- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



The people who own, operate and play for professional sports teams owe their livelihoods to their fans. But fans too often are treated as cash cows to be milked and herded through lines at the parking lots, gates, concession stands and swag shops. They shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The Atlanta Falcons took the pulse of their fan base and saw a need to do better. The team last season cut prices on staple concessions and got one heck of a return on the decision. Happy fans bought more food and more swag. They started entering the stadium earlier so they could take advantage of the lower food prices.

As they moved into a new stadium, the Falcons did another smart thing, increasing the number of concession outlets so that fans who spend princely sums on parking and tickets don’t miss one-fourth of the game standing in line for a hot dog.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. Professional sports teams should look for ways to do better by their fans, and they just might help themselves in the process. Minor-league franchises know this. What they lack in major-league talent they try to make up for in fan experience.

A study published last year by ValuePenguin analyzed the 2016 cost of three tickets, parking, food and beer at all 32 NFL venues, factored in the average wage for each city and estimated how long a person would have to work to pay for a home game outing for a group of three. At 10.7 hours, a Falcons game required the 21st-biggest commitment. At 14.2 hours, a Steelers game required the fourth-biggest, something that should give the team cause for concern.

At 12 hours, the Baltimore Ravens ranked 15th on the survey. In May, the team announced plans to cut prices on 21 items, including french fries (down 50 percent) and soft pretzels (down 53) percent. They’re already off to a winning season.

Teams in other sports should take stock, too.

ValuePenguin last year released a similar cost-of-attendance study for Major League Baseball venues that ranked the Pirates 23rd-most-expensive among the 30 teams. That’s one more bad statistic for the Pirates, who have struggled on the field and are near the bottom in league attendance this season. Perhaps the Bucs should adopt a sliding scale in which prices for hot dogs and pretzels fluctuate with the team’s record.

Doing better by fans means more than rolling out new food offerings each season. That’s giving fans more choices, but it isn’t the same as giving them more value. While lower food prices are part of the equation, they aren’t the only element. In many cities, nursing moms have asked teams to set aside a room for them. Some have, others haven’t.

No one is suggesting that teams lower beer prices. The last thing they need is drunker fans. But cutting prices on the basics would be good sportsmanship.

Owners and operators of teams should remember that fans, who work hard for wages much more modest than their own, deserve the biggest possible bang for their buck. It’s fine for teams to make a profit, not a killing.

-The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

-Online: https://bit.ly/2LmGM7t



Whether or not state House Bill 2025 becomes law - we hope it will - Pennsylvania school districts should comply with the proposed law’s intent of having all school buildings’ water tested for presence of lead, a neurotoxin interferes with children’s ability to learn and develop.

It’s puzzling that the issue of lead in school water is only now getting the attention in Pennsylvania that it has long deserved. The dangers associated with lead-based paint were recognized many years ago.

If the proposed measure is enacted, the state should consider reimbursing districts for the cost of the first round of mandated testing.

That would serve two purposes: It presumably would help get the testing process started more quickly, and it would address the reality that most school districts, after they’ve drawn up their annual budget, have few extra dollars available for new mandates from Harrisburg or Washington, D.C.

Delaying the testing until a new budget year would represent bad judgment.

The current state budget passed in June encourages school districts to conduct testing for lead in water, without specifically mandating it. House Bill 2025 would require regular lead testing for all schools’ drinking water, as well as a report to the public about the tests’ findings.

A statement attributed to Rep. Karen Boback, a Republican House member from Dallas, Luzerne County, says that the water-testing recommendation that passed in conjunction with the 2018-19 state budget “is not a substitute for comprehensive legislation” aimed at keeping children safe.

HB 2025 has been referred to the House Education Committee, which hopefully will be expeditious in weighing the measure and forwarding it to the full House.

The measure has attracted more than 70 co-sponsors and otherwise continues to receive strong bipartisan support.

The reason why HB 2025 would be valuable is because it would focus on the condition of water once it has entered school buildings. It would answer the question of whether the school whose water is being tested has a problem on its property or within its walls that is compromising the safety of the water that students are drinking.

Few people familiar with the Butler Area School District in western Pennsylvania would have envisioned a problem with the water in that district’s schools. However, a class-action complaint filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleged that the Butler district permitted students to consume drinking water from two of its wells that contained lead levels about 200 percent to 300 percent above what’s acceptable.

On a brighter note, the Tyrone Area School District is one of the school systems in this region that hasn’t needed a recommendation or mandate from the state regarding water testing. All of Tyrone Area’s buildings were tested two years ago, and no lead reportedly was detected.

The statewide citizen-based environmental advocacy organization PennEnvironment says it’s now not clear how many schools might have dangerous levels of lead in their water, but that where tests have been performed across the commonwealth, many of the results have been troubling.

As now written, HB 2025 would have the power to shine some badly needed light.

Lawmakers should make the bill’s passage a priority.

-The Altoona Mirror

-Online: https://bit.ly/2uuqU9i



The FCC’s sudden halt to Sinclair Broadcasting’s effort to dominate local television is far from an example of an overbearing regulatory state.

The FCC and its chairman, Ajit Pai, are deeply conservative and pro-business. That Pai has expressed “serious concerns” about Sinclair’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Co.’s local television stations (including WNEP-TV), after leading the charge to give private companies control over internet access and pricing, indicates just how the bad the merger would be for local broadcasting.

Sinclair, which is known for injecting conservative political views into local television news, already is the largest owner of local television stations, with nearly 200 in 100 markets. Its acquisition of Tribune stations would give it access to seven of 10 TV viewers nationwide.

To maintain diversity in broadcast viewpoints, the FCC maintains limits on individual broadcasters’ ownership. Sinclair offered to divest itself of 23 stations to meet that standard but, even so, it would control 215 stations reaching 62 percent of consumes in 102 markets.

And, according to Pai, Sinclair had arranged to sell several stations to “front groups … to get around these rules.” Major stations in Chicago and Dallas, for example, would be sold to entities with close ties to Sinclair’s ownership, and in some cases Sinclair would continue to manage the stations.

Sinclair was shocked that Pai referred the case to an administrative law judge for a review and hearings, largely because Pai had helped steer the merger to near completion. Whatever his reason for reversing course, Pai has better served the public interest by attempting to maintain the limited degree of diversity that remains in local broadcasting.

-Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice

-Online: https://bit.ly/2uGaTMQ



The people of Whitehall Township deserve some answers.

Residents of the Slate Belt need an explanation, too.

The question is fairly simple: Why - more than 40 years after the health threat of PCBs became evident in the U.S, and they were banned - are abandoned quarries in Whitehall and East Bangor accepting “clean” fill that exceeds the federal standard for PCB content?

The short answer: Hauling companies using construction fill to reclaim abandoned quarries aren’t violating Pennsylvania’s standard for PCBs. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits PCBs in fill to 2 parts per million (New Jersey and New York maintain a 1 ppm standard), Pennsylvania allows PCB levels of up to 484 ppm in construction material and up to 78 ppm of PCBs when used in an unrestricted and unregulated manner.

So it’s easy to see why some salvage companies and haulers see an opportunity in the Northeast: Take the stuff to Pennsylvania.

In fairness, whatever levels of PCBs may be accumulating in the East Bangor and Whitehall quarries, they’re nothing approaching the environmental disaster that triggered a national outrage - General Electric’s dumping of PCBs directly into the Hudson River over three decades, which led to a federal ban in 1979. (PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, have been shown to cause cancer in animals.)

Still, Whitehall commissioners were justifiably outraged at an EPA report showing samples of fill sent from the Bronx, N.Y., to the Coplay Aggregates quarry tested at 6.75 ppm earlier this year. Township officials called for the quarry to be shut down immediately. The EPA told the company to detail the extent to which it accepted wastes over the federal limit, and to stop accepting anything with PCB levels over 2 ppm.

Over the last year, the EPA said it received 15 notifications from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection about quarry fill with PCB concentrations of 2.1 to 26 ppm.

Municipal officials from Upper Mount Bethel Township and Bangor began raising questions about dumping at the Valley Industrial Properties quarry in East Bangor. In response to local outcries, the state Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing in Wind Gap last week.

Committee Chairman David Argall, R-Schuylkill/Berks said, “We need to know why it’s OK to dump this material in Pennsylvania and why it is not OK to dump in New York and New Jersey.”

It’s clear Pennsylvania needs to reset its PCB standard to the federal level. Matching New Jersey’s and New York’s tougher standard would be even better, reducing any incentive to export PCB-laden wastes to the the Keystone (aka Landfill) State.

The public also needs to know why, when the federal government and neighboring states adopted tough standard for PCBs, Pennsylvania didn’t do the same.

DEP Deputy Secretary George Hartenstein, who took part in Monday’s public hearing, said he plans to propose revisions to the state’s clean fill policy later this year.

It’s about time. Local officials reminded state officials that whatever is dumped into former limestone and slate quarries goes directly into the groundwater supply for the area, and eventually makes its way to the Lehigh and Delaware rivers. One Bangor area resident told WFMZ he’s been breathing dust from the dumping operation at the East Bangor quarry.

Company officials say they regularly test the fill coming to their quarries, which includes river dredgings, and they are covered by a $3 million insurance policy if the DEP requires any fill to be removed.

Fine. But a “once it’s in the ground” policy of reactive regulation is an admission of failure. The people who live near these quarries and their descendants shouldn’t be burdened with the consequences.

-Easton Express Times

-Online: https://bit.ly/2zOnbZd



You know how you know it’s summer in Western Pennsylvania?

Firemen’s fairs.

It’s another good moment to praise volunteer firefighters (and first responders in general) and more importantly urge your continuing financial support of them.

You really have to stop and think about those two words to understand just how incredulous a pair they make: volunteer firefighter.

Someone who fights fires, enters buildings amidst the roar of deadly flames, withstands searing heat and suffocating smoke to save humans and pets, and participates in the choreography learned to try and save a burning house and protect the ones next to it.

In their spare time.

For no pay.

On behalf of people they might not even know.

You’re probably aware of the significant reduction in volunteer numbers. And that the average age of those volunteers is rising. You’re probably aware of the thousands of dollars it costs to train and equip the volunteers.

Some municipalities offer a sliver of tax revenue to help support their fire companies. And just last week, the Penn Township commissioners indicated they are likely to soon approve tax breaks for firefighters after a state law passed last year paved the way.

Other local governments have done the same.

All good.

Still, there should be continued pressure in the state’s legislative chambers to identify (and implement) ways to inspire and reward volunteers as well as provide their fire companies with overt financial support.

In the meantime, you can help alleviate the pressure on the steep costs associated with volunteer firefighters in different ways.

First, write a check. Five, fifty, a hundred dollars. It all counts.

Then be sure to support the burger bash, hoagie sale and fish fry; certainly, don’t miss the drag queen bingo.

And, of course, stroll on down to the firemen’s fair, plunk down a few bucks at the booths that directly benefit the fire department and buy a couple of raffle tickets whether you want that new truck or not.

Don’t take a minute to think about doing it, just do it. Thankfully, the volunteers you’ll be supporting never hesitate for a second when that alarm sounds.

-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

-Online: https://bit.ly/2Ls4zQ8

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