In case you missed it: This week’s best reads from Pennsylvania cities

    In honor of Labor Day, let’s talk jobs. 

    Make that money

    For five months in a row, Pennsylvania saw job growth, generally at a rate faster than the national average. Then, in July that growth slowed or stopped completely, with some regions seeing unemployment increase. Franklin County had it’s highest unemployment rate since 2013-2014, and Erie County also saw a significant increase. 

    The August job growth numbers are out and nationally, they’re a bit weaker than expected. 

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    But the number of jobs isn’t the only measure of success. Many workers in Pennsylvania have jobs that don’t pay as much as they used to. According to the Keystone Research Center, white men without college degrees earn $5.31/hour less than they did in 1980. (Adjusted for inflation.) Black men without college degrees, and all men with college degrees have also seen declines. 

    The only group that’s improved since the 80s? Women, who still earn less than men in Pennsylvania. (We rank among the worst in the country when it comes to gender equity.)

    Though, if you work for the state government, you might not be complaining. In March, Governor Wolf raised the minimum wage for some state employees, from $7.25 to $10.15 an hour. This week, he granted raises to management and non-union workers in his government. Union employees received pre-negotiated raises in January. 

    Law and order

    Police departments around the state are grappling with some major issues. PennLive is examining Harrisburg’s use-of-force policy after an officer used deadly force on a suspect in early August. 

    The Pittsburgh Police Department is scaling back their response to calls for service that won’t result in an arrest. 

    Sunbury, a hotspot of police misconduct, has fired an officer for misuse of a stun gun. 

    And the new Reading police Chief reassured the community that he’s committed to the job — even though he’s missed a few meetings. 

    Pennsylvania is also examining it’s relationship with felons as new federal guidelines emerge about juvenile offenders and private prisons.

    Pennsylvania is among the minority of states that don’t compensate people who have been wrongly incarcerated, but a recent exoneration has brought that policy into question once more. 

    And Philadelphia is using a computer algorithm to cut it’s prison population, particularly for those who are just awaiting trial but can’t afford bail. 

    A little razzle-dazzle

    What would really make your city sparkle? A nice coat of paint? A new convention center? A more professionalized city government?  

    Allegheny County is launching a new initiative to battle blight. They plan to convert unused green space into community gathering spots and encourages neighbors to care about the outside appearance of their homes. 

    In Philly, improvements don’t always come from the government. A renegade group of artists have been turning potholes into works of art. And even as the city invests nearly half a billion dollars into remaking the Sharswood neighborhood, residents remember a time when they were known for something else: jazz. 

    As Sharswood indicates, not everyone always agrees on what makes for a good neighborhood. That’s where community benefits agreements come into play, where developers or the city agree to work with residents to strike a deal everyone can get on board with.

    If you’re still not sure that your city government has any idea what’s going on, encourage your mayor to sign up for a new mayoral training program put on by Harvard.  

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