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Monday, February 26, 2018

Anti-gerrymandering group holding Mount Lebanon meeting tonight in run-up to Pennsylvania redistricting decision

Posted By on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 3:49 PM

IMAGE COURTESY FACEBOOK
  • Image courtesy Facebook
When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its new drawings of Pennsylvania's U.S. Congressional Districts on Feb. 19, state Republicans immediately criticized them and said they would challenge the maps in federal court. The state’s 18 congressional districts were redrawn earlier this month after the state Supreme Court ruled the original 2011 maps violated the Pennsylvania Constitution as a partisan gerrymander.

Federal judges have scheduled a March 9 hearing to listen to arguments concerning the new congressional district maps.

While the outcome of the federal district court's decision will undoubtedly have a big effect on how Pennsylvanians vote in upcoming elections, a grassroots group wants to remind people that having legislators draw maps and then battle in the courts is not the only way to reshape districts in Pennsylvania.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pittsburgh City Council candidate Erika Strassburger endorsed by statewide environmental group PennEnvironment

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 10:19 AM

Erika Strassburger - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Photo courtesy of the candidate
  • Erika Strassburger
Before Erika Strassburger worked as chief of staff for former Pittsburgh City Councilor Dan Gilman (D-Squirrel Hill), she worked as an environmental advocate in Pittsburgh and in New Hampshire. She told City Paper back in January that her environmental chops would be valuable on city council, especially considering the ongoing problems at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). Strassburger is running to replace Gilman’s former 8th City Council District seat in a special election that will take place March 6.

“I spent a decade fighting for clean water, and right now the PWSA has $4 billion in capital needs and a federal mandate to lower lead levels,” said Strassburger in January. “We have to keep water publicly owned, but make sure important changes are implemented. Green infrastructure needs to be a priority first, and I believe there are ways to raise money for that.”

And now one of the state’s biggest environmental-advocacy organizations, PennEnvironoment, has thrown its weight behind Strassburger.

“When it comes to protecting our environment, there’s no one better than Erika,” said PennEnvironment director David Masur in a press release. “For nearly a decade, Erika put her money where her mouth is when it comes to protecting our environment and health — now, and for our kids and future generations.”

Masur notes in the press release Strassburger’s focus on improving Pittsburgh water quality was a key factor in PennEnvironment providing its endorsement. According to samples taken in December 2017, more than 100 sites in Pittsburgh had lead levels in drinking water above the federal standards. The PWSA is looking to replace 2,100 lead service lines this year.

PennEnvironment deputy director Adam Garber said in a press release that he believes Strassburger will fight for clean water, as well as other environmental causes in the city.

“Erika has walked the walk in so many ways, and her priorities are clear. We know she will be an excellent ally and advocate for Pittsburghers who want clean air, clean water, and great open spaces when she is elected to City Council,” said Garber in a press release.

Strassburger, previously registered as a Democrat, is running as an independent against Democrat Sonja Finn, Republican Rennick Remley and Marty Healey, of the newly created Inclusion Party.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pittsburgh Dreamers urge Sen. Bob Casey to fight for a clean Dream Act

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Liz Fishback (left), of Sen. Bob Casey's office, with Dreamers Lesly Moran (center-left), Hortencia Ortiz (center-right) and Ana Alberto (right) - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Liz Fishback (left), of Sen. Bob Casey's office, with Dreamers Lesly Moran (center-left), Hortencia Ortiz (center-right) and Ana Alberto (right)
The immigration debate in the U.S. Senate has begun, and it already looks like a standalone bill to grant recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) a path to citizenship is off the table. DACA recipients, also called Dreamers, are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, and have since been given temporary-protected status and are allowed to legally work in the country.

This week, starting on Mon., Feb 12, the U.S. Senate opened up the floor to allow debate on a number of immigration issues. By and large, Democrats are looking to provide protections and a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and Republicans are looking to bolster border security and reduce the number of immigrants entering the U.S. through family reunification (in which immigrants can sponsor family members to join them in the U.S.).

But instead of starting with that debate, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) proposed an amendment to defund so-called “sanctuary cities,” municipalities that limit communication and cooperation with U.S. immigration officers. The Atlantic Monthly reported on Feb. 13 that Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) struck down Toomey’s amendment and complained it “does absolutely nothing to address DACA, does absolutely nothing to address border security.”

(It also should be noted that in 2016 when asked if he supported a path to citizenship in concert with ending sanctuary cities, Toomey told City Paper that those were “separate” issues.)

Although the Senate’s immigration debate is off to a rocky start, Pittsburgh-area Dreamers are still hopeful their needs will be met. On Feb. 14, three local Dreamers delivered letters to the Pittsburgh office of Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton). Ana Alberto, Lesly Moran and Hortencia Ortiz are DACA recipients and are asking Casey to protect DACA and to pass a clean Dream Act, meaning a path to citizenship for Dreamers without any attachments like increased border security.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bethel Park fundraiser with VP Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. candidate Rick Saccone will displace a lunch for seniors

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 5:20 PM

Mike Pence (left) and Rick Saccone (right)
  • Mike Pence (left) and Rick Saccone (right)
Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) is running in the March 13 special election for the open seat in Pennsylvania’s U.S. 18th Congressional District. And campaign fundraising reports show that he is being out-fundraised by his opponent, Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon), by a 2-1 margin. Lamb’s $557,000 easily outpaces Saccone's $214,000 in campaign contributions.

In an attempt to even the balance, Vice President Mike Pence is visiting on Feb. 2 and is giving a boost to Saccone at an invitation-only fundraiser at the Bethel Park Community Center. It’s unclear whether fundraiser invitees must pay to attend, but a flier for the event posted on Facebook says that people who contribute $5,400 will get a photo op with Pence, and that those who give $10,000 get a meet-and-greet and a photo op.

And thanks to this event, Bethel Park officials have decided to close down the community center for six hours on Feb. 2, resulting in the cancelation of a daily lunch for senior citizens and other community events, like bingo.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Pennsylvania Supreme Court throws out state's partisan gerrymandered Congressional districts

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 6:24 PM

Pennsylvania's current U.S. Congressional Districts
  • Pennsylvania's current U.S. Congressional Districts
No more packing all the Democratic votes into a small number of urban Pennsylvania U.S. Congressional districts. No more Goofy kicking Donald Duck, a common descriptor for Pennsylvania's 7th U.S. Congressional District.

On Jan. 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state's current U.S. Congressional District map, which was drawn by Republicans in 2011, was unconstitutional according to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The 5-2 decision affirmed the plaintiffs' claims that Republicans sought partisan advantage when drawing the maps. The decision was cast along partisan lines, with Democrats calling for the current map to be struck down and the court's two Republicans dissenting.

According to the order issued by the state Supreme Court, the new maps will be redrawn by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, currently in Republican control, by Feb. 9. Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) will then have until Feb. 15 to OK the map and submit it to to the state Supreme Court. The new maps will be available by Feb. 19 and will apply to the May 15 primary election and subsequent elections. However, they will not apply to Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District special election on March 15 between Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) and Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth).

The order also says "congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population."

In the current map, county splitting is very common. The 12th Congressional District, which stretches from Beaver County in the west all the way to Cambria County in the east, splits five different counties. Berks County in the eastern part of Pennsylvania doesn't have enough population to support its own congressional district, but is split up into four different districts regardless.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel L. Groen issued the following statement on the decision: “The order issued by the Supreme Court today found that the congressional map violates Pennsylvania’s constitution and has provided the methodology for new maps to be submitted and acted upon before the end of February. I want to thank and compliment the attorneys and parties who brought this before the Supreme Court and helped right this obvious wrong.”

The Pennsylvania Republican Party has yet to put out a statement. But Mark Davin Harris, of Pittsburgh-based conservative political firm Cold Spark Media, tweeted after the decision that "PA Supreme Court ruling is an insane and unconscionable power grab. It’s a legal joke and a thinly veiled partisan hack job. They should be ashamed."

However, it's unclear if anything can be done to change it. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) tweeted it's "not clear" if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case if it is appealed, since the issue pertains to the state constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.


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Thursday, January 18, 2018

In North Fayette, President Donald Trump touts tax cuts in speech on the economy

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 5:04 PM

CP PHOTOS BY CHARLIE DEITCH
  • CP photos by Charlie Deitch
On Jan. 18, President Donald Trump spoke to a crowd of about 200 invited guests at H&K Equipment in North Fayette Township, extolling the benefits of the recently passed tax-cut bill. The president claimed that many of the recent announcements by corporations about employee bonuses and expansions were due to the tax-cut bill.

“Because of tax cuts, Apple just announced a $350 billion expansion,” said Trump of the California-based tech giant. “Apple is gonna build plants, they are going to build a big campus. … The center of America’s resurgence is the tax cuts. ”

Trump also said that his tax-cut bill was having positive effects on H&K Equipment, an equipment-supply company to area manufacturers. "The signs of America's comeback can be seen at H&K,” said Trump. “They will be making a $2.7 million capital investment."

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

These Pennsylvania Congressmen disregarded their own national-debt concerns with tax-bill vote

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 1:07 PM

Keith Rothfus (left), Tom Marino (center) and Mike Kelly (right)
  • Keith Rothfus (left), Tom Marino (center) and Mike Kelly (right)
Twenty-one trillion dollars and counting. That is what the national-debt clock reads on the homepage of U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler). A similar clock also appears on the pages of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) and U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport).

The increase in the national debt has always been a big issue for these Pennsylvania Republicans, as they have consistently campaigned on shrinking the debt and have warned of the dangers if the U.S. can not pay it back. In 2014, Kelly voted against raising the debt limit and said in a statement after his vote: “My constituents in Western Pennsylvania sent me to Washington because government spending has reached a crisis level, and I gave them my word that I would to do everything in my power to reverse course.”

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Monday, December 18, 2017

U.S. Rep. candidate Beth Tarasi says Congressman Keith Rothfus should reveal how the tax bill would benefit him

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 5:57 PM

Beth Tarasi - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CAMPAIGN
  • Photo courtesy of the campaign
  • Beth Tarasi
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) has been a strong supporter of Congressional Republicans’ efforts to pass their tax-cut bill. He voted in favor of the U.S. House version of the bill and has offered full-throated support for the House-Senate version introduced on Dec. 15.

“This tax reform legislation puts more money in the pockets of hardworking Pennsylvanians, creates more jobs in our state, and lessens the power of Washington,” said Rothfus in a November statement.

But non-partisan analysis of the bill shows most of tax-cut bill benefits will go to the wealthy, and any benefits for working-class Americans will be limited. While income tax cuts will be doled out to all Americans initially, those cuts will expire in 2025. The corporate tax rate, however, will be cut from 35 percent to 21 percent and will be permanent.

Sewickley lawyer and Democratic U.S. Rep. candidate Beth Tarasi is running for Rothfus’ seat and is calling for Rothfus to tell his constituents how he would personally benefit from the GOP tax bill, considering his large net worth. Rothfus, with a net worth of more than $6 million, has the second highest net worth of any representative in Pennsylvania.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pittsburgh-area U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle really wants to keep net neutrality alive

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 12:01 PM

Mike Doyle - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Mike Doyle
Pittsburghers that follow their congressman closely know that U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) is pretty furious that the Federal Communications Commission wants to strip net-neutrality rules that govern the internet.

The FCC is proposing axing the rules, and FCC chair Ajit Pai announced a vote will take place today, Dec. 14. Republicans like Pai claim that current net-neutrality rules, which bar internet service providers from slowing down or favoring certain web content, are an overly burdensome regulation on the internet that has hurt investment.

But Democrats, like Doyle, believe that repealing the rules will hurt consumers.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango doesn’t seem to understand the economics of immigration

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Paul Mango - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CAMPAIGN
  • Photo courtesy of the campaign
  • Paul Mango
Gubernatorial candidate and former business consultant Paul Mango (R-Richland) released a video on Dec. 1 decrying so-called “sanctuary cities” (municipalities that limit communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers). “As your next governor I will guarantee you this: We are not going to tolerate sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Mango in the video. He was referencing a recent court ruling in San Francisco, where an undocumented immigrant was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in the accidental shooting death of Kate Steinle.

Critics claim that San Francisco’s sanctuary policy allowed the immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, to avoid deportation even though he had been convicted of some drug charges prior to the shooting. After the shooting, Zarate was still convicted of illegal firearm possession, and will likely be deported. However, immigration experts, like Pittsburgh immigration lawyer Abbie Rosario, say that sanctuary policies encourage immigrants to report crimes and keep neighborhoods safer. Rosario says that politicians like Mango who criticize sanctuary cities aren’t necessarily focused on policy, but are more interested in espousing “racist undertones.”

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