The week’s news featured political attack ads over health care, tales of pressures from unauthorized immigrants, and uncertainty for retired union coal miners.
Congress may be on Spring break, but the political attack ads haven’t let up.
Television ads attacking Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent have set the stage for the next battle over Republican-led health care proposals to replace Obamacare.
On the right are the conservatives who want a more aggressive rollback. And on the left are the progressives who want to protect former President Obama’s signature law.
In the cross hairs have been moderate lawmakers such as Dent.
“President Trump and House conservatives have come together with a new plan,” said an ad launched by the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee. “So, who’s standing in the way? Professional politicians like Congressman Charlie Dent.
The ad then urges viewers to call Dent’s Lehigh Valley office.
Dent, who co-chairs the Tuesday Group caucus of GOP moderates, said the ad is misleading because there have only been discussions with the Trump administration and no new plan yet has been implemented.
In state politics, Gov. Tom Wolf’s minimum wage plans may hit an economic reality roadblock, says Jordan Bruneau, a senior research analyst at the Employment Policies Institute.
A new report by Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office finds Gov. Wolf’s proposed 66 percent minimum wage increase to $12 would cost the state nearly 54,000 jobs. Worse, those lost jobs would be concentrated in food service and retail sectors that often operate on thin profit margins, making it hard to absorb dramatic increases in labor costs.
Gov. Wolf’s spokesperson countered by saying the states surrounding Pennsylvania have raised their minimum wage, and “there is no evidence that those increases led to a loss of employment.”
But evidence across state lines does not bear that out.
On the Philly front
Philadelphia has pulled the plug on its parking app system, MeterUp, and is looking for a new vendor to fill that vacancy. Other forms of cashless payment are still available.
According to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Pango, the parent company of MeterUp, suffered revenue shortfalls and couldn’t pay contractors.
Pango continues to work in other Pennsylvania cities. The app can be used in Scranton, Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, Latrobe, and Butler.
On the crime front, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have about the same per-capita homicide rate. That’s according to new figures provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Last year, 278 people were killed in Philadelphia, a city of about 1.5 million residents. In Pittsburgh, population of about 300,000, 56 people were slain.
Those statistics amount to a 17.7 percent homicide rate per 100,000 residents for Philadelphia, versus Pittsburgh’s 18.4 percent.
The aggressively enforced immigration laws are increasing the pressure on unauthorized immigrants in Philadelphia.
Aggressive enforcement affects people like Javier Flores, who is not authorized to be in the U.S. He has been deported to his native Mexico and returned to America three times. In between, he was detained in a Pike County, Pa. detention center for 16 months.
On Nov. 13, the day he was slated to go back, Flores decided to do something immigrant advocates describe as the “last resort:” taking sanctuary at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City Philadelphia. He lived in the church with his two sons for five months. Essentially, he lives in limbo, a stone’s throw from City Hall.
While Philadelphia has provided Flores and others like him a sanctuary, other state residents are not so welcoming. The latest episode of the “Grapple” podcast explores personal stories that speak to some of the intense and passionate feelings around immigration.
The first story takes place in Hazelton, where two long-time residents believe that immigrants have taken over their hometown.
The second story is an economic tale that traces their feelings about immigration to the decline of the Rust Belt and the rise of Donald Trump,
And in Philadelphia, two undocumented chefs working in Philadelphia share how they feel stuck.
Training to serve LGBT elders
Harry Adamson, 67, and a Philadelphia resident, has lived with HIV for 32 years. So he thinks it’s a good idea.
“But you have to discern how you can engage people so they can tell you what they need,” Adamson said.
Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders, or SAGE — the nation’s largest and oldest organization committed to improving the lives of LGBT elders —provided the training.
The intention is to build trust in a community that has traditionally been reluctant to utilize aging services out of mistrust and fear of harassment.
A threat to retired coal miners
More than 2,000 retired union coal miners in Pennsylvania will lose their health care unless Congress passes the Miners Protection Act by April 28.
A version of the bill has made its way through Congress over the last two years with bipartisan support. But its future depends and on whether House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell schedule the bill for a vote.
ICE’s bad reporting
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s recent detainer outcome reports have been fraught with errors.
ICE’s so-called declined detainer outcome reports were initiated amid federal officials’’ threats to withhold federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities.”
The first report stated that Franklin County declined detainer requests during a week when inmates were, in fact, transferred into ICE custody.
In Chester, jail officials told ICE they didn’t have custody of the person being sought by the agency. This showed up as a refusal on the report. But it turns out ICE was wrong about the location.
And third to the last…
Johnstown holds the dubious distinction of being the third fastest shrinking city in the country behind Pine Bluff Arkansas, and Farmington, New Mexico.
The Johnstown metro region, which includes all of Cambria County, lost 5.5 percent of its population since 2011.
Johnstown’s unemployment rate is at 7.3 percent, greater than the state average of 5.3 percent, and the poverty rate is more than double the state average — 35 percent versus 13 percent.