The 28th NAACP-sponsored Interfaith Remembrance Program to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. attracted a large, diverse audience to Johnstown’s First Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Elisha B. Morris of Philadelphia, an advocate for nondiscrimination, startled his audience with his “Advancing the Dream” theme, which was free of predictable platitudes and very specific to this community.
Morris began by holding a copy of Sunday’s The Tribune-Democrat and expressing surprise and indignation at the story of Johnstown’s political scandals, which dated back 30 years. He noted that the late Rep. John Murtha was never indicted, never accepted any bribe and was able to prop up the local economy for decades. He called Murtha a “great man” and wondered why the paper had dredged up the story on this particular weekend, which had a lack of coverage about efforts to carry on King’s heritage.
He urged a focus on Johnstown’s “great potential,” which can be realized if community leaders come together, and improving the economy so that young people can find work here. He spoke of the need to support education, not only in academics and precollege preparation, but also in vocational preparation.
Morris hoped that civic-minded groups and individuals would work on incentives to bring more residents back to the city, where state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, said there are more than
1,100 vacant homes.
Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic remarked that, too often, the minority community is wrongly stereotyped as unambitious and welfare-dependent, when the majority of his contacts in the black community are eager to take advantage of educational and employment opportunities.
Gladys M. Clifton
Council, residents must work together
The problem with council members of Johnstown is the lack of communication with residents who elected them to their positions.
Useful feedback from residents is important to improve the mission of the city to move forward along with our leaders, making decisions along with the voice of the people.
The golden rule of public policy is not to ignore the input from residents regarding issues – but to acknowledge them at all council meetings.
At other area council meetings, the mayor leads, not the city manager. Residents in attendance are permitted to speak after or while meetings are in session regarding certain issues, not given a limited time to address their concerns.
The credibility, diplomacy and communication of council is not to exclude residents from speaking but to work together toward the same mission.
This is our city, also. Hear our issues and concerns; don’t ignore us anymore.