ūüĎ謆 We're in the final stretch...

We need to raise $25,000 by the end of this week, and if we do it, every single gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar by The Benter Foundation in Pittsburgh. We can't afford to lose this opportunity!

If you make a gift right now, it will be DOUBLED. Help us continue to deliver some of the best investigative and public-service journalism in Pennsylvania (plus your very own PA Post!).¬†Give now ¬Ľ


Thank you, thank you!

‚ÄĒColin, PA Post Editor

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 21, 2022
Police calls, variant volume, charter changes, no comment, coroner conflict,  Oz's evolution, and remembering John Clayton. It's Monday.
Want to see your message here? Contact us about sponsoring PA Post.
UNOPEN RECORDS 
A court case involving a reporter's stifled request for Pennsylvania State Police communications about Mariner East pipeline protests could have implications for similar attempts to obtain public records, advocates say. 

Journalist Dan Schwartz requested trooper emails, text messages, and voicemails about protests against Sunoco's 350-mile pipeline, the source of multiple police encounters with some opponents of the troubled project.

Schwartz received heavily redacted emails and less redacted versions following a petition to the state's Office of Open Records.

But he was told the State Police didn't have the phone records requested and, ultimately, that the agency didn't have the authority to ask for them.

Attorneys for Schwartz say the agency's contract with Verizon is clear: Such records must be released under the state's Right-to-Know Law.

At stake, an attorney for Schwartz argued, is a precedent that lets government agencies use third-party vendors to keep taxpayer-funded communications from the public, with deleterious effects on transparency.

THE CONTEXT: Commonwealth Court Judge Ellen Ceisler is presiding over the case and was critical of the State Police's handling of the matter, from the wholesale blacking out of emails to previously unexplained denials.

An attorney for the law enforcement agency, one of the largest in the U.S., said relevant state law hasn't caught up with the technology, and that Verizon wouldn't produce voicemails and texts without a court order or subpoena.

"You could have included all this [in responses to the request], which would have put us all in the position of not being blindsided by this," Ceisler said.

The judge had planned on filing a court order compelling Verizon to produce the State Police voicemails and text messages in the coming weeks, but the company says the communications may no longer exist. 

All of it, advocates argue, demonstrates the massive hurdles facing members of the public who want to keep tabs on the agencies they fund.
URGENCY OF NOW
WE'RE IN THE FINAL STRETCH: There is no better time to support Spotlight PA, because until the end of this week, every gift will be DOUBLED thanks to a generous matching gift from The Benter Foundation in Pittsburgh.

If you're a fan of PA Post and have made it part of your daily routine, pay it forward and support Spotlight PA's vital journalism today.
NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"The publicity at issue does not present the type of relentless, saturating, and blatantly prejudicial exposure that warrants the relief sought."

‚ÄĒFederal Judge Robert Colville denying a bid to have Robert Bowers'¬†trial for the¬†mass murder at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue relocated
ūüď∑ POST IT
The moon lighting up the night sky in Pittsburgh, via yours truly. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
RISING VARIANT: The COVID-19 subvariant called BA.2 is now dominant worldwide and accounting for one-fifth of new cases in the U.S. It's spreading in Pennsylvania, too, where doctors are watching closely, cheering the advent of new therapeutics, and continuing to urge vaccinations as the best line of defense. Congressional funding choices, meanwhile, could hamper the national response. 

REFORM MOMENT: Regulations proposed by the Wolf Administration in an effort to increase "transparency and accountability" around Pennsylvania charter schools could get a key vote at today's meeting of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. If approved, CNHI reports a showdown between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and the governor's office could be next. 

RALLY STAGE: State senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano has refused media requests to discuss whether he complied with a subpoena from the congressional committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. But PennLive reports a Mastriano rally in Gettysburg over the weekend included lots of 2020 election denialism, the same kind that sowed the violence seen on Jan. 6.

DISPUTED RULINGS: Schuylkill County recorded 115 drug-related deaths last year, the ages of the deceased ranging from 9 months to 88 years. Coroner David J. Moylan III labeled 50 of them as homicides, in part to raise awareness, per the Republican-Herald. But District Attorney Michael A. O'Pake calls the move "irresponsible" without investigations, adding, "They should be classified as accidental."

CHURCHILL DOWN: E-commerce giant Amazon is backing off its contested plan to open a massive warehouse in Churchill Borough near Pittsburgh, WTAE reports. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald blamed "a small group of non-elected residents" for thwarting the project. Amazon's statement indicates it may never have been set on Churchill anyway, and its county presence is far from muted.
IN OTHER NEWS
TRIAL DATE: Jury selection in the federal fraud and racketeering trial of Democratic Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, political consultant Dawn Chavous, begins today, per PhillyVoice. Johnson is accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes. If found guilty, his would be the second Philadelphia City Council corruption conviction in four months.

STANCE EVOLUTION: Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Mehmet Oz has made support for fracking a cornerstone of his campaign. But Inside Climate News reports that for years, and as recently as 2018, Oz warned readers of his syndicated newspaper column of related dangers in no uncertain terms. 

MYSTERY MARK: Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon tells WESA she has "no idea" how her signature ended up on a nominating petition for congressional candidate Steve Irwin, one of five Democrats running to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle in Pittsburgh. The Post-Gazette reports she's not the only one.

TURNOVER TRACKER: Two more state lawmakers announced retirements last week following the finalization of Pennsylvania's new legislative maps. Sens. John Yudichak (I., Luzerne) and Mario Scavello (R., Monroe) are the latest exits in a wave of legislative turnover. Capital-Star has a running list.

IN MEMORIAM: Pro Football Hall of Fame journalist John Clayton died last week at the age of 67. The Braddock native started his career with The Daily Press newspaper in St. Marys, Elk County and became an ESPN fixture, making wonky analysis accessible and the network's ads unforgettable.
THE SCRAMBLER
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.
 
M R V S U E P S S A I E

*This week's theme: Outer space
 
Friday's answer: Algebraic

Congrats to our weekly winner: Jodi R.

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., David B., Susan N.-Z., Craig W., Michelle T., Doris T., Irene R., Bob L., Steve H., Lynn M., Kim C., Bonnie R., Mike B., Stephen G., Barbara F., Elaine C., James B., David S., Steven Z., Kevin H., Heidi B., Lauri R., Don H., Bill E., Deb N., Jill K., Jude M., Tish M., George S., Vicki U., Susan D., Sandy S., John A., Sherri A., Joyce O., Karen W., David W., Dianne K., Sandy B., Joel S., John P., Bill S., Kimberly S., Pat B., and Perry H.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
SUPPORT SPOTLIGHT PA
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101
newsletters@spotlightpa.org

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.


You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.