Opinion: In Defense of Parks

I’m writing in defense of Pennsylvania’s great park system. Our numerous state and local parks are incredibly valuable to Pennsylvanians. For example, the local Bloomsburg Town Park is known for its summer concert series, picnic areas, and recreational activities.

I’m writing to voice my disappointment with efforts underway in Harrisburg, proposed by Gov. Corbett, to dissolve funding for one of Pennsylvania’s great conservation programs, the Keystone Fund. It is one of the state’s most important programs when it comes to restoring and protecting parks and other critical outdoor areas all over Pennsylvania. For example, it has allowed for a great deal of recent development in nearby Bloomsburg Park, enhancing and supporting people’s enjoyment of this lovely area.

After decades of saving the places that make Pennsylvania great, it’s time for every-day Pennsylvanians to save the Keystone Fund. I hope that people who enjoy our great outdoors will call and write to our local politicians and make sure that they will do whatever is necessary to protect the Keystone Fund, before the final budget passes.

[box type=”shadow”]Kyra Reumann-Moore is a Penn Environment Intern. Penn Environment is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization with roughly 80,000 members and activist, including many in Columbia County.[/box]

Photo via Flickr.

Opinion: Are the Budget Cuts Affecting You?

In the wake of this week’s budget proposal from Governor Corbett, where it was proposed that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) should take a 20% ($82.5 million) cut in funding; I found myself reading the Op/Ed entitled “Shuttle Bus Stressers: Long Lines Leave Students Stranded” in the Voice. Some of you may remember that last year Governor Corbett proposed a 54% cut to PASSHE and that several dedicated APSCUF faculty, including myself, were out on campus attempting to make students aware of the impact such a cut could have on their education. APSCUF asked students to write postcards to their PA representatives and senators to emphasize how a 54% cut would affect them. Over 1500 postcards were sent from Bloomsburg’s campus and over 11,000 from all the PASSHE Universities. The final budget saw PASSHE absorb an 18% (~92.5 million) cut which resulted directly in a 7.5% increase in tuition across the system.

In my opinion, the above mentioned article addresses another direct result of the 18% cut in PASSHE’s budget. The author, Joe Fisher states that “… more buses need to be added to routes that have shown to be extremely busy.” He also states that “Every Bloomsburg University student pays $35 for a Transportation Fee.” Let’s think about the issue for a moment. More buses ($$) means more drivers ($$) and more fuel ($$). If we have already lost nearly $92.5 million and we are positioned to lose another $82.5 million where will the money for more buses come from? That’s right, from the students.

As I’ve stood at table after table trying to encourage students to write a postcard to their PA representatives, senators, and governor, as recent as last week, many students walk by stating “it doesn’t affect me.” If you are student here at Bloomsburg it does affect you. Maybe you have to stand in a long line in the hopes of getting on a bus. Maybe you have to hope that you can get into a class that you need. Maybe, you hope to get a physical seat in a class you are enrolled in as one of my students said to me. “I need to leave lab as early as possible so that I can get to my (_____) class to get a seat. There are more students than seats, but it is assumed that not everyone will show up to every class so there should be enough seats for those that do show up.” I’m sure there are many other stories being told by students that can be directly related to the lack of funding for the PASSHE system. Come out over the next few weeks and help APSCUF tell Governor Corbett and the PA legislature that education is important and it should be funded.

If you are an employee at Bloomsburg University from President Soltz on down I’m sure you have felt the effects of the budget cuts. Maybe you had to wait several weeks to have your office painted, to have a simple electrical or carpentry repair completed; or you’re a staff member looking at a “to do” list that is becoming unmanageable. Maybe you’ve seen your classes get larger or your advisee list grow faster than your salary. Again, I’m sure there are many other stories being told by employees that can be directly related to the lack of funding for the PASSHE System. Come out over the next few weeks and help APSCUF tell Governor Corbett and the PA legislature that education is important and it should be funded.

While we appreciate that our local representative David Millard and Senator John Gordner supported Bloomsburg University in making sure the 54% proposed cut was reduced to 18%; we request all readers to encourage them to not sign another budget that cuts the Bloomsburg University budget.

[box type=”shadow”]Eric Hawrelak is an Associate Professor, Inorganic/Organometallic Chemistry at Bloomsburg University.[/box]

Render Unto Man

The PA House of Representatives passed H.R. 535, a resolution declaring 2012 the “Year of the Bible”. Derek Gittler argues this misuse of Civil Government is an Affront to, and a Violation of, the Conscience of every Christian, Non-Christian, and Non-Theist alike.

On 24 January the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously approved a “noncontroversial resolution” declaring 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania. In its brief twenty-eight lines H.R. 535 manages to pass off vague statement as historical fact, use undefined fear as a rallying cry, tug at the heartstrings of a pathetic patriotism, and provide overly simplistic solutions to self-suggested and non-existent problems. All in all, it is a masterpiece of modern government.

And it would be completely laughable if it were not also offensive to every Christian, every non-Christian, and every non-theist alike. In passing this resolution 193-0 nearly every member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has shown a complete lack of understanding of the absolute necessity for private matters of religion to be always and forever separate from any civil authority for religion’s and liberty’s sake.

This is not to say one’s religious sentiments may not inform a Representative’s character or influence their conscience. Those sentiments most certainly will. What the Representatives may not do is use the power of civil government to promote religion or a specific religion, but that is precisely what the House has done.

Much has been written about Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists, that famous letter which introduced the phrase “a wall of separation between Church & State” into our political discussion. But what of the Danbury Baptists? What of their initial letter? Why would a Christian denomination in a supposedly Christian nation write to the President for understanding and reassurance in the first place?

The authority of State and Federal power were delineated differently when the Danbury Baptists wrote their original letter in 1801. While the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prevented the Federal government from establishing a national religion, the Danbury Baptists were concerned that their own State of Connecticut was under no such constraint. They feared that the establishment of a State church in Connecticut would compromise their own liberty and personal safety. This was a very real fear considering that in their recent history their own State and neighboring Rhode Island were each founded to escape religious persecution in Christian Massachusetts.

The danger they saw, rightly so, was not in religion, but in the combination of religion and government and the power that combination holds. They feared those “who seek after power & gain under the pretense of government & Religion should reproach their fellow men — should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion Law & good order”. Those seeking power would use the cloak of religion, and the moral respect people naturally give it, to decry those with whom they disagree for their own political advantage. In this election year, the evening news is only too full of examples.

It is for the protection of religion, especially for any sect in minority, and for the protection of conscience that in these matters government must have no say and no authority, legal or moral. It is for your own religion’s sake that a separation must be jealously guarded from temporal governmental power.

In matters of private conscience, the Danbury Baptists saw these limits very clearly, that a government must have no voice, “… That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals … That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor …”

The resolution of the Pennsylvania House flies in the face of this principle, explicitly acknowledging “the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.”

“But what is wrong with this?” you may ask. “It doesn’t prevent others from worshiping as they choose.” The problem is not only protection from majority power. The problem is also that for those who do not believe as such, our convictions “we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen.”

Ultimately this resolution of the PA House of Representatives is ridiculous. No government authority can dictate the private conscience of any person. At best this is shallow politics, intended to consolidate power and position by conjuring some vague feeling of goodwill on the part of the people toward their elected Representatives with some mealy-mouthed, insincere appeal to their deepest, most private convictions. How insulting! At worst it shows the Representatives’ blatant disregard and contempt for the varied sources of morality of each individual, whether that person relies on spiritual revelation or daily experience.

Government has not the authority nor the power to determine the mind of the individual. Its only proper use is the protection of the person and property of each, limited in power such that the government itself is not a violator of those rights. That the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took it upon itself to issue H.R. 535 and declare 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” is a gross insult to the private convictions of every Pennsylvanian and every American.

The Christian scriptures instruct us to, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When our government learns that in matters of conscience they have no authority, that they have no right, that in these matters the Government must render unto man, we shall marvel at them.

Photograph by Wyoming_Jackrabbit. Used under a CreativeCommons license

Fracking the Earth and Pennsylvania

Perhaps the most alarming fact about hydraulic fracturing-fracking is that it’s still going on at all despite the enormity of the evidence against it.

Fracking is a Variety of Environmental Rape Abetted by the Law: Governor Corbett’s Pennsylvania, Inc.
By: Wendy Lynne Lee

Perhaps the most alarming fact about hydraulic fracturing, fracking, is that it’s still going on at all despite the enormity of the evidence against it. Chesapeake CEO Aubry McClendon must think there’s a special god just for frackers, one who not only turns a blind eye to the poisoning of life-essentials like water, but who rewards CEOs like himself with salaries that convince us there’s a special place in heaven for the masters of calculative reason without the burdens of conscience. As it must surely seem to McClendon, the prayers of corporate persons like Cabot, Chesapeake, Williams Production Appalachia, Range Resources, and Chief are being answered right here on earth, right now in the milk-and-honey land of coal and petroleum and natural gas.

And what hopeful prayers they are. What was a mistress hard-tamed by ordinary vertical drilling is, as the inimitable and perverse Frances Bacon might put it, made pliant by the horizontal fracturing of her ligaments and bones. What secreted geological and zoological history Mother Earth had refused to give up to dated technology, she can now be made to expel via the chemical abortafacients imploding inside her belly. What’s otherwise the gory expulsion of carcinogens and un-reclaimable lubricants, friction-reducers, surfactants, and biocides are magically transformed into the manna of the fracking god: money—money and all it can buy or bribe or terrorize into submission. The earth is fracked, and there is little wonder the industry would prefer to use another word; fraced sounds less like rape.

Disturbing images to be sure. But what makes such images apt is that they capture not merely the fracking process itself, but the unholy alliance being formed between the fracking industry and the state. A state that permits the irretrievable pillage of its waterways, the effective seizure of its citizens’ private properties, and the destruction of its roads, bridges, and communities for the sake of its profiteering partnership with an industry is corrupt. Even more disquieting is a state that crafts legislation forcing the forfeiture of the decision-making authority of its townships and municipalities to an agency of the government—the Attorney General’s Office. We might be tempted to call this fascist, but in Pennsylvania’s case the fascist is also the perverse: by trying to disguise such preemption in the corporate-propaganda of jobs, energy security, and free market capitalism, our current administration is rightly described not merely as fascist, but as a profiteering predator. Indeed, if the fracking god was going to reward a governor for terrorizing his citizens into believing that the state’s coffers were in such dire straights that only the deep pockets of the industry that financed his campaign could save them from economic ruin—and that a good patriot wouldn’t hesitate to open her heart (or lift her skirts) to the good folks at Cabot, Chesapeake, et. al., who were all for America, apple pie and freedom—it’s Tom Corbett, CEO of Pennsylvania, Inc.

And this brings us back to rape — and hype. For however much “friends of natural gas” like Corbett and his Big Energy Industry appointments (say, Alan C. Walker) dress themselves up as job-bearing, America-n-freedom-loving sheep, they are wolves whose actions prove beyond doubt that when bribery falters, force is sure to follow, or that when old-fashioned patriotic guilt-mongering doesn’t do the trick, a shiny-new law wrapped up in the flag will.

Enter House Bill (HB) 1950 and its twin Senate Bill (SB) 1100 (http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/view/343031, http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/PA/SB1100). These bills would establish an impact fee on producing gas wells. In exchange, municipalities forfeit zoning powers granted to them under the Pennsylvania Municipality Planning Code (MPC). Any local government that has an ordinance that is as permissive or more so than the state’s standardized zoning ordinance gets revenue from the impact fee; more producing wells, bigger fee (note that fracked but non-producing wells net precisely nothing other than whatever potential environmental damage they leave behind). Any local government whose ordinances are less permissive doesn’t see a dime even if its municipality is home to multiple wells, compressor stations, transmission lines, or processing plants (http://www.protectmyrightspa.org/SB1100%20-%20Q%20&%20A.pdf). The bill, in other words, effectively exempts the natural gas and oil industry from municipality-imposed zoning ordinances, and while we might hope that the state’s standardized zoning code would offer protection from at least the most egregious of industry abuses, “lax” doesn’t remotely describe Pennsylvania’s current oversight of the industry. In fact, we might rightly see HB 1950 and SB 1100 as a bribe to look the other way.

If you think all the action is going on at Dimock where the state has liberated Cabot from having to truck in water to replace what its well blowout contaminated forever, think again. Just for starters, from the December 10th, 2011 edition of the Philly Daily News:

A veteran welder, now an organizer for a national pipeline union, happened upon the line and tried to blow the whistle on what he considered substandard work. But there was no one to call. Pennsylvania’s regulators don’t handle those pipelines, and acknowledge they don’t even know where they are. And when he reported what he saw to a federal oversight agency, an inspector told him there was nothing he could do, either. Because the line was in a rural area, no safety rules applied.

Sound like a state invested in the public good? Hold on. A municipality’s date with the frackers only gets better. According to Protecting Our Waters, a water conservation group, these bills “would…strip local municipalities right to stop drilling in flood plains or to stop massive water withdraws from residential neighborhoods.” HB 1950/SB 1100 can, in effect, eradicate entire neighborhoods, and replace them with industrial zones by transferring to the state decisions about where gas wells can be located—including decisions about distance from essential community assets such as schools, churches, forests, wetlands, and waterways. Why should Range Resources have to go to all the trouble to sue South Fayette Township over an ordinance that requires a $5000.00 permit to frack a well and respect buffer zones around schools and hospitals when HB 1950/SB 1100 can simply preempt the township? According to Range Resources, the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act already bars townships from this sort of intrusion on their frack-plans—but if that’s not a guarantee, the new law will clear it right up in favor of the corporation.

How about a little noise with your church? Maybe a little truck “fraffic” with your quiet-time? Or at your kid’s school crossing? “Local ordinances would not be allowed to restrict the hours of gas drilling operations at all. No restrictions on light, noise, or height could be imposed…no restrictions on the vehicular access of routes for the heavy trucks could be implemented.”

And just to add insult to injury, the state plans to permit the use of frack fluids as Winter de-icer; perhaps school buses can just follow the frack trucks. The upshot: if this legislation passes, municipalities in Pennsylvania will effectively exist at the pleasure of the natural gas corporations. Whether you’re a private property owner (thanks to forced pooling and public takings) or a municipality, the romantic notion that you have a say about fracking is nothing more than a pretext to get you to lease your land or sell out your fellow township board members voluntarily. Easier for the frackers that way. But no matter. Go ahead. Resist.

Imagine a dialogue between Ms. Municipality and Mr. Fracker:

Ms. Municipality: Mr. Fracker, I really appreciate your offering us an impact fee and all, but, well, if there’s a big fracking accident—like that blow-out from the faulty casings in Dimock—that money is going to get itself spent real quick. And besides that, my folks just aren’t real comfortable with the prospect of all those trucks on our two lane roads, compressor stations next the elementary school, rising cancer rates, the prospect of radioactive waste, and that flaring all night. I mean at first, it was kind of pretty—but honestly, the allure has worn off. So, thanks for the offer, but no thanks.

Mr. Fracker: Ms. Municipality, I understand your concerns, but frankly you’re just in my way. The law assures me I don’t have to give a fracking-fuck. I thought if I took you on this nice date with the impact fee flowers and all, you’d make it easy. But here you are calling it fracking. I prefer fracing. But whatever. Here’s your choice: You can survive or you can die. I can’t help it if the first choice feels like prostitution, and the second’s unthinkable. This is Pennsylvania, Inc., and there’s money to be made.

The only real difference between the fracking of a well and that of a municipality is that the latter comes dressed like sheep on a date, offering little niceties with pretty names like “impact fees.” But, fracking-god forbid, the municipality turns down a suitor from, say, Cabot. As the overwhelming evidence makes clear, “no” means nothing but “frack me, and frack me hard.” Indeed, should the municipality protest with antiquated notions of “rightness” and “wrongness,” should its citizens appeal to starry-eyed ideas like “health,” “community integrity,” or “property rights,” well, thanks to SB 1100 and HB 1950 (not to mention a long history of coal and oil friendly law), such moral simpletons can now be made every bit as compliant as the chunk of Marcellus Shale formation blowing its gas out along faulty transmission lines into their aquifers and streams (thanks to fractivist Dean Marshall for reminding me the value of plain references to “right” and “wrong”). Folks who refuse to sign leases “had in coming.” They “asked for it” by buying frackable land. They could have made some cash by allowing a little frack-action, a little drilling-down—you know they really wanted it—but the industry-wolves are getting tired of dating. Thank the fracking god the law’s come to the rescue.

The moral of my story: If you think the horror of fracking ends at the drill site, you just don’t know what environmental rape really is. And if you think that to deploy language reserved to the violence of sexual assault doesn’t describe what’s coming to our municipalities, our communities, our properties and homes, you’re not paying attention. A government beholden only to those whose aims are the manufacture of profits is one for whom the public good becomes naught but the cynical propaganda of the enterprises it calls bedfellow. Fracking becomes the patriot’s concession to national security. “Clean and Abundant” promises to make us safe and sound all the while it fracks us over. The name of this government is corporate fascism, and as it’s willing to deploy any weapon to consolidate its prerogative, it should come as no surprise that the consequences of fracking for the environment, for human and nonhuman animal health, and for the communities in which we live are of as little concern to it as they are to the frackers themselves. Such is the nature of calculative reason without conscience. For it rape is but a tool to the ends of profiteering.

[box type=”shadow”]Wendy Lynne Lee is a writer and a professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. She specializes in philosophy of mind and language, feminist theory and environmental philosophy. She can be contacted at wlee@bloomu.edu.[/box]

Photo via flickr.

The Community Pioneers

“But the pioneer newspaper of the upstart city, like the western railroad, had to call into being the very population it aimed to serve. This gave it certain distinctive features which would long shape American life. … Some American newspapermen have called this preoccupation with the local community the leading characteristic, the principle novelty, and the secret strength of American journalism.”
— Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The National Experience, 1965

The Advocate. The Dispatch. The Tribune. These are the newspapers of America. Their names are bold and active. The Bee. The Herald. The Call. Invoking sound, almost loud, these are names that announce and engage. But, it is fair to ask, just why are they so bold and active? What are they announcing, and who are they engaging?

Nearly two months ago, like many in Bloomsburg, I stood waist-deep in a flooded home amidst dirt and debris, helping friends begin their recovery. From time to time I would see the activity on the streets about me, noticing crowds of people at most every house. I thought I saw and felt, repeated in others, that same personal need to help, the need to look after their family and friends and neighbors. I wondered, “What next? What happens after a few weeks? Where does this suddenly visible community come from and where will it go?”

That question has stayed with me these past weeks on this journey that a few friends and I call The Bloomsburg Daily. Our effort was born out of a sense of frustration and loss, yes, but also of something more meaningful and permanent: a desire to engage the people around us in conversation and to see what community develops. Like the original newspapers of America’s early upstart cities, we too are writing for a community that doesn’t yet, or only barely exists.

But unlike these pioneer newspapers, it is not a physical town that we are trying to create. Rather, the internet is our space, our western prairie, and it is conversation around community that we seek to call into being, with Bloomsburg as the focus. This “paper” has become our loud activity, but what we hope is not that our readers simply listen. What we hope is that our readers engage us, constantly and openly as a community. This I feel is The Bloomsburg Daily’s preoccupation, and our secret strength.

“It was a presentiment that human thought, in changing its form, was about to change its mode of expression; that the dominant idea of each generation would no longer be written with the same matter….”
— Victor Hugo, “This Will Kill That”, Notre Dame de Paris, 1831

The Bloomsburg Daily’s form is not like a newspaper. Even to call it a newspaper is misleading. Newspapers are static. They bring you the day’s events in a specific way at a specific place and time. The information they serve is one way. You simply read the news and put the paper down, maybe mentioning something to the person sitting across from you. But the conversation ends there. No more interaction takes place.

The internet has changed the mode of expression between news and the reader, between reader and reader. This change is openness.

The most important aspect of this openness is how readers interact with each other. Note that I said with each other, not with the news source. The source of news information has become less important than what people do with information once they receive it. Thus I think news sources must be facilitators as much as providers of information.

This is simply impossible with traditional print. There may be a handful of letters to the editor in a newspaper, but with the openness of the online form, each reader can talk to every other reader. Every comment can be commented upon and every reader is an author. Each reader contributes back to the news and becomes a part of its telling.

For me this is the essence of what The Bloomsburg Daily hopes to achieve. The newspaper brought people information. Open News brings conversation. But what conversation brings is anybody’s guess. This is why building an open community around the news of Bloomsburg is vital. It’s why we ask for contributions, comments, and the sharing of our stories. It is through open conversation that community is created.

Changing thought needs new modes of expression. “This will kill that.” Video Killed the Radio Star. And now, this, the open internet, will kill that, newspaper’s static word.

The question remains: What do we do with this mode of expression?

“I don’t know how to run a newspaper, Mr. Thatcher. I just try everything I can think of.”
— Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane, 1941

“What are we?” I can’t recall how many times we at The Bloomsburg Daily have asked ourselves that simple question. Though we’ve asked it constantly, we’ve still yet to find an answer. However, it’s not that we’re unable. It’s that this form is still so new that no one has yet found a way to answer the question. We ask this of ourselves not to answer, but to imagine.

There are so many things we could be: a newspaper, a journal, a forum, a community magazine. One of the things we want to do is make people aware of current happenings. That does make us a newspaper. Then again we get some of our greatest activity around articles about Bloomsburg’s past. Are we then a kind of historical journal? In a way, yes. We also encourage discussions around each and every article. Does that make us a community forum? Of course. We are all of these, but not quite, yet something more.

I think the best answer is that The Bloomsburg Daily, and every internet presence like it, is simply this: it is something new that everyone is trying to figure out. What we do with this mode of expression is entirely up to its community. What it will become is exactly what all of its participants and contributors make it, whatever we discover along the way.

In the meantime, we just try everything we can think of.

“Our selections have been made, our editorials written, our proof read, sitting on the ground with a big shingle on our knee for a table. Think of this, ye editors, in your easy chairs and well furnished sanctums, and cease to grumble.”
Kansas Weekly Herald, First Issue, 15 September 1854

So we begin again, every day, calling out to our readers, trying to build conversations around our community. Some won’t answer; some will.

With those that do, we hope you join us not only in reading and not only in writing, but in discovering how to use these new methods to find ways to talk with each other. We don’t know what means are best or what ways are right, but we hope through conversation we find together the forms your news will take.

Photo Credit: Max Wolfe, used under a Creative Commons 3.0 Commercial License.

May No Act of Ours Bring Shame: The Riot That Never Should Have Happened

PSU ReactionOnward State reporter Ryan Kristobak reflects of the terrible happenings in State College, PA on the night of 9-10 November. Ryan, a Junior at Penn State majoring in Print Journalism, is from Lebanon, Pennsylvania. His original article appears here.

The Bloomsburg Daily thanks Onward State for their kind partnership and permission to repost portions of their coverage of the events at Penn State.

It is difficult for me to put into words how I feel at this moment. Having been at the Board of Trustees press conference last night, I had heard rumors that Joe Paterno would not be permitted to coach the season’s concluding matches. I immediately feared that there would be a riot, but I could have never predicted what actually transpired.

Fulfilling my journalistic duties, I immediately took to Beaver Avenue to capture what was going on. I watched students flood onto the street, shouting “Fuck Sandusky,” “Fuck the police,” and “Fuck the media.” I watched students start fires, tear down signs, and pull down street lamps as students desperately retreated from their path of falling. I watched students throw rocks and other items at police and media, destroy every window of a media van and then tip it over, and get maced by police.

So, to those who participated in these acts, tell me, what exactly have you accomplished? Do you feel like you have justified all the wrongs that have come into light and occurred throughout this week? Have you brought honor to Joe Paterno and our university?

No, you have done the exact opposite.

First, let me say that I understand that you are all very angry. You have every right to be angry. The students, alumni, and faculty who had nothing to do with the Sandusky tragedy have acquired a reputation that none of us deserve. Certain members of our administration and community have proven to us that they have little care for the standards of which they hold us to. They have been slow to amend these crimes, and have certainly made little effort to communicate with us. But why have we let our anger be shown in such a reckless and violent manner?

We all get caught up in moments of passion, but if we are unable to take a moment to step back, and find a positive outlet, then we must not act. I understand that the student body wanted to make a point that the Board of Trustees decision to fire JoePa was not OK with us. However, all that we have done is null if we do not make a difference.

I believe tonight’s riot occurred because of a serious lack of education of what exactly occurred in the Sandusky case. While I do not want to jump to conclusions, I do not think it is too bold for me to say that the majority of students who participated in the aforementioned actions last night have not taken the time to read through, or give proper attention to the grand jury report, for if we all had, Joe Paterno would not have been our main focus this week.

Where has your fury been for the victims of Sandusky’s molestation? When it all comes down to it, this is not a Penn State issue, but a human issue. I will never be able to comprehend what these children went through, and the suffering that surely follows them to this day. The damage that this university has incurred is absolutely insignificant to that of the victims. Hell, we struggled to replace our “White Out” for a “Blue Out” in order to recognize and raise funds for the victims, and some are still unwilling to make this immeasurable sacrifice because it is their last game, or some other insensitive reasoning. The victims have been the most overlooked during this week, and we are just as at fault as the media and the administration.

Where is your passion for restructuring the administrative system that has permitted these children to suffer for over a decade? It is simply not enough to oust all of those who are responsible for this travesty. There are systemic problems with accountability and transparency inside our administration, and we have done nothing about this.

Do we even remember that this is all because of Jerry Sandusky?

I cannot fathom the lack of logic our student body displayed during this riot. Both Beaver Avenue and College Avenue are riddled with destruction, and no one seemed to care about the effect it would have on our community. State College does not just belong to Penn State, but to all who live here. If I were a parent living in State College, I would fear to ever let my child walk on the downtown streets again.

What was the purpose for destroying the WTAJ news van? A lot of people have been complaining that the media is only focusing on Joe Paterno, but is this so unreasonable when all of our actions have been centered around him? The students have provided the media with nothing else to cover, and so we cannot exclusively blame them for the light in which this whole situation has been portrayed to the world. Also, they are just doing their job. Sandusky was involved with the football program, and Joe Paterno, who represents everything Penn State football, was involved, so of course a good amount of attention is going to fall on him. This is nothing new. I am not justifying some of the reporting, but they did not deserve the response we gave them.

All this week, we have tried to convey the message to the world that Penn State is more than just football, but we have not proven that. As my close friend, and fellow Penn State student, Josh Branch put it: The whole country is watching how a university claims to be more than just “X,Y, and Z” then riots and destroys a town over, “X, Y, and Z.”

I want to state that I do not hate Joe Paterno. He has been the moral compass of this university for decades, and has more than helped fashion the image that people have respected for years. I do not believe he ever had any malicious intent, but JoePa admitted that he wishes he had done more in the situation, and understood that it was best that he step down. I cannot explain how sad I am that I will never get to see Joe coach another Penn State football game, and it is, in my opinion unfair, that he cannot even walk onto the pitch at Beaver Stadium one last time. But rioting was never the correct solution to addressing our dismay. To the few that peacefully congregated outside of Joe’s house, thank you. As evident by the video, the constant support from the student’s has helped him through these rough days. And what did JoePa have to say to those who came to his house? He told the students to go home and study. Rioters, if you think you made JoePa proud, you are sadly mistaken.

We have been worried about the unwarranted shame that Sandusky and those involved has brought to Penn State, but the shame is on us now. Throughout the entire riot, students were screaming “WE ARE PENN STATE.” However, if our actions last night are what Penn State symbolizes, then I want nothing to do with Penn State.

However, it is never too late to remedy our transgressions. It is time that we take our passion and give it aim. Let us all come together peacefully and heal this broken family. We must become informed, seek to better the lives of the victims in any way possible, and never settle until this administration understands reputation and money never comes before morals.

Occupy Bloomsburg: For What It’s Worth

Mohamed Bouazizi.

If you ever heard the name, you’ve likely forgotten it. I forgot it, and I’m not even sure I once knew it. Mohamed Bouazizi is just a produce vendor on the streets of Sidi Bouzid, a town of 40,000 people in the middle of Tunisia. Think Wilkes-Barre.

Mohamed Bouazizi is no different than any other vendor in his hometown, probably no different from any shopkeeper anywhere. Think of a Joseph Lukowsky in Wilkes-Barre. He’s just someone who keeps working day after day to support his family.

The one difference, however, is that over the years of economic difficulties, police harassment, extortions and bribes, the indifference of his local government wore on Mohamed Bouazizi.

On December 17, 2010 police overturned Mohamed Bouazizi’s cart and confiscated his scales when he was unable to pay the demanded extortion. Less than an hour later, frustrated after the local government refused to hear his complaint, Mohamed Bouazizi stood in the middle of traffic shouting, “How do you expect me to make a living?” Then, dousing himself with gasoline, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire.

Mohamed Bouazizi’s death on January 4th, 2011 incited the pent up anger felt by his fellow citizens over their economic and political status. His death led to the Arab Spring, a continuing, widespread movement that toppled the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. It has led to uprisings in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, all have seen mass protests expressing the anger and frustration symbolized in the death of one man. One man from nowhere, who no one knew.

The United States, too, is currently experiencing its own widespread, thankfully peaceful, mass protests. Known as Occupy Wall Street, this movement took its inspiration from the Arab Spring uprisings, tapping into an anger and frustration felt by many American citizens. At first ignored, then dismissed, then ridiculed, this movement has continued across this country with no signs of abatement since it began on September 17th.

Individuals from across the nation have joined together, expressing a common sentiment that there is something about the nature of State and corporate influence upon each other that is unsettling. There is something about this relationship that comes at their expense. There is something about this they want to change.

This sense of frustration is felt everywhere: in large cities, in quiet towns, in rural communities. It has been asked, however, whether or not smaller towns are worth occupying? Such a question is backwards, dismissive, and full of contempt; contempt for the opinions of individuals in smaller towns, and dismissive of their concerns.

The question is backwards because smaller towns are not being occupied. Rather, the people of smaller towns feel the same frustration as their countrymen elsewhere and choose to stand together.

This past Saturday some local citizens and students chose to stand together in Bloomsburg’s Market Square and express their concerns and opinions. It does not matter whether or not you agree with them. I disagree with much of what the Occupy protesters express. What is important, however, is that these people stood. What is important is that their opinion matters. What is important is that they, the residents of a small town, no matter how small, felt enough concern, enough passion, to stand in unity with each other. They stood for themselves and with people across the nation.

They cannot, must not be dismissed.

Think again of Mohamed Bouazizi, a man so frustrated he burned himself alive. Think again of the global revolutions an individual act caused. Think again of your fellow townspeople who, while not so desperate, chose to stand alone to express their frustration, and together in common support with people in small towns and great cities across this country. They chose to stand with a movement whose concerns are real, and whose popular support continues.

The people of Bloomsburg need not give a rose to the local Occupy demonstrators for their opinions. They should, however, give them a bouquet for standing up publicly and peacefully for what they believe because, for what it’s worth, there’s something happening here.

Say It Ain’t So, Joe …

On to the FieldPlease give us the answer and evidence that WE want to hear. That WE need to hear. Please confirm what we are hoping is, but more than likely isn’t. Please say it ain’t so. Did you know? Is there more to this that we do not know? Please tell us that you contacted the authorities and were rebuffed. Please tell us that you followed up with your superiors to inquire why this monster was still allowed access to Penn State University. Please tell us that you went directly to Sandusky and told him what a monster he is. Please tell us that there is more that will be revealed that will exonerate you in the court of public opinion. Please, say it ain’t so!

Please say it ain’t so. The “success with honor,” the Grand Experiment, please say these weren’t all a ruse. You have always been due north on my moral compass, a man who stood firmly at the intersection of honor and integrity. Please say it ain’t so.

Joe, I am a coach because I have been inspired by what you have been able to accomplish. Not the 409 wins or 5 undefeated seasons or 2 national championships. But the moral foundation with which you have always run your program. The way you have used sport to shape the lives of thousands of young men. The fact that you have been able to translate your position as a football coach to have a profound effect on your community.

Your approach has been the core of my belief system. As a coach, my aspirations have always been to help kids become productive, confident adults. That is what I thought your mission has always been. But for all that you have done to shape the lives of thousands of young men, it is what you didn’t do that has had the most profound impact.

There are at least 8 young men out there that are forced to live with the demons of being violated. You could have put a stop to it. You could have ensured that they were safe from this monster. But by all accounts you did nothing. Sure you followed organizational procedure, but you overlooked this situation as if it wasn’t that big of a deal. Please, say it ain’t so.

Today I feel as if I have been betrayed. I am left to reexamine the foundation of what has guided me for over 20 years. My idol, my role model, my standard of excellence wiped out in one major lapse of judgement.

You once said that “success without honor is an unseasoned dish.” Honor is not a principle of convenience. You either have it or you don’t. The moral code you live by must guide each and every decision you make and action you take. If you did not feel an obligation to push this issue any further, it leaves me to wonder what else you washed your hands of during your tenure at Penn State University.

Please, say it ain’t so.

Originally from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Kevin Primerano now resides in Medford, Oregon with his wife Sarah and sons, Rocco and Giovanni. Kevin is the Director of Coaching for the Rogue Valley Soccer Club. He also serves on the Oregon Youth Soccer Instructional staff as well as being the Regional Director for the Portland Timbers Southern Oregon Center of Excellence. Kevin is a lifelong Penn Sate Football fan.

Your Thoughts: Building Permit Fees for Flood Victims

The Town Council meeting last night was not the only place where the issue of building permit fees for flood victims was discussed.  Our article commenters and Facebook groups have contributed many interesting and thought-provoking viewpoints on the subject.  (Original article, Building Permit Fees Cause Lively Town Council Debate).  Add your comments here if you haven’t had a chance to weigh in on the discussion.

Here are some of the opinions of our readers:

This is a very sticky situation. Could they possibly reduce the fees for flood victims? — Diane

Building permits cover the cost of a building inspector checking to make sure work is in code. This protects the property owner from shabby work from a contractor and people who purchase the house in the future. It’s part of owning a property. BUT, have you ever heard of a building inspector really doing a thorough job? It’s a joke. If He or she shows up, they talk to the contractor for a few minutes and leave. Things have to be pretty bad for him to stop the work and demand repairs. I can’t see a person who has $15,000 in flood repairs paying $150.00 in what is just ultimately a tax. I don’t know how many inspectors Bloomsburg has but lets guess 2. How can two people get around to every flooded home in Bloomsburg at the different stages the contractor needs him to inspect? He can’t, so why charge the people a fee for a service you can’t provide? — Ethan

We waived the fee for flood properties only in Hemlock Twp. for one year … if they rebuild they must rebuilt to the current flood zoning. — Rob

It will be interesting to see if FEMA money will be allocated to the town. I believe it is imperative to the town’s recovery. If the town were to receive some aid it would have more flexibilty to waive certain costs to property owners like building permit fees. Raising local taxes (flood tax) or placing the burden on individuals affected by this disaster may be unavoidable if the town doesn’t receive federal or state aid. — Michael

I’m sure a lot of the property owners have flood insurance which would pay for permitting costs and if they did I dont think it would be fair to push these costs to tax payers. I felt the same way with all disposal fees. However if some were on fixed incomes with no insurance then reduced costs would be fine. — Lee

Some folks have insurance, some do not either way I believe fees should be reduced for everyone to be fair. A lot of home now are undergoing repairs and probably have not gone through the permitting process. The town needs to recover its costs too. — Todd

I believe that we should have reduced fees for the flood victims. Some fee no matter how small should be required because, this would make monitoring where and how homes are rebuilt easier. — Barb

Photo by teofilo

Not By Memory Alone

Mayor Dan Knorr Addressing Open Forum on Flood Response
Mayor Dan Knorr Addressing Open Forum on Flood Response

It’s critical that we not rely on memory, on word of mouth for that type of an emergency. Because if it’s four decades from now, we’re going to need to have everything compiled, have this written, memorialized.
–Mayor Dan Knorr, October 18th, 2011

Records of the 1972 flood exist to be sure, but they don’t tell the entire story. There are pictures, maps, lists of names and statistics. But what these records lack is the immediate story, the conversation that takes place daily among friends and neighbors, the conversation that has taken and is still taking place in the streets of Bloomsburg.

Mayor Knorr, the Town Council, Emergency Services, and Public Works all received well-deserved praise at the Open Forum held at the Bloomsburg Firehall on the evening of October 18th. The Bloomsburg Daily, too, commends all of our local officials for their tireless and continuing efforts, helping Bloomsburg recover from this tragedy as well as looking for ways to plan for, or possibly prevent, the next.

But regardless of these good works, there was another feeling in the room last night; one of anger, one of loss, and of pain and desperation. Town residents came looking for practical answers, to be sure, but also to add their voices of frustration. They came to continue the private conversations they have daily in their living rooms, on their porches, and beside their homes which they can no longer enter.

They came wanting to know that their fellow citizens, those to whom they entrusted the care of their local government, had a sense of their loss. Here, the Mayor and the Town Council let their fellow citizens down.

Soon after Mayor Knorr finished his 30 minute presentation, the questioning began. One resident wondered why in this open forum we were reviewing all that information. “Will we just be here doing the same thing again next year?”

“Is all we’re going to do is clean the fairgrounds when people are suffering,” another resident asked.

Each time, the answers of the Mayor and the Town Council were disappointing. They spoke of statistics, future plans, using jacks to raise houses. They answered questions that were not asked. And over those two hours, some members of the Council did not speak at all. We wondered, listening to the Council’s replies, if they heard the questions their neighbors were truly asking. We wondered if they too sensed the feeling in that room.

The responsibility of any elected official is great, of course. They need to remember the practical, be able to plan for the needs of their town. But governmental leadership is also about fostering a sense of community. By speaking only of what was done in the past and of what might be done in the future, the Mayor and the Council lost the chance to address the uncertainty of the community in the present.

Mayor Knorr is right. We do need to have the practical plans and procedures to be both written and widely known. But he is also right that the September Flood needs to be memorialized. More than the practical, there is a community voice that needs to be felt, not only once at a town meeting, but constantly, every day in coffee shops and restaurants, in the emails and pictures we send to our friends, in the online forums and comments that connect us and help forge a wider, more active conversation.

This wide and active community is, in a sense, that memorial Mayor Knorr spoke of. Vibrant, engaged and constant conversation is the lifeblood of any town. Keeping that conversation alive keeps that sense of community alive, helping each of us. Not by memory alone, but through this present and continuing conversation we learn where to go, what to do, and how to respond to each crisis our community faces.