Last night, more than 70 residents of the Lehigh Valley braved the snow (seriously, what is this weather?) to attend our forum in Bethlehem.
It was the sixth community forum Keystone has held since we launched last June.
Participants told us they are frustrated with their elected officials, both locally and in Harrisburg. They want to see more in-depth coverage of their cities in the media, not just crime blotters and rewritten press releases.
They want us, as reporters, to explain the jargon everyone throws around without thinking. (We encourage everyone to check out our explainers, including ones on the Neighborhood Improvement Zone and the state’s distressed communities law, Act 47. And let us know if you have an idea for a new explainer!)
They’re worried about gentrification and development that benefits the wealthy and pushes out lower-income residents. That’s especially the case in Allentown, where the Neighborhood Improvement Zone development is making some people worry they won’t be able to stay in their homes.
Participants also said they’re concerned about inequality in public school funding. And they say public transportation in the area is abysmal.
Participants also said they want to see more positivity, and more ideas for how to address their cities’ problems.
The participants at last night’s forum were talking about cities in the Lehigh Valley, but they could have been residents of any of Pennsylvania’s distressed cities. The challenges and concerns are the same.
While that might be depressing to some, we find hope in that realization. If these cities share the same problems, maybe they can share solutions, too.
We want residents to know that we hear you, and we’ll continue to create stories for our statewide network about the ideas you expressed last night.
Here’s a write-up of last night’s event on PBS39’s website.