Driverless cars, partying in dumpsters and the 2016 election: the apocalypse is upon us.
What’s old is new again
Pennsylvania cities love the prefix “re-“: revitalization, redevelopment, reconsidering some of those risky pre-recession investments.
The Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia, in addition to have “re” in the name, is being re-imagined as a rail park, with community space and walking/bike trails.
The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program is finally starting to distribute grants, after not disbursing any funds last year.
FEMA, the federal disaster relief agency, reversed it’s decision to help Harrisburg with it’s sinkhole problem.
Many cities, looking to re-invest in some urban revitalization, consider financing through municipal bonds. But a city’s past record of investing and bond buying can haunt them for years to come. Turns out, bond sellers, like elephants, have long memories.
Law and Order: Pennsylvania
This week, the state supreme court heard an education funding case that could have real implications across the state. NewsWorks offered an in-depth look at the case as it kicked off, and as hearings wore on, Keystone Crossroads’ Kevin McCorry watched the proceedings closely.
Speaking of appeals and education, the School District of Lancaster is resisting a court order to let refugee students enroll in a ESL program. They’ve been sending refugee students to an alternative school called Phoenix Academy, which the ACLU charged was providing an insufficient education. The court agreed — the School District of Lancaster, clearly, did not.
The state Supreme Court is also preparing to rule on a question surrounding police body camera footage. Specifically, who has a right to that footage? And if you let one person review one piece of footage, does everything captured by a body camera become public record? As we’ve reported, these questions have long plagued departments that have tried to introduce the technology.
Drivers are to cars as heads are to horsemen: non-essential
The era of the self-driving car is here, if by “here” you mean Pittsburgh. WESA’s Liz Reid took a ride in one of Uber’s self-driving cars this week, and gave NPR the rundown on the experience. The company isn’t just throwing these cars onto the street. They’re hiring hundreds of Steel City residents to test them out around the city.
While there is much excitement about this new technology, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is pumping the brakes. They say Uber needed to request permission to pilot self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, and no such request has been submitted.
It wasn’t long ago that Uber — driver included — was still a novelty in most places. Uber and other ride-sharing services like Lyft have had a major impact on the taxi cab industry. In Philadelphia, for example, taxi rides are down 40 percent from pre-Uber days.
2016 Election: Pennsylvania edition
The New York Times has declared that the whole Trump-Clinton election could be decided in Pennsylvania, and the Atlantic examined why Western Pennsylvania might go red for the first time in a long time.
This might explain why the candidates have spent so much time stumping in the Keystone State. Mike Pence was in Scranton on Wednesday, Donald Trump’s outreach to black voters has made in-roads with suburban white voters and Hillary Clinton is hoping to appeal to millenials in Philly on Monday.
If you’re interested in learning more about the campaign finance records of more local candidates, good luck. Pennsylvania’s campaign finance website is a bit lackluster. Advocates for greater transparency of the records say they have been petitioning for an upgrade since 2008.
Dumpsters and drinks
What is it about dumpsters? No, seriously, what is it? In Philly, people were having dumpster pool parties and in Pittsburgh, they are turning them into pocket parks. Say what you will about Central Pennsylvania, no one has ever tried to put me in a trash receptacle for fun out here.
They have tried to convert me to the Penn State football mania. In the midst of a few weeks of Pennsylvania football rivalry games (Penn State/Pittsburgh, Penn State/Temple, um, Temple/Villanova, I guess) we examined why cities can’t function like football teams.
One thing we can all agree on, from Philadelphia to Erie, Pittsburgh to the Poconos: a little whiskey never hurt anybody. (Ignoring, of course, the Whiskey Rebellions of 1791.) Pittsburgh business owners have proposed two museums to highlight Western Pennsylvania’s ‘beer and shot’ culture. And Harrisburg is hosting the Central Pennsylvania Whiskey Festival at the end of October.
Cheers to that!