The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 1, 2013

Our wishes past and present

— With our first newspaper of a new year, our editorial page usually has focused on our staff’s wishes for our region, state and nation in the months ahead. We are doing this once again today, but with a twist. We went back to our hopes for 2012 to see how many came true.

It turns out that six, or just short of 20 percent, came to fruition either totally or partially. Not too bad. They are as follows:

* A continued mild winter as we worried about area residents facing a struggle heating their homes in a depressed economy. We scored big-time, obviously, as the winter of 2011-12 went into the books as one of if not the warmest ever recorded in our region. Snowfall was scant over the latter months.  

* A huge voter turnout in the primary and general elections, pointing out that it was a presidential election year. That wish sorely failed in the primary as Cambria and Somerset’s voter totals fell below 30 percent of registered voters. For the general election, 67 percent of Cambria’s voters and 66 percent of Somerset’s went to the polls. Not “huge” but a big improvement over recent election years.

* New uses for abandoned churches in Cambria City and elsewhere. While that continues to be a work in progress, efforts to save three historic Cambria City churches received statewide recognition in 2012. The Steeples Project was recipient of a Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award. Teresa Marafino, president of 1901 Church, said, “There’s a lot of redevelopment work that must be done – and a lot of money that must be raised to pay for it – before sustainability is achieved for these beautiful spaces.” The groups involved are in our wishes for more success in 2013.

* A groundbreaking signaling the start of work on completing a four-lane Route 219 to I-68 in Maryland. No groundbreaking took place, but last year provided some of the most positive news in a long time concerning the final section of Route 219 leading to I-68. Among the most positive was that U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, an outspoken proponent, has been selected as head of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

* An expanded Cambria County War Memorial Arena schedule for the Wheeling Nailers ... Even better, Johnstown’s own professional hockey team. We didn’t get an expanded Nailers’ schedule and we didn’t get a professional team. What we got, though, has been the real deal. The Johnstown Tomahawks have played themselves into the hearts of area hockey fans. A great hockey organization has unfolded in our city with spirited and skilled play from young, developing players.

* One or more of these businesses for the area: A Target department store, Barnes & Noble book store, and Olive Garden and Outback steakhouse. We didn’t strike out. Unused land in Richland Township has been targeted to be home to an Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse. We can work on those others in the new year.

Moving on, we’ll scale back on our wishes for 2013. Let’s hope for: 

* A bridge to avoid the fiscal cliff and sequestration, the latter of which could mean the loss of many jobs in our area.

* And while the president and Congress are at it, much improved communication in the new year. When will they realize that they work for the people and the good of our country?

* U.S. Rep. Mark Critz’s replacement, Keith Rothfus, not to forget Cambria and Somerset counties. He says he won’t and we believe him.

* Gov. Corbett and our state Legislature to come together and solve our pending highway infrastructure and pension crises.

* Great success for Conemaugh and Altoona Regional health systems as they not only ban tobacco from their campuses but halt smoke breaks and stop hiring tobacco users. Smoking kills. We all need to get the message.

* More reasons for people to fly out of the Johnstown airport.

* Health and safety for our police and fire departments, some of which had a rough 2012.

* Better financial days for the government of Paint Township, Somerset County, and for improved communication with communities the township’s police department covers – Paint, Windber, Scalp Level, Benson and Central City boroughs.

Happy New Year!

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