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Spotlight PA report saves Allegheny County $479K

Plus, Spotlight PA is suing Penn State trustees.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Thursday, December 7, 2023
Today: Drug money, locked down, Sunshine suit, wage growth, PSERS person, and a very overdue library book. Also: Hanukkah starts tonight. And don't miss your chance to win a $600 historic hotel getaway! Only 3 days left!

Following questions from WESA and Spotlight PA, all of the required municipalities in Allegheny County have approved signing onto an opioid settlement deal that is expected to bring about $1 billion to Pennsylvania over 18 years, including tens of millions of dollars to Allegheny County.

The county was poised to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars this year after losing out on more than $800,000 combined in payment rounds one and two. The reason? It needed more municipalities to sign on.

But an official in one of the unsigned municipalities, McKeesport, cited Spotlight PA and WESA’s reporting before city officials approved a resolution to join the settlement, following the buy-ins of two other latecomers.

Read the full update: Opioid settlement: Allegheny County won’t receive a $479,000 penalty after questions from WESA and Spotlight PA.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania’s distribution system offers extra payments to any county where all municipalities with more than 10,000 residents signed onto the deal. Nearly all counties met that requirement before the first payments last year. Montgomery and Allegheny did not.

Montgomery County lost out on $143,000 for its first payment for 2022, Spotlight PA and WESA previously reported, based on records obtained through the state’s Right-to-Know Law. The county later received the required participation for the second payment period of December 2022.

As counties work to secure maximum payouts, debates continue over how the money should be spent, with familiar fault lines emerging around backing the War on Drugs or boosting treatment options.


"Frankly, I thought her comments were absolutely shameful. It should not be hard to condemn genocide."

Gov. Josh Shapiro on UPenn President Liz Magill's comments to Congress about on-campus antisemitism; Shapiro's remarks came during a visit to a Philadelphia restaurant criticized in a recent pro-Palestine protest

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Don't miss your chance to win 2 nights and dinner at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem in the heart of beautiful Lehigh Valley. Make a sustaining gift of $15/month or more right now and you'll be automatically entered!

All one-time gifts of any amount will still be DOUBLED as part of our year-end matching grant.

Thank you to the 1,017 people who have given so far during our year-end drive, including Stacey M., who said, "We need more independent, honest journalism."

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You can also give via PayPal or Venmo, or send a check to: Spotlight PA, PO Box 11728, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728.

The state Capitol complex, via @yatskoCorrection: Yesterday's PA Gem from Don H. was taken at Ricketts Glen State Park. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

An aerial shot of the symmetrical state Capitol complex with a flock of birds in flight on the left and a vivid sky in the background.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SOLITARY CONFINEMENT: A 38-year-old Allentown man with a mental health condition was held in solitary confinement for three months at Lehigh County Jail and is now being transferred to a state hospital after pleas from his attorney. The man was charged with breaking into an empty building and stealing hot dogs, a bank debit card, and packets of naproxen, the Morning Call (paywall) reports.
  • RELATED: Competency reviews in Pennsylvania trap people in the very place making them worse — jail, via Spotlight PA.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.PENN STATE SUIT: Spotlight PA has filed suit against the Penn State Board of Trustees over alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s open meetings law. Spotlight PA has spent the past 16 months documenting a potential pattern of improperly closed meetings spanning more than a decade. The lawsuit asks a judge to determine whether the board and its committees misused exceptions to the state’s Sunshine Act.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
WAGE HIKES: Neighboring New York's minimum wage will soon be more than double that of Pennsylvania, PennLive reports. New York's minimum will increase on Jan. 1 to $16 per hour in and around New York City and to $15 per hour in all other areas of the state. Pennsylvania's push to raise the $7.25 per hour minimum wage here — a Gov. Josh Shapiro campaign promise — remains bogged down in the legislature. 
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PSERS STRATEGY: The highest paid employee in state government is a former Marine and mechanic named Benjamin Cotton who's now in charge of managing investments for the state's largest pension. Cotton spoke with The Inquirer (paywall) at a diner near his Lancaster home about a shift in strategy for the $70 billion Public School Employees' Retirement System fund, transparency, and past scandals.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.RESIDENTS SUE: PublicSource has the story of two men on opposite sides of the push to reopen a contested concrete plant in Coraopolis, Allegheny County. Justin Bryan of The Bryan Materials Group revived the plant, which is located a few miles from his home. Colin Schreiber lives directly across the street and has joined with other residents in opposition. A judge may soon decide whose claims win out.
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CANCER DIAGNOSIS: U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R., Pa.) has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thompson says he'll "tackle this head on" and still appears to be running for reelection in 2024, per PoliticsPA.

HUNTER SHOT: A Pennsylvania hunter is recovering after being shot by another hunter in Westmoreland County, possibly after being mistaken for a coyote, TribLIVE reports. The incident is under investigation. 

TAYLOR TIME: Berks County native Taylor Swift is Time magazine's Person of the Year, beating out Barbie, Vladimir Putin, striking Hollywood actors and writers, King Charles III, Xi Jinping, Sam Altman, and more.

LONG READ: My favorite kind of local news story is the "library book returned after X number of years" variety. UPI has a good one from Carbondale where The Cruise of the Esmeralda came back 120 years late.

RIVER OF THE YEAR: It's election time, again, only Pennsylvania rivers are on the ballot. There are three to choose from for Pennsylvania River of the Year: the Allegheny, Lackawaxen, and Youghiogheny. Vote here.
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: Belligerent

Congrats to our daily winners: Amy H., Bob C., Stella P., Jane R., Ted W., Becky C., Kimberly D., Barbara F., Don H., Marty M., Jon W., Beth T., Lynne E., Carol S., Mark C., Judith D., Vicki U., Richard A., Stacy S., Daniel M., Beth H., Karen W., Stanley J., Bruce B., Elaine C., Mark R., Susan N.-Z., John P., Tracy S., Alan B., Maureen G., Cate P., William Z., Marie B., Bill S., Daniel S., Nancy H., Craig E., Tish M., Joel S., Wendy A., Christina M., David W., Jeffrey F., Kim C., Ada M., Eddy Z., Starr B., Rick W., David M., Dan A., and Tom M.
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