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.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

This past weekend, President Donald Trump marked his 100 days in office at a rally in Harrisburg. As part of our occasional series, "I Voted Trump," Keystone Crossroads checked in with Trump supporters across the state to see whether their views have changed.

Daphne Goggins is a mother, grandmother, community activist, and an avid social media user. She often posts updates about President Donald Trump to her followers on Facebook.

Nationally, immigration is a contentious issue. But behind the politics are real people — undocumented immigrants worried about a crackdown, Latino families dealing with racism and long-time residents watching their hometowns change. Grapple, a new podcast from Keystone Crossroads, introduces us to some of the people grappling with immigration issues across the state of Pennsylvania.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

When Delaware County's Chester Upland School District raised taxes last summer for the fourth year in a row, it was just the latest move in a long-running attempt to bring a chronically deficit-ridden district back to financial health.

"We keep asking the state to give us more," said Chester Upland's school board president, Anthony Johnson. "And the board's mindset is, we've got to stand up and do for self, too."

Richard Florida Imagines A New Urban Future

Apr 25, 2017

 

For over 30 years, urbanist and author Richard Florida has observed the life of cities, and has come up with solutions on how to make them work.  In his new book, The New Urban Crisis, Florida argues that cities will have to turn to themselves to help themselves and to make them more inclusive for all.

Margaret J. Krauss / WESA

 

Below a tangle of highways along the southern edge of Pittsburgh’s downtown is a truncated section of concrete. The Mon Wharf Landing may look as if it goes nowhere, some sort of multi-modal experiment that suffered from lack of follow-through.

To Jay Sukernek, it’s quite the opposite.

 

Johnstown has taken the bronze medal in a race no one wants to win  — the country's fastest shrinking cities. The Johnstown metro region, which includes all of Cambria County, lost 5.5 percent of its population since 2011.

According to the research group 24/7 Wall Street, that's the third fastest rate of decline after Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Farmington, New Mexico. 

Johnstown City Manager Arch Liston was surprised to hear that the city was so far down the list — but the numbers didn't shock him. 

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo

Unless Congress passes the Miners Protection Act by April 28, more than 2,000 retired union coal miners in Pennsylvania will lose their health care. The bill proposes to use interest from the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to shore up the health and pension funds administered by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).  

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

Ride-sharing and technology company Uber will pay $3.5 million into the state’s general fund to settle a long-running dispute with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Commissioners approved the settlement in a four to one vote Thursday. The civil penalty is one-third of the original $11.4 million fine levied against Uber. 

 

President Donald Trump, a Republican, won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin of 68,000 votes. The state has about 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. 

And yet, 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats are held by Republicans. One of the reasons for that imbalance is gerrymandering, the drawing of voting districts to benefit a political party. Pennsylvania is often ranked among the most gerrymandered states in the country. 

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

 

 

Ever wonder about something you see or hear about where you live that you wish our reporters would explore? Here's your chance! You ask the questions, you vote on the questions you're most curious about, and we answer. Submit a question for us to investigate. 

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

 

State legislators are again discussing bills that would make it easier to sue municipalities over local firearms ordinances that conflict with Pennsylvania law.

The measures would require courts to award plaintiffs legal fees, even if they lose the case.

Predecessor legislation had the same provisions for court costs — for pretty much anyone, regardless of whether they own a gun or had even been to the town with the contested rules.

Ed Zurga / AP File Photo

 

The suit alleged the school’s practices violated the Equal Education Opportunity Act. A federal judge agreed, as did an appellate panel.

So what were the practices?

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

 

When playing the slots in Pennsylvania, casinos and gamblers aren't the only ones making money.

The state collects 54 cents for every dollar a player loses in a slot machine.

The state uses most of that money, about 34 cents, for reducing property taxes. The state's horse racing industry gets 11 cents and 5 cents goes to a state economic development trust fund. The remaining 4 cents is split among the communities that host the casino.

Gene J. Puskar / AP File Photo

 

This week, former Penn State University president Graham Spanier is in court for his role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. This trial is one of the final chapters in a legal saga that has stretched since Sandusky was arrested in 2011. 

But outside the courtroom, the effects of Sandusky's actions are still being felt statewide.

 

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are in the midst of multi-year building booms. More than 4,000 apartment units were built in the two cities last year.

For many years in Pittsburgh, new apartment buildings weren’t a priority: the city had plenty of available housing stock and, despite a steady flow of college students, fairly pedestrian demand. But in 2012, 958 new units were built. The next year, that number jumped to 3,227 and hasn’t fallen below 2,100 since, according to Jeff Burd, president of Tall Timber Group, an information service for the construction industry.

Jon Elswick / AP Photo

 

On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump released his "skinny budget," an outline of his proposed federal funding allocations. As promised, it was skinny in every sense of the word — Trump hopes to scale federal funding way back, cutting programs and positions across the board. 

Charles Reed / AP

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have been increasingly present in multiple Central Pennsylvania cities in recent weeks.  The activity has been affecting entire communities, according to advocates and attorneys in the area.

"This is not just happening once per month, this is happening every single day," says Gloria Vázquez Merrick, director of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center in Harrisburg, where she says knows multiple families with one or both parents now detained.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

 

Bob Gradeck can’t stand the term “data-driven.”

It might seem odd that the project director of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center would recoil at a data-centric phrase, but Gradeck sees data as tools and not answers.

The WPRDC is the repository for more than 150 data sets from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County government, as well as organizations throughout the region.

 

Imad Ghajar and his wife Marwa Hilani were born in Aleppo, Syria, met there, and didn't have plans to leave.

Then the war happened.

"Even in the schools, there wasn't security," Marwa, 37, said recently, through a translator, at her family's new home in Lancaster. "In the middle of the day, there would be a bomb, and someone would die. The area was not safe ever."

The dust from the explosions also made their daughter's asthma worse, and it was increasingly difficult and dangerous to get her treatment.

 

You're invited to join Keystone Crossroads at the second annual Urban Ideas Worth Stealing conference. We'll discuss revitalization of our state's cities and towns in sessions on topics including:

Eleanor Klibanoff / WPSU

 

Over a decade ago, Hazleton tried to stem the tide of immigrants flooding the city by prohibiting residents from employing, housing or selling anything to unauthorized immigrants. The ban never went into effect and was eventually struck down by the courts, costing the city $1.4 million in legal settlement fees. And it didn't stop Latino immigrants from settling in Hazleton: the city is now over 50 percent Latino. 

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.

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