What do numbers in F and M poll mean?

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, August 31, 2018:

What issue is most important to voters in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race this fall?  According to the latest Franklin and Marshall College poll released Thursday, voters are motivated by President Donald Trump’s performance in office. 

Trump is more important to how voters vote than immigration, healthcare, taxes or education.  Not surprisingly, those planning to vote for a Democrat say voting against Trump is the deciding factor in their decision. The poll also found that 38% of those surveyed believe Trump is doing an excellent or good job.  That’s about the same approval rating former President Barack Obama had at this point in his presidency.

F and M pollster and political analyst Terry Madonna appears on Friday’s Smart Talk to provide insight into the poll’s findings.

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Terry Madonna

A little over two months before the November election, the poll has incumbent Democrat, Gov. Tom Wolf leading his Republican challenger, former State Senator Scott Wagner 51% to 32% with 14% undecided.  Another incumbent — Democrat Bob Casey has 48% to 29% edge over Republican Congressman Lou Barletta.

What are the others issues important to voters and are there any trends?  These are questions we’ll examine on Friday’s Smart Talk

The status of unions in Pennsylvania and the book Rethinking America

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, August 30, 2018:

Labor unions in the United States are in a transition period. On the one hand, leaders point to battles won in West Virginia and Missouri as examples of labor union strength and relevance. The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association successfully negotiated a five percent pay raise for West Virginia Teachers and, recently, Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected the state’s right-to-work legislation. That legislation would have prevented unions from requiring workers in collective bargaining units to pay mandatory fees.

On the other hand, there are those who don’t support unions and cite the recent Supreme Court ruling against mandatory union fees by public sector unions as a blow to union strength. They also say a steady decline in union membership indicates American workers are not inclined to unionize.

As Americans prepare to celebrate Labor Day and the traditional end-of-summer holiday weekend, Smart Talk will discuss membership trends and union relevance with Richard W. Bloomingdale, president of the PA AFL-CIO.

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Richard W. Bloomingdale

Also, the book “Rethinking America: From Empire to Republic takes a closer look into events leading up to the Revolutionary War. It was written by author and professor Dr. Andrew Shankman and Yale University history professor Dr. John Murrin, Ph.D.

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The book “explains why a constitutional argument within the British Empire escalated to produce a revolutionary republic.” The authors look at the politics of Anglicization from the colonial period up to the start of the American Revolution.

Dr. Andrew Shankman is a history professor at Rutgers University-Camden and will join Smart Talk on Thursday to talk about the book collaboration and essays he authored with Dr. Murrin.


New Millersville University President Dr. Daniel Wubah


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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, August 29, 2018:

Dr. Daniel Wubah, the new president of Millersville University, will join Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the new school year and his vision for the University.

Dr. Wubah comes to Pennsylvania from Virginia as a former provost and senior advisor to the president of Washington and Lee University. He brings with him more than 25 years of experence in higher education, having held administrative and teaching roles. Millersville University classes began on Monday, giving Dr. Wubah a few days to take in the new semester.

Millersville University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1855 as a Normal School to prepare teachers for the classroom. More than 160 years later, the University has grown significantly in it’s academic offerings and is a top-rated liberal arts institution. Millersville University is located on over 250 acres just outside of Lancaster City and is one of the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). 

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Millersville University campus at night

Conversations with college and university leaders are important to Smart Talk, as these schools play a large role in our local communities. We will discuss current issues related to higher education, like high school student preparedness and college affordability. 

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Students with Skully, the University mascot

Listeners can call 1-800-729-7532 or email smarttalk@witf.org with questions or comments.

Should fatal DUI be a felony in Pennsylvania?

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, August 28, 2018:

Eighteen-year-old Meredith Demko was killed in a Lancaster County car crash in July, 2014. The driver of the other vehicle had been arrested twice previously for driving under the influence and was driving with his license suspended. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit and he had heroin in his system at the time. Even though the driver’s actions resulted in a death and he had multiple offenses, he wasn’t automatically charged with a felony that would result in a longer prison sentence. Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states where fatal DUIs aren’t treated as automatic felonies.

In fact, Pennsylvania is considered to have some of the most lenient DUI laws in the country. But a few lawmakers and parents who lost children to drunk or impaired drivers are trying to change that.

Meredith’s father and mother, Chris and Susan, co-founded the group Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving and have fought a passionate battle to make DUI laws tougher. The Demkos are on Tuesday’s Smart Talk. Also with us are Republican State Senator John Rafferty and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.

In Pennsylvania, first-time DUI offenders don’t automatically have their driver’s licenses suspended or serve time in jail. The severity of the penalty often depends on the driver’s blood-alcohol level.

Repeat offenders account for about 40% of all fatal DUI-related crashes and tens of thousands continue to drive without a vaild license.

Should DUI laws be toughened in Pennsylvania?

Author Mary Beth Pfeiffer Discussing Her book Lyme

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, August 27, 2018:

The number of Lyme Disease cases doubled in the U.S. over the past two decades.

The illness is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected deer or black-legged ticks. These ticks feed on the blood of mammals, such as mice, raccoons, deer and humans.

So, what’s behind the increase in Lyme Disease?

Mary Beth Pfeiffer, author of the new book Lyme The First Epidemic of Climate Change, writes that warmer temperatures are a big factor in the spread of the disease. Ticks that couldn’t survive in some regions are now thriving. Even though it has nothing to do with climate change, Pfeiffer says ticks are hard to kill and they adapt well. She writes that another reason humans are coming into contact with ticks more often is many places that once were forests or fields have been developed and animals, like deer, are living in woodlots or closer to humans.
The book also delves into the controversies surrounding the diagnosis of Lyme Disease and whether the thousands of people who show symptoms of Lyme are suffering from chronic Lyme Disease — something many reputable medical professionals discount.

Mary Beth Pfeiffer appears on Monday’s Smart Talk.

Challenges facing Pennsylvania schools

As students and teachers head back to class, Smart Talk takes a look at some of the challenges facing Pennsylvania public schools. Appearing on Friday’s the program are Ronald Cowell, executive director of The Education Policy and Leadership Center, John Callahan, chief advocacy officer with Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and superintendent of Cumberland Valley School District Dr. Frederick Withum.

There are many issues and questions to address on the program and among the topics we’ll consider with the panel are:

School funding — what will it take to be more equitable in Pennsylvania?
School safety — what are schools doing to keep students safe?
Standardized testing
Graduation requirements — some new in Pennsylvania this year
Teacher shortages — does Pennsylvania have one or is it restricted to rural and inner city areas?
Unfunded mandates
Academic areas in which Pennsylvania is strong and weak
Recent state legislation impacting education
Scheduling — specifically, what time should classes begin?
For more information, check out these resources:

Economic Policy Institute report on teacher compensation
Pennsylvania School Boards Association report on mandates
Pennsylvania State Education Association news

Barn Preservation and Mayflies in Pennsylvania

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, August 23, 2018:

Barns are a significant part of the rural Pennsylvania landscape. In Adams County alone, over 2,000 barns reflect the rural culture of the state and are representative of Pennsylvania to many people.

However, over the years, barns have slowly moved away from their original agricultural functions, like housing livestock and storing grain. Now, many structures are used for storage or remain vacant. The barns eventually deteriorate if they are not used.
What would Pennsylvania look like if barns were not part of the landscape? The Historic Gettysburg Adams County (HGAC) organization works to preserve historic and architecturally significant buildings. Their barn preservation program is one several efforts to preserve and protect Pennsylvania barns.

Barn preservation program designer Curt Musselman, and preservation specialist David Maclay, HGAC, appear on Thursday’s Smart Talk, along with Jonathan Slade, producer of the documentary Barns of the Susquehanna Valley which airs Thursday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. on WITF TV.

Also, they are a summer nuisance and, while they may seem excessive, an abundance of mayflies is a great indicator of improved water quality.
On the flip side, mayflies do bring an unwanted danger on bridges. Vehicles are at risk of sliding on the buildup of dead mayflies, causing accidents. An accident two years ago on the Route 462 bridge between Wrightsville and Columbia was caused by piles of the insects. They are attracted to light, so as they die, the carcasses pile up under the lights of the bridge. John Wallace, an entomology professor at Millersville University, has partnered with Wrightsville Borough to study ways to reduce the number of mayflies on the bridge.
Dr. Wallace will discuss mayflies Thursday and be joined by Wrightsville Borough President Eric White.

Trump EPA rolls back Obama Clean Power Plan

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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, August 22, 2018:

Former President Barack Obama once called the Clean Power Plan enacted during his administration “the single-most important step America has ever taken to fight climate change.”  Under Clean Power, each state was assigned emission reduction targets.  Pennsylvania would have been required to reduce carbon emissions by about 33%. 

The Clean Power Plan was challenged in court and never took effect. 

Tuesday, the Trump Administration announced it is replacing the Clean Power Plan with its “Affordable Clean Energy Rule.”  It would give states more authority over regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants within their borders. 

President Donald Trump said in a statement that the Clean Power Plan was intrusive and killed jobs.  When Trump ran for president he promised to stop the Obama Administration’s “war on coal” as he called it.  The Obama plan was to cut the nation’s reliance on coal and move toward more renewable energies.

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Rob Altenburg and Christina Simeone

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we discuss the new rule with Rob Altenburg, formerly with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and now with the environmental group PennFuture, as well as Christina Simeone, Director of External Affairs at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

College admissions; trends, issues and initiatives

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, August 21, 2018: 

Area colleges and universities are welcoming students back to class and new students are arriving to begin their first year. At the same time, portals have opened for rising high school seniors to make their school application choices.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the state has nearly 250 public and private higher education institutions, which attract more than 36 thousand students from across the country and around the world. Applicants have a lot of choices when it comes to picking a school and career-program, but the process is often complicated and confusing. High school counseling offices are where students begin the process, and they have many questions:

Which standardized test do colleges and universities prefer, the SAT or the ACT?

What is test-optional?

Will Advanced Placement classes make me more competitive? What about International Baccalaureate programs?

How are extracurriculars factored into the selection process?

What are the differences between need-based and merit-based scholarships?

Choosing a college or university is one of the biggest personal and financial decisions a high school student will ever make. Joining Smart Talk on Tuesday to talk about trends, issues and initiatives are representatives from four area schools:

•  Bill Conley, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Bucknell University

•  Dr. Michael Thorp, Director of Admissions, York College

•  Cathy Davenport, Interim Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions, Dickinson College

 • Laura Fahy-Leo, Interim Director of Admissions, Kutztown University


Cathy Davenport and Dr. Michael Thorp

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Bill Conley and Laura Fahy-Leo

Sinkholes and Columbia’s lock box ordinance

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, August 17, 2018:

Last weekend a 22-foot-deep sinkhole opened up on the Cumberland Parkway. It was the latest in a series of sinkholes that have formed recently in Pennsylvania. Last Friday, one swallowed several cars in the parking lot of the Lancaster Tanger Outlets. At the end of July two opened up in Palmyra. 

The formation of sinkholes is often caused by changes in water levels, and Pennsylvania has experienced some heavy rain lately. 

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources explains that sinkholes develop in karst landscapes which are formed when bedrock such as limestone is dissolved, creating a network of tunnels that are reminiscent of a natural plumbing system. Water flows through these channels, and when water levels change, the tunnels can cave in and create sinkholes.  

Sometimes sinkholes form through natural processes like heavy rain or draught. Humans can also be involved in their formation, though. Drilling, dams, vibration from traffic, and heavy objects on the surface can contribute to the development of sinkholes, the Department of Environmental Protection says. 

DCNR map shows that there have been sinkholes and surface depressions throughout much of Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania. 

When sinkholes open up, they can cause damage and inconvenience, and they may cost thousands of dollars to fix. 

On Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss sinkholes is Bill Kochanov of the DCNR Bureau of Topographic and Geological Survey. 

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Bill Kochanov


Also, at the end of last year the Columbia Borough Council unanimously voted to enact an ordinance that requires Columbia businesses, apartments and nursing care facilities to have lock boxes, also known as Knox Boxes, installed outside their buildings. The boxes are intended to contain keys and building blueprints to be used by emergency personnel responding to events like fires. 

Business owners are pushing back against the ordinance, citing concerns about cost, security and privacy. The boxes cost hundreds of dollars up front, and workers are also worried about who will cover the expense of repairing or replacing the boxes if they are tampered with. In addition, some Columbia residents and business people oppose the lock boxes because they fear they will be easy to break into and might give people unwanted access to their buildings. 

We’re joined by Columbia Borough Councilman John Novak and Fire Chief Douglas Kemmerly.  Keena Soukup, business owner of Soukup Automotive in Columbia, created a petition opposing the lock box ordinance. She joins us on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss the legislation.