Senator Fontana visited with the residents at the Frank H. Mazza Pavilion during their Christmas party on December 20th.
A Plan for Our Communities’ Future
Local municipalities across the state are facing a broad spectrum of challenges including economic development, taxation, crime, education, and the rising costs for personnel and the delivery of social services. In an attempt to alleviate these communities of some the impact of aging and distressed communities so often face, the Pennsylvania Senate Democrats recently announced our Growth, Progress, and Sustainability (GPS) plan to help transform our neighborhoods and achieve sustainability for the future.
Since 1987, 27 municipalities, including Pittsburgh, have been declared “financially distressed” under Pennsylvania’s Act 47. Under this designation, the state provides loan and grant funds to these financially distressed local governments as well as technical assistance to formulate financial recovery plans. Of those 27 communities, only six municipalities have had that designation lifted. As budgets across Pennsylvania tighten on every level, more and more communities have expressed how difficult it is to get out from Act 47 and the need for long-term financial and economic solutions.
The Senate Democrats began crafting the GPS plan with a focus on developing new policies that foster cooperation between various aspects of government while addressing and strengthening the core of distressed and struggling communities. As Pittsburgh continues to come out of Act 47, our city must also look for ways to maintain growth and economic development and I feel as if our GPS may address some of the circumstances we currently face or may face in the future.
In the coming months, the Senate Democrats will be hosting a series of town hall meetings and round table discussions with local and county leaders across Pennsylvania to talk about some of the solutions and provide a foundation that so many communities have express they need. Some if the areas we will be focusing on are:
- Economic development
- Rebuilding the local tax base
- Urban blight
- Crime/public safety initiatives
- Education and workforce development
- Modernizing and streamlining local government to reduce costs
- Act 47 and how to avoid or get out of the program
Last Tuesday, we held our first round table discussion in the City of Harrisburg. This is just one of many communities throughout the state that is in the midst of an extreme debt crisis. Government and community leaders there expressed what we have been hearing for several years now: cities across the state are facing huge obstacles to provide government services at a time when tax revenue and tax bases are shrinking. Local communities need enabling legislation from the state that will provide real incentives and allow local officials to rebuild cities once again before circumstances become untenable. To hear a clip from the first of these forums, please click here.
Time and time again, I have heard how local officials have possible long-term solutions but they need the state to give them the ability and the authority to enact these changes. In the coming months, as the Senate Democrats travel across the state with our GPS initiative, I will work with my fellow legislators and local government officials to enact meaningful legislation that provides tools and mechanisms so that our local leaders can fix current problems and prevent future crisis. After all, local leaders are truly the ones that understand our communities and know what is best for the citizens living in our neighborhoods.
Free Student Financial Aid Seminar
As I wrote in last week’s edition, I am pleased to be hosting, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), a PHEAA Financial Aid Education Day. This free seminar is scheduled for Saturday, January 26th and will run from 10 a.m. until noon at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in the Auditorium, Room S-260, in the Student Service Center Building. Attendees can enter the building from the entrance on Ridge Avenue and parking is available in the Mon Hill parking lot and Student Lot #2. Representatives from PHEAA will explain to students and their families what financial aid opportunities are available and which resources can assist in obtaining them.
PHEAA is a national provider of student financial aid services, serving millions of students and thousands of schools through its loan guaranty, loan servicing, financial aid processing, outreach, and other student aid programs. As high school students begin thinking about their plans for college, the PHEAA Financial Aid Education Day will provide an opportunity for both students and parents to receive information on all aspects associated with paying for college.
For more information or to register for the free PHEAA Financial Aid Education Day, please contact Keith Wehner in my office at email@example.com or 412-331-1208.
Free Assistance with Securing a Job
I want to remind you that the next installment of Skills for Success: The Fontana Series is moving to the Carnegie Library-downtown branch beginning in January. These free workshops are scheduled for Monday, January 7th, Monday, January 14th and Wednesday, January 23rd, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. If you are currently looking for a job or if you need assistance with any aspect of the job searching process, these free workshops will serve as a great resource for you.
I was proud to partner with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) last year, providing grant funding for this free series aimed at building skills and creating excellent resumes and applications that aid job seekers in achieving the positions they desire. Whether you have already built a resume and are looking to fine-tune it, if you are starting from scratch and need help with organizing your work history, need assistance with searching for positions online, or require help in improving your interviewing skills, this free workshop will benefit you. I have heard directly from attendees of past sessions who have been able to find full-time work after putting to practice many of the lessons learned at the workshop.
Competition today for jobs is fierce and job seekers may need tools to improve their chances at securing employment. This series provides those tools by featuring two separate workshops: one focused on resumes and cover letters, and the other dedicated to interviews and networking. This series also features a career lab where attendees can work on online applications and explore library resources. Due to limited space, registration is required for workshops; however, walk-ins are welcome for the career labs.
The schedule for this next installment is listed below. To register for one of these free workshops, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-281-7141, ext. 2012.
CLP – Downtown branch
612 Smithfield Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Monday, January 7th – Resumes & Cover Letters
Monday, January 14th – Interviewing & Networking
Wednesday, January 23rd – Resumes & Cover Letters
Workshops, 9 – 11 a.m./Career Labs, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Tools for Revitalizing Communities
I want to alert all constituents, especially local officials and community organizations, that the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania has published its second edition of their Quick Guide: New Tools to Fight Blight and Abandonment. The Quick Guide provides an easy-to-read explanation of Pennsylvania’s blight-fighting laws and tools that are available for communities seeking to reduce blight within their neighborhoods. This updated edition includes the most recent changes to laws on blight and abandonment including legislation I supported that was signed into law as Act 153 this summer which enables local governing bodies to establish land banks.
The Quick Guide can be accessed on the above link or by visiting www.housingalliancepa.org and clicking on the “Research and Resources” tab on the homepage.
Volunteers Needed for Tax Preparation Program
Allegheny County and the United Way of Allegheny County are seeking volunteers for the County’s 2013 Free Tax Preparation Campaign. The Free Tax Preparation Campaign assists low and middle-income workers in filing their federal, state and local tax returns, maximizing their refunds by claiming valuable state and federal tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The Campaign is administered by the Money in Your Pocket Coalition, an alliance of non-profit agencies committed to helping low-income workers and their families access the Federal EITC.
The campaign is searching for at least 150 students, retirees, and professionals who can commit to volunteering at least three hours per week at one of 11 tax sites around Allegheny County. The 2013 Free Tax Preparation Campaign runs from January 21st through April 15th and Allegheny County residents whose annual incomes do not exceed $20,000 for an individual or $40,000 for a household that can claim at least one dependent are eligible to receive tax preparation assistance.
For more information about the Free Tax Preparation Campaign and the Money in Your Pocket Coalition or to volunteer, visit their website at www.pghfreetaxes.org or dial 2-1-1.
Did You Know…
Did you know during the 2012 tax season, the Money in Your Pocket Coalition prepared more than 6,000 tax returns and delivered $10.6 million in tax refunds to Allegheny County residents, including $4.4 million in Earned Income Tax Credits?
Retail Workforce Development
Neighbors in the Strip, in conjunction with Pittsburgh Public Market, is recruiting individuals for the 2nd round of their Retail Training Program. If you are interested in retraining and/or expanding your job skills in the retail sales field, you should consider this program.
Neighbors in the Strip and Pittsburgh Public Market received a private foundation grant to fund a one-year pilot project to provide retail specific training for individuals who receive, or are eligible to receive, unemployment compensation and/or public assistance (TANF). This training is for a period of three months and involves one week in a classroom setting with the remaining 11 weeks spent doing hands on training by creating a permanent retail booth within Pittsburgh Public Market. The goal is for all trainees to obtain the necessary skills to secure a job in retail sales and potentially gain the knowledge and skills to open their own small business.
Selected participants will receive a stipend of $1,500 spread over the three month training period with the bulk of the stipend payable upon completion of the program. To learn more about this program and expanding your job skills in the field of retail sales or entrepreneurship, please contact Cindy Cassell at 412-201-4774 or email@example.com or visit www.neighborsinthestrip.com.
Environmental Excellence Awards
If you are part of an environmentally-conscious business or organization, consider applying for the 2013 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award through the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The award is open to any Pennsylvania business, educational institution, non-profit organization, government agency, farm, or individual that have created or participated in the development of a project or strategy that promotes environmental stewardship and economic development.
Examples of eligible projects include: wastewater recycling technology innovation; resource development; renewable and alternative energy innovation; economic opportunity development; watershed restoration strategies; environmental education outreach; and others. The DEP will evaluate each project based on seven criteria including the potential for job creation and use of innovative technology.
You can download an application from DEP's website. Projects must have been completed between August 1, 2011 and July 31, 2012 to qualify. The winners will be honored during a special, evening reception and the winning projects will also be listed on DEP’s website. The deadline for submissions is January 31st at 5 p.m. and all submissions must be emailed to RA-EPgovenviroawards@pa.gov.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is once again producing First Night Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve with festivities beginning at 6 p.m. This family-friendly event provides the city the opportunity to ring in the New Year with a bang while celebrating Pittsburgh’s rich cultural assets including dance, music, theater, comedy, magic, visual art and film. First Night Pittsburgh features over 100 activities for children and adults of all ages in more than 45 venues throughout Pittsburgh’s world class Cultural District.
First Night Pittsburgh also features a fireworks show for children at 6 p.m. with a performance by Adam Brock & The Soul Band at Seventh Street and Penn Avenue. The parade begins at 8 p.m. and the evening will conclude with a performance by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Countdown to Midnight and the Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale.
These are a few of the many events taking place during First Night. For a full schedule of events, information on all-access admission buttons and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.firstnightpgh.org.
Montour, Seton-La Salle Host Holiday Tournaments
Montour High School is hosting a two-day Boys’ Basketball Holiday Tournament on Thursday, December 27th and Friday, December 28th. There will be two games played each night featuring host Montour, along with Beaver Falls, Fox Chapel and Hempfield. The schedule for the two-day event is as follows:
|Thursday, December 27th
Fox Chapel vs. Hempfield – 6 p.m.
Beaver Falls vs. Montour – 7:30 p.m.
|Friday, December 28th
Beaver Falls vs. Fox Chapel – 6 p.m.
Hempfield vs. Montour – 7:30 p.m.
On the same two nights, Seton-La Salle is hosting a Boys’ Basketball Holiday Tournament featuring host Seton-La Salle, along with Brashear, Ringgold and West Mifflin. The schedule for both days is as follows:
|Thursday, December 27th
Brashear vs. West Mifflin – 6:30 p.m.
Ringgold vs. Seton-La Salle – 8 p.m.
|Friday, December 28th
Brashear vs. Ringgold – 6:30 p.m.
West Mifflin vs. Seton-La Salle – 8 p.m.
Holiday Hockey Tournament
If you are in need of a “hockey fix” this holiday season, Pittsburgh will be hosting an NCAA Men’s Division I college hockey tournament. The Inaugural Three Rivers Classic is scheduled for Friday, December 28th and Saturday, December 29th at CONSOL Energy Center. The four-team field will feature Robert Morris University, Penn State University, Miami University and Ohio State University.
For more information on the Inaugural Three Rivers Classic or to order tickets, please visit www.consolenergycenter.com. The tournament’s schedule is as follows:
|Thursday, December 28th
Robert Morris vs. Penn State – 4:30 p.m.
Ohio State vs. Miami – 7:30 p.m.
|Friday, December 29th
Consolation Game – 4:30 p.m.
Championship Game – 7:30 p.m.
The Robert Morris University Island Sports Center, located on Neville Island, is a 32- acre complex and one of the region’s premier sports and recreation destinations. The Center provides the highest quality of facilities, training, events, services and family entertainment for guests of all ages including hockey, golf, skating, softball and many more activities. The Center is also home to 84 Lumber Arena, a 1,200 seat rink that is home to the Robert Morris Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Teams.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216