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Welcome to the Philadelphia Pennsylvania blog. This blog contains a wealth of information about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Apartment living, and housing opportunities in our great city and other metro areas of the U.S.. Learn about efforts at restoring architectural relics of the past - former factories, warehouses, schools, hotels, hospitals, train stations - into first-class houses and apartments, and in preserving these distinguished residential communities for future generations. Please enjoy your stay on our Philadelphia apartments blog and feel free to share your stories on life in Philly and the city of brotherly love. In addition, we welcome all commentaries regarding building remodeling, home remodeling, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and house hunting. Thank You!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pennsylvania Schools Under Heavy Scrutiny by Senate


The Disability Rights Network and The Arc of PA have posted a survey to look for families who have had children abused in our Pennsylvania schools :

    “Senator Fontana, together with 33 co-sponsors, has introduced Senate Bill 1243 which would ensure greater protections for children who are the victims of abuse by school employees in Pennsylvania. Current PA law provides that if there is a case of suspected child abuse in which the alleged perpetrator is a school employee, there is no requirement to report that abuse unless it rises to the level of a “serious bodily injury” which is equivalent to the loss of a limb or an organ that stops functioning, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation. ChildLine does not have responsibility for referral or initial investigation of those cases; rather it is local law enforcement that investigates and the process is entirely different from that for any other caretaker who is suspected of child abuse. The bill would delete the specific subsection that applies only to school employees and instead, include school employees in the general provisions of the Child Protective Services Law to ensure that all suspected cases of child abuse by persons responsible for a child's welfare are treated the same. The Disability Rights Network and The Arc of PA strongly support Senate Bill 1243 and are seeking family and advocate input that would help move this legislation forward.”

The legislation comes at an interesting time when the use of Restraint and Seclusion in schools is under heavy scrutiny in the U.S. Until now, Pennsylvania has taken a back seat approach to what constitutes lawful use of restraint and seclusion to children with disabilities. The law has stated that it may be used “to control acute or episodic aggressive or self-injurious behavior [and] may be used only when the student is acting in a manner as to be a clear and present danger to himself, to other students or to employees, and only when less restrictive measures and techniques have proven to be or are less effective.”

Even so, there has been little enforcement of this law. There also has been little a family can do when restraints are being misused as a form of punishment. Because the restraint laws fall under Pennsylvania Education Code, Chapter 14, Special Education Services and Programs, the only recourse a family has is a Due Process hearing in front of a state appointed hearing officer. No formal legal sanctions are ever decided in these cases and no criminal charges are ever pursued by the state.

Senate Bill 1243 could open the doors to better protections for students with disabilities in our PA Schools. If an employee is using restraint and seclusion to punish a child, this could be construed as child abuse, especially if injury occurs. Additionally, it sends a message that abuse will no longer be tolerated regardless of the abusers status or credentials within a school system.

While this bill may not protect children from psychological abuse, it may be the starting point to holding school employees as responsible as parents in ensuring our children are treated humanly in our school systems.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pennsylvania Ships Prisoners out of State

Pennsylvania is transferring thousands of inmates out of state to deal with overcrowding conditions nearing crisis proportions, prison officials say.

The program has sent 1,633 prisoners to Michigan and Virginia, which have contracts with Pennsylvania to accept its prisoners, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday. A further 467 will be moved by the end of April, officials said.

Pennsylvania has experienced a rise in its prison population for decades, but the population has increased dramatically in the past five years, and corrections officials say four new prisons under construction will be filled as soon as they open in 2013.

Opponents of the program say shipping prisoners out of the state is not the way to solve the problem.

"This business of sending people out of state is not only a tremendously expensive strategy of dealing with the problem," Bill DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, said, "it will do little to alleviate dangerous overcrowding in the long term."

The society, a private non-profit advocating for improvements to the criminal justice system, wants alternatives to imprisonment, such as community-based treatment for low-level, non-violent offenders, the Inquirer reported.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pennsylvania Limits Appliance Rebates

The Times-Tribune

Pennsylvanians will miss out on federal rebates for energy-efficient kitchen appliances offered through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, those replacing furnaces, water heaters or boilers can cash in.

The program - created to give Americans an incentive to dump old, inefficient appliances in favor of new, efficient ones - is funded by the federal government but administered by states. In Pennsylvania, qualifying products must be purchased on or after April 21 and are only available for residents of single-family homes.

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection opted to limit the $11.9 million of rebates to non-electric heating equipment such as water heaters, boilers and furnaces. The move has the Keystone State's appliance dealers miffed, but heating contractors and plumbers will likely be pleased. To qualify for the rebate, equipment must be professionally installed.

State officials said they wanted to focus the rebates on equipment delivering the greatest energy savings. Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states to not include appliances in the program.

"We took a different course than other states and opted for greater energy savings," said DEP spokesman John Repetz. "A new refrigerator will save you a few dollars on your bill, but if you replace a water heater or a furnace - it means major, ongoing savings."

Other states, however, such as Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, allow consumers rebates of up to $200 on appliances, including refrigerators, ovens and washing machines.

Mr. Repetz noted that Pennsylvania utilities offer appliance rebates. However, those rebates are not as generous as the ones funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For example, PPL's rebate, which expires at the end of May, offers $50 for a refrigerator and $75 for a washing machine.

David Voitek, manager of Voitek TV and Appliance in Exeter, said the state's decision to limit the rebate denies consumers the savings they would have received on their utility bills, and denies his business the traffic it would have seen from the incentive.

"This is like taking money away from people," he said.

Mr. Voitek and other independent appliance dealers are offering their own version of the popular Cash for Clunkers rebate program to try to make up for the state's heater-only rebates.

However, Harvey Sachs, senior fellow of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, said Pennsylvania's approach may maximize the economic impact of federal dollars since the state requires professional installation and local labor.

"Using this money to have local home remodelers install a furnace or water heater has a greater economic impact than a do-it-yourselfer throwing a new clothes washer in the back of the SUV and hooking it up himself," he said.

The DEP notes that heating makes up more than half the energy consumption of the average Pennsylvania household. Home heating accounts for 43 percent of total energy use and water heating, 15 percent.

Rebates for furnaces and boilers range from $200 to $500. Water heater rebates are either $100 for a conventional unit or $200 for a tankless model.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Turnpike's Losing Battle

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania toll-road officials pushed a failed plan to save themselves. Now what?

The state transportation funding plan known as Act 44 suffered a huge blow last week, when the federal government again declined to authorize the Interstate 80 tolls the act depends on.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission helped create Act 44 for one reason: to kill Gov. Rendell's proposal to lease the turnpike to a private operator. A lease of the turnpike would have eliminated the Turnpike Commission (or merged it into the state Department of Transportation) and thereby closed a playground of mismanagement, patronage, and corruption.

In recent months, former turnpike chairman Mitchell Rubin has pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation of an alleged no-show state contract, and former vice chairman Timothy Carson stepped down amid revelations that he had been involved in two drunken-driving accidents in official vehicles.

Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier, meanwhile, was either asleep at the switch or turning a blind eye to these abuses of power by his colleagues. The Turnpike Commission has reportedly been under investigation by the state attorney general as well as the FBI.

Act 44, in essence, was a shell game designed to borrow billions against the turnpike and place a high-risk bet that the federal government would turn I-80 over to the Turnpike Commission. The commission not only helped craft the legislation; it also lobbied for it by assuring legislators that the I-80 tolling plan was sound.

Two very different federal administrations - Bush's and Obama's - have now looked at the tolling application and rejected it. There appears to be some debate as to why, but perhaps no prudent policymaker wants his or her legacy to be giving an interstate highway to the Turnpike Commission, which is known throughout the transportation community as a corrupt and ineffective manager of the existing toll-road system.

To fight the lease, turnpike representatives suggested that it was actually a sale (despite the fact that the commonwealth would have retained title to the road), that turnpike employees would be fired (even though all union contracts were required to be honored under the terms of the lease), that the tolls would shoot up (even though the lease capped increases), that the legislature would have no control (although it would have had greater control and accountability under the terms of the lease), and that, if the United States went to war with Spain while a Spanish firm was running the turnpike, the commonwealth would lose control of the road (even though the state had already lost control of the rogue turnpike agency). One law enforcement official even announced that the turnpike could not be used for emergencies under the lease.

In total, turnpike officials spent millions of toll dollars lobbying lawmakers to endorse a high-risk and now failed effort to toll I-80 - a scheme that almost everyone knew had no chance of succeeding.

This was all part of an obsolete organization's bizarre, self-serving attempt to cling to power.

After months of debate, the clock ran out on the lease proposal and $12.8 billion that would have been handed over at its signing. And these funds for transportation would have come to the commonwealth debt-free, unlike the Act 44 funds.

Also gone were $5.5 billion in capital improvements guaranteed under the agreement, as well as at least $3.3 billion in taxes to be paid by the new turnpike operators.

This is what the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission fought against: money and jobs for the people of Pennsylvania. And what did it deliver in return, besides more than $2 billion in debt?

Employees were laid off during the holidays. Tolls shot up, with no caps or fixed schedule for future increases. And the commission went back to business as usual, except for the occasional investigation by federal and state law enforcement officials.

Voters should stop and think about what has happened here. The Turnpike Commission is still clinging to power. Which elected officials will stand up and promise to end its history of corruption and ineptitude?

It's time to stop thinking about the big-spending executives running the turnpike and start thinking about the hardworking men and women who are paying taxes and tolls in the state. It's time to eliminate the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and look at innovative ways to attract investment and improve the infrastructure of the commonwealth so that Pennsylvania can compete in the global economy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Exide Technologies Closing Two Facilities in Pennsylvania

Recycling Today

Company will keep its battery recycling plant in Pennsylvania opened.

Exide Technologies announced operational changes at two of its three lead-acid battery facilities in Reading, Pa.

The company will close its formation and distribution center operations in a phased approach starting June 7, 2010. The completion of the closing depends on a number of factors, including site maintenance, schedules and order fulfillment, clean-up and closure procedures.  Exide Reading’s formation and distribution capacity will be absorbed by other Exide locations.

The Exide Reading battery recycling operation will not be affected.

“More specifically, the decision is a result of the slowdown in the economy, the related impact on original equipment and aftermarket lead-acid batteries markets, and the necessity for Exide to rebalance and optimize its production and distribution footprint,” says Bruce Cole, president of the Transportation Americas operating division of Exide.

Exide Technologies operates a total of six battery manufacturing assembly facilities in the United States.