Editorials from around Pennsylvania

June 7, 2018

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



June 5

The Eagles organization has never flown higher than it did in deciding not to force its players to accommodate President Trump’s plan to use them as a prop in his campaign to stifle freedom of speech.

Trump late Monday disinvited Philly’s NFL team from a planned visit Tuesday to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl championship after learning that most Eagles players wouldn’t be there.

That includes safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was a leader among the Eagles players who this past season chose to visibly protest social injustice when the national anthem was played during pregame ceremonies.

“If you want to meet to talk about advancing our communities, changing our countries, I am all for that,” Jenkins said. “This isn’t one of those meetings. So I’ll opt out of the photo opportunity.”

Trump, in typical fashion, treated the snub of him as an affront to all Americans.

“They disagree with their president because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country,” Trump said in a statement.

He later tweeted that instead of honoring the Eagles, “we will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country. . Honoring America!”

It was another of Trump’s jingoistic appeals to his conservative political base, which he couldn’t care less about expanding by reaching out to people with different opinions.

Instead of using this opportunity to express his willingness to try to understand why NFL players chose to kneel, raise a fist, or stay in the locker room during the national anthem, Trump chose to label their behavior un-American when in fact the opposite is true.

Were there no dissenters there would be no America. Rather than protest the crown’s injustice, the colonials would have continued to salute the Union Jack and spout, “God bless the king!”

It isn’t by accident that the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution is a guarantee of freedom of speech, which includes the right to peaceably protest. Presidents are expected to respect that right. Dictators are expected to ignore it.

It is wrong for Trump to exploit the genuine love Americans have for their country by suggesting any criticism of this nation is an attack on its very existence.

As good as this country is, it has flaws. Among them is the discriminatory treatment too often afforded to minority groups, including African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, Asians, the LGBTQ community, and others.

You can’t eradicate discrimination without first admitting it exists. You can’t eliminate racism in law enforcement without confronting it head-on.

Many Eagles fans would prefer that ballplayers played ball and stayed out of politics. But athletes and other celebrities who use the stage they have been given to address issues much more important than winning a game or a championship should be applauded. So should their employers when they give them freedom to speak their minds when it is appropriate.

So, Eagles fans, stay true. Your team hasn’t abandoned you, nor should you abandon it. When it comes time for the Eagles to perform on the field, they will rise to the occasion.

—The Philadelphia Inquirer

Online: https://bit.ly/2xKX8kA



June 5

Given the Trump administration’s relentless and sometimes cruel attacks, immigrants in America have good reason to be afraid.

Here is a man who appears to have no plan, who blunders from one crisis of his own making to another and whose moral and ethical lapses (at least) are elbowing for room on his roost.

Yet Trump has done a remarkable job of distracting the public, and one way has been to stand up the immigrant — documented or undocumented — as a straw man disaffected Americans can blame for their problems.

It’s obvious, it’s despicable and it’s working to a shameful extent.

And that’s one reason we’re grateful York City officials are reaching out to an immigrant community whose welfare is at risk as members are being silenced and pushed further into the shadows by well-founded fear.

Earlier this month 11 immigrants were arrested in Gettysburg during a series of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on local restaurants.

It was part of a larger and expanding crackdown on undocumented immigrants under Trump, but it was the highest-profile raid near York County.

“The raid in Gettysburg hit close to home,” said Elizabeth Alex, regional director for CASA, a Maryland-based organization that advocates for Latino communities.

“People are afraid,” she added “Most people that we know are aware of someone who has had a family member or friend detained in the last couple years.”

Into this darkness stepped Interim York City Police Chief Troy Bankert, who visited CASA’s downtown offices last month to introduce himself and hold a meeting with a group of 15 people to discuss police-immigrant relations.

Bankert said he wanted to dispel the idea that immigrants should hesitate to report crimes because investigators will report their immigration status to ICE.

“If they’re an immigrant, legal or illegal, they can easily become victimized, because they don’t want to call the police,” the chief said. “I wanted to make sure that they know that we don’t care where they’re from if they call the police; we are just looking for justice for victims.”

In fact, this has been the policy for years and was the idea behind former Mayor Kim Bracey’s 2017 executive order designating York a “welcoming city.”

It’s a symbolic move, and it doesn’t make York a “sanctuary city,” a label applied to cities that ban local law enforcement from informing federal immigration authorities about someone’s immigration status.

Still, the message is that York City officials are more concerned about residents’ welfare than their immigration status, and they aren’t going to go out of their way have them deported.

Although Bracey signed her order four days into Trump’s administration, it appears no one from the police department bothered to reach out to the immigrant community the way Bankert is doing now.

“I do think there’s been a lack of communication with immigrants,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like a visit like mine has been done before, but the communication is vital. I can’t solve everyone’s problems. I need them to help me, so I can do the same in turn.”

Josefina Carrasco, a Mexican immigrant and 14-year resident of York City, attended the CASA meeting with Bankert and said it was helpful.

Like us, she hopes Bankert and other city officials hold more events and activities to bring police and immigrants together.

Carrasco also notes that not all police departments are as welcoming as York City’s, and she hopes local officials also speak up loudly to counter anti-immigrant rhetoric at the national level.

We couldn’t agree more — count us in.

—York Dispatch

Online: https://bit.ly/2Ho4FWf



June 3

The clock is ticking down on redistricting reform in Pennsylvania, a long-delayed effort to scrap the state’s uber-partisan redrawing of congressional districts. The state House of Representatives and Senate have about a month to agree on a bill outlining a constitution amendment — a redundant, two-step legislative process that will require statewide voter approval, hopefully in time for the redrawing of districts after the 2020 census.

The issue is far from resolved in Harrisburg, even though solid majorities of Pennsylvanians tell pollsters they want to move their state out of the golden age of gerrymandering. That’s the term for drawing district boundaries to maintain a partisan advantage, something Republican legislative majorities and former Gov. Tom Corbett did with alarming dexterity in 2011.

Earlier this year the Democratic-led state Supreme Court threw out the gerrymandered map and drew a new one, which is in effect for this year’s congressional elections. That’s another reason we need reform. While the court provided a welcome shake-up, judges shouldn’t be drawing lines on a regular basis, either.

Replacing top-down, majority-dictated redistricting with a citizens commission has gained traction. State Rep. Steve Samuelson, a Bethlehem Democrat, has been the prime mover on this, but his bill has been thwarted twice by the Republican chairman of the House State Government Committee, Daryl Metcalfe — despite bipartisan support for the bill among House members.

In the Senate, Democrat Lisa Boscola of Bethlehem and Republican Mario Scavello of Monroe County have been leading the charge on a reform bill. Last month a senate committee, at the behest of Chairman Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, passed an amended version — which, while giving legislative leaders and the governor the power to the select the citizens on a redistricting committee, would still be a marked improvement over the current system. The citizens panel would be made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and three independents. It also proposes safeguards against the worst type of county- and community-mangling gerrymandering.

House Democrats haven’t given up on their bill, which would select citizens for a redistricting panel in a more accessible, populist way, modeling it on reforms in other states. It’s still the preferable option, but this being Pennsylvania ...

Procedural questions could still shackle a two-house consensus, even with Gov. Tom Wolf pledging to sign reform legislation. The Senate bill must be vetted and simplified so both houses can agree, but at least it provides a way forward. It’s important, too, that House leaders steer any Senate-approved bill away from Metcalfe’s committee, where it would face certain death. All this has to be completed by early July, because a constitutional amendment must be passed by two consecutive legislatures in identical form. Then it heads to the voters as a statewide ballot question.

Also looming: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling this month on gerrymandering appeals from several states, which could change the landscape. That shouldn’t dissuade Pennsylvania lawmakers from forging ahead on a better system.

Voters are sitting up, listening and watching on the issue of gerrymandering. They know how it distorts and dilutes their ballot power, and they’re going to hold lawmakers responsible for a system corrupted by partisan majorities — both Republicans and Democrats, over the years — for too long.

—The Express-Times

Online: https://bit.ly/2LtOF7I



June 5

State police Sgt. Jeffrey Tylman is correct on two counts. Motorists who operate a vehicle and cellphone at the same time are near ubiquitous and that situation is both ridiculous and scary, as Tylman told Erie Times-News reporter Tim Hahn.

On just about any drive, one can see the car that weaves out of its lane or slows inexplicably or sits too long at a green light or cruises through a red. Odds are, a glimpse of the front seat shows the cause: eyes on a cellphone screen and not the road. Now data shows us the price of that irresponsible and unnecessary behavior in Erie County. Distracted driving crashes more than tripled between 1998 and 2017, jumping from 101 to a 20-year high of 350. That is unacceptable.

There was much to celebrate in Hahn’s report about 20 years’ worth of crash data. It detailed promising 20-year lows in the number of crashes involving unrestrained drivers, that is, those not strapped in with a seat belt. The same was true of an array of crashes involving alcohol.

The improved statistics were not a fluke, but evidence of years of hard work and smart policy paying off. Tylman, the Troop E Erie station commander, credited campaigns like Click It or Ticket for raising awareness and boosting seat belt compliance. And certainly, aggressive drunken-driving enforcement, the efforts of organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and stiffer drunken-driving penalties enacted over time by the state Legislature have turned what used to be an overlooked and tolerated deadly behavior nearly taboo.

Something similar needs to happen for those driving while distracted by their cellphones. Millcreek Township Police Sgt. Anthony Chimera noted how difficult it is for law enforcement to discern whether a person is texting or emailing while driving — which is illegal and punishable by a $50 fine — or talking on a phone, which is permissible in Millcreek. Still, it was encouraging to hear that a distracted-driving enforcement detail in April resulted in 12 citations for texting or cellphone use while driving. Keep writing those tickets when possible.

It is also on the community to police itself. People might continue to text and drive because they believe they can safely operate a vehicle and a phone simultaneously. The math shows this is not true.

It should not take more galling statistics or tales of tragedy caused by distracted driving to capture our attention on this issue. Driving without a cellphone is possible because up until a few years ago that is all anyone did. Whatever is happening in that handheld device, it can wait.

—Erie Times-News

Online: https://bit.ly/2HnN8xa



June 4

In our eagerness to find a solution — or lay blame — in the wake of another mass shooting, violent video games have once again become the easy target.

No, an alleged killer likely didn’t shoot up a school because he or she played “Mortal Kombat” or “Call of Duty” as a kid.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not time we redirect our children’s focus.

Is it so unreasonable to think that these repeated acts of violence — whether in video games or movies — don’t make us desensitized to violence?

Jesse Schell thinks so. He’s the CEO of Pittsburgh-based Schell Games and teaches at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center.

“Right now, our culture — television, movies and games — largely sends the message that running around and shooting people with assault rifles is normal, healthy behavior,” he said.

The American Psychological Association stated in 2015 that violent video games are linked to aggression but not necessarily criminal behavior.

Roger Klein, a psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, told Aupperlee that the discussion has shifted from whether violent video games cause violent behavior to how the games contribute and affect the behavior of individuals.

It’s beyond time we put down the joystick and turn off the console.

Maybe we can’t completely disconnect from violent media, but we as parents are failing our children if we continue to allow their participation in such games, or at the very least limit their exposure.

Will that alone stop this senseless violence?


But we also can’t keep complaining about the proliferation of such violence if we continue to sit idly by.

Just because our lawmakers continue to resist taking action doesn’t mean we should, too.

—The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Online: https://bit.ly/2sz4YZI


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