Thursday, April 28, 2011

Know Your Primary Candidate: Al Ambrosini

First of all, the Herald-Standard lately has been full of politically opinion pieces. Basically, I see them and think, "Blog jackpot!" Basically, there's plenty of good, interesting stuff being said and I plan to tackle all of it, since an hour and a half ago I finished all the coursework for my undergraduate career and am technically unemployed but did get a promising phone call this afternoon in the middle of said undergraduate coursework.

For now, though, I'm going to keep the political discourse going with commissioner candidate Al Ambrosini, even though most of the time you guys are obviously more interested in crazy crimes. I can't blame you. It's entertaining. Politics is draining.

Ambrosini wants change. Ambrosini says he wants "to take on powerful political forces because they've simply not gotten the job done," although "Getting things done" is also what Vicites and Zapotosky promise to do.

He also seems like he really wants to change, and seems friendly. He's also a genius for saying right on the front page of his site that he supports veterans. This is notable for two reasons.

First of all, Fayette County's big on veterans. We gave the world George C. Marshall and have a few war memorials. Veterans seem to be pretty well honored here.

Second, I've heard rumors that the Veterans Affairs office has had issues with Vicites and Zapotosky.

Other than that, Ambrosini wants to create jobs, ensure public safety (probably from ninjas), cut spending, work to tax Marcellus Shale, hold town meetings, and buy local. He also wants to help small businesses, which is great, but he also owns a small business. Just sayin'. That said, Fayette County's small businesses do have a tendency to fail - plenty of restaurants and stores have come and gone, although the reasons for that could be varied.

So he sounds pretty good, too. If I could vote in primaries, I'd be very torn right now. But I'm registered Independent. The choice is yours, Fayettenam!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ninja Vandal

I have had four different people contact me in some way about this, as compared to the average of zero, even on a big Fayette County news day. And the fact that people now hear Fayette County news, think of me, and anticipate a post is pretty awesome in a weird way. I can only hope that I live up to what are apparently great expectations for this post.

I'll be honest. My first reaction was a total lack of a reaction. I probably should've been surprised, and on some minuscule level I was, but just not enough. Almost like it's so ridiculous that it's not that ridiculous, so bad it's good, etc., to the point that I once again have to wonder if this is for real or if people are trying to make the news now, especially since something similar happened before in Scottdale (which, as a reminder, isn't in Fayette County). This even made CNN.

In case you haven't heard - and if you haven't then you probably haven't seen any newspaper, TV, or form of social media - a man dressed as a ninja damaged 11 cars and tried to stab a man. With a sword. And the man he tried to stab had a gun. Literally bringing a knife to a gun fight. Some cliches are true. But they're also cliches, so they suck.

The victim says that Ninja Man is going to get caught. "We have your blood; we have your fingerprints. You were a dumb criminal." Hey, that sounds kind of familiar...

It made Kiss, of course.

He's still out there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Those Pesky Budget Cuts: Penn State Fayette

Yes, I heard about the ninja. Among other things. I'll get to it. It's finals week. Please excuse my infrequent updates - back-to-back finals tomorrow morning starting at 8:30.


Among Corbett's ridiculous proposed cuts to education is a cut to Penn State, which wouuld lower its funding from $334 million to $165 million.

Penn State officials said the cuts would be "devastating" and would "spell catastrophic change for students and (the) state."

The President said, "A funding gap this large is going to fundamentally change the way we operate, from the number of students we can educate, to the tuition we must charge, to the programs we offer and the services we can provide, to the number of employees and the research we undertake."

Penn State has about 24 branch campuses, some of which may be forced to close. One is in Fayette County. It's our only college. We do have things like the Laurel Business Institute, but what if our only college closes, or tuition goes up? Students wouldn't have many options. Pitt is facing the same problems, not to mention cuts to the State System of Higher Education which would impact California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana, Slippery Rock and nine other universities. Then there are the already expensive Catholic universities, where you have to deal with things like no overnight guests of the opposite sex - which doesn't make sense to me because if you're gay you can totally be getting it on - and I've heard stories of kids getting fined for having condoms. Yeah, punish the kids for making smart sexual decisions. Great idea. The one perk is getting Holy Days off.

Penn State Fayette students are all wound up and will be putting up a fight, and the Herald-Standard found students that illustrate the fact that some of them have no other option. Tania Bosley is one, and said the campus is her only option because of a full-time job, family and evening classes. Plus she depends on state funding to help pay.

"If I lost that money due to all these cuts, it would put too much of a financial burden on me to continue," she told the paper. "And I also chose this campus because it was the most convenient. Going anywhere else just doesn't make sense for me, and I imagine that's the same for a lot of people in my situation. The reality is, if this campus would have to close, there would be a lot of people who would not seek higher education here in this area."

There are already a lot of people who don't. No one has to and you should do what makes you happy, but the numbers are interesting. We have 4,864 college students and only 11.5% of people aged 25 or older have a bachelor's degree or higher.

Once again, we're not being helped. We're being hurt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Herald-Standard Featuring 'Did You Know?' Quizzes

I don't know how long they've been doing this, but the Herald-Standard has been featuring short quizzes about interesting Fayette County facts. The latest one reveals:

  • Slaves existed in nearly all townships in the county, even though Pennsylvania was a free state. Awesome news. Sure to help improve that reputation people have been so concerned about.
  • There used to be 20 high schools, compared to the seven today. Another sign of the county's wealthy and populated past?
  • P. T. Barnum's circus rolled through a few times, and in 1917 the main tent collapsed and a woman was killed.
  • In 1905, the Uniontown high school principal embezzled money and fled to Europe, where he was arrested in England. We were making headlines for our crime even then!
  • Hula hoops were a big deal. Like, hugely popular. One hundred million sold in the county in 1958, and the State Theatre held a contest to find the best hula hooper.

Neat stuff. Really, the county is full of plenty of interesting stories. You just have to know where to look. Or hope that things settle down so I can start telling the ones I know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Know Your Primary Candidates: Vicites and Zapotosky

Vincent Vicites and Vincent Zapotosky are running as a team for Commissioner. The two Vincents. How cute. Their slogan? "Getting things done." It's simple. It says nothing about what they're actually going to get done. It's vague. I love it.

They do want "a better quality of life for Fayette County." That's good enough for me, even if pretty much everyone wants that.

Vicites wants "new job opportunities with increased economic development, completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, Connellsville Airport Runway Extension, County Business Park/infrastructure development, public transportation enhancement and maximum tourism promotion." That's right. Connellsville has an airport! Who uses it, you ask? I have no idea.

His website reads like a resume, but that's probably a good thing. He's laying it all out, and I like that. I also like his header: "Dedicated, Educated, Experienced." That's right, he's educated. Education is important. Education helps you do things like make county commissioner. I don't think Corbett got that memo when he decided cuts to education in the state budget were a great idea.

As for Zapotosky? He said, "I want to focus on Fayette County's future and making it a brighter one." And the article about their partnership is full of nothing but positivity and apparent sincerity about helping the Fayettenamese.

Notable accomplishments so far include a recent $4.1 million grant to help residents improve energy efficiency in their homes. They were also involved in the autism center at Highlands Hospital in Connellsville. Meanwhile, Uniontown Hospital is probably still a death trap.

They have been named in a lawsuit against the county that deals with property values and confuses me, to be honest, and seems like a whole bunch of chaos. And for some reason drags in the fact that some of the people involved are Facebook friends with each other. Stay classy, Fayette County.

But still, The Vinces sound promising and have gotten a lot of support already. Here's to hoping no false promises or trickery are involved. Like that time Corbett said he wouldn't raise taxes and technically didn't but screwed the school districts over so that they might have to. Good times.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Man Robs Gas Station with 2x4 Piece of Wood


A man, armed with only a 2x4, held up a gas station. He demanded money from the attendant, but the article doesn't say whether he got it or not. I'm hoping that the attendant wasn't threatened enough to give in. Sure, being smacked by a 2x4 will ruin your day, but it's not as bad as, oh, I don't know, the prospect of being shot by robbers who take their craft more seriously.

I've been blessed and have never had to work retail, but for those of you who have: A man walks in holding a 2x4 and demands cash money. How seriously do you take him? Do you keep him talking long enough to get some cops to show up? Laugh at him? Give in to his demands? Throw lit matches at his poorly chosen weapon?

Was he that desperate for money, or is he a pacifist robber? Is he the only man in Fayette County that doesn't own a gun?

I have so many unanswered questions.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Those Pesky Budget Cuts: Taxes

Back when Corbett was running for governor, he promised not to raise taxes. With this new budget proposal, he technically is sticking to that - but at what other expense?

No, Corbett isn't raising taxes, but he is cutting the funding for education, sending school districts back to levels of funding they were at a few years ago. To make up for the lost money, what are the districts going to have to do? Raise taxes. So Corbett looks good - at least for refusing to raise taxes and keeping promises - and the school districts are suddenly the bad guys, when they don't have much other choice. Keep in mind that while they did get stimulus money, they were told how to spend it.

Naturally, Fayette County residents are aware of this and are not pleased. Can Fayette County residents afford higher taxes? Certainly some, but not all. Not with 16.5% of residents living in poverty as of 2009. Not to mention the 18% with an income below the poverty level and the 7.7% below 50% of the poverty level. Or the 9.9% unemployment rate as of April 2010.

So if this goes through, what happens? Fayette County only stands to suffer even more. As I've said before, we need help. We're not getting it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Luck Be a Lady (at Nemacolin)

Nemacolin is getting a casino!

I'm excited. Now the Rivers in Pittsburgh doesn't have to bleed me dry (okay, so I only went once, but I still lost miserably). Plus a casino in the mountains is neat. Go mini-golfing, or to Woodland Zoo, then gamble.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board granted the resort casino license Thursday in a 6-1 affirmative vote. State Sen. Kasunic said it will add to the resort. It was also said that it'll bring more tourism to Nemacolin, but I don't think they need any help.

They'll be working with Isle of Capris Casinos Inc., who will fund the casino at an estimated cost of $50 million.

It will be added on to the already existing Wildside gaming center and will be called Lady Luck Nemacolin, which in my mind means Frank Sinatra will be playing really loud as soon as you walk in. She'll have 600 slot machines, 28 table games, a casual restaurant and lounge. I hope those slots include the Wizard of Oz ones the Rivers had that I didn't get to play because they were all taken. They were probably spitting out the cash money. Maybe I'd be a millionaire if one of them had been open.

Gettysburg is pretty excited, too - Nemacolin beat them for the license, and while gambling in the mountains is totally cool, gambling on a battlefield seems kind of wrong. Sure, Ft. Necessity is up in those mountains, too, but at least the casino won't be going in the fort or anything.

As for how Lady Luck will benefit the Nam, the county will get two percent of the revenue from the slots and one percent from the table games - an estimated $500,000 the first year, expected to reach $1.6 million by 2016 if the world doesn't end in 2012 as scheduled.

Oh, and jobs. Four hundred in the casino, 120 during construction, and 200 more for the resort. I'd rather work with puppies at Nemacolin Wooflands, but that's just me. Partly because in many cases, you can't gamble in a casino if you work there. Partly because I love puppies.

It could be 30-90 days before the license is actually received, and they'd like the casino up and running nine months after that. So would I. I'm ready when you are, Nemacolin.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Know Your Primary Candidate: Sean Lally

The municipal primary is on May 17, so I figure it would be wise to look into who some of these dudes are. Especially since, you know, they'll be running the county and stuff. We obviously need all the help we can get.

So first up is Democrat Sean Lally, who's running for re-election as Controller. He's unopposed.

According to him, his audits have lead to such changes as the discovery and abolishment of a discretionary spending account maintained by the prison, major changes at FACT in fiscal operations, and the recovery of county funds from a resident of New York who was found guilty of fraud. Recovering county funds is definitely a good thing. We need those funds. There are also now annual audits with tax collectors, so we're keeping track of our money. And he says he met all of his goals for his first term. Meeting goals is good.

The county had a $3 million surplus when he took office in 2008, and 2010 was also expected to end with a surplus. So while people in the county may be at poverty level, at least the county itself has some money.

For his second term, he wants to focus on "methods of cost reduction, departmental controls and efficiency of operations." Sounds good to me. Then again, what do I know? I'm a writing major.

There is one little issue, though: Lally was involved in a car accident in 2007, in which he left the scene before police arrived and had previously had two beers. He denied been drunk, but witnesses thought otherwise. Were these decisions wise? Clearly not. Does it matter if he's a good controller? I guess that depends on the unwise decisions you'll let your politicians get away with.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stop the Insanity!

First, I'd like to thank Justin for my pretty new banner. His blog is great, and I'd probably appreciate more if I actually cooked. Plus I'm not an omnivore. I'm also probably not very conscious. Like I said when he sent me the banner, I've hated all the ones I tried to make. Which isn't that much different from when I walk into capstone and announce before reading a piece that I don't know how I feel about it. At least I'm consistent.

So, minor controversy has erupted over Kiss FM keeping track of and mocking Fayette County's crazy news stories. Last year, they had 30 different stories and so far this year, they're up to about seven. Mikey was wondering if it should stop.

What happened was this: the Herald-Standard ran an article about Uniontown teacher layoffs - which probably should get its own post - and someone got a little cranky: "There is a radio station that is constantly making jokes of Fayette County. We are the laughingstock of southwestern Pennsylvania. Everybody needs to step up as a community and work together here. We need to stop filling pockets and scratching backs and step up."

I'm going to guess he doesn't know about me. Yet.

But his statement is obviously true. On top of that, Mikey got this request:

Which would be fair if Fayette County was rolling in happiness and cheer, but it's not.

I saw some positivity when I spent summers working as a stringer for the Herald-Standard: one of the hosts of Wild Kingdom did a fundraiser for a wildlife sanctuary (and it was the most fun I've ever had working in my life), middle school kids decorated murals to improve the bike trail, and a local man is going to climb Mt. Everest. I also covered lots of fairs. Lots of fairs that were running out of money. But even some of the positive stories are still laced with negativity. When the Leisenring General Store reopened, for example, it was after years of being vacant and needed tons of repairs, and is one of the only buildings left from when the mines were working. But most telling is the fact that in the doorway is a sign that says, "We now accept food stamps."

The Herald-Standard's website won't offer much, either. Sometimes, there will be a few good things. Today it's auctions and blood drives, but in between financial woes and deaths. Plus it's hard to keep up with the good when there's so much bad - even on this blog, there are so many things I'd like to post about that are really awesome, but I never get to them because someone commits some ridiculous crime first or bigger issues budget cuts and layoffs come up.

The great things people want to hear currently do not exist. If you want to improve the county's reputation, you have to improve the county, and laying off teachers in a county with a poverty rate of 16.5% with 18% earning below the poverty level isn't going to do it.

The problem isn't that we're being mocked. The problem is that our problems aren't being fixed - they're being added to.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Those Pesky Budget Cuts: School Districts

Really, there are probably a million things that could be said about Corbett's budget cuts and how they might impact Fayette County, so I'm going to be breaking it down. With ridiculous crime posts in between, because Fayette County refuses to settle down.

But let's start with Rep. Tim Mahoney's great idea to help save money - taking Fayette County's six school districts and turning them into one.

So that's making six separate school boards, administrators, business managers, etc. making all the decisions for all of Fayette County's over 40 public schools. Because, you know, one person could totally easily manage all of that, especially when dealing with the budgets. One person managing the money for that many schools. Nothing could possibly go wrong! Clearly Mahoney has no idea how much the people in charge have to do to make one district run, let alone one superdistrict.

He is right that "we can't just keep flushing money down the commode." The thing is, there are some misconceptions over where some of this money goes. I'm having a hard time tracking it down, but apparently there was an interview with Corbett where they examined school district budgets and seemed to be questioning the use of stimulus money, when in fact the stimulus money could only be used in certain ways and for certain things. So it would seem that the politicians making all of these monetary decisions don't actually know much about how the money is being spent in the first place.

The other unfortunate thing is the fact that no matter what the needs of the Fayette County schools may have been - and God only knows exactly what that would be - the business managers couldn't put the money there. Plus the money had to be spent quickly to create and preserve jobs, and now we might be looking at teacher layoffs. Not to mention that consolidating the administrations would mean district employees losing their jobs, which Mahoney at least realizes. How dare someone fear losing their job!

The good news is that this doesn't mean schools would close. Except, oh wait, maybe some small elementary schools. No big deal.

I understand we have to save money, but at what other cost to the county? Mahoney's proposal alone would cost jobs, make the existing jobs even harder, and possibly eliminate some schools. Surely there are other areas in the county where money is being wasted, but instead of looking around for alternatives politicians want to cut one of the most important things we have - education.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Where to Hide from Police

What's a man to do when the cops come for him for kicking in his ex-girlfriend's door and throwing rocks at her?

Hide in the trunk of his car, of course!

At least he was creative, I guess. That tends to be the only positive in Fayette County stories lately.

Note that it was another all too common domestic dispute. Parents of Fayette County: please start teaching your children that violence is not okay. These things happen again and again because people around here think this is acceptable behavior. It's not. And I'm not sure if rocks are better than frying pans, but it doesn't really matter because Fayette County, seriously. SERIOUSLY. Stop the nonsense. This is part of the reason we have such a bad reputation, but we'll discuss that a little more later.

So, we've had a guy take off into the woods to get away from police and now this. If you were on the run in Fayettenam, where would you hide? I'd go for the cliffs of Caspsaris (not to be confused with Winds of Casparis) or one of the little islands in the Mighty Yough.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Flood Coming? Throw a Party!

Sometimes, when it's not ankle-deep, the Youghiogheny does flood. Actually, it can be pretty impressive, and once when I was little they sent my dad's National Guard unit down to pile sandbags on the banks. But some people just don't care.

Unfortunately, I can't embed the video, but it's right here. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guess What Someone Stole Again?

If you guessed anything but drugs, you're wrong. What else would we steal? Sure, sometimes people steal purses - like this one time late one night after dance class when one of the mothers left her purse on the front seat of her car when she came to get her daughter and even as a child I thought she was dumb - but a lot of times, it's drugs.

It's bad enough when they're stolen directly from the pharmacies, but sometimes that's just not good enough. Why steal from Rite Aid when you can steal from a defenseless little old lady? Who cares if she needs her medication, right?

That's exactly what happened in Smithfield recently.

If I ever end up with a home nurse, I'm going to be one of those crazy cranky old ladies who's paranoid and shouts obscenities at everyone and accuses them of stealing. I won't be able to help it. I'm a product of my environment.

For those interested, the pills were oxycodone. The last time, it was vicodin. Place bets for Fayette County's next stolen prescription drug now!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fire Extinguishers and Redstone Creek

In the midst of sugar glider houses of fun, even more excitement was had in Fayette County when a man damaged a police car with a fire extinguisher then jumped into Redstone Creek, where he threatened to kill himself.

This is just my guess, but he was probably on drugs. He was taken to Highlands Hospital for a mental evaluation. He was originally at Uniontown, then they moved him, which was probably for the best.

People in this county are going to start gaining a reputation for being crazy and erratic if this nonsense keeps up. Oh, wait...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Geibel Catholic April Fools

Who knew my Catholic high school could have such a wonderful sense of humor, and even play off of the gator mascot, old inside jokes, and pranks on freshmen?

From Geibel's website today, as pointed out by my friend Leah:

We used to joke about taking the elevator to the third-floor pool - the school had two floors, no elevator, and certainly no pool. We could not afford such luxuries!

Seeing Geibel administration having a little fun now is nice. The previous one wouldn't have allowed it. Kids these days are even allowed to wear flip-flops and shorts and grow beards. The horror! Our principal had a beard and said something like, "I make the rules, I don't follow them. I earned this beard." Which is great way to get teenagers to respect your authority. But the great mystery is what exactly one does to earn a beard, since any dude with enough facial hair can accomplish this task.

In the spirit of April Fool's Day, I must share what is possibly the most infamous Geibel story. I'd say prank, but I don't even know if this was one.

Dairy Queen is within walking distance from Geibel (and suddenly all alumni know which story I am going to tell). Of course many of us were there all the time, as were students from nearby Connellsville High School. Geibel got out a few minutes earlier than Connellsville, but the point is that any Dairy Queen shenanigans could've been accomplished by students from either school, not to mention the countless characters of Fayette County. But Geibel was always blamed.

One morning, our principal and his earned beard decided to make an announcement. Trouble at Dairy Queen the afternoon before. What sort of trouble? A fight, perhaps? Thievery? Rowdiness? In the words of the principal, "Someone deposited feces on the Dairy Queen floor."

Everyone laughed and laughed. No one remembers what else he said, but it was probably something about representing the school mixed in with some threats of legal action. And he and the beard he worked so hard for were respected even more, I'm sure.

If a Geibel kid was responsible, I don't know who. Which means no rumors spread, no one bragged, and I've heard nothing since. Which means it probably wasn't a Geibel kid.

But just in case - keep the pranks classy, Geibel. You know, staged food fights and human barriers and Marco Polo in the halls.