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

    What remains of the St. Nicholas coal breaker near Mahanoy City

    What remains of the St. Nicholas coal breaker near Mahanoy City

    We released a podcast and other important news.

    It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here! 

    The first two episodes of Keystone Crossroads’ new podcast, Grapple, released this week. Each week, we’ll be bringing you an in-depth visit to a distressed city in Pennsylvania, as well as a big picture, 30,000 foot view from the nation’s leading experts. 

    This week, we went to Mahanoy City, where the motto was “coal keeps the lights on.” Today, the coal industry has dried up and the city has shrunk to a fraction of it’s original size. Keeping the lights on, and keeping city functions running, is increasingly challenging. 

    Mahanoy City is the latest town to seek protection under the state’s distressed city program, called Act 47. As we’ve reported, Act 47 can be a blessing and a curse, but for many cities and towns, it’s the only chance to stave off bankruptcy. 

    In Episode 02 of Grapple, also released this week, we talked to Adam Davidson, the founder of Planet Money and contributing writer for The New Yorker, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, the Mid-Atlantic bureau chief of The New York Times. Both have reported on signs of decline, and signs of life, in struggling coal communities.

    Stay tuned for future episodes, released each Wednesday.

    The boys (and girls) are back in town

    Harrisburg is back, baby. The legislators have returned for what promises to be at least a semi-productive session before the election. The governor scheduled a special joint session to address the opioid crisis, and a PennLive op-ed implores state leaders to take up the pension crisis as well.  

    There’s one issue that the federal government has resolved for the state. The National Highway Safety Administration released 112 pages of guidelines for autonomous cars. PennDOT’s task force on the matter is still working toward creating Pennsylvania-specific guidelines, but it looks like they’ll be borrowing liberally from the feds. 

    And even when the state government gets something right, people always want more. One example: dozens of historic buildings have been preserved across the state, thanks to a tax credit program. But preservationists say the allocated funds don’t go far enough, and want greater investment in the project. 

    Changing cities

    The Reading City Council is considering decriminalizing marijuana, but Mayor Wally Scott plans to veto the bill. 

    Lancaster County has housed the last person struggling with chronic homelessness, the first county in the country to do so. As we’ve reported, many cities in the state struggle with homeless encampments. 

    Can Pittsburgh’s revitalization be for everyone? A city foundation is dedicating significant funding to to address economic inequality in the city. It’s called 100 Percent Pittsburgh.

    After a shooting outside a William Penn High School football game in York, the mayor has sounded off about the rise of gun violence in the city. In Scranton, meanwhile, the police have engaged in crisis training, and that has contributed to declining use-of-force rates. 

    This section is total trash

    As we’ve reported, Pennsylvania is the nation’s largest importer of trash and has the second most trash per capita. That means a lot of landfills. 

    A landfill in Manor Twp., Lancaster County has just gotten approval to expand, a controversial move that doesn’t have the support of the entire community.

    A similar fight is happening outside Scranton, in the boroughs of Dunmore and Throop. Both the landfill operators and anti-landfill activists are waiting to hear the DEP’s ruling on the proposed expansion, but it hasn’t stopped them from trying to win hearts and minds. Keystone Sanitary, the landfill owners, hired a consultant to prove that the landfill does not negatively impact property values. 

    Residents living near the landfill on a warm day might disagree. 

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