with historic and near-historic margins, there was really only one direction in which they could go. Yet the losses in the GOP Senate delegation in southeastern Pennsylvania were larger than expected.
There’s little doubt that the ineffectiveness of the Wagner campaign had an effect on down-ballot races, particularly in the Philly suburbs.
Tom Wolf was able to duck voters and avoid debates. The Wagner campaign never really figured out how to exploit his vulnerabilities. Instead they positioned Wagner as an angry guy who would do something about the things that made him mad.
There may be a lot of angry voters. But angry voters aren’t looking for a candidate to reflect their anger. They want one who is hopeful and optimistic, who will show them a brighter future and a vision for the commonwealth that makes their life better.
Leaving many voters with the sole impression of a candidate saying he’d stomp on his opponent with his golf spikes was not the best way to end a campaign.
Tuesday left both teams with something to be happy about and even a little to brag about.
Both sides in Washington now need to quickly get past the rhetoric of the campaign trail and focus on getting things done like infrastructure improvement and immigration reform.
Likewise, the General Assembly and the governor need to figure out what compromises they can make to promote policies of economic growth, job creation and energy development back here in Pennsylvania.
That would be a great start to the next campaign.
PennLive Opinion Contributor Charlie Gerow is the CEO of Quantum Communications in Harrisburg. His work appears weekly opposite progressive commentator Charlie Gerow.
With 100-plus women heading to the House, let’s examine some myths.
By Susan Chira
The 116th Congress will have a record number of women. So that means more women will bring their vaunted ability to compromise and work across the aisle. Right?
No, as it turns out, women are no more immune to the forces intensifying partisanship than men. That’s what political scientists have found. And some of the positive qualities women are praised for bringing to public office — collegiality, collaboration, relentless work ethic — aren’t born of some sort of innate gendered goodness. Chalk it up to self-preservation. As in other fields, women in politics often feel that they are held to a higher standard than men — and that they may lose their seats if they don’t deliver legislation.
Rather than an outbreak of bipartisanship, party polarization among women could well increase. That’s because the majority of women elected are Democrats, many Republican women elected are conservatives who’ve embraced President Trump, and both parties face pressures from their base to tack left or right.
It is true that women in Congress play on softball teams that include Democrats and Republicans — with no fewer than four captains last year, two Democrats (Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida) and two Republicans (Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida). The men, on the other hand, play partisan ball. Women in the Senate gather for a regular dinner, and there is a longstanding bipartisan Women’s Caucus. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into bipartisanship on votes or even sponsoring bills.
“It’s Washington lore that at cocktail parties you develop these friends, everyone holds hands and sings ‘Kumbaya’ — but you’re first and foremost a partisan when you get to Capitol Hill,” said Jennifer L. Lawless, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.
She and a colleague evaluated bipartisanship on several measures, including how often men and women co-sponsor bills with members of the opposite party and whether men and women opted to travel on official congressional delegations with members of both parties, rather than stick to one-party travel. They found no differences between the sexes.
Tracy Osborn, a political scientist at the University of Iowa, notes that most research has found female politicians have grown apart ideologically. In her study analyzing roll-call votes in state legislatures, she found increasing polarization. Moderate Republican women once joined forces with Democrats to support such issues as abortion rights, but moderate women have felt increasingly unwelcome in the Republican Party, said Michele Swers, a professor of government at Georgetown. Democrats are in their own tug of war between progressives and centrists.
A database of all bills introduced to the House of Representatives from 1963 to 2009 showed that women not only propose more legislation than men, but they also do so on a wider range of issues. That research, conducted by Mary Layton Atkinson and Jason Harold Windett, political scientists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, found that women who were successful at deterring challengers in primaries introduced twice as many bills as men. They deduced that women feel they must demonstrate more accomplishments than men to stay in office.
Indeed, studies have found that women in Congress are highly effective — they steer more federal spending to their districts than male legislators and have higher rates of
passage of their sponsored bills, for example, according to Mirya R. Holman, a political scientist at Tulane University. (The only exception is bills on issues affecting women, health, education and social welfare, which may encounter institutional roadblocks).
“We’re still partisan — just better,” Professor Lawless said of women in Congress.
Women in Congress say they bring their perspective to fill yawning gaps and previous blind spots in legislation. Issues at the forefront of the Democrats’ agenda affect women disproportionately — more women live in poverty, more receive Medicare or Medicaid because they live longer than men, and many women oversee health care and education in their households.
Veteran congresswomen cite examples of their advocacy. Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, said she presses to make sure that clinical trials include women of color, since they have often been left out of medical studies. Professor Swers noted that Senators Gillibrand of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri and former Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire were driving forces behind hearings and legislation on sexual assault in the military, even if their specific solutions differed.
Of 83 women interviewed by the political scientist Kelly Dittmar and her co-authors for a recent book on women in Congress, “A Seat at the Table,” many said that they focused on getting things done — and that building personal ties can help them try to find some aspect of policy they can collaborate on. So even if the overall number of bipartisan bills isn’t different for women than for men, they do feel as though collaboration matters.
Representative Grace Meng, Democrat of New York, said: “It’s nothing scientifically proven, but I do feel women legislators have a very different dynamic when they’re working together. I have a network of women members, and when we have ideas we bounce them off each other and no one’s worried about someone stealing credit.”
She conceded that it has been harder than ever before to find cross-party agreement, but she pointed to two bipartisan initiatives: hearings on sexual assaults in the workplace, and her work with Republicans to offer wider access to feminine hygiene products. And constituent protection will unite congressional delegations: Representative Martha Roby, Republican of Alabama, worked with her Democratic colleague from Alabama, Representative Terri Sewell, to defeat amendments that would have harmed Alabama’s catfish industry, much of it in Representative Sewell’s district.
Professor Swers noted that women elected from swing districts will have incentives to embrace moderation and strike compromises to keep their seats and to placate voters disillusioned with congressional paralysis. With Democrats in control of the House, more women will be in positions of power in the institution — Nancy Pelosi of California may well become speaker again, and women will head a few powerful committees like Appropriations and Financial Services.
In the end, even with the record numbers of women elected, they remain less than one quarter of Congress. “We’re still a foreign body,” Representative Meng said.
Susan Chira is a senior correspondent and editor covering gender issues, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @SusanChira
CNN sues President Trump, demanding reporter Jim Acosta's return to the White House
CNN sued the Trump administration Tuesday, demanding that correspondent Jim Acosta’s credentials to cover the White House be returned because it violates the constitutional right of freedom of the press.
The administration stripped Acosta of his pass to enter the White House following President Donald Trump’s contentious news conference last week, where Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn’t want to hear anything more from him.
In contentious exchange on migrant caravan, Russian investigation, Pres. Trump tells CNN's Jim Acosta, "I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN...Put down the mic." Acosta's colleague defended him: "He's a diligent reporter." http://abcn.ws/Election2018
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “this is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against his lawsuit.”
Trump has made CNN and its reporters a particular target of his denunciation of “fake news” and characterization of the media as an enemy of the people. CNN CEO Jeff Zucker, in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly, called it a “pattern of targeted harassment.”
The White House initially contended it was Acosta’s refusal to give up the microphone that led to his banishment; CNN said it’s apparent the president didn’t like his questions.
“Mr. Acosta’s press credentials must be restored so that all members of the press know they will remain free to ask tough questions, challenge government officials and report the business of the nation to the American people,” said Theodore Olson, former U.S. solicitor general and one of CNN’s lawyers on the case.
The White House Correspondents’ Association backed the lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., district court.
“The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him,” said Olivier Knox, president of the correspondents’ group.
White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) says it "strongly supports" CNN’s effort to have Jim Acosta’s revoked press pass returned, adding that “the president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.
CNN said Acosta was given no warning of the action, and no recourse to appeal it. Acosta traveled to Paris to cover Trump’s visit there this weekend and, although given permission by the French government to cover a news event, the Secret Service denied him entrance, the company said.
“Without this credential, a daily White House correspondent like Acosta effectively cannot do his job,” CNN’s lawsuit said.
CNN asked for an injunction to immediately reinstate Acosta, as well as a hearing on the larger issue of barring a reporter.
In an effort to prove the administration’s case last week, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders distributed via Twitter a doctored video sped up to make Acosta’s physical actions toward the intern seem more threatening.
That wasn’t mentioned by Sanders in a statement Tuesday. She cited his refusal to yield to other reporters after he asked Trump two questions.
“The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional,” Sanders said. “The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor.”
Trump told Acosta at the news conference that “CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you work for them. You are a rude, terrible person.”
Acosta has been a polarizing figure even beyond the distaste that Trump and his supporters have for him.
The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, editorialized last week that Acosta’s encounter with Trump at the news conference “was less about asking questions and more about making statements. In doing so, the CNN White House reporter gave President Donald Trump room to critique Acosta’s professionalism.”
Trump considers staff shake-up in White House and Homeland Security
MAGGIE HABERMAN AND RON NIXON
The New York Times
President Donald Trump is considering firing Kirstjen Nielsen, the embattled secretary of Homeland Security who has long been a target of the president’s displeasure, as part of a wave of cabinet and staff changes expected to come after the midterm elections, three people close to the president said on Tuesday.
Inside the White House, removing Ms. Nielsen is also seen as a way for Mr. Trump to push out the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, without directly firing him. Nick Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, has long been seen as a prospective replacement for Mr. Kelly if he leaves. Mr. Ayers did not travel as originally planned with Mr. Pence on his official trip to Asia this week, two White House officials said.
Mr. Trump hates interpersonal confrontation, and he often lets aides he does not like remain in their positions for uncomfortably long times, meaning a change could be weeks away, the people close to the president cautioned.
But Ms. Nielsen has been a target of his ire for many months, primarily over his administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy and his belief that she was not implementing it effectively.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Kelly arrived at a plan earlier this year for Mr. Kelly to remain in his job through the 2020 election, but the president has privately told allies that he would not bet on his chief of staff staying that long.
The Washington Post first reported that Ms. Nielsen may depart soon. A White House spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Mr. Kelly has often defended Ms. Nielsen to the president, and protected her from other cabinet members when she was under attack from them.
At a cabinet meeting several months ago, tension flared between Mr. Kelly and Jeff Sessions, who was then the attorney general and whose department also has purview over immigration issues, about the number of illegal crossings at the southern border. The figure had remained higher than the president wanted.
Mr. Sessions was fired by Mr. Trump last week.
Among some of Mr. Trump’s allies, his views and treatment of Ms. Nielsen have been characterized as unfair. The president has derided her previous service in the George W. Bush administration and questioned her loyalty. He also helped ensure that she was the face of the deeply controversial border separation policy involving taking children from their parents.
Inside the Department of Homeland Security some employees said they had believed for months that Ms. Nielsen was on her way out.
The employees say Ms. Nielsen has struggled to explain to the White House the complexities of border security. One employee said Ms. Nielsen has even pushed back on many measures suggested by immigration hard-liners, though she has forged ahead with efforts to limit immigration using other controversial policies. The most recent effort is a proposal that would deny asylum to anyone who arrived in the country illegally.
The employees believe Ms. Nielsen’s fate was sealed with the release of the agency’s border enforcement data over the last two months.
Last week, the Customs and Border Protection released data showing a one-month record 23,121 people traveling in families who either surrendered or were arrested by Border Patrol agents. Families increasingly make up the largest portion of those caught at the border. In September, nearly 16,658 people in families were apprehended at the border, prompting the Trump administration to label the increase in migrants a crisis and national security threat.
Although the overall number of people apprehended at the border remains at lows, the Trump administration has grown increasingly frustrated as the number of families making the trek to the United States has grown.
The deputy secretary job at the agency has remained unfilled since Elaine Duke left in April. The White House has not nominated a replacement.
Source: Detroit Free Press Date: 11/13/2018
WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says she’s not going anywhere with Democrats taking control of the House in January, despite rumors to the contrary.
But if she stays, her life is almost certainly going to get a whole lot tougher.
On Monday, in response to a question about rumors circulating that DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, Republican backer and former school-choice advocate in the state, might be looking at stepping down, her press secretary, Liz Hill, knocked down the suggestions.
“The rumors are just that … rumors,” Hill wrote in an email to the Detroit Free Press. “The Secretary has no plans of stepping down.”
There is almost universal agreement, however, that DeVos — who has made only rare appearances on Capitol Hill to testify with Republicans in charge of both chambers of Congress — is going to be asked a lot more questions in the future.
It also means that departmental policies on issues such as civil rights, school choice, sexual assault investigations, transgender students’ access to bathrooms and student loan repayment are all going to come under close scrutiny.
And if a Democratic-led U.S. House doesn’t have the power to force the Senate to enact changes, it can — and likely will — try to force that chamber’s hand on votes and repeatedly call DeVos before key committees to question her.
“The Democratic House has made clear that it will be energetic about oversight,” said Frederick Hess, directory of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a research organization in Washington, D.C. “That may mean healthy, appropriate scrutiny of department business or organized harassment intended to make it harder for DeVos and her team to do their jobs. Which it is will tell us a lot about the priorities of the Democratic majority and how Dems hope to position themselves for 2020.”
Educators’ unions are already looking forward to the change: A day after the midterm elections last week, the National Education Association put out a statement saying the shift “will serve as an important check on President (Donald) Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.” And the American Federation for Teachers said Monday it is “hopeful that in a Democratic House, (expected new chairman U.S. Rep.) Bobby Scott’s committee can now exercise oversight over Betsy DeVos’ agenda.”
The publication Education Week noted that a Democratic takeover of the House Committee on Education and Workforce means “increased oversight of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.”
DeVos — a philanthropist and state party official who had no education background when Trump nominated her — has been controversial in the office since day one. She was confirmed in February 2017 on a tie-breaking vote in the Senate by Vice President Mike Pence.
Besides pushing school choice proposals, she has criticized efforts to provide additional funding to underperforming schools; proposed rules that would decrease the number of investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and assault, and said she wouldn’t stand in the way of school districts using federal funds to purchase firearms for protection.
She was also roundly criticized for flubbing a question on CBS’ “60 Minutes” when she said she had no idea whether Michigan’s schools were better or worse off because of her school-choice efforts. During her confirmation hearing, she was also drubbed for seeming to not know details about some programs and for suggesting — jokingly — that some districts might need access for firearms to protect them from grizzly bears.
She has been a focal point of anger against the Trump administration since taking office, as well, and for her security detail, which is expected to cost some $8 million in the next year.
DeVos, however, has earned praise — including from those who believe that changes in sexual assault investigation policies will provide more of a balance to the rights of the accused.
Writing for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education research organization in Washington, President Michael Petrilli said DeVos overcame a bumpy start and “grew into the role as secretary.” The question is whether she decides to stay and face a Democratic House certain to hold her to a different standard.
“The question facing Secretary DeVos is whether to participate in these show trials,” he wrote last week. “She has another option. … She can choose to step down and gracefully exit a thankless, no-win scene.”
Petrilli went on to say she should do so, arguing it will “take some wind” out of Democrats’ attacks and deny teachers unions a talking point headed into the next Congress and the 2020 election.
NEW YORK — The FBI says hate crimes reports were up about 17 percent in 2017, marking a rise for the third year in a row.
An annual report released Tuesday shows there were more than 7,100 reported hate crimes last year. There were increases in attacks motivated by racial bias, religious bias and because of a victim’s sexual orientation.
The report shows there was a nearly 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes. There was a 37 percent spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker says the report is a “call to action.” He says the offenses were “despicable violations of our core values as Americans.”
The FBI says although the number of attacks has increased, so has the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate-crime data.
The Inquirer Editorial Board
It's a week after the midterm election, but in some places, the election is far from over. Ballots are still being counted in Arizona, a recount has started in Florida, and the Georgia gubernatorial race may be heading to a runoff. Close races and recounts test our election infrastructure — and the public's trust in it.
In Pennsylvania, Election Day went rather smoothly, and by the end of the night, all statewide and congressional races were called. But if some races had been just a little bit closer, we would have been in a lot of trouble.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University , 83 percent of all voters in Pennsylvania use voting machines that produce no paper trail. That means that 83 percent of votes can't be recounted. Only 13 other states use these type of machines. The Pa. Department of State has directed all counties to replace their voting machines to ones with a paper trail by 2020, but the state will not pay for it. The state will support the effort with $14,149,964 that came from the federal government for this purpose — including a 5 percent match from the state — but the Pa. Department of State's own estimated cost for the replacement is between $95 and $153 million.
Placing this burden on the counties doesn't seem fair, especially since what's at stake is securing one of the most sacred elements of democracy — voting. A hundred million dollars isn't peanuts for the state, either, but it's hard to imagine that there is no way to find that money. In 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf borrowed $1.5 billion against the state's tobacco fund to balance a budget . The point is, we find money for things we deem important. Protecting the integrity and accuracy of our elections should be a priority.
Another element in our election that deserves rethinking is statewide ballot measures. According to Ballotpedia , voters in 37 states had the opportunity to directly vote on a policy on their ballot. Some of the most exciting victories on election night came from ballot measures — Florida reinstated the right to vote for 1.5 million people with felony convictions ; Nebraska, Utah, and Idaho expanded Medicaid ; Missouri and Arkansas increased the minimum wage .
Pennsylvania voters did not see a ballot question. The commonwealth does not allow statewide citizen-initiated constitutional amendments or referendums on existing laws. Any question on the ballot has first to pass the State Assembly (House and Senate) in two consecutive sessions. That makes it extremely hard for a question to make it to the ballot.
Ballot measures are not a perfect — they depend on language and on voters having access to all the information needed. But by legislating a process through which citizens can propose constitutional amendments or hold a popular referendum, Pennsylvania can enrich its democracy.
As far as we know today, the 2018 midterm election in Pennsylvania was smooth, fair, and democratic. That does not mean that there aren't ways to make elections even more democratic. Investing in infrastructure that will allow recounts and allowing ballot measures would be a great start.
They lost, but their losses made winners of us all.
That’s the best way to describe the congressional campaigns conducted by Democrats George Scott and Jess King here in deep-red York County.
Yes, the final vote tallies say that Scott and King were defeated, but they did not fail.
It can’t be considered a failure when both candidates put up spirited fights in an area that is a traditional Republican stronghold.
It can’t be considered a failure when both candidates conducted themselves with dignity and transparency throughout an election cycle best known for divisiveness and disinformation.
It can’t be considered a failure when the voters of south-central Pennsylvania were given real, clear choices, rather than presented with simple Republican coronations.
Perry, Smucker couldn't coast: Rep. Scott Perry, a three-term Republican, had to work harder than ever before in fending off Scott in Pennsylvania’s 10th District, winning by just more than 2 percentage points. A Scott victory would’ve been one of the most monumental upsets in state legislative history.
In the 11th District, Jess King didn’t fare quite as well, falling by 18 percentage points against one-term incumbent Lloyd Smucker.
Still, in both instances, Scott and King earned the votes of thousands of folks here in York County. That is not a failure.
In fact, for Democrats in this neck of the Pennsylvania woods, garnering more than 40 percent of a general election vote is a real success. Just a few months ago, it would’ve been considered an almost impossible feat for a Democrat to come within a whisker of unseating Perry.
Scott, King would've been fine public servants: Yes, we wish that Scott and King would’ve won. That’s why we endorsed both. We believed they were the best candidates, based on their background, their character and their policy positions.
They also would’ve helped a Democratically controlled House of Representatives serve as a much-needed check on some of President Donald Trump’s worst behavior and policies.
Hoping they remain publicly active: Both, we believe, would’ve served this county, this state and this nation well in Washington. Both, we hope, will continue to be voices of reason in our political debate and will consider running for public office again.
That’s because they both bring a lot to the political table.
King serves as a local economy fellow with the National Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and works with the Coalition to Combat Poverty’s Private Sector Working Group.
Scott majored in international politics at Georgetown University and spent 20 years serving in the U.S. Army. He now serves as a pastor for Trinity Lutheran Church in East Berlin, Adams County.
Deserving of our thanks: South-central Pennsylvania may not have been ready to elect progressive candidates such as Scott and King in 2016, but that time may be coming, and sooner than many of us would’ve predicted.
In the meantime, they deserve our thanks for providing real, clear choices to the voters of York County and the surrounding region.
Drilling case has no legs: Taxpayers stuck with the bill anyway
Taxpayers should not have to pay the price of defending the laws their elected officials passed
THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Neighbors of a Marcellus Shale gas drilling operation in the largely rural neck of Westmoreland County are threatening to take their battle to shut down the enterprise to the state’s highest court. But they lost their case at both Common Pleas Court and Commonwealth Court, and they should take the hint: Their case has no legs.
Indeed, other municipalities throughout the region should take notice of this lost cause. It is costing money on both sides of the issue.
The story starts in Allegheny Township, a locale where leaders made a conscious decision in 2010 to pass an intentionally nonrestrictive zoning law that allows oil and gas drilling in all zoning districts. That’s unusual. Many municipalities carefully carve out specific swaths of land for specific development purposes. But Allegheny Township supervisors decided to allow drilling anywhere.
And drilling came. CNX Gas Co. won municipal approval in October 2014 for plans for a shale gas well on a tract of farmland in the township.
A few neighbors challenged the development, arguing that Pennsylvania’s 1971 Environmental Rights Amendment requires local governments to protect public health, safety and welfare and that those protections are undermined by the unrestrictive township zoning ordinance.
After losing in Common Pleas Court, the neighbors appealed to Commonwealth Court, which dismissed the argument, noting that conditions attached to the well-drilling permit should do the job of protecting the public. It affirmed the zoning regulations (or lack thereof) and underscored the validity of the law.
It is hard to argue with the court decisions. Duly elected township officials made a conscious choice to adopt broad and loose zoning rules in 2010. This was reasonable: Property owners can negotiate deals with drillers that can lead to financial windfalls for landowners if wells actually are drilled and actually produce. There’s no guarantee of such a windfall, of course.
Concerns that there could be safety and environmental problems caused by drilling and fracking are legitimate, but if citizens of a municipality don’t want this kind of activity near their backyards, they should lobby their elected leaders to enact zoning regulations that reflect their concerns or replace those officials with ones who will more narrowly allow drilling.
Opponents do not have the right to abrogate representative government via the courts. Trying for an end-run around legitimate zoning regulations by virtue of a 1971 statute did not and should not work. And taxpayers should not have to pay the price of defending the laws their elected officials passed.
Pittsburgh is not going to be the new Seattle.
And that’s OK.
It’s not just OK in a way that a Kindle book from a self-published self-help guru would tell you. It’s actually something that Pittsburgh can use as a learning experience. But the area has to really be willing to look at what worked and what didn’t and, probably most importantly, why.
Let’s be honest. It would have been great. We could all see billions of dollars and thousands of jobs pouring into the region. We could practically taste the way Amazon’s needs would send tributaries into support industries: contractors, restaurants, trucking, housing, so many more.
But that was a wish list like the ones people made when Mega Millions topped $1 billion. The ticket bought a dream. If you weren’t that one person in South Carolina with the lucky draw, it didn’t pay the rent.
It isn’t sour grapes to acknowledge that Pittsburgh maybe wasn’t ready for that kind of windfall. What about public transportation? Is the airport ready for the kind of traffic it would require? What about the parkway? What about the existing workforce and its needs? Would it really mean people who needed jobs would be hired or would it mean a lot of people would move in, and what would that mean for real estate and affordable housing?
None of these are insurmountable. All of them could be handled, and Pittsburgh is more than up to the challenge of standing toe-to-toe with New York and Washington, D.C., and any other city that was on Amazon’s short list.
But maybe not having the winning ticket this time means the area — and the state — can make real plans for the next company that wants to come in and change the game.
Nationally, there has been a conversation about infrastructure for years. Barack Obama said he wanted to develop it. Donald Trump has said the same. Everyone knows that from our roads and bridges to our electrical grid and communications to mass transit that there are things we need every day and things that would make a difference in selling our country, our state and our region to industry. But like the roof that you delay replacing until it starts to leak, we push it off to handle down the road.
Let’s look at not getting HQ2 as a challenge. Pittsburgh beat out more than 180 other cities worldwide to be a finalist for this opportunity. We are on the right track. We just need to look at what we have to offer honestly, and see how we can make it better.
And we don’t just do it for Amazon or another company that might come in. We have to do it because it’s better for us, because what would make us attractive to an outside company is the same thing that would help a hometown one grow.
We don’t need to be the next Seattle. We need to work on being the next Pittsburgh.
Senior citizens beware: Some Medicare Advantage plans deny valid claims
When it comes to health insurance for senior citizens, the bottom line isn’t the only bottom line
THE EDITORIAL BOARD
When it comes to health insurance for senior citizens, the bottom line isn’t the only bottom line.
As customers face a looming deadline in the Medicare annual open enrollment period, the time to choose their 2019 insurance coverage, seniors must compare the costs of premiums, deductibles and medicine under various plan options.
It would seem that simple arithmetic would yield a conclusion as to which plan is best for whom.
It’s not so simple an equation.
A recently released federal report is advising consumers to do some risk calculations on the likelihood that their insurer will deny one or more medical claims. A claim denial means no insurance coverage. No coverage means a bill from the doctor or a service that must be paid upfront and out-of-pocket.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that Medicare Advantage insurers denied thousands of claims between 2014 and 2016. Three-quarters of the time, the “advantage” insurers reversed the denials and paid up.
Righting the wrong is a good thing. It’s also evidence the denials were wrong in the first place.
Those denials put pressure on the consumer in more than one way. Doctors who don’t get paid by insurance companies turn to their patients for payment. And some elderly consumers dealing with health issues may not be up to the kind of stress that comes from filing a claim appeal, awaiting a decision on that appeal, and being at odds with their doctor who wants to be paid. So onerous is the process, the report concluded, that appeals from consumers are rare.
Perhaps worst of all, there is a built-in financial incentive for “advantage” plan providers to deny claims. That’s because the private industry insurers who administer those plans make their money by receiving from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services a monthly fee per subscriber. If the cost of providing care is less than the fee, the insurer keeps the balance. The government report notes plainly that there is “the potential incentive for insurers to inappropriately deny access to services and payment in an attempt to increase their profits.”
Still, there is some advantage to “advantage” plans. They generally are less expensive. Most feature maximum out-of-pocket expenses. Many offer bonus benefits not part of traditional Medicare, like vision, hearing and dental care. That’s probably why some 20 million Americans have those plans.
So what to do?
For now, the government report does not publicize statistics on claim denial rates and reversals by “advantage” insurers — and this should change.
Until then, seniors choosing between traditional Medicare and privately backed “advantage” plans will have to do some guesswork and maybe some gambling.