New Reading Authority Racing To Meet Deadline For State CRIZ Application

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

At its second meeting in as many days, the newly formed City of Reading Revitalization and Improvement Zone Authority continued racing a Nov. 30 deadline to apply for a state CRIZ designation.

“If we win, I hope the new zone will create jobs to help stimulate our economy and the community’s growth,” said Mike Toledo, director of the Daniel Torres Hispanic Center and authority treasurer.

The CRIZ program was created by recent state legislation to provide economic development and job creation within a city. Only two Pennsylvania third-class cities will receive that zone designation in 2013. Other candidates are Allentown, Bethlehem, Altoona, Wilkes-Barre, Chester, Erie, Lancaster and York.

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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 Police Department’s Park-And-Walk An Arresting Program

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Editor’s note:  Pottstown should be using these same policing tactics!

Sharon Hetrick has lived in the 1300 block of Church Street since 1982.

Her neighborhood has undergone many changes in 31 years and right now she said things are pretty good.

Even so, she said she was glad to see Reading Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer come knocking on her door one afternoon recently.  (Hint to Bonnie Heath)

“Right now things are pretty stable.  Except for a couple of vacant houses, everyone takes care of their property,” Hetrick told the mayor and city Patrolmen Andrew Seiler and George Morar.

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Reading Looks To Rewrite The Rules To Help Business

Contractors, developers and even city officials have complained for years that getting approvals and permits from City Hall is too complicated and takes too long.

Developer Alan Shuman, prodded recently by City Council, said it often takes him four weeks and longer to get permits in hand for many of his projects.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer had campaigned on building a more business-friendly City Hall and told a business group in April that it often takes four to six weeks to issue a permit.

“Businesses jump down my throat for that,” he said.

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Spencer Unveils Bold Plan For Reading

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with ...

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

Reading Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer on Thursday outlined an ambitious agenda of more than a dozen initiatives, some already begun, to improve the finances and conditions of the city and its neighborhoods.

Speaking to several dozen people attending the Pennsylvania Economy League’s Issues Forum at the Berkshire Country Club in Bern Township, Spencer recounted his campaign themes and said: “Those are the promises; what people expect is performance.”

He then led the audience through a rapid-fire explanation of where the city is and where it’s planning to go in several key areas.

He said the city has set goals for each area and is requiring any department initiatives to match those goals, with their results to be measured.

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Next Generation Of Reading Police Cameras Keeping Watch

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. ...

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. Taken by Adrian Pingstone in August 2004 and released to the public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Pottstown needs to get cameras! There are grants out there!

Criminals, beware, for Big Brother is getting more eyes to see you.

And remember you.

Reading’s next round of 20 security cameras is being installed in new neighborhoods, augmenting the 27 cameras in the downtown network since 2008.

“We’ve been pretty successful with them,” Police Chief William M. Heim said, noting there have been dozens of cases in which the existing cameras have been helpful in solving crimes and arresting suspects.

In March, City Council awarded a $650,000 camera contract to New York-based Let’s Think Wireless, with money from the same 2007 federal grant of $1.7 million that bought the first round from the same company.

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Reading Mayor Outlines Progress Made During 1st Year In Office

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

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

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer not only used his annual “State of the City” speech Thursday to outline the progress he made his first year in office in 2012, but also to criticize City Council for what he called its obstructionism.

Spencer said he had a bold vision, and promised to hit the ground running on the first day to implement it.

“Then, something went wrong,” he said.

Spencer did not say what went wrong, but said the early disputes were resolved.

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Reading City Hall Manager Quits After 3 Weeks

Isamac Torres-Figueroa, hired three weeks ago to run Reading City Hall’s Citizen Service Center, abruptly resigned Monday, city officials said.

The officials would not comment on reports by sources over the weekend that Torres-Figueroa was given a resign-or-be-fired mandate Friday afternoon.  Reading City Hall sources on Monday confirmed the mandate.

Managing Director Carole B. Snyder said only that Torres-Figueroa submitted her resignation Monday, and that the city is weighing its options for how to fill the vacancy.  She would not comment further.

Contacted Monday night, Torres-Figueroa said she was afforded a great opportunity in the city position and learned a lot.

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Reading Mayor Defends How He Built Team

Reading City Hall on the NRHP since April 13, ...

Reading City Hall on the NRHP since April 13, 1982. At 8th and Washington Streets, Reading, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since his Jan. 2 inauguration, Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer has awarded six outside consulting contracts, worth a total of $176,000, to give him more people to carry out his agendas.

All of these contracts circumvented the city’s normal contract-awarding process; all of them bypassed City Council; all but one of them involved members of his campaign and/or transition committees; and one was for the services of a media manager, who council had previously rejected for a city job.

Council members’ responses have ranged from livid to concerned. Several claim it’s all political patronage for those who got Spencer elected, and several say the city could better use the money to hire a badly needed police officer or firefighter.

But Spencer defends the contracts, saying they give him the extra help the administration needs and are the only way the city can plan how to do a better job, which he defines as saving money or raising revenue without increasing tax rates.

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Reading, PA To Nearly Double Number Of Street Cameras

Two Roy’s Rants thumbs up!  Reading is being proactive on crime and blight!  Make sure you read the rest of the article, especially Pottstown Borough Council and leadership!

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. ...

Image via Wikipedia

City Council on Monday agreed to expand Reading’s security camera system, awarding a $650,000 contract to New York-based Let’s Think Wireless to add 20 or more cameras to the 27 the city already has.

Cameras in the first phase are mostly downtown, but the new cameras will be installed in other areas of the city, Police Chief William M. Heim said.

The new cameras also will connect wirelessly to City Hall monitoring stations, rather than via the fiber-optic links used by the current cameras.

“What we have so far has worked very well,” Heim said.

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New Reading Mayor Calls Coordination Key To Jobs Plan

English: Reading City Hall on the NRHP since A...

Image via Wikipedia

Piggy-backing on a positive national report on job creation, Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer on Friday recounted what his administration is doing to create jobs in the city.

Primary among them will be to complete a plan on how the city and the Reading Redevelopment Authority can cooperate on economic development, he said.

The city already has a wider economic development plan, urging it to focus on one site at a time and find a new tenant for it.

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