Time to Act
How do we ensure safety in schools and freedom to worship in churches? Who can and should have access to guns? What information should be shared about people who own guns? Getting answers to all of these questions begin with a commitment to solve a problem.
The latest tragedy that occurred last week in Parkland, Florida is another horrific example of just how much of an epidemic our society is experiencing. Another mass shooting in America. Another sad story of how innocent children are being used as targets. Another moment for “leaders” in Washington to offer only thoughts and prayers. Another blindly complicit stain on our nation.
People say after every mass shooting that it’s not the time to talk about sensible gun regulations and that those who do are being political. But aren’t those who just keep pushing off the conversation or never discussing it the very ones making it political? Because of whom – or to what organization – they are beholden.
As parents, grandparents, neighbors, community members, human beings with a true sense of decency who know the difference between right and wrong, it is on us to hold Washington accountable for inaction.
What is everyone afraid of? Campaign contributions and endorsements over the needs and wants of the overwhelming majority of Americans. If leaders refuse to lead, then get out of the way. Our constituents deserve so much more than ignorance and complicity. And so many times we hear calls for lawmakers to be “courageous” and stand up to the gun lobby. Doing what’s right and helping to address what has become a public health and safety crisis – an epidemic, if you will – is not courageous. It’s the right thing to do. Working to secure the further safety of our people is not a “wedge” issue. It is what we were elected to do. I say that people who continue to disregard that duty are not fit to hold office.
While I have always supported measures to ensure safety, etc. – the time to just support something that will never happen is over. As a member of the minority in the state Senate, I am tired of feeling as helpless as I know so many thousands of my fellow Americans do. I cannot and will not remain silent any longer. While I believe this issue should be addressed by the United States Congress so that uniform measures for the entire country are in place, until that happens, it’s on us in Pennsylvania to work to ensure the safety of those in our state.
I am a parent. I am a grandparent. I am an empathetic human being. I am an elected official who was entrusted by the voters to advocate in their best interest. Anyone who refers to calls in favor of commonsense gun safety measures after children were hunted down like animals time and time again in places where they should feel the most safe and protected as “knee jerk reactions,” are on the wrong side of history, in my opinion.
I readily admit that I, like most, don’t have all the answers. Or do I know if some of the safeguards I stand behind will even work. But what I do know is that we must do something. Isn’t it worth a try? If new measures are put in place and don’t result in any improvements, then we can reevaluate.
Admitting that it is time to “do something” and as a way to begin meaningful conversation, I intend to introduce two initiatives of legislation I call the “Protection for Pennsylvanians” bill package. The first piece would be to institute the Pennsylvania Assault Weapons Ban. The second measure is to establish a system in our Commonwealth for the implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders. These orders can empower those who are close to an individual in crisis to ask a judge to temporarily take away the person's guns. They focus on individuals who are exhibiting dangerous behavior and have been demonstrated to be an effective means of temporarily preventing people in crisis from having access to guns, while respecting rights to due process. Family members and loved ones are often the first to know if someone is experiencing a crisis and may be at risk of dangerous behavior. Even if they report their fears to law enforcement, police in most states may not have the authority to intervene, resulting in preventable tragedies.
Once again, we find ourselves having to endure the darkness of losing a part of our future and to witness parents and children grieve and struggle with reconciling senseless killings of their children and peers. The time for only offering thoughts and prayers has again proven to fall short. It’s time to act.
Time to Cease Operations of the ICA
As I wrote about last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) officially released Pittsburgh from Act 47 status which our city has operated under since 2013 when the debt burden amounted to more than one-fifth of the city’s operating budget. At that time, state lawmakers also created the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) to act as a second oversight agency to help Pittsburgh avoid bankruptcy. Being that Pittsburgh is no longer under Act 47 status, the time has come to cease operations of the ICA.
Under state law, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority must remain in place until Act 47 oversight ends or June 30, 2019, whichever is later. However, even though Pittsburgh has been removed from Act 47, state law still needs to be amended to allow the ICA termination to take place. Because of the city’s improved financial situation and the ICA is no longer needed, Senators Costa, Vulakovich and I have introduced Senate Bill 1047 (SB 1047) which would dissolve the authority.
I have been calling for this to take place for several legislative sessions now. More recently, Pittsburgh’s other team of fiscal overseers, the Act 47 coordinators assigned by DCED, as well as ICA board members and Mayor Peduto have also joined me in this quest. The ICA is the final link tying us to Act 47 and another layer of government that the city does not need. The time is now for the State Legislature to bring up SB 1047 and finally release Pittsburgh from all Act 47-related oversight.
Upcoming Job Fair
On Thursday, March 15, with Rep. Dan Deasy and in partnership with Building Bridges for Business and U.S. Probation & Pre Trial Services, we will be hosting a Job Fair for any interested job seekers. The Job Fair is being held in the Social Hall at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, located at 1810 Belasco Avenue in Beechview from 4 – 7 p.m.
The Job Fair will feature local companies looking to fill positions now. There will also be representatives in attendance to talk about apprenticeships and other technical training programs to help individuals gain information on acquiring new skills to become gainfully employed.
Many job seekers face barriers to employment like issues related to a past criminal record, a suspended driver’s license, lack of high school diploma or necessary job skills. Therefore, the Job Fair will include three breakout sessions that address these barriers. From 4:30-5 p.m., attendees can join a breakout session to learn more about the driver’s license restoration process. From 5:30-6 p.m., a session on pardons and record expungement will take place. Anyone wishing to learn more about improving job skills and short-term training programs can attend the session from 6:30-7 p.m.
If you are looking for work or have difficulty because of any of the barriers listed above please consider attending this Job Fair. If you have family or friends who may be interested, please share this information with them.
Did You Know…
Did you know that the average worker will change jobs between seven and nine times in his or her life?
Multimodal Transportation Fund
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will be accepting applications for grant funding available through the 2018-19 Multimodal Transportation Fund beginning next Monday, Feb. 26. The program is intended to provide financial assistance to municipalities, councils of governments, businesses, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, rail freight, passenger rail, and ports in order to improve transportation assets that enhance communities, pedestrian safety, and transit revitalization.
Applications will be accepted for this round of funding through Mar. 30. More information on the program including guidelines, eligible projects, and an application, can be found by clicking here.
Small Water and Sewer Program
I want to remind municipalities and municipal authorities that the Commonwealth Financing Authority and Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) are accepting applications for the Small Water and Sewer Program that was reauthorized as part of the budget in October. Both municipalities and municipal authorities are eligible to apply.
Grants received through this program are for activities to assist with the construction, improvement, expansion, or rehabilitation or repair of a water supply or sanitary sewer system. Eligible projects are those which have a total project cost of not less than $30,000 and not more than $500,000. A link to the guidelines and online application can be found by clicking here or visiting https://dced.pa.gov/programs/pa-small-water-sewer/.
Junior Achievement Volunteer Opportunity
Junior Achievement (JA) is seeking a volunteer to teach JA Careers in Energy at St. Anne School in Castle Shannon, located at 4040 Willow Ave. JA’s Careers in Energy program introduces middle school and early high school students to the career opportunities in the natural gas field and has a heavy STEM emphasis as well as teaches about education, economic and environmental impact.
JA is looking for one volunteer, preferably a professional, in the energy industry or in a related field, to hopefully start as soon as possible. The volunteer will instruct students during the school day for about 45 minutes one day a week for seven consecutive weeks utilizing materials and lesson plans provided by JA.
The volunteer will have a 1-hour training with a JA Education Program Manager and will also have to spend at least 45 minutes, separate from the training with the JA staff, to prepare each lesson before entering the classroom. For more information please contact Robbie Zaremberg at email@example.com or 412-208-4747 ext. 119.
Benefit to Fight Addiction
Friends on a Mission for the Mission is sponsoring an event to raise funds to fight addiction. On Saturday, March 24, Pittsburgh’s premier Beatles tribute band, COME TOGETHER, will perform at the Georgetown Center with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and a buffet dinner being served at 7 p.m. The Georgetown Center is located at 536 East Bruceton Road in Pleasant Hills. The event also features a 50/50 raffle and cash bar.
To read more on the event or to purchase tickets, please click here. A ticket provides admission, buffet dinner, and the opportunity to support the great work of the Light of Life Rescue Mission, dedicated to the homeless and addicted. COME TOGETHER will entertain guests with everyone’s favorite Beatles’ hits. Gather family and friends for this event, share some laughs, and dance the night away while helping to fight addiction.
Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” on PBS.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212