Clergy Abuse and Harrisburg Finances; Journalists Weigh In


What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, July 17, 2018:

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk, guest host Katie Meyer kicks off the hour with a discussion of a grand jury report that’s hanging over Pennsylvania.

It’s an investigation of sexual abuse of children by clergy in six of the commonwealth’s eight Catholic diocese. And it’s stalled because current and former clergy are appealing to the state Supreme Court, arguing it would wrongly tarnish people’s reputations.

Angela Couloumbis of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Liz Navratil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette join us to discuss what might be in the report, and the legal intricacies keeping it from release.

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Liz Navratil and Angela Couloumbis

And in the second part of the show, we turn our attention to local issues. Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse recently declared a fiscal crisis, amid an effort to exit the “distressed city” classification while keeping the special taxing authority that came with it.

WITF’s Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti helps fill in the backstory of Harrisburg’s financial woes. And city reporter Lizzy Hardison of The Burg brings us up to speed on the latest developments.

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Lizzy Hardison and Emily Previti

Attorney General Shapiro, Auditor General DePasquale, and PA Chamber

On Monday’s Smart Talk guest host G. Terry Madonna welcomes a variety of guests to cover recent news and events in Pennsylvania:

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G. Terry Madonna

Attorney General Josh Shapiro will discuss “No-Poach” agreements in fast-food franchise contracts and a new initiative to combat the opioid epidemic with help from local law enforecement. 

Kevin Sunday, Director of Government Affairs with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, will talk about Russian meddling in American businesses and in Pennsylvania.  

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Josh Shapiro, Kevin Sunday, and Eugene DePasquale

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will talk about his action plan to help fix the system to keep kids safer, how he is looking at the integrity of our voting system, working to improve school safety and help low-income residents stay warm in the winter.

G Terry Madonna is kicking off a week of special guest hosts while Smart Talk’s Scott LaMar enjoys a much deserved vacation.  

New report: PA air is polluted/Police crack down on aggressive-distracted drivers

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, July 13, 2018:

Millions of Americans are exposed to polluted air, a recent report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center found and released by the environmental group Penn Environment.

Air pollution can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, which may lead to premature death. The report, titled “Trouble in the Air,” found that even at levels considered “good” or “moderate” by the Environmental Protection Agency, pollution can still be harmful to people’s health.

After detailing the magnitude and dangers of air pollution in the United States, “Trouble in the Air” offers recommendations for future improvement. These suggestions include supporting government initiatives to reduce global warming and decrease pollution from vehicles.

The report found that the Central Pennsylvania region has some of the most polluted air in the country. Particulate matter is a particular problem in the region.

Stephanie Wein from PennEnvironment joins us on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss pollution and “Trouble in the Air.”

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Stephanie Wein

Also, Pennsylvania police are cracking down on aggressive and distracted driving with an aggressive driving enforcement initiative. They are watching for people tailgating, running red lights, speeding, and not steering clear of emergency vehicles. During the last enforcement period in March and April, over 4,000 citations were issued.

Speeding, an aggressive driving habit, was responsible for over ¼ of traffic deaths in 2016. Congested roads and running late are some of the most common reasons people drive aggressively.

Distracted driving often involves texting, though it can include any behavior that requires drivers to take their focus from the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that texting causes drivers to look away from the road for five seconds, which, at a speed of 55 mph, is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with one’s eyes closed. This organization estimates that 481,000 people use cell phones while driving during the day.

Joining us on Friday to talk about the aggressive driving enforcement initiative are Co-Coordinators Barbara Zortman and Jeff Bowman, Region 2 Law Enforcement Liaison for the Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving Enforcement & Education Project, and Corporal Eric Carter from the Harrisburg Bureau of Police.

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Jeff Bowman, Barbara Zortman, and Corporal Eric Carter

How will Supreme Court Janus decision impact unions?

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, July 12, 2018:

Last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-union government employees are not required to pay dues or fees in order to keep their jobs.  The Court said that an Illinois teacher’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights were being denied when he was forced to pay even though he wasn’t in the union.  The teacher — Mark Janus — said he didn’t agree with the political positions the union was taking and shouldn’t be forced to contribute money to fund political activity he didn’t support.  That’s even though non-union members’ dues or fees aren’t permitted to be used for political activity anyway.  

However, the argument for requiring non-union workers to pay dues or fees was that even though the employee may not be in the union, they benefitted from the contract the union negotiates.

The ruling overturns the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in which the justices made a distinction between two kinds of required payments:  agency fees, which were found to be constitutional, and voluntary union dues, which were not. 

Some predict that organized labor unions will take a hard hit financially and will likely see a decrease in membership.

On Thursday’s Smart Talk, we discuss the Janus decision and what it means for the future of unions with Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director at the Keystone Research Center and Nathan Benefield, Vice President and COO of the Commonwealth Foundation.

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Stephen Herzenberg and Nathan Benefield

Road Trip to Spangler Farm in Gettysburg

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Gettysburg Foundation

What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, July 11, 2018:

The site of the bloodiest battle ever fought on North American soil may not seem like a logical place to have a discussion about peace and civility.  But that’s exactly what we’re doing on Wednesday’s Smart Talk.

A Smart Talk Road Trip travels to the George Spangler Farm on the Gettysburg Battlefield Wednesday.  During the program, we’ll be talking about peace and civility.  How does that tie in to the Gettysburg Battlefield?

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Eternal Peace Light Memorial on the battlefield.  It was dedicated on July 3rd, 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt.  On that day, President Roosevelt said, “Sometimes the threat to popular government comes from political interests, sometimes from economic interests, sometimes we have to beat off all of them together. But the challenge is always the same- whether each generation facing its own circumstances can summon the practical devotion to attain and to retain that greatest good for the greatest number which this government of the people was created to ensure.”

The front of the memorial says, “An enduring light to guide us in unity and fellowship.”

Those words were referring to the Civil War, but they just as easily could be describing what’s needed in today’s society that is divided politically and often harshly.

During the Smart Talk broadcast, we’ll discuss civility with Dr. Matthew Moen, President of the Gettysburg Foundation, Dr. Jean Pretz, Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Elizabethtown College and Lucie Shiffman, one of the award winners for the 2018 Student Prize for Civility in Public Life at Allegheny College.

Also, the George Spangler Farm was used as a field hospital after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.  Up to 1,900 men from both the Union and Confederate armies were treated at the Spangler Farm when it was a field hospital.  Some lived but others died, including Confederate General Lewis Armistead.  This summer, visitors are getting an opportunity to see an 1863 working farm and what a field hospital looked like in 1863.

Joining us on the program are Paul Semanek, Site Coordinator, the George Spangler Civil War Field Hospital, Harry Sonntag, 2nd Corps, Field Hospital, Confederate States of America and Ron Kirkwood, Historian and Spangler Farm Volunteer.

Construction workers fight opioid dependency/What are trends in employer based benefits?

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, July 10, 2018:

One-fifth of medications prescribed to construction workers contain an opioid.  Construction workers are almost twice as likely to have a substance abuse problem than the general population.  What it adds up to is the construction industry has been hit hard by the opioid crisis.

However, the construction industry is fighting back and reaching out to help its workers deal with the issues in several ways that we’ll discuss on Tuesday’s Smart Talk.  Could it be a model for other industries?

The last week in July has been designated as “Construction Opioids Awareness Week” in Pennsylvania.

Joining us on the program is Jon O’Brien, executive Director of the Keystone Contractors Association.

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Jon O’Brien

Also, a recent survey shows trends in employer-based healthcare benefits of higher deductibles and increased limits on coverage of spouses.  Both moves are to keep costs from rising faster.

Conrad Siegel, a company that works with employers on benefits, questioned more than 100 Central Pennsylvania Businesses for it’s annual healthcare survey.

Robert Glus, a Partner & Consulting Actuary at Conrad Siegel is on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to explain.

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Robert Glus

PA clean slate law/Fighting West Nile

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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, July 9, 2018:

Pennsylvania is the first state in the country with a “clean slate” law.  It allows those who were arrested for non-violent crimes that carried a year or more in prison to have their records sealed if they don’t break the law again for 10 years and have paid all fines and court costs.

Under the law, criminal records aren’t expunged and are still accessible by law enforcement.

More than a third of Pennsylvania’s working-age population have criminal records.  The law’s proponents say it will allow those who stay out of trouble to find a job or rent an apartment.

To discuss the clean slate law on Monday’s Smart Talk is one of its co-sponsors — Republican Rep. Sheryl Delozier of Cumberland County.

Also, so far this year, West Nile virus has been found in 33 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.  Cases of West Nile virus occur during mosquito season, beginning in the summer and continuing through the fall.  Mosquito bites are the primary cause for infection and the state has developed plans to keep mosquito breeding under control.

The virus first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2000.  In response, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) developed a network to trap and control mosquitoes, while also monitoring people and animals that could be infected.

Currently, counties have only tested positive from mosquito samples and there have been no cases of human infection in Pennsylvania.  Many counties have taken precautions through neighborhood sprayings of mosquito insecticides, but there are many other actions people can take to prevent mosquito breeding.

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Rep. Sheryl Delozier of Cumberland County, Matt Helwig, and Mike Hutchinson

Matt Helwig and Mike Hutchinson from the DEP’s Vector Management team joins us on Monday’s show to discuss controlling West Nile virus.

Media collaborating to find solutions to opioid crisis/Canada’s Consul General

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, July 6, 2018:

WITF and Smart Talk have focused a spotlight on the opioid crisis often over the past five years.  We’ve heard it called the worst drug epidemic many people have ever seen.  There have been stories of death and grief, but also of hope and finding a solution to the scourge.

WITF is one of more than 50 print, digital and broadcast news organizations that are teaming up for a project called State of Emergency: Search for Solutions to Pennsylvania’s Opioid Crisis.  Stories from every area of the state are being published or broadcast to show how government agencies, businesses, first responders, families of victims and ordinary citizens are battling opioids.

More than 2,200 Pennsylvanians died of opioid overdoses in 2016 and there are very few signs the overdoses are slowing down.

Cate Barron, Vice President of Content at PennLive and the Patriot-News is one of the editors overseeing the project and she appears on Friday’s Smart Talk.

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Cate Barron

Also, the Counsul General of Canada was in Harrisburg last month and joined us on Smart Talk.  This week, Canada imposed tariffs on some American imports in retaliation for President Trump ordering tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada.  We’ll hear that conversation with Consul General Phyllis Yaffee on Friday’s Smart Talk.

Free Trade Skepticism/The Mechanics of Gerrymandering

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, July 5, 2018:

A survey recently conducted by the Bucknell University Institute for Public Policy found that residents of six key Trump states are pessimistic about the impacts of free trade.

These states – known as the “Trump Coalition” – voted for President Trump in the 2016 election and Barack Obama in prior elections. They include Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.

Approximately 60 percent of people in these states said free trade negatively affects economic growth, employment prospects and wages. This figure was about 10-20 percent lower in states that voted consistently Republican or consistently Democrat in the last two elections.

Additionally, the survey showed that Republicans and Democrats prioritize different goals in trade agreements. Republicans tend to emphasize the internal effects of trade, while Democrats often focus more on conditions in partner countries.

To discuss the survey’s findings, political science professor and director of the Bucknell Survey Research Laboratory, Chris Ellis will join us on Thursday’s Smart Talk.

Also, gerrymandering has been a contentious topic in Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation lately. On Thursday, former State Senator Franklin L. Kury is on Smart Talk to discuss his book Gerrymandering: A Guide to Congressional Redistricting, Dark Money, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The book examines the Supreme Court case regarding gerrymandered maps used in Wisconsin elections. Last month after the book was published, the Supreme Court pushed the case back down to a lower court, avoiding coming to a decision on the legality of the maps.

Kury’s book also looks at the mechanics of redistricting in Pennsylvania and throughout U.S. history, and it includes information that readers can use to understand gerrymandering and redistricting in their states.

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Franklin L. Kury

Fireworks and Independence Day

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, July 3, 2018:

As you are well aware, Wednesday is the Fourth of July — Independence Day — or the day most people point to as the birth of the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence that declared the 13 colonies independent from Great Britain was announced on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia — even though it was agreed to two days earlier. 

A young Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence — a document that many historians hail as significant as the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk, we discuss Jefferson and writing the Declaration with Professor Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, a historian from Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There will be a lot of celebrating Wednesday with picnics, swimming, family get-togethers and, of course, fireworks.  Pennsylvania has a new law for this Fourth of July.  Some fireworks that weren’t legal in the state before are now.

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk to describe what’s different is Bill Leidy, Store Manager of Gettysburg Keystone Fireworks.

With any discussion of fireworks should come some caution and talk of safety.  Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline joins us to discuss why we need to be even more cautious this year.


Brian Enterline