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10 more years? Judicial retention on Pa. ballots

Plus, the failure of a hospital's last resort.

Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all gifts will be DOUBLED!With another important election coming up and a high-stakes year in 2024, now is the time to ensure Spotlight PA can continue to deliver deep, nonpartisan reporting focused on educating and empowering you, the voter.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Wednesday, September 13, 2023
10 more years, private equity fail, park opposition grows, drug warnings, vaccines approved, criminal charges, and lanternfly damage.

Pennsylvania is one of 11 states that uses retention elections to confirm a new judicial term, and depending on where they live, voters may be asked to cast at least two judicial retention votes Nov. 7. 

Read Spotlight PA's full guide to the candidates up for Superior Court retention, the process, and why Pennsylvania voters have only ever rejected one appellate judge’s request for another 10-year term.

THE CONTEXT: Some voters will see county-level retention votes in this election (see if you're one of them here), while all voters statewide will be asked to consider additional 10-year terms for two people who sit on Superior Court: President Judge Jack Panella, elected as a Democrat in 2003, and Judge Vic Stabile, elected as a Republican in 2013.

On their records, Spotlight PA reports: 

Recent opinions from Panella include one that upheld a more than thousand-year sentence against a man convicted of long-term child molestation whose attorneys argued he had dementia; one that found people who steal money from nonprofits aren’t shielded from restitution orders; and one that vacated gun and drug charges against rapper Meek Mill.

Stabile's recent decisions include one that reinstated charges against an engineer in a deadly Amtrak crash on procedural grounds; dissented in a decision that found Uber had not met the legal bar for requiring users to waive jury trials (also on procedural grounds); and wrote an opinion upholding a misdemeanor child endangerment conviction for former Penn State President Graham Spanier in relation to Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse.  


"Oh my god, really?! ... Please don't do it. Oh no. Oh no." 
—U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) mocking the House GOP's opening of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
With a big election coming up and huge stakes in 2024, we can't afford a future in Pennsylvania without Spotlight PA. And we urgently need your help to make sure our vital investigative and public-service reporting can continue.

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A big thanks to the 54 people who have given so far, including Hedwig H., who said, "I am well informed with this newsletter."

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» Pa. delegation reacts to Biden impeachment push, via PoliticsPA
» 911 call centers urge Pa. lawmakers to renew funding, via Capital-Star
» Who’s running for Pennsylvania attorney general?, via City & State
» Solomon undecided on Pa. House reelection, via @StephenJ_Caruso
» AIPAC ready to back Summer Lee challenger, via Jewish Insider
» Could you win in 2024? Play this campaign manager game, via Politico 
» CRIMINAL SOLUTION: Join Spotlight PA, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and experts Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6-7:30 p.m. ET at Point Park University for a live discussion on how a Pennsylvania law traps people with mental health issues in jail. RSVP now; seating is limited. 

» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.
The greener side of a tunnel at the Carrie Blast Furnaces landmark near Pittsburgh, as seen by your postmaster. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A view through a brick tunnel to the bright green plant growing on the other side.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.CAUTIONARY TALE: A private equity deal for a Pennsylvania hospital did not work out as planned. Seven years after a controversial California-based firm bought Delaware County Memorial Hospital, promising to right the cash-strapped ship, Bloomberg reports the hospital is closed, the firm is indebted, a lawsuit is looming, and private equity appears an increasingly unreliable last resort.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
PARK PROBLEM: A prime sponsor of the push to create Pennsylvania's first national park at the Delaware Water Gap has dropped out amid questions about indigenous representation in the planning process and the potential mineral rights motives of the man spearheading the push, New Jersey's Sparta Independent newspaper reports.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.DRUG DEATHS: There have been nearly two dozen drug overdoses in Harrisburg since Friday, per WGAL, seven of them fatal. A suspected source is fentanyl-contaminated crack cocaine, but it's unclear what testing officials have done. Authorities are threatening homicide charges against dealers, though advocates say such charges instead deter people from calling for help when a companion overdoses.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
NEW VACCINES: Two new COVID-19 vaccines approved by the FDA this week target a strain that's no longer dominant in the U.S., but officials say the shots will still offer protection, per NPR. Cases are up and expected to rise in the months ahead; Pennsylvania Republicans are protesting hypothetical changes to pandemic policy as the Shapiro administration stresses we are far from pandemic peaks
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.COUNCILOR CHARGED: Luzerne County Councilor Stephen J. Urban is charged with misdemeanor counts of simple assault after allegedly chasing a 12-year-old in Kingston with a baseball bat, Times Leader reports. Urban is also charged with soliciting someone to alter, destroy, or conceal a record related to the pending investigation.
Join Spotlight PA for a day of conversation about Pennsylvania's growing communities of color and their lack of representation.
NAZI MONUMENT: A 30-year-old monument to Nazis in Montgomery County will be covered up, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. The Ukrainian Catholic Church will temporarily cover up the tribute to Ukrainian soldiers who fought for Nazis and continue discussions with the community.

POLICE SEARCH: Police on Tuesday defended their strategy in the ongoing search for Danelo Cavalcante, who was held at Chester County Prison on a murder conviction before escaping last month. Cavalcante remains at large, reportedly with a stolen rifle. Authorities have authorized lethal force.  

PEGULA SUIT: A new lawsuit alleges Buffalo Bills owner and Penn State alumnus, trustee, and donor Terry Pegula used racist language while discussing Black players in the NFL with a reporter in 2020, via ESPN. Pegula has denied making the comment, calling the claim "absolutely false."

BAG RULES: Pittsburgh's ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect Oct. 14 after a six-month delay. WESA explains how it will work, what paper bags will cost, and where the only exceptions will be made.

BALLOON BAN: With Pittsburgh's bag ban in mind, Plum resident Susan Stone wants polluting balloon releases barred statewide next, KDKA-TV reports, reminding us of the real Mistake by the Lake in 1986.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Planetarium

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Stacy S., Richard A., Jon W., Kimberly D., Barbara F., Don H., Elaine C., John E., Susan N.-Z., David W., Craig E., Dennis M., Joel S., and Wendy A.
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