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

     One of the empty buildings of the Bethlehem Steel Co. still standing at the Sands Casino Resort campus. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    One of the empty buildings of the Bethlehem Steel Co. still standing at the Sands Casino Resort campus. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    It’s been a sad week in Pennsylvania. Our thoughts are with the Amtrak derailment victims’ families and the many who are recovering from the physical and emotional trauma. 

    Latest news: CEO says Amtrak takes full responsibility for the crash. (WESA)

    RadioTimes dedicated this morning’s show to an analysis of the derailment

    Pensions

    We’ve put together a map that shows municipalities’ pension burden relative to population; in other words, how much do unfunded pension liabilities cost  on a per person basis?

    The governor has set up a task force, headed up by the state auditor, to address the state’s municipal pension problem. (To learn more about the issue of underfunded municipal pensions, check out our series.)

    The governor has spoken up about how to fix the problem of underfunded pensions — he suggests turning to pension bonds. But critics don’t like the idea of more borrowing.

    On the other hand, the GOP’s proposed changes to the state’s retirement systems could save billions — by cutting benefits. (The Post-Gazette reports Democrats say those changes would break state law.)

    The Blair County Retirement board is considering diversifying their pension fund portfolio by investing in real estate. (The Altoona Mirror)

    Transportation

    PennDOT plans to cut down on accidents on slippery roads by putting down a high-friction treatment on some stretches.

    Move over Uber: a bicycle taxi service is angling to set up business in York’s central business district. (YDR)

    CityLab looks at concrete — how much we need it, but also how much we need to find a way to make it better.

    Here’s something from out of state: a new proposal in Seattle would require residential developers to offer their tenants alternative transportation options, like bus passes. (City Lab)

    Education

    Latest in Multiple Choices, our series of podcasts and explainers about Pa.’s public education funding: “hold harmless” protects funding for some school districts, but that means less funding for other districts in need.

    (In case you missed it, we’ve put the whole series in one convenient landing page.)

    Pennsylvania’s high school graduation rates are above the national average — and they’re going up. (Lehigh Valley Live)

    Elections

    In Philly and scrambling to figure out who to vote for in next Tuesday’s primaries? Play PlanPhilly’s Mayoral Matchmaker game.

    CityLab explores how #blacklivesmatter is changing the Philadelphia mayor’s race.

    Martic Township is in the throes of deciding whether to consider home rule. (Lancaster Online)

    In Altoona, mayoral candidates are arguing over who gets the credit for the decision not to lease city water system. (The Altoona Mirror)

    Four (out of six) Reading mayoral candidates have violated campaign contribution limits, according to campaign reports. (The Reading Eagle)

    Immigration

    Lancaster County is welcoming newcomers from Congo. (Lancaster Online)

    And here’s an op-ed from The New York Times looking at immigration as an economic solution: “Let Syrians settle in Detroit.” 

    (It’s a tactic Pittsburgh is looking at, too.) 

    Etc.

    Reading officials held a neighborhood public meeting to discuss a proposed comprehensive plan and no one showed up. (Reading Eagle)

    Bad news for Harrisburg: the city is on the hook for $3.2 million in federal loans for a failed development project. (Penn Live)

    Northumberland County is trying a new way to get people to pay up on fines and child support: plaster their faces on billboards to shame them into paying. (Newsitem.com)

    Giant Foods is contemplating merger with owner of Food Lion, which would make the combined company one of the world’s largest retailers. (Penn Live)

    A Harrisburg neighborhood mourns a victim of gun violence. (Penn Live)

    There’s growing support for police body cameras in Pennsylvania. (TribLive)

    Lehigh Valley Live put together a historic photo timeline of Easton’s Centre Square.

    CityLab takes a look at how providing the homeless with housing first (rather than treatment) has been successful for a number of cities. (Here’s one Canadian success story.)

    With funding comes red tape: downtown businesses say they support Lancaster’s City Revitalization & Improvement Zone, but there’s just too much paperwork! (Lancaster Online)

    Tip: if the water’s orange, don’t swim in it. (Republican Herald)

    Just for fun

    In Allentown and looking for a new Happy Hour watering hole? The Morning Call has some suggestions.

    Or if you’re in Pittsburgh… you can hit up a bacon festival. (WESA)

    Bizarre story of the week: Naked Cumberland County man missing from Pa. nudist colony is rescued

    We’ll end with something from The Onion. Every struggling town’s wish: “Let’s just skim over all the gang turf disputes and burnt-out streetlights and go straight to blocks lined with stores specializing in key lime pies, locally sourced butcher shops, and gourmet empanada places. That honestly seems like the way to go.” 

    Wouldn’t that be nice?

    Have a great weekend.

     

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