Politics, politics and politics. Is it November yet?
Pols behaving badly
We’ve got to start with the top story of the week: former Attorney General Kathleen Kane was convicted on all nine counts of perjury and obstruction, and resigned soon after. She is the second Attorney General convicted of wrongdoing in Pennsylvania history, after Ernie Preate, also from Scranton. But considering we’ve only had 10 elected AGs, it’s not a great record.
Kane hasn’t been sentenced yet, but already, her seat has been occupied by two different leaders. Immediately, Kane’s deputy, Bruce Castor stepped into the role. He’s most famous for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005 in Montgomery County. On Thursday, Governor Wolf nominated Inspector General Bruce Beemer to the position.
Meanwhile, Philly is embroiled in political scandals of its own. District Attorney Seth Williams filed an overdue report of gifts received over the last six years, totaling $160,000. He could be penalized up to a full year’s salary, $175,000.
Pols campaigning in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is so hot right now, and I don’t just mean this interminable heat wave sitting over the state. Pennsylvania is the place to be for politicians this election. Last week, Donald Trump stopped in both Erie and Altoona. On Monday, Hillary Clinton was in Scranton with hometown hero Joe Biden. All three events had large, enthusiastic turnout.
Not everyone is so enthusiastic, though. Silver Spring Township is seeking reimbursement for nearly $12,000 worth of expenses incurred during a recent Trump rally. It’s unclear who is going to pay, Cumberland Valley School District, the campaign, or the taxpayers. Township Supervisor Robert Seader said most of the expenses are for police and public works overtime.
Speaking of campaign spending, Pennsylvania’s senate race is the most expensive in the country. Katie McGinty, Pat Toomey, and related super PACs have spent more than $52 million — and it’s only August.
Philadelphia has a problem with pole stumps, the bit of metal left in the ground when a street sign is knocked over. People trip over them and sue the city for medical expenses — $1.1 million in the last 18 months.
Philly also has a problem with dumpster pools, where people rent a dumpster and fill it via fire hydrant for a block party. (Wondering where your best bet is to find a block party? PlanPhilly mapped them all, for the past 10 years.) The city had to issue a formal no-no, since it was taxing the fire hydrants needed in case of … fire.
I’ve been told that I sometimes throw shade at Philly in this blog. So I’ll just say, good luck dealing with your small metal bits and large metal bins, Philadelphia. The rest of the state is rooting for you.
Back to school!
While some students are memorizing combination locks and sharpening pencils, others are sitting in court. Six student refugees have brought a lawsuit against the Lancaster School District, alleging they are receiving a substandard education. The city has a large refugee population, and has sent a lot of the students to a private, alternative school called Phoenix Academy.
It’s up to a judge in Easton to decide if the students are being disadvantaged by this system. The trial has also raised questions about these alternative schools, sometimes seen as diploma mills that get students out of the system, with or without a real education.
Accelerated credit programs run without much state oversight. The same could be said for charter schools in Pennsylvania, which are governed by a law that hasn’t been updated since 1997. While other states consider updating laws, Pennsylvania is, according to one expert, “the exception to the rule.”
Students across Pennsylvania may have cause to celebrate, particularly if they don’t like standardized tests. Governor Wolf’s administration is hoping to move away from standardized tests as a graduation requirement. The Keystone Exams, which never quite got off the ground, may be gone for good before long.
Cheers to the weekend
The first grocery store in Pennsylvania has started selling wine! Giant Eagle, in Robinson, is the first to capitalize on the loosening of Pennsylvania’s liquor laws.
Curious if your grocery store is next? We’ve compiled a map for you.
And if you over-imbibe, Pittsburgh has an alternative for getting you home safely. Later this month, Uber is launching self-driving cars in the Steel City. There will still be human back-up drivers, per Pennsylvania laws. Some say this first in the nation experiment is a sign that Pittsburgh is the tech city of the future.