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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pennsylvania politicians sound off on Trump’s latest Charlottesville comments, others silent

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 5:00 PM

  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Bob Casey
On Aug. 15, President Donald Trump backtracked on earlier statements solely condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis for violence in the aftermath of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump's initial statement on Aug. 12 blamed "many sides" for the violence. Then on Aug. 14, Trump said, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

But, during the Aug. 15 press event at Trump Tower in New York City, where the president was scheduled to discuss infrastructure, Trump instead attacked the “alt-left” and assigned just as much, if not more, blame to the counter-protesters.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you so say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt? … You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” said Trump.

In response to Trump’s latest comments, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton) condemned Trump for trying to compare the actions of hate groups to the actions of counter-protesters. Casey was in Pittsburgh on Aug. 16 to discuss trade at the Steelworkers Building Downtown and spoke with reporters about Trump’s comments.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Southwestern Pennsylvania Republicans are taking heat for condemning neo-Nazis

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 6:33 PM

The top comment responding to TIm Murphy's post condemning white supremacy is critical of that view. - IMAGE COURTESY OF FACEBOOK
  • Image courtesy of Facebook
  • The top comment responding to TIm Murphy's post condemning white supremacy is critical of that view.
The Aug. 12 death of Heather Heyer and injuries to several counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. following a gathering of Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists has caused a political firestorm. A car, allegedly driven by James Fields, an Ohio man with ties to neo-Nazi groups, drove into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed Heyer. Before the death, white-nationalist protesters and counter-protesters, including members of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, an anti-fascist group, clashed and beat each other with flagpoles and clubs, but it's unclear what or who instigated the brawl.

After the dust had settled, President Donald Trump made a statement on Aug. 12 from his golf club in New Jersey and said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time.”

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Friday, August 11, 2017

FairDistricts PA will fight gerrymandering with week of educational events and campaign for voting reform

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 5:35 PM

This map shows the 2012 redistricting of Senate District 28 - © 2012 GOOGLE
  • © 2012 Google
  • This map shows the 2012 redistricting of Senate District 28
According to a report released in May, Pennsylvania is among the three worst gerrymandered states in the country. And others say Pennsylvania is the most gerrymandered it has ever been.

But what is gerrymandering, and how does it impact elections and local politics? Next week, local organizers will attempt to answer these questions and more with a series of events around the city.

"Gerrymandering is a little complicated, a little wonky," says Kitsy McNulty, coordinator of the Pittsburgh Local Group of FairDistricts PA. But essentially the term refers to the practice of manipulating voting-district boundaries in order to benefit a particular political party or candidate.

"Some of these districts have been drawn in such an outrageous fashion," says McNulty. "You can see where they've been drawn to grab voters of a particular party, and take them out of a district and put them into another district. If you're trying to help the Republicans, you pack all of the Democrats into a certain district and take them out of other districts where they might oppose Republicans."

FairDistricts PA is a coalition of government-reform groups that was co-founded by nonpartisan groups Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. Common Cause was born out of the Watergate scandal and unethical practices in government.

Next week's event are aimed at persuading state lawmakers to support voting-reform legislation that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians.

"Everybody is frustrated with the way government is so dysfunctional," says McNulty. "And we're convinced that the main reason it's so dysfunctional is because the legislators are not accountable. And the reason voters can't hold them accountable is because the districts have been drawn in such a way that they protect the incumbents, or they protect a particular political party.

"Both parties do this. Right now in Pennsylvania, it's the Republicans but the Democrats have done it too."

House Bill 722 and Senate Bill 22 would give a citizens commission power over redistricting. Similar reform has taken place in California and the proposed 11-person Pennsylvania citizens' commission would be modeled after that success.

"We want the districts to be drawn fairly to represent the voters in the community, and we feel the only way to do that is to take the line-drawing out of the hands of the professional politicians and give it to a commission of citizens who have no conflicts of interest or financial gain in their decision," says McNulty.

The week-long campaign,  “Eight Days a Week for Fair Democracy,” will kickoff on Aug. 16 at the Lawrenceville branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The event will start with a theatrical demonstration featuring 19th-century Massachusetts Gov. Eldridge Gerry, the namesake of gerrymandering. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Other events throughout next week will include visits to state legislators in their home districts, educational forums, public letter-writing drives and face-to-face meetings with legislators.

Legislative leaders redraw the voting districts every 10 years. The next redistricting will occur after the 2020 Census.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle weighs in on RAISE Act’s potential effect on Pittsburgh

Posted By on Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Mike Doyle
  • Mike Doyle
From 2010 to 2016, the Pittsburgh metro area saw a negative net migration of about 12,000 native-born residents. This means that about 12,000 more American-born people left the region than arrived here over those six years. In this same time span, the region saw a positive international migration of more than 22,000 people. The region still saw a lot more deaths than births and lost overall population, but in short, immigrants have been propping up the Pittsburgh metro area population.

But on Aug. 2, President Donald Trump held a press conference where he gave support to the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, which seeks to cut legal immigration up to 50 percent and give priorities to English-speaking immigrants, among other reforms. The bill was introduced by co-sponsors U.S. senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia).

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills), whose district encompasses Pittsburgh, McKeesport and New Kensington, says this bill goes against what Pittsburgh and the region are trying to accomplish. He says he wants people to move here, regardless of what country they were born in.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro defends immigrant Dreamers in letter to Trump

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 12:34 PM

Josh Shapiro
  • Josh Shapiro
Since President Donald Trump took office, immigration enforcement has dramatically changed, especially the work of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. In January, Trump changed President Barack Obama’s priorities on immigration enforcement (which targeted serious criminals and repeat offenders), so that immigrants can now be detained merely for being arrested for committing a criminal offense (like disorderly conduct), even if they are not charged or sentenced.

As a result, detainment of immigrants is up nationally and undocumented immigrants across the country, including those in Pittsburgh, are terrified that their families will be separated. A recent New Yorker article even highlights one longtime ICE officer who struggles to cope with the escalated enforcement. Additionally, illegal border crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017 are down significantly compared to the same time period as last year (although this could be part of a eight-year decline). ICE also tweeted out in March, “DACA is not a protected legal status, but active DACA recipients are typically a lower level of enforcement priority.” (DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama executive action that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and provides them access to work permits.)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Protesters and North Hills constituents rally outside of Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai’s office, ask for a solution to balance the state budget

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 2:08 PM

North Hills constituents speaking out against state Rep. Mike Turzai at a July 25 rally - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • North Hills constituents speaking out against state Rep. Mike Turzai at a July 25 rally
On July 22, Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Marshall) convened a rare weekend session with the Republican caucus of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Turzai tried to sell his proposal to fill this year’s $2 billion budget deficit, which he suggested the state do by borrowing $1.5 billion, and cutting subsidies to recycling, farmland-preservation and highway-beautification programs. But the 121 members of the Republican caucus, which holds a 39-seat majority over state House Democrats, rejected the idea.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Allegheny County Council candidate Anita Prizio thinks county’s new lead-testing rule should go farther

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 3:10 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Prizio campaign
  • Anita Prizio
On July 5, Allegheny County Council passed an ordinance mandating that toddlers be given blood tests to check for lead poisoning. The county’s health director, Karen Hacker, said in a May Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article that universal childhood lead testing is necessary in Allegheny County because of lead-paint issues in its aging homes and elevated lead levels in the water supply. (It should be noted that Pittsburgh announced testing results on July 18 that comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, but many consider those standards outdated.)

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Progressive, Independent Mik Pappas kicks off campaign for Allegheny County District Judge

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 12:23 PM

Mik Pappas at his July 13 campaign event in East Liberty - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Mik Pappas at his July 13 campaign event in East Liberty
A February article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette portrayed Allegheny County’s Magisterial District Judges as lighthearted peacekeepers that mainly solve neighborhood disputes. Mik Pappas, a civil-rights lawyer running for judge in the county’s 31 magisterial district, feels this assessment was undervaluing a judge's importance.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Democrats have a rural problem in Southwestern Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional district

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:52 PM

  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
On July 12, a group of left-leaning protesters rallied outside of U.S. Congressman Keith Rothfus’ (R-Sewickley) office in Ross Township. They were some 15 members strong, and they hooted and hollered for an hour, expressing displeasure with their representative for failing to hold a town hall and his support of the Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We are here to keep the momentum going and show how [Rothfus] is not representing us,” said Michelle Raab of PA 12 Progressives, the group that organized the protest.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

After Sen. Toomey's invitation-only town hall, anger over the GOP's health-care legislation continues in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 4:48 PM

Pittsburghers gathered in Market Square - CP PHOTO BY HALEY FREDERICK
  • CP photo by Haley Frederick
  • Pittsburghers gathered in Market Square
The U.S. Senate will reconvene on July 10 after a weeklong Fourth of July recess that began on July 3. Many legislators use this time away from Washington, D.C., to meet with their constituents, but according to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and nearly every member of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation have not planned any town halls or public forums during this time.

Toomey is a part of the group of 13 Republican senators who have been crafting legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Earlier today, local activists gathered in Market Square to share their objections to health-care repeal bills.

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