Local residents braved particularly low temperatures – even by New Year’s Eve standards – to turn out for the annual downtown First Night Carlisle event.
Multiple locations in the borough hosted musical acts and performances throughout the evening Sunday. West High Street was closed to vehicle traffic between West and Hanover Streets to allow attendees to roam freely between venues in the downtown core.
“It seems like a great turnout so far, especially considering the temperatures,” said Amy Routson, chair of the First Night Carlisle committee. Attendance at the early performance of Elvis impersonator Brad Crum at the Carlisle Theatre was comparable to previous years, Routson said.
A steady flow of revelers moved in and out of the centrally-located theater, seeking a brief respite of warmth as they moved between musical venues.
“We were on the fence about coming out because of the cold, but I really wanted to see the Celtic Martins perform at St. John’s,” said Beth Hinton of North Middleton Township as she perused a schedule with her husband, Hal.
“Anything going on downtown, we’re big supporters of,” Hal added.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, as well as St. Paul’s Lutheran and Carlisle United Methodist, hosted performances in church halls throughout the night. Spaces at Dickinson College, the Cumberland County Historical Society and Bosler Memorial Library were also home to several events, as well as Create-a-Palooza on East High Street, the Comfort Suites on South Hanover, and the old county courthouse on the square.
“We might not stay out as long because of the cold, but we always come out. It’s just fun,” said downtown resident Heidi Burcher.
Temperatures Sunday night dipped into the low teens and likely the single-digits. While many long-time attendees said this was the coldest First Night they could remember, downtown resident Dennis Hurley said it had been worse.
“There was a colder one, maybe eight years ago,” Hurley said. “I don’t remember exactly, but I remember being out here when the thermometer was even lower.”
Several spaces on High Street hosted outdoor food stands as well as performers – wood carving, ice carving, fire juggling and more, with residents stopping for a quick performance before seeking some indoor warmth.
Boy Scout Troop 189 was also selling hot chocolate, an annual troop fundraiser.
“We’ve had a pretty good turnout, maybe because it is so cold,” said troop member Noah Ollestad. “We make pretty good money on the hot chocolate, and people are very generous with donations as well.”
The scouts work in two-hour shifts so that no one is outside on their feet for too long.
“It does get to be a bit of a challenge,” Ollestad said. “This is definitely the coldest one I remember.”
First Night attendees could also draw on a scrapped Volkswagen Beetle that had been coated with chalk paint. The car was part of the midnight fireworks display for the second year.
What if a tattoo could change colors to alert someone that they are becoming dehydrated?
This is the type of project in which Big Spring senior Emily Webber hopes to become involved as she pursues a career in biomedical engineering.
Biomedical engineering integrates biology and medicine, Webber said. Her work would involve diagnosing and creating treatments for illnesses. Plus, as a potential Penn State student, she may have the opportunity to work on medical advances in different arenas, including the artificial heart laboratory.
“They have a really good women in engineering program that I’m really excited about,” said Webber, the daughter of Rich and Judy Webber of Newville.
Webber has known that science would play a role in her future for some time. She’s always had an interest in science and figuring out how things work, and enjoyed science documentaries and books.
“That’s always seemed to be a goal of mine ever since I was in middle school. In middle school, I wanted to be a physicist,” Webber said. “I never really knew completely what I wanted to do, but I always knew something science or math related.”
Now in high school, she has doubled up in her schedule and taken all the science classes that Big Spring has to offer since that will help her advance in the field. Her class load, which includes two advanced placement courses, is preparing her for her studies at Penn State, both in content and in teaching her how to study at a higher level where she has to find her own resources online and do more work at home on her own to succeed.
As a member of both the science and math honor societies, Webber is also participating in activities to pass her love of science on to younger students by helping to organize a STEM Day for elementary school students. She said the project is still in the works but will involve activities designed to stimulate an interest in science and math.
“I remember doing something like that when I was in elementary school and it was really cool. We did things like making slime,” she said.
Webber’s high school career hasn’t been entirely science-oriented. She’s also been a member of Club CARE since her sophomore year. Each year, the club organizes fundraisers for different charities of the club’s choosing. This fall, for example, the club did a restaurant night in which a portion of the diners’ checks went to Cypress Springs, a high school in Texas that had been affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Key decisions could be made on Jan. 8 to get a rental property inspection program up and running in Mount Holly Springs by the target month of June.
The council on Dec. 11 adopted an ordinance to set up a program where all 628 rental units within the borough are inspected once every three years. Under the ordinance, a landlord would only be able to rent a unit if it passes inspection and is issued an occupancy permit.
To implement the program, the council would need to decide whether to hire someone in-house to conduct the inspections or contract out the service through a third-party provider. A decision may come less than a week after four new members of the seven-person council are sworn in during on Jan. 2.
Sherry Boyles, Katie Daniels, Cynthia Goshorn and Cathy Neff are replacing Matthew Hockley, Leroy F. Shildt, Pamela Still and Lois Stoner on the council. Incumbents James Collins II, Deborah Halpin-Brophy and Edgar Kendall have terms that expire on Dec. 31, 2019.
Borough Manager and Police Chief Thomas Day has recommended the council hire a part-time person to not only handle rental property inspections but also other duties associated with being a zoning and codes enforcement officer.
“We’ve had some interest in the past when we have advertised for an officer,” Day told the council Thursday during a workshop meeting. “We’ve not found anyone to take the position.”
In the past, the position offered a small number of hours per week at a time when applicants wanted full-time work or a job with a lot more hours per week, Day said. Though adding rental property inspections would expand the number of weekly hours, the manager still sees it as a part-time position.
Day mapped out the rental units into three zones, one for each year of the cycle. Zone 1 inspections would cover units on either side of Baltimore Avenue from the borough line south to Butler Street. This would include all streets between the western border of the borough and Mountain Creek.
Zone 1 also covers any units along Mill Street from where it intersects with Baltimore north and east to the borough line and on streets adjoining Mill including Fairfield, Center, East, South, Peach and Orange. Each landlord would be charged a fee for each rental unit to offset the costs of the license and the inspection.
To give the ordinance “teeth,” the council on Dec. 11 adopted the International Property Maintenance Code, which details the standards for rental units. A draft inspection checklist, presented to landlords in August, included items related to security, fire safety, adequate lighting, adequate ventilation, a check for chipped or peeling paint and a check for signs of rodent infestation.
Each item is marked either pass or fail with directions given in the comment section of the checklist on what would need to be done to correct the deficiencies. Landlords would have 30 days to follow through. A separate fee will be charged for each re-inspection to verify whether the landlord had fixed the problem. The ordinance also allows landlords to file a grievance before an appeals board, but this would also require the payment of a fee.
The council could vote Jan. 8 on a resolution to set the fees for 2018. An inspection fee of $65 has been suggested and discussed, Day said. There were no details available on the proposed re-inspection fee or appeals fee.
The goal of the fees is to offset the costs of the inspection program, the issuing of permits and the processing of grievances, Day said. He said a yearly resolution enables the council to adjust the fees up or down to cover the costs.
The council on Dec. 11 approved a borough budget for 2018. That fiscal plan includes a line-item of $13,000 in projected revenue from the fees, according to Day. Expenditures would include the salary of the part-time staffer along with postage and other costs associated with processing the paperwork and scheduling inspections with landlords.
The council could also vote on Jan. 8 on a resolution to establish a three-member appeals board. The ordinance requires the borough manager be one of the three members. The council would have to appoint two other people as regular board members and a third person as an alternate in case of an absence or a conflict of interest.
At a workshop meeting Dec. 28, Day said Cathy Neff, an incoming council member, may be interested in serving on the board. Neff owns rental properties within the borough.
The ultimate goal is to have a landlord and tenant serve on the appeals board, Day said. “We are not sure if we can get the volunteers to step forth.” The council has had problems in the past finding people to fill vacancies on already established boards and commissions.
With the adoption of the ordinance on Dec. 11, the borough has the ability to file citations against landlords before the district magisterial judge if safety issues surface in rental units or if complaints by tenants uncover a possible violation of the standards specified in the International Property Maintenance Code.
“We are starting from scratch,” Day said about getting the inspection program up and running. If possible, he would like to get the cycle started before the June target date.
“The sooner the better for us because these safety issues are not correcting themselves,” Day said.
The inspection program and the ordinance is an outgrowth of a three-year review by the borough council’s Health, Safety and Welfare Committee. Council members looked at complaints filed by tenants and landlords and gathered input from other residents, borough staff, service providers and emergency responders.
The committee took on the issue after a 2014 community survey identified a rental responsibility ordinance as a high priority toward making Mount Holly Springs a better place to live.
Alarmed by the proliferation of false content online, state lawmakers around the country are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell fact from fiction.
Lawmakers in several states have introduced or passed bills calling on public school systems to do more to teach media literacy skills that they say are critical to democracy. The effort has been bipartisan but has received little attention despite successful legislation in Washington state, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Mexico.
Several more states are expected to consider such bills in the coming year, including Arizona, New York and Hawaii.
“I don’t think it’s a partisan issue to appreciate the importance of good information and the teaching of tools for navigating the information environment,” said Hans Zeiger, a Republican state senator in Washington who co-sponsored a bill that passed in his state earlier this year. “There is such a thing as an objective source versus other kinds of sources, and that’s an appropriate thing for schools to be teaching.”
Advocates say the K-12 curriculum has not kept pace with rapid changes in technology. Studies show many children spend hours every day online but struggle to comprehend the content that comes at them.
For years, they have pushed schools to incorporate media literacy — including the ability to evaluate and analyze sources of information — into lesson plans in civics, language arts, science and other subjects.
Their efforts started getting traction after the 2016 presidential election, which highlighted how even many adults can be fooled by false and misleading content peddled by agenda-driven domestic and foreign sources.
“Five years ago, it was difficult to get people to understand what we were doing and what we wanted to see happen in education and the skills students needed to learn,” said Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. “Now there is no question about the vitalness of this in classrooms.”
A study published last year by Stanford University researchers also brought the issue into focus. It warned that students from middle school to college were “easily duped” and ill-equipped to use reason with online information.
The researchers warned that “democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.”
In June, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill establishing an advisory council to develop recommendations that will include instructing students on evaluating what they see and read online.
Jennifer Rocca, a high school librarian in Brookfield, Connecticut, was among several supporters who urged lawmakers to pass the legislation.
Her digital literacy course, a requirement for freshmen, challenges students to evaluate the credibility of online sources so they can spot falsehoods and biased information. She requires students to cite their sources when conducting research and explain why each would have the authority to be credible.
Without stronger statewide standards, Rocca said she worries that some school districts will not do enough to develop skills that are critical for students and society.
“You should be expected to navigate the internet and evaluate the information no matter where you go to school,” she said.
Many of the state bills are based on model legislation backed by a coalition of groups, including Media Literacy Now and the Digital Citizenship Institute. Advocates say the laws are a good first step that must be paired with updates to teacher education programs, funding for professional development and other changes throughout the education system.
The efforts have run into concerns about school funding shortfalls, and supporters say they are mindful of adding mandates on districts and teachers. That’s why the laws have so far stopped short of dictating changes and instead called for voluntary actions.
New Mexico Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said media literacy is an elective in the state’s secondary schools curriculum — unlike financial literacy, which is required. He said he would like to see that changed in coming years and “intertwined throughout the entire curriculum regardless of what you are teaching.”
Last summer, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed two bills calling on state education officials to work with media literacy organizations to consider incorporating the subject into the basic education program.
The new law in Washington requires the state school superintendent to create a website with links to successful media literacy practices. The office also must conduct a survey to understand how librarians, teachers, principals and technology directors are integrating those subjects into their curriculum.
Supporters are helping lawmakers in several states draft similar bills to be introduced in 2018.
“The combination of social media and misinformation really captured people’s awareness and attention in the last year,” said Erin McNeill, president of Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit based in Watertown, Massachusetts. “It took a long time to get media literacy into the public consciousness.”