Black History Month Celebrated
February has been designated by the Senate as “Black History Month” in Pennsylvania. This designation recognizes the individuals who have contributed greatly to the quality of life not only for the residents of our state but also our nation. These prominent African-American residents include scientists, inventors, farmers, educators, homemakers, explorers and countless other professions that we see the impact they have made on our lives daily.
Pittsburgh has always played a significant role in black history and especially the anti-slavery movement. Because of the secrecy, it is not known how many slaves escaped to freedom through the Underground Railroad, but some estimates show at least 100,000 or more. However, for the African-Americans who did not make it all the way to Canada, many settled in the Pittsburgh region.
More notably, I represent the city of Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood. In the early years, Jewish immigrants made up the first group to replace the original settlers. And then soon after, the Italians, the Syrians, the Greeks, and then the Poles arrived. During the years leading to World War I and after, African-Americans from the South were encouraged to come and settle into the Hill District by industry recruiters who also promised relief from the segregation laws of their birthplace. This migration continued into the 1960s with African-Americans joining the fight for Civil Rights, which resulted in the Hill District becoming the area’s largest black neighborhood.
Today, we can thank February being designated as “Black History Month” because of the African-American historian named Carter Goodwin. In 1926, Mr. Goodwin recognized the contributions and accomplishments of these distinguished individuals by creating a cultural landmark known as “Negro History Week.” The week’s name was soon changed to “Black History Week” during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and then was subsequently expanded to “Black History Month” in 1976. At that point, President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
I am very proud of all of the significant accomplishments and invaluable contributions to society that have been made by my African-American neighbors and friends. I encourage everyone to commemorate the struggles and victories of African-Americans in both our state’s history and our nation’s by visiting the various activities and events that will be conducted throughout this important month. I would also like to point out that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will be hosting several events during Black History Month, and a schedule can be found by clicking here.
Did You Know…
Did you know on March 1, 1780, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed "An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery," which deemed that no child born in Pennsylvania could be a slave?
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 15 in observance of Presidents’ Day. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, Feb. 16 as scheduled.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2015 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received a 2015 application by now. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications are available at www.revenue.pa.gov or at my district offices, and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. Keep in mind half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past eligibility limits.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30.
Slot Machine Revenue Increases
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently announced that revenue from the play of slot machines at the state’s 12 casinos increased by over two percent during January, compared to January 2015. Gross revenue from slot machines was nearly $185 million in January, compared to nearly $181 million in January 2015. Prior to the winter storm that affected much of Pennsylvania in late January, slot machine revenue was up five percent over the first 21 days of the month compared to last January. Tax revenue generated from slot machines during January 2016 was over $98 million.
Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows: 34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,700 people and generates an average of $3.7 million per day in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
PAT Public Hearings
The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is hosting two public hearings to accept testimony on its recent transit fare proposal. PAT’s board of directors is considering a policy that would replace the current multi-zone system with a single zone that would cost all riders $2.50 with a ConnectCard regardless of their destination; install a 25 cent surcharge for riders paying with cash; move to a pay-on-enter system; eliminate the free Downtown bus zone; offer new products; and charge riders $2 for a ConnectCard on Jan. 1, 2017.
The first hearing will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 24 in the William Penn Ballroom at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 3:30 – 6 p.m. The second hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 8 in the Connolly Ballroom at Alumni Hall on the campus at the University of Pittsburgh, located at 4227 Fifth Avenue in Oakland. That hearing will run from 3 – 7 p.m.
Those wishing to sign up to speak at either of these public hearings can register by calling 412-566-5187 or 412-231-7007 for TTY. Speakers will be limited to three minutes. Written comments on the proposal will also be accepted through Mar. 31 at www.portauthority.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or via U.S. Mail at Port Authority of Allegheny County, Attn: Fare Policy Proposal, 345 Sixth Avenue, Third Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. The board of directors will take the testimony into consideration before making a final decision in the spring.
Community Forum for Military and Veterans
The Heinz Endowments, The Mission Continues, HomeFront Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh, and Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) have joined together to host a series of forums for service members and veterans in our region. A Call to Action, Community Forum for Military and Veterans seeks to provide an opportunity for service members and veterans to speak about what resources and opportunities are needed in our region. Participating attendees have a great opportunity to help shape how the region supports military men and women for years to come.
Two forums took place last week and there is one more scheduled for this Thursday at CCAC West Hills, located at 1000 McKee Road in Oakdale. To register for the event, please click here.
For more information, please call 412-254-4820. The forum is scheduled from 6 – 8:30 p.m.
Brookline Volunteer Opportunity
Brookline Teen Outreach is hosting a volunteer opportunity day at their facility, located at 520 Brookline Boulevard. The event will run from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 5. Brookline Teen Outreach is a non-profit in South Pittsburgh that provides teen support in a myriad of ways, and provides valuable resources to those in need. They have adopted a holistic approach to serving youth by offering high-quality and modern licensed counseling services, free tutoring, community service opportunities, and dynamic programming. The center’s innovative and comprehensive programming provides something for everyone who walks through their doors and volunteers are an integral part of achieving their goals and strengthening their impact in the community.
Anyone interested in learning more about Brookline Teen Outreach and in becoming a volunteer, stop by on Mar. 5. Anyone with questions or who needs more information, please send an email to email@example.com.
I was contacted recently by two organizations, both looking to hire personnel.
The Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF) is searching for a Manager of Development. This position is responsible for all direct mailing efforts, increasing individual donor giving and retention, foundation and corporate giving, organizational strategy and enhancement, and managing all HCEF fundraising events. The position also oversees communication and marketing efforts including social media and management of the HCEF website. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and resume to Bill Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about HCEF by visiting them online at www.homelessfund.org.
The Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services (BVRS) of Pittsburgh is hiring an Employment Training Specialist. This position will oversee and coordinate on the job training for individuals who are blind, vision impaired, or who have other disabilities. BVRS is a leader in programs and services and serves more than 900 adults and teenagers through comprehensive rehabilitation, vocational and community service programs, and 14,000 children through its vision screening program. Interested candidates should email Tara Zimmerman at email@example.com and attach a cover letter and resume with “Employment Training Specialist” in the subject line. For more information on BVRS, please visit them online at www.bvrspittsburgh.org.
February is National Heart Month and one in every four deaths each year in the U.S. is caused by heart disease. Research has shown that 3–4 exercise sessions per week, lasting on average 40 minutes per session, and involving moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep your weight at a healthy level.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm