Penn State Op-Ed
For months now, I have sat back and watched what has unfolded in the Penn State scandal. I consider myself a fair man who likes to hear all angles and sides of a situation and then base my judgment on the facts or what is seen as the facts. As we have witnessed here, far too many times Pennsylvania and the nation have been too late to rescue a victim or victims when it comes to various forms of abuse. All we can do from here is try to find a solution to the problem and make sure a situation like this never happens again.
As your State Senator, one of the biggest areas I advocate for is public education. Every child should receive a quality education and what I see as a fundamental right. Not only does a child learn reading, science, and math in school, but also important life lessons. From an early age, we are taught the difference between right and wrong knowing that at some point in life, these values will be challenged.
What makes the Penn State ordeal so sad is that Jerry Sandusky preyed on disadvantaged young boys who essentially had nowhere to run. And instead of receiving help from grown adults who should know and understand the difference between right and wrong, these individuals turned a blind eye to the victims. The abuse didn’t stop after one episode, but continued on for so many years like it often does. And just as the victims went into hiding, so did the truth. Now, thousands of alumni, present students, and future Penn State goers will ultimately face the consequences for a heinous situation created by a few cowards. Perhaps what is more atrocious is that these cowards used children as sacrificial lambs all to protect the Penn State football program.
Penn State receives a state allocation every year for “general operations” for such things as tuition costs, research, to upgrade school buildings to make sure they are suitable to live in, etc. In fact, over $900 million of the university’s finances came from state and federal funding in 2011. In an effort to secure flat level funding from the Pennsylvania Legislature for the 2012-13 school year, Penn State has agreed to not raise tuition rates above the rate of inflation as well as promised to not use any of this state funding to pay for expenses incurred because of the Sandusky ordeal.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that looks after many of the college and university sports programs has rightfully placed some harsh sanctions on Penn State’s football program, including a $60 million fine and reductions in scholarships. Penn State President Rodney Erickson stated on CBS’s “Face The Nation” this weekend that the university would likely provide a long-term loan to the athletic department from its financial reserves to pay the fine. If part of this long-term loan isn’t coming from past state and federal funding, where are these “reserves” coming from? Furthermore, why haven’t these reserves been used to help keep tuition costs down for this upcoming school year, rather than asking the state to once again pitch in more taxpayers dollars?
Moving forward from this scandal and tragedy, there are current students that attend Penn State who are truly going to college to get a higher education and a degree. These students are not the ones who should have to pay for Jerry Sandusky’s actions, nor should the taxpayers.
At this point, I think it would be wise for the General Assembly to keep a close eye on Penn State to make sure that not one penny of taxpayers’ dollars be used to pay for the NCAA’s repercussions as well as any other fines, legal costs, penalty sanctioned child abuse programs, victim restitution or additional expenses in response to or defense of the Sandusky scandal. Until this long-term “loan” is paid off, perhaps Penn State should have to open up their financial expenditures to the General Assembly as a condition to continue to receive a state allocation in the future or be stripped of their “non preferred “status. Otherwise, what conditions are in place to guarantee that state funding won’t be used or to assure that this loan actually gets repaid to the school?
The one time leaders of Penn State got the university in this mess and now will need to get themselves out of it. After all, the perceived value of the football program was the reason for the cover up so it is appropriate that the program should be the one penalized, not the students who are there to ultimately further their degree and live the American Dream.
Even with all of these punishments, I personally don’t think that these penalties or sanctions will change the culture of thinking when it comes to major college football programs. If individuals want a true change from this mind set, perhaps the best route would be to do what the Ivy Leagues do and that is to give academic scholarships in place of athletic scholarships.
46 Days Until FontanaFest! – Join us on Saturday, September 15th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at South Side’s Riverfront Park (bottom of 18th Street at the river) for a FREE day of family fun! Enjoy FREE food and drink, entertainment, door prizes, numerous booth sponsors, games for kids and much more!
Ending of General Assistance
As I have mentioned in a previous E News, one of the biggest losers and reasons why I voted against the 2012-13 budget is the elimination of the General Assistance (GA) program. During Pennsylvania’s most recent recession, our economy was often compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s. One successful program from the Great Depression is General Assistance. However, on August 1, 2012, this will mark the end of the program. Now, nearly 70,000 low-income people including the temporarily or permanent disabled, victims of domestic abuse, the elderly and recovering addicts, who receive a monthly payment of $205, will no longer receive this stipend that helps pay essential bills. General Assistance is often the only income these individuals are receiving which will essentially leave thousands homeless.
I have read dozens of stories about people throughout the state that will have nowhere to turn. Some of my constituents have also reached out to me for help. If you are or know someone that these changes will affect, the following are some avenues that may be able to help:
- The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has suggested that affected individuals apply for Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by visiting: http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/
However, please be aware that this can sometimes be a timely process in order to be eligible.
- The Allegheny County Department of Human Services can offer assistance in referrals to housing, food, family support, Behavioral Health services and other services. Please visit http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/basicneeds.aspx to see a list of how the county can assist you with your basic needs. You can also reach the Allegheny County Assistance headquarters at 412-565-2146
- If a person is disabled, they may also be eligible for cash or Medical Assistance under another category and can apply through COMPASS: https://www.humanservices.state.pa.us/Compass.Web/CMHOM.aspx
- If you have a disability or support someone with a disability or are 60 years or older or support someone 60 years or older, the Allegheny County LINK program can provide you with information on services available by going to http://www.alleghenylink.org/ or calling 1-866-730-2368.
- Please know that if a GA recipient is also receiving food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP), they will receive an increase in their SNAP benefits due to the decrease in income. The average increase is approximately $48 but will vary depending on circumstances.
Voter ID Update
In last week’s edition of my News & Views I provided an update on the implementation of the new law that requires all registered voters to show ID before voting. According to the Department of State, there are roughly 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania who do not possess a PennDOT issued photo-ID. As many as 98,000 of these voters reside in Allegheny County with over 18,000 residing in the 42nd Senatorial District.
If you are not sure whether or not you possess an acceptable form of photo identification please click on the following link to view acceptable forms of identification or contact one of my district offices and my staff will be happy to help determine if you have the proper identification. While the constitutionality of the new law is being challenged in Commonwealth Court, with a decision expected soon, I want my constituents to be aware of the law, as it stands today, and the need to present an acceptable photo-ID upon voting.
Communities Against Crime
Senator Fontana speaks with a resident at the Communities Against Crime initiative, organized by the Carrick/Overbrook Community Watch on July 25th.
On July 25th, I visited with community leaders, business owners and law enforcement officials as part of a Communities Against Crime initiative organized by the Carrick/Overbrook Community Watch. Business owners, community groups and block watchers set up tables along Brownsville Road providing citizens the opportunity to gather information on crime prevention while supporting local businesses in the process. Pittsburgh Police were on hand to speak with and distribute information to the public and representatives from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office and the PA Liquor Control Board participated.
The Communities Against Crime initiative was organized to show community support and raise awareness of how crime impacts the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Organizers also promoted the upcoming National Night Out which is scheduled in communities around the country on August 7th. Beginning in 1984, the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) began arranging events on a selected evening each year designed to raise crime and drug prevention awareness and generate support for local anti-crime programs while strengthening partnerships between communities and local law enforcement agencies. For more information about the city of Pittsburgh’s National Night Out please visit the city's website.
Did You Know…
Did you know that 37 million people in over 15,000 communities in all 50 states participated in the 2011 National Night Out? These numbers have grown dramatically from 1984, the first year of National Night Out, when 2.5 million people in 400 communities in 23 states participated.
Not Too Late to Apply for Property Tax/Rent Rebate
The deadline to file for the Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program has been extended to December 31st. If you are a Pennsylvanian age 65 and older, a person with a disability 18 and older, or a widow or widower age 50 and older, you may be eligible. Income limits are $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase rebates to $975. You can stop by any one of my district offices to get a claim form (PA-1000) and receive help in completing your application.
Rebates began being mailed out on July 1st. Eligible residents who submit their application after June 30th will receive their claim after it is processed. You may also check the status of claims online by visiting the PA Department of Revenue website, by calling 1-888-PATAXES or by calling or visiting one of my district offices. The program is supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Safety on the Highway
With the summer driving season upon us, the Pennsylvania State Police is offering the following safety tips to ensure your trip is a safe one.
- Buckle Up – Wearing your seatbelt can be one of the easiest and safest things you can do while traveling. You can also have your Child Safety seat checked at any of the State Police Designated Check Points
- Check your route before traveling – Pre-planning your trip will help you save time when traveling. Always check the roadway conditions before heading out the door and allow for plenty of time. You can check traffic and weather conditions by visiting www.511pa.com. 511PA is Pennsylvania’s official travel information service and provides travelers with up-to-the-minute traffic, transit and weather information to help reach their destination in the most efficient manner. You can also access the same information by dialing 511 on your mobile phone.
- “Steer Clear” – Remember the “Steer Clear” law requires drivers to move over or slow down when they encounter an emergency scene, traffic stop, or disabled vehicle. You can read more about the “Steer Clear” law on the State Police website.
- Never Drink and Drive – Every driver in Pennsylvania has a responsibility to stay out of the driver’s seat when impaired. Over the Fourth of July holiday (between July 4-8), State Police arrested 432 people for driving under the influence.
Wherever your travels take you this summer, please stay safe.
LCB Launches Revamped Website
The PA Liquor Control Board (LCB) has launched its redesigned regulatory website in an effort to provide greater access to program and service information for consumers and industry partners. The website, www.lcb.state.pa.us, improves the ability to locate information quickly and effectively and adds new and updated content. Information on employment opportunities, direct wine shipping, online shopping, store locations, alcohol education, and the PA Liquor Code are all available on the site.
Beechview Market Place
Community Leaders United for Beechview (C.L.U.B.) has launched Beechview Market Place. Each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. local vendors will be positioned in the IGA Market on Broadway parking lot (1616 Broadway Avenue) offering a unique assortment of products for visitors. Food and beverages, baked goods, jewelry, crafts and much more will be available. Stop by and see what Beechview businesses have to offer. For more information or to become a vendor please call 412-341-8768 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grandview Park Farm Dinner
Friends of Grandview Park are hosting the Grandview Park Farm Dinner on August 19th at 5 p.m. The Farm Dinner, held at Grandview Park on Mt. Washington, provides the opportunity to dine amongst farmers and cheese and wine makers while enjoying a family style meal served in the park overlooking the city. Dinner will be prepared by Chef Justin Severino of CURE, named among Pittsburgh’s best restaurants in 2012. A limited number of tickets for this event are available. For more information or to purchase tickets please call 724-272-2968 or email email@example.com.
Emerald View Trail Work Day
The Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) is looking for volunteers to help put the finishing touches on Emerald View Park’s newest one-mile loop. The MWCDC is hosting a Work Day on August 4th from 9 a.m. to noon. Organizers will be meeting at the Olympia Park entrance on Virginia Avenue and Hallock Street on Mt. Washington. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes and bring a water bottle. The MWCDC will provide tools, instruction, water and snacks. To RSVP please call 412-481-3220, ext. 204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pirates have attracted 1,274,771 fans for 45 home games this season, an average of 28,328 fans per game. They are on pace to surpass 2,000,000 fans for the entire season for just the second time since PNC Park opened in 2001.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana