Distressed Cities Bill Wins Final OK

HARRISBURG, PA — Scranton and other fiscally distressed cities could triple the local services tax to help them move out of Act 47 status under legislation that won final legislative approval with a 43-5 Senate vote Thursday.

This option would be available to Act 47 municipalities only as an alternative to an increased earned income tax already available to them.

Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill after a review, said spokesman Jay Pagni. He has 10 days to review the provisions.

The local services tax could potentially triple from $52 annually to $156 annually for individuals working in those municipalities but those earning under $15,600 annually would be exempt from the higher local services tax.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/distressed-cities-bill-wins-final-ok-1.1772463

The Political Porn Circus Adds A 3rd Ring

THE HARRISBURG porn circus consuming the state’s Capitol added a third ring yesterday.

The first ring: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane last month released a selection of explicit emails sent and received by Gov. Corbett‘s top deputies when he was attorney general.

The second ring: State Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery continued their long-running feud, swapping accusations this week after Castille disclosed that McCaffery sent and received many of the explicit images.

And the third ring: Emails obtained yesterday by the Daily News show that state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin used a fake name on a Yahoo email account to receive emails with explicit and racist images in 2010.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141017_The_political_porn_circus_adds_a_3rd_ring.html#BVfVSR1RS0B1Yrsx.99

Leighton Names Hughes New Wilkes-Barre Police Chief

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Make that Chief Hughes, and no more “acting.”

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton this morning named Robert Hughes the city’s top cop, just a month after the 25-year department veteran was appointed acting chief in the wake of longtime Chief Gerard Dessoye’s departure to take a position at King’s College.

“The role of police chief requires great expertise and experience in law enforcement, superior leadership and outstanding professionalism in working with all law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels,” Leighton said during the 11-minute ceremony in the City Hall council chambers.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50505618/

Pottstown Zoning Board Approves Variance For iCreate Cafe

iCreate Zoning Supporters

Front row: Left, Peter Dolan, Esquire, Right, Ashraf Khalil

POTTSTOWN, PA – Wednesday evening the Pottstown Zoning Board heard testimony from iCreate Cafe owner, Ashraf Khalil, regarding his request for a zoning variance to operate a cafe and computer training center at 130 King Street, Pottstown. The neighborhood is zoned TTN or Traditional Town Neighborhood.  After receiving a violation notice from the Pottstown Codes Department in August, a hearing was originally scheduled for September 17th.  However, Mr. Khalil’s attorney, Peter Dolan, requested a continuance to adequately prepare his case. The hearing was rescheduled for October 15th.

A large group of supporters gathered in the 3rd floor council chambers to hear the evidence be presented. After Mr. Khalil’s sworn testimony and some clarification questions from the board, the meeting was opened to public comment. More than a dozen people were allowed to speak in favor of iCreate Cafe and Mr. Khalil.

After the public testimony, the board met in Executive Session.  After a short recess, the board returned to the council chamber and rendered their verdict for Mr. Khalil and iCreate Cafe by allowing the variance.

First of all, we thank the Pottstown Zoning Board for being open-minded and seeing the value of this niche market small business that draws customers from all over the Delaware Valley and beyond.   Based on the passionate testimony made during the public comments, it’s obvious this is a very special place.

Secondly, we feel now that Pottstown is getting serious about economic development and tourism (by developing a Tourism District and leveraging all the attractions that surround Memorial Park and the Western Gateway) having a highly rated locally owned restaurant within walking distance is a win-win.  If you want people to come to Pottstown and “spend the day” they will need to eat.  They are not going to want fast food or chain restaurants.  They are going to want something they cannot get at home.  iCreate Cafe is the total package when it comes to something you cannot get just anywhere.  From the unique decor to the vegan/vegetarian food with a Middle Eastern flair, it’s far from ordinary.  Add a chef/owner with the gift of hospitality and you have a winning trifecta.

This was a great victory for small business and for Pottstown.  If Pottstown could attract more unique restaurants like iCreate and some funky boutiques so people could do some shopping while they are visiting, you would have yourself a destination.

Congratulations to Ashraf Khalil and iCreate Cafe.  We wish you much success.

Website: http://www.icreatecafe.org/

Manhunt Impacts State Police’s Future

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA — As the intensive manhunt for suspected cop killer Eric Matthew Frein ends its fourth week, Harrisburg is taking the first steps to address how this unprecedented event will affect the future operations of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Officials here discuss the topic with the caveat that the manhunt isn’t over yet. Considered armed and dangerous, Frein, 31, of 308 Seneca Lane, Canadensis, is the sole suspect in the Sept. 12 sniper attack at the Blooming Grove state police barracks in Pike County that killed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II of Dunmore and wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass of Olyphant. Since then, authorities have been searching for Frein, a self-described survivalist, in the dense state forest that straddles Barrett and Price townships in Monroe County.

The estimate by a state police spokesman this week that the manhunt has cost several million dollars so far is one issue emerging on the radar screen of Corbett administration officials and lawmakers. Policy makers are starting to focus on related matters such as security at state police barracks, equipment needs of state troopers, impact on local governments and schools and assistance of local fire companies, 911 centers and the Red Cross with the manhunt.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, has requested a Senate committee hearing in Pike County once the manhunt is over to delve into these issues.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/manhunt-impacts-state-police-s-future-1.1769039

Demands To ‘Stop the Violence’ Dominate Wilkes-Barre City Council Meeting

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Desperate for answers in the shooting death of one son, Yvonne George pleaded to be heard in order to save her other child.

Her brief statement capped the raucous and at times unruly city council meeting Thursday night filled with other members of the black community fed up with violence in the city and demanding something be done to end it.

A photo of her son David George was on the collage of black-and-white photos above the words “Stop The Violence” on posters held up in the audience. The 24-year-old man was shot and killed July 18, 2013, on South Welles Street, the seventh of the city’s 13 homicide victims that year.

“I feel that the Wilkes-Barre police every time something happens with a black person down here, the first thing they say is is it’s drug related and it’s gang related,” the deceased man’s mother said. “My son was not in no gang.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50464272/

Hazleton Moves To Save Money On Fire, Police Pensions

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HAZLETON, PA — The city council approved use of a 75 percent amortization option to calculate its 2015 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the city’s non-uniformed, fire and police pension plans on Tuesday.

Don Williamson, ASCO Financial Services Group president, said although the city status as a distressed city has progressed from Level 3 to Level 2, it is still eligible to contribute to its MMO at a discounted rate for the years 2015 and 2016.

The move will save the city over $1 million dollars per year.

Councilman David Sosar inquired as to whether this would result in an increased financial burden to the city in upcoming years, to which Williamson replied, “I really don’t think so.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50460903/Hazleton-moves-to-save-money-on-fire-police-pensions

Corbett Down 17 In New Quinnipiac Poll

Democratic challenger Tom Wolf leads Gov. Tom Corbett (R) by 17 percentage points among likely voters in Pennsylvania – 55 percent to 38 percent – as the campaign enters its final month, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday.

The survey shows a slight improvement for Corbett compared to the last Quinnipiac Poll of the race Sept. 11, when Wolf led 59 percent to 35 percent among likely voters.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/big_tent/Corbett-down-17-in-new-Quinnipiac-Poll.html#Ccbgppqxvz3zPMFX.99

New Details Emerge About Lancaster Men Named In Pornographic Email Scandal

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Lancaster County man, who formerly worked in the Attorney General’s office under Gov. Tom Corbett, reportedly forwarded 30 sexually-charged emails he received as part of an office porn-swapping scandal.

The file on Richard Sheetz — one of four released publicly to various media outlets by Attorney General Kathleen Kane Friday — showed that the East Hempfield resident received scores of the sexually-charged emails. And on about 30 occasions he passed them on.

The information released by Kane’s office contains no direct evidence of whether the emails were opened by any of the eight former Corbett staffers named thus far, according to PennLive. The emails were released in response to media requests.

Sheetz, who was executive deputy attorney general directing the criminal law division under Corbett, now works in the Lancaster County district attorney’s office. He has not responded to several messages left at his home and office.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/new-details-emerge-about-lancaster-men-named-in-pornographic-email/article_b617160c-4d69-11e4-949a-001a4bcf6878.html

Corbett Stands By One Of His Appointees In Porn Scandal, Wants Another To Resign

GOV. CORBETT is standing by one state law-enforcement official caught up in a porn scandal, but has asked another to resign.

Corbett says information released this week by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane does not show that State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan opened any of the more than 300 explicit emails he received while working as a top deputy to Corbett when the governor served as attorney general.

Noonan has told the governor he did not look at the files, a Corbett spokeswoman said.

A source familiar with the porn scandal said Randy Feathers, another top deputy when Corbett was attorney general, is resisting for now the governor’s request to resign his post on the state Board of Probation and Parole.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141005_Corbett_stands_by_one_of_his_appointees_in_porn_scandal__wants_another_to_resign.html#BhkWAdZgxCUCrRcS.99

Wolf Maintains Large Lead Over Corbett With Month Left In Governor’s Campaign

The latest sample of voter opinions in the Pennsylvania governor’s race tested for lingering effects of Gov. Tom Corbett’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation.

It shows the struggling Republican incumbent still trailing Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by double digits.

Robert Morris University Polling Institute found 54.6 percent of voters say the Sandusky case would not affect their vote, according to an online survey sponsored by Trib Total Media. Almost 27 percent say Corbett’s handling of the investigation makes them less likely to support his re-election, and 12 percent say it makes them more likely to vote for Corbett.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/6892975-74/voters-percent-corbett#ixzz3F6TB4qOv
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Porngate: The Pa. Good Old Boys Club Strikes Again (York Daily Record Opinion)

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Worth the read as it makes some good points about the political “culture” in our state.

The latest scandal enveloping Harrisburg has already been given the “-gate” treatment.

Every political scandal since Watergate, no matter how absurdly frivolous, seems to have been given the treatment.

Thus, we had Bonusgate in the state capital.

And now, we have Porngate.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/opinion/ci_26649625/porngate-pa-good-old-boys-club-strikes-again

McKeesport OKs Taking Vacant Homes Via Eminent Domain

Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United ...

Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

McKeesport is expanding its vacant property recovery program to include parcels with structures.

Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the transfer of 10 properties to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport through eminent domain. Parcels include empty lots and those with houses on them: 2718 Grandview Ave.; 621 Versailles Ave.; 1106 Ohio St.; 2105 Harrison St.; 2701 Riverview Ave.; 415, 417, 421 and 423 Twenty-Seventh Ave.; and 281 Rockwood St.

“This is another way to tackle the blight problem we have in the city,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “This process has typically been used to acquire vacant land adjacent to other properties. We’re now opening it to properties with structures on them when the purchaser has a plan.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmckeesport/yourmckeesportmore/6882351-74/properties-vacant-ave#ixzz3F0tJF2yD
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Scranton Commuter Tax Struck Down By Judge

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton commuters will not have to pay a commuter tax.

Senior Judge John Braxton of Philadelphia issued an order today striking down Scranton’s commuter tax.

The judge dismissed two procedural objections made by petitioners opposing the commuter tax, but agreed that Act 205 doesn’t give the city power to exclusively levy a tax on commuters. The wage tax had to be levied on both nonresidents and residents.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/commuter-tax-struck-down-by-judge-1.1762802

Pennsylvania Senate Approves Distressed Cities Bill

HARRISBURG — Scranton residents could see their taxes rise under legislation approved unanimously Wednesday by the Senate.

The measure would require that Scranton levy a tax on residents equal to or more than its 0.75 percent commuter earned income tax.

This stipulation is included in a late amendment added to the bill by the sponsor, Sen. John Eichelberger, R-30, Hollidaysburg. The goal here is to treat all Act 47 municipalities — including those like Scranton that have distressed municipal pension plans subject to Act 205 — the same, said Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald.

Ten other municipalities levy a pension-related earned income tax, but they levy it on both commuters and resident workers, he added.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/senate-approves-distressed-cities-bill-1.1759951

Hazleton Looks At Tax Increase To Pay For Added Police

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HAZLETON, PA — City Council unanimously approved a referendum on Monday night that would ask city voters if they would support an increased police presence on city streets at a cost of a 1-mill tax increase for property owners.

A mill is $1 dollar in tax for every $1,000 of assessed value. For example, a 1-mill increase on a property valued at $100,000 would mean a $100 tax increase for the property owner.

Council member Jean Mope said although she fully supported the hiring of additional police officers, she believed officials should investigate funding sources beyond taxpayers’ pockets.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50375881/Hazleton-looks-at-tax-increase-to-pay-for-added-police

Coal Gathering Opens With Dour Assessment, Political Vitriol

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Pittsburgh conference examining a possible resurgence of coal markets opened Monday with a dour view of the industry from one of its most controversial leaders.

“We have the absolute destruction of the American coal industry. If you think it’s coming back, you don’t understand the business. Or you’re smoking dope,” Robert E. Murray, CEO of Ohio-based Murray Energy, told several hundred industry executives gathered for the Platts 37th Coal Marketing Days.

Murray, whose company has filed four lawsuits against the Obama administration over proposed environmental rules, mixed market predictions with political vitriol, mostly aimed at the White House and climate change.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/6837696-74/coal-murray-industry#ixzz3E4M6Livu
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Peduto’s Budget Proposal Includes Tax Increase, Would End ‘Pittsburgh’s Financial Distress’

DSC01828Mayor Bill Peduto today presented a $505.9 million city budget proposal for 2015 that includes a real estate tax increase but ends what he characterized as two decades of budgeting shell games, putting Pittsburgh firmly on the path to financial solvency.

“Today is the beginning of the end of Pittsburgh’s financial distress,” Mr. Peduto said at a news conference where he was flanked by Sam Ashbaugh, the city’s new director of the Office of Management and Budget. “We’re overhauling our entire budget. We’re stripping it down and building it back up.”

Mr. Peduto said his staff worked with the city council, the city controller and the Pittsburgh’s financial overseers under the state Act 47 program for distressed municipalities to vet revenue forecasts.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/09/22/Pittsburgh-Mayor-Peduto-budget-proposal-includes-tax-increase-would-end-financial-distress/stories/201409220191

NEPA Gets Extra $500M For Projects

Counties constituting Northeastern Pennsylvania

Counties constituting Northeastern Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Northeastern Pennsylvania will get nearly $500 million more than expected for transportation projects over the next 12 years.

In 2012, area planners expected to spend $1.56 billion on transportation infrastructure in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wyoming, Wayne, Pike and Susquehanna counties from 2013 through 2025, state Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Taluto said.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the new transportation funding package in November, and transportation planners in the six counties recently allocated $2.03 billion to largely fix up the area’s roads and bridges from 2015 through 2027.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/nepa-gets-extra-500m-for-projects-1.1757716

Newest Pottstown School Board Member Is Homegrown

POTTSTOWN — To say that the Pottstown School Board’s newest member is a hometown booster would be a bit of an understatement.

Chosen from among four other candidates last week, Katina Bearden took the oath of office Thursday night and will complete the year left in the term of former board vice president Dennis Wausnock who died last month.

Born in Pottstown, educated in Pottstown, living in Pottstown and raising her family in Pottstown, you might say Bearden is fond of the place.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140919/katina-bearden-becomes-newest-pottstown-school-board-member