The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


July 6, 2013

Laurels and barbs

— Laurel: The region got a bit of good economic news this week, as the Johnstown Metropolitan Statistical Area saw an increase in jobs and a decrease in the unemployment rate. The number of non-seasonally adjusted jobs – 60,200 – rose by 400 in May and the unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percent to 8.9 percent. Those are very small steps, but at least they’re in the right direction.

Barb: How disappointing it was to find out that U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster did not think enough of his constituents or their privacy to responded to repeated requests for comment on the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. Reporter Dave Sutor contacted Shuster’s office three times about the issue before being told that the representative was unavailable for comment. It’s sad that Shuster, who has been in Congress since 2001 and should have known about NSA’s information-gathering program, would not address such an important topic. Rep. Keith Rothfus and the man he replaced in the 12th district, Mark Critz, each were willing to talk about what they knew and their feelings on the program, as were U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. Shuster owes his constituents some answers.

Laurel: There are plenty of programs out there to stop bullying, but a pair of Windber Research Institute administrators have come up with what they say is the first scientific, evidence-based approach to the problem. Dr. Matthew G. Masiello and Diana Schroeder, the institute’s director of bullying prevention initiatives, compiled the book with the help of more than a dozen anti-bullying experts from around the world. “A Public Health Approach to Bullying Prevention” is set for release later this month.

Barb: The situation surrounding the former Rex Theater in Portage is becoming untenable. Owner Nicholas Sekerak landed in jail after he missed hearings and court deadlines to tear down the blighted building. Portage Borough Manager Bob Koban said that officials tried to work with Sekerak but that the theater owner did not comply. Part of the roof has already collapsed and the walls are bowing and cracking. It’s time to close the curtain on the Rex.

Laurel: Pitt-Johnstown is finally where it belongs. The Mountain Cats won’t have to make nearly so many road trips to West Virginia now that the school is a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. That’s not meant as a knock on the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which provided a home for the Mountain Cats for seven years. It’s just that UPJ is a much better geographic fit in the PSAC. We look forward to conference battles against schools such as Indiana University of Pennsylvania, California University of Pennsylvania and Seton Hill University, which joined the league at the same time as the Mountain Cats.

Barb: We’ve all had billing disputes, whether with a contractor, a retailer or a restaurant. Most of us calmly and rationally work through the situation with the other party. That wasn’t what happened last week at Quaker Steak & Lube in Richland Township, according to police. Natalie J. Leach, 23, of New Paris, allegedly grabbed a cash bag and took a swing at the waitress, whom she had a disagreement with, on her way out of the restaurant. Leach is facing two felony robbery counts as well as simple assault and disorderly conduct charges.

Barb: Food seems to have been particlarly provocative in the past week. Dale Borough police said that 41-year-old Angelique D. Markowski threw a kitchen knife at a man after he complained that she put his plate of macaroni and cheese on the floor. Markowski is accused of aggravated assault, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment.

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