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

     A student raises her hand during a summer reading program at West Philadelphia school. (Emma Lee/WHYY) Check out our series of podcasts and web “explainersMultiple Choices. " title="girl-student-raises-hand-1200" width="1" height="1"/>

    A student raises her hand during a summer reading program at West Philadelphia school. (Emma Lee/WHYY) Check out our series of podcasts and web “explainers" that explores the ins and outs of school funding in Pennsylvania:Multiple Choices.

    Happy Friday!

    First up, pensions (our favorite topic as of late)

    We’ve been diving deep into the problem of underfunded municipal pensions. This week, we took a look at the state pension crisis. First, how did we get to a place where underfunded state pensions are such a problem? And next, where do we go from here?

    The New York Times points out the dubious role of pension fund middlemen. (And yes, Pennsylvania’s state pensions systems use pension placement agents.)

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Elections update

    We kept tabs on several key mayoral races in Act 47 cities. Here are some key results. 

    Reading leaders may have voted out the current mayor, but area leaders hope the incoming mayor picks up where Mayor Spencer will leave off. (Reading Eagle)

    Just FYI: a referendum vote in Upper Allen Township means alcohol can be sold in the township for the first time since 1920.   (Cumberlink)


    Latest in our series about public education funding: how, and how much, are teachers paid in Pennsylvania? (Spoiler: more than teachers in most other states.)

    You can see the rest of our Multiple Choices series here.

    Incoming leaders want to make York City schools a “model” for other struggling districts. (York Dispatch) But remember, York City School District has been through the wringer. 

    Rethinking development

    Across the country, people—and cities—are reinventing public spaces with temporary, low-cost (and sometimes illegal) projects. We talked with the author of Tactical Urbanism about the impact of these kinds of projects.

    Should economic development put people — instead of real estate projects — first? (Lancaster Online)

    Next City: “Property tax problems are a root cause of ‘every aspect of distress in a given neighborhood,’ from vacancy to poor public health to crime.” 


    Erie’s population is at the lowest its been in almost a century. (

    But Luzerne and Lackawanna counties are seeing an increase in population(The Times-Tribune)


    Students from Lehigh University are working to “recreate” a neighborhood lost to the university’s expansion and urban renewal. (Lehigh Valley Live)

    The Post-Gazette put together a photo series featuring downtown Pittsburgh landmarks, then and now. (Check out our own Pittsburgh retrospective photo essayHere’s the page to see the rest of our Then and Now series.)


    From CityLabHow America’s failing public transportation increases inequality: “Access to just about everything associated with upward mobility and economic progress—jobs, quality food, and goods (at reasonable prices), healthcare, and schooling— relies on the ability to get around in an efficient way, and for an affordable price.”

    Lancaster County has created more new housing units since 2010 than any other county in Pa. (Lancaster Online)

    Pennsylvania has seen an uptick in residents enrolling in Obamacare. (The New York Times via Penn Live

    Allegheny County’s wages aren’t keeping up with rising housing costs. (WESA)

    Just for fun

    We’ve come to rely on infographics and maps in journalism and they can be really helpful. Or not helpful at all. (Vox)

    And from CityLab: the top 6 reasons to be wary fo city rankings, ranked.

    “People would look at us and say, ‘Oh, so you’re gay Amish?’ ” Johannes said.” Here’s a fascinating story of two gay men who tried build a commune in Mahantongo Valley. (New York Times)

    And since Memorial Day weekend means summer is almost here…How to know if Lake Erie is safe for swimming (or, how to find out the E. coli counts of the water — yuck ). (

    If you’re going anywhere for the long weekend, just FYI: roads might be crowded. (WITF)


    This will be my last roundup, as today is my last day with Keystone Crossroads and WPSU. I’ve accepted a position teaching (!) in Taiwan.

    It’s bittersweet to leave. I’m excited to return back to Asia (where I grew up), but as anyone who knows me can attest, I’ve loved this job.

    The challenges facing Pennsylvania cities are, of course, the bread and butter of Keystone Crossroads’ reporting, and it’s overwhelming to think of all the issues that need to be addressed for this state to thrive. And yet what I’ll take away from my time reporting is just how many people there are who truly care about their communities. I have to be careful not to get sentimental as a reporter, but hey, it’s my last day: here’s to the many, many Pennsylvanians I’ve met who invest their time, energy, and efforts to make this state a great one.

    Keep an eye on this space — I know the Keystone Crossroads team has exciting projects ahead.

    Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal