U.S. Steel’s Lower Taxes Causing Budget Headaches

U.S. Steel

U.S. Steel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A succession of successful tax appeals by U.S. Steel earlier this year, resulting in the assessed value of some of its major properties in Allegheny County plummeting by millions of dollars, has put big dents in municipal and school budgets.

The drop in real estate tax revenue has prompted three school districts — Woodland Hills, Clairton and West Mifflin — to file court challenges to the appeals granted to U.S. Steel by the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review, and is pushing Braddock to consider an earned income tax increase.

Ira Weiss, solicitor for the Clairton City School District, called U.S. Steel’s new assessments, which resulted in the value of its coke plant in Clairton dropping from nearly $10.6 million in 2012 to just above $2 million this year, “laughable.”

“We believe the approach of [U.S. Steel] in these appeals with these communities where they’ve been longtime partners is deplorable, really,” Mr. Weiss said. “It was devastating. … [Clairton’s] a small school district in a small town and no local government can sustain this kind of hit from an ongoing concern.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/east/2013/11/30/U-S-Steel-s-lower-taxes-causing-budget-headaches/stories/201311300091#ixzz2m9CxWD00

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Woman Found Dead Inside Nanticoke Home

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

NANTICOKE, PA — The body of a 97-year-old woman was found Friday inside her East Grand Street home where she lived for decades. Authorities are treating her death as a homicide.

Police Chief William Shultz called the investigation “a major case” with the state police at Wyoming, Luzerne County Detectives and Coroner’s Office involved.

Authorities identified the woman as Gertrude Price, who lived alone.

Trooper Martin Connors said Price was last seen at about 10:20 p.m. Thursday and neighbors reported seeing lights on inside her house at about 11 p.m., which neighbors said was “unusual” for that time of night.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/1020433/Woman-found-dead-inside-Nanticoke-home

In North Philly, Community Policing Is At Heart Of Crime Reduction

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

IT WAS ABOUT 8 o’clock Tuesday night, and the chilly, rain-soaked streets of North Philadelphia‘s 39th Police District were nearly empty as Officer Michael Levin’s Crown Vic crept across the blacktop.

But Levin, who usually works in bicycle patrol when weather and circumstances permit, was on the street anyway, keeping a watchful eye on the swaths of North Philadelphia, Nicetown, Germantown and East Falls that make up the district headquartered at 22nd Street and Hunting Park Avenue.

On this night, Levin, 28, a seven-year veteran who’s spent all those years in the 39th, reflected on community policing – a strategy favored by Capt. Michael Craighead, who took command of the district about a year ago.

“Bike patrol is really good for community relations. People come up and thank you. It’s a real good deterrent presence,” Levin said. “The community needs us and we need them.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20131201_In_North_Philly__community_policing_is_at_heart_of_crime_reduction.html#fFp8Qh2QAz94K1YC.99

Has North Broad Reached A Turning Point?

North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, 10...

North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, 100 block, looking south from Race Street, with Philadelphia City Hall (1874-1901) in the center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EVERY WEEKDAY, the 40 members of the Pennsylvania Ballet arrive from all over the region for a 9:30 a.m. class at the Ballet’s new headquarters on North Broad Street.

The leap from the old studios on South Broad, 10 blocks south of City Hall, to what is called Avenue of the Arts North is an important part of what city officials want to see happening on North Broad, seen for years as drab and boring.

The Ballet moved into its new space in January. The building, on the former site of a garage for armored trucks, has an entrance across Wood Street from Roman Catholic High School, and is known as the Louise Reed Center for Dance.

Location was everything, said executive director Michael Scolamiero.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20131201_Arts_looking_north.html#4cGWPCsEheK4KydY.99

Book Chronicles ‘Legendary Locals Of Pottstown’

Editor’s note:  Congratulations to fellow blogger Sue Repko!

POTTSTOWN, PA — From intrepid industrialists like John Potts to culinary artists like Amanda Smith of Mrs. Smith’s Pies, Pottstown has produced its fair share of legends.

Those local celebrities, both past and present, are the subject of a new book, “Legendary Locals of Pottstown,” co-authored by Sue Repko and Ed Berger, who served as the photographer.

The 127-page trade paperback includes chapters on church leaders, community builders, athletes, the arts and more. Released in October by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Legendary Locals series, the work recounts the stories of Pottstown’s many fascinating people through images and captions.

It culls from the past, beginning with the Potts family who first settled the town in 1752, and incorporates people from all eras up to the present day. Even lifelong Pottstown natives are likely to encounter in its pages a few legends they’d never before known about.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131130/book-chronicles-legendary-locals-of-pottstown

2 Of 3 Men Charged With Attempted Reading Murder Still At Large

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Two of the three men charged earlier this month with attempted murder and conspiracy in the 2011 ambush shooting of a man in his car in northeast Reading remain at large, authorities said Friday.

Police said they are seeking information on the whereabouts of Luis Jimenez Jr., 31, of the 1200 block of Pike Street and Jonathan Gonzalez, 27, of the 600 block of Bingaman
Street.

Criminal Investigator Eric B. Driesbach on Nov. 8 obtained arrest warrants for them and a third man, Tai-Mare L. Mercado, 24, in the June 22, 2011, shooting at 11th and Spring streets. Investigators said eyewitness accounts and DNA evidence recovered from sweatshirts that the suspects left behind while running from the scene linked the men to the shooting.

Police arrested Mercado on Nov. 12 in his residence of the 500 block of Lancaster Avenue.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=520556

Bellefonte Victorian Christmas A Holiday Wonderland

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region ...

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Step into the holiday wonderland of the 32nd Annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas, but watch out for some of its characters.

They may be stepping around you.

Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Cratchet and the Fezziwigs will return to Bellefonte in all their festive sartorial splendor to stroll around and greet visitors during the Dec. 12-15 celebration.

They’re among the many attractions scheduled for the traditional holiday extravaganza organized by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association. Carolers, arts and crafts vendors, concerts, horse-drawn carriage rides, gingerbread houses, visits with Santa and more await to put even the biggest Scrooge in a holiday mood.

Neighbor Said He Heard Screams Near Lancaster Twp. Home Where Two Bodies Found, Autopsies Planned

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

Autopsies were in progress late Friday morning to determine the cause of death for two people whose bodies were found in a Lancaster Township townhome Thanksgiving day.

The autopsies began around 9:30 a.m. Friday, and were still underway at 12:30 p.m.

Manheim Township Police, which patrol Lancaster Township, were dispatched to the townhome at 788 Sterling Place at 7:58 a.m. Thursday, after two people were found dead inside the residence, possibly by family members.

Police declined to provide additional information in the case Friday morning.

Read more:  http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/924969_Neighbor-said-he-heard-screams-near-Lancaster-Twp–home-where-two-bodies-found–autopsies-planned.html#ixzz2m3c6wcSm

At Least 36 Displaced In Carbondale Fire

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo Wikipedia)

The fire alarm was piercing, but it had sounded plenty of times in the 15 years Mary Gerzie has lived in Building L of Carbondale’s Summit Garden Apartments. What really frightened her was the thick black smoke that billowed into her apartment when she opened her door.

Then came the shouts of “get out of here.”

Mrs. Gerzie, 72, was one of at least 36 people that were taken out of the apartment complex and into the lightly falling snow Friday morning while firefighters worked to stop a fire on the first floor, said Carbondale Fire Chief Chris Pezak.

“The smoke was so intense,” said Chief Pezak of the fire that damaged part of the building around 8 a.m.. “It was very thick black smoke.”

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/at-least-36-displaced-in-carbondale-fire-1.1593134

Allentown’s ‘Lights In The Parkway’ Display Opening To Motorists On Friday Night

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lehigh County

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

Come Friday night, those caught in a traffic jam on a certain stretch of Allentown’s Lehigh Parkway probably won’t be complaining.

The city announced the start of the 18th season of “Lights in the Parkway,” a holiday light display that spans more than a mile along the parkway. A trip through the display has become a tradition for many in the Lehigh Valley. Organizers say it has drawn close to 2 million people since it debuted in 1996. Last holiday season, nearly 20,000 vehicles passed through.

The gates open at 5:30 p.m. Friday for a special Thanksgiving weekend preview that ends Sunday night. “Lights in the Parkway” will then reopen for the official start of the season on Dec. 6, the city announced in a news release. From then until Dec. 31, with the exception of Christmas, the display will be open each night from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., the release says.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2013/11/allentowns_lights_in_the_parkw.html#incart_river

It’s Personal: How Lundgren Led Macy In Bouncing Back

Macy's logo

Macy’s logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As backdrop to the legendary parade, the Macy’s store at New York City’s Herald Square is a star of the show on Thanksgiving. But ask Terry J. Lundgren about Philadelphia, and the Macy’s CEO shares a surprising adoration for a different landmark altogether – the one in Center City that opened a century ago as Wanamakers.

“That is one of the most unique stores in the entire enterprise of Macy’s Inc.,” the chairman, president, and chief executive said as he gushed, largely unprompted, about the Philly stunner that is home to the world’s largest working pipe organ, the kitschy-but-adored Christmas Light Show, and the Dickens Village exhibit.

“It’s the only store in the world that has a pipe organ and that has performances on this organ every single week – and we maintain that. I mean, who would do that?”

Here’s who: A $28 billion company that believes, even amid the growing popularity of Internet shopping, that retailing remains a local game. With this guiding principle and Lundgren’s charisma as change agents, the 800-store chain, now based in Cincinnati, has grabbed a top position only a few years after the department-store sector looked like an endangered species.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20131128_How_Lundgren_led_Macy_in_bouncing_back.html#u2dKLoMavfuplyf4.99

NY Chef’s Jaw Broken In Philly Attack

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

A Manhattan chef suffered a broken jaw while walking in Philadelphia last week in what he believes could be a vicious example of a so-called “knockout” attack – but police aren’t yet calling it that.

But police say they are investigating the assault on Diego Moya, 30, and hoping to locate surveillance video in hopes of finding suspects, said Officer Jillian Russell, a department spokeswoman.

According to police and Moya’s own account to the New York Daily News, Moya had just finished eating pizza with some friends in Old City when he headed out toward the hostel he was staying at on the first block of S. Bank Street about 11 p.m. Tuesday. He had been in town visiting his parents for a pre-Thanksgiving visit.

While on Bank Street, Moya was attacked from behind. He told the New York Daily News he believes it was a group of males between the ages of 16 and 21.  Philadelphia police said Moya was not able to give a description of any attackers after they arrived about 11:30 p.m.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Report_NY_chef_breaks_jaw_in_knockout_game_in_Philly.html#QlAX3wWl5FOYoMFK.99

Pottstown Schools Eye Eliminating Class Rank

POTTSTOWN, PA — To rank or not to rank?

That may soon be the question.
Class rank has been a staple of high school life, and college admissions, for years beyond count.

But school board member Polly Weand raised the possibility at the Nov. 21 school board meeting that Pottstown may soon opt-out of the practice.

Weand, who chairs the school board’s curriculum and technology, said the discussion is underway at her committee, which presumably will make a recommendation to the full board, perhaps as soon as January.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131128/pottstown-schools-eye-eliminating-class-rank

Mohnton Firehouse Feud Flares

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

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

The rift between Mohnton‘s fire crew and the social club that oversees it was years in the making.

But the catalyst, both sides agree, was a dispute over the Friendship Fire Company No. 2 of Mohnton’s stand selling waffles and ice cream at Gov. Mifflin Community Days.

The fire crew and social club clashed over where fundraising proceeds should go and who should be allowed to volunteer at the stand. Simmering tensions between the two factions boiled over, leading to the first of back-to-back suspensions of Fire Chief Allen Detwiler.

Now Detwiler and his volunteer engine crew are asking borough government to separate the department and social club.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=520511

Monroeville Council Suspends Top Official

Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United ...

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

In a municipality already reeling from a controversy involving its police department, Monroeville‘s municipal manager was placed on administrative leave with pay Tuesday evening and could be completely removed from her position Jan. 6.

At a special council meeting, a four-member quorum voted to suspend longtime employee Lynette McKinney. Joe Sedlak was appointed acting manager.

Of those present, councilmen Steve Duncan, Nick Gresock and Jim Johns voted for her suspension, with member Bernhard Erb abstaining. Mr. Johns said he made the motion to slow Ms. McKinney’s spending.

Solicitor Bruce Dice said the process to legally remove the manager is intricate, though her duties ceased Tuesday night.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/east/2013/11/27/Monroeville-council-suspends-top-official/stories/201311270151#ixzz2lrOWhtYc

Storm Causes Big Problems; 1 Dead In Crash

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Ph...

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph, not copyrighted Ed Yakovich http://www.flickr.com/photos/10396190@N04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The large storm that blew through overnight – churning up high winds and causing local flooding – is causing major traffic problems early on throughout the Philadelphia regions on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

A string of crashes, one deadly, were reported through the night and into the early morning. Airports have also begun reporting delays and canceling flights due to the weather.

One person was killed in a crash shortly before 5 a.m. on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) at West Girard Ave., severely impacting traffic. It was not clear if weather was the main factor, but flooding was reported on the roadway prior to the crash.

Indeed, the expressway was closed eastbound and westbound at Montgomery Drive because of flooding. Police were being asked to prevent motorists from getting on at the nearby entrance ramps.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Noreasters_winds_rain_impacting_commute.html#mBMC5O16HHDpHVKp.99

Judge: Pottstown Merchant Peddled ‘Death’ When He Sold K2

NORRISTOWN — Saying a Pottstown merchant peddled death when he sold synthetic marijuana from his downtown convenience store, a judge sent the man to state prison.

Rafie L. Ali, 35, who previously lived in an apartment above the Achi Store he operated at 315 E. High Street between February and May 2012, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court on Tuesday to seven to 14 years in a state correctional facility.

“He’s no different than a drug dealer, pure and simple,” said Judge Steven T. O’Neill, referring to Ali’s decision to sell the dangerous substance in a community that has waged a battle against drug dealers and addiction. “The nature of what was sold in that store destroys the fabric of a community. You engaged in danger in a community that doesn’t need it, doesn’t need any more drug dealers.”

Ali, who apologized for his conduct before learning his fate, remained solemn as the punishment was imposed.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131126/judge-pottstown-merchant-peddled-death-when-he-sold-k2

43rd Annual Belsnickel Craft Show Set For This Weekend At Boyertown Senior High School

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

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

The 43rd annual Belsnickel Craft Show, presenting approximately 140 local and regional juried artisans, will be held on Friday, Nov. 29, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. All crafts for sale are handmade by artisans in the show and are not commercially manufactured or imported.

Among the traditional crafts on display will be woodworking and woodcarving, pottery, baskets, tin, papier-mache folk art, dolls and doll clothing, women’s and children’s clothing, silver and gold jewelry, quilts and quilted items, dried flowers, tole painting, weaving, scherenschnitte (paper cutting), clay sculpture, fraktur, Santas, stained glass, punched-tin art, wooden toys and Christmas items.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/lifestyle/20131126/43rd-annual-belsnickel-craft-show-set-for-this-weekend-at-boyertown-senior-high-school

Kelly Picks Nick To Be Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 1 Quarterback

PHILADELPHIA – When the moment arrived, it was neither dramatic nor surprising.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly met separately with quarterbacks Nick Foles and Michael Vick and made obvious what had been apparent for some time by naming Foles his starter for the rest of the season Tuesday.

“Chip’s a simple guy,” said Foles. “I just went in there and he told me the situation, that I was the one and Mike was the two, and let’s go. I mean, it’s not drawn out. I know like in movies it’s a big thing. You sit down, there’s tears. He just told me the situation and I was ready to go. Mike’s ready to go.”

“I just wanted it to be a smooth transition, and it was,” said Vick. “When we sat down, he didn’t have to say much. We’re all on the same page.”

Reading School Board Fires Its Superintendent

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Who didn’t see this coming?  “Indefinite sick leave…”  What a hot mess.

The short but rocky relationship between the Reading School Board and superintendent Dr. Carlinda Purcell has come to an end.

The board voted Tuesday night to fire Purcell, effective today. Substitute superintendent Karen B. Gokay will take over as acting superintendent.

Purcell is in the second year of a five-year contract. She was paid $175,000 annually.

The board ousted Purcell by a 6-3 vote. Rebecca Acosta, Isamac-Torres Figueroa and Robert Heebner voted no.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=520360