The following is a commentary. Commentaries represent the viewpoints of individual authors and are not those of Tube City Community Media Inc. or its directors.
The Daily News asked me for a few words about the paper's closing. Here's what I sent them:
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A wise person once said that news is anything that people in authority don't want printed --- everything else is advertising.
So, it's a very bad day for democracy and for an informed community when any newspaper closes.
Very few cities of the size of McKeesport or Monessen have a daily newspaper any more. In fact --- much, much larger cities like Cleveland and New Orleans now have newspapers that only come out a few days per week.
So, on the one hand, the loss of newspapers such as the Daily News and Valley Independent is something happening all over the country.
But the problem is that when these local newspapers are closing or downsizing, nothing is replacing them.
The reason is that news coverage --- real news coverage, not just re-printing news releases or police reports --- is very, very expensive, and it's hard to make money in publishing on the Internet.
I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do when the Daily News closes. I have literally been reading the newspaper since I was old enough to read. I learned how to read from the Daily News' comics page of the 1970s --- "Nubbin," "The Smith Family," "Walt Disney's Scamp," and a bunch of other frankly terrible funnies better forgotten.
Tube City Community Media Inc. is in no way a "replacement" for the Daily News, but will be here to help.
Please send community announcements to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voice mail at 412-385-7450, and we will do our level best to get your announcement both on Tube City Online and WMCK.
Be patient; for now, we are all volunteers. That may change, but not soon.
We will have an announcement shortly about an obituary service we are launching next week, and we may do something similar for church news.
We have not given up on the McKeesport area, and we know thousands of others haven't, either. Mon Valley residents are tough, and stubborn. It isn't over until we say it's over.
If you haven't yet made plans for New Year's Eve, family and friends of a Monongahela area woman are hoping you'll join them for a party --- and to raise money for a good cause.
Elizabeth Twp.'s Sunset Room, located just off Lovedale Road, is hosting a benefit for Tiffany Fine on Thursday night from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. New Year's Day.
Fine, 32, is battling a brain tumor. The event is sponsored by the Seth Simon Foundation. People unable to attend Thursday night can also make contributions at a YouCaring page set up by the Simon Foundation.
Tickets are $60 for individuals or $400 for a table of 10. A limited number of seats are still available but reservations "absolutely, positively," must be made no later than Thursday morning, said Andi Cartwright, marketing and event coordinator for the Sunset Room. "Wednesday would be better. We have a lot of set-up to do."
Call (412) 667-1117 to reserve a seat.
The event will include live music from House of Soul, an 11-piece funk and R&B band led by sax player Calvin Stemley.
"It's a great band that's been around for 22 years," Cartwright said. "They have a big following, but they don't usually do a whole lot of gigs in our area, so we've been trying to bring them here for a while."
Allegheny County Councilman Charles Martoni, Swissvale Democrat who represents county council District 8, talks about the history of the Carrie Furnaces site during this morning's ribbon cutting. (Allegheny County photo via Twitter)
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Federal, county and state officials today joined Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in celebrating the completion of the $14.5 million Carrie Furnace Flyover Bridge with a formal ribbon cutting.
The bridge connects the Rankin Bridge to the 168-acre brownfield along the Monongahela River by passing over three railway tracks and includes significant railroad crossing safety improvements. The completion of the flyover bridge marks a significant milestone in the site work and reclamation of the former steel yard.
The ramp represents a "significant step" in the redevelopment of part of the former Carrie Furnaces site because it offers direct access to more than 100 acres of flat, riverfront property, Fitzgerald said.
Allegheny County purchased the Carrie Furnace site in 2005 for $5.75 million. In 2006, Carrie Furnaces Nos. 6 and 7 were designated as a National Historic Landmark.
In the last decade, the county has completed environmental assessments of the property, finished design and engineering work needed to bring the site above the 100 year flood plain, and extended sanitary and storm water systems.
The Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, which has managed the project, plans to market the site as a flexible light industrial park that can accomodate offices or some manufacturing. The authority, which will solicit development proposals soon, predicts the site can accommodate 1,000 jobs over the first 10 years.
The ramp investments "were absolutely integral to the clean-up of this brownfield, and can be a boon to the surrounding communities as it begins to develop," Fitzgerald said.
(The editor of Tube City Almanac has a conflict of interest. Please see the editor's notes at the end of this article.)
Unionized employees at U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works have an early Christmas present.
The company and the United Steelworkers yesterday reached a tentative three-year contract agreement covering 18,000 employees in 26 local unions at a dozen U.S. Steel facilities. The union has been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired Sept. 1.
The agreement covers employees of U.S. Steel's domestic flat-rolled facilities, which include the Clairton, Edgar Thomson and Irvin plants of the Mon Valley Works, as well as pipe-making and iron-ore mining operations. The tentative agreement remains subject to ratification, a process that the union said could take several weeks to complete.
"We are pleased that we have reached a tentative agreement in the best interest of our company, our stakeholders and our employees," U.S. Steel President and CEO Mario Longhi said.
The agreement, he said, "further supports the mutual success we have had with the USW" in restructuring U.S. Steel in the face of what he called "unfair trade that is significantly impacting our industry."
Opinions expressed at Tube City Almanac are those of individual authors, and not those of Tube City Community Media Inc., its directors or volunteers. Responsible replies are welcome.
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McKeesport "has a newspaper graveyard of considerable proportions," wrote Walter Abbott and William Harrison in the 1894 book, "The First One Hundred Years of McKeesport."
And it's going to now be enlarged by one.
There is absolutely nothing positive I can say about yesterday's announcement that the Daily News will close on Dec. 31 after 131 years of service.
It is terrible. Horrible. Awful. Combined with the closure of Monessen's Valley Independent, it means 87 good people will lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
And to emphasize: It is not their fault. It is a result of forces much larger than either paper. In my opinion, it doesn't even say that much about the economics of the Mon Valley, or the economics of newspapering.
. . .
It also --- despite some of the negativity I saw yesterday on the Internet --- doesn't mean there is no hope for the McKeesport area.
(By the way: If you were on the Internet yesterday, and your first reaction to the news of the papers closing was to bash Obama, or blame Republicans, or to say "good, I hated those papers anyway" ... well, you might be a schmuck. And, to quote Dean Martin, "I cleaned that up.")
If the board of directors of Tube City Community Media Inc. didn't think there was hope for the McKeesport area, we wouldn't still be running Tube City Online, and we wouldn't have just launched an Internet radio station, WMCK.FM.
Carrying his trademark golf club in what he described as "the world's largest sand trap," comedian Bob Hope waves to the crowd as he is escorted to the stage at Eskan Village by U.S. Central Command Commander-In-Chief, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf. The general and the entertainer are surrounded by staff members, and security forces provided by the Saudi Arabian government. (Photo by Mike Mauer)
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Twenty-five years ago, many people had something more to worry about than a sluggish economy and Christmas shopping. The usual brightness and bustle associated with the holidays were marred by dark clouds of war gathering over Southwest Asia.
On Dec. 22, 1990, oil prices rose to $26 per barrel and looked like they would shoot higher during the cold winter months. Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army was test firing its much-vaunted Scud missiles, and United States troop deployments to Saudi Arabia were approaching the 300,000 mark.
For families in the United States with loved ones being sent to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield, Christmas of 1990 may have seemed an empty holiday. Service members sweltering in the desert heat 8,000 miles away had an even harder time getting into the spirit of seasonal cheer.
Because of fears that Muslim forces in the coalition against Iraq might be offended, open celebration of Christmas by United States troops stationed around heavily populated areas in Saudi Arabia was discouraged. Additionally, 18-hour duty days, a ban on the consumption of alcoholic beverages and a definite lack of snow in the forecast helped quell the chances of Desert Shield troops enjoying any type of holiday whatsoever.
The deadline for applications for the state's Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31.
State Rep. Marc Gergely of White Oak said the rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians 65 or older, widows and widowers 50 or older and people with disabilities 18 or older.
The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
"With how busy we are around the holidays, it’s easy to lose track of time," Gergely said. "Before you know it, it’ll be a new year and too late to file an application. This program is geared to helping seniors and those who are disabled and I don't want anyone to miss out what is rightfully theirs."
The application deadline for eligible residents to receive a rebate on their 2014 paid property taxes or rent is Dec. 31.
As the holidays approach, local police are warning of an increased number of thefts and burglary attempts.
In White Oak, police this week said more than 15 vehicles were entered over the weekend throughout the borough, while thefts also were reported in Jefferson Hills. Meanwhile, Wilkins police are investigating a burglary in the Gilmore Acres section of the township.
"Burglaries and break-ins are always prevalent around the holidays," a Wilkins Twp. police spokesperson said in an email yesterday, adding that residents should make sure to lock their homes and vehicles. Residents should consider leaving lights on and drawing their curtains when they're away from home, Wilkins police said.
The spokesperson added that police have a suspect in mind in the Gilmore Acres burglary, which occurred in an unoccupied home.
In White Oak, police said items were stolen from vehicles on Summit Street, Delaware, California and Kansas avenues, and Carmella, Marietta and Victoria drives. The thefts are believed to have occurred sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Andrew Egan, dean of the Faculty of Science and acting associate vice president for research at Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba, has been named chancellor and chief academic officer at Penn State Greater Allegheny, effective Feb. 15, 2016.
Egan will succeed Interim Chancellor Nancy Herron, who will retire from Penn State for a second time on Dec. 31 after coming out of retirement to serve as interim chancellor on Jan. 1, 2014. John Peles, interim director of academic affairs at Penn State Greater Allegheny, will serve as interim chancellor/chief academic officer beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
“Dr. Egan possesses more than 20 years of proven academic leadership, providing Penn State Greater Allegheny with a wealth of experience in the areas of strategic planning, program development and accreditation, enrollment management, and external relations,” said Madlyn Hanes, Penn State vice president for Commonwealth Campuses. “He brings an accomplished record of supporting faculty development and collaboration that will serve the campus well.”
In his new position, Egan will also hold the title of professor of forest resources.
“I am thrilled and honored to be joining the Penn State community as chancellor of the Greater Allegheny campus,” Egan said. “In a way, this is a homecoming for me, having graduated from Penn State in 1993. We are connected to Pennsylvania in other important ways as well — my wife is a native of Pittsburgh, having spent her childhood in Ingomar.”
Many people in the Pittsburgh area have probably heard "The Saturday Light Brigade," the long-running public radio program that airs on six FM radio stations and three Internet stations, including Tube City Online's WMCK.FM in McKeesport.
But they may not be aware that SLB's parent organization also engages in mentoring and training programs in local schools, including the Propel charter schools in the Mon Valley as well as public schools through the McKeesport-based Consortium for Public Education.
This week, SLB debuted the latest three CDs in its "Crossing Fences" series. In "Crossing Fences," groups of African-American teen-agers interview local men from the community, and then edit the interviews into four to six minute radio documentaries.
On the next episode of our weekly radio show, "Two Rivers, 30 Minutes," we talk with Sarah Siplak and Chanessa Schuler of SLB Radio Productions about "Crossing Fences," and we also listen to one of the oral histories.
The 30th annual McKeesport Festival of Trees gets underway today and continues through Monday.
Dozens of hand-decorated Christmas evergreens representing churches, schools, social groups and other organizations are on display in Renziehausen Park's Jacob Woll Pavilion.
An official tree-lighting ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. tonight (Dec. 3) at the intersection of Arboretum and Sycamore drives, near the pavilion entrance. Santa Claus will arrive at the ceremony on a McKeesport Fire Department truck, a spokeswoman said.
Hours for the show are 12 noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Admission is $2 for adults, while children 12 and younger are admitted at no charge with donation of one non-perishable food item for local food pantries.
Activities include live entertainment, visits with Santa, and hayrides through Renzie, provided by McKeesport's public works department. The park will be lit by luminaria at night.