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

     A polar bear is testing the strength of thin sea ice. Polar bears are prime examples of how the anthropogenic influence on Earth's climate system endangers other lifeforms. Credit: Mario Hoppmann (distributed via

    A polar bear is testing the strength of thin sea ice. Polar bears are prime examples of how the anthropogenic influence on Earth's climate system endangers other lifeforms. Credit: Mario Hoppmann (distributed via

    From east to west and all and places in between, news of corruption, need for clean water and impacts of climate change was the order of the day in Pennsylvania. But the good news is some solutions were offered. 

    In Philadelphia, embattled District Attorney Seth Williams scrambled at the 11th hour to find a lawyer he could afford to pay. Enter Thomas Burke, who started with Williams in the prosecutor’s office in 1992, and said he has plenty of time to prepare. Burke also says there’s no evidence Williams sold his office. Last week, federal authorities unveiled a 23-count indictment charging the two-term Democrat in a sprawling corruption case. 

    Meanwhile, on the climate change front, York County Republican senator and gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner has supported natural gas drilling since he was elected. 

    He also maintained that climate change is probably happening, though — citing scientifically unsound evidence — he maintained that the U.S. shouldn’t worry too much about emissions.

    “I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year — you know the rotation of the earth,” Wagner said. “We’re moving closer to the sun.”

    He added, “We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can.”

    In Harrisburg,  President Trump’s executive orders aimed at undoing the signature climate initiative of the Obama administration was met with both anger and relief.

    Gov.  Tom Wolf says he is still committed to combating climate change in Pennsylvania,

    Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell called Trump’s action “disappointing,” saying the state is already experiencing the effects of climate change.

    The Obama administration viewed Pennsylvania as a leader in domestic gas and has viewed it as key to combating climate change. Cheap gas has already undercut coal, a dirtier fossil fuel, in electric power generation. 

    But the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association welcomed Trump’s action.

    “We’ve been through an era of regulatory overkill that’s put the boot on the throat of America’s economy,” PMA president David Taylor told StateImpact Pennsylvania. “Certainly coal is subject to market forces … [Coal] ought not be disadvantaged by government actions.”

    House bill sets stage for unusual override

    A bill currently working its way though the legislature could give the Republican party an opportunity to do something it doesn’t usually do — override Democratic Gov. Wolf.

    House Bill 27 would prevent local police departments from releasing names of officers involved in shootings for at least 30 days following an incident.

    Even though the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups opposed the bill, it passed both chambers with bipartisan support, with enough votes to override a veto.

    Water challenges in Pittsburgh

    Mayor Bill Peduto has ordered an evaluation of the  Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) to address the Pittsburgh’s water system‘s significant structural challenges, from aging infrastructure to ongoing concerns about lead in the city’s drinking water.

    The goal is to restructure.  Kevin Acklin, Peduto’s chief of staff, said, “We are going to spend the time and attention that it takes to restructure this authority to make sure that it’s put on sound financial footing, that we address and eliminate lead from our system, and have a resilient water system and sewer system for many decades to come.” 

    Nevertheless, Pittsburgh is demonstrating that providing clean water is a cooperative effort.

    A few weeks ago, People’s Gas president and CEO Morgan O’Brien called the city to offer the company’s financial support to help provide water filters to city residents. He’d heard about Councilwoman Deb Gross’ urging the city to provide water filters to families with young children, for whom any level of lead is unsafe.

    “It hit a nerve with us,” he said.   

    PWSA estimates 25 percent of its lines are lead. Finding and replacing them will take years and millions of dollars.

    Understanding the language; answering your questions

    Imagine trying to fight for custody of your kids — or against your own eviction — when you can’t speak the language.

    That’s the reality for some attempting to handle matters in Pennsylvania’s civil courts.

    The “Language Access Plan for the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania”  provides a blueprint to bring a state’s 60 judicial districts to comply with state and federal laws mandating language access.

    The plan includes providing signage in languages for non-English speakers in state courts, and  as well evaluating how local policies in comparison with the state plan.

    What are those cameras above the roads? 

    Ever wonder about something  that you wish our reporters would explore? Here’s your chance! You ask the questions, you vote on the questions you’re most curious about, and we answer. Submit a question for us to investigate. 

    This round, Elliot Adler from Philadelphia asked about the cameras and sensors he’s seen popping up more and more on roadways. He asked, “What are these sensors doing, how are they doing it, and what — if any — information are they storing?”

    We provided the answer here. Are they urban assets or privacy intrusions?

    You be the judge. And don’t miss the detail about how you may be giving the state information about your whereabouts without those cameras.

    Education roundup

    In Lancaster, schools settled a federal lawsuit over refugee placement policies.

    The district had been sending refugees 16 and older to an accelerated credit program at the privately-run Phoenix Academy, a magnet school for students at risk. But the students wanted to go to the former International School program at the district’s McCaskey High School.

    The settlement directs all students with the lowest levels of English-level proficiency will begin at McCaskey’s International School. Once their English proficiency reaches the appropriate level, they’ll can choose to go to mainstream classrooms.

    Finally, here’s where you can take our second education quiz. Think you know about public education in Pennsylvania? Test yourself!





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