Officials Announce Plans To Apply For Redevelopment Runding For Reading

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The city’s plans to apply for a major revitalization zone went public this morning, as the effort won approval from local business and community groups, county officials and even colleges and state legislators that will collaborate on the effort.

“We’re a team,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat.

“We’re totally committed to work on a united effort to get a proposal in place,” Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said.

Council and the local businesses clearly are in on the effort, Council President Francis G. Acosta said.

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Corbett Signs Bill Creating City Revitalization Zones

Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday signed into law the bill that will give Reading and other Pennsylvania cities a chance to create so-called City Revitalization and Improvement Zones to attract new businesses.

The 130-acre zones will be funded with public bonds issued by a local municipal authority running the zone.  The bonds will be repaid by local and state tax revenue raised within the zone.

The law resulted in large part from the work of state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, who noted that the original bill sponsored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster Republican, would have frozen out Reading.

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Heroin Epidemic Spreads To Rural Areas, Official Says

English: Modified IM/IV syringe used for "...

English: Modified IM/IV syringe used for “plugging” heroin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane‘s top narcotics investigator identified cheap, potent Mexican heroin as the state’s No. 1 drug problem at a forum with Berks County municipal officials Monday at Penn State Berks.

Jonathan A. Duecker, special agent for narcotics control, said the heroin epidemic has spread from cities into rural areas and is challenging law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

“There’s no place in Pennsylvania that’s not seeing at a micro level what we’ve been seeing at a macro level in the big cities,” he said.

Duecker’s portrayal of the violence and crime that accompanies the availability of cheap heroin came at a forum sponsored by state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Democrat.

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Reading Crime Summit Objectives Outlined

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

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

Momentum toward creating a new, multijurisdiction approach to attacking crime in Reading and Berks County gathered quickly at a Thursday meeting called by county officials to plan next month’s crime summit.

The summit is set for Jan. 18, but District Attorney John T. Adams, county commissioners and others made it clear that a push to redeploy area law enforcement assets would start before then.

Their main reason was that, summit or not, there appears to be little hope of getting significant help from the financially strapped state and federal governments to deal with city and county crime.

“It is using our existing resources and redeploying them more effectively than we have in the past,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat. “I don’t see a cavalry coming.”

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Chamber Of Commerce President Joins Call For Reading Crime Summit

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with ...

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with Berks County courthouse on left; July 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While multiple independent efforts push toward scheduling a crime summit for Reading – including a pre-summit planning session set for Monday in the offices of state Sen. Judy Schwank – business executives are casting votes on the city’s tarnished image with their feet.

New executives hired by Berks companies are choosing to live in Chester or Montgomery counties, preferring greater proximity to Philadelphia, according to Ellen T. Horan, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry.  Horan, citing conversations with officials at Berks companies, said the perception of the city as crime-infested is repelling executive talent.

“The summit is a great idea,” Horan said. “I would like to see a little more urgency.”

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State Senator Judy Schwank Says State Could Help Reading City Schools

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

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

Facing an overwhelming budget crisis, the Reading School District would accept help from the state, according to a local legislator.

State Sen. Judy Schwank on Tuesday sent a letter to Ron Tomalis, state secretary of education, in support of state assistance in preparing the district’s 2012-13 budget.

“It is my position that the school board directors cannot make the difficult decisions they must make in constructing the 2012-13 budget until they have full confidence in the accuracy of the current fiscal data for the district,” wrote Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat.

Representatives from the Department of Education were unavailable for comment.

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Reading School District Officials Summoned To Harrisburg

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

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

The state secretary of education called Reading School District officials to Harrisburg on Thursday to determine if the situation in the district is as bad as it appeared in a three-part Reading Eagle series.

Although it is rare for a school board to be called to Harrisburg to address budget and other problems, board member Pierre V. Cooper and state Sen. Judy Schwank, who were at the meeting, said the board was not called on the carpet.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Cooper said Friday. “They (Education Department officials) asked about things they read in the newspaper and about what progress we are making on the budget.”

Education Secretary Ron Tomalis declined to comment on the meeting.

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Judy Schwank (D) To Replace Mike O’Pake In 11th Senate District

A former Berk’s County Commissioner has been voted into office by special election to replace Pennsylvania Senator Mike O’Pake, who died in office after suffering complications from heart surgery.

Judy Schwank handily beat her Republican challenger Larry Medaglia according to the unofficial results.

Schwank will serve out the remaining two years of Mike O’Pake’s 10th term.