In case you missed it: This week’s good reads about Pennsylvania cities

     AP Photo/File

    AP Photo/File

    This week is history. Happy 75th Birthday to the Pennsylvania Turnpike… and the budget stalemate is taking its toll. 

    Highway history

    It was thought of as “the eighth wonder of the world,” and the first Autobahn of America, but for some small towns, its creation had a devastating impact as it replaced the winding Lincoln Highway. As we look at the 75th birthday of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, much has changed. The tolls that were supposed to be temporary are still with us, and the exit towns the turnpike created have become an economic engine.

    For some nostalgia, enjoy some vintage photos of the Lincoln Highway. (Pennlive)Budget

    Call it the impasse, debacle or battle — Pennsylvania still doesn’t have a budget. A survey of 43 nonprofit social service providers in the Commonwealth found that without state funding, they are curtailing services, reducing staff and are experiencing cash flow problems.Counties rely heavily on state funding for their social services. Is there any way to predict which county governments are the most vulnerable when this funding is delayed? We’ve created a map for that.As some of the region’s domestic violence centers have been forced to close due to lack of state funding, Bellefonte’s shelter is taking in additional clients during what has been declared Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Centre Daily Times)Until a budget is passed, Somerset County is halting payments to vendors and service providers, including foster parents and placement facilities. The county will continue to fund mandated services. Cambria County also finds itself seeking a 12 million dollar loan after being “pushed to the brink.” (The Tribune Democrat

    Northumberland County has borrowed five million dollars to pay its bills through the end of 2015. (The News-Item)Governor Wolf scaled back his tax plan in advance of a Wednesday’s House vote, removing both sales tax and an increased tax on cigarettes. However, the House rejected Wolf’s budget. The saga continues. (WITF)

    Education

    An audit released Tuesday by the Pa. Auditor General found that Pennsylvania’s Department of Education has failed the poorest performing schools and that the Board of Education’s “master plan” has not been updated since 1999. The law requires that the plan for K-12 be updated every five years.

    Chester Upland is Pennsylvania’s most financially distressed school district. Negotiations are under way to create a financial recovery plan to bring the district back to solvency. With Governor Wolf’s support, the district is asking a judge to approve the plan. 

    Land bank update

    In early September, Keystone Crossroads reported on the obstacles faced by the two largest land banks in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Update: On October 6, the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation reached a labor agreement that has put the Philadelphia Land Bank closer to becoming fully operational. Stay tuned for updates on the update. (PlanPhilly)

    Lackawanna County recently appointed members to its own Land Bank board. (The Times-Tribune)

    Land Trusts

    How do you keep housing affordable when urban neighborhoods begin to gentrify? An idea that Pennsylvania municipalities could steal would be to increase its number of land trusts. When land is purchased by an organization, often a nonprofit, and conserved for a particular use, it becomes a land trust

     

    Tech  

    A new county-wide DNA database that shares information from 40 police departments in Bucks County is reducing wait times, clearing innocent suspects and helping to catch criminals in other municipalities.How ironic. While many US schools are trying to boost STEM opportunities, students in India are being encouraged to pursue other fields, including journalism and sports. Too much parental pressure to pursue a technical career is resulting in too many STEM graduates competing for jobs.

    Lyft is moving its customer support employees from San Francisco to Nashville. Why? It’s more affordable. Nashville is excited and hopes the move results in the creation of 400 jobs. 

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    Have a great weekend.

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