A streak of major grant and loan awards from the state of Pennsylvania to Cumberland County institutions begs the question — what exactly has to be done to access this pool of funding?
The answer depends largely on what program is being accessed, with Pennsylvania having dozens, if not hundreds, of publicly backed programs intended to spur development and job growth.
“There are a lot of opportunities for businesses and organizations to apply on their own, but it becomes very daunting at a certain point, that’s just the nature of the beast,” said Mary Kuna, economic and real estate development manager for the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp.
For most programs that require a local public sponsor, CAEDC is the source in Cumberland County. The nonprofit corporation is legally owned by the county government and receives funding from the county’s hotel tax. CAEDC is also the administrator for the county’s Industrial Development Authority, which is the designated conduit for a number of state programs.
This allows CAEDC to take on projects like the recently successful move to get $1.5 million in grant funding through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to help with the rebuilding project at the Carlisle YMCA.
“We put in the application at the start of 2017, so the award came roughly a year later,” Kuna said.
It wasn’t just a year of waiting, but an extensive process.
“When you’re talking about a project that can get over a million in funding, it’s pretty hefty,” Kuna said. “They’re heavily vetted and have to go through a lot of political willpower.”
RACP funds are administered directly from the Governor’s Office of the Budget, unlike most development incentives in Pennsylvania, which originate with the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Starting last year, however, the DCED does preliminary review on RACP applications.
“You have to pitch your project very succinctly,” Kuna said, adding that three points in particular are critical — the financial feasibility of the project, its ability to get off the ground within a year, and the level of community support.
Depending how intensive the process is, submission can continue for months, if not years. For the YMCA application, CAEDC staff ended up with a 22-part business plan.
“That’s everything that goes from market feasibility studies, to where you’re providing documents about financing, to everything in between,” Kuna said. “It’s a huge undertaking and it’s very well thought out, because the state wants to make sure it happens.”
Last year, Gov. Tom Wolf announced additional oversight of organizations and businesses that benefit from DCED incentives to ensure that the capital and jobs being created stayed around in the state.
This requires companies to repay tax credits and grants if they fail to meet their project goals. It also requires a 10-percent payback penalty for employers who create jobs with DCED funds and then move those jobs out of state.
Roughly a year ago, for instance, Unilife pharmaceuticals abandoned its York County facility, only eight years after it had used $6.5 million in state incentives to build it.
None of those high-profile failures have been in Cumberland County, however.
“We’ve never had a loan situation where the state has come back after job creation and said it wasn’t enough,” Kuna said. “They’re pretty accommodating when it comes to job creation timelines, but they do monitor it closely.”
In the last two years, Cumberland County applicants have received $17.5 million in funding from the DCED, according to the state’s database.
In any given time span, a few chunks of that total will be large redevelopment projects — such as the Multimodal Transportation grant that will support road improvements near a new mixed-use development in East Pennsboro Township.
Although not included in that total, other major state-backed projects are likely coming down the pipes, with CAEDC and its affiliated Real Estate Collaborative preparing the abandoned Domestic Castings site in Shippensburg, and the Tyco Electronics site in Carlisle.
Others are grants to municipal or county agencies, which then use these funds to help individual residents or businesses — such as the HOME grant program, which assists first-time, lower-income home buyers. Carlisle Borough’s program received over a half-million dollars from the DCED last year.
But the majority of items on DCED’s list are small tax-credit expenditures, typically under the Keystone Improvement Zone or Educational Improvement programs. The former gives tax credits for job expansion or retention; the latter for businesses who contribute funds to educational or workforce development programs.
Most of these credits are valued under $100,000, and businesses are able to apply by themselves.
“Some programs, you have to go through a designated public authority, which is often CAEDC,” Kuna said. “But for smaller tax credits, there are a number of accounting firms that do a really good job with applying for those on behalf of their business clients.”
Sherri Maret came to Newville by way of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
She discovered, however, that one of her ancestors made the journey to Cumberland County a century ago as a student at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
A teacher for 20 years, Maret now pursues a writing career full-time, and recently published a children’s book, “The Cloud Artist.”
Q. Would you describe how you went about researching your Choctaw roots?
A. I started with a book my family has which lists my mother and both of her parents as well as a few more generations in it. The book is “Oklahoma Indian Territory” by Ted Byron Hall (1971). Using the information in that book and the Dawes Rolls, which is online, I was able to gather the documentation to apply for membership in the Choctaw tribe. I also used Geni online and met a Choctaw cousin who knew a lot more than I did. We share the same great-great grandfather, Judge/Capt. William Boykin Pitchlynn (1823-1889)
Q. That research led to a connection to Carlisle that dates back long before you moved here. What is that connection, and what was your reaction when you discovered it?
A. My husband asked me if Choctaw children went to the Carlisle Indian School. I responded with doubt because Carlisle is so far from Choctaw country. On a lark, I looked at the Carlisle Indian School database and saw there were Choctaw children listed. One name I recognized from my genealogy. John Spencer Garland enrolled at the school in 1917. He was my cousin. According to one of the historians, he did not stay long. I am still trying to get more information about why he was sent here and then where did he go when he left. I was really surprised that Choctaw children attended the school.
Q. How did this influence your writing?
A. I never set out to write a book that had a Choctaw influence. “The Cloud Artist” came from a dream I had in the summer of 2016. I dreamed about a girl who could use the sky as a canvas and the clouds as paint. I wrote the picture book within a few days and the book was launched in September with the RoadRunner Press. My publisher decided to include a Choctaw translation. The Whistlestop Bookshop has signed copies. I have a new book coming out later this year but it isn’t Choctaw related. Down the road, I think there will be a few more Choctaw picture books.
Q. Your website describes the illustrator for “The Cloud Artist” as a newly found cousin. Did you know that before you worked together?
A. No. My publisher paired me with Merisha Sequoia Clark who is a Choctaw artist living in California. I asked my geni manager and cousin, Erin, to see if we were related. Merisha is a distant cousin and that was a big surprise. We hope to meet some day.
Q. As a former classroom educator, would you describe the importance of multicultural books to the overall education of a student?
A. All children deserve to see themselves portrayed in books. Multicultural books also show children that we are all more alike than different. I think multicultural books are important especially in schools and libraries so we can all learn more about other customs and cultures. These are to be celebrated and hopefully bring us together.
Looking for common ground with your neighbor these days? Try switching subjects from the weather to Congress. Chances are, you both agree it’s terrible.
In red, blue or purple states, in middle America or on the coasts, most Americans loathe the nation’s legislature. One big reason: Most think lawmakers are listening to all the wrong people, suggests a new study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Barbara with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
“We have the best Congress you can buy and pay for,” said Chester Trahan, 78, of Palm Coast, Fla. “Congress, they’re subject to the special interest groups and that’s really who’s running the show.”
Hating Congress has become a lasting feature of American politics, regardless of which party is in power or whether the 435 House members and 100 senators pass lots of legislation — or don’t do much of anything at all.
A new poll from the AP-NORC Center found that 85 percent of Americans, including 89 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans, disapprove of the job Congress is doing. That might matter in this midterm election year, as Republicans defend their majorities in the House and Senate.
In the study by Stanford, UC-Santa Barbara and the AP-NORC Center, which was conducted in 2015 and again in 2017, only about 2 in 10 said they think Congress pays much attention to their own constituents or Americans as a whole, or even give much consideration to the best interests of those people.
Instead, most said Congress does listen to lobbyists, donors and the wealthy.
That’s exactly the opposite of the way people think Congress should function, the study found. The highest levels of disapproval came from Americans who felt the largest sense of disconnect between whom they think Congress should listen to and whom they believe Congress actually listens to.
That disconnect played out in the public square last week as the nation reeled from yet another mass shooting — this time, the Valentine’s Day killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Many raged over what they see as the National Rifle Association’s power to stifle efforts to tighten gun laws, including a ban on assault rifles.
“Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?” student Cameron Kasky demanded of Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who appeared on CNN’s “Stand Up” town hall.
Rubio, one of the gun rights groups’ top beneficiaries over his political career, would not make that pledge. Nor have other congressional Republicans, who are overwhelmingly favored by gun rights supporters when it comes to campaign contributions.
The disillusionment is not just about guns, and it’s not new. Democrats and Republicans alike see members of Congress as mostly listening to elites and donors rather than the ordinary people they represent.
Congress has rarely been especially popular in polls conducted over the past several decades, but approval of the House and Senate’s performance has been particularly low over the past several years. In polling by Gallup, Congress’ approval rating has been below 20 percent for eight straight years.
Americans are more likely to approve of their own member of Congress than of Congress generally, but even that rating is less than stellar. In the latest AP-NORC poll, 44 percent of Americans — 41 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans — approve of the person representing their district.
American apathy toward their lawmakers has become an area of scholarly study, with some researchers contending that when Congress doesn’t act, it’s often representing a divided electorate that can’t resolve disagreements, either.
That certainly describes the United States now, which is deeply divided over such uncomfortable matters as immigration, gun control and President Donald Trump. Even with Republicans in control of the presidency and the House and Senate, Congress passed just one significant piece of legislation during Trump’s first year in office — a $1.5 trillion overhaul of U.S. tax laws that Republicans hope will begin to boost American paychecks this year.
“It is not crumbs,” Trump said earlier this month in a brushback to Democratic efforts to campaign against the tax cuts.
In November, voters cast ballots for every House seat and 34 in the Senate. And it’s fair to say plenty of members of Congress have had enough of Congress, too — including more than 50 House members who have opted to leave rather than seek re-election.
Among the other reasons for all the Congress hate, fewer than 2 in 10 Americans in the new study said they think Congress passes mostly good laws. The remainder considers congressional output to be at best neutral, with over a third seeing it as mostly bad. At the same time, Americans who felt Congress should be passing either more laws or fewer of them were far more likely to disapprove of Congress than those who felt the number of laws passed by Congress is about right.
“Most of them have got it wrong,” said David Peterson, 67, a Republican-leaning Vietnam veteran from Torrance, Calif. “The fact that Congress can’t seem to come to grips with health care, can’t seem to come to grips with immigration, can’t seem to come to grips with legislating firearms. It makes me less optimistic.”
The study was conducted in 2015 and 2017 using samples drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Funding was provided by the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University and by NORC.
The most recent AP-NORC poll of 1,337 adults was conducted Feb. 15-19 using a sample drawn from NORC’s AmeriSpeak Panel, and has a margin of sampling error for all respondents of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
HARRISBURG — Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner said Monday that he would pursue a mandatory death penalty for any school shooter who kills someone, although legal analysts say that's unconstitutional.
The state senator from York County also said he would put an armed officer in every school building.
During an appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club, Wagner said his message is "if someone kills one of our children, we will kill them."
Wagner's comments came in the context of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 people, and he turned the shooting into a line of attack against Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
"I have a very bold message for any coward who is deranged enough to consider attacking our children at school: when I am governor, these cowards will pay the ultimate price," Wagner said.
Wagner, who is running in a three-way primary for the GOP nomination to challenge Wolf's re-election bid this year, said he would introduce a bill while he remains in the state Senate that allows "no plea bargains, no life sentences and no mercy."
Robert Dunham, of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, said Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that it is unconstitutional for any system to impose the death penalty without allowing the jury to consider any factors that might call for mercy.
"There is absolutely no question that mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional, and any law that attempts to institute a mandatory death penalty would be struck down as unconstitutional," Dunham said.
Marc Bookman, of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation in Philadelphia, said mandatory death sentences have been unconstitutional since 1976 when the court threw out a North Carolina law that imposed a mandatory death sentence for the crime of first-degree murder.
Still, Wagner sought to turn the death penalty issue against Wolf, saying that the Democratic governor's de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania means Wolf would protect someone like the Florida school shooter.
"Tom Wolf would prioritize the life of an evil school shooter over the lives of innocent school children, over those who grieve for them and over those who sought to protect them," Wagner told the crowd at the press club.
Wagner also said he would find state dollars to pay for armed officers in every school building. There are more than 3,000 school buildings, according to state figures, potentially requiring the hiring of an armed force bigger than the Pennsylvania State Police, already one of the nation's biggest police forces.
A Democratic Party spokeswoman responded that Wagner had voted against budget legislation that carried more money for a safe schools initiative.
"Now he says he opposes common sense background checks and supports putting more guns in schools," spokeswoman Beth Melena said.
Wolf has previously backed legislation to expand background checks and ban the sale of assault weapons. Wagner said the Florida school shooting had not made him rethink his stances against stronger gun control, and he said he did not think stronger gun control laws would have prevented the shooting.
Pennsylvania hasn't executed anyone since 1999. Wolf shortly after taking office in 2015 said that he would not sign any death warrants, saying he was concerned about a system that is "ineffective, unjust, and expensive."
Wolf has said the moratorium will say in place until a state Senate-commissioned study of capital punishment is complete.