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

     A ferry shuttles people on the Allegheny River to the Water Steps on the North Shore in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    A ferry shuttles people on the Allegheny River to the Water Steps on the North Shore in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Happy Birthday to Keystone Crossroads! Four public media stations launched a statewide reporting project on Pennsylvania’s distressed cities on June 23, 2014.

    Happy Birthday to Keystone Crossroads! Four public media stations collaborated and launched a statewide reporting project on Pennsylvania’s distressed cities on June 23, 2014. Two television programs, six community forums and many features, photo essays, series, videos and podcasts later, we continue to explore the challenges and opportunities of Pennsylvania cities. Next up: waterfronts.

    Water, water everywhere

    Pennsylvania cities and towns were built along waterways. What changes have you noticed? Share your observations, photographs or short videos by emailing llazarski@whyy.org or through Twitter @Pacrossroads. Don’t forget to tell us your location and we may include your contributions in our upcoming series on waterfronts. 

    What happens when you experience damage from a water main break and your insurance won’t pay? With aging infrastructure, cities are finding this a common and expensive problem. (NewsWorks)

    Law and order

    The Supreme Court has affirmed the Affordable Care Act and same sex marriage in all 50 states. Major decisions are also being made at the local level. (The New York Times)

    The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck down a law that made it easier for gun rights groups to bring lawsuits against cities.

    And the action is not just taking place at the court house. State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report which found “the transactions surrounding the doubling of pension payments [to Scranton city workers] revealed a disregard for the applicable laws governing pension plans by the officials charged with fiduciary responsibility for the Plan – the Mayor, City Council, and the Pension Board.”

    A special audit of theScranton pension plan confirmed that the payments were never authorized by an ordinance. (The Times -Tribune)

    Scranton Mayor William Courtright called for all of the city’s pension funds to be handed over to the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System (PMRS). That includes the police and firefighter plans.

    Immigration

    Mayor Bill Peduto introduced a new plan to make Pittsburgh more welcome to immigrants.

    The Department of Homeland Security hopes to end long-term detention of immigrants seeking asylum, but a Berks County facility currently holds 90 immigrants. (The Reading Eagle)

    Education

    Pennsylvania schools are required to adopt their budgets by June 30, while lawmakers are not required to meet this deadline (and often don’t). So school officials are forced to make educated guesses about what their 2015-16 budget will be, before they know how much funding they will receive.

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow school districts to ignore seniority when deciding to lay off the small minority of the state’s teachers who have below proficient ratings.

    According to a report published by the Center for American Progress, the Reading School District has been named the second most economically disadvantaged district in the nation. Allentown ranks third. (The Reading Eagle)

    Many school districts increase local property taxes to make ends meet. Act 1 capped the amount, but it is a complex, sometimes controversial law, as the latest Multiple Choices installment explains.

    Transportation

    There is free-range chicken, free-range parenting and now free-range transportation for Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle. This concept of shared space, pioneered by Dutch engineer Hans Monderman, removes traffic signals, signs and crosswalks. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

    Perhaps we could also learn something from a London study that concludes that traffic noise leads to more strokes and cardiovascular disease. (CityLab)

    Speaking of health,  a bicycle advocate had her first urban bike ride to a doctor’s appointment. Many years later, she realized the many benefits of observing the rules of the road. (NewsWorks)

     PlanPhilly has your back, and your feet, creating a map indicating the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians. (PlanPhilly)

    Raising the rent

    As rents in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood increased, residents feared that higher rents would threaten its diversity. As reporter Marielle Segarra discovered on her fellowship in Germany, the neighbors created Prinzessinnengarten, an urban garden to raise awareness of sustainability and the need to maintain cultural diversity.

    Rent increases are being felt in smaller Pennsylvania cities, where the median monthly rent in Lancaster is $1,367. (Lancaster Online)

    Buying your own home was part of the American dream, but many are forced to rent as home ownership continues to fall. (The New York Times)

    For New Yorkers, where renting outpaces home ownership, many renters are also seniors. (CityLab)

    To park or not to park?

    Parklets are a hot button issue for Easton restaurants that want to use parking space for outdoor dining. (Lehigh Valley Live) 

    Finding a parking spot can make you hot under the collar. Brooklyn has an app for that. SpotPog lets users both identify parking spots and reserve them, as well as offer a spot to someone else — and at least a few city officials are fans. (NextCity)

    However, in Philly, it might be asking too much of residents to move their cars once a week for street cleaning. So here is a gentle reminder that for most of us there is no such thing as a permanent public parking spot. (Philadelphia City Paper)

    Just for fun

    Despite some last-minute controversy, the Tall Ships arrived in Philadelphia, along with Mama Rubber Duck, a 61 foot tall, 11 ton friend. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Heard of pink elephants? A pink hippo mysteriously appears in the Lehigh Valley’s Musconetcong River. (Lehigh Valley Live)

    A new museum exhibit in Scranton traces the history of the cocktail, which can often be “fuzzy”, if not fizzy. From early medicinal uses to the Temperance movement, the science and culture of alcohol packs a punch. (The Times-Tribune)

    Have a great weekend!

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