I hope that your holiday season was joyous and uneventful.
It’s been quite a while since I last posted here, and by many accounts since then our world has changed dramatically with the results of November’s election. I was upset with the outcome, more so than any election that I can remember.
Granted that we had two extremely flawed candidates, but the winner is argumentative, unqualified, and is surrounding himself with people who do not have this country’s best interests at heart. Mr. Trump can be, and will be, manipulated by these people, and we will be the worse for it in terms of our standing in a world that is increasingly shrinking.
Ironically, it was us that did the shrinking, by pioneering mass communication and computing technologies that have made the world smaller via instantaneous, almost ubiquitous global communication.
According to noted author and New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, we have also facilitated the “flattening” of the world through our development of data networks, satellite and other connectivity, and an Internet to bring it all together.
Mr. Friedman laid this out very well in his 2006 book The World is Flat, and continued with some very valid trepidations when considering the election and recent revelations about it –
My personal dread derived from the obvious fact that it’s not only the software writers and computer geeks who get empowered to collaborate on work in a flat world. It’s also al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks.
The playing field is not being leveled only in ways that draw in and superempower a whole new group of innovators. It’s being leveled in a way that draws in and superempowers a whole new group of angry, frustrated, and humiliated men and women.
Those “angry, frustrated, and humiliated men and women” just leveraged the democratic process to put into power a group of people who will do serious damage to the fabric of our nation, unless they are challenged at every turn toward intolerance, warmongering, and the dissolution of human rights and civil liberties gains hard-fought for over the last 60 years.
My biggest fear? Economic conflicts with Russia, China, and others escalating into war, and the reinstatement of the draft in response to it.
For now, I defer to others with more time and diligence who follow this. I will say that like many other citizens I have made a contribution to the ACLU. Before going back to the local beat, some words for my congressman, Tim Murphy – Nice job on the mental health bill. I’ll be watching your voting record very closely from now on.
QV Begins Full Court Press on High School
The For Sale signs in front of two houses in the 700 block of Beaver Street in Leetsdale is but one tangible indicator that the Quaker Valley School District is moving in earnest to find a place to construct a new high school building.
The district has retained education planners and design consultants to gather input from the community regarding a new high school project, which according to other reporting may require upwards of 42 acres of land. The existing vacant land at the high school, such as the athletic fields, are not suitable according to the district as they are part of the 100 year floodplain.
For me, this is sounding very much like a suitable tract of land may not be available within the district’s borders, and that QV may have to consider obtaining land in a bordering municipality. There is precedent for this in at least two other Allegheny County school districts.
I really can’t comment otherwise on the district’s efforts, because I haven’t attended any of the information sessions. I do believe that QV deserves credit for trying to communicate with citizens and garner support through information gathering, and seeking to build consensus on exactly what students need and what taxpayers can afford.
Considering the history of previous attempts to build new schools in this district, it’s not going to be an easy sell.
Managing the Quotation Game
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The staff at Quaker Valley High is also taking steps to assure that last year’s yearbook controversy isn’t repeated. In a letter to students obtained via a Right To Know request, QVHS Principal Deborah Ricobelli outlined the process that seems to have as its goal a thoroughly sanitized, more politically correct publication this time around.
Ms. Ricobelli advised the students that “a representative group of senior students” assisted in the development of a system that includes a democratic process by all seniors to select submitted quotes for inclusion in the senior photo section.
In addition to this, seniors may submit a quotation and other information for a “separate senior section with information about college/work/future plans and the personal quotes…Information related to personal yearbook quotes will be relayed sometime in 2017.”
Considering the relatively early deadlines associated with assuring that the printed yearbook is in the hands of students before the end of the school year, I’m wondering if this “separate senior section” will be a companion to – not part of – the published yearbook. This could be something that can be more easily forgotten in posterity should controversy ensue once again.
Mentioned more than once in all this is a key admonishment – “The school reserves the right to omit any inappropriate quotes.” Once again, “inappropriate”, like “reasonable”, is in the eye of the beholder.
Considering the gems of wisdom that left the lips of our President-Elect during the campaign, the bar of “inappropriateness” may need to be set in an entirely different fashion in the years to come.
Camp Horne Reopens, An Unstable Anniversary
These complaints dovetailed with the 10th Anniversary of an event that affected traffic patterns in this area in a catastrophic manner – the huge landslide at the former Dixmont State Hospital site, which at the time was being redeveloped into a Wal-Mart. Had I noticed this anniversary approaching, I might have done a bit more research and posted something about it, as I was not living here at the time and would have loved to have learned more. Having read several other media accounts over the years, the biggest impression I got from it was a vocal community activist group saying “we told you so”.
A comprehensive 2008 report from the Pa. Legislature details the scope and impact of the slide, the response to it, and the concerns of the surrounding citizens and community in advance of it.
The site today appears to have been completely mitigated and stabilized, as best as engineers and other experts can. It serves as a sort of quiet monument to the dangers of unbridled, ill-advised growth for growth’s sake.
Leet, Bell Acres Make a Quiet Dispatch Transition
40 years ago I was a junior at Quaker Valley High, working after school during the holiday season at the old Select Food Market at the corner of Beaver and Division Streets in Sewickley. This space now hosts Clearview Credit Union, a dance studio, and the Sharp Edge Bistro.
I remember several interesting people who worked with me there – a classmate from school, the owner and his son, and the grocery manager, who at the time was Chief of the Fair Oaks Volunteer Fire Department in Leet Township.
There was a police scanner in his office in the back of the store, tuned to the Beaver County fire dispatch channel. Back then, every siren and pager for all county fire departments were tested at 6:00 PM – every night of the week. The succession of radio paging tones took several minutes to complete – I coined it the “carol of the bells”.
Leet Township and neighboring Bell Acres Borough were part of that “bell choir”. Despite being located wholly in Allegheny County, these two communities have utilized Beaver County dispatchers for at least the last 40 years and well before.
The reason for this was likely the historically established population centers of these two towns being focused in the Fair Oaks area of Leet, and along Big Sewickley Creek Road in Bell Acres. These areas received their telephone service from Ambridge, and today they sit (along with roughly half of Leetsdale) within the 724 area code.
As technological advances have made these divisions largely irrelevant, the arrangement with Beaver County for dispatch services was apparently becoming more unjustified from a fiscal standpoint. Dispatch services for Allegheny County municipalities are provided without cost to them by the county’s 9-1-1 center, which is funded in part by revenue from the 9-1-1 surcharge that is charged on every telephone line. These funds are administered by the Commonwealth, through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).
According to Leet Township Manager Wayne Hyjek, Beaver County and Allegheny County were unable to reach an agreement on the transfer of surcharge funds to compensate Beaver’s provision of these services. As a result, Allegheny County began providing 9-1-1 and dispatching services to Leet and Bell Acres on December 8.
Full Disclosure: I am employed by Allegheny County as a 9-1-1 Dispatcher.
Scanner radio listeners and hobbyists in the immediate area may notice the new locations and responder units on the Allegheny County frequencies, but aside from those changes it doesn’t seem as if anything newsworthy has come out of the transition itself, if the lack of local media coverage is any barometer of that.
The change has thus far appeared transparent to citizens, which from an operational and service provision standpoint is a good thing.
The Most Exclusive Nuisance Bar Around?
The Edgeworth Club describes itself on its website as “a private social and recreational club set among the stately homes of historic Sewickley, Pennsylvania”.
Recent actions by Edgeworth Borough Council give the indication that the resident of at least one stately home does not share the club’s enthusiasm for its proximity.
In October, council meeting minutes stated that the General Manager of the club wrote council stating that –
..a neighbor had complained about the noise level emitting from the Edgeworth Club after 10:00 pm. The neighbor threatened to turn the Edgeworth Club in to the PA Liquor Control Board for violating LCB noise regulations which are designed for nuisance bars. (Club General Manager Brett) Ninness stated that he feared the Club may be in jeopardy of losing their liquor license if the neighbor filed unwarranted claims with the Liquor Control Board. Mr. Ninness asked for the Borough to pass a Resolution stating that Edgeworth Borough enforces its own noise ordinance as opposed to the Liquor Control Board.
A municipality can actually petition the LCB to have its own noise ordinance replace the nuisance provisions of the liquor code, thus enabling more local control over enforcement.
Edgeworth Council was only too happy to accommodate the club’s request during their November meeting, unanimously passing a resolution to begin this process with the LCB –
According to Mr. Ninness the application proposed by the Edgeworth Club was being submitted as a defense mechanism for the establishment against unfounded complaints…Chief (John) English also stated that the Edgeworth Club has always been accommodating when requests regarding noise levels have been made by the Police Department in the past.
As much as this approach seems to make sense to prevent the potential misapplication of a state regulation by supplanting it with local law, I still have to wonder about the outright dismissal of the neighbor’s complaints as “unwarranted” and “unfounded”.
Maybe the resident(s) involved will have their turn before council in the future.
Nearly Ready at the Jethro
40 years ago this past summer I was working my first real job, behind the counter at the Isaly’s in Sewickley. The store was in the space currently occupied by Bruegger’s Bagels, across the street from the old Sewickley Theatre. One of my most memorable evenings was when All The President’s Men was showing, and the crowd that let out after the early evening screening really wanted ice cream. People were lined up 3 deep, and we didn’t finish up until very late.
Before its closing in 1979, the theatre was the anchor of nightlife in “The Village”. When Leslie and I go into Sewickley, it’s usually during the day, although we did enjoy watching a Pens game recently at Sidelines Sports Bar.
In about a month, numerous years of planning, fundraising, and preparation will come to fruition as the Village Theater Company opens the Tull Family Theater complex on Walnut Street. Since my post in March on the infusion of $500,000 by the Thomas and Alba Tull Foundation, the theater company has ramped up its preparations, and brought on expert staff and creative leadership as well.
Noteworthy to me are the changes in relationships that a healthy bank account can bring. Prior to the Tull Foundation’s involvement, Village Theater Company was reportedly aligned with Pittsburgh Filmmakers, but in the wake of the cash infusion, and reported financial problems at the Filmmakers, the company instead aligned themselves with the same film programmer used by the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill. Leslie and I visited there earlier this month to see the film Loving. The Manor is an impressive facility with some excellent offerings – hopefully we can expect the same from the Tull theater.
The Pittsburgh Filmmakers do deserve much credit for their continued offerings at their various venues around town. I drive by the Regent Square Theater regularly, and got a smile from their recent week-long showing of the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life – for free, with a suggested donation of food items that took up one side of the theatre lobby.
It was one way for people to enjoy this great story, and do something for those in need, before Mr. Potter moves into the White House.
While our main source of independent film viewing is just down the street at the library, I’m anticipating that we’ll be able to take in a film at Sewickley’s much-awaited new venue. I wonder if the new Crazy Mocha across the street will be ramping up their staff in anticipation of post-movie foot traffic.
There’s plenty more to say, and perhaps a reboot of sorts is needed here in response to what is about to happen with our national government. I’m looking forward to facing the joys and challenges of life in the coming year, whatever they may be.
Have a great new year ahead.