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Senator Fontana presents Angelea Taylor of Brookline with a Senate citation congratulating her on her selection to a jazz ensemble which will be performing during the Grammy Awards in February. Angelea is a Junior at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Pittsburgh. She and her parents, Malcolm and Robyn, live in Brookline.

Legislation Prohibiting Private Transfer Fees Re-Introduced

Yesterday, I submitted legislation that prohibits private transfer fees from being imposed in Pennsylvania to the Senate Secretary for introduction. This is a re-introduction of SB 1481 from the last session. 

Private transfer fees are a new tool being used by developers or builders. Also known as a resale fee or a capital recovery fee, a private transfer fee allows the developer or builder of a home (or in some cases, a commercial property) to collect 1% (or more) of the sales price from the seller every time the property changes hands for the next 99 years.

Senate Bill 353 would impose a ban on all new private transfer fees after the effective date of the legislation. Any person who records or enters into a private transfer fee agreement in their favor after the effective date would be liable for any damages resulting from that obligation including transfer fees, attorney’s fees and other costs to quiet title. The bill would also require the full disclosure of existing private transfer fees to buyers. Failure to do so would result in the agreement being unenforceable. The bill also sets up a process to free the property of that obligation. Finally, the bill requires that a person entitled to the private transfer fee must register (with the County Recorder of Deeds) their contact information and respond to inquiries promptly; failure to do so could result in an action to quiet title.

This is a consumer protection issue. A recent NY Times article on PTFs pointed out that in some states, a declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions isn’t included in the closing papers and doesn’t even require a signature. Essentially, someone with no ownership stake or interest can continue to collect revenue off of a property that they may have built up to 99 years ago. Opponents believe that it exploits an already complex real estate transaction and think that the PTF could also hurt real estate values in the future if buyers are reluctant to purchase properties that have a PTF attached. Other negative consequences of the PTF include the fact that it takes equity from consumers, can cost consumers money when the home is sold, will depress home prices, has no positive impact on an assessment, creates an additional disincentive to sell or purchase property in a depressed housing market, reduces transparency for buyers, creates lien issues for lenders, and increases the risk of title claims.

When introduced, the bill has 34 co-sponsors and I am grateful to my colleagues for their support of this effort. Last session’s bill passed the Senate unanimously, but was not taken up by the House before the end of session. I am hopeful that it will be considered and moved again quickly this session and look forward to working with my colleagues to accomplish that.

Senate Leadership

I am honored to have been selected by Democratic Leader Senator Costa to serve as the Senate Democratic Caucus Administrator and join the Senate Leadership Team. Please be assured that in this new role, I will continue to focus on the needs of my district and Allegheny County, but look forward to working together with my colleagues on the issues that are of interest and importance to our caucus.

Mount Washington Development Updates

In case you haven’t heard about it, One Grandview is a mixed-use development that will include a 163 room hotel, 59 condominium units, a spa and fitness center, meeting rooms, and a restaurant. The beautifully designed building will take the place of the former Edge Restaurant. I am hopeful that the project will stimulate even more economic and community development on Mount Washington.

You can keep up with the development of one of Mount Washington’s most anticipated projects. One Grandview has its own Facebook page so followers can get information on its progress from those involved with the project.

This is an exciting project for the region. It takes a blighted structure that has been empty for 30 years and converts the space into productive use. It invests in the community by providing jobs, apartments for residents and hotel rooms for visitors that will spend money in the area. Plus the developers are going green and hope to achieve LEED certification for the building.

The developers will also be providing an update directly to the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation as they prepare for demolition of the former Edge restaurant. The Community Forum will be held on February 17th at the Mount Washington Senior Center at 7:00 p.m. Also at the Forum, MWCDC will be holding a Community Conversation about the strategic needs of the neighborhood.

Spring Job Fair

If you are currently unemployed, or simply looking for a different job, start preparing now for Community College of Allegheny County’s (CCAC) spring Job Fair on Wednesday, March 9. It will be held at CCAC’s South Campus, Building “B”, 4th Floor Commons. The Job Fair is free and open to the community. Employers participating in the event will have jobs that need filled immediately. Just make sure you dress professionally and bring plenty of resumes.

For more information or assistance with writing a resume, interviewing skills, or using a job fair effectively, you can schedule an appointment with Jennifer Holbert or Melanie Porach. Call 412-469-6214 or stop by B-453 of the South Campus (1750 Clairton Road, West Mifflin).

OASIS Volunteers Helping Children

OASIS Pittsburgh A unique volunteer program offered by OASIS Pittsburgh encourages mature adults to make a difference in a child’s life by helping them discover the magic of reading. OASIS trains adults ages 50 and older to tutor children in grades K – 4. The program creates a strong reading foundation for the student at a critical time in his or her educational development. By improving their reading skills and not falling behind in class, children are better positioned to succeed in life. According to a KIDS COUNT Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, if a child does not learn to read by the third grade, he or she is more prone to becoming a dropout and living a life of poverty, crime and incarceration.

I often try to highlight programs that are good for the community, and this is certainly one of them. Not only does the program encourage volunteerism, it allows older adults to use their experience and knowledge to help children. More than 120 OASIS tutors volunteer with 183 students. Tutors are especially active in the Pittsburgh Public School District. In all, the program has helped more than 1,320 students over the last ten years.

Volunteers are people from all walks of life, some retired, some not, but they all find enjoyment in the work they do with OASIS. If you are interested in getting involved with OASIS, visit its website for more information. Membership is free and open to anyone 50 and older.

Souper Bowl Sunday

Souper Bowl of Caring As the Steelers gear up for its eighth Super Bowl appearance on February 6th, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is encouraging fans to take part in “Souper Bowl” Sunday. The Souper Bowl of Caring is a movement that fights hunger nationwide. You can get involved by having an event anytime leading up to the Super Bowl, such as a Super Bowl party, food drive, or church collection, and then donate the funds and/or food to an agency in your neighborhood.

Each event, big or small, makes a difference. After tallying your collections, email the Food Bank at ivalanti@pittsburghfoodbank.org to report your event and its outcome so workers can calculate the regional total. For ideas and inspiration, visit the Souper Bowl of Caring website.

And Speaking of the Super Bowl…

Since Sunday marks the Steelers’ eighth Super Bowl appearance, there are plenty of festivities leading up to the game…

The County and City will host a “Shred the Packers Rally” on Thursday, February 3rd on Forbes Avenue and Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh. As part of the rally, Myron Cope’s daughter, Elizabeth, will lead the Myron Cope Terrible Towel Wave, there will be three Steelers fan contests (best sign slogan, best player look-a-like, and best Steelers apparel), and the Mayor will be shredding a giant cheese head. Steely McBeam will be on hand, there will be free Steelers giveaways, local schools will get the crowd ready with cheers and marching bands, there will be complimentary face painting, and complimentary food or refreshments will also be available.

Also on Thursday, at 1 p.m. in Market Square, the “DIGIORNO High Five Challenge” will be held. A competition between Green Bay and Pittsburgh fans to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most simultaneous high fives. Steelers great Jack Ham will lead the contest. DiGiorno will be passing out free pizza and will donate $5 for each participant to the Pittsburgh Food Bank. For more information on the contest, visit DiGiorno’s facebook page.

Now through February 6th, visit the Children’s Museum for its Black and Gold Days. You can celebrate the Steelers in their art studio by making a black and gold silk screen print, creating black and gold handmade paper, painting your face to support the team, making and wearing a black and gold hat, and write your own message to the team on the giant Steelers banner.

If you want an up close and personal view of the Lamar Hunt Trophy (AFC Championship), then visit the Western PA Sports Museum through February 6th to see the newly unveiled trophy! Get your photo with the trophy and relive great moments in Steelers history. In honor of the black and gold's road to their seventh Super Bowl victory, all visitors will receive a special $7 adult and senior admission to the History Center and Sports Museum as part of the "Pound the Packers" promotion, now through Monday, February 7th.

Pittsburgh has issued a challenge to Green Bay that Steelers Nation is bigger, better, bolder and braver than Packers Nation. From now until the Super Bowl on February 6th, register as a member of Steelers Nation at VisitPgh and they'll compare the number of registrations with those of Green Bay's. When you register, you'll also be entered to win their 2011 Opening Day Game Package! While you’re there, declare yourself a certified member of Steelers Nation by downloading a “Citizen of Steelers Nation” certificate and prove to Green Bay Packers fans that Steelers Nation is louder and prouder than any fan base in National Football League history.

This week has been declared Black & Gold Steelers Victory Week in the city and county, so fans are encouraged to don black and gold all week long!

Here We Go, Steelers!

Use Caution Around Snowplows

Thanks to all the snow we’ve had this winter, PennDOT has been busy clearing roadways of snow and laying down salt. For your safety and the safety of others, make sure you take extra precautions when driving near a snowplow. Remember to be patient, slow down and turn your headlights on. PennDOT offers these additional tips when winter weather strikes:

  • Stay at least six car-lengths behind an operating plow and remember that snow being thrown from a plow can cause vehicles to lose control;

  • Remain alert since snowplows usually travel much slower than other vehicles;

  • Never travel next to a snowplow since plows can quickly move sideways when hitting drifts or cutting through heavy snow;

  • Move as far away from the centerline as safely as possible when approaching a snowplow head-on; and

  • Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side.

I also recommend packing an emergency kit for your vehicle. The kit should include non-perishable food, water, a blanket, a small shovel and extra clothing. Visit PennDOT’s website for more driving tips and information.

Senator Hughes, former Philadelphia Eagle Mike Quick, Senator Fontana, former student athlete Tracy Yatsko, former Philadelphia Eagle Harold Carmichael and Senator Costa pause for a photo before participating in a press conference announcing the introduction of SB 200 - Youth Concussion in Sports legislation.

Around the District

This past week was also my first meeting on the Board of the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County. Although the issues before us were routine, I and my fellow board members look forward to items that affect the development of our region at future meetings.

There were several meetings in Harrisburg this week as well. The local Ben Franklin (Innovation Works) shared its success stories from local businesses that it helped and also made a plea for continuing support of the program. Senate Bill 200, the Youth Concussion in Sports legislation, was introduced with the help of the Brain Injury Association of PA and former NFL Players Harold Carmichael and Mike Quick. The monthly meeting of PHEAA was also this past week as the Board continues to move forward with its federal contract to service student loans and also considers additional reforms.

Back in the district, I had several meetings to provide updates on local development projects. I also had the opportunity with a couple of representatives from the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh to talk about reform and several issues of importance to the organization.

I was also proud to be presented with a framed print from Point Park University thanking me for my support of their Academic Village. My thanks to Vice President of External Affairs, Mariann Geyer, for making the formal presentation.

Fontana Fact

According to Central Connecticut State University, Pittsburgh is the fifth most literate city in America. The University’s report focuses on six indicators of literacy, including newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and internet resources. Click here to view the complete list.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana