Editorials from around Pennsylvania
By The Associated Press (AP) — Editorials from around Pennsylvania:
COURT RULING CLOUDS JOINT POLICING VENTURES
The Altoona Mirror, June 23
Police officers crossing municipal boundaries to assist officers of a neighboring or nearby jurisdiction who are in need of help due to some emergency is nothing new.
That has been happening as long as people can remember.
Assistance doesn’t generally entail routine police patrols unless a community purchases police services from another.
Meanwhile, many municipalities allow their officers to participate in joint police operations such as DUI checkpoints or on drug task forces. The availability of manpower from a variety of locales for such operations helps protect communities and their residents.
But on May 31 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court handed down a ruling that has put at least a temporary hold on municipal police officers conducting DUI checkpoints, not only here but no doubt across the state. The ruling also has triggered questions about municipal officers’ participation in drug task force work.
The issues spawned by the high court’s ruling don’t appear to be insurmountable; it seems only to be a matter of crafting the right formal agreements or guidelines governing work outside officers’ specific jurisdictions, if such agreements and guidelines don’t already exist.
It will take time to verify that existing rules and agreements comply with the court’s ruling and to take appropriate action in instances where they might not comply.
It’s easy to see that having the right rules in place to comply with all aspects of the court’s ruling will avert potential questions and legal challenges in the future.
The main important point for now is that new agreements and guidelines drawn up in the weeks ahead, or those that already are in place, serve as a single “blanket” not necessitating additional spur-of-the-moment approvals.
“Immediate” approvals probably would be impossible to obtain anyway, since state law requires that municipal decision-making take place at advertised public meetings.
The high court’s ruling was handed down in connection with a DUI case involving a woman who encountered a township police officer who was participating in a checkpoint in another township.
At the heart of the court case was the argument that, since the officer in question was out of his jurisdiction, any evidence emanating from the encounter with the woman that ultimately led to her conviction had to be suppressed.
The defense contended that there was a violation of the law governing police jurisdictions, and the court ruled that participation in such operations must be established through an ordinance, not merely through an agreement between department chiefs or municipal managers.
That has handed Blair County officials the task of determining whether the way this county’s DUI task force was established complies with the May 31 ruling, and a similar question hovers over the Blair County Drug Task Force.
Up to the end of last month, it was believed generally that the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act and the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act were adequate guidelines and were being followed as written.
The May 31 court ruling has blurred that confidence.
Municipalities and their solicitors must work quickly to put the current questions and uncertainties to rest. The DUI and drug task forces must not be held back from continuing their important work.
PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATORS SHOULD HAVE RAISED THE MINIMUM WAGE TO HELP PEOPLE STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE
Harrisburg Patriot News, June 26
Legislators seem to be passing up an opportunity to help millions of working people in our state by increasing the minimum wage as all of our neighboring states have done. It is truly disappointing that they have agreed on a $34 billion budget deal that ignores the real need of so many people in our commonwealth.
There are indisputable signs that millions of people are being left out of the prosperity that surrounds us. More than a million people in Pennsylvania are classified as the working poor, unable to afford basic necessities such as food, transportation, child care and housing.
That’s because many must subsist on minimum wage jobs that barely keep families above poverty.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2019 report shows many Americans - including many in Pennsylvania -- have serious problems finding decent, affordable housing.
The coalition says a Pennsylvania resident would need to earn more than $13 an hour, the coalition says, to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental in our state. Imagine if your paycheck is half that. Imagine if you earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
You would have to work 107 hours per week to be able to rent a decent, two-bedroom house in our area. The coalition’s report says most minimum wage workers in our nation would have to work three full-time jobs to pay for decent housing for their families.
The coalition’s housing report is not the only indicator of a wage problem in Pennsylvania. The United Way of Pennsylvania just released its own research showing more than one million people are living just above the poverty line in our state, unable to pay for life’s basic necessities, including food, transportation, child care and decent housing.
They work every day, sometimes two or more jobs. But they just don’t make enough to get ahead.
The United Way was so alarmed at the number of working poor in our state that it has launched a project to educate the public about the problem and given it a name - Alice - to put try to humanize the statistics.
Gov. Tom Wolf called for increasing the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to $12 an hour and eventually to $15. And First Lady Frances Wolf even penned an Op-Ed asking the state legislature to “do the right thing for working, low-income families” and especially for single, working mothers who have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.
She noted that 2 million workers, 61 percent of whom are women, work at low-wage jobs. The National Housing Coalition says these are workers who serve our communities daily - waiters and waitresses, medical assistants, janitors and child care workers. The United Way says they are our family, friends and neighbors.
Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione and Rep. Patty Kim sponsored legislation to help working families by increasing the minimum wage, showing bi-partisan support for an idea whose time should have come.
Many business owners even supported the legislation. While some raised concerns that raising the minimum wage could force them to hire fewer workers or push them out of business completely, that view was not shared by many of their colleagues.
The Pennsylvania Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, a coalition of business owners and executives, supported increasing the minimum wage, acknowledging it hasn’t been raised since 2009. The organization said 61 percent of business owners with employees support increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and adjusting it each year for inflation.
This is not just a Pennsylvania problem; the plight of the working poor is a national embarrassment. But Pennsylvania has the lowest minimum wage permitted under federal law. How does that make us feel?
Most of our neighbors have already taken concrete steps to right this wrong. Minimum wage workers in New Jersey make $8.85 per hour; in Maryland they make $10.10 an hour, and in in New York, they make $11.10 an hour. And now, we’ve missed another chance to right this wrong.
What will it take for Pennsylvania lawmakers to open both their hearts and their minds and throw a lifeline to families struggling to survive as business and investment profits soar?
The income disparity that study after study has documented should no longer be ignored or tolerated. It’s an issue that should unite both Republicans and Democrats.
We urge Sen. Tartaglione, Rep. Kim and Governor Wolf to keep this matter before the legislature and not give up until Pennsylvania workers can be assured a minimum wage that will get them a bit closer to the American dream.
___NEW CITIZENS REMIND US THE AMERICAN DREAM IS ALIVE AND WELL
LPN, June 22
We never get tired of reading the stories of those who achieve their dream of American citizenship.
It fills us with optimism and pride, and it reminds us that the U.S. remains — no matter our internal divisions — a democratic beacon to others around the world.
The immigrants arriving in the U.S. now may be from different places than 50 or 100 years ago, but their idea of America is the same: a place to be free, away from persecution and war, with the chance of a better life for themselves and their families.
Adding them to our vibrant, diverse population strengthens us.
Bhakta Biswa told LNP’s Mary Ellen Wright that he and his wife, Bishnu, came to the U.S. eight years ago from Bhutan “for freedom, to be able to have a life, to learn something, technically.” They want to be a success in America, added Biswa, an employee of Lancaster County Motors.
Their 6-year-old son, Matthias, grinned as he waved two American flags in the courthouse hallway.
“We’re proud and excited,” Bishnu Biswa said.
We commend the Biswas and the other new citizens for taking the correct path to citizenship. The system does work.
Naturalized citizens, unless they qualify for an exemption, must take and pass an English and civics test. Some of the new citizens — perhaps most — had to learn English before doing so.
We praise them for making that effort, on top of their other responsibilities, and also want to thank everyone who helped them through every step of the naturalization process.
While family members and friends of the new citizens filled half the courthouse seats during the June 14 ceremony, Nina Thanh Truong came by herself to take the oath.
“I’m very excited,” she told LNP. “My grandparents brought my ... whole family here in 2006 (from Vietnam).”
She added that she has learned English from her customers at Creative Nail Studio in Manheim, where she works.
Dar Ni Aye La, from Myanmar (formerly Burma), came to the U.S. from Thailand seven years ago.
“We lived in a refugee camp for 20 years” in Thailand, La said, because of political unrest.
His wife, Eh Ku Thaw, also became a citizen with him.
Rachel Bofuasini Bunkete, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, came to Lancaster five years ago, with the help of Church World Service.
“I wanted to be here,” Bunkete told LNP. “There’s freedom, it’s safe, there’s opportunity. My kids could get a good education.”
“There was war (in Congo),” Bunkete, a machine operator for Anvil International in Columbia, added. “They were killing, raping the women, right up to now.”
She has two children here and an adult son still in Africa. Bunkete hopes he will be able to join her eventually.
“It’s wonderful,” Juan De Jesus Moronta Rosado told LNP’s Wright after taking the oath. He emigrated from the Dominican Republic 20 years ago, having studied English in his native country, to join his mother in New York. He’s lived in Lancaster five years.
“Everything has been great for me here,” Rosado said.
“This has been a long journey for you,” Judge James P. Cullen, who administered the oath, told the group. “You have had to adjust to a new language, a new culture, and perhaps a new political system.
“We are extremely pleased that you have chosen to join us. You have an opportunity, now, as a citizen of the United States, to take full part in our political life. ... Please register and vote.”
We strongly urge our new citizens to follow the judge’s advice by registering to vote and participating fully in our democracy.
In addition, we believe it’s imperative that the American public as a whole become better educated in basic civics and how our government operates.
A poll last year by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation showed that only 36% of 1,000 adults surveyed would pass a basic, multiple-choice U.S. citizenship test, modeled after the one taken by immigrants during naturalization. Would each of us be among them?
We strongly endorse the teaching of civics in schools. In classrooms and beyond, we must all remain educated participants in the life of our democracy and bring to that engagement the same pride and enthusiasm that these newest citizens exemplify.
___TREAT RECORD-HIGH ADDICTION IN JAIL
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 25
Addiction threatens our safety and our wallets.
We know that people have drug problems. If it isn’t in your family, it’s an other-people problem. If you don’t take pills, or heroin, or cocaine, why is it something that you have to think about?
It’s because more of the people around you are doing it. If your home is your castle, drug addiction and the problems that accompany it are getting closer to your door every day, circling it like wolves.
And you are paying for it.
On Monday, the Westmoreland County Prison Board heard a sobering statistic. Of 239 new inmates in May, 204 were addicted to drugs or alcohol. More than 85% needed detox, and 40% of those are addicted to opioids. Warden John Walton said the numbers are at record levels.
But if patterns are true, that record won’t last long. The numbers have been floodwater high this year and today’s record seems likely to be dwarfed by tomorrow’s.
The people who sell the drugs, the people who buy them, the people who steal from family members, the people who graduate to stealing whatever they can to support a craving that eats them from inside, the people who hurt others because of what the drugs do to them — all of them pass through the justice system.
We pay to arrest them and to prosecute them. We pay to jail them and to treat them. But how much is spent on that treatment and what is the return?
Walton said the amount spent on medical costs is minimal but also that detox costs have not been calculated. Those statements seem at odds. We should know what the costs are so we know funds are being allocated the right way. Does it need to be more? Is it all they can do? How much would real treatment that could ultimately be less expensive than recidivism be? Is there treatment that would work better?
According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, lockup drug treatment that is “well-designed, carefully implemented and utilize(s) effective practices” can do everything from cutting criminal activity to affecting inmate misconduct to increasing education and employment after release.
“Collectively, these outcomes represent enormous safety and economic benefits to the public,” the BOP states.
Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth Bacha said in March that overdose deaths were at a four-year low, with fentanyl deaths down 40%. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner just announced a 41% drop in overdose deaths overall.
The disparity in what’s being seen in the jail versus the morgue says that fewer people are dying from drugs but more people are living with them and ending up behind bars. Whether they are there awaiting trial or serving a sentence, treatment is beneficial to the addicted, the county employees and the taxpayers.
___STRESS TESTS DUMBED DOWN
The Scranton Times-Tribune, June 26
More than a decade after U.S. taxpayers had to rescue some of the world’s largest investment banks from their own hubris, the federal government is making life easier ... for the investment banks.
Following the massive global recession that was fostered partially by the banks’ irresponsible and unaccountable conduct, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank law requiring banks to maintain adequate reserves to weather a crisis without taxpayer help, and establishing annual stress testing to ensure compliance.
Although the stress tests cannot replicate an actual crisis, they at least require the big banks to ponder crises that might arise involving anything from foreign economic complications to the solvency of their trading counterparties.
This year, all 18 of the nation’s biggest and most complex passed their stress tests, demonstrating that they have adequate reserves to withstand crises posed by the tests.
President Donald Trump came into office vowing to diminish the Dodd-Frank regulatory regime. But, according to reporting by Bloomberg and The Washington Post, he already had some unexpected help from the Obama administration.
For example, regulators have advised the banks in advance of the models they will use to assess the banks’ responses to stress scenarios. That is the equivalent to giving a student the answers to a test before he takes it. Banks can use the data to structure their assets to comply with the model.
To make it easier, regulators also have eliminated the “qualitative objection” that allowed them to assess banks beyond the numbers. That device required banks to demonstrate that they have a handle on the actual risks that the face in evolving markets — largely the issue that led to the 2008 meltdown. The banks can’t be wrong on questions that aren’t asked.
But, no worries. These institutions are full of extremely bright people. What could go wrong?