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Poll: Shoppers Want ‘Made in America’ Gifts

November 28, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Workers at Azzy’s Design Works in Finleyville sort linkage parts for shipping. The company, which tries to source its materials from other American businesses, makes gauges, parts and accessories for off-road vehicles. (Photo courtesy Azzy’s Design Works, via Facebook)

What’s on your holiday shopping list? This year, people may also be asking, “And where was it made?”

In a new poll from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, 81 percent of Americans surveyed said they would prefer to buy American-made gifts if given the option. The preference is driven by the belief buying products “Made in America” will help the economy, create jobs and support small businesses.

Bryan Spiegel, owner of Azzy’s Design Works in Finleyville, said it is important to support local businesses before looking elsewhere. His company recently designed a badge of honor for a local Girl Scout troop, which helped to market the business.

“Being active in your community, active in offering groups that kind of stuff, gets the word out best,” Spiegel said. “Because word-of-mouth has been the greatest tool I’ve had in marketing these past 10 years.”

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Firefighters Sound Alarm Over Declining Volunteers

November 28, 2023 |

By Yousuf Lachhab Ibrahim | Posted in: State & Region

Firefighters from Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. in White Oak visited Mary of Nazareth Catholic School last month to talk about fire prevention and safety. Like other Mon-Yough area departments, the company says recruiting new members is challenging. (Photo courtesy Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co., via Facebook)

Departments across Pennsylvania are racing to come up with solutions for the declining number of volunteer firefighters. The number of volunteers statewide has dropped from over 300,000 in the 1970s to just above 30,000 now.

“This is not something that really happened overnight,” said Brandon Schmidt, chief of Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. in White Oak. “The warning signs that this was happening were going on.” 

But Schmidt, who has been a member of the Rainbow company for 22 years, said that efforts to address this decline so far have been largely ineffective.

Last month, Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments and the Congress of Neighboring Communities held a meeting in Penn Hills with local fire departments to discuss staffing issues in local volunteer companies.

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Advocates: School Funding Needs ‘Bold Action’

November 20, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Aaron Chapin testifies Nov. 9 at a public hearing in Bedford. He teaches fourth- and fifth-graders at Stroudsburg Area Middle School and serves as president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. (Screenshot via Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission website.)

“Bold action” is needed to improve school funding across Pennsylvania, advocates testified at a recent hearing in Harrisburg.

During public hearings on improving school funding held Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission heard from people who stressed the need to set fair and adequate funding targets for every school in the state.

Aaron Chapin, who teaches fourth- and fifth-graders at Stroudsburg Area Middle School in the Pocono Mountains, serves as president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents more than 187,000 teachers’ union members.

He told the committee it is important for the new plan to be transparent and sustainable, and fix the funding inequities across the state. Chapin noted that PSEA has found many equity gaps which need to be closed.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like ... Halloween?

November 17, 2023 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: State & Region

Editor’s Note: File this under the department of “better late than never.” It’s been a whirlwind few weeks here at TCCMI world news headquarters. My apologies to Vickie and the Masons of Lodge 765; I’ll try to do better. (At least we got this posted before Thanksgiving, right?) —Jason

(All photos: Vickie Babyak for Tube City Almanac)

Despite cloudy skies and intermittent rain, families enjoyed the fourth-annual Trunk or Treat held Oct. 29 by Harry S Truman Masonic Lodge 765 in Dravosburg

Lodge secretary Rob Stone said he had concerns about the rain but said, “It all worked out and the kids are enjoying themselves.”

Adults decorated their vehicles from a cute monster theme to a spooky funeral home theme and passed out candy to delighted children dressed up in their trick or treat costumes. The Shriner Clowns entertained the youngsters and made balloon sculptures underneath the lodge pavilion.

“We’ve been doing this for four years and this is the first year we have an award for the best-decorated vehicle,” said John Stein, past master of the lodge.

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Report: More Training Funds Needed in Pa.

November 17, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 354 accepts applications from potential apprentices in Westmoreland, Fayette, portions of Washington and Greene counties on the third Monday of each month from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at its training center, 263 Armbrust Road, Youngwood, Westmoreland County. (Photo courtesy Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, via Facebook)

Pennsylvania needs more economic opportunities and a new report from the Keystone Research Center showed federal investments in climate and infrastructure projects would help grow a skilled construction workforce.

Diana Polson, senior policy analyst at the center, said the report revealed federal money would create thousands of trade jobs through expanding union construction apprenticeships leading to quality careers, as electricians, operating engineers, carpenters, and laborers.

“In Pennsylvania, for example, these apprenticeships train workers for jobs that pay more than most college-educated workers earn, and 61 percent more than the average worker in Pennsylvania,” Polson said. “Significantly, this training comes without any student debt.”

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Three Local High Schools Top Band Competition

October 27, 2023 |

By Bonnijean Cooney Adams | Posted in: State & Region

Lots of clouds are fitting for the “Up in the Air” theme of McKeesport Area High School Tiger Band’s 2023 show. After taking first place in its category at regionals on Oct. 21 at Penn-Trafford High School, the band is looking forward to performing on their home field for the state competition on Saturday (Oct. 28). (Alll photos courtesy of Tournament of Bands Region 8)

Related Story: MAHS Hosting State Band Competition

Three local high school marching bands were named regional champions in their respective categories at the Tournament of Bands Region 8 competition Oct. 21 at Penn-Trafford High School Warrior Stadium.

East Allegheny, McKeesport Area and Serra Catholic received top scores for their performances, as reported by Tournament of Bands Region 8.

East Allegheny

East Allegheny performed a selection of songs by the Four Seasons in their “Jersey Boys” show, which scored 90.08 in Group 2-A. That score included high auxiliary, percussion, plus music and visuals.

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U.S. Steel: No Update on Sale Talks

October 26, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

Finished coils await shipment at U.S. Steel’s Irvin Plant in West Mifflin. (File photo courtesy U.S. Steel Corp.)

U.S. Steel and its possible suitors are remaining quiet on two competing proposals to sell the corporation.

During a call Thursday with investors and reporters, the company reported third-quarter net earnings of $299 million, or $1.20 per share, and declared a five-cent-per-share dividend.

But corporation officials stayed mum about the possible sale of the Pittsburgh-based company, which operates the Mon Valley’s last integrated steel-making facilities, the Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock and North Braddock, as well as the Clairton coke and by-products plant and Irvin Plant in West Mifflin.

In August, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., a steel-making and iron-ore mining conglomerate in Ohio, and Sewickley-based Esmark Inc. announced they had both tendered offers to take over U.S. Steel. The Cleveland-Cliffs deal has the support of the United Steelworkers union.

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Election Officials Need 40,000 to Work Polls

September 19, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: Politics & Elections, State & Region

Election Day is less than two months away, and for the process to go smoothly, Pennsylvania needs a lot more poll workers. Many of the 8.7 million registered voters in the state would be eligible to work at the polls for the November 7th municipal elections.

Lauren Cristella, League of Women Voters board member and president and CEO of the Committee of 70, a voter education group, said 40,000 Pennsylvanians are needed twice a year to ensure elections happen.

The state is also recruiting 17-year-olds to serve as poll workers, if they get permission from their school principal and a parent or guardian.

“Poll workers are our first, best defense against election fraud, anything that would cause disenfranchisement of voters,” Cristella said. “Fully-staffed, well-trained poll workers make voting easier for everyone. So, we took that as an important part of our mission, to make sure that these important roles are filled.”

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Pa. Expands Property Tax, Rent Rebate Program

September 13, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

During a ceremony at a senior-citizen center in Philadelphia in August, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro ceremonially signed legislation which expands the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program to nearly 175,000 more Pennsylvania seniors and doubles rebates for many of the 400,000 Pennsylvanians who already qualify. (Submitted photo courtesy office of Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro)

Older Pennsylvanians will soon see some financial relief with their property taxes and rent.

Gov. Josh Shapiro recently signed House Bill 1100 into law, expanding the state’s existing property tax and rent rebate program.

Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director for AARP Pennsylvania, said the expansion of the program will significantly boost property tax rebates for older adults, alleviating the financial burden for homeowners and renters. He said the yearly maximum standard will increase from $650 to $1,000 for individuals.

It is the first expansion of the program in nearly 20 years, Johnston-Walsh said. “Both property taxes across the state, and rents, have been increasing year after year. And that’s why AARP Pennsylvania fought so hard to expand the property tax rebate program.”

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Report: State Lags in Access to Pre-K Education

September 07, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

File photo: “Day 100 in Kindergarten” by Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

The Keystone State has some work to do to provide more access to quality pre-Kindergarten programs for the youngest Pennsylvanians.

Only 43 percent of eligible 3- and-4-year-olds are in high-quality, publicly funded pre-K, leaving more than 87,000 without access, according to a new report entitled, “State of Early Care and Education in Pennsylvania.”

Maggie Livelsberger, policy director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said young children need access to programs preparing them to start Kindergarten. But she said inadequate funding for child care has led to issues of supply and demand, affecting a family's ability to find care they can afford.

“It also impacts child care providers, and their ability to be compensated fairly, to pay their teachers and maintain their business expenses,” Livelsberger said. “We are living in a world where there is a very historic workforce shortage within the child care system, and a lot of that is due to unlivable wages.”

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