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

     Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams arrives for his arraignment on bribery and extortion charges at the federal courthouse, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams arrives for his arraignment on bribery and extortion charges at the federal courthouse, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    It was a week when political corruption and scandal polluted the commonwealth.

    It was a week when political corruption and scandal polluted the commonwealth.

    Federal authorities charged troubled Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams with 23 counts of public corruption stemming from a gifts scandal. Williams was indicted on charges that he accepted more than $34,000 in gifts, including a $6,300 trip to Punta Cana, airline tickets to Florida, Las Vegas and San Diego, a $3,212 custom sofa and a $4,160 used Jaguar convertible.

    The most egregious offense? Williams allegedly took more than $20,000 from his mother earmarked for her nursing home expenses, but spent it instead on his personal expenses, according to the indictment. 

    In Allentown, a former top administrator also pleaded guilty in an ongoing FBI pay-to-play corruption probe.

    Former Allentown Managing Director Francis Dougherty pleaded guilty to a conspiracy mail fraud charge.

    Prosecutors say Dougherty helped rig a $3 million contract to replace the city’s street lights so that it would go to a company whose executives and consultants gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to his boss, Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

    This doesn’t bode well for Pawlowski, who is identified in court papers as an unnamed official. Dougherty has fully agreed to cooperate with authorities, which means the ongoing attention on Pawlowski will be unavoidable.

    And in Harrisburg, former Penn State University President Graham Spanier was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of child endangerment over his handling of a complaint against retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, but found him not guilty of conspiracy and a second child endangerment count.

    Outside the courtroom, the effects of Sandusky’s actions are still being felt statewide.

    From political to environmental pollution

    In pollution of the environmental variety, flushable wipes and other dumping is increasing wastewater costs in Pennsylvania. 

     “Everybody throws in these baby wipes, and they’re supposed to be degradable, but they’re simply not,” said Richard Dulay, the Morrisville Wastewater Treatment Plant superintendent.

    The wipes gum up pipes and machinery, leading to costly repairs. Additionally, wastewater-treatment plant operators face an array of foes — from sudden rainstorms to industrial dumping to a chronic lack of federal investment.  

    Fact check: After President Donald Trump’s executive order, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were tasked with publishing reports on a regular basis showing how local law enforcement agencies respond to detainer requests, and what happens thereafter. The first report, released this week, disclosed that much of the information provided about Pennsylvania jurisdictions was incomplete, misleading or, according to some officials, flat-out wrong.

    Pennsylvania unlike other states, enjoyed some population growth: From 2015 to 2016 the state waved goodbye to fewer than 8,000 people. Most counties lost population, though 19 posted some growth.

    Allegheny County — home to Pittsburgh — made the top-10 list for largest-declining counties. Despite a drop in people moving in from other states or counties, Philadelphia County gained population, helped along by immigrants. Some counties in the southeast, such as Lebanon and Lehigh, also drew more residents.

    But population trends are to demography what weather is to climate: They change easily over time, and don’t offer the full picture.

    Pipeline a go. Health care? Not so much 

    The U.S. State Department has signed and issued a presidential permit to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. That reverses former President Barack Obama’s 2015 decision to reject the controversial pipeline.

    Pipeline company TransCanada says that in conjunction with the Trump administration signing off on its pipeline, it will drop a claim for more than $15 billion that it filed under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    The company also says it will drop a lawsuit that claimed Obama’s decision was unconstitutional.

    If only President Donald Trump could push his agenda items as quickly as the pipeline deal. On Friday, House Republicans scraped a vote after concluding they still didn’t have enough votes to pass their replacement plan for Obamacare.

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