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Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Al-SharptonRacism terrifies me.  Ever since I was a little kid I was aware of the brutality of what racial hatred – or any other baseless prejudice – could cause because we lived in a neighborhood of blacks and whites.  It always seemed so crazy to me, even then.  I guess that’s why the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington – which my mother actually remembers and still talks about – is so important to me.   It is scary for me to think that at one time in our history women and blacks didn’t have the vote.  But Abraham Lincoln was fighting for this.  In a letter in the possession of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation to Michael Hahn, (the first Jew who was elected governor in American history), Abraham Lincoln “gently but firmly pushed for Black suffrage – and surprisingly, without making any distinction between the free-born and the freed…”

I am planning to board the PennLive bus to Washington with the others on Saturday.  It’s so weird to think that it’s been 50 years since the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place.  What’s even weirder for me is that we’re still encountering racism and prejudice.  All in all it is expected that around 100,000 will be at the march and rally for this commemoration, in part sponsored by Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (Martin Luther King III’s eldest son).  According to AP, the event is meant to be a tribute to “the significance of the original march and the ‘galvanizing’ of support for civil rights during that time,” the result of which was laws to protect people’s rights.

But as Homer Floyd, Chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee of the Greater Harrisburg NAACP and Pennsylvania NAACP, accurately noted that this event is “to kind of celebrate the successes and, at the same time, recognizing that there are many challenges that remain.”  And a Harrisburg resident, Junior Howard said that the march marked “another step on a long journey to the final destination” of racial equality and freedom. It’s a part of history.  It’s a part of who I am.”  And, truthfully, that’s exactly how I feel.

Happy Father’s Day!

fathers-dayToday is Father’s Day.  It’s a little tough for me as the ex-wife had asked a while ago if she could have this weekend (which was scheduled as hers anyway) as her boyfriend had planned a family trip for them.  Although I did feel a bit put out and like he’s taking away my role as a father – especially on this day – I agreed as I need to keep things as smooth as possible  So I’ve been spending a lot of the day reading all the papers and I came across this random piece about Abraham Lincoln as a father.  I found it particularly interesting as all I ever heard about his personal life was his reputation as “honest Abe.”  I knew nothing about his relationship with his kids though.

Abraham Lincoln was like me in one way at least – he was the father of three boys.  Unfortunately though, tragedy struck, and the middle one passed away at 11-years old.  He was apparently the one who was most like him.  I cannot imagine going through something like that, losing one of my boys.

Anyway, he became very close to his other boy, Tad.  No matter what the boy did – and it sounds like through documentation archived in The Shapell Manuscript Foundation that he was quite the troublemaker – daddy Abraham would come to his defense.  Tad would come and interrupt meetings; go along with him to the White House and even share his bed.  One of the pieces archived at Shapell is a letter Abraham wrote three days after his second Inauguration saying: “Will Gen. Delafield please allow the bearer, my son, to have a map or two for which he will ask? A Lincoln.”   This letter was written just five weeks before Lincoln was assassinated.

So really, having read all of this, being on my own for Father’s Day didn’t seem so bad at all. In fact, after I read Lincoln’s tales I realized just how fortunate I am.  I am even more excited to spend next weekend with my kids!

Harrisburg to Get Financial Injection

Eric-GreggFinally the state is going to help us.  We’ll be getting more than $1,500,000 to help us rebuild our city.  The country’s Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has awarded $1,645,200 in Disaster Relief funding because of all the crazy floods we encountered in 2011 as well as last February’s EF4 tornado.  I totally agree with the Mayor (Eric Gregg) who described this as “a godsend,” and crucial to our city’s maintenance and growth.  Furthermore, it gives Harrisburg the chance to solve some of its long-term problems.

Some of the money will be put towards making improvements in our city’s water treatment plants; local industries and of course taking measures to safeguard against future floods.

No More Cash for Harrisburg’s Elderly

Last week The General Assistance cash grant program that had been in operation in Harrisburg ever since The Great Depression came to an end due, of course, not surprisingly, to a lack of funding.  This is going to be a huge issue for the approximately 70,000 elderly Pennsylvanians who have been receiving around $200 a month.  These include: the elderly; victims of domestic violence; disabled; etc.

I was actually hoping it wouldn’t come to this.  A friend of mine is one of the recipients – he has a lot going on – and he told me that it had been continuing these last few weeks even though it was meant to end at the beginning of July.  But he just got the official letter that it’s now ending. I don’t know what he’s going to do; he – along with the other thousands who were receiving the money – really relied on it.

We shouldn’t really be so surprised though.  A vast majority of social service programs have been cut back or eliminated.  Now the question is, how will these people be protected from really going under?  What is going to happen?  According to DPW spokeswoman Carey Miller, the next address for them will be their caseworkers for each case to be evaluated on an individual basis. There could also be food stamps and access to medical assistance to cushion the blow as well.  Whatever happens, I seriously hope the city and the Mayor have thought this through properly.

Harrisburg Getting New City Hall?

It seems a bit strange, given all the recent budgetary dilemmas the city of Harrisburg has been facing, to now make plans for a somewhat pricey new city hall.  But that is exactly what news on the streets is; the city has revealed tis plans for such a construction at an expense of $3m.  It was earlier this week – during a city council meeting – that plans for the new building which will comprise a community room, police department, a new city council chamber and more, were brought to light.

New Building Necessity

So the question may thus justifiably be asked, why is it so important to engage in such an expensive construction, especially given the city’s current financial woes?  Well, apparently, predictions indicate that the city’s populace is due to increase by 10,000 individuals over the next decade-and-a-half and this move is just one part of the growth preparation. The current venue for Harrisburg’s city hall – the American Legion – just won’t cut it with such a large population growth.

According to Toby Morris, a Harrisburg financial consultant, funds will be taken from an existing sales tax or a new tax.

Harrisburg Pike Postal Service to Close

It looks like Harrisburg is set to lose its mail processing and distribution center.  A study conducted by the U.S. Postal Service showed it makes more sense to move these operations to Dauphin County.  A public hearing is to be held next week at Centerville Middle School.  The Harrisburg Pike facility has been under review already for three months.  Following this, it seems it would be best to unite it with the LeGree Daniels Processing & Distribution Center in Harrisburg.  That would probably be the most preferable option for Harrisburg, and, in the past, consolidation is usually what happens in such situations.

It seems like Harrisburg is not alone in the possibility of losing its post office facilities.  A couple of months ago it was announced by the Postal Service that around 250 facilities might face closure as a way of cutting back on a huge infrastructure in the county that is failing to prove financial sustainability these days due to the fact that people are rarely relying on mail to communicate anymore.

Brown Wilson Goes Down

Even government officials are not immune from breaking the law.  This was definitely the case with Susan Brown Wilson, a councilwoman from Harrisburg.  She has been accused of not paying her court fines amounting to hundreds of dollars.  Brown Wilson was thus confronted by Harrisburg state constable Shotzberger last week.

Councilwoman Dodges Taxes

According to the court documents that were recently brought to light, councilwoman Brown Wilson did not file earned income taxes for the years 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2008. Part of these monies go directly to Harrisburg.  While she did actually settle these a few months ago, the fines associated with late payment remain unpaid.  Apparently she was on a payment plan, but details are not yet known.  According to Capital Area Constables Association spokesman, William Stoeffler, as far as he knew, “one payment had been made, and no subsequent payments came after that.”  While Brown Wilson was recently confronted by the Harrisburg state constable in person, this was not before other – less confrontational methods – had been attempted.  She was contacted by mail and notice was also left at her residence.

It seems that Brown Wilson’s current debt to the city of Harrisburg totals $581.25.

Harrisburg to Raise Parking Rates?

That’s just what the city of Harrisburg needs right now after all it’s been through recently. First the whole city is flooded and now residents are going to be faced with additional fees whenever they go out and need to park their cars.  But perhaps this won’t be met with such distaste since according to Harristown Enterprises VP, Brad Jones, “everyone understands that the city “needs money right now.”  That may be the case, but there is not necessarily a consensus on how these monies should be raised.

Indeed, various local businessmen, such as McGrath Pub owner Tom Scott, are somewhat skeptical about the decision too.  As it is the current prices are hardly cheap, with downtown areas charging $1.50 every hour, requiring around six quarters at a time, forcing car owners to keep coming out to put more money in, further disrupting their day and thus their business too.  If prices increase, it would be almost double, to $2.50.  As well, free parking after 5pm during the week and over the weekend will end.

This is definitely not a popular move with small business owners in the city who feel it will harm their businesses.

Immigration Showdown in Harrisburg

It’s going to be a tough few days in the Capitol, as Pennsylvania House State Government Committee Majority Chairman Representative Daryl Metcalfe will be holding two public hearings to focus on the “National Security Begins at Home” legislative package.

Immigration Reform a Must

Metcalfe believes passionately in immigration reform, saying that going to battle against the 140,000 illegal immigrants in Pennsylvania alone could possibly safe tax payers large sums.  He has called an executive order from President Barack Obama “treasonous” and he’s definitely got both sides of the argument coming out in full force.

Prior to the meeting, one staff member joked to the Harrisburg press corps that they should “Bring your flak jacket.”

No Immigration Reform, Say Some

Pro-immigration groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and some state legislators and immigration activities held a press conference before the hearing on Tuesday.  Andy Hoover, the legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania was quoted as saying, “Apparently, undermining the constitution and sabotaging our economy begins at the state capitol. These bills would be a disaster for the commonwealth.”

Time will tell which side wins – but it is certainly going to be an interesting fight and one well worth watching!

Pride Festival in Harrisburg

At the end of this month, from July 29 to 31st, The Pride Festival of Central Pennsylvania will take place in Harrisburg. This year, the theme of the festival, is going to be “Making Strides for 20 Years Strong.”  The Festival is an annual event.  For anyone in Harrisburg or the surrounding cities who would like to volunteer their time, check out www.prideofcentralpa.org for details.

The Mayor of the city, Linda D. Thompson, in a letter to Mr. Martin earlier in June, began by stating that “the city of Harrisburg welcomes all those who have come to enjoy the Pride Festival of Central PA.”  Indeed, anything that is able to promote “mutual respect and human understanding,” as Thompson pointed out “is of great value to our community and we all share in the celebration of human dignity.”

As well, the festival is a great contributor to “the struggle for equal rights under law.”  With intolerance comes a diminishing of “guaranteed civil liberties we all have worked so hard to achieve in our nation.”  This has to be unacceptable.  All forms of discrimination must be fought against.  At the end of the day as Thompson notes, “we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and as the Mayor of the City of Harrisburg I will not deny these rights.”