Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Illegal immigration rally

Rally coverage from yesterday for today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

HARRISBURG — As the Pennsylvania General Assembly plunges into its annual budget negotiations, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is focusing on what is becoming his signature concern: immigration reform.

“The illegal alien issue in Pennsylvania is costing taxpayers millions of dollars,” the Butler County Republican said. “So I think the budget season is the perfect time to announce this legislation.”

Metcalfe held a rally in the Capitol on Wednesday to introduce two bills that would levy legal and economic sanctions against local governments that violate federal immigration law by supporting people who come into Pennsylvania illegally, whom Metcalfe has called “illegal alien invaders.”

Read the rest on Pittsburgh Live here. Image from previous rally in Philadelphia, courtesy Diggers Realm.

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Rendell and furloughing payment

This written yesterday for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

HARRISBURG — Nearly all state employees termed “essential” would be paid even if there is no budget in place after the June 30 deadline, a treasury department official said today.

The testimony from Leo Pandeladis, chief counsel of the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury, came in response to questions about Senate-passed legislation that would term all state workers essential in a budget impasse.

The purpose of the hearing was to determine the legal standing for furloughing of “nonessential” state employees by Gov. Ed Rendell if the General Assembly doesn’t pass a budget by the deadline, said state Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, chairman of the committee.

Rendell last week threatened to furlough more than 24,000 workers at 12:01 a.m. on July 1.

Read the rest on Pittsburgh Live.

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Casino grows, financing looms

Written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

HARRISBURG — The cost of the planned North Shore casino continues to rise and owner Don Barden still does not have enough money in place to finish construction, his spokesman said this morning.

Barden said he’s “not worried” about getting the money when he spoke to members of the state Gaming Control Board at their regular monthly meeting today. He still expects to open the Majestic Star Casino in May 2009.

“It’s moving along at just a terrific pace,” Barden told the board, adding that he could not provide specifics on his attempts to secure financing.

Read more on Pittsburgh Live. Image courtesy.

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Kilbuck landslide

A double byline today with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review…

HARRISBURG — The state Department of Environmental Protection would need to approve excavation in geologically sensitive areas, under legislation recommended Monday by a legislative panel in response to the September 2006 Kilbuck landslide.

A developer was working on the site of the former Dixmont State Hospital when the slide dumped 500,000 cubic yards of debris onto Route 65, snarling traffic for two weeks and disrupting interstate train travel on adjacent tracks for days. Wal-Mart, which planned a superstore at the site, has abandoned plans to develop the property and is working to stabilize the site.

The landslide apparently occurred because of slide-prone geological conditions and blasting the day before, according to a report issued by the panel.

The task force chaired by Democratic Rep. Tom Petrone of Crafton issued a 130-page report recommending legislation to prevent similar incidents. Petrone said he would file the legislation this month and predicted the odds for its passage are “excellent.”

Read more on Pittsburgh Live. Image courtesy.

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Those who don't want to pay I-80 tolls in Pennsylvania

Filed for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

HARRISBURG — Tolling Pennsylvania’s portion of Interstate 80 would create an “economic Chernobyl” in areas along the interstate, a Bloomsburg businessman said.

Paul Eyerly, president of Press Enterprises, was one of the two dozen people who rallied at the state Capitol Monday to oppose tolling I-80.

“We’re going to drive people away from Pennsylvania,” state Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Altoona, said.

A few of the rally’s 25 attendees attacked Act 44 — a transportation funding law from last July that would institute I-80 tolls.

The groups, including truckers, cited congestion and loss of business as reasons to repeal Act 44.

Under Act 44, I-80 tolls would help raise nearly $1 billion annually for transportation infrastructure. Lawmakers would need to find a funding source if Act 44 is overturned.

The federal government hasn’t approved tolling the interstate.

“I have never seen legislation that so threatened my business,” said Pat Kahle, whose grandfather founded Zacherl Motor Truck Sales in 1940. His company is just off I-80 in Clarion, and he fears truckers will find ways to avoid I-80 and so choose other truck parts providers. “Customers will absolutely bypass us.”

See it on Pittsburgh Live.

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Rendell and furloughs

A double byline for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

HARRISBURG — A showdown over Gov. Ed Rendell’s threat to furlough more than 24,000 state workers on July 1 is set for Tuesday.

A Republican state senator will grill administration officials about the threatened furloughs of “noncritical” employees if a state budget is not in place by June 30.

During a budget impasse with Republican legislators last year, Rendell furloughed nearly 25,000 state workers on July 9, resulting in a one-day closure of state parks, driver’s license centers and state environmental permitting services.

That move contributed to a budget agreement signed into law seven days later. Critics called the furloughs unnecessary and said Rendell used them as leverage to get a state spending plan more to his liking.

More on Pittsburgh Live. Image courtesy.

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Bill’s Graduation Lessons (Newsweek submission: 6/9/08)

By Christopher Wink | June 9, 2008 | Newsweek submission

Bill Cosby told me I shouldn’t worry. No one was going to remember anything I said anyway.

In May, I graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia and was honored to address my peers and their families as our student commencement speaker. For my portion, I urged Temple graduates of 2008, in addition to those of the past and those yet to come, to stand by our obligation to leveraging our intellectual capital in the communities that surround the university’s Main Campus in central North Philadelphia.

Temple’s gift is that it is surrounded by neighborhoods that aren’t as near to any other university as large and as influential. I hope my fellow graduates and I remember and forever appreciate that, I said.

Cosby – the seminal 20th-century entertainment icon turned controversial race commentator – addressed my fellow graduates after I did.

“I told Wink,” Cosby said to nearly 10,000 new-alumni and family members. “Wink, don’t give that speech. Nobody’s going to remember a thing you said, Wink.”

He told me something similar before we went on.

“Nobody will even be listening,” he assured me.

Of course, despite what I might want to think, the Cos knew what he was saying.

Each May universities parade big name celebrities, politicians and intellectuals through their graduations to get attention, to display prestige and, perhaps, to make a meaningful experience a memorable day. But we mostly forget who spoke at graduations of the past. These speeches have become routine and predictable. I am not foolish enough to think my seven minutes were anything anyone will remember for very long, if anyone was listening at all. Graduations are full of children and grandparents, lots of people who are there for one face of thousands, not the speeches, not the pomp, not the circumstance. The words of this 22-year-old have likely already been completely forgotten by most.

Cosby’s address though was something different for my graduating class.

Bill Cosby was raised in Philadelphia and went to Temple. He is among our best known alumni and a member of our Board of Trustees. What’s more, rather than trot our celebrities or politicians, Cosby was the lone speaker at Temple’s commencements throughout the 1990s through 2003.

But he hadn’t spoken at a university-wide event since August 2004, when he welcomed the Class of 2008 – my class – by promising to be at our graduation four years later if we were there. In the last weeks of my college career, The Temple News, the university’s student newspaper, wrote editorials calling on Cosby to be true to his word. But his publicist didn’t call back, and Temple’s administration had “no official stance.”

Some said the relationship started to fracture after January 2004 allegations that he sexually assaulted a former Temple employee. Some said Cosby’s book tour that featured him critiquing elements of black America didn’t help.

But he showed up, and then he walked into the Liacouras Center – with me at his side – and it sounded like a rock concert – not too bad for a 70-year-old (July 12, 1937). Young faces of every color and background – the hallmark of the self-labeled ‘diversity university’ – dressed in black gowns, draped over each other to stick out digital cameras and cell phones. Bill Cosby and I, preceded and followed by university dignitaries, split the graduates down the middle of our college’s basketball court, thousands of mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers and cousins and friends applauding from their feet.

Temple’s graduations are not known to be reserved affairs.

“They weren’t cheering for you,” he would later tell me.

Of those pictures that so many screaming Temple graduates accidentally took of me when Cosby strode too quickly, the comedian had a similarly cutting remark that still makes me laugh.

“They’ll crop you out by tomorrow,” he promised me.

After I spoke, University President Ann Weaver Hart introduced Dr. William H. Cosby. The crowd again rang out, like we were at one of his comedy shows, not our own graduation.

“Thank God nobody has yet asked you to follow your dream,” Cosby said. “Because you never really slept that well so that you could dream.”

And we laughed.

“You have no clear idea what is forward,” he said of our futures. He gestured up to the families crowded on the second level of our basketball arena. “Only the people sitting up here have any idea where you should go and what you should be.”

And we cheered.

Temple is a big-name, professional research institution like many others in this country. In many ways, the college experience has merged into a single story. Leave home. Drink beer. Study. Frisbee. Study. Throw your cap in the air to the tune of the same speech. One from the biggest name a university can bring in, or the most sentimental story that can be told or the advice from some 22-year-old who is too young to know much of anything.

No one from Temple’s Class of 2008 will remember my speech, but I suspect they will remember Bill Cosby. I know I will.

As submitted to Newsweek magazine’s ‘My Turn’ column in June 2008.

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