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Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Last Updated Oct 10, 2018 at 3:01 pm MDT

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



We are thrilled when local landmarks, often in danger of demolition, are saved. Their preservation adds to our county’s unique character and history — a benefit to all of us.

But these efforts can be difficult for a number of reasons. Finding the financial resources is only one of them.

So we commend David Abel for stepping up and giving new life to the Star Barn, the Belmont Barn, the National Christmas Center collection and the Herr’s Mill covered bridge.

But we’d be remiss if we also didn’t give a shout out to his wife, Tierney, who’s played a key role in all this.

We like the backstory David Abel told about his purchase of the iconic Star Barn, as reported by Knapp.

“One day, about three years ago, my wife suddenly said, ‘We should save the Star Barn,’ ” Abel recalled. “I politely told her, ‘That’s impossible.’ She didn’t accept that answer.”

Of his most recent acquisition — the National Christmas Center inventory — he told LNP: “The Belmont Barn is the perfect place for this collection. It’s another great Lancaster County tradition.”

Abel said he has fond memories of accompanying his children, when they were young, to the Christmas Center. So when he read an LNP article in 2017 announcing that it would close, “it brought back so many memories. So I decided to take the children down one last time … and it still had all the wonder of a child’s heart.”

Abel decided he had room on his property near Elizabethtown for the centre’s collection — along with the Star Barn complex, the Belmont Barn and the Herr’s Mill covered bridge.

The museum will open in time for Christmas 2021 in the newly reconstructed Belmont Barn.

“I really think this ties in with what we’re doing here at Stone Gable Estate,” he told Knapp. “And it’s a perfect tie-in with Belmont Barn.”

He said reconstruction of the Belmont Barn and outbuildings, now in storage, will begin in spring 2019.

“We can bring that whole Christmas museum here, breathe life back to it and upgrade it with modern technology.”

“I feel like a little kid,” Abel told Knapp. “I’m excited to design this … and share it with the public.”

“We’re thrilled,” National Christmas Center co-owner Dave Murtagh told LNP. “Our whole purpose for this museum was to show people the history of Christmas and what went into the holiday over the years. Keeping it together fulfills that dream.”

As Knapp reported, the museum features 15 main galleries and a variety of smaller exhibits. Among the highlights are a reproduction of a Woolworth’s store, stocked with toys and decorations from the 1950s; an animated Santa’s workshop; and Toyland Train Mountain, a 30-foot, three-tiered train yard.

The Christmas museum will fill the first two stories of the barn, with the model train display on the third, Abel told LNP.

“We’re keeping it intact,” he said. “We’re not selling any of it.”

Though Abel didn’t reveal how much he paid for the collection, he told Knapp he will spend as much again to expand and improve it, including the addition of a Dickensian street facade to showcase displays. This seems fitting, as Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is an essential part of many of our Christmases.

Originally, the rehabilitated Belmont Barn (which dates from 1867) was to become a wedding and event destination. But there are already several venues at the estate, such as the Star Barn, that fill that niche, he said.

Power & Policy — Every Friday morning, look behind the curtains at local government, politics, candidates for office, taxation, school boards and more.

The Star Barn project is pretty remarkable as well.

Built near Middletown in 1877, the original Star Barn was disassembled, moved and rebuilt to “exacting standards” at its new home, Knapp explained.

But because the structure needed major improvements, “basically, we built a second Star Barn,” Abel told LNP. “We cocooned the original Star Barn with new wood. It’s a complete second building.”

The “new” Star Barn was built around the old one to protect the original edifice, and to hide the steel beams, wiring, insulation, climate control, glass and other modern amenities.

So the Abels aren’t just saving the Star Barn, the Belmont Barn, the National Christmas Center collection and the Herr’s Mill double-span covered bridge (to be rebuilt as two separate spans) — they’re making sure they’ll thrive for generations.

David Abel told Knapp “it was an honour” and a “labour of love” to rescue the covered bridge, because it was a local treasure.

That attitude explains in a nutshell why the Abels are doing all this. On behalf of Lancaster County, we’re very thankful that they are.


Online: https://bit.ly/2OeAOYu



In the past in these pages, we’ve celebrated the resurgence of midtown Harrisburg and welcomed the explosion of new housing around the state capitol.

But a new study by The Urban Land Institute, which has offices in Philadelphia, is a reminder that, as far as Pennsylvania’s capital city has come in recent years, parts of it are still being left out of an ongoing economic recovery.

As PennLive’s Becky Metrick reported over the weekend, the non-profit research foundation found that the two-mile corridor along North Third Street, stretching from Reily to Chestnut streets, was in need of a little “TLC.”

As Metrick writes, a mixed group of professionals ranging from attorneys and business owners to members of area regional planning commissions recently toured the corridor to take a look at was – and was not – working there.

The overall goal, panelists said, was to encourage city planners to transform the corridor into a place that commuters wanted to visit after work and one that city residents could call home.

Among the issues identified by the panel was the very busy intersection of Third and Forster streets, which forces pedestrians to play a real-life version of the 1980s video game “Frogger” as they try to traverse the space.

Panelists also were concerned that vacant storefronts in the area and inconsistently maintained streetscape can be “disconcerting” to residents and visitors alike.

The panel offered a number of recommendations, such as improving green space, encouraging home ownership and the use of so-called “pop-up shops” in vacant storefronts, to attract shoppers back to the area.

Harrisburg officials and developers have made strides in recent years to pay attention to other parts of the city, including the Mulder Square project in Allison Hill.

The $20 million project is a partnership with the City of Harrisburg, the Tri-County Housing Development Corporation, the Harrisburg Housing Authority, the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority and Brethren Housing. It calls for revitalizing the area around Mulberry and Derry streets with street improvements, construction of commercial space and affordable housing, as well as the demolition of blighted properties.

With its new study, the Urban Land Institute has provided city planners with a roadmap to renewal in another core Harrisburg neighbourhood.

We’d encourage them to take those findings to heart.

__Penn Live

Online: https://bit.ly/2OVde2q



For journalists taking on those in positions of authority, some pushback is always anticipated. It is practically part of the job description. But lately, journalists abroad have often become a target for violence, and two recent incidents indicate that the violence has taken on a new, particularly vicious nature.

In Bulgaria, investigative journalist Viktoria Marinova was raped and beaten to death in the town of Ruse. According to authorities, Ms. Marinova was beaten with such force that she was unrecognizable. The 30-year-old had just launched her own news talk show, “Detector.” In the first episode, she interviewed two journalists investigating the misuse of European Union funds.

Ms. Marinova is the fourth journalist to be killed in Europe since the start of 2017.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has been missing since Oct. 2. Mr. Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi government’s oppressive policies, reportedly entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain marriage paperwork and never returned.

While Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance has not been officially solved, Turkish police officials have claimed that a 15-person Saudi “death squad” captured Mr. Khashoggi inside the consulate, tortured and killed him, and then removed his dismembered body in a series of boxes. The Saudi government has denied the allegation, but but there is a growing consensus that the story is likely true.

Through their respective efforts, Ms. Marinova and Mr. Khashoggi were integral in uncovering and analyzing critical pieces of information about corrupt government entities and officials. They were among the best the profession had to offer. Their loss will be felt far and wide.

Sadly, their deaths are not isolated incidents. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 43 journalists worldwide already have been killed in 2018. That is only three less than in all of 2017. And more than 300 accredited and citizen-journalists have been imprisoned simply for doing their jobs.

These threats to press freedom should be of concern to everyone who cherishes free inquiry, free expression and free thought. Serious work must be done to preserve these fundamental liberties. This is the mission Viktoria Marinova and Jamal Khashoggi paid dearly for. We all must work to take up their mantle.

__Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Online: https://bit.ly/2CBOTZI



The state grand jury report detailing sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by 301 priests in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses has been public since Aug. 14.

The debate over one far-reaching reform for victims recommended by the grand jury — temporarily lifting the statute of limitations to allow victims to sue the church for damages — has been raging for at least two years in the Legislature thanks to the advocacy of a priest abuse survivor, state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat.

It is time for the Erie region’s state senators to tell all of those in this region affected by the abuse scandal where they stand.

Comments from Sens. Dan Laughlin, of Millcreek Township, R-49th Dist., and Michelle Brooks, of Mercer County, R-50th Dist., suggest they are giving serious consideration to the harms inflicted on the victims — as they must. But both have been noncommittal and vague about their approach to and position on the grand jury’s recommendation for creating a two-year window for victims now timed out of the justice system to sue their abusers and their enablers in civil court.

This reform, which stalled two years ago amid opposition from insurance and church lobbyists, was passed overwhelmingly in the state House of Representatives on Sept. 25.

Laughlin has told reporter Ed Palattella that the Senate “will deal with” the proposal, Senate Bill 261, before senators adjourn for the year. That leaves three days — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

We know the Senate’s top-ranking Republican, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, of Jefferson County, who was instrumental in blocking the reform two years ago, favours a compensation fund for victims rather than access to the courts, as expedient and in keeping with the state Constitution. That is what the bishops, including Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence Persico, want, even as they move to shelter church assets from liability.

We have said we believe victims, many of them in need of counselling and ongoing support, should have access to the courts, if that is what they wish. That would afford the transparency and accountability that victims and the public deserve.

We agree with state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who said in a recent meeting with our Editorial Board that such funds are set up not to award what is due but what the offender is willing to pay. We also find compelling his argument that formulas used by those running such compensation funds are ill-suited to calculate the price of these wrongs.

What matters, of course, is what the senators decide to do. We urge Laughlin and Brooks to share with constituents how they are thinking about this reform, in detail, before it comes to any vote.

__Erie Times

Online: https://bit.ly/2OSnYPb



This week’s frightening United Nations’ global warming report depicts a world unable to combat climate change unless it takes “unprecedented” action. It warns that the Earth’s temperature could rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

As a result of warming, most climate scientists predict worse and more frequent floods, wildfires in the West and droughts in the Midwest — as well as all the human suffering and property damage these disasters cause.

Even the Trump administration pulled its head out of the sand in August to acknowledge that the planet is warming but then said it won’t fight it. This comes from an administration that is abetting polluters by cutting emissions standards on vehicles and coal plants, dropping out of an international climate-change agreement, cutting staff at the Environmental Protection Agency and putting it in the hands of cheerleaders for the fossil fuel industry. That’s suicidal. It would be extremely foolish for anyone to adopt the administration’s fatalistic attitude because there are solutions — the polluters just don’t like them.

On Nov. 6, voters have a chance to elect candidates who are committed to fight global warming. One third of the Senate, including seats in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and all 435 House seats are up this year. If you’re not sure how to vote, just click on www.opensecrets.org and see which candidates are taking money from polluters.

But even if voters across the country fail to elect a climate-sensitive Congress, they can make changes in their own states, which are picking up the job of protecting our environment.

Next month, residents of Washington state will vote on a carbon tax that would cost polluters $15 for every ton of carbon dioxide they spew into our air. The state says it could raise over $2 billion in five years. Washington would invest the money in clean energy development and mass transit as well as programs to protect forests and streams. A similar initiative failed in 2016, but if this one passes, Washington would become the first state to impose a carbon tax, and others may follow.

Pennsylvania, a state deeply involved in both fracking and cracking, has a long way to go in being environmentally friendly, though Attorney General Josh Shapiro has joined other states in suing the EPA over the rollback of emission standards. New Jersey, generally better on environmental issues, is fighting offshore oil drilling with a tough new ban, updating its Shore Protection Plan, and making it easier for offshore wind farm development

Consumers play an important role, too. They can choose clean energy to fuel their homes and vehicles. If they won’t, the government should hit consumers in the wallets with a consumer carbon tax on fossil fuel usage.

Even small steps matter, including using mass transit, trading in plastic bags for reusable sacks, and supporting tree planting programs, such as Philadelphia’s treephilly.org.

If we don’t fight climate change now, we will lose our quality of life and condemn future generations to a world where just breathing could be dangerous.

__Philadelphia Inquirer

Online: https://bit.ly/2QEAhfh