In case you missed it: This week’s best reads from Pennsylvania cities

     Before Philadelphia’s Love Park will be demolished next week as part of a renovation, Mayor Jim Kenney lifted a longtime ban on skateboarding. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Before Philadelphia’s Love Park will be demolished next week as part of a renovation, Mayor Jim Kenney lifted a longtime ban on skateboarding. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Wolf War II: The Legislator’s Revenge, coming this spring to a Harrisburg near you. 

    Lead in Pennsylvania

    In what is quickly becoming a recurring segment of ICYMI, there was a lot of news surrounding lead paint and pipes in Pennsylvania this week. If you’re just tuning in, don’t panic. There’s no new concern around lead poisoning in your home or community. 

    What we have in Pennsylvania is a very old concern that can be easy to ignore. But now, in the wake of the Flint, Michigan, lead-tainted water crisis, many people are starting to ask important questions about their pipes and paint. 

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    The CDC has determined that any level of lead is dangerous to children. Many cities are working to remove lead pipes before a problem emerges. But what about the pipes in your (private) home that connect to the (public) system? Who is responsible for replacing those? In Madison, Wis., it took funding incentives and a city mandate to get all those pipes replaced. 

    Some Pennsylvania cities may want to look into that step. Though most would have to do the hard work of replacing their lead main lines first. 

    If you ask the state Department of Environmental Protection, water isn’t the problem. The agency released a statement saying that the 157 water systems tested all had lead levels below the action threshold. It’s the old homes, built before lead paint was banned in 1978, that you have to worry about. Before we delve into lead paint, take a second to check their work: look up your water system’s Consumer Confidence Report.

    It’s true that Pennsylvania has a lot of old houses, with chipping, dusty lead paint. The state ranks fourth for most homes built before 1978.

    In an interview with Newsworks, Montgomery County Health Department supervisor Rhonda Stanek said that’s a problem: “Usually, we see our cases go up in the springtime when families start opening their windows to let the fresh air in. The kids like to stand at the window and look out. And then they’re always putting their hands in their mouth.” 

    Lead paint tastes sweet. Kids end up going back for more. And that’s how you get kids with dangerous levels of lead in their system.

    If you want to see data from your community, check out the state Department of Health’s 2014 Childhood Lead Surveillance Report. 

    Have you or someone you know been affected by lead poisoning? Has your landlord had to deal with lead paint? Have you replaced your lead pipes? If you have any first-hand experiences with lead that you’d like to share with Keystone Crossroads, please send us an email at  

    Budget in Pennsylvania

    It’s February, which means it’s time for the governor to propose his new budget, to be approved in June. 

    No, we still don’t have last year’s budget sewn up. Yes, Governor Wolf is forging ahead with many similar — if not more ambitious — plans this year. Yes, the legislature is likely to vote it all down again, putting us in a similar — if not worse — spot than before. No, this isn’t deja vu. It’s all really happening again. 

    What does the new budget have in store for cities? 

    The Department of Human Services, which funds all the social service programs in the state, would get an additional $1 billion under the new budget. But the House is working to restore about $1 billion worth of funding cut from the budget of the state prison system. And no last-minute stay of execution for PERC, the Pennsylvania Employees Retirement Commission, which Wolf defunded completely. We’ve been keeping an eye on this move, which eliminates the organization responsible for managing and funding the state’s 3,200 local pension funds.

    The House, playing its role as the thorn in Wolf’s paw, is scheduled to review a bill in March that would revive the agency. 

    LOVE in Pennsylvania

    Putting aside all of the depressing news in the state for a moment, here are some happy tales from around the state.

    A muralist, famous for her installation art that engages passerby, is bringing her talents to Philadelphia. Candy Chang will be addressing mental health issues through a surreal mural of 64 fables. Chang is perhaps most well-known for her “Before I Die” chalkboard mural that asked residents for their bucket-list dreams. 

    Chang said, “I’m really interested in the city, the history of cities, the shape of cities, how they’ve changed, what they’re fundamentally made of, how we’ve changed and what we’ve lost along the way.” 

    (Honestly, Candy, be our Valentine.) 

    In Lake City, near Erie, an empty, unsellable Post Office has been turned into a community center. The space has been used for a community Halloween party, weddings, karate classes and free yoga. It’s so popular as a rental space that it’s never needed borough assistance. The space is completely self-funded. 

    Just in time for Valentine’s Day, LOVE Park in Philadelphia is kicking off its renovation. The work hasn’t yet begun, so the city has welcomed LOVE’s true tenants — skateboarders — back for one last ride. Resident Cool Dude/Mayor Jim Kenney said, “Between now and February 15th, we’re going to lift the ban on skating here and allow folks to come back and experience the place one more time…Come back for one more spin on your board.” 

    If you’re looking for a last minute V-Day present for your favorite urban thinker, check out Cards Against Urbanity. It’s an urban planning spin on the popular Cards Against Humanity, which is an X-rated spin on children’s game Apples to Apples. If you like urban planning, or want to learn more about urban planning, this game is for you. 

    Whether you’re skateboarding through a local park, checking out some public art or figuring out state budget doomsday scenarios, have a lovely weekend. 





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