As the 2015 budget season approaches, it is my duty to talk straight about our city’s fiscal challenges and pension legacy costs that have been growing since before the turn of this century. While laying out the dire conditions, leadership requires us to hold out meaningful hope by advocating for bold measures. Long term fiscal game-changers can stabilize our property taxes while enabling us to continue providing quality public services and infrastructure that our people deserve and demand.
At times, I feel like a night watchman of earlier centuries who witnesses a spreading fire and vigorously shouts and rings the bell to alert citizens of the imminent crisis. During the last two city administrations, we’ve been warning of the growing fiscal crisis for 13 years, and we’ve done as much as we can internally to make our budget process transparent, to seek sound recommendations from outside experts, to cut costs, and to be fiscally responsible. The list is extensive.
• In 2003, under Mayor Brenner, our city initiated its first open budget hearings, an annual tradition that continues to this year.
• In 2006, our city was one of the very first in the state to enter the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Early Intervention Program, which provided an analysis of York’s finances by outside experts. Their analysis concluded that York’s financial controls and management were strong but that systemic constraints beyond its control were leading to out-of-control costs. Recommendations included implementing a parking tax, which was done.
Ernesto Torres was gunned down nearly two months ago, the bullets flying, his family suspects, because of his dispute with another man about a woman.
Like others whose loved ones have been killed in Camden this year, his mother, Cary Soldevila, hoped for a quick arrest. But the investigation, which came to a head over the weekend when an arrest warrant was issued for a suspect, took patience.
“I want peace in my heart,” said Soldevila, 43, “that I can go to sleep at night and know that this person who destroyed my life is put away.”
Torres, 22, is one of 17 people killed in Camden so far this year. Of those 17 homicides, 12 are unsolved. Investigators say they have promising leads in some of the cases. But witness intimidation, a lack of people willing to step forward, and a backlog of homicide cases from past years – including 2012, when a record 67 people were killed – have slowed progress.
WILKES-BARRE, PA — Volunteers who have been trying to help residents of the troubled Sherman Hills Apartments complex in Wilkes-Barre met Saturday to review their progress and provide a sympathetic ear to those with complaints.
The gathering originally was planned as part of a walking tour of the low-income, crime-ridden development with U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, but volunteers said they received notice Friday afternoon that Cartwright was postponing his visit.
Cartwright formed a task force to address problems at Sherman Hills last year after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) threatened to withhold funding to the prior complex owner if it did not make safety and security improvements.
The complex received around $2 million in rental subsidies last year and was sold last month to Teaneck, N.J.-based Treetop Development for $15.7 million.
WILKES-BARRE, PA — Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, Friday released limited details of an online survey that asked respondents to assess the downtown.
While Newman wouldn’t give specifics, citing an unfinished analysis of the data, he did say he was pleased with what he has seen so far and that was good news for the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association.
“We’re thrilled with the results,” Newman told about 50 members of the association at a breakfast meeting at the Westmoreland Club. “We received thoughtful opinions and insights and we learned what it takes to bring people to the downtown — their likes and dislikes.”
Newman said the success of the downtown is like a four-legged chair — organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring. He said the downtown business group is the promotional leg that offers events and activities to draw people.
McKeesport residents, city and Allegheny County police officials took a step toward building a better relationship at a meeting about unsolved murders.
Booker T. Washington Lodge 281 along Walnut Street, commonly known as the McKeesport Elks Club, was packed on Thursday evening with friends and relatives of victims of violent crimes.
“It’s a start and it’s a beginning,” said Latoya Wright. “We still have a long road to go, but I do believe that if this happens more often and the solutions that were given today are taken care of, then I believe more things will start to happen in the city.”
Wright’s daughter’s father, Carlos Napper, died after being shot outside the Elks Club on July 14, 2007. He was 30 and his case remains unsolved.
Blue Bell, PA—Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) will host its 15th Biennial Criminal Justice and Public Safety Career Day on Wednesday, April 23, from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.
The event is free of charge and is open to the public, including students from other institutions. For information, contact MCCC Director of Criminal Justice Studies and Fire Science and Emergency Management & Planning Benn Prybutok at 215-641-6428 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
The event begins with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m., which will include remarks by Montgomery County and MCCC officials and presentation of awards. Then, starting at 10 a.m. participants will have the opportunity to meet with top law enforcement, criminal justice and public safety agencies and recruiters in order to become better acquainted with opportunities in these fields.
More than 50 exhibitors will be in attendance, including municipal police departments, state and federal law enforcement and investigative agencies, private security companies, public safety agencies, four-year baccalaureate programs and area law schools.
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.
OLYPHANT, PA — Coal heated up the Lackawanna and Wyoming valleys’ job market decades ago, and today it’s still making the region hot as no fewer than eight underground mine fires are burning from Carbondale to Newport Township.
The issue has not been taken seriously enough by the state Department of Environmental Protection, according to Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Dunmore, and officials in Olyphant, where one of the fires has been burning for nearly a decade.
During a public meeting Haggerty organized in Olyphant on Thursday, he said he has written a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett urging him to declare Luzerne and Lackawanna counties “disaster areas” so federal and state funding could be freed up to help extinguish the fires.
Three of those fires, all in Luzerne County, are designated as serious by the state Department of Environmental Protection, meaning occupied structures are less than 1,000 feet away. The other five are classified as moderate, meaning occupied structures are at least 1,000 feet away.
For some inexplicable reason, the “powers that be” in Pottstown seem to think that ignoring rampant drug use in the borough will make it go away. As a blogger who posts news from around the state on a regular basis, I see how this problem has invaded the Commonwealth. Drugs have crept into our smallest and remotest towns.
Drug use and drug dependence seem bring with them crime and violence. Shootings, stabbings, burglaries etc… I have made a point of posting articles along these lines so that anyone who reads this blog will see the alarming rise of drug use and drug related violence in our state. Our Attorney General, Kathleen Kane has been particularly supportive in trying to ferret out drug dealers through various “sting operations” which have taken down a large numbers of dealers around the state.
One drug in particular is making an alarming comeback. Heroin. Pottstown is not immune to this trend.
Our story for today comes from a friend of mine who lives in Pottstown. This person has “walked the talk” by being a public servant for a several years and is also a Mom.
Walking to school this morning, my son tells me he has seen two “thermometers” outside. I stop, dead in my tracks, red flag warning. I turn and retrace my steps. Sure enough, two hypodermic needles are there on the sidewalk adjacent to the cemetery between 6th & 7th streets! I picked them up and turned them in to the school office. I did not want a young child walking to school to pick them up thinking they were “thermometers” also and possibly stick themselves.
So our lesson for today is that no matter how hard we wish something wasn’t a problem, it will not make it go away.
Thank goodness this Mom had the sense to retrace her steps and remove the threat, thereby protecting many other children. Because of the neighborhood our courageous Mom lives in she unfortunately knows about such things. Honestly, I would not have put two and two together and thought syringe.
So to the “powers that be” I say, “WAKE UP!”
To our courageous Mom I say, “Thank you!”
WILKES-BARRE, PA — Park Management Inc.’s detailed plans for the Sherman Hills Apartments will remain secret for a little longer.
The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company submitted a remediation plan for the troubled complex Dec. 2 after a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspection in September found “possible life-threatening security issues” due to management’s neglect of the 344-unit facility.
The Citizens’ Voice, along with congressional leaders and Wilkes-Barre officials, have filed a Freedom of Information Act request for that plan.
In a letter released Friday, Shirley Bryant, Freedom of Information Act liason for HUD, says the agency is giving Park Management until Jan. 31 to object to the plan’s release based on the department’s FOIA regulations exempting “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.”
CODE OFFICERS looking to rid nuisance conditions in locked-up, vacant lots around town just might get a pair of shears to gain access, if a bill becomes law by the end of January.
Legislation passed in City Council on Thursday would allow workers in city’s Community Life Improvement Programs, or CLIP, to clip the locks on vacant and abandoned fenced-in lots whose owners are either lost, unknown or unresponsive.
The ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, gives greater power to CLIP, which works to improve the appearance of neighborhoods and eradicate blight.
WILKES-BARRE, PA — Sherman Hills tenants are experiencing life-threatening security issues that include inoperable surveillance cameras, broken windows and more than half of exterior lights not turned on or broken, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report said.
The report, made public Thursday, follows a two-day HUD inspection in September of six of the eight “garden style buildings” within the complex, including Building 328, where two girls suffered gunshot wounds in August.
The sprawling 344-unit apartment complex off Coal Street has been plagued by violent crime in recent years, including the shooting of the two girls and a fatal shooting of a woman on Nov. 11.
A two-alarm fire in September 2011 gutted a vacant row home at 1422 Muhlenberg St., damaged two neighboring properties, and started the city on yet another frustrating journey to find an owner and order that a building be properly boarded up.
The Muhlenberg Street problem was just one skirmish in the city’s ongoing battle to find elusive property owners for such things as fire cleanup, unpaid taxes, quality-of-life tickets or blight.
But the battle may soon be over.
The city has a plan to get banks to register their foreclosures and may hire an outside firm to help monitor and enforce the rules.
“When I was growing up, Penn Street was the most vital area you could go to. It had five movie theaters,” the Boscov’s Department Stores chairman recalled of the city in the first half of the twentieth century. “When I look at Reading today, it’s not what I would like to see.”
“It’s not the Reading I know,” Boscov told a crowd of about 100 at Alvernia University on Friday night. “And it’s not the Reading it has to be.”
Boscov came to Francis Hall on Friday for the kick-off of Leadership Berks’ “Leaders, Legends, and Visionaries” series. The discussion was moderated by David Myers, director of Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service.
Harrisburg‘s interim police chief reiterated his passion for community policing during a panel discussion on public safety Thursday held by Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Papenfuse.
During the discussion, Chief Thomas Carter provided further details regarding the plan he presented earlier this week alongside Mayor Linda Thompson to dissolve several specialty police units in order to beef up the city’s overworked regular patrol. Under the plan, 17 officers from groups such as the traffic and street crimes units will be pulled from the chief’s office to resume regular patrols, Carter said.
“We put them back into the fold,” the interim chief said. “The basis of every strong police department is to have patrol officers out there to answer your calls, and we did not have that.”
Carter, who was appointed by Thompson after former Chief Pierre Ritter retired late last month, told the small audience at Thursday’s hearing that, while he believes such steps should have been taken as long as a year ago, he does not fault his predecessor for not making the call.
A Lancaster County judge has OK’d a series of agreements that will allow a developer’s plan to makeover the shuttered Hotel Brunswick.
Judge Jeffery Wright signed an order Wednesday that includes 21 operating agreements between the city, the district attorney’s office and developer John Meeder’s Meeder Development Corp.
The order clears the remaining legal hurdle Meeder had in reopening what was once a city landmark.
Meeder said Wednesday that the order keeps his planned reopening date of “early October” right on track.
COATESVILLE, PA — City Council is updating the city’s revitalization plans.
Council members unanimously voted to establish the Coatesville Downtown Revitalization District during an Aug. 12 meeting, with Councilman Ed Simpson and Vice President Joseph Hamrick absent.
Council President David Collins said the purpose was to target a specific area around expansion and redevelopment projects currently planned for the city.
Collins said this area will be essential to attracting new business enterprises, encouraging commercial development and expansion, improving the aesthetic appearance of the existing architecture, and building a stronger sense of community pride.
Editor’s note: This says it all, “a Saturday stabbing at Levelz injured two people, one of whom witnesses told police was left holding his entrails.” 33 police responses in about a year and a half!
The Allegheny County district attorney’s office has obtained an emergency court order to shut down Levelz Sports Lounge on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
“We had a meeting with the owners to try to talk some sense into them, but they did not comply,” DA’s office spokesman Mike Manko said.
The bar was also contacted by the county’s Nuisance Bar Task Force.
The bar’s owners could not be reached immediately for comment.
There’s a new Facebook page dedicated to crime in Pottstown. Unfortunately, there is a need for such a thing to exist. The delusional leadership doesn’t seem to think there are any problems in town but if you read this page you will see ordinary citizens telling their stories about being victims of crime. Burglary is a big problem in Pottstown along with drugs. Probably because they go hand in hand. This is an eye-opening read which helps keep residents and those who work in town up to date. We urge you to share information and keep informed.
We have listed Crime in Pottstown under our Important Pottstown Sites on the right hand side of the page. Here is a link to click on which will take you directly there.