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.

Courtesy of Stockton Williams, ULI

 

The traditional narrative goes like this: After World War II, upper and middle class white families fled the inner cities for the suburbs. They were chasing the "American Dream" of white picket fences, two car garages and shopping centers you could drive to. The children of those Baby Boomers grew up, fought back and now, are moving back to the cities.

Ryan Loew / For Keystone Crossroads

 

Moving goods on barges is big business, but the lock system those barges rely on teeters on the brink of failure.

Deckhands Jeremy Groves and Dustin Frazee descend from the towboat D.L. Johnson to inspect their cargo: a single barge of coal. They circle the barge, walking along its edges — the gunnels — to make sure everything looks okay. Satisfied, they pick up kevlar lines and loop them around the barge’s timberheads. A 40-ton winch aboard the D.L. Johnson pulls the barge snug against the boat. That way, the cargo won’t wander as it’s pushed down the upper reaches of the Ohio River.

Jose Luis Magana / AP Photo

 

Time is running out for Pennsylvania coal miners. By January 1, 13,000 coal miners could lose their pensions and thousands their health care. Legislation called the Miners Protection Act would avert the loss of benefits, but the U.S. Senate has yet to schedule the bill for a vote.

Donnie Samms is director of Region 1 of the United Mine Workers of America, an area which includes Pennsylvania. He said it’s crucial for Congress to pass the bill and support miners. Spending years underground takes a huge toll on a person’s body, he said.

Looking At Addiction As A Health Crisis

Dec 1, 2016
Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

 

For the past 20 years, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, has been a vocal advocate for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Pennsylvania. And he’s been pushing the public and lawmakers to stop looking at addiction as a crime.

“Addiction has to be looked at like a disease and it is, like other diseases, highly treatable, and treatment works,” he said.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

The holiday season came a little early this year for community development organizations that got a piece of $7 billion in tax credits allocated by the Department of the Treasury last week. The New Market Tax Credits program helps low-income or economically distressed cities attract investors in commercial projects. 

Matt Rourke / AP File Photo

 

The Federal Aviation Administration is due to release rules for drone operation over populated areas in a couple weeks. Interest is high in many sectors, including local government.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

 

It might seem like some cities only just stopped reeling from the last recession. Now many officials want to prepare for the next economic downturn.

An expert panel offered some insight recently at the National League of Cities summit in Pittsburgh.

One way to prepare is through something called stress testing — basically, financial modeling to help governments budget resiliently.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Lewistown, Pennsylvania, sits halfway between State College and Harrisburg, nestled in the Seven Mountains. To get to Lewistown, you can drive in on Route 322, a twisty, turny, two-lane highway, where the speed limit for trucks is 20 miles per hour. 

Or, you can take Amtrak and enjoy old-timey Lewistown Station, the first building built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, back in 1849. Today, it's a one-room waiting area staffed by volunteers who sell sodas out of a mini-fridge and Pennsylvania Railroad memorabilia off the walls. 

Hiroko Masuike / AP

 

When Ken Rosenberg thinks about self-driving cars, a particular incident comes to mind.

"One of the autonomous vehicles stopped in the middle of the road. There was a chicken running around the street, and the car didn't know what to do. But it wasn't just the chicken, a woman in a wheelchair was chasing the chicken. The car just basically shut down."

Mel Evans / AP Photo

 

If last week's election taught us anything, it's that polling and predictions don't always match up to the final outcome. By 2020, we may have resorted to reading signs in tea leaves or the stars to guess who the next president will be. 

Or, should we just watch Luzerne County?

Margaret J. Krauss / WESA

 

Most people will never hold office, and for some, voting is as political as it gets. But more than a quarter of Pennsylvanians are working on their own versions of civic duty, through volunteering.

Theresa Cygrymus looked around the hall at Prince of Peace Parish, a Catholic Church on Pittsburgh’s South Side, and shook her head.

“It’s already nine o’clock, usually we have stuff cooking already.”

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Santiago

On this episode of Grapple, we’ll talk about immigration and our country’s changing demographics with journalist Maria Hinojosa. We’ll also hear from University of Pennsylvania political scientist Dan Hopkins about what contributes to the rise of anti-immigration politics and how it played out in the 2016 presidential election.

LISTEN HERE

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

In the name of safer streets, one group interpreted the “walk” signal a little differently.

On Monday Pittsburgh City Council unanimously recommended Complete Streets legislation for final approval. The policy is essentially a city-wide blueprint to make streets safer, more accessible, and convenient for everyone.

John Bry

 

For the most part, historic burial grounds do not get the same attention that is paid to birthplaces or battlegrounds. In Pennsylvania, some historic cemeteries have been relocated and the land redeveloped; other sites are neglected and overgrown; and some have been completely lost.

The most at-risk cemeteries in the state include burial grounds from Philadelphia to Westmoreland County, to Venango, Potter and Lackawanna counties. They range from pioneer burial sites to Civil War graves to late-19th century memorial parks.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

 

A power company called FirstEnergy wants Pennsylvania lawmakers to once again regulate the electricity market in the state.

AP file photo

The Republican tide in Pennsylvania Tuesday wasn't limited to the presidential election and the U.S. Senate race. The GOP captured a super-majority in the state Senate as well.

Though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania, the GOP came into Election Day with a lopsided 31-19 edge in the state Senate.

The party targeted seats held by Democrats in the Erie, Johnstown and Harrisburg areas, and hoped to keep a Delaware County seat held by Sen. Tom Killion just since a special election in April.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

While Philadelphia and Pittsburgh organized protests against President-elect Trump, there didn't seem to be similar events in other parts of the state. In Pittsburgh last night, more than 200 people packed a meeting to figure out how to deal with a Trump presidency. Organized through Facebook, the event was called "Emergency Meeting: Let's Unite To Stop President Trump." 

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

I've been hearing for weeks that if you drove through western and central Pennsylvania, you'd see Trump signs everywhere, like mushrooms.

How could the polls showing Hillary Clinton so far ahead in the state have been so wrong?

Trump, who happily ignored the conventional tools of political campaigns, just did it his way and won.

An early look at the numbers suggests it was Trump's ability to excite and expand his populist base that got the job done.

Eleanor Klibanoff / WPSU

Linda Straub never thought she'd be so invested in a presidential election that she would attend a watch party on election night. But there she was, at Zach's Sports Bar in Altoona with the Blair County Republicans, cheering Donald Trump as he took Iowa.

"This is the first time ... I'm 54 years old and this is the first time that I feel that I'm actually electing my president," said Straub, from her spot on the bar's covered patio. "He is my president."

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey fended off his challenger Katie McGinty to win a second term.

The combined $155 million in spending from mostly outside groups made it the most expensive Senate race in history.

Around 2 a.m. on Wednesday at a Holiday Inn in Allentown, Toomey admitted that it was a hard-fought race. The door-to-door canvassing from each campaign and hours of negative television advertisements made that clear.

Eleanor Klibanoff / WPSU

 

Over the course of the last year, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence have made a number of stops in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Most of the supporters waiting in line outside the Lackawanna College Student Union on Monday afternoon knew the routine. 

NewsWorks file photo

 

While Pennsylvania Democrats are optimistic about winning the presidential race Tuesday, some party leaders worry about state Senate contests.

Democrats hold a voter registration edge in Pennsylvania, but the 50-member state Senate has 31 Republicans and only 19 Democrats.

If the Republicans can flip three Democratic seats to the GOP, they'll have a veto-proof majority in the Senate. And they've poured campaign cash into capturing seats in the Erie, Johnstown, and Harrisburg areas.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

A proposal to do so never made it past a Senate committee.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

There are requirements at polling places, but help doesn't reach everyone who needs it.

Elections have been hectic for Cesar Liriano for most of the nine years he's lived in the city of Lebanon. Presidential elections are craziest, but he's busy during the lower-turnout local and gubernatorials, too.

"Normally, I get up at 5 o'clock every day, doesn't matter elections or not," Liriano says. "I go down as soon to the polls as soon as they open, I go and vote with my wife, and then I get prepared to be running from one poll to the other."

AP Photo / Matt Rourke

 

Don't let last weekend's 70 degree weather fool you. Winter is coming, and quickly. Soon, it will be time to turn on the heater. But for many Pennsylvanians, that might be a luxury they can't afford. 

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

Episode 09 of Grapple takes you to Hazelwood. It’s a neighborhood in Southeast Pittsburgh that’s only four miles from downtown but hard to get to by public transportation. Besides feeling physically isolated from the rest of the city, residents in Hazelwood have watched other neighborhoods redevelop and cash in on Pittsburgh’s renaissance. But a big change is finally underway in Hazelwood, where a former coke and steel mill site is being turned into a huge site for tech research, commercial use and housing.

READ MORE 

Gentrification is a controversial issue playing out in cities across America. What happens when wealthier residents begin to move into a lower-income neighborhood? Who gets to stay, and who doesn’t? In episode 09 of Grapple, we heard about how the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood is on the cusp of change. Residents there are hopeful about a major new development and the potential job opportunities; but they’re also concerned the development could push them out of their community.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

A proposal for a $15 deed and mortgage recording fee awaits Gov. Tom Wolf's signature.

The fees collected would go to counties, which would have to use the money to demolish blighted structures.

Irina Zhorov / WESA

 

The EPA says requirements of the 25-year-old Lead and Copper Rule are in urgent need of an upgrade. 

There is no safe blood level of lead for children. While there have been major reductions in childhood lead exposure over the last few decades, the EPA says there is more to do.

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