The trolls of Burrell Township

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA — Burrell Township, bane to pedalers and pedestrians, recently has been mischaracterized as biblical underdog David fighting Indiana County’s Goliath over a hike-and-bike-path project more than a decade in the planning. But a more fitting characterization of the township and its obstructionist supervisors would be the troll under the bridge in the Three Billy Goats Gruff 

Only their own land-development ordinance forced township supervisors finally to approve the proposed local link in a growing nationwide chain of abandoned rail lines repurposed as pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The township’s proposed link is a $3 million, grant-funded (meaning: no cost to township taxpayers), 150-foot bridge to bear bicyclists and pedestrians safely across busy, multi-lane U.S. Route 22 at Blairsville.

Nearly unanimous official support for the project over the years has included members of a previous Burrell Township board. That early support was reversed when the current board members took office. Since then, they have busied themselves trolling the project.

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The book-banning lobby, 2022

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – Just in time for Banned Books Week (Sept. 18-24), several parents attended last week’s Homer-Center school board meeting to lobby against a couple of published materials taught in 10th grade English classes.

One offending publication is a 17-minute video TEDx Talk titled “How Embracing Tolerance has Failed Us.” The speaker, a Dr. Kristen Donnelly, describes herself as a “keynote speaker, empathy enthusiast and unapologetic nerd.”

Her empathetic nerdiness includes this summary: “Tolerance, the current model for how we should all get along, is a cheap imitation of what we actually need, which is inclusion. By making the mistake of promoting tolerance, we have ignored diversity completely and flattened it into a talking point.”

Another offending publication is the best-selling, 2015 young-adult novel “All American Boys,” by co-authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. The story is of two teenagers encountering racism and police brutality while coming of age in contemporary America.

The parents told school board members that the publications promoted “anti-police … anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-nuclear family and anti-white male” agendas.

“We are taking that issue very seriously,” responded school board member Michael Schmidt.

 

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More disrespect from White Township supervisors

A student chalks a sidewalk in the Oak Grove at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1995 during the first of three efforts to log White’s Woods. Photo by Tom Turify.

By Sara King

WHITE TOWNSHIP – Two items on Wednesday’s agenda of the White Township Board of Supervisors drew attention – one item concerning bow hunting in White’s Woods, the other concerning pickleball.

Discussion of the shared public-private cost of a $1,294.92 wind screen at the township’s pickleball courts in Chevy Chase inspired several supervisors to toss what appeared to be thinly veiled insults at Friends of White’s Woods, the public forest’s advocacy group.

“I think it’s great when a group in our community like that offers to improve something that they use, and they offer to do the legwork and contribute,” township supervisor Sandi Gillette said, directly referring to the pickleball club. 

Board chairman George Lenz added that he liked community organizations that “work with the township, not against the township.”

Given the recent context and history of township supervisors’ disparaging remarks, the digs weren’t really a surprise.

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Coming soon: bow hunting in White’s Woods

Ryan Shaffer, recreation director, White Township. Photo: township website

Following is an edited transcript of an interview with Ryan Shaffer, White Township recreation director. The interview was conducted by phone on Sept. 8 and by follow-up emails on Sept. 11 and 12. The subject was township supervisors’ approved plan for archery hunting in the 245-acre White’s Woods Nature Center and in about 15 acres adjacent to the White Township Recreation Complex on East Pike Road.

The hunt is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

——————-

By Sara Stewart

Question: Is the hunt set to take place in October?

Shaffer: We’re proceeding on schedule. I think our first day hunting, at this point, is planned for the open of archery season [Oct. 1].

Q: And how long will the hunt be for?

Shaffer: It would be the PA Game Commission standard archery season.

Q: Which is?

Shaffer: I’m looking it up right now.

Q: It was my understanding, initially, that the board was talking about having a few specific days set aside for hunting in White’s Woods, not that it would be the entirety of the season.

Shaffer: So that’s what I’m saying. It’s just archery, no rifle, no muzzle loaders, nothing, you know, gun-related. It’s restricted to just the archery season, which opens Oct. 1 and goes through Nov. 12.  (Editor’s note: In a Sept. 12 email Mr. Shaffer acknowledged that archery season extends beyond Nov. 12 to include Nov. 13-18 and Dec. 26- Jan. 16, as reported on the state game commission’s website.)

Q: There’s nothing on the White Township website, as far as I can see, about the hunt. Is there a plan to put some information on there?

Shaffer: You could probably find the program that was developed and approved. It was being developed last November and December, and I believe it was approved in January. But you’re probably correct. I don’t think we’ve put up — let me put it this way: We don’t have an open campaign.

Q: But for public safety, wouldn’t you want to put something on the site for people to know that it’s going to happen?

Shaffer: That’ll be part of our process in the next couple weeks, yeah. Continue reading

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A new frontier for rural broadband?

Indiana County map accompanying the county’s August request for proposals from internet service providers to expand broadband service in the county’s unserved and underserved communities. Source: Indiana County Office of Planning and Development. Click to enlarge.

Broadband chronicles

By David Loomis

INDIANA – A reader in Young Township was not happy with Indiana County’s slo-mo rollout (“no-mo may be more correct”) of broadband internet service for the reader’s rural neck of the woods.

“Here we are at the start of a new school year with little or no change in the situation,” the reader wrote The HawkEye. “There’s a lot of public money being thrown at this with no way for the public to monitor the progress (if any)…. How many rural connections have been made? How many more students and employees can work from home now if necessary?”

That was one year ago. The questions were timely when the reader raised them at the start of a new school year at Apollo-Ridge school district.

One year later, on Aug. 30, 2022, the reader raised them again. The questions remain timely.

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Dr. Oz Does Indiana

 

Dr. Mehmet Oz campaigns at a downtown Indiana restaurant, Aug. 22, 2022. Photo: Indiana Gazette/Pat Cloonan

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – The bar was set low for Mehmet Oz on his campaign swing through Indiana last weekend. Dr. Oz, the Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat representing Pennsylvania, has been linked to a recent disparaging remark by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about GOP “candidate quality” in this year’s crop of Trump-cozy candidates.

Sure enough, the carpetbagging candidate’s medicine bag seemed light on public policy issues and remedies, as reported by the local daily. His issues included gender (a distraction for social-conservatives and culture warriors), energy and public health.

On public health, Dr. Oz reportedly said science, not ideology, should drive government decisions.

“When you mix politics with medicine, you get politics,” declared the celebrity sawbones whose credentials reportedly include attending physician at the respected New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center.

Not mentioned was Columbia University Medical Center’s recent decision to sever public ties with Dr. Oz. The decision followed criticism of his quackery by a group of top U.S. medical professionals.

“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” the physicians wrote. “Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

Dr. Oz confirmed the allegations by appearing on Fox News in spring 2020 to recommend Covid-19 treatment with hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial with risky side effects. This week a U.S. House committee investigating the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic revealed a stream of emails sent by Dr. Oz to Trump administration officials urging clinical trials for the quack treatment. Mr. Trump famously began to dose himself daily.

The malpracticing president later endorsed the malpracticing physician’s campaign for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

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Dispensing with Doug

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, Jimmy Stewart Airport, Indiana, Pa., Aug. 13, 2022. Photo: Michael Johnson/Indiana Gazette

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – “Mastriano disperses talking points in Indiana stop,” read the headline under a four-column photo above the fold on the front page of The Indiana Gazette’s Monday edition. That’s an interesting verb to describe last weekend’s visit by state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor in the Nov. 8 election.

“Disperse” often is used to describe crowd control, as in, “Police moved in to disperse the mob,” one online dictionary suggests. An updated variation might add, “… that Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano helped muster by bringing busloads of insurrectionists to the Capitol on Jan. 6.”

It’s not a word commonly used to describe speech or communication. Maybe the headline meant to use the similar-sounding word “dispense,” as in “dispense wisdom.”

But wisdom was not reported among Mr. Mastriano’s “talking points.” Instead, a video clip showed the candidate anecdotally assailing “biological men participating in women’s sports.”

“And they call us extreme?” Mr. Mastriano asked rhetorically.

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‘Timberr!?’

A student chalks a sidewalk in the Oak Grove at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1995 during the first of several efforts to harvest White’s Woods. Photo by Tom Turify.

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – “Timbering” came up during White Township supervisors’ July 27 meeting with the chair of their Stewardship Committee, a citizens panel supervisors formed to insulate themselves from political wildfires they persistently set over White’s Woods Nature Center.

“One of the things that creates a lot of tension,” reported committee chair Barbara Hauge, “is the idea of timbering. That word seems to create a lot of anxiety with the members of the public.”

Right on cue, the word triggered some anxiety from township Supervisor Gail McCauley.

“It was never, ever a timbering plan,” Ms. McCauley said. “It was never that. It never has been.”

Ms. McCauley’s trip to Neverland echoed an earlier assertion on the same subject at a supervisors meeting a year and a half ago. A guest speaker commented on the township’s “logging plan“ for White’s Woods.

“We do not have a logging plan,” she told the tree expert addressing the January 2021 supervisors meeting. “There is not and never has been a logging plan.”

Once again, thanks to Ms. McCauley for defining what the issue isn’t. The problem is avoidance by township supervisors to declare what their intention actually is.

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Gridlock takes a summer break

Artist rendering of proposed pedestrian and bicycle bridge over U.S. Route 22 at Blairsville, Pa.

An analysis

By David Loomis

INDIANA – Governing has had a good summer. News from Washington reports that gridlock has taken a vacation, at home (including Burrell Township) and abroad.

 — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced an epiphany and embraced historic climate, energy, inflation, tax and prescription-drug legislation that he had blocked, suddenly improving prospects for laws that presidential candidate Joe Biden promised  (and Americans support by wide margins).

 — Congress passed and Mr. Biden just signed into law a bipartisan bill to revive the U.S. semiconductor sector and to boost its competitiveness with China.

— Inflation tops voter concerns, but gasoline prices, a primary inflation feeder, were falling in July.

— Half of Republican voters say they are ready to dump the former president who incited the domestic terrorism at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

— Congressional obstructionism and hypocrisy are getting seriously shamed and ridiculed.

 — In late June, Mr. Biden signed into law the most sweeping gun violence measure in decades. The bipartisan bill was blocked until the May 24 massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.

— Terrorists foreign and domestic paid the price in Afghanistan and Texas, respectively (and beyond).  Continue reading

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Rep. Thompson and an American family

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – It’s been a busy week for U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-15th District. On July 19, Indiana County’s congressman voted against federal legislation that would require states to recognize same-sex marriages. Despite his opposition, the Respect for Marriage Act passed the House with 47 Republicans (including three from Pennsylvania) joining every Democrat in support.

Three days later on July 22, our anti-same-sex-marriage representative attended a same-sex marriage ceremony — his son’s.

“We love it when they find their one true love, especially when they become a part of our families then,” Thompson said during the ceremony in remarks recorded by a celebrant.

On Monday, the congressman’s press secretary responded to a blizzard of media questions about the appearance of hypocrisy:

“The Thompsons are very happy to welcome their new son-in-law into their family,” the congressman’s press secretary evaded to The Washington Post on Monday.

A non-response response. Mr. Thompson is practiced at this.

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