Earth Day Road Trip to Char’s focuses on climate change

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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, April 22, 2019:

Monday is the 49th anniversary of the first Earth Day. According to “On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.”

Today, the biggest environmental issue and challenge is climate change.

Monday’s Smart Talk takes a Road Trip to Char’s Tracy Mansion, along the Susquehanna River on North Front Street in Harrisburg, to discuss climate change from several angles.

Among those appearing on the program is Dr. Donald Brown, Scholar in Residence for Sustainability Ethics and Law through Widener University’s Commonwealth Law School’s Environmental Law and Sustainability Center. Over the past decade, Dr. Brown has attended and participated in most of the international conferences and meetings on climate change.

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Dr. Donald Brown and Scott LaMar

Also joining us is attorney Robert McKinstry, who is one of the petitioners to the state, calling on Pennsylvania to implement an “auction cap and trade” program to make Pennsylvania carbon neutral by 2052.


Scott LaMar and Robert McKinstry

Finally, we hear from Geisinger Health System, Dickinson College and Char’s on their efforts to use renewable energy and adopt practices for a cleaner environment.

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From left, Char Magaro, Scott LaMar, Dr. Neil Leary and Alan Neuner

Living with autism; improving awareness and inclusion

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What to look for on Smart Talk on Friday, April 19, 2019:

In 2005, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services conducted a census of autistic individuals receiving services in the state and counted nearly 20,000 Pennsylvanians.

Eleven years later, an updated census found that number increased to over 55,000 children, adolescents and adults with autism.

What accounts for that sharp increase and what do the numbers say today?

April is Autism Awareness Month. The world-wide effort promotes awareness and inclusion for people living with the disorder. In the last quarter of a century, a clearer picture has emerged.

  • Approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States.
  • Boys are four times as likely to diagnosed with autism than girls.
  • Research indicates that genetics are involved in the majority of autism cases.
  • Early diagnosis and intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills.

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday to discuss autism are Dr. Michael Murray, child psychologist and director of Division of Autism Services at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and the director of the central region for ASERT (Autism Service Education Training); and Melanie and Zach Hartzell, a parent and her 19-year-old son who is living with autism.

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Melanie Hartzell, Zach Hartzell, and Dr. Michael Murray.

Affordable housing in Pennsylvania


What to look for on Smart Talk on Wednesday, April 17, 2019:

The American dream of owning your own home is alive and well. It’s just not a realistic dream for some Americans.

Finding and paying for housing can be a challenge for many people. Comparatively speaking, Pennsylvania is a reasonably-priced place to buy a home. Even the most expensive areas in the state are still more affordable than the average U.S. market.

However, with an average house costing more than $170,000 and the average monthly rent above $1,300, many Pennsylvanians find mortgages or rent stretch their budgets.

Affordability isn’t the only issue impacting housing for Pennsylvanians. Discrimination and accessibility are often impediments, too.

So, what are communities and agencies doing to make housing accessible in the mid-state?

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to discuss housing are Phyllis Chamberlain, Executive Director, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania; Tim Whelan, Executive Director of the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authority; Kirk Stoner, Director of Planning in Cumberland County; and Regina Mitchell, Executive Director of the York Housing Authority.


Tim Whelan, Regina Mitchell, and Kirk Stoner

Alzheimer’s research and local Fulbright scholar

Every minute, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease.

It is the sixth leading cause of death in this country, resulting in more deaths than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Scientists continue to develop new methods to understand this disease and treat those living with it. One of those scientists is Dr. Keith Fargo, the director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Fargo oversees the TrialMatch program: a way for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to connect with clinical trials.

Joining us on Smart Talk to discuss the TrialMatch program and the impact of Alzheimer’s disease is Dr. Keith Fargo. Also on the program is Clay Jacobs, the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.

Also, a Fulbright Scholarship is hard to get.

With an acceptance rate of around 20 percent, a Fulbright student scholarship attracts the best and brightest applicants from colleges and universities around the country.

A local university student was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study history at the University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom. This is the only award granted there for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Larry Herrold, of Sunbury, is a senior history and religious studies major at Susquehanna University. Herrold joins Smart Talk to discuss his major and the unique direction planned for his studies.

Raising minimum salaries for PA teachers and property taxes explained

The minimum yearly salary for public school teachers in Pennsylvania hasn’t increased since 1988, when it was set at $18,500.

In his 2019 budget proposal, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed raising the minimum salary for teachers to $45,000 annually. If approved, it would increase the salaries of about 3,000 teachers working in 180 school districts. The average teacher in Pennsylvania is paid $67,000 a year.

The Wolf Administration estimates the higher minimum would cost about $14 million to bring the salaries of those making less than $45,000 up to that level. There have been suggestions that that estimate is low. Other objections have centered on the impact higher salaries would have on rural school districts who generally have less money and whether there would be a ripple effect of increasing all teacher salaries.

Appearing on Monday’s Smart Talk to discuss increasing the minimum salary for teachers is Chris Lilienthal PSEA Assistant Director of Communications, Pennsylvania State Education Association. Also with us is Hannah Barrick, Director of Advocacy, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.
Also, it seems fitting that the quote ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,’ is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, a famous Pennsylvanian. It would seem more appropriate if the quote specified property taxes, because these taxes seem to get the most attention.’s The Listening Post takes on a reader’s question, “what keeps these taxes in force.”

PA Post reporter Ed Mahon joins Smart Talk to discuss why school property taxes are so hard to kill.

Legislative update / Camps for grieving children

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, April 12, 2019:

It has been a busy week at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. WITF’s Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer appears on Friday’s Smart Talk to provide an update and insight into several high profile issues and pieces of legislation.

Among the topics to be discussed are proposals to close the pay gap between men and women in Pennsylvania, bills that would alter the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, legislation to remove guns when a person is considered a danger to themselves or others, and plans to save two Pennsylvania nuclear plants from being shut down.

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Katie Meyer, WITF’s Capitol bureau chief.

Also, the death of a loved-one often has a devastating impact on a family. Children often experience great difficulty adjusting through their grief, because they don’t have the life experiences or coping skills to process the loss.

Ten years ago, a camp in Maine was established where kids can explore their grief and feelings of isolation.

Experience Camps have expanded to other states, including here in Pennsylvania. The campers enjoy a typical summer camp experience with one main difference: Every camper has lost someone, too.

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss the Experience Camp “experience” is Dan Wolfson, PsyD, clinical director of the Pennsylvania boys program, who has been involved with Experience Camps since their first summer in Maine in 2009. Also, Lisa and Ian Kelly, who lost their husband and father nearly four years ago, join Smart Talk to share their personal story.

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Dr. Dan Wolfson, PsyD, clinical director of the Pennsylvania boys program, and the Mid-Atlantic Region clinical director of Experience Camps.

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Dr. Brendan Kelly


The Kelly family, including Ian on the far left

The science of eating


What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, April 11, 2019:

All calories are not created equal.

Counting calories, dieting for weight loss and taking supplements all contribute to what many believe to be a long, healthy life.

Earlier this week, a study published by Tufts University found that while consuming vitamins and minerals can lower your risk of an early death, it is more important to focus on the food you eat.

So what is the healthiest way to eat. Does it mean just counting calories or is there more to it? Where do fat, protein, sugar, and carbohydrates all fit in?

Everyone wants to eat good food that is also healthy, and we want to do so at an affordable cost. But what is the science behind these nutritional goals saying?

Joining us on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss the science behind eating are Julie Stefanski, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, and Deanna Segrave-Daly, registered dietitian, blogger and author of the new book The 30-minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook.

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Julie Stefanski & Deanna Segrave-Daly

Growing Latino population in PA facing challenges and opportunities


What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, April 10, 2019:

The Latino population in the U.S. is the nation’s largest and fastest growing ethnic group. The population increase is significant; Latinos account for half of U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2014.

In Pennsylvania, the Latino community is nearing one million, or approximately seven percent of the state’s population.

One of the biggest concentrations of growth is in the cities and region located along U.S. Route 222. Cities like Lancaster, Reading and Allentown are part of the “222 Latino Corridor” that is now home to a large Latino community.

This growth presents both challenges and opportunities. There continue to be barriers to education and healthcare, in addition to the lack of affordable housing. Those problems are difficult to solve with a median Latino income of $23,000 per year.

A report that provides more details came out of the Pennsylvania Latino Convention in Lancaster last fall.

Meanwhile, a 2018 report in USA Today found Pennsylvania ranked fourth from the bottom when it comes to health for its Latino population. A statewide Latino Health Summit is scheduled next week in York to address the issues that include liver disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to discuss the many issues and challenges facing Latinos are Norman Bristol-Colon, chairman and founder of the Pennsylvania Latino Convention, Gloria Merrick, executive director of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center in Harrisburg, and George Fernandez, CEO of the Latino Connection.

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George Fernandez, CEO of the Latino Connection, Gloria Merrick, executive director of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center in Harrisburg, and Norman Bristol-Colon, chairman and founder of the Pennsylvania Latino Convention.

What will it take to make safe streets? / Ideas to redesign cities

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This image is from the April 2019 special edition, single topic issue of National Geographic, titled “CITIES: Ideas For a Brighter Future.”

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, April 9, 2019:

Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise.

Every day, people are risking their lives by simply walking out of their homes and onto streets and thoroughfares. A recent report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association indicated 90 pedestrians were killed on Pennsylvania streets and roadways during the first six months of 2018 compared to 64 the year before.

Why the increase? And can anything be done to make our roads safer for pedestrians, and for vehicular traffic?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss Harrisburg’s Vision Zero strategy to eliminate traffic collisions are Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse and Wayne Martin, Harrisburg City Engineer.

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Wayne Martin and Mayor Eric Papenfuse

Also, most U.S. cities were built to accommodate automobile traffic, so it is not surprising that few cities are considered pedestrian friendly. If there is no way to get somewhere by walking or mass transit, then residents will rely on automobiles.

One author says that to build cities of the future, we must get out of our cars. To make this work, entire communities must be re-imagined.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss how to build and redesign cities of the future is Senior Environment Editor for National Geographic Robert Kunzig. His article “Rethinking Cities” appears in National Geographic’s April 2019 special edition, single-topic issue on the Future of Cities. The magazine is titled “CITIES: Ideas For a Brighter Future,” and is available at

Turnpike money problems and preventing sexual assault

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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, April 8, 2019:

Turnpike officials may be breathing a sigh of relief.

Last week, a federal judge dismissed a $6 billion lawsuit filed against the commission by two out-of-state trucking and advocacy groups.

The relief may be short-lived, however, because the Turnpike is still $11 billion in debt.

The commission’s finances are interconnected with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or PennDOT.

The nature of the debt is complicated and the result of a law requiring the turnpike pay PennDOT for mass transit projects. The turnpike must borrow money to make those payments and now, the arrangement is untenable.

What impact is this having on current and future road projects and mass transit?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss Pennsylvania transportation funding and infrastructure is Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards.

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Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards

Also, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sexual violence can affect anyone; men and women, young and mature. There is no one profile of a victim, or an offender, for that matter. It is a wide-spread social problem affecting every community.

Joining us on Smart Talk to discuss sexual assault and the awareness campaign are Kristen Houser, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Susan Sullivan, Prevention Campaign Specialist representing the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

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Susan Sullivan, Prevention Campaign Specialist representing the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and Kristen Houser, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.