Southwest Pa. Is Safe, Prosperous — Struggles With Poor Air Quality, Obesity, Report Finds

Southwestern Pennsylvania has low unemployment, a plethora of high school and college graduates and relatively safe streets, but residents are more likely to smoke cigarettes and be overweight compared to a group other major U.S. metro areas, according to a University of Pittsburgh report released Wednesday.

The “2015 Pittsburgh Today & Tomorrow Report” from Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research compared 11 quality-of-life factors in Southwestern Pennsylvania to 14 other metro areas.

Researchers found that while the region “continues to be a national model for economic recovery and public safety, the region still has major deficiencies in overcoming issues related to the environment, infrastructure, public health, and other matters that are key to the quality of life for most Americans.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/8130203-74/percent-residents-report#ixzz3WjladgL5
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Norristown Police Collaborate With Social Services For ‘Whole Government’ Initiative

Editor’s note:  Alas, Pottstown leadership doesn’t seem to get this concept.  Two thumbs up to Norristown leadership for being proactive and thinking outside of the box.  We like what we are seeing.

NORRISTOWN, PA – Police are called with increasing frequency for complaints about a homeless man with mental health issues. A boy who lives in a household familiar to authorities for domestic issues has started skipping school and breaking curfew. An unemployed mother of three with no previous criminal record is arrested for drug possession.

These are examples of bad situations that many law enforcement officials agree often get worse.

But what if that was not necessarily the case? What if police and other public health and safety professionals collaborated on these cases using a comprehensive strategy that enabled them to mitigate risk factors and intervene to address small infractions before they snowball into larger ones, effectively reducing and preventing crime?

That is the goal of the Whole of Government concept, presented at the 2015 International Conference on Proven Collaborative Strategies for Improved Community Wellness and Safety recently held at the King of Prussia Radisson and conducted by the Penn State Justice and Safety Institute (PSJSI). The concept, which has a proven track record of success in Canada, is being implemented by a small number of forward-thinking law enforcement agencies in the U.S., including Norristown.

Read more:

http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20150404/norristown-police-collaborate-with-social-services-for-whole-government-initiative

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Among Most Indulgent Cities

Perhaps the Wilkes-Barre metro area parties too much.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area ranked as the fourth-most indulgent metro in the United States by the personal finance website badcredit.org. The website used data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and credit information from Experian, a credit reporting bureau, to analyze how indulgent residents are in 105 metro areas.

They looked at the obesity rate, alcohol consumption, number of smokers and the average consumer debt to determine the most indulgent metros. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro came in at No. 4

with:

■ 7.8 percent of residents claiming to be heavy drinkers.

■  21.5 percent who say they smoke everyday.

■ An obesity rate of 31.9 percent.

■  $28,974 in average consumer debt.

Read more:

http://citizensvoice.com/news/scranton-w-b-among-most-indulgent-cities-1.1849010

Homegrown Middle Class: A Neighborhoods Policy For Philadelphia

To John Kromer the city’s persistent poverty is best tackled at the neighborhood level. In a four-part series of commentaries Kromer, an urban housing and development consultant and former city housing director, will explore different policy interventions the next administration can deploy to reduce poverty, stabilize neighborhoods, and finance anti-blight work. Kromer lays the foundation with this first installment:

Mayoral and City Council candidates rarely have to take strong positions on neighborhood issues because other topics, such as taxes, crime, schools, and drugs, are more likely to attract voter interest when presented in a citywide, rather than neighborhood-specific context. Given all the demands of a hectic campaign season, most candidates don’t bother to bring forward substantive proposals for improving the condition of Philadelphia neighborhoods until after the elections.

The lower-priority status of neighborhoods as a campaign issue is particularly unfortunate, because the city’s biggest problem—the persistently high level of poverty in Philadelphia—can only be solved at the neighborhood level.

Organizing a neighborhoods policy that can be effective in reducing poverty levels is doable but complicated. Doing so requires thinking about existing strengths and weaknesses and future opportunities in a new way and seeking to obtain political buy-in for a new approach immediately. Advocates for fundamental policy changes can’t afford to wait until after the inauguration ceremony, after the appointment of planning and development officials, and after the presentation of the new administration’s first budget. Anyone who’s serious about planning to significantly reduce poverty during the next city administration needs to begin now.

Read more:

http://planphilly.com/eyesonthestreet/2015/03/16/homegrown-middle-class-a-neighborhoods-policy-for-philadelphia

Philadelphia’s Murder Rate At Historic Low: A Look At Why

When Philadelphia’s murder total fell to a historic low in 2013, officials believed it was no fluke.

Now, with 2014 at the same rate – and other violence also down – experts say the city is indeed getting safer.

With 248 slain, the toll is one above last year’s – and a 25 percent drop from 2012. But statistics show police in 2014 solved fewer killings than in 2013.

Overall, violent crime fell 7 percent.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150103_Phila__s_murder_rate_drops__A_look_at_why.html#zmVkOtUqefw3dcCO.99

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area Suffers High Childhood Poverty, Shrinking Middle Class, Reports Say

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was grim news Tuesday as a flurry of reports showed that Luzerne County’s middle class is shrinking while the wealthiest get richer with nearly one third of children under 18 live in poverty.

Data show while the unemployment rate has dropped substantially both nationally and locally, the poverty rate has not seen a corresponding drop.

If there was a silver lining in the data put out by three different sources, it may be that Luzerne and Lackawanna counties have lower rates of uninsured children than the state.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children — which bills itself as a nonprofit and non-partisan child advocacy group — issued its annual “State of Children’s Health Care” report, which showed that the percentage of children lacking health insurance statewide dipped slightly since last year’s report, from 5.3 percent to 5.2 percent.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/50324023/Grim-news-from-three-new-reports

York’s Northeast Neighborhood Residents Wonder What Impact Think Loud Will Have On Their Community

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

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

On a wooden table in Gregg Hardy’s kitchen are a handful of cherry tomatoes.

They come from the garden behind his East Walnut Street home that his wife tends, caring for fish in a small pond and cultivating an orange tree, where a single unripe fruit hung one day in August.

While she will spend a day coaxing flowers to grow, Hardy focuses his own labor on the interior — putting in bathrooms, widening door frames and shaping cabinets.

He bought his home for $15,000 in 2003, property records show. He said he put $20 down on it, and spent several years driving down from New York on weekends to fix it up. He is now entrenched in a neighborhood he believes has remade itself into an area families can call home.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/local/ci_26386670/yorks-northeast-neighborhood-residents-wonder-what-impact-think

Temple University Student Study: Norristown Needs A Food Policy Council, Community Gardens

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

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

NORRISTOWN — An urban planning class presented the results of a study of food availability in Norristown to council Tuesday that included targeted recommendations.

Jennifer Krouchick, a Temple University student in the urban planning studio class taught by Professor Deborah Howe, said that Norristown is a car-dependent municipality for large food shopping but had also notched a 74 percent score in “walkability.”

Of Norristown’s 34,324 residents, 19.3 live below the poverty line, according to recent demographics. In addition, 2,484 of Norristown’s 13,058 households receive federal food assistance through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

A resident group helped the students shape the food study during a task force meeting in January, Krouchick said. A community workshop was held in April allowing residents to explain what food issues were important to them.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140701/temple-university-student-study-norristown-needs-a-food-policy-council-community-gardens

Coming This Week: A Special Report On Columbia’s Public Schools

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

Editor’s note:  I hope folks from the Pottstown School District follow this story.  It’s a smaller version of Pottstown with many of the same issues!

Columbia’s public schools will reopen in late August, reverberating again with the clamor of children.

But overshadowing the back-to-school routine will be difficult questions.

Columbia is a tiny, high-poverty school district struggling to prepare kids for our fast-changing, technology-driven world.

The single-municipality district has the weakest tax base in Lancaster County and the second-highest proportion of needy children. Its taxes are the county’s highest and salaries the lowest. It has too many dropouts. Test scores are abysmal.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/coming-this-week-a-special-report-on-columbia-s-public/article_a2e62f5a-faf3-11e3-83c4-001a4bcf6878.html

MCCC Student Ryan Bergman Earns National Honor As 2014 Newman Civic Fellow

GetAttachmentBlue Bell, Pa.— Montgomery County Community College student and community leader Ryan Bergman, Collegeville, is among an elite group of students in the country to earn the 2014 Newman Civic Fellow Award from Campus Compact.

The Newman Civic Fellows Award honors college student leaders nationwide who inspire others and have worked to find solutions for challenges facing the community. According to the organization’s website, through service, research, and advocacy, Newman Civic Fellows are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change.

A Social Sciences major concentrating in Psychology, Bergman dedicates his service efforts to eradicating poverty and homelessness both on local and national levels. Selected as a Scholar for Community Service at MCCC for the 2013-14 academic year, Bergman used the opportunity to strengthen the College’s relationship with the Montgomery County chapter of Habitat for Humanity and Habitat ReStore.

“Ryan’s commitment and dedication to issues of homelessness and poverty have assisted in raising student awareness about Habitat for Humanity and ways to individually support the work being done within the County,” shared MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout in her letter of recommendation to Campus Compact.

Bergman chartered and serves as president of MCCC’s Habitat Club, whose members support ongoing volunteer dates at Habitat build-sites throughout the year. He also served as co-leader at the Habitat ReStore site in January during a college-wide day of service and again in March during spring break.

“Our goal for this new club is to show the importance of improving our community and lending a helping hand whenever needed,” explained Bergman.

In addition to his work locally, Bergman is a two-time participant in MCCC’s Alternative Spring Break program. In 2013, he traveled with students to West Virginia to build houses with Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, and in 2014, they volunteered at The Samaritan Woman in Baltimore, Md., a transitional residence program for victims of human trafficking.

An electrician by trade, it was Bergman’s job that first brought him to MCCC when his company was contracted to do electrical work on the College’s new Children’s Center.  While working on the Center, Bergman began to fall out of love with his career choice, especially as he noticed students around his age walking to and from class.

“They all seemed full of life and motivated,” he shared.

When the company for which he was working closed two years later, Bergman enrolled in College’s Engineering Technology program, but soon switched to Social Sciences. He also got heavily involved in service work through the College’s Office of Student Leadership & Involvement, where he is a work-study student.

“I juggle my busy life by optimizing every moment of time; time management is crucial to excel at the college level,” he shared, adding that the work-study position enables him to “know the current happenings around campus” and participate as much as possible.

Adding to his full schedule, Bergman is also president of MCCC’s Psychology Club, performs contracting and electrical work off campus, and still finds time for basketball and weight training, as well as for saltwater fishing, longboarding and hiking.

After he graduates from MCCC, Bergman plans to continue his education in Clinical Psychology, knowing that the College prepared him for the next chapter in his life.

“I know it sounds cliché, but I have truly found a home here at Montgomery County Community College, and I hope that I can one day return to inspire other people to follow their dreams.”

Newman Civic Fellows are recommended by college and university presidents to acknowledge motivation and ability in public leadership. Newman Civic Fellows awards are made in memory of Frank Newman, who dedicated his life to creating systemic change through education reform.

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Mapping The Data: Minimum Wage Of $10.10/Hour Would Benefit 21% Of Workers In Lancaster County

Editor’s note:  This is a more in-depth article than the one below with some excellent graphs and charts showing all 67 counties in Pennsylvania and what the impact of raising the minimum wage would mean by county.  Well worth the read!

About one in five workers in Lancaster County would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a new study shows.

That 21 percent amounts to 49,099 workers here, according to the Keystone Research Center study.

The research is being cited by a labor and community coalition, Raise the Wage PA, which will hold a rally in Penn Square at noon Thursday.

Lancaster County rates somewhat worse than the statewide figure of 19 percent and the urban-area figure of 18 percent, says the study.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/business/local_business/mapping-the-data-minimum-wage-of-hour-would-benefit-of/article_9ae665b4-d63a-11e3-88f4-0017a43b2370.html

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Study: One Fifth Of Luzerne County Workers Impacted By Minimum-Wage Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — At first, it sounds like a good new, bad news sort of thing.

The good news: According to a new report, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would help 21 percent of the Luzerne County workforce get better pay.

The bad news: One fifth of Luzerne County workers earn below or near the proposed new minimum of $10.10 an hour.

The numbers come from “Living on the Edge: Where Very Low-wage Workers Live in Pennsylvania,” issued by the Keystone Research Center this week. As part of a push to get Harrisburg to consider increasing the minimum, rallies were held around the state Thursday, including one on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1380548/Study:-Wage-hike-would-boost-fifth-of-area-workers

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Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto Touts His First 100 Days In Office

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is looking to spur manufacturing, help poor residents open bank accounts and offer free Internet in the City-County Building, according to a report on his administration’s first 100 days.

Peduto reiterated many of the initiatives he has touted since taking office Jan. 6, but he also offered a glimpse of what he is planning among the 63 accomplishments and ideas listed in the 13-page report.

“While we have accomplished a lot in our first 100 days, we have a long way to go to realize our potential as a city poised for greatness,” Peduto said in a statement.

The mayor was in Ontario, Canada, on Monday and Tuesday attending an international bicycle summit.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/5953206-74/peduto-report-pittsburgh#ixzz2z0xKUyvg
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Philadelphia’s Future In The Numbers

English: View of Philadelphia City Hall from t...

English: View of Philadelphia City Hall from the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of all the numbers that tell the story of Philadelphia today, one stands out as an unambiguous expression of confidence in the city’s future.

Last year, developers received building permits for 2,815 units of new residential housing, the most approved in a decade. Those units are worth an estimated $465 million, the highest annual amount on record.

Investors appear to be betting that Philadelphia’s population, which rose for the seventh straight year in 2013 to 1,553,165, will keep growing and that many of the new residents, young and old, will be looking for new homes and apartments.

There is some demographic evidence to support this expectation. In recent years, the city has experienced rapid growth in its population of young adults, many of them well-educated and upwardly mobile. In addition, an increasing number of aging baby boomers are leaving the suburbs and moving into the city. And the middle-class population appears to have stabilized after decades of decline.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140406_Philadelphia_s_future.html#Ukhw32j52iwf8tzl.99

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Report: Absence Of School Funding Formula In PA Costs Pottstown $5 Million A Year

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

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

POTTSTOWN, PA — Borough property owners would be off the hook for generating more than $5 million in school funding this year if the state funding formula abandoned by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2010 were still in place, according to a report.

Further, as a result of that formula’s absence in calculating state education funding, Pottstown has lost more state aid in the past few years than almost any other district in Montgomery County, the report found.

At $2.5 million, only Norristown schools lost more in the last three years than the $1.5 million in state funding Pottstown has lost since 2010-11, the study found.

In an attempt to reverse the problems highlighted in that study, the Pottstown School Board on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Harrisburg to establish “a fair and equitable school funding formula.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140328/report-absence-of-school-funding-formula-in-pa-costs-pottstown-5-million-a-year

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Allentown Mayor Announces Plans To Improve Poorest Neighborhoods

English: City of Allentown

English: City of Allentown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski announced an initiative today to make health and safety improvements in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

The city has committed $2.5 million for such Center City improvements and has asked the business community to match or exceed that amount in donations.

Working with the Allentown School District, the city plans to focus on blight remediation, housing redevelopment, home ownership and streetscaping projects.

“I believe Allentown will become a beacon of hope and an economic model for redevelopment (that) can be replicated across the state and across the country,” Pawlowski said.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/03/allentown_mayor_announces_plan.html

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Pew Report: Philadelphia’s Middle Class Is Shrinking

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

The Philadelphia middle class, a backbone of economic vitality that once made up the majority of residents in most of the city’s neighborhoods, has declined in steep numbers since 1970, from 59 percent to 42 percent by 2010, according to a report released Monday, the first of its kind.

The precipitous decline of adults within this long-celebrated class occurred widely across the city and most sharply before 2000, sparing only chunks of Far Northeast Philadelphia and Roxborough and smaller pockets elsewhere. Those areas remained majority middle-class as of a few years ago, said the Pew Charitable Trusts, which spearheaded the study.

The data capture what has been sensed and dreaded by policymakers for years: Philadelphia is decidedly poorer than when it was a manufacturing powerhouse, losing even a greater share of higher-taxpaying middle-class residents than the nation as a whole, and failing even to see increases in its upper-class population to match other cities that fared better.

Whether middle-class Philadelphians fell into a lower-income class, moved into the suburbs, or died is not shown by Pew’s analysis, as researchers have found such detailed tracking to be elusive.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140225_New_Pew_report_shows_city_s_middle-class_shrinking.html#GakidtL6rbcd5xYK.99

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Wilkes-Barre Panel OKs Gates For Sherman Hills

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a plan to install gates, one of them staffed around the clock, as part of the overall security improvements at the low-income Sherman Hills apartment complex.

Sam Goldberg, regional manager of the apartment complex owned by Brooklyn-based Sherman Hills Realty, said the owners are eager to get started and have already set aside the money for the work.

“It’s all a matter of once we get the written approval. We do have contractors lined up,” Goldberg said. “We’ll work as fast as we can.”

The plans calls for the installation of a booth and gates for incoming and outgoing vehicles and pedestrians on Empire Court. The booth will be staffed 24 hours a day and control a second set of gates on Parkview Circle leading to the high-rise apartment building on the property. A third gate will be installed at the intersection of North Empire Court and Sherman Street, but emergency responders and police will have access to a key to gain entrance.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1205576/City-panel-OKs-gates-for-Sherman-Hills

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Wealth Gap Is Widest In Some Affluent US Cities

WASHINGTON (AP) – The gap between the wealthy and the poor is most extreme in several of the United States’ most prosperous and largest cities.

The economic divides in Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are significantly greater than the national average, according to a study released Thursday by the Brookings Institution, the Washington-based think tank. It suggests that many sources of both economic growth and income inequality have co-existed near each other for the past 35 years.

These cities may struggle in the future to provide adequate public schooling, basic municipal services because of a narrow tax base and “may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families,” the study said.

“There’s something of a relationship between economic success and inequality,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at Brookings. “These cities are home to some of the highest paying industries and jobs in the country.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/homepage/20140220_ap_9abeed9da7e24c51a0a078a9ca8c73b9.html#fRdwGmPM2m6ZEQji.99

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Mapping Poverty: Wealthiest And Poorest School Districts In Pennsylvania

Pottstown School District

24% of children in poverty

Estimated Total Population: 22,617
Estimated Population 5 to 17 years old: 3,560
Estimated number of children 5 to 17 years old in poverty: 861

If you click on this link, you can access a map of Pennsylvania at the bottom of the article and by clicking on your school district, you can see the results as demonstrated above for Pottstown School District:  http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/mapping-poverty-wealthiest-and-poorest-school-districts-in-pennsylvania/article_53d4e55a-9810-11e3-8d0a-001a4bcf6878.html

The map is able to be enlarged or shrunk as you see fit (works like Mapquest).  The names of cities and towns are behind the colors, you can see them which will help you find what you are looking for.   Again, make sure you use the map at the bottom of the article, not the one at the top.  Happy hunting!

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