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Trump suit fails, Pa. preps to certify election


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
November 23, 2020
Towns under pressure, no new taxes, vaccine logistics, certification day, applesauce cake, and so long @PATreasury. It's Monday, but it's a short week!

A significant number of Pennsylvania municipalities are considering applying for a state program for the severely financially distressed, while those already in the program appear to be weathering the pandemic better than expected.

In March, many city managers, mayors, and experts feared that 16 municipalities already enrolled in a state financial recovery program called Act 47 could suffer the most as the statewide shutdown undercut tax revenues.

But Spotlight PA found many have remained stable and are braced for fallout from the current surge, while others in better shape before the pandemic are faring much worse — with some potentially huge tax hikes.

“Our city and other Act 47 cities as well, they're resilient,” said John Dubnansky, Johnstown's community and economic development director.

THE CONTEXT: A survey of 430 municipalities found that 23 townships, boroughs, and other local governments said they may now apply for Act 47 status as a result of their current financial pressure.

Some of those places — facing high unemployment that has depressed their earned income tax revenue — are considering dire actions.

In West Chester borough in Chester County, officials proposed a 2021 budget with a 32% property tax increase because of a more than $2 million shortfall. In Newtown Township in Bucks County, officials in October proposed a draft budget that included a 178% property tax increase for next year.

Municipalities that manage their own sewage and water could face setbacks if people continue to skip or delay utility payments. “Those kinds of things hurt really bad, because you’ve got to pay for the water,” one expert said. “The municipalities end up paying upfront.”


"You can’t learn to read through a computer, you can’t learn to write through a computer. It’s just devastating to them.”

— Jennifer Singer, a parent in Montgomery County, on her opposition to the local Board of Health's decision to shut down in-person learning for two weeks

POST IT: Thank you, Court G., for this before-the-storm shot of Presque Isle Bay meeting Lake Erie. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
ALMOST OFFICIAL: Pennsylvania counties are expected to certify election results by the end of today, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report. The routine administrative event is expected to go off without any issues, unlike in Michigan, despite President Donald Trump's attempts to delay or derail the process.

IN RELATED NEWS: A federal judge has thrown out a Trump campaign suit that sought to invalidate Pennsylvania's election results and delay certification, describing its arguments as "Frankenstein’s Monster." Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said the decision secured a victory for President-elect Joe Biden, while the campaign plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

NO TAXES OR AID: After narrowly passing the House and winning approval from the Senate, Pennsylvania's spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year is now on Gov. Tom Wolf's desk. The package adds no new taxes, relies on $1.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief, and provides no bailout for struggling industries like restaurants that have long been advocating for additional aid.

'IT'S REALLY UNPRECEDENTED': As the race to produce a safe COVID-19 vaccine presses forward, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette finds that state officials are already grappling with the daunting logistics of its distribution. Among the greatest challenges: ensuring proper handling and reaching the populations who need it the most.

PRISON POLICY: The Allegheny County Jail recently implemented a new policy that would ban inmates from receiving and reading books from the outside world and instead has offered them about 200 free books to choose from on a tablet, PublicSource reports. The policy is raising concerns about incarcerated people's mental health.
» THANK YOU!: More than 450 people have supported Spotlight PA's essential journalism this month. We still need your help to end the year strong. What are you waiting for? Become a member now!

Thank you to everyone who contributed in the last few days: William L., Sherri S., Patricia L., Susan H., Merrill & Nancy B., Diane R., Neil M., Barry M., Doug G., Mary Lou B., Paul M., Esther T., Laura W., Richard K., Kathy C., Claudia & Harvey H., Michael M., Stan & Maryann K., John F., Victoria M., Robert H., Timothy D., Cynthia W., Cheryl W., Michael D., Cary S., David R., David F., Michael S., Chantal M., Catherine F., Anthony B., Betsy P., Joseph F., Rhonda W., Chris N., John N., Peter R., Janet L., Dale L., Christine F., R. Thomas B., Art F., JJ T., Nicholas G., Matt L., Nancy L., Kevin K., and Mike S.

And special thanks to Robert & Dianne V., David A., Dean K. & Barbara M., Susan N., and Kaylene S., who contributed by mail earlier this month.

LAST STOP: Roadside America, a truly wonderful miniature train village and destination in Berks County, has closed its door for good. Though this video doesn't do it justice, I'm honestly getting emotional watching this clip of the "night pageant." 

BLAST FROM THE PAST: How did Philadelphia celebrate Thanksgiving in 1918 during the so-called Spanish flu? With parades, sporting events, and “flag raisings." You won't see similar public celebrations this week.

RIP LUCY: Lucy Pollock, a 98-year-old Westmoreland County woman whose baking sessions went viral on Facebook, unexpectedly died this weekend. The "Today" show recently highlighted her applesauce cake recipe.

57 YEARS: Sunday was the 57th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Texas. If you're looking for a revealing and insightful book about the late icon, WITF picked "JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917–1956" at its November book of the month.

TIME IS TWEETING: State Treasurer Joe Torsella's election loss also means the world will soon be without the extremely weird and always entertaining @PATreasury Twitter account. Elon Musk can now rest easy.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. If you love the scrambler, make a donation and we'll DOUBLE it.
M A I L C T P D  O

Friday's answer: Authenticity 

Congrats to our weekly winner: Michael K.

Congrats to our Friday winners: Karen A., Stephanie S., David I., Craig W., Heidi B., Susan D., Theodore W., Irene K., Irene R., Thomas B., Tracey C., Kim C., Edward M., Lynne E., Mary Ellen T., George S., Mike W., Beth T., Jill A-S., Carol D., Robert S., Doug W., Jeffery S., John C., Joel S., Dianne K., Suzanne M. Ron P., Patricia R., and Tammy G.
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