Mayor Gray Publicly Endorses Creation of Comcast/Time Warner Super-Monopoly

Mayor Rick Gray Supports a Merger of Comcast and Time Warner

While some mayors are making it a priority to provide high-speed wireless Internet access to all or to court alternative broadband providers like Google to bring truly high-speed broadband Internet to their communities, Lancaster city mayor Rick Gray is throwing his support behind two mega-corporations his constituents truly and justly hate. (For starters, the companies are incredibly powerful proponents of killing the freedom of the Internet by ending Net neutrality.) Let me introduce them by way of a recent report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index:

High prices, slow data transmission and unreliable service drag consumer satisfaction to record lows, as customers have few alternatives beyond the largest Internet service providers. Customer satisfaction with ISPs drops 3.1% to 63%, the lowest score in the Index.  … Customers rate Comcast  and Time Warner Cable even lower for Internet service than for their TV service. In both industries, the two providers have the weakest customer satisfaction.

And yet, on Thursday, Mayor Gray joined fifty-one other city mayors to sign a letter which, in my paraphrase, says, “Go, corporate oligarchy, go!” and in actuality spews a load of corporate double-speak that our mayor should be deeply ashamed to have put his name to. You can read the letter for yourself (pdf).

I want to be very clear that putting more power in the hands of Comcast and Time Warner is a terrible idea for Lancaster city, especially for its citizens and its businesses. I call on Lancaster city council to pass a resolution that makes this argument — in clear opposition to Mayor Gray — against a merger of these two corporate monopolies into a single super-monopoly.

If you agree with me, please sign the petition, share this blog post, and comment below.

Mayor Rick Gray Supports a Merger of Comcast and Time Warner

Buildings Are Not the Key to Lancaster’s ‘Revival’

For $25, you can go to an Hourglass Foundation event at the Ware Center this Thursday night to hear a Brookings Institution fellow feed you a line of bull.

What Christopher Leinberger is expected to say, according to Bernie Harris’s Intelligencer article yesterday, is that if Amtrak rolls out high-speed rail service along its Keystone line, Lancaster should have a street-car trolley that runs a loop that connects the train station with downtown.

Given the state of Lancaster city today, this focus on infrastructure is intolerable.

One of the recent great books on urban life and planning is Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. It includes these poignant reminders:

Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness. They enable us to work and play together, and their success depends on the demand for physical connection.…

The folly of building-centric urban renewal reminds us that cities aren’t structures; cities are people.

The downtown convention center has yet to prove that it was anywhere close to worth its expense. Many of the brick-edged sidewalks and street crossings laid downtown four years ago are already cracked and ugly. Tearing down parts of the exterior of the monstrosity of a building at Lancaster Square (across from Binns Park) so far has done nothing to make the property more attractive to private developers.

It is easy and tempting to focus on buildings and infrastructure when focusing on the improvement of a city. I imagine that this is especially true for the people in Lancaster’s city government who need to spend endless hours figuring out how to deal with the city’s aging infrastructure, particularly for public utilities. If I spent all day figuring out how to mend old infrastructure, I’m sure I would dream of going beyond simply fixing what’s there to instead build shiny new buildings and transportation methods.

The problem, however, is that Lancaster isn’t its buildings and infrastructure. Lancaster is its people. And we can and should invest a lot more in them.

There are all sorts of things that deserve more attention, discussion, and funding than infrastructure. Here are a two starting points:

  1. Despite ongoing valiant efforts of a handful of citizens, Lancaster city still has precious few Latino public figures, especially when you consider that Hispanics will soon be the majority ethnic group in the city.
  2. Before being unanimously rejected by the city’s school board, the proposal for an Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School enjoyed far more support than it ever should have. It is going to be a long time before anyone can say that we as a community are doing enough for our school children.

Please chime in below in the comments. Do you agree that attention on infrastructure is misplaced? If so, what do you think is more important for Lancaster city to focus on right now?

Pa. Newspapers Running Lame Front-Page Stories on Sandusky

Here is this morning’s news as the AP is reporting it:

Jerry Sandusky was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years, accusations that shattered the Happy Valley image of Penn State football and led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.

Sandusky, a 68-year-old retired defensive coach who was once Paterno’s heir apparent, was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts.

Yep, that’s what happened yesterday. The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Altoona Mirror, the Allentown Morning Call, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review reported it similarly. (Lancaster’s newspaper, which I suppose I’m supposed to call the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal Lancaster New Era, reprinted the Inquirer‘s coverage.)

But look how other Pennsylvania papers just got sloppy in what they chose to place on their front pages.

Front Page from the Patriot-News on June 23, 2012The Patriot-News front page includes two stories. The first begins this way:

Had Jerry Sandusky died in 2008, we all would have thought differently. Thousands would have come from around the state and across the country to mourn him. Former player after former player would have proudly said that “Sandusky made me a man.”

Nittany Lions fans in sweatshirts from bowl games played long ago would have said Sandusky did it the right way, and mumbled that their team was never really the same after he left.

At his memorial service, a man would have leaned over the lectern and cried as he told the masses how Sandusky and The Second Mile plucked him from a broken home and saved him.

That’s your lead? You’re going to put us on Mr. Roger’s train to the neighborhood of Make-Believe? You’re going to report the news by printing a detailed description of an event that never happened and never will?

The second story on the front page is color commentary, beginning:

BELLEFONTE — After the jury found Jerry Sandusky to be a serial pedophile, the mother of the young man known as Victim 6 embraced her son.

Despite the cheers outside the Centre County Courthouse that accompanied the announcement that Sandusky was headed to prison, quite probably for the rest of his life, she couldn’t celebrate.

Wait, what? A jury found Sandusky to be a serial pedophile? You’re just going to mention that off-hand, when it’s not reported elsewhere on the front page, except broadly in the headline?

Why they didn’t put Matthew Kemeny’s actual news story, brief though it is, on the front page is beyond me.

This is the coverage the Patriot-News offers its readers this morning. This from the team that created an awesome op-ed front page in November. This from the team that won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the ongoing story. The central character, the villain, is found guilty, and there’s not a full sentence about the verdict on the front page?

The Centre Daily Times did better, but the opening sentence is still a ridiculous choice:

Jerry Sandusky looked down, his left hand resting in his pants pocket.

So the most important thing you have to tell us is that Sandusky was seen shoe-gazing with a hand in his pocket?

Or take the Scranton Times-Tribune‘s opening sentences:

Jerry Sandusky arrived at the courthouse Friday night in the back of a black sport utility vehicle.

He left in handcuffs.

You’re going to take the first sentence of your coverage to tell me the color of the SUV Sandusky was driven around in? And who cares about the handcuffs? Since when do the words “he was wearing handcuffs” tell readers “a jury found him guilty”?

Why Do I Care?

Newspapers are fretting about going out of business. They keep pointing out that their contributions to their communities are super important, and that the kind of quality, in-depth, ongoing reportage they provide can never be offered by amateur bloggers like me.

Guess what: I haven’t followed the Sandusky trial, and I could have easily written the sentences the Patriot-News and Centre Daily Times dialed in to lead off their coverage of the verdict.

A word to newspapers: If you need to be needed, lead with the news. Stop trying to be cute. Stop calling attention to your cleverness as writers and storytellers. Stop putting the color commentary before the play-by-play. Leave that to the amateur bloggers. Offer your readers what they can’t get anywhere else: The facts of the news, right away, with clear explanations of why those facts are significant and how they fit into a broader narrative.

Imagine a Dallas newspaper, on the day Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, putting a story on its front page about what would have happened if Oswald had died four years earlier. Then imagine that they didn’t even put the real news story on the front page. Ridiculous, right? That’s sort of what the Patriot-News did this morning.

A bad man was brought to justice yesterday (and properly, unlike with Oswald). That’s the news. It’s good news. Tell us about it, and tell us about it right away.

Well-Being Is Higher in Lancaster Than in Any Other U.S. Metro Area

According to data collected throughout 2011 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Lancaster County, PA is the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) where well-being is highest, compared to all other U.S. metro areas.

My Facebook newsfeed has been overtaken by a photo of a USA Today sidebar listing the top and bottom 10 in this ranking. Big thanks to Michael McCrea for seeing the story and sharing a photo.

Gallup and Healthways interviewed 1,000 people a day over the course of last year to collect this data. Every person they interviewed is given a composite score of well-being, which is based on factors in six categories:

  1. Life evaluation
  2. Emotional health
  3. Physical health
  4. Healthy behavior
  5. Work environment
  6. Basic access

Together, these six categories contain 55 individual factors. A breakdown is available on the project’s methodology page.

In the case of Lancaster County, they interviewed 781 individuals, or 0.15% of our population. They then used the composite scores of those individuals to create a composite score for Lancaster County. (Read the overview report in PDF format.)

Metropolitan Statistical Areas are often not apples-to-apples comparisons. Lancaster County is a rarity among the country’s 361 MSAs in that the Lancaster MSA and Lancaster County are the same thing. York County for instance, is bundled with Adams County. The Philadelphia MSA includes both Camden, NJ and Wilmington, DE.

As an alternate way of breaking down the data, the 2011 Well-Being Index report also ranks the results by U.S. congressional district. By that measure, Lancaster ranks 7th. (Chester County must be dragging us down!)

What I find most impressive is that Lancaster managed to reach the #1 slot while being surrounded by bad influences. The 2009 version of this same study revealed that the York-Hanover MSA was the 4th most obese in the nation, and that area shares a large border with the Lancaster MSA. (The obesity statistics for 2011 have not yet been released.)

In fact, while Lancaster ranks at the very top of the list for the overall Well-Being Index, York-Hanover is down at 120th. Allentown-Bethlehem is 169th. Harrisburg-Carlisle and Reading look better, at 49th and 56th, respectively. (That info is found in the Pennsylvania-specific report, also a PDF.)

It is worth noting that compared to the year prior, Lancaster’s Well-Being numbers improved in each of the 6 categories listed above, except one:

Well-Being Index for Lancaster, PA

That’s right: healthy behavior. The bad news is it appears our behavior isn’t as healthy as it should be. The good news is that our behavior is the thing we have the greatest ability to change.

I’m sure our local business champions will be proud of the fact that our best-performing category is work environment.

For those interested, here are  the top ten MSAs on the 2011 Well-Being Index:

  1. Lancaster, PA
  2. Charlottesville, VA
  3. Ann Arbor, MI
  4. Provo-Orem, UT
  5. Boulder, CO
  6. Honolulu, HI
  7. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA
  8. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  9. Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
  10. Appleton, WI

What are your thoughts and reactions?

Patriot-News Front Page: ‘As for Paterno, This Must Be His Last Season’

The Harrisburg Patriot-News published an extraordinary front page today:

Front Page of the Patriot-News, November 8, 2011

The entire front page is an editorial. It stands up for the thousands of Penn State alumni and supporters who live in Central Pennsylvania. It stands up for the rule of law. And it stands up for children who are the victims of sexual crimes.

To the editorial board of the Patriot-News, bravo.

Highlight sentences:

The most famous coach in college football history must be held to a higher standard.

A man who has spoken with such affection for 46 years about “his kids” failed real kids when they needed him most.

It might always be honor with an asterisk, admiration with a shake of the head. Joe will have to live with that.

The Patriot-News wasn’t alone. The newspapers of Central Pennsylvania stepped up today. They put their communities, and their responsibilities to them, first. They collectively mounted the kind of pressure necessary to oust an iconic figure who long ago aged past his ability to control his organization, his staff, and his team.

The York Daily Record reminds us all that whenever anyone even suspects that a child is being abused, “…the first call, the most important call, must be to the authorities.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer wants Paterno to step down at the end of this season, too, saying his “oft-discussed retirement would be timelier than ever – even though leaving amid this scandal will provide a sad coda to an otherwise stellar career for the man who, until now, served as the reassuring public face of Penn State.”

The Williamsport Sun-Gazette underscores that no one did the right thing: “It’s clear no one at the university acted aggressively enough as they were being informed of these allegations. There was one call to be made when they were informed. Immediately. To state police.”

The Scranton Times-Tribune echoed the point that “Penn State’s obligation hardly ends with the legal process.”

There are a couple exceptions to this set of newspapers who stepped up and addressed our state’s highest and mightiest public university, though—as of this writing, there’s not a peep about PSU amongst the editorials in the Lancaster or Reading newspapers.

If you so much as suspect that a Pennsylvania child is being abused, call ChildLine at 800-932-0313.

More about Penn State football on
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