Keystone Crossroads

Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU and three other public media newsrooms in Pennsylvania are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, Web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.

Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool image via AP

 

President Donald Trump called for “a new program of national rebuilding,” in his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Trump said he would push forward with his plan to invest $1 trillion to replace the country’s crumbling roads, bridges, and airports. Some Pennsylvanians saw the president's proposals — though short on details — as reason for optimism.

“I was very encouraged,” said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association.

Keith Srakocic / AP File Photo

 

Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Tom Wolf gave the Trump administration a tip of the hat at the National Governors Assocation meeting in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

"I think the adminstration's focus on infrastructure is important because we have a lot of catching up to do," said Wolf at a panel discussion with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. "By some estimates $4 trillion nationally."

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

When Scranton entered distressed status, Bill Clinton was running for president — for the first time. Kris Kross just started to wear their jeans backwards, and Barcelona was hosting the Summer Olympics. This reporter wouldn't be born for another three months.

Now, 25 years later, it's time for Scranton to get out.  

Expiration date: Dec. 2017

 

Pennsylvania’s congressmen and senators are home this week for the district work period — regularly scheduled days when they leave D.C. to tackle constituent concerns. If representatives don't schedule town halls, sometimes constituents will.

At a people’s town hall in Washington, Pa., near Pittsburgh, an audience of about 45 listened to Leeann Howell talk about how repealing the Affordable Care Act would affect her. Howell said without the ACA, she’d have to quit her job in order to be her son’s 24-hour-nurse.

Margaret Krauss / WESA

 

Marian Spotts and her husband, Phil, rode a bus with other Trump supporters 350 miles from Erie County, to Washington, D.C. for Inauguration Day earlier this year.

After Trump’s speech, we asked Marian for some feedback.

“Very plainspoken,” she said. “And spoken to the Americans that wanna hear some encouraging words. So, yeah, it’s an encouraging time.”

Marian says immigration is an important issue for her.

Joseph Kaczmarek / AP Photo

 

More than 3,000 bridges throughout the state have been deemed structurally deficient.

Heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness. For some people, crossing a bridge induces the same physiological responses as those experienced by an animal frozen in fear, said Dr. Rolf Jacob, a professor of psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh.

“Just like having fear of flying because the airplane could crash, some people might avoid bridges because they are concerned about its structural safety,” he said.

Eleanor Klibanoff / WPSU

 

  

Brian Davis is well-known around campus, and not just because the Penn State junior is always wearing a suit. He’s triple majoring and double minoring, is actively involved in organizations across campus and has the ear of the University’s president.

 

But that’s not where his story begins.

 

Alex Brandon / AP Photo

 

Pennsylvania wasn’t among the states where large-scale immigration enforcement took place last week, but communities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have reported raids.  

On Wednesday morning, the City of Philadelphia tweeted on its official account, “City is working to gather info on how many people have been impacted by increased ICE enforcements,” and gave the number for a hotline created by New Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith immigrant justice organization.

Margaret J. Krauss / WESA

 

When Alhena Torres turns on her car, a gentle rumble of pop music spills out of the speakers. She used to listen to the news while she drove, but after the first few weeks of the new administration in Washington, she says music has felt like a better option.

“Sometimes I’m just sad and disappointed,” she said, pulling up Google maps on her phone and plugging in an address.

Torres drives all around Pittsburgh for work, a cleaning business she started in 2015.

“I like organizing and fixing things,” she laughed.

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

 

Albert Boscov led the largest family-owned chain of department stores in the country, Boscov's, for nearly six decades. He announced that he had late-stage pancreatic cancer on Feb. 1. On Friday evening, he passed away at his Reading home, surrounded by his wife, Eunice, and their three daughters. 

Photos courtesy of Seminary Ridge Museum

 

School communities throughout the state have gone through painful changes in recent years, as long-established school buildings have been closed and students sent to new locations. Shifting demographics, diminishing resources, and the costs of maintaining large and aging facilities have all contributed to the steady stream of school closures – even when those buildings had historic backgrounds and architectural importance.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

 

For months now, Governor Tom Wolf has been promising a radical departure in his budget proposal for next fiscal year.

On some counts, he delivered on Tuesday.

Gone from Wolf's plan are the broad-based taxes the Democrat attempted to pass in his last two budgets. Instead, the proposal is balanced largely on a little more than $2 billion in efficiency savings.

"Harrisburg," Wolf said in his address at a joint legislative session," has been living beyond its means. Households can't do that, and neither can we."

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

 

The Municipal Sanctuary and Federal Enforcement, or SAFE, Act would restrict state funding for communities where law enforcement agencies don't cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The bill would require municipalities to prove they're complying with the law  when submitting applications for certain state grants, loans and economic development and other programs.

More than$1.3 billion could be affected, according to estimates from legislation sponsors.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

Communities patrolled full-time by Pennsylvania State Police,  instead of local officers, would pay $25 per resident under the budget proposed for next year by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Troopers are solely responsible for policing more than half the state's municipalities, home to 21 percent of Pennsylvania residents.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

 

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority issued an advisory to nearly 100,000 city residents to boil water before using it. While PWSA found no contaminants, lower than normal levels of disinfection were found at a reservoir supplying much of the central and eastern parts of the city.

The Highland Park Reservoir water is treated with microfiltration, but an additional chlorine treatment ensures redundancy, making sure all pathogens have been removed. Lower than normal levels of chlorine triggered the advisory.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

 

 

Walk around the offices of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, and you'll find plans to do good behind every door. There's a food bank, a land bank, a work skills class, and programs to assist with affordable housing.

Executive Director Alan Jennings pokes his head into an empty classroom packed with chairs.

"This is a community room where we hold, in this case, home ownership seminars," said Jennings. "We have some 75-plus people who will be here tomorrow, learning how to become first time home buyers."

Keith Srakocic / AP File Photo

 

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Thursday that State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh will shut down by June 30, 2017.

As the state faces a $600 million budget gap this year alone, DOC said the most effective way to cut costs is to close prisons. Falling rates of crime, incarceration, and recidivism means inmate populations are down, and allows this reshuffling of inmates, said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.

Emily Cohen / Newsworks

 

At 5:30 in the morning of November 9, 2016, Natasha Taylor-Smith crept into her 13-year-old daughter's bedroom. 

She picked up her daughter's smartphone, typed "CNN.com" into the browser and saw a large picture of now-President Donald Trump.

Taylor-Smith put down the phone and woke her daughter up.

"As soon as she opened her eyes, she says, 'Did Hillary win?' and I said, 'No,'" Taylor-Smith recalled. 

Her daughter gave her a confused look. 

"'Donald Trump's going to be our president?" she asked.

"Yes," Taylor-Smith replied.

Jason Plotkin / York Daily Record

 

Pennsylvania communities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials would not only possibly lose some federal funding under President Trump’s latest executive order — they’d get cut off from state grants, too, under a bill that cleared a state Senate panel Wednesday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

 

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders on immigration. The first called for a "large physical barrier" between Mexico and the United States. The other announces plans to remove federal funding from sanctuary cities. 

Sanctuary cities are places that do not cooperate with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in the apprehension and detainment of people in the country illegally. 

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

It's been three weeks since the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced five prisons were being considered for closure: State Correctional Institutions Pittsburgh and Mercer in the western part of the state, and Waymart, Retreat, and Frackville in the east. More than 2,500 prisoners will be relocated to other prisons throughout the state.

Over the last two years the state’s inmate population dropped by nearly 1,600 people. That reduction allows the Department of Corrections to reshuffle inmates and shutter prisons.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

Autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous broadband internet, improved energy systems — attendees at the U.S. Conference of Mayors buzzed with the potential technology in store for their cities.

In the 20 years the internet has existed, it has revolutionized the way we interact with the world, said Joanne Hovis. She’s president of CTC Technology & Energy, an IT consulting firm in Maryland. She said communities that prioritize global access to the internet spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

John Minchillo / AP Photo

 

While Washington, D.C. prepared for the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, more than 300 mayors gathered blocks from the White House for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

They chatted, they swapped cards, they exchanged insight on engaging seniors, dealing with hunger, and and how to pay for infrastructure.

While Pennsylvania mayors said they’re largely hopeful that the new administration will work with cities, they’re not holding their breath.

collage of pictures of Trump supporters
Lindsay Lazarski, Jessica Kourkounis, Margaret Krauss / Keystone Crossroads

Keystone Crossroads will be checking in with Trump voters from around the state throughout his presidency. This is the first installment in an occasional series called "I Voted Trump," telling the story of the next four years through the eyes of the new president's supporters.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

More than 2,500 municipalities and 67 counties just released their budgets for the upcoming year. So what are the trends? What rises to the top?

It's tough to say in any kind of comprehensive, precise way because, well, Pa.'s governance is really fragmented.

Statewide data also tends to publish on a two-year lag and submissions are inconsistent in number, content and form.

That said, here’s what we found:

Gaming revenue impacts, explained

Eleanor Klibanoff / WPSU

 

At Monday night's State College Borough Council meeting, council members voted unanimously to make State College a sanctuary city. Sanctuary cities are places that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities in the pursuit and detainment of people who may be in the country illegally. 

As councilman Jesse Barlow explained it, State College "will not voluntarily assist in any effort by the federal government to apprehend, detain or deport community members." 

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

There’s been some talk in Harrisburg and around the state about tax incentive programs lately. Two programs in particular are standing out. The Neighborhood Assistance Program is firmly moving forward. The Keystone Opportunity Zones however, seem to be walking along a fine line.

READ MORE

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

 

It started as a pothole.

A driver blew a tire in the Borough of Ephrata at 6 a.m. on Election Day and alerted the public works department.

By the time the sun came up the following day, the sinkhole was 30 feet wide, said Paul Swangren, superintendent of Ephrata’s public works and water. By some estimates the hole was 20 feet deep. After swallowing the intersection of West Pine Street and Park Avenue, it threatened two apartment buildings and almost ruptured a natural gas line.

Marc Levy / AP Photo

 

Most challenges to gun-control ordinances in recent years in Pennsylvania have been dismissed outright — generally, because the plaintiffs lacked standing after the courts overturned a state law known as Act 192.

Lower Merion Township’s effort to ban the use of guns in its parks is different, however, because one plaintiff in the suit challenging that ordinance resides in the township.

While Montgomery County Court ultimately upheld Lower Merion's ordinance, an appeals court issued a 2-1 decision a couple weeks ago against the township.

Emily Previti / WITF

 

Some counties in Pennsylvania go without updating their property values for decades, far longer than the six-year maximum wait recommended by the International Association of Assessing Officers.

Almost everywhere else, revaluation is either handled at the state level or required at a set interval by state law, according to IAAO surveys.

Pages