The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


May 4, 2013

Laurels and barbs

— Laurel: Probably no organizations have been applauded more in Laurels and barbs than Lee Initiatives Inc. and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. Both based in Johnstown, they have been godsends in our communities by helping nonprofits survive and thrive through generous grants. This week, Lee Initiatives executive director Anita Fass passed out checks to 10 nonprofits Lee believes will put the money to good use. Several received $30,000 each. In all, $515,000 was awarded, the largest amount ever doled out during the seven-year history of the initiatives. That’s huge. Please join us in saying thank you.

Laurel: How typical this is of our region – bystanders coming to the aid of others in need. While officers probably would discourage such an act in the name of safety, state police at Indiana reported that two robbery suspects were arrested last Saturday afternoon after they were tackled by customers and the owner of a White Township Chinese restaurant. Police say the men tried to rob King Buffet by handing a cashier a note demanding money. Owner Bin Zheng says he suspected the men didn’t really have a weapon, which is why he went to tackle the men along with three others in the restaurant. Zeng says he got back the $160 taken from his register. Crime busters indeed.

Barb: We were shocked and disappointed to learn last week that the Community College of Beaver County was planning to raise tuition by  17 percent in the next academic year. We got little solace out of the fact that its leaders acknowledged that they know they cannot continue down that path without sacrificing their brand as an affordable gateway to higher education. That’s exactly the point. Community colleges’ success is built on a cheaper education, working with businesses and industries to supply needed workplace training, and preparing students to go on to a four-year college. Pennsylvania Highlands offers 15 credits for $1,450 or about $1,800 less than a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education institution. Pennsylvania Highlands is doing a lot of things right.

Laurel: Ten area high schools have been honored by U.S. News & World Report in its 2013 Best High Schools Rankings. Ligonier Valley received a silver medal for a second straight year. Receiving bronze medals were Berlin Brothersvalley, Conemaugh Township Area, Conemaugh Valley, Ferndale Area, Forest Hills, Glendale Area, Greater Johnstown, North Star and Penn Cambria. In all, 168 of Pennsylvania’s   687 high schools were honored. Criteria included student performance on state assessment tests and how well prepared students were to attend college. We’re proud. Nice work.  

Laurel: Some people might ask what took so long, but officials at suburban Johnstown’s Stackhouse Park are tickled nonetheless that an abandoned mine shaft alongside a park trail is finally being permanently sealed. “I’ve been park ranger here since 1985, and I’ve been fighting all this time to get that shaft taken care of,” said Jim Pasco. “Knowing that safety hazard won’t be there anymore ... I’m ecstatic.” The 350-foot-deep shaft is being sealed and a small memorial is being put in place to honor those who died in the 1902 Rolling Mill Mine diaster that claimed 122 miners. The price tag for the project, all state-funded, is $400,000. Money well spent.

Barb: As a gun background check debate rages across our state and nation, we sometimes lose sight of another huge issue facing gun owners – safety in the home. Last week, police said a Philadelphia-area woman fatally shot her husband by accident while he was giving her a gun lesson after they had been drinking. Parkside police said the middle-aged couple had been drinking for hours when the wife said she wanted to learn how to use a weapon in case someone tried to break in while he was away. The wife, police said, picked up a pistol, pulled the slide back and the gun went off. She has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. How tragic.

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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