Friday, April 30, 2010

Debate in PA District 50

Despite facing six counts for allegedly conducting campaign work on state time, former top House Democrat Bill DeWeese is running for reelection.
He debated his primary opponents last night.
DeWeese and his main primary opponent, Greene County Commissioner Pam Snyder, only made glancing references to the charges Attorney General Tom Corbett filed against him last year. Snyder vowed at one point to make sure her legislative staffers never carry out political work.
Instead, the forum focused on issues ranging from Marcellus Shale drilling to school district consolidation to drag racing at the Greene County airport.
At one point, DeWeese joked the best way for the county to keep developing the airport would be for Snyder to remain a commissioner.
She retorted a few minutes later.

"And I just want to say, I appreciate Bill’s concern trying to keep the Greene team together, but I want Bill to enjoy that pension he boosted up for himself."

Snyder said last year’s budget impasse hurt the county’s economy, and forced her to raise taxes.
DeWeese kept returning to the argument his seniority allows him to bring projects and revenue back to the district, and voters would suffer if they elect a freshman.

Healthcare Ethics Forum at UPMC Mercy

Healthcare experts from UPMC, Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh gathered at UPMC Mercy Hospital to discuss healthcare ethics today.

Director of Pitt’s Consortium Ethics Program Rosa Lynn Pinkus says ethical issues are never labeled. She says it is the mission of preventive ethics to find and fix them before they become a crisis.

Pinkus says although most hospitals have ethics committees, they are often reactive, under-funded, or ignored. She says administrators must take a more comprehensively ethical approach to running their hospitals.

“What’s being talked about now is educating managers in charge of budget on how to look at ways one can justly and fairly allocate scarce resources,” says Pinkus. “Instead of just balancing a budget, having a process.”

Pinkus says because each case is different, medical workers should think critically in the case of each patient, and not have a “silo” approach in which they stuff people into the same category. She says while rules and laws are important, values are key.

Pinkus says the American Society for Bioethics & Humanities is adopting a more proactive and comprehensive approach to healthcare ethics.

Legislative Breakfast Addresses Disability Issues

Three Rivers Center for Independent Living hosted their third annual legislative breakfast at their facility in Wilkinsburg on Friday.

About a hundred people attended and asked a dozen legislators and/or their aides questions about social security, medicaid, transportation, Pennsylvania budget proposals and pending legislation were asked. Among the legislators present were Jim Ferlo and Dan Frankel.

Advocate Victoria Campbell, from the Center said people with disabilities often feel powerlessness when it comes to voting issues - if they are in a wheelchair for example, they might feel uncomfortable getting their wheelchair in a voting booth. And they might feel legislators don't care about their issues. Hosting events like this empowers those with disabilities while getting legislators to listen to issues.

She said its important for the legislators to come to see where the disability community. "We're on the hill continuously," she said. "But once a year they can come here. They can be on our turf."

Extra Mile for Libraries

PSO violinist and grassroots activist Susanne Park will tack an extra mile onto the Pittsburgh Marathon course Sunday to raise library funds and awareness. Her efforts are supported by the group "Save Pittsburgh Libraries".

Park’s Lawrenceville Library is one of those threatened with closure in 2011. She says, besides joining her in walking or running the extra mile, people can do a lot to save their libraries by writing to elected officials and board members, volunteering, and letting it be known how important they are. She refers to the saying, "Closing libraries during a recession is like closing hospitals during the plague--it just doesn't make any sense."

The extra mile will end at a statue she calls "Labor Reading" next to the old North Side Library. Sculpted by Daniel Chester French, who also did the statue in Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial, it was presented by Andrew Carnegie in honor of Pittsburgh industrialist Col. James Anderson, in whose personal library Andrew Carnegie educated himself. For more information on the statue can be found at this link.

Park thinks it will be very hard to re-open libraries once they close.

Climate Change Conference in Pittsburgh

PennFuture’s global warming conference, “Creating a Climate for Justice”, takes place on May 2nd at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture downtown. One speaker is known as the “Father of Environmental Justice”.

Dr. Robert Bullard is a sociology professor and director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. He says vulnerable communities around the world, which have usually contributed least to global warming, are already experiencing the negative effects of climate change through severe weather events—hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, drought.

Leaders crafting climate policy should be listening to these communities and groups, says Bullard, and shifting public resources so they will have multiple benefits. Moving power generation from fossil fuels to renewables and transportation from automobile dependency to mass transit will not only slow climate change but improve the air everyone, rich or poor, breathes.

He calls the government’s slow, inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina a microcosm of what’s happening internationally: poor communities suffer disproportionately before, during and after natural or man made disasters.

Dr. Michael Mann, climate expert and a lead author of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will also address the group, as well as Jan Jarrett, current president and CEO of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), and John Hanger, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and former PennFuture president.

Hours are 1:30 to 6:15 p.m. Admission is $10, but PennFuture members may attend free of charge. Pre-register online or call 1-800-321-7775 by Thursday, April 29.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Tourism Issues

Shortening the school year to allow for more recreation, dedicating a funding source for tourism, privatizing the state liquor system, high speed rail, funding the film tax credit and ways to support state parks were among the topics discussed at a debate held in gubernatorial debate held at a hotel in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon.

The debate was sponsored by Visit Pittsburgh and The League of Women Voters. Four of the candidates attended: Dan Onorato, Robert Allan Mansfield, Joe Hoeffel and Jack Wagner. About a hundred people were in attendance.

The candidates were asked a series of questions that were in some way, related to the tourism industry. None of the candidates were in support of expansion of gaming in the state. However, Onorato said he was in support of gaming machines in bars. Wagner said he does not support the expansion considering all of the casinos that were supposed to have been built have not been built yet.

All agreed high-speed rail connecting Pittsburgh to Philadelphia would be an asset to Pennsylvania.

Mansfield said the state liquor system should be privatized, Onorato said this is not the time and spoke about his drink tax, Wagner said it should not be privatized, Hoeffel said the state should use its purchasing power and work out discounts.

All candidates agreed a budget should be passed on time and said if they were governor they would make it happen. Pennsylvania's budget has not been passed on time once in the last seven years.

Three Rivers Arts Festival Gets Sponsorship

The Three Rivers Arts Festival is getting an extra hand covering costs this year—Dollar Bank announced today that it will be the main financial backer of the ten day festival that begins June 4th. Marguarite Jarrett Marks is the festival director and says the public is in store for a great event this year. Using results from a public survey as part of their guide, the festival will include more visual art and Marks says she can’t reveal too much about another element--but says it involves large temporary pieces of public art installations that are sure to be conversation starters. Like last year the arts marketplace will have a big presence and Marks says applications for the marketplace were up 30% over last year, with many artists telling her it's one of their most important sources of revenue. Marks says for 51 year the festival has been a national summer destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the Pittsburgh region and generates 23 million dollars in tax revenue for the local economy. The budget for this year's festival is $750,000, but it's free to the public.

Public Safety Director Huss Subpoenaed

Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who chairs the Task Force on Emergency Operations and Snow Preparedness, says she has stopped inviting Public Safety Director Michael Huss to testify before she's demanding he do so. Rudiak says after 7 invitations over the course of a month to interview Huss have gone unanswered, she subpoenaed him to appear before council May 10th.
“This subpoena is not a reflection on the uniformed men and woman who worked very hard during the snow storm. Police, Fire, EMS, Public Works, and our committed municipal employees worked very long hours, under dangerous circumstances, during those two weeks. We need to focus on the management of this emergency, and use the lessons learned to improve future emergency operations so we can keep our employees and residents safe.”

Rudiak's task force is investigating the city's response to the snowstorms in early February and discover what changes are necessary to improve the steps taken in future storms. She says the task force needs information on prepared the Public safety Department was prepared, the equipment and vehicles that were available and the activation of the Emergency Operations Center.
Rudiak says they've received more than 200 formal public comments through a hearing and online and other administration officials have testified.
She says this must be a collaborative effort....“One of the biggest problems during the snow storm was a lack of communication and coordination between government offices. If we can't communicate about an emergency, how can we be expected to communicate during an emergency?”
Rudiak says she had hoped to issue a final report in early May but that will now be delayed.

One Kind Word Hopes to Curtail Parental Outbursts

A mother loses her temper with her son in a grocery store. A father yells at his children on a crowded bus - if your just an onlooker - what do you do - what can you do? A local campaign is hoping to curtail those types of outbursts and possibly cut down on incidents of child abuse.

One Kind Word is the joint creation of Family Communications - the program Fred Rogers founded nearly forty years ago and Family Resources, an organization that works against child abuse. The name comes from Rogers himself - sometimes, he said, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person.

The idea is you witness an incident of parental rage or neglect and to intercept a touchy situation in a non-reactionary way.

Listen to the story here.

Library to Hold Budget Workshops

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh wants to discuss its finances with community members.

Spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes says a 6-month series of workshops will begin May 15.

“This is a way for the community to help us understand how they use library services and what their needs and priorities are,” says Thinnes.

“At the same time, the public will have the opportunity to learn about the constraints of the limited public funding that we’re finding for the Library’s services.”

In 2009, the Library predicted a $5 million deficit by 2014, prompting Library Board members to announce service cuts and closures. Local officials called for a review of its financial practices in response to public outcry. The audit concluded that the Library had acted reasonably and simply needs further funding.

Thinnes says a public-private task force of citizens and elected officials is looking for funding sources. She says the Library's website also highlights events in Pennsylvania government that impact the Library’s finances, like table games revenue and the proposed state budget.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More City-Owned Surveillance Cameras

A resolution in Pittsburgh City Council is going to extend funding to install additional surveillance cameras throughout the city. This money will be coming from a federal Homeland Security grant, along with a Port Security Project grant. City Information Systems Project Manager Gwendolyn Moorer says there are currently 24 operating cameras installed in the city, spread through downtown, the North Shore, and on a couple river rescue boats.
She says they are expecting approval this week to place camera equipment on top of the USX building; they've been trying to make an an agreement with the property owners for nearly two years. With that, they will look to obtain permits to place cameras on top of bridges so they can align relay equipment with the cameras on top of the USX building.
Moorer says the USX and bridge cameras are supposed to be installed and running by June 30, according to the original plan. However, because of weather and approval delays, she has requested for an extention to set the date to December 30.

Two Southwestern Pa. Foundations to Unite

The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County and the Pittsburgh Foundation want to merge to consolidate costs and increase the community engagement of both groups.

Community Foundation President Kirk Utzinger says his institution will retain its staff and board of directors if the merger is approved by the state Attorney General’s office.

Utzinger says its important to note that this is not a takeover: his foundation approached the larger Pittsburgh grantmaker about a year ago in an effort to save money.

Both Utzinger and Pittsburgh Foundation President Grant Oliphant say the more advanced financial services and back offices of the Pittsburgh Foundation will allow its smaller partner more resources for grant recipients.

Oliphant says while that will be an “automatic cost-saving,” income will decrease over the first year, because fees will be lowered for Community Foundation donors.

Oliphant says people in the Southwestern Pennsylvania community move across county lines all the time.

“When it comes to the needs and challenges this region faces, the line between Westmoreland and Allegheny is a false one.”

Pittsburgh Loses Worst Air Ranking

The American Lung Association has released its annual "State of the Air" report and fine particulate matter is still a problem for the Pittsburgh region. Although the area no longer has the worst air quality in the U.S. particulate matter levels are still above EPA standards. Joe Osborne of GASP, the Group Against Smog and Pollution, says that while progress has been made fine particulate matter still causes adverse health affects. Osborne says that in order for Pittsburgh to continue to improve its air quality, state and local leaders need to work to develop a solid plan that reduces the levels of particulate matter by retrofitting diesel vehicles and crafting a better plan for addressing air pollution in the Liberty-Clairton area.
According to the report, Pittsburgh is now third worst in terms of daily soot pollution behind Bakersfield and Fresno, California.

Gun Rights Advocates Call for Castle Doctrine Law

Pennsylvania’s two Republican candidates for governor stood shoulder-to-shoulder with 2nd Amendment advocates during a pro-gun rally at the state Capitol Tuesday. Several hundred people crowded the Capitol steps and voiced their opposition to gun control measures.
State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, a Butler Country Republican who’s running for lieutenant governor, emceed the event.

"After this year we end – we see an end to the terms of office of that gun-grabbing liberal from Philadelphia that’s been occupying the governor’s office." [applause]

Governor Rendell supports letting Pennsylvania’s municipalities set their own gun laws.
Right now, only the General Assembly can pass gun control measures. Rendell also backs efforts to limit gun purchases to one a month, and to require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to police.
Suzanna Gratia Hupp, a former Texas lawmaker, said laws aimed at curbing access to guns won’t cut back on shootings.

"If guns are the problem, somebody explain to me why we haven’t seen any of these mass shootings at skeet and trap shoots? Or the NRA convention? Or the dreaded gun show?"

Speakers called for the passage of the “castle doctrine” bill – a measure that would reinforce a person’s right to defend his or her home with deadly force, without the obligation of trying to retreat first.
After the event, Attorney General Tom Corbett said he couldn’t directly support the legislation without reading it first, arguing there are three different measures before the General Assembly.
He did side with its general goal.
"More likely than not, yeah. Would we sign the castle doctrine passed by the legislature? Yes."

Corbett’s Republican opponent, State Representative Sam Rohrer, said he’d “absolutely” sign a castle doctrine bill.
"That’s not the first time the castle doctrine’s been introduced, and I’ve been supportive of that throughout all my years."

New Bid For 90.5 FM to be Made This Week

The board of Duquesne University approved the sale of the university’s FCC licenses to operate 90.5 FM in Pittsburgh and soon after hired a consultant to help with the transaction. Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty says the value was set, “in the neighborhood of $10 million.” Dave Garland runs a media brokerage firm that was not hired by the university. He says that number is probable too high. He says multiplying the number of potential listeners by a dollar amount usually sets the value of noncommercial licenses. That number used to stand at $4.00 per potential listener. That would put the value of 90.5 FM’s 25-thousand watt signal at nearly $9 million dollars. However, Garland says the number has fallen in recent years along with the economy. Based on sales in 2007 the multiplier was $2.9, which puts the value of 90.5 FM around $6.5 million and Garland says it is probable lower than that today. However, he says every market is different and every sale is different. The most recent sale of a radio licenses in Pittsburgh is the sale of Sheridan Broadcasting’s WAMO AM, WAMO FM and WPGR AM in May of last year. Those three commercial licenses went for about $9 million to St. Joseph Missions. Garland says the presence of multiple bidders can also drive up a price. Duquesne President Charles Dougherty says he has multiple bidders but will only name Pittsburgh Public Media.

Pittsburgh Public Media is a non profit formed on January 14, 2010 expressly to purchase the 90.5 FM licenses from Duquesne and preserve its programming. Pittsburgh Public Media board chair Joe Kelly has enlisted the help of Public Radio Capital. The group was formed 10 years ago by a collection of public radio stations with the mission of preserving and expanding public radio stations across the country. Over the years managing director Marc Hand has worked with stations in markets as big as New York and Chicago and as small as Fort Wayne, Indiana. Hand says the first thing they had to do was start to build a business model to see if the station could survive on its own and what it could afford to pay for the licenses.

Duquesne University says the operating expenses for WDUQ last year was $3.6 million dollars and its operating revenues came in at $3 million dollars leaving the university to cover the difference. In a written response to a request for details on that funding gap the university said, “This support was in the form of donated facilities and administrative support from Duquesne. We provide the station space on campus that must be heated, cooled, cleaned and maintained. We also provide the station with administrative support such as accounting, payroll, benefit administration, etc.” Hand says he feels that can all be covered if the sale price is right.

Pittsburgh Public Media submitted a bid to the university last month which was rejected and Joe Kelly says a revised bid will be made this week. Kelly says the best-case scenario has the university accepting the new bid. He says there are two other options that are much less desirable to him. One would have the license being sold to an entity that would not continue to broadcast National Public Radio Programs and Jazz. The other involves the university delaying the sale of the station. Charles Dougherty says this does not need to be rushed. He says there is no financial pressure for the university to sell. The building that houses WDUQ is being torn down this fall to make way for a residence hall. Dougherty says that does not pose a deadline because a new space on campus has been identified for the station’s operations.

Listen to a more in-depth version of the story.

31 Truck Drivers Removed From Service After Enforcement Effort

A one day enforcement effort of inspecting commercial vehicles on rural roads and non interstate highways by the Pennsylvania State Police has resulted in 219 trucks and 31 drivers being taken out of service. Jack Lewis, PA State Police spokesperson says the reason for the enforcement effort is that 50% of truck crashes occur on rural roads and non interstate highways. Lewis says the only way to cut back on the number of violations is through enforcement efforts. A total of 1,255 commercial vehicles were inspected with 771 citations being issued and 1,720 written warnings being given. Lewis says those numbers were up from the last enforcement effort that took place in October.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dozens of Speeders Snagged

Pennsylvania State Police were out in force today on Interstate 79 in the western suburbs of Pittsburgh cracking down on speeders. Between 8:30 this morning and 1 o'clock this afternoon, an average of 8 state troopers pulled over speeders and issued 106 citations near the Carnegie Exit in Collier Township.
Trooper Robin Mungo says some drivers could have received multiple citations such as driving without a seat belt which is a secondary offense. That citation can only be issued after a driver is pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding or reckless driving.
Mungo says that the speeders were going much faster than the 55 MPH posted limit..."we didn't pull over anyone unless they were traveling at least 80 miles per hour....the fastest was (clocked at) 92 miles per hour."
Mungo says you might think that motorists would have slowed down when they saw others pulled over but "they are so focused on their destination" they don't even see the state troopers "because of that tunnel vision."
Mungo says this stretch of I-79 seems to get more than its share of speeders.

3 out of 4 Kids In PA are Immunized

Every year at this time health officials across Pennsylvania and the country try to convince parents to get their children vaccinated. During this National Infant Immunization Week, the Pennsylvania Health Department is urging parents to protect their children by getting them immunized. Health Secretary Everette James says several vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise. In 2009, 439 pertussis cases were reported, up from 342 in 2004. There were 11 cases of mumps, up from four cases and 13 measles cases were reported up from zero during the same five-year span. James says vaccines are a cost-effective public tool....
"They not only prevent disease in people who receive them, but also protect those who come in contact with unvaccinated individuals including those who are too young to be vaccinated or individuals who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

Heather Stafford is the Director of Immunizations for the Health Department. She says as of the 2008 survey, 77% of children in the state had their appropriate vaccinations by 35 months of age. She says parents should talk with their health care provider to ensure infants are up-to-date on their immunizations and an immunization schedule is available on their web site.

However, some parents believe that the immunizations themselves carry some risk.

Pittsburgh Marathon Prep

With the Pittsburgh Marathon quickly approaching this Sunday, race officials say they’re prepared for the runners and the crowds. This year, there are more than 16,000 runners, walkers and wheelers registered to race.
Patrice Matamoros, Race Director, says there will be 13,000 gallons of water and 10,000 gallons of Gatorade along the course for participants. There will also be more than 350 medical volunteers. Marathon Medical Director Ronald Roth says runner safety is their top priority, and injuries are directly related to temperature and weather.

Filling a $450 Million Budget "Pothole"

Pennsylvania’s top transportation official says bridges and highways will suffer real consequences if lawmakers don’t turn up new revenue during an upcoming special legislative session.
Officials had banked on revenue from I-80 tolling to fund transportation projects over the coming years, but now that option’s off the table.
Lawmakers need to fill a 450-million dollar gap in next year’s budget, though PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler says the problem goes beyond that.
Biehler says the federal government’s rejection of a tolling plan creates a major deficit in the years to come…

"In the next four years only, it’s about two billion dollars less on the highway and bridge side. We had a list of projects that we intended to do for that two billion dollars. That won’t happen. And we’ll be happy to publish that information."

Biehler says about seven thousand miles of Pennsylvania roadways need repairs, and the total cost for the state’s infrastructure fixes is around 14 billion dollars.
On May 4, the governor will convene a special legislative session focused on transportation funding. The Rendell Administration hasn’t endorsed a specific plan to raise new transportation revenue.
Biehler says a greater emphasis on public-private partnerships, like tolling, is one idea on the table. "There are certain aspects in the private side related to certain financing techniques, use of depreciation and so on – that we might not be able to take advantage of on the public side. But if we could have this partnership, maybe we could take advantage of both."
Some lawmakers have suggested increasing car and license registration fees.

Interview with US Surgeon General

Last week, Regina Benjamin came to Pittsburgh for the Women's Health and The Environment Conference.

She spoke with DUQ's Erika Beras about the initiatives her office will focus on during the next few years and how a healthy environment can mean a healthy body.

"If you as an individual have high blood pressure, a pill won't continue to take care of it if you are constantly in an unhealthy community. If you are worried about how to put food on a table, its hard to get your blood pressure down," she said.

She also spoke about how health care legislation will change her job and the way medical care is administered, the work she hopes to do with HIV education in girls and women and her hopes to cut down on youth, domestic, workplace and street violence.

Listen to the conversation here.

Grant Gives B-PEP Opportunity to Expand

The Black Political Empowerment Project and the Coalition Against Violence have received a $150,000 grant to increase their engagement of Pittsburgh communities.

B-PEP Chairman Tim Stevens says the organization has used the Pittsburgh Foundation contribution to hire Kenneth Huston as a community liaison. Stevens says Huston will work with individuals and organizations of all kinds to implement the Coalition’s goals.

Stevens says while the Coalition has previously outlined plans to decrease African-American violence and increase political interest, it has never had the resources to apply those goals to Pittsburgh.

Stevens says he doesn’t expect anyone to read the entire “Strategies for Change” document, but he does want Pittsburghers to review the segments that address them in particular. The document can be found here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Amnesty For PA Tax Scofflaws

Pennsylvanians behind on their state tax payments have a 54-day window to settle up for reduced interest rates. In an effort to bring in at least 190 million dollars to help balance the budget, the state is offering incentives to delinquent taxpayers: penalties will be waived, and interest will be halved between now and June 18th.
Governor Ed Rendell says in addition to dangling that carrot, the state is also leveling a threat:

"There will be a five percent penalty added for non-participation. That was part of the original act. So if you’re delinquent up there and you say, ‘what the heck? I’ve gotten away with it until now.’ Well, we’re coming for you anyway, and you’ll pay five percent more because you don’t participate in this program".

Corporations owe 62 percent of those unpaid back taxes, and twenty percent of tax delinquents currently live out-of-state. Rendell points out the program isn’t rewarding people for avoiding their taxes.
"To the 97-percent of us who pay our taxes on time, I want to reiterate: these tax delinquents are still going to pay more than you did when you filed and paid your taxes on time. They’re still going to pay some interest. The interest is halved and the penalties are foregone, but they will still pay more than had they paid on time. "

Rendell says the state has begun a three-million dollar advertising campaign to publicize the tax amnesty window.
The Revenue Department is budgeting 16.8 million dollars for the total amnesty effort.

Pgh. Councilman Pushes Responsible Drinking Ads

Nighttime partiers in Oakland and the South Side might soon be seeing reminders of the effects of too much drinking.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus wants to initiate a “responsible hospitality” advertising campaign using billboards designed by the University of Florida. The ads show young men and women in embarrassing positions because of excessive alcohol consumption.

Kraus says one ad shows a young lady bent over a toilet, warning the reader to not “be that girl.” Another depicts a rather flaccid beer bottle, with text reading “drinking too much may disappoint you and your partner.”

Kraus says the billboard campaign would be part of a larger effort to increase civility amongst young partygoers. He says to that end, Pittsburgh will host a Sociable City Network conference on June 8 to increase dialogue on responsible hospitality.

The billboards would be implemented through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Kraus says informing revelers before citing them is key to successfully “remediating the problem.”

Seeking Financial Aid for Older Foster Kids

The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved a measure that would require county children and youth agencies to evaluate every child in foster care for eligibility for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) prior to their leaving the system.
The bill's sponsor Democratic Senator LeAnna Washington of Philadelphia believes that 2,000 of the 20,000 children in foster care would qualify....."The goal is to use existing federal programs to provide children aging out of foster care with resources to assist in their transition to independence."
To qualify for SSI, a child must have a diagnosed physical or mental condition that very seriously limits his or her activities. That condition must last at least one year or be expected to result in the child's death.
Senator Washington says the child could be eligible for monthly payments up to $674. The money would go to the state until the child is 18..."Given the 2 very pressing needs we face--finding resources to ensure stability for children that age out of foster care without family or resources and the need to identify new revenue streams for the state" it's time to consider her legislation.
Washington says other states including California have done this and she estimates that qualifying the foster kids for SSI could mean $18 million a year for the state. After the foster child turns 18, the monthly payments go to the individual.

National Alliance of Mental Illness Holds Annual Regional Conference

The changes in the way mental health care will be delivered with the passage of health legislation in Washington and with state budgets continuously slashing their budgets was among the topics discussed at the tenth annual National Alliance of Mental Illness conference held Friday and Saturday at a hotel near the airport.

About three hundred people attended the conference and listened to about a dozen speakers discuss advocacy, building relationships with lawmakers and confronting challenges in the mental health system were some of the other topics discussed.

Michael Fitzpatrick, the National Director of NAMI said there were some real challenges and opportunities in the mental health in America. "I think the passage of health care reform, the passage of parity law in 2008, coupled with the recession which is playing havoc with state budgets is going to create an environment where things are going to change dramatically," he said.

Low Scoring Districts Would Need Improvement Plan

The Senate Education Committee has okayed a bill renewing and expanding Pennsylvania’s school accountability law.
The panel voted 10-1 to set up a four-tier system for underperforming school districts, with gradually increasing oversight levels.
Chairman Jeffrey Piccola, a Dauphin County Republican, explains districts with poor test scores would need to implement improvement plans.

"For example, if attendance if a problem, the improvement plan must address the issue of attendance, and how do you improve attendance. If parental involvement – the lack of parental involvement – is a problem, the improvement plans must address that."

The bill would hand control of “level three” districts – the worst, after “warning status” and levels one and two – to a state education board appointed by the Governor and Senate.
Right now, only the Harrisburg and Chester Upland School Districts fall into that category, which is reserved for districts that have failed to meet performance targets for nine or more years.
Parents in “level three” districts would also have the right to petition the school board to shut down a school, or convert it to a charter.

Elected Posts as Stepping Stones

A bill barring Pennsylvania Attorneys General from running for higher office until four years after their term expires has been held up in a House committee.
Philadelphia Democrat Babette Josephs says her bill has nothing to do with Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett’s run for governor
"We want that person to be in a position who has a passion for justice. Not a person who is using that position just in order to move on to something that he or she might consider a better job."

But Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley disagrees...
"The bill is obviously politically-motivated, as it specifically singles out the Attorney General’s office. And you can’t help but wonder if it is an attempt to silence the Attorney General as part of his ongoing public corruption investigation in the Capitol."

Josephs chairs the House State Government Committee. She called a vote on the measure, but cancelled it after Philadelphia Democrat Brendan Boyle voted “no,” telling members “the vote never took place.”
Josephs concedes she didn’t have enough support to get the measure through the Democratic-controlled committee.
She says she’ll tweak the language, and may expand the ban to cover other statewide offices such as Auditor General and Treasurer.
Josephs says she wants officials to focus on their jobs, rather than use them as stepping stones.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another Cabinet Member to Leave

Governor Ed Rendell has not yet named a successor to Pennsylvania Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak who announced he's leaving the administration May 7th to become the new superintendent of the Allentown School District, the fourth largest in the Commonwealth.
Zahorchak has served as Education Secretary since 2006 and says taking over the Allentown School District was his first choice, when he started thinking about what to do once the Rendell Administration wraps up its work at the end of the year.

"Honestly, there were people who said, ‘well why don’t you want to do this with us?’ And I with single focus, said, ‘I want to go to the front lines and work hard in a district, and be a school superintendent leader.’ And there was no better place and no other place I looked at, other than Allentown."

Zahorchak says he’s happy with the work he’s carried out at the department, pointing to Governor Rendell’s push for annual increases in the state’s basic education spending.

"We have a investment strategy, with our costing out study and closing the adequacy gap. We worked hard and were recognized as one of the only states – the only state – that has had the achievement gains that we’ve had."

Rendell is calling for another 300 million dollar basic education increase in the next budget.
Zahorchak served as the Greater Johnstown School District’s superintendent before he joined the Education Department in 2003.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Some Mon-Fayette Expressway Work Stopped

Inadequate funding has halted the development of some parts of the Mon-Fayette Expressway around Pittsburgh.

Since January, construction has been frozen on two roadways linking Jefferson Hills to the Parkway East and I-79. Another segment connecting I-79 to Route 22 west of the city is on hold as well.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman Tom Fox says the Turnpike needs about $5 billion to continue the work, after attempts to forge a public-private partnership with investors never materialized.

He says one aim of the toll road was to alleviate Parkway East congestion.

“We could take a great deal of traffic, especially commercial traffic, off of that Parkway if we had the Southern Beltway built, and the portion of the Mon-Fayette from Monroeville down to Jefferson Hills,” says Fox.

Fox says some Mon-Fayette construction will continue. He says West Virginia’s I-68 will connect to the Pennsylvania border by this fall, while a roadway from Uniontown to Brownsville will be finished by spring of 2012.

Fox says the Turnpike has all the clearances and permits it needs to continue once more money is found.

Peregrine Falcon Chicks!

Dr. Todd Katzner, the National Aviary's Director of Conservation and Field Research, was lucky enough to be watching live video as the second and third eggs hatched yesterday within minutes. A fifth may hatch at any time.

He says both parents are feeding the chicks, which look like little fluff balls with beaks and droopy wings now but will grow quickly and resemble the adults in just 28 days. At that point, they will get bands and health checkups. They will stay near the nest even after they start flying and remain in the area until early fall. The adults stay year-round and defend their nest territory.

There are five eggs in a nest at the Gulf Tower. The female who laid the first two disappeared. Another female laid three of her own and is incubating all five. Katzner says it's possible, but would be surprising, if the first two hatch.

Live video of both nests is available, and highlights of the nesting season will be archived at

Group says- For Earth Day Sake Don't Drill

Environmental advocates used Earth Day yesterday to urge lawmakers to support a bill placing a five-year halt on leasing out state forestland for natural gas drilling. I recent years the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has leased about 700-thousand acres of state forest land for natural gas drilling, and this year's budget relies on more than 100 million dollars of revenue from additional leasing. A bill before the House would put a pause on the leasing with a goal of studying the impact drilling has on state forests. Representative Dave Levdansky of Allegheny County says people need to understand that damage caused by drilling can't be reversed. He says, “The state forest is not an ATM machine. It's not a cash cow. It's where we go to recreate. It's an important part of Pennsylvania where the air is pure and the water is clean. God's not making any more of that.” Levdansky says he's not against drilling - he just doesn't want to see it in protected woodlands, “We've got a large, diverse state. And we're not saying don't drill in Pennsylvania. We're saying don't drill in our most pristine - our most environmentally and ecologically sensitive lands.” PennFuture and other environmental advocacy groups held an Earth Day rally at the Capitol to support the bill, which cleared the House appropriations Committee earlier this week.

Sestak: Specter is Swift Boating

Democratic US Senate candidate Joe Sestak is pushing back against an Arlen Specter ad claiming he was "relieved of duty" as a Navy Admiral. In what could be considered the first attack ad of the democratic primary the voice over says Joe Sestak was, “Relieved of duty in the Navy for creating a poor command climate.” Sestak says that isn't true. Sestak explains he was reassigned after a new chief naval officer took over, and the two butted heads, “I respect the new CNO… I proposed 260 ships, he believes it should be 315. I respected that. He wanted his own team.” Sestak, who had attained the rank of Three-Star Admiral, decided shortly thereafter to leave the Navy. He says it was only partially based on the stance taken by Admiral Michael Mullen. Right around the same time Sestak’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer and he says that played a major role. He served 31 years in the Navy, and commanded an aircraft carrier battle group during the early portion of the Afghanistan war. The ad notes that even though Sestak attained the rank of three-star admiral, he is listed as having just two stars in his retirement. Sestak says he was not demoted, “You need three years to retire as a three-star admiral. I don't even know if I'd had a year yet as a three-star.” Sestak says Senator Arlen Specter crossed the line by attacking his military record.

This Musical City: Mary Lou Williams

April is Jazz Appreciation month and to celebrate WDUQ’s occasional series "This Musical City" is taking a look at the life and career of Mary Lou Williams. Each May the Kennedy Center in Washington DC hosts the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. This year's event is May 21-23 and a Pittsburgh contingent will be attending. Williams would have 100 years old this year. Listen to WDUQ Jazz Host Bob Studebaker’s story on the life of the woman once called “ the little piano girl from East Liberty.”

Allentown School Board To Get New Superintendent

Gerald Zahorchak, Pennsylvania's secretary of education will be stepping down from his post May 7th to become the new superintendent of the Allentown school district. The Johnstown native has served as the education secretary since 2005. Before that he served as the deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education and was the superintendent for the Greater Johnstown School District. Zahorchak will step down as education secretary on May 7th and will assume his new post in the states 4th largest school district on July 1st. Zahorchak will be replacing Karen Angello.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sediments to be Captured in North Park Lake

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking steps to make sure sediments do not flow out of the nearly dry North Park Lake while contractors dredge the body back to its original depth. The lake was drained last year to allow for dredging this summer. Two creeks flow into the lake and they have cut new paths through the several foot thick layer of sediment taking material down stream with them. The corps will divert those streams over the next few weeks and add extra rock filters to capture the sediments that are now making Pine Creek below the dam muddy. A wetlands barrier will also be installed on Pine Creek upstream of North Park Lake to catch sediment before it enters the lake.
Contractors placed an initial erosion control structure downstream of the North Park Lake Dam outlet in late March, but sediment continues to escape. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission is evaluating water quality and plans to continue its trout stocking in Pine Creek at a later date. However, stocking activities will be postponed or canceled if conditions are unfavorable for trout. The County and Corps will also evaluate the effectiveness of the erosion control measures and make adjustments as necessary during the project. The $13 million restoration of the 65-acre lake is expected to be complete by May of next year. North Park Lake is the largest man-made lake in Allegheny County. It was first constructed in 1935. Since then it has lost half of its original depth.

Duquesne To Open Pharmacy in Hill District

The Mylan School of Pharmacy expects to open a much-needed community pharmacy in the Triangle Shops Plaza on Centre Avenue in The Hill District later this year.

Douglas Bricker, Dean of pharmacy school said the pharmacy won't just dispense drugs - it will be a place where residents can ask questions about their health care, get tested for illnesses such as hypertension and attend educational classes. He says it will represent the changing face of pharmaceutical care.

Carl Redwood, Director of The Hill District Consensus Group said the development will build upon what already exists in the community and will provide a service that is much needed."It will add to our strategic community and economic development efforts aimed at revitalizing the area," he said.

The pharmacy will employ professors and licensed pharmacists who will oversee the students. Rotations at the pharmacy will provide a good training ground for the students.

Horserace Winnings Up

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board says racetracks around the state paid out more than $195 million in purses last year. That's up $62 million from the winnings paid out in 2006.

Racetrack gaming director Melinda Tucker says that's a positive, as money from purses tends to be injected back into the state's economy.

But while winnings are on the rise, betting is declining, dropping $241 million since 2006. Some regulators say that a down economy is to blame.

City Sits on Miles Report

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says the city will not yet close its investigation of the alleged police assault of CAPA high school senior Jordan Miles this January.

The mayor says the Office of Municipal Investigations will wait until a federal grand jury inquiry is complete.

"It would be inappropriate for me or us to take any action before the federal authorities complete their investigation," says Ravenstahl.

Police officers Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte remain on paid leave.

City Councilman Patrick Dowd says the city is unnecessarily holding back its findings on the case. He says it's an "off chance" that the federal investigation will find anything different than the OMI report.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Conference Focuses on Women's Health and The Environment

Toxins in household products, pro-active preventive health care and environmental pollution were among the topics discussed at the day-long Women's Health and The Environment Conference held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Wednesday.

About three thousand people, mostly women, attended the free conference and heard from speaker and organizer Teresa Heinz, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Teresa Heinz spoke of her tumultuous year which included a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. She also spoke of the importance of preventive medicine.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin spoke about her experiences as a primary care physician in rural Alabama and her focus on combating obesity with preventive care and medicine. She said one of the first steps in taking care of ourselves is taking care of the environment we live in. "While we can't move all Americans out of polluted environments, we can clean up the environment," she said.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson spoke about climate change, the thousands of potentially toxic chemicals in household items, the need to test and regulate them and the purchasing power women possess.

Other speakers talked about urban gardening, environmental chemicals and breast cancer and air pollution.

Advice for Arts Groups in Tough Times

The so-called “Turnaround King” addressed about 200 arts managers at a meeting of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council today at the August Wilson Center. Michael Kaiser, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, says he turned around the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Kansas City Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, and the Royal Opera House in London.

Kaiser says mid-sized groups tend to have the most difficult time in a recession because they have more infrastructure to pay for than a small group but not as big a base of support as a large group.

Some keys to success at any size, says Kaiser, are interesting programming, effective marketing, and attracting support from diverse groups in the community--not just the same people all the time. He says the internet is a wonderful and inexpensive tool to this end.

Pittsburgh is the 51st stop on Kaiser’s “Arts in Crisis” tour of 69 American cities.

Turzai Bill Would Privatize PA Liquor Sales

“Should the government really be in the business of selling liquor?”

State Representative Mike Turzai posed that question to colleagues in the Pennsylvania House today.

“My answer is a definitive no.”

Turzai introduced legislation that would privatize the sale of wine and spirits in the Commonwealth.

The House Republican Whip says under his plan, 750 liquor licenses and 100 wholesale licenses would be auctioned off at an estimated $2 billion.

He says that money could be used to help patch a ravaged state budget.

Turzai says currently, a 30% Liquor Control Board tax, an 18% Johnstown Flood tax, and a 6% sales tax are assessed during the wholesale to retail transaction. His bill would levy the sales tax on alcohol consumers, rather than the licensees. The legislation would also mimic Florida’s tax model by converting the other taxes into a “gallonage tax” which would range from $2 to $6, based on alcohol content.

Turzai says Duquesne University studied private liquor sales versus controlled sales.

“The study showed that privatization does not lead to increased U.I. fatalities. In fact, the study indicated that licensed states actually have a lower D.U.I. fatality rate than controlled states,” says Turzai. “The study also found that there was no significant statistical difference in underage drinking or underage binge drinking in licensed versus controlled states.”

Turzai says he does not expect much support from Democratic legislators.

DVD To Help Deter Abuse of Crying Babies

Nationally each year, at least 1,400 children less than a year old died from abuse, most often as a reaction to their crying. Another 28,000 are permanently disabled from injuries related to abusive head trauma, formerly known as shaken baby syndrome.
A new project in Pittsburgh aims to teach parents tolerance for infant crying and hopefully protect the child.
A Child’s Place at Mercy, the county’s official Child Advocacy Center and part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, has released a 15 minute DVD designed to teach new parents techniques to help soothe a crying infant, increase the quality of parent-child bonding and help deter child abuse.
The director of A Child’s Place, Dr. Mary Carrasco, says incessant crying can make even an experienced parent frustrated and angry......
"Crying is the most frequently cited trigger for abuse that leads to infant death and serious disability. Understanding that a certain percentage of babies cry, no matter what a parent does, can help parents deal with their feelings. The DVD provides parents with suggestions for what to do in those situations.”
Dr. Carrasco says if you "are at the end of your rope, put the child down in a safe place and walk away for a few minutes...that's better than hurting the child."

Dr. Carrasco says incessant crying peaks around 6 weeks of age and is usually gone by 4 to 6 months…"so there is hope"…..but she adds that a small percentage of babies cry for no apparent reason.
She says the DVD provides proven techniques to calm a crying baby including common ones such as singing, walking and rocking the baby, and the unconventional, the sound of a vacuum cleaner or even a clothes dryer.

Parents delivering a baby at hospitals in Allegheny County over the next year are eligible for the DVD which was produced by The Fred Rogers Company and funded by the Staunton Farm Foundation with additional support from McAuley Ministries, the Heinz Foundation, and the Highmark Foundation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rally for Equal Pay for Equal Work

The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania held an annual rally at Mellon Square in downtown Pittsburgh Tuesday in an effort to raise awareness about the inequalities in pay between men and women.

Women in the Pittsburgh region make 74 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Black women earn even less - 64 cents per dollar. That is slightly higher than the national average.

About fifty people attended the rally and listened to speakers including Congressman Joe Sestak, officials from the city and county and performance poet Vanessa German. Elizabeth Waikman, Communications Coordinator at The Women and Girls Foundation said in the five years since the organization began holding the event, there have been improvements, with women making a bit more per dollar than they used to much of it the result of meetings with the city and the county.

In February, the Women and Girl's Foundation released a report: The Female Face of Poverty and Economic Insecurity: The Impact of the Recession on Women in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. According to the report, on average, women in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania earned more than $10,000 less than men in 2008.

Prevailing Wage: Good for Workers Or Bad for Business?

Allegheny County Council is scheduled to vote this evening on a prevailing wage bill and since a majority of the members are co-sponsors, it's expected to pass. The measure, similar to one passed by Pittsburgh Council in February, sets minimum pay levels for hotel, janitorial, food service and grocery workers at future development projects that receive county assistance. The pay would be the average for similar jobs in Allegheny County. It would only apply to developments that receive at least $100,000 in county assistance including grocery stores with a minimum of 25,000 retail square feet, real estate projects of 100,000 square feet or more, and housing developments with at least 50 units.
Labor, faith and community organizations plan to rally in favor of the measure at the County Courthouse before this evening's vote.
Gabe Morgan, the Western Pennsylvania Director of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, says workers and families in the county would definitely benefit...
"when you're using taxpayer dollars to finance or develop large-scale properties, obviously it's everyone's goal to create the best jobs possible."

Councilman Matt Drozd is a staunch opponent and says the bill might be illegal and pre-empted by state legislative oversight. Drozd says it's another unnecessary ordinance that make Allegheny County unfriendly to business......"When you try to dictate to the free enterprise system the wages they should be paying or the cost of materials or where they should be buying them, it increases the cost for business for Allegheny County."

European Flight Delays Affecting Pittsburghers

Airports around Europe are struggling to come back to pace, after a volcanic ash cloud has impaired conditions for the past five days. It’s affecting fliers in Pittsburgh, too.
“Our research indicates that there are over 400 people daily [from Pittsburgh] that cross the Atlantic that fly into Europe and points beyond,” says JoAnn Jenny, an Allegheny County Airport Authority Spokeswoman.
Jenny says a flight from Paris to Pittsburgh has been canceled today, and a flight from Pittsburgh to Paris is still marked “on time”.
However, she advises those who have scheduled European flights to check their respective carrier’s web site in case of last minute delays and cancellations.
She adds that this may be far from over; while the clearing of one volcanic ash cloud has allowed for some planes to take flight in Europe, there is another ash cloud developing.

Pittsburgh Pushes to Improve Teacher Effectiveness

As lawmakers look to re-shape the educational landscape, Pittsburgh Public Schools is getting a head start. The district is among four education systems nationwide selected to participate in “Empowering Effective Teachers: Readiness for Reform.” Bankrolled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative is meant to transform the way teachers are trained, evaluated and compensated.

DUQ’s Larkin Page-Jacobs reports that while leadership is on board, teachers are still warming up to the idea.

Click here to listen to the story.

Pittsburgh Has Fifth Most Educated (Young) Workforce

48.1% of those 25 to 34 have at least a bachelor's degree. 21.5% have graduate or professional degrees, making the city number one in the country. Only 2.2% lack a high school diploma or equivalent--lowest in the U.S.

Using census data, Pitt's University Center for Social and Urban Research has published a report in the "Pittsburgh Economic Quarterly", which regional economist Chris Briem says reflects today's employment realities and the metamorphosis of the workforce as the economy has restructured itself. Pittsburgh's older age groups lag behind national numbers.

When blue collar jobs predominated, workers learned complex, specialized skills on the job and often kept at it their whole working lives. If they lost that job, they were relatively unprepared for other work. Young people today may expect to change employers and careers many times, and a degree helps with such transitions, making education more important than in the past.

Briem says the Pittsburgh region obsesses over migration issues because of historic population loss as many blue collar jobs disappeared, but this data proves many young graduates are staying or returning to the area.

The article is available at:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Town Hall Meeting at Soldiers and Sailors Addresses Vets Issues

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff and Principal Advisor to President Obama appeared at a town hall meeting at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on Monday.

The meeting focused on current issues affecting veterans such as employment but focused on physical and mental health care issues. Local leaders from different organizations that work with veterans participated, as did Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff. He spoke of his concerns for the problems the current group of veterans may face.

"I’m particularly concerned about generating another generation of homeless veterans, we didn’t do that very well in the first war I fought in which was Vietnam and I think we need to improve dramatically there as well," he said.

Physical and mental health issues came up repeatedly during the meeting. "The tragic downside of these injuries is extremely obvious, the upside is its put us in a place where we’ve invested in research in a way that we never would have," he said.

The meeting wasn’t the only stop Mullen made throughout the day – he visited organizations such as the Veteran’s Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania and health care organizations including UPMC Hospitals and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

He will be attending similar meetings in other parts of the country. He said its important to connect with as many leaders and learn all about all of the different regionalized efforts to help veterans. He hopes to work with local leaders

Ross Township Commissioner to Challenge Orie

Attorney Dan DeMarco announced he will launch a write-in campaign to try to win the Democratic nomination in order to take on Republican State Senator Jane Orie in the November general election. No Democrat filed nominating petitions by last month's deadline to get on the May 18 Primary ballot. But DeMarco, a Ross Township Commissioner for the last 10 years, decided to mount a write-in campaign after Orie was indicted this month on charges of using her legislative office staff to do campaign work for her sister Joan Orie Melvin's successful run for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
DeMarco says he's frustrated with what's going on in Harrisburg..."I'm frustrated at the lack of ethics, the loss of understanding of what a legislator's duty is and who they are accountable to, and that's the people of Pennsylvania."

Demarco says he favors a constitutional convention to impose term limits on members of the General Assembly as well as legislation to begin limiting campaign contributions. He says the lack of such limits "breeds behavior" that leads to the misuse of public funds for campaign work.
DeMarco says fresh ideas are needed and fresh ideas come from fresh faces. DeMarco would need at least 500 write-in votes in the Primary to make it on the November election ballot. That's the same number of signatures that would have been needed on petitions to get on the Primary ballot.
Orie has been unopposed since 2002 when DeMarco unsuccessfully challenged her.

Liberty March Held in State Capitol

Yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags fluttered amid signs reading “Nobamacare” and “No to Socialism” as Republican state legislators hosted a Liberty March on the capitol steps in Harrisburg today.

Tea party members and other activists joined the lawmakers in voicing their irritation with national health care legislation passed in March.

State Representative Matt Baker of Tioga County says he’s sponsoring a Health Care Freedom bill alongside lawmakers from 39 other states. He says three states have already passed the measure.

“The Health Care Freedom Act will ensure that health care decisions stay in your hands, not in the hands of the federal government,” says Baker.

He says the national health care law is costly and bureaucratic, and arguably a breach of states’ constitutional rights.

Representative Curt Schroder of Chester County and Senator Mike Folmer of Dauphin County have introduced similar legislation in the state House and Senate.

UNITEPA Executive Director Sharon Cherubin says anti-freedom elitists have grown out of control. She contends the federal government is seeking “a total consolidation of power” through the national health care law.

“There is never a sacrifice on the side of evil,” says Cherubin. “It steals from one to give to another. You see, evil has grown within our ranks, like weeds that are choking the vine, and we have not been diligent in taking care of our fields.”

Pennsylvania Medical Society Alliance Regional Director Donna Rovito says the Health Care Freedom bills are short and easily understood, unlike the national legislation. She says citizens are only just beginning to see the implications of the law.

Enhancing Life on the Northside

Five new micro grants have just been awarded by the Charm Bracelet Project, a collaboration of educational, cultural and recreational organizations established in 2007 that has funded more than 30 programs to have a positive impact on community life on the Northside.

Each fall and spring, the group puts out a call goes out for proposals, usually in the categories of youth empowerment, recreation, or public art. Four to eight grants are awarded in amounts from five hundred to ten thousand dollars, according to Chris Siefert, Deputy Director of the Children’s Museum.

Free kayaking on Lake Elizabeth in Commons Park near the Aviary will return this summer—a safe and popular activity for families with children. Siefert says there will again be chef demonstrations, arts, and performance events at eight of the Friday North Side Farmers Markets.

Siefert says funding has come from the Grable Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

More information:

Open Primaries in PA?

The sponsor of a bill to open up Pennsylvania’s primaries says he’s encouraged by the fact five of the six gubernatorial candidates would support allowing independents to vote in the partisan elections.
Under current Pennsylvania law, independent voters can’t take part in Republican or Democratic primaries.
Representative Eugene DePasquale, a York County Democrat, is sponsoring a bill to change that.
He received some good news during a recent gubernatorial forum, when every candidate but Democrat Anthony Williams supported an open primary system.

"I was on Twitter when it was happening, but not necessarily to follow the governor debate. Then I saw all these tweets coming across – that said, hey this candidate supports open primaries. And this one, this one, this one. Then I basically sort of hollered out in the house, “hey they’re all endorsing my legislation, without even knowing it.”

DePasquale acknowledges it’s likely too late to change the law before this year’s May 18th primary, but says he’ll pressure the next governor to support the legislation in 2011.
His bill would let independents choose one primary to vote in. A person would not be allowed to vote in the Republican gubernatorial primary, but also cast a ballot in the Democratic Senate contest, for instance.
17 states currently have open primaries.

Specter to Republican Filibuster Threat: Bring It On

US Sen. Arlen Specter of PA says he is looking for President Barack Obama to nominate a “strong” candidate for the US Supreme Court vacancy being created by the retirement of Justice Stevens. Specter is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He says the president must not worry about the threat of a filibuster. “If the Republicans are looking for a fight, Bring it on,” says Specter. The state’s Senior Senator defines ‘strong’ as, “Somebody who has a good academic and professional record, somebody who is strong intellectually and somebody who, inside that Supreme Court conference room, can carry the day to stop the court from pulling so far to the right.” Specter says, “You have justice Scalia who is very resolute and very adroit. We need somebody who can match him. You have to fight fire with fire.” Specter says it may also be time to look more closely at individuals that are not currently serving as a circuit judge, “Maybe an ex governor like Earl Warren or an ex senator like Hugo Black or an ex attorney general like Robert Jackson. I think it is time for some diversity on the court.” 8 of the 9 justices were elevated to the post after serving as a circuit judge.

Pa. Prisoner Relocation Nearly Complete

An effort to transfer 2,000 Pennsylvania prisoners to vacant Michigan and Virginia facilities should be finished before May.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton says about 1,100 inmates have finished the bus trip to Michigan, while about 500 are in Virginia. The remaining 400 will be sent to Virginia.

McNaughton says overcrowding had brought up safety issues in Pennsylvania prisons, so the other states will house the prisoners until four new state prisons can be built.

She says the criteria for an inmate to be moved was broad.

“It was going to be inmates who had at least three years left on their sentences to serve,” says McNaughton. “They have no serious medical conditions or mental health issues or behavior issues, and we were also looking at inmates who had very few, if any, visitors.”

McNaughton says a virtual visitation program allows family members to talk with relocated inmates via closed-circuit television at some state prisons, and at sites in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

McNaughton says it is her department’s policy to tell a prisoner he or she is moving about a day before the relocation occurs. She says the prisoner is then prevented from calling anyone to thwart any possible escape attempts.

PA Primary Voters Face Deadline

Today is the last day to register to vote in the May 18th Pennsylvania Primary. In order to qualify to vote a person must be a resident of the United States and have lived in the voting district for at least 30 days prior to the election and be at least 18 years old on the day of the election. Today is also the deadline to change party affiliations. Pennsylvania holds what is known as a “closed primary” which means a voter can only vote in the primary of the party to which they are registered. Party changes and new registrations can be made at the county elections office and forms can be downloaded from the Pennsylvania Department of State web site. Forms post marked with today’s date will be accepted.
There are a few general elections being held on the same day as the primary this year. Most notably in Western Pennsylvania is the race to fill the unexpired term of US Congressman John Murtha. Murtha died while in office February 8th. Voters in the 12th congressional district will cast votes in that general election as well as in a primary for a candidate to run in the November election for a full term. State Representative District 20 is also holding a special election May 118th. Don Walko retired from tHat seat to become a judge. Voters with no party affiliation and those affiliated with so-called “third parties” can vote in the general election races but will not be allowed to vote in any primary races in those districts.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Some Outages Till Late Sunday/Monday

More than 49 thousand people in southwestern Pennsylvania are still without electricity. Storms yesterday afternoon knocked out power to about 90,000 homes in the region.
Duquesne Light says 10,400 customers are still without service but all should be back on line by late Sunday night.
Allegheny Power says crews are working to restore electricity to another 39 thousand customers, mostly in Washington and Westmoreland Counties. The company says they expect everyone to have service by late Monday night.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Federal Funds for Snow Removal in PA

The Obama Administration has declared 26 counties in Pennsylvania as disaster areas as a result of the storms between February 5 and 10 that dumped about 2 feet of snow on communities across the state.
The state, counties and municipalities will be getting about $50 million in federal disaster aid to cover expenses stemming from the back-to-back winter storms. The counties covered by the disaster declaration include Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset and Westmoreland. Communities within those counties may be eligible for snow assistance which covers costs for snow removal, snow dumps, de-icing, and salting and sanding of roads; and, public assistance to repair or replace disaster-damaged facilities.
FEMA usually pays for 75% of the costs. Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Allegheny County) from the South Hills says the remainder of the costs will likely have to be picked up by the local governments or the state or a combination. Murphy says he's very pleased with the declaration....
"Our local communities were walloped not just with snow, but the price tag that came from snow removal and repairing infrastructure damage. Without federal disaster assistance to rebuild and recover the costs from the storms, our local communities were faced with cuts to other essential services to make ends meet throughout the budget year. With this disaster declaration, help is on the way.”

Governor Ed Rendell's chief of staff, Steve Crawford, said an additional $6 million may be available for local projects to mitigate future disasters. State emergency-management chief Robert French estimates it may take four to six weeks for the aid to be distributed. Congressman Murphy says the next step is for the communities to work with the state and FEMA to get the funds.

Malpractice Money Belongs to Doctors, says Pa. Court

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ruled yesterday the state must transfer $808 million from the General Fund back into an account that physicians use to help pay medical malpractice premiums.

Governor Ed Rendell says Pennsylvania plans to appeal, which would take the case to the state Supreme Court.

The state legislature voted last year to use money from the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCare) account to help balance the budget.

Pennsylvania Medical Society Vice President of Governmental Affairs Scott Chadwick says physicians pay into the account, so the $808 million is rightfully theirs.

State Representative Jim Christiana of Beaver County says this was the right decision.

“They paid into it with the hope that it would either reduce their premiums or go to help their industry, and instead the governor ripped it away and used it to balance a severely irresponsible budget,” says Christiana.

Two Museums Host "Colonial Fair"

The Ft. Pitt Museum officially reopens Saturday with a weekend-long fair, complete with historical re-enactors, such as George and Martha Washington, arts and crafts workshops for children and adults, plus American Indian storytellers and dance groups. Visitors can see related exhibits at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District. Free trolley shuttles will go back and forth between the two museums every 15 minutes.

When the History Center took over operation of the Ft. Pitt Museum, which had been closed due to state budget shortfalls, they hired Alan Gutchess, a French and Indian War expert, as the new director. He has personally created many of the new exhibits. He says he visited the museum both as a child growing up in Northwest Ohio and also as an adult. Sharing his love of the history and time period he describes as a "tremendous opportunity".

The Colonial Fair takes place Saturday from 10 to 4 and Sunday from 12 to 4

Event to Celebrate Activists Lives on Sunday

The University of Pittsburgh is hosting an event to celebrate the lives of Dennis Brutus and Howard Zinn. Both men died this past year. In a news release History Professor Marcus Rediker said it is appropriate to honor the men together because they "combined brilliant thought and zealous activism to make change in the only real lasting and progressive way -with, in and for people's movements, from the bottom up."

Rediker was scheduled to host the event but is delayed in Europe due to all the clouds of volcanic ash. It will be hosted by community activists from The Thomas Merton Center.

Dennis Brutus was a South African poet who was imprisoned for his anti-apartheid writings. He later came to chair the Black Studies Department. Howard Zinn, a professor at Boston University was the well-known author of A People's History of The United States.

The event will be Sunday from 1-3 at The University of Pittsburgh's Clapp Hall Auditorium at 4249 5th Avenue in Oakland. Panelists include friends and colleagues of the two men.

Special Legislative Sessions... How Effective?

The special legislative session to address transportation funding will be the third of the Rendell Administration, and tenth since 1967. Governor Rendell said he would call a special session after the U.S. Transportation Department denied a plan by the state to toll Interstate 80. The administration was counting on that to help fund road and bridge repair and operating funds for mass transit.
Previous sessions called by Rendell have focused on renewable energy and property tax relief.
The 2007-2008 session led to two laws, while the 2005 property tax session created one.
Steve MacNett, general counsel for the Senate Republican Caucus, says the most productive session was held during the Ridge Administration.
The 1995 effort led to 37 laws and three proposed constitutional amendments.
MacNett says sessions' results have been varied.

"Only a couple of those have significant achievements. And those achievements came in circumstances where there was a very clear plan, even before the special session began, on what the governor was going to ask to be considered. It's not a broad range of options - it needs to be a specific plan."

So far, no clear solutions have emerged for transportation funding. Rendell says he's willing to consider all options to fill this year's $450 million hole.
MacNett says special legislative sessions had a clearer purpose when the General Assembly only met a few months of the year, and needed to return to Harrisburg to address specific problems or emergencies.

Smart Meters Okayed...Years Away

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has approved Duquesne Light's plan to install smart meters at its residential and business customers. Spokesman Joey Vallarian says over the next 30 months the company will do "an exhaustive study of technologies to find out what works best....start small pilot programs to take samples of what's going to work best....and of course, talk with our customers about what's working and what's not working."
Still, Vallarian says it will be 15 years before all 585,000 customers have smart meters installed...."it boils down to energy gives them (customers) the opportunity to conserve energy but also save money by not doing certain things like wash dishes and clothes during peak hours when energy is more expensive.
Vallarian says the company will benefit because this will mean less strain on the system during peak hours especially during summer time. He added that the technology will provide consumers direct access to price and consumption information so that they know how much they are paying at any one hour.
Duquesne Light's proposal also included a cost recovery plan. The cost of the smart meter technology will be passed on to customers but according to Vallarian they will save money by reducing energy consumption by using the smart meters.

West Virgina Governor Gives Executive Order

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is asking that all coal mining cease on Friday April 16th. In an interview with WDUQ Manchin says he wants West Virginia's miners to spend the day working on safety issues as a way to honor the 29 men who died in an explosion in Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine. Manchin said there is no better way to honor the men who lost their lives than to review safety procedures. He says that any miner who sees a violation should report it and should not feel intimidated, "When you see something wrong let us know and if someone intimidates you or if you are concerned about your job call me, that won't happen." Manchin also wants inspectors to look at all the mines. He says he wants results from an investigation into the Upper Big Branch Mine to come as quickly as possible because he doesn't want to wait for 6 months before seeing a report and taking action.

Listen to Kevin Gavin's interview with Governor Joe Manchin

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Roethlisberger Will Be Disciplined

Two days after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney, II says the team is ready to take disciplinary action against Roethlisberbger but that will be coordinated with Goodell..
"As far as the timing of any disciplinary action, the Commissioner has told me he would like to take at least a couple weeks to review this matter. So, I don’t expect we will be announcing any final decisions until the week after the draft, at the earliest."
Monday, a Georgia District Attorney announced that no criminal charges would be filed against Roethlisberger in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a 20 year old college coed at a nightclub in Milledgeville, Georgia March 5. District Attorney Fred Bright said that there were still questions at to what happened in a bathroom at the nightclub, but the accuser and her family did not want to file charges and there was not enough evidence to make an arrest.
Bright said he "doesn't prosecute morals, just crimes" and his advice for Roethlisberger..."grow up."

Rooney said that each Steeler player has a responsibility to live up to the highest standards on the field, but also to equally high standards off the field.

"I have made it clear to Ben that his conduct in this incident did not live up to our standards. We have made it very clear to Ben that there will be consequences for his actions, and Ben has indicated to us that he is willing to accept those consequences.æ

Rooney said they allowed Roethlisberger to join off-season workouts with the team after being convinced that he is truly contrite and receiving his assurance that he "is firmly committed to working hard everyday to regain the trust and respect of this organization and Steelers fans."

Pittsburgh Students Tackle Water Quality

Students from Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh have been selected as "Best in State" in the Junior Engineering Technical Society's (JETS) annual TEAMS engineering competition. The two, 8-member teams took the top ranked spots for both the 9/10 and 11/12 grade levels. This year's competition focused on one of the world's pressing problems: the global water shortage.
Teacher Sally Martin says the students really enjoyed working as a group and offering suggestions to one another. Martin says the first half of the test was a series of mathematical questions and the second part encouraged "creativity, thinking outside the box....they had to come up with solutions to a problem but not mathematically."
Martin says the students had to tackle the issue of improving water quality and availability through a variety of methods: everything from "ceramic pot filtering that is used in some third world countries, to super pure water, to reverse osmosis, to saving water at home."
The results of the Allderdice students' "Best in State" competition will now be matched up with state winners from across the country with the nation's best announced later this month.
Martin says the purpose of the competition is to get more kids interested in engineering by giving them a theme, and issue to which they can relate.

No Coal Will be Mined by Consol in WV Friday

Pittsburgh based Consol Energy says it will honor West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin’s request to not produce coal in any West Virginia Mines Friday. The request was made as a way to honor the 29 miners who lost their lives last week in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. The governor has asked that instead of mining the workers report for their shift as normal and then spend the day working on safety issues. Consol spokesperson Joe Cerenzia says their workers will spend the day in training. He says the workers get regular training on safety issues and the company has an “absolute zero” program aimed at preventing accidents, “So the classes will serve as refreshers” for Consol Employees. Consol operates 7 mines in West Virginia. Cerenzia says it is unclear right now what the one-day stoppage will mean to the company’s bottom line. He says that is not the issue, “At Consol Safety trumps every thing. It trumps production, it trumps profits.” Cerenzia says the drop in production should not hurt the company’s ability to service its customers. He says they have enough coal in stockpiles to make sure power plants that count on just-in-time deliveries do not see an interruption in supply. Governor Manchin has also called on state inspectors to enter every WV mine immediately to look closely at safety related issues. Massey Energy says it will also honor the Governor's request.

Free Trees Go Like Hotcakes

The city’s first of two tree giveaway days this week brought a big crowd to the City-County Building this morning. 1,000 10-inch tall saplings were handed out in less than an hour. The city had set aside two hours to hand out the trees. City of Pittsburgh Urban Forester Lisa Ceoffe says, “I’m overwhelmed by the participation. I just think it is great that the city has this many people who want to actively help to make the city greener and increase our shade canopy.” The city hopes to plant 20,000 trees by the end of 2012. Bob Glass of the North Hills says he is trying to be a bit greener and he plans to plant his sapling in his backyard. Lori Myers will be planting her tree in honor of her father and Angela Watson of Pittsburgh says she is looking to replace the pine trees she recently cut down. The city will hand out another 1,000 trees Saturday starting at 11:00am at the Frick Park Environmental Center on Beechwood Blvd. Ceoffee says the city will also be planting much larger trees along some of the city’s main thoroughfares this summer including Penn Ave, Liberty Ave and Brighton Rd. The city will also plant trees downtown as part of the International earth day celebration in June.

Navy Honors Murtha

The late Congressman John Murtha of Johnstown will have a navy amphibious ship named for him.
According to the Navy Times, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has decided to name the 10th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock for the long-time Congressman who chaired the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. Murtha, who was a marine during the Vietnam War, died in February due to complications following surgery.
One of his former colleagues, Congressman Joe Sestak of Delaware County, is a retired 3-star admiral. Sestak says this is a large amphibious ship that can carry up to 800 mariners plus their landing craft and helicopters. He says the ship is good for quick surgical strikes.....
"You may have a terrorist who is residing in a country like Somalia. That's a ship in the middle of the sea that can quietly and stealthily go in with about 20 marines, land, seize the terrorist and repart (leave) quickly."
Sestak says this is due recognition for Murtha who was the first Vietnam War veteran to be elected to Congress...
"to a man who was truly a patriot, a warrior, a wonderful Congress member, who served this nation ever war. But it's also recognition to a generation, an era of wonderful service members who loved this country."

There are opponents to the naming of the ship for Murtha. Detractors criticized his comments from 2005 when he said that marines operating in Haditha, Iraq had killed "innocent people."
Congressman Sestak says Murtha spoke his beliefs and "while he loved the service he knew there had to be accountability in the service."

$3.4 Billion Pension Problem for PA

An explosion in contribution rates for Pennsylvania’s two major public employee pension systems will likely dominate the Harrisburg landscape over the next few years.
In 2012, employer rates for the Pennsylvania Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) will nearly triple, to 29.2 percent.
PSERS executive director Jeffrey Clay recently told the House Finance Committee that will mean school districts and the state will need to come up with an extra 2.7 billion dollars.

"It’s unlikely both the districts and the commonwealth and school employers can afford these costs without significant and perhaps prohibitive tax increases at both the state and local levels. And that is the issue. I’ve been across the state talking to a lot of school districts. Every district says they cannot afford that rate of 29.22 percent. Something has to happen to resolve it."

The State Employees Retirement Fund is expecting a 700-million dollar spike. Finance Committee Chairman David Levdansky, an Allegheny County Democrat, says the good news is, lawmakers have time to examine the problem.

"We’ve got about a two-year window of opportunity here, that we need to act in a year or two. I kind of view this as laying the groundwork. That we understand the complexity of the problem that confronts us, and we start serious discussions and examine the alternative solutions that are being proposed."

But he admits the options aren’t pretty, saying they’ll involve “shared sacrifice.”

Free Trees Today at City-County Building

Trees will be available for free today at the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh. The give-away event will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., as part of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's "Tree-Vitalize" effort to add 20,000 trees to the city by 2012. Dogwood, crab apple and sweet gum saplings will be provided with information on how to care for them. Pittsburghers will be asked to register their tree online at

A second Free Tree Giveaway is scheduled for April 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m at the Frick Environmental Center in Squirrel Hill.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Council holds "Miles" bills

Pittsburgh City Council members expressed legal concerns about the “Jordan Miles Public Safety Agenda” and then voted unanimously to hold the bills for three weeks. The members say they will use the time to seek an opinion from the city’s legal department before putting the legislation to vote.

Councilman Bill Peduto says the police force has been suggesting for years that cameras be mounted in police cars, but has been denied by the administration. He recounted the ways they said it would help the city.

“One: public acceptance of patrol practices, two: reduction in lawsuits, three: enhancement of officer safety, four: will provide evidence in court cases, and five: will increase the number of upheld citations,” says Peduto. “That wasn’t coming from the Citizen Police Review Board. That came from our Bureau of Police.”

Citizen Police Review Board member Beth Pittinger says the accreditation process is 70% complete, with a mock survey expected in December. She says the actual accreditation process could occur within six months of the mock investigation.

Murtha Foundation to Create Center

The University of Pittsburgh Johnstown will be home to the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service in honor of the late congressman, who died February 8th. Fundraising is beginning for a 25- to 35,000 sq. ft. structure that will house classrooms and public meeting rooms, as well as Murtha's awards, mementoes and papers.

Former Communications Director Matthew Mazonkey says Cong. Murtha was part of almost everything that happened in Western Pennsylvania during his 36 years of service, so the exhibits will be relevant to the whole region's history.

The foundation will continue to support the dozens of non-profits that Murtha worked with over the years, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, and women's health centers.

Mazonkey says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be an honorary host at a benefit dinner in Washington, D.C. on May 26th, and there will be a fundraiser in Johnstown at a later date.

Rohrer: Cut Costs Elsewhere to Fund Transportation

Republican gubernatorial candidate Sam Rohrer says Pennsylvania is facing a 450-million dollar transportation funding gap due to "reprehensible financial irresponsibility."
For the past few years, the Turnpike has borrowed against anticipated I-80 tolling revenue.
Tolling dollars are also built into next year's transportation budget.
Rohrer, a Berks County representative, says banking on the proposal before it was approved was awful planning.
He says it's indicative of Governor Rendell's approach to budgeting, noting anticipated federal dollars in next year's spending plan.

"He's recommending a billion dollars more, for 29 billion, but banking on 800 million dollars coming from the federal government, from a program that has not yet been debated by Congress, that won't even be covered until the fall. But he says you can count on it, because it will be here."

Rendell has called for a special legislative session to find new transportation revenue. Rohrer says lawmakers need to reassess the state's transportation needs and cut spending from other line items before they consider raising taxes.
He says getting rid of prevailing wage mandates on transportation projects is one way to save money.

Refurbished Fort Pitt Museum Opens Doors Saturday

In August the Fort Pitt Museum closed its doors due to a of a lack of funding. But thanks to a state contract allowing the John Heinz History Center to operate the museum, it will be open to the public once more. History Center CEO Andy Masich says they spent the past few months refurbishing the facility. He says the infrastructure was outdated and it needed fresh paint, electrical maintenance and a lot of work on the exhibits–including adding new artifacts, changing labels and building new forensic figures that bring museums to life. Another problem is that the museum, situated in Point State Park, is hidden in plain sight. To that end, Masich says they're putting up new signage, mounting a marketing campaign and making it a destination for school field trips. They also plan to stay relevant through ever changing exhibits, programs and activities. This weekend the museum will hold special events like musket firing and colonial craft demonstrations. A shuttle will run between the Fort Pitt Museum and the Heinz History Center every 15 minutes and a ticket bought at one facility will get visitors into both buildings. More information is available at

Get Your Taxes In

If you've been waiting for the last minute to do the taxes - don't wait too much longer. Tax Day is Thursday April 15th and the United States Postal Service no longer offers extended hours. Spokesperson Tad Kelley said people often remember the days of long lines and extra hours and staff at the post office but that is no longer the case. Due to the drop in the economy and the rise in electronic mail the post office does not offer any special services on tax day and is open regular hours.

Kelley suggests mailing your taxes in earlier in the day and using automated postal machines. He also suggests weighing the forms and using a tracking services to ensure the forms get where they are going.