In case you missed it: The week’s good reads about Pennsylvania cities

     Students at Gustav Falke elementary school in the Wedding section of Berlin, Germany.  Check out the full series The Social Wall: Universal lessons in Berlin’s attempt to integrate schools. (Jessica Kourkounis/For Keystone Crossroads)

    Students at Gustav Falke elementary school in the Wedding section of Berlin, Germany. Check out the full series The Social Wall: Universal lessons in Berlin’s attempt to integrate schools. (Jessica Kourkounis/For Keystone Crossroads)

    U.S. Sen. Bob Casey stirs up a tweet storm over immigration; anti-gentrification runs amuck in Philadelphia, and what underfunding tells us about public education in Pennsylvania and Berlin, Germany.

    U.S. Sen. Bob Casey stirred up a tweet storm this week in an attempt to put a stop to an issue he holds dear.

    Explaining that he didn’t “have hours to try to slow down a deportation, or even stop it,” Casey, D-Pennsylvania, took to Twitter to try to stop the deportation of a Honduran mother and her 5-year-old son.

    The senator questioned the Department of Homeland Security about the handling of deportations of young Central American mothers and children, arguing that they pose no real danger to the country.

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     The mother and son had been held in U.S. immigrant family detention in Texas and most recently in Berks County, Pa., since December 2015.

    Youth drain bad for economy

    Maybe it’s because they move home after graduation, or because they can’t afford to live on their own. Whatever the case, more young residents are leaving Pennsylvania than moving in, according to the Independent Fiscal Office.

    That doesn’t bode well for the commonwealth’s economy. In 2015, Pennsylvania gained about 34,000 college-educated millennials. However, it lost more than 47,000, for a net outflow of nearly 13,000 people between the ages of 20 and 35.

    Prison beds for rent in Pa.? Vermont will take take it

    About 1,000 empty beds at Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections Camp Hill will be filled with inmates from Vermont. The department essentially cut a rental agreement, after Gov. Wolf and the legislature pressured it to cut costs in to trim the budget deficit. 

    The contract will net about $5 million a year. 

    About those annoying plastic bags …

    Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, York, and Erie don’t want those ubiquitous plastic shopping bags flying around, getting ensnarled on cityscape wires and increasing waste disposal costs. Representatives from those cities are urging state Senators to reject a bill that would prevent municipalities from banning plastic bags.

    The House of Representatives approved the bill in April, and now it goes to the Senate for consideration.

    It was supported by most Republicans and opposed by most Democrats.

    Anti-gentrification news

    In Philadelphia, Ori Feibush, a Point Breeze developer who watched half of his upscale town home project burn to the ground Wednesday, causing millions of dollars worth of damage, thinks he has a good idea who did it.

    “I believe that the parties responsible are upwardly mobile white folks who grew up outside of the city. Suburban individuals. Individuals that came from good homes who believe that their way to promote their political persuasion is to stomp their feet and break things,” he told WHYY reporter Bobby Allyn. 

    In another incident reported Monday morning in South Kensington, police said masked vandals spray-painted buildings, damaged fancy cars, and caused property damage to newly built multifamily sites. Two self-described anti-gentrification anarchists were arrested in that case.

    Police are still investigating the Point Breeze incident. 

    Stop and frisk still a problem

    Also in Philadelphia, a  report released by civil rights attorneys indicated that one out of four of the 140,000 stops police officers carried out in 2016 did not meet the legal standard for having “reasonable suspicion.”

    The report comes six years after a 2011 settlement in which the Philadelphia Police Department agreed to reform its use of stop-and-frisk.

    The report also revealed some good news: The total number of pedestrian stops dropped by more than one-third compared to 2015.  But Philadelphia police also illegally stopped more than 35,000 pedestrians in 2016. 

    State police protection: who foots the bill?

    According to the Pennsylvania State Police, 1,287 of the 2,561 municipalities in Pennsylvania have no local police force. Those townships and boroughs rely entirely on the state police. The problem is, all state residents share in the cost of about $1.2 billion annually.

    A new study released by the Pennsylvania Economy League has put hard numbers on the long-term effects of this setup.

    Some of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest communities enjoy state police protection paid for by all state taxpayers, including cash-strapped communities that also fund local law enforcement.

     And the poorest communities are more likely to have local law enforcement, with twice the tax burden.

     Yes, there have been complaints that the setup is unfair, but it hasn’t done any good.

    Special reports from Keystone Crossroads

    Keystone Crossroads reporter Kevin McCorry went to Berlin, Germany to explore some universal truths about public education, and its ongoing attempt to integrate schools. Read the series The Social Wall: Universal lessons in Berlin’s attempt to integrate schools.

    On the latest episode of Grapple, the Keystone Crossroads’ podcast, reporter Lindsay Lazarski travels to Erie, Pa. to understand on a personal level what happens when a public school district is underfunded. The story raises broader questions, such as to what extent kids can be successful when they go to schools with limited resources.

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