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.

Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

 

As the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians head to the diamond for the final games of the World Series, Carmine Parlatore will be in her living room, on the edge of her seat. Parlatore hasn't been waiting for a Cubs win since 1908 like some fans. Just since 2015, when her brother, Joe Maddon, became the manager of the team. 

Now, her family — and the city of Hazleton — is on board with Chi-town. 

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

 

After more than two years of contentious legal battles, Uber and Lyft may operate legally in Pennsylvania. On Monday, the Senate voted 47-1 to allow ride-hailing services to operate in the state — and to begin regulating them as their own transportation entity. Governor Tom Wolf plans to sign the legislation. 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

Banks make it possible to build credit, wealth, and security. But for the 7 percent of U.S. households that don’t have a checking or savings account, those benefits remain out of reach.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

 

When an immigrant living in the United States illegally gets arrested, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency may issue a detainer request for that person. Detainers ask that the local jail hold that person for up to 48 hours until ICE has a chance to come pick them up. 

Sanctuary cities — or counties, since counties run the jails in Pennsylvania — are places where officials refuse to detain immigrants after they have made bail or their charges are dropped. For Senator Pat Toomey, this is a problem.

Keystone College

 

Keystone College is a small liberal arts school in a rural area outside of the city of Scranton. No part of that preceding sentence screams "high earning potential."

But for graduates of Keystone College, salary might not be the most important consideration when getting a job after graduation. Many students want to go into the non-profit world, become teachers or pursue careers in the arts. Others want to stay close to family in Northeastern Pennsylvania, even if it means taking a lower-paying job. 

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

 

In 2015, the Harvard Kennedy School decided to support Pennsylvania in creating Pay for Success programs. If Pay for Success sounds like bribing a middle schooler to bring home good grades ($5 for an A, anyone?) it’s because both transactions aim to incentivize results.  The former is just more involved than the latter.

Is the American Dream still possible? In this episode, we’ll talk with leading American political scientist Robert Putnam about why he thinks the American Dream is in crisis. In his most recent work, Putnam examines our nation’s growing income inequality and opportunity gap compared to the 1950s when he was a kid in an Ohio town along Lake Erie. Putnam is a political scientist at Harvard University and the author of the best-seller, “Bowling Alone.”

READ MORE

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

On this episode of Grapple, we follow a thread of narratives about leaving and staying in Scranton with one of our reporters who’s got a personal connection to the city. Conversations include the ups and downs of business in the area, whether Scranton’s newest immigrants are fitting in, and how cheap housing and little crime could help Scranton grow again. At its peak, this northeastern Pennsylvania city had 140,000 people. Today there are about half that number of people.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

Over the past few years, in the economic development world, there has been some whispering.

Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank caught wind of a growing suspicion that donations and grants from foundations were being funneled into just the largest, most well-off cities in the country. Small and mid-sized cities, as well as those deemed economically distressed, were getting ignored by these large, national money-givers. 

PennDOT

 

When a construction fire damaged Pittsbugh's Liberty Bridge last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed it for 24 days to do repairs.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

You know the old adage "Never judge a city by (just) its bond"? Or "Forgive and forget: bonds have histories, too"? No? How about that bumper sticker: "Reductive is as reductive does"?

OK, none of those are real.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

 

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church stands on a hill above what remains of Centralia, Pennsylvania. The small, white building and its bright blue dome might be unremarkable in another town, but the Primate of the world-wide Ukrainian Catholic Church, Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, was so moved when he visited in November 2015 that he designated the church a holy site of pilgrimage.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

 

In Pennsylvania, seven out of 10 workers don't have a college degree. That's a demographic that has been particularly hard hit by unemployment and wage declines since the 1980s. 

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

By 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities, according to aUnited Nations estimate. Mayors could be more influential than ever.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

    

On a Friday night in Altoona, the Blair County Convention Center was packed to the rafters with Donald Trump supporters. There was an overflow room downstairs and a crowd waiting outside that couldn't get in. Trump discussed everything from ISIS to Supreme Court justices. 

But it was the talk of jobs that got the crowd excited. 

"We are not going to let your jobs leave, folks," Trump said, to a roar of cheers. "We're not going to let it happen. They're not going to Mexico. They're not going anywhere else. 

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

 

What do Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden have in common? They both have roots in Scranton, and they both love talking about it. Biden poked fun at this tendency during his speech Monday at the Riverfront Sports venue in downtown Scranton. 

"If you listen to Barack [Obama], you'd think I was a kid that just climbed out of a coal mine with a lunch box from Scranton," he said. "I'm the kid from Scranton." 

Min Xian
WPSU

 

While all Democratic eyes are on Philadelphia, Republicans were lining up a few hours north, in Scranton. On Wednesday afternoon, Republican nominee Donald Trump made an appearance with his running mate, Mike Pence. The 2,000 seat auditorium at Lackawanna College was full of proud Trump supporters, ready to hear about jobs, trade and immigration reform.

Two of Trump's most enthusiastic supporters in Congress, Pennsylvania Representatives Tom Marino and Lou Barletta warmed up the crowd.

Becca DeGregorio
WPSU

 

 Duncan Ackerman, a Penn State senior majoring in Community and Economic Development, has spent the whole summer getting to know the store owners in downtown Lock Haven. He rattles off the names of restaurants, hair salons and stores in the small Clinton County town.

"Next to the Texas, we have the Willets Copiers, we have the Masonic Temple ... we have Nerd Haven, we have a vacant storefront, then we have Vape Haven."

two girls
Kevin McCorry / WHYY

 

In the waning days of the school year, a group of students at Strong Vincent High School in the city of Erie sat around a large wooden table in the library, discussing how they feel their school is perceived out in the suburbs.

Nathan Stevens, a white junior, was one of the first to chime in.

"We're a city school and the surrounding districts are higher income and they always think that they're better than us," he said. "That's just how it works around here."

Whitney Henderson, an African-American sophomore, spoke next...

People with signs at state capital
Kevin McCorry / WHYY

Urban school districts in Pennsylvania face a particularly cruel logic.

They serve the poorest, most needy students, yet, when it comes to state funding per pupil, most of them don't make the top of the list.

That dynamic has come to a head in the city of Erie, where leaders of one of the largest school systems in the state are contemplating closing all high schools...

 

Over the weekend, Turkish president Recep Tayip Erdogan gave a televised speechabout the country's failed military coup.

"I have a message for Pennsylvania," he said. "You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country."

 

About 17,000 school-aged refugees move to the U.S. in an average year, an estimate that's a few years old and likely growing along with overall resettlement activity.

But no one is tracking how young refugees fare in school here.

Georgetown University released a study earlier this year looking at education access by students with limited English proficiency.

It focused on undocumented immigrants.

AP File Photo

 

The dust has settled on the 2016-17 Pennsylvania budget, and, as usual, debates over education funding and policy dominated much of the negotiations.

Last year this time, Democrats and Republicans were still miles apart on budget talks, and it took until March to come to resolution.

This year, a final deal was hashed out a mere 13 days late.

So how, in sharply divided government, do you get a deal done — almost on time?

By compromising, and punting on the most controversial elements.

Branden Eastwood for Newsworks

 

Early Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl. Omar Mateen killed 49 clubgoers and injured at least as many in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Mateen was killed at the scene after a prolonged hostage situation.

There were tributes offered across the country, from the White House to the Tony Awards. Over 1,000 miles north of Orlando, Pennsylvania residents reacted to the news with vigils, fundraisers and security concerns.

The parade must go on

Esther Honig

 

 

Everything you need to know about Ambridge, Pennsylvania is in the name. Once home to the American Bridge Company, Ambridge sits about 15 miles north of Pittsburgh, across the Ohio river from Aliquippa. To an outsider, it looks like any former steel town. But for Paul Hertneky, it's something else entirely. 

"Sons and daughters lucky enough to feel attached to a distinct hometown know it works its way under our skin and into our being," writes Hertneky in his new book, "Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood." 

Jessica Kourkounis

 

Education advocates across Pennsylvania are celebrating the fact that the state is about to commit to a new student weighted formula for distributing state aid.

But not everyone is happy.

One advocacy group says proceeding as planned will continue to shortchange many school districts.

For the past few weeks, Kelly Lewis has been crisscrossing the state trying to help certain school districts understand just how unfairly they've treated by the state for the past 25 years.

 

 

The Viewmont Mall, in Dickson City, has spectacular views of the Wyoming Valley: rolling green mountains, clusters of neat homes and Scranton's bustling downtown. But there are a few mountains that look a little different than the others.

"See the sort of messy piles up at the top?" Michele Dempsey is pointing across the valley from her car. "Where it looks, like, black? That's where the active face is, that is where they are putting garbage."

Man digging.
Brad Larrison / for NewsWorks

Tommy Joshua was working in the garden when a guy from his neighborhood rode by on a bike and gave him some bad news.

"Some dude, some like arbitrary man," Joshua said, "told me straight up, 'Yo dog, they got a plan to like, take this whole jawn over. You're doing all this in vain.'"

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

  A few weekends each year, hotels in Centre County are at full capacity. During Penn State home football games, Artsfest or move-in, good luck getting a hotel room. Last weekend's graduation was no exception. 

"We booked the Nittany Lion Inn the day [registration] opened, the first day we could," said Jim Sauter, whose son was graduating. "It's about $400 a night, usually about $159, $179 a night." 

Jessica Kourkounis

 

The advocacy group Public Interest Law Center says the commonwealth's own data point to the need for at least $3.2 billion in added state funding.

When the state's bipartisan basic education funding commission published its report last year, it came up with a new formula for distributing new state education dollars. The formula acknowledges that districts face added burdens, for instance, when educating students in poverty, or those still learning English.

Pages