Trees to Honor Fallen Soldiers, Mark Sesquicentennial

The Civil War was largely fought on the 180-mile swath of land that stretches from Monticello to Gettysburg.  That’s the same area in which the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership wants to plant 620,000-trees; one in honor of each soldier who died in the Civil War.  “And [we’ll] do so by creating a more beautiful place in what was otherwise the largest concentration of battlefields in the country,” partnership president Cate Magennis Wyatt tells Radio PA.    

A special tree-planting ceremony is scheduled to take place on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg on Tuesday, where a battlefield Witness Tree will be dedicated and two Living Legacy Trees will be planted.  Wyatt says it’s the second major ceremony of the Living Legacy Project, which was established to mark the Sesquicentennial. 

The planting and the fundraising will continue over the next few years, as the partnership seeks to raise $65-million dollars for the project.  “We’re raising $100-dollars to honor each of the 620,000 men who died, and that is nothing.  It’s quite achievable,” Wyatt says of the task that lies ahead.

PA Employment Picture Brightens in April

The statewide unemployment rate fell by three-tenths of a percentage point in April, to 7.6%.  Employment numbers climbed 13,000, while unemployment dipped by 17,000.  “April was a tremendous month for job growth and the state’s employment situation,” Secretary of Labor & Industry Julia Hearthway said in a statement released on Friday. “Pennsylvania has added 125,700 private sector jobs to the economy since Governor Corbett took office.” 

But a spokesman for the House Democrats, who are among the governor’s harshest critics, calls the growth anemic compared to the nearly half-million Pennsylvanians who are still looking for work.

Pennsylvania’s jobless rate remains at or above the national average for a ninth consecutive month.  The national unemployment rate now stands at 7.5%.

Radio PA Roundtable 05.17.13

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul bring you another liquor privatization hearing, the push for Keystone exams and Governor Corbett’s reaction to the fallout from his last “Ask the Governor” appearance. The guys also bid adieu to Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, PA’s favorite fictional paper company.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


Busy June on Tap in Harrisburg

The House and Senate are due back in session on June 3rd.  From there only 15-or so session days separate lawmakers form the state budget deadline.  But Governor Tom Corbett views every day as a working day, and there are plenty of policy issues he’d like to see addressed alongside a third consecutive on-time budget. 

“We need to focus on [liquor privatization], we need to focus on pensions, we need to focus on transportation, we need to focus on the budget,” Corbett said on the May edition of Ask the Governor.  “There has been work done behind the scenes.  I believe we can get this done.” 

Most capitol observers, however, would classify passage of two of the three big policy issues as a major victory for the Corbett administration. 

Senate Republican Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) identifies transportation as the issue most likely to be completed before lawmakers’ summer break.  “We have very, very strong bipartisan interest in transportation infrastructure funding,” he says.  “I think that can certainly be done.” 

Trailing the pack of policy issues, Pileggi says, is pension reform.  “We have not even seen committee action on that plan to date and the bills have just been introduced… that is an incredibly complex and technically difficult task.”   

Following this week’s hearing on liquor privatization, Senate Law & Justice Committee Chairman Charles McIlhinney (R-Bucks) made it clear that he won’t start drafting a bill until after all three public hearings have been completed.  He does not view it as an issue that must be finalized this budget season.  The House version of a privatization bill (HB 790) is viewed as a non-starter in the Senate.

Total Operating Margin Decreases for Pennsylvania Hospitals in FY2012

The overall financial picture for Pennsylvania’s hospitals is mixed, with tighter operating margins and uncertainties over the full impact of the federal health reform law.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council saw a decline of more than 1% in the statewide total margin for the 171 General Acute Care hospitals for fiscal year 2012. The decline was due in part to lower non-operating income, primarily from investments.

PHC4   Executive Director Joe Martin says they also saw an increase of more than 6% in uncompensated care. He says the number has pushed past the one billion dollar mark.

Larger hospitals experienced relatively healthy operating margins in the last fiscal year, but the report found some trouble spots at smaller and midsized hospitals.

The full report is available at the council’s website.

Christman Blog: Farewell to “The Office”

Since 2005, the fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin has called Scranton, Pennsylvania its TV home. Production of the NBC series The Office didn’t take place in Lackawanna County, but the constant references to local businesses and other real-life features of the region were a boost to locals over the sitcom’s 9-season run.

Yes, you can go to Scranton and have a drink at Poor Richard’s Pub. You can go shopping at the Steamtown Mall. There’s even an Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe, whose pizza was declared in one episode to be better than the “hot circle of garbage” served by rival Pizza by Alfredo. If you watch closely, you can also see actual Scranton-donated props among the cubicles, including newspapers and radio bumper stickers.

Quite frankly, The Office put Scranton on the TV map.

During Monday’s Ask the Governor taping, I asked Tom Corbett about the show’s impact on northeast PA. He says Pennsylvania has a little bit of a “chip on its shoulder,” perhaps feeling under-appreciated by the rest of the nation, but he says the people of Scranton were very proud to be the fictional neighbors of Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert, Pam Beesley and the rest of The Office staff. Despite the off-beat characters, the governor believes the show showed that Scranton is a great place to live.

The Office debuted in 2005, and was nearly cancelled after its initial 6-episode run. The show was finally green-lighted for a 2nd season and proceeded to take the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2006. Although suffering through the departure of lead actor Steve Carrell (the aforementioned Michael Scott) after season 7, the sitcom has brought us some of the funniest and most original TV laughs in the past decade. Despite being based on a British version created by Ricky Gervais, the mockumentary style format was a true original concept for American television.

Scranton’s sitcom swansong comes as the final episode of The Office airs Thursday night at 9pm on NBC. The final episode will be preceded by a one-hour retrospective at 8pm.


(Brad Christman is the News Director of Radio Pennsylvania and a self-proclaimed “Office junkie”)