Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Pennsylvania’s newspapers:
A new poll says most Pennsylvania voters want a new president, but the question is, why?
Harrisburg Patriot News/Pennlive.com
It’s not the economy, stupid. At least that’s what the recent Franklin & Marshall poll of Pennsylvania voters seems to be telling us.
Republican analyst Jeffrey Lord has long argued people vote their pocketbooks. On the Battleground PA podcasts and in his Fox News comments, he’s insisted that as long as the economy stays strong, most Pennsylvania voters will stick with President Donald Trump.
But the recent F&M poll suggests things may be changing. The economy does not seem to be the sole factor motivating voters as they look ahead to the 2020 elections.
While most of the voters polled said they’re doing just fine financially, many also want to see change in the White House.
Fifty seven percent of them said it’s time for President Trump to go. But even more surprising — 87 percent of that number said they’ll vote against President Trump no matter who runs against him.
That means they’d vote for Elizabeth, Bernie, Biden or even one of the notorious squad rather than give the president four more years in office.
It’s important to note that 38 percent of registered voters believe the president is doing an “excellent” or “good” job leading the nation – but most of those expressing positive views of his performance are Republicans. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans think President Trump is doing at least a “good” job as commander-in-chief.
But the majority of Pennsylvania voters disagree. Only eight percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independent believe the president is doing a good job.
These numbers come despite what most of the people polled said are good economic times for them personally. Most voters – 87 percent — said they were financially better off or the same, and most expect to do even better next year. So why are so many voters not happy with President Trump?
Could it be all of the impeachment drama has taken a toll on the president’s standing with Pennsylvania voters? Could it be the near war with Iran has eroded some of his support in this battleground state?
Could it be Pennsylvania voters want a little more stability and less drama on Pennsylvania Avenue?
What is clear is Pennsylvania voters are paying attention to what’s going on in Washington, D.C. and the events leading up to the elections in November 2020.
According to the poll, nearly two-thirds – 67 percent – of the state’s registered voters – Republicans, Democrats and independents — say they are “very interested in the 2020 elections.”
The numbers are almost as high as they were in the lead up to the 2018 mid-term elections, when 71 percent expressed the same sentiment.
That’s good news. It means voters in our state are taking the time to be informed about everything from the impeachment in the House to the trial in the Senate to who’s emerging victorious in Iowa.
In the latest Battleground PA podcast, Democratic analyst Rogette Harris said her constituents are glued to what’s happening with the impeachment trial in the Senate, as well as who emerges as the Democratic winner in the Iowa caucus next week.
The F & M poll supports that. It showed 76 percent of Democrats are “very interested” in the elections, while somewhat fewer Republicans at 63 percent said the same thing. Forty-seven percent of independents express the same sentiments.
These are good numbers for citizen engagement, but they ought to be even higher.
True, it is impossible to watch every minutes of every day of the impeachment trial underway in the Senate. But every American voter should realize the historic significance of what’s going on now in Washington and how it will inevitably impact their daily lives.
Every Pennsylvania voter should be paying attention to whether our senators are acting in the interest of the American people and not just siding with their political friends.
Now’s the time voters should demand their elected leaders lay aside partisan bickering, diligently seek the truth and follow its path — wherever it leads.
House must support tougher DUI penalties
There will be justice for Deana Eckman. At least if the Pennsylvania Senate has its way. No, it will not bring back the Delaware County woman whose life was cut short by a serial drunk driver, but it could spare another family from suffering the same agony.
The Senate voted 43-6 to approve a package of bills to toughen penalties for repeat offenders, and more importantly, make it much more difficult for them to once again climb behind the wheel while impaired.
The bill has been dubbed “Deana’s Law” in honor of Eckman.
It will increase penalties for repeat drunk driving offenders and implement new technology aimed at alerting law enforcement of possible infractions before a person under the influence can get behind the wheel.
“Less than a year ago, Deana Eckman was violently and callously murdered by an individual now convicted of his sixth DUI,” said state Sen. Tom Killion, the Delaware County Republican who sponsored the bill. “We are a major step closer to honoring her memory and better protecting Pennsylvanians from the worst of the worst DUI offenders.”
Eckman’s mother, Roseann DeRosa, spoke of the heartbreak her family has endured and their vow to seek changes in the law as a way of honoring Deana and preventing the same needless tragedy from befalling another family.
DeRosa’s daughter was killed last February by a driver who was under the influence. It was not the first offense for David Strowhouer, who was driving his pickup truck in an erratic manner when he attempted to pass another car on a two-lane stretch of Route 452 in Upper Chichester Township and slammed head-on into the vehicle carrying Deana and her husband, Chris. Deana was killed instantly; Chris was seriously injured.
It was Strowhouer’s sixth DUI offense. After being allowed to serve the sentences for his fourth and fifth offenses concurrently instead of consecutively, he was out on probation. That’s when he once again climbed behind the wheel and set off on a deadly path.
In August, Strowhouer pleaded guilty to murder in the third degree, aggravated assault and related offenses stemming from the fatal crash.
Senate Bill 773 would make it much more difficult for Strowhouer - or anyone facing multiple DUI offenses - to flout the law and drive a vehicle. It would require anyone convicted of a third DUI offense to serve that time consecutively to previous offenses, not concurrently.
The fact that Strowhouer was out on the street struck a nerve with DeRosa and her husband, Rich.
“Had concurrent sentences not been imposed on the drunk driver who took Deana from us, he would have still been in prison when she was killed,” he said.
The bill also would boost sentencing guidelines for fourth and fifth DUI offenses to five to 10, and 10 to 20 years, respectively.
The measure includes several other crucial elements, including:
• Requiring continuous alcohol monitoring devices that automatically notify officials when repeat DUI offenders consume alcohol in violation of court directives;
• Doubling the time period repeat DUI offenders must use ignition interlock devices on their vehicles;
• Directing state police, PennDOT and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to formulate recommendations for using DUI courts around the state. These courts specialize in drunk-driving cases to better focus on the appropriate sentencing and treatment of offenders.
The measure now moves over to the state House. We urge lawmakers there to quickly take up Deana’s Law, pass it and send it on to Gov. Tom Wolf.
Feb. 16 will mark one year since Deana Eckman was taken from us. How appropriate it would be if the House moved swiftly and put Deana’s Law on Wolf’s desk for him to sign on that fateful day.
African American history deserves our year-round attention
“Black History Month,” observed comedian Chris Rock in a 2015 video for Essence magazine, “is in the shortest month of the year, and the coldest, just in case we want to have a parade.”
Comedians often find humor in uncomfortable truths, and this is one: We would know more about the rich and essential history of African American contributions to our country if the subject was given the attention it deserves year-round - not just during the year’s shortest month.
Harriet Tubman often gets CliffsNotes-like treatment during Black History Month. She was, of course, a brilliant and courageous woman who was known as “Moses” because she repeatedly risked her life to guide enslaved people in the South to freedom in the North.
But Tubman was also a military scout and spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and a champion of women’s suffrage. It takes far more than 28 days - or even 29 in this leap year - to do her story justice. (At long last, she’s the subject of a major film. Cynthia Erivo has been nominated for a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Tubman in the film, “Harriet.”)
Similarly, the story of Rosa Parks isn’t always told in full.
The myth holds that Parks was an ordinary black seamstress who was too tired to surrender her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man. In truth, she was the branch secretary of the Montgomery NAACP, and a lifelong activist who was unwilling to ignore the injustices and indignities African Americans were forced to endure.
On Dec. 1, 2015 - the 60th anniversary of Parks’ act of civil disobedience - The Washington Post reported on the Rosa Parks Collection of papers at the Library of Congress.
In one of her notes, according to that newspaper, Parks wrote of how her grandmother became angry when Rosa was young and recounted picking up a brick to challenge a white bully. “I would rather be lynched,” she told her grandmother, “than live to be mistreated and not be allowed to say ‘I don’t like it.’ ”
As Time magazine noted in 2015, “Parks had already been kicked off the bus by the very same driver in the past, and she also knew that being arrested, as an African American woman in the South, was extremely dangerous.”
She nevertheless took the chance, in a transformative act of protest that meant she and her family would face death threats and financial hardship for years. So much for the demure seamstress trope - Parks was an intrepid freedom fighter whose courageous act led to the Montgomery bus boycott and the eventual desegregation of that city’s public buses.
We owe it to her to honor the person she truly was, and not just in February.
More broadly, our understanding and appreciation of African American history and culture would be deepened and made more complete by reading the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” rather than the usual quotes cited (and sometimes misused) by politicians. And by reading the works of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead.
Also, please consider attending Lancaster Public Art’s Black History Month Celebration from 6-9 p.m. Friday at City Hall. The focus of this year’s celebration will be on African American men and women in uniform.
Evita Colon, a local poet and spoken word artist who helped to organize the celebration, told LNP ‘ LancasterOnline’s Jenelle Janci that at a time when relations between people of color and police are complicated, finding opportunities to forge connection is more crucial than ever. (We could not agree more.) Hence the focus on African Americans in the Lancaster city police and fire bureaus.
Video interviews with three men in uniform will be shown in the City Hall Gallery & Council Chambers. There will be performances by spoken word artist Gracie Berry, West African dance group Imani Edutainers, historical arts production group Theatre for Transformation and Lancaster musician and artist Gerri McCritty. It promises to be a great and worthwhile evening.
On Thursday at 5:30 p.m., the African American Historical Society of South Central PA - partnering with Franklin & Marshall College’s Phillips Museum of Art - will present “Under Freedom’s Sky,” a free one-hour performance featuring dramatic readings of 10 authentic stories about anti-slavery efforts and the Underground Railroad in Lancaster County.
The event, which will be held in the museum’s Dana Gallery, is being held in conjunction with “Sonya Clark: Finding Freedom,” a 1,500-plus square-foot fabric-art installation there that explores Lancaster’s involvement in the Underground Railroad and the use of the night sky to guide those seeking liberty.
Also Thursday: Lancaster NAACP and Lancaster Public Library on North Duke Street will kick off their Black History Month film and discussion series (a link to the library’s calendar can be found below).
African American History is, it’s often said, American history. But it’s been too little, and too superficially, told. We should use this month - brief as it is - to help change that.
Iowa owes Pennsylvania better
The Iowa Democratic Party doesn’t just owe it to the people who participate in its highly-touted, first-in-the-country caucus every four years to figure out how to correct its problems.
It owes it to the rest of us, too.
On Tuesday, the Hawkeye State’s caucuses - a kind of Thanksgiving-table survey held in local precincts, a cross between a mall focus group and a jury deliberation - ended with no official winner but a hefty portion of the still-large field of candidates claiming some kind of victory.
There is no doubt that things went badly in Iowa. The party’s statement blamed a “coding issue in the reporting system,” but that doesn’t explain faux pas like the CNN interview. A precinct secretary was ready to deliver, on air, his precinct’s results to a party official - but the party official hung up on him, under Wolf Blitzer’s watchful gaze.
Technology was a factor, but overall it seems like no one was really prepared for what happened, despite years of preparation and weeks being at the center of the candidacy maelstrom.
Iowa needs to get itself together because it has a responsibility to the rest of the country.
Pennsylvania is, by almost all accounts, going to be critical to the November vote. But Pennsylvanians don’t get to vote in a primary until April 28. That’s early for us, since we are accustomed to a May primary, but we bump it up in presidential election years to have more say. A state Senate bill might move it to March in 2024.
Yet 35 other states and six territories get a chance at a primary or caucus before the Keystone State. The field of candidates had already narrowed by Iowa, which has a population just a bit larger than the Greater Pittsburgh region.
By the time Pennsylvanians get to vote in their primary, the choice may be no choice at all.
So Pennsylvania has to rely on Iowa the way it will on New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and the others to do everything right along the way.
It would be bad enough if this were a one-off, but it’s not. The Democratic Party screwed up the 2016 caucuses, too.
Iowans need to demand better if they want to deserve their seat at the head of the table in presidential election years.
Help districts make schools safe for kids
The Scranton Times-Tribune
Even Lt. Gov. John Fetterman wore a business suit Tuesday for Gov. Tom Wolf’s annual budget address to the General Assembly. But as Wolf spoke about the need to focus on education and improving educational buildings statewide, workers wearing protective hazardous materials suits began removing furniture from lead- and asbestos-tainted Northeast Intermediate School in Scranton.
Northeast, the 114-year-old former Technical High School, is closed indefinitely and perhaps permanently due to testing confirming the presence of lead in drinking water and asbestos in building materials. Three other old city schools also have closed, at least temporarily, for the same reasons.
In Philadelphia, seven schools already have been closed due to lead and asbestos contamination. And the state has hundreds of older school buildings that are certain to contain the toxic materials.
The governor, as he has in the past, proposed a significant increase of about 2%, $170 million, in the state’s contribution to public education and laid out charter school funding reform that could save another $280 million for local school districts.
But whatever becomes of those proposals in the upcoming budget process, legislators should embrace yet another initiative to increase school safety. Wolf proposed expanding a state economic development grant program by $1 billion, to be funded through borrowing by bonds, to deal with lead and asbestos contamination.
In addition to that initiative, the governor plans to dedicate another $100 million to the effort with money from a federal health program and PennVEST, a state grant and loan program to help improve water and sewer infrastructure. That money could be used for water line replacements.
The need is real. Wolf’s proposal is nonpartisan and does not require a tax increase. Legislators should seize this opportunity to safeguard the health of millions of Pennsylvania children.
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