In case you missed it: this week's best reads from Pa. cities
The week began with President Trump’s blocked immigration ban. No, wait, a judge unblocked it. Another one blocked it. Then an appeals court said the travel ban should not go into effect. There was a question ignited by a Trump accusation: has the media underreported terrorist attacks? Truth or alternative fact? There was an historic confirmation vote, and another confirmation debate censored. And through it all, Frederick Douglass kept on doing amazing work from the grave.
These days, the news — Trump-related and statewide — changes as quickly as you can say “Bowling Green Massacre.” How can one possibly keep up?
We’re here to help.
On February 4th, a federal judge in Washington blocked President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel for people from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria and Yemen. On Monday, a long and confusing journey ended happily for Sarah Assali and other family members, who had been headed to Allentown but were sent back to Syria when the ban went into effect.
By mid-week, three federal appellate judges debated the ban, while Trump denounced arguments against the order as “disgraceful.” Thursday night, an appeals court ruled against Trump's executive order, saying the travel ban should not go into effect while courts consider whether it goes too far in limiting visitors to the U.S. The broad legal question is whether the president acted within his authority with the order or if it amounts to a discriminatory ban against Muslims. Stay tuned.
Imagine the surprise of journalists far and wide when the president also claimed Monday that the press intentionally does not cover terrorism. As a local example, the administration cited the shooting of Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett. Philly.com and other outlets countered that the attacks were covered extensively — the Inquirer and Daily News combined for 70 stories on the slain officer.
By Tuesday, the national and local news cycle churned nonstop. Taking a conciliatory tone, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, interviewed by CNN’s Jake Tapper, said she “regretted tremendously” shaming the press for not covering the “Bowling Green Massacre,” a terrorist event that Conway alleged happened, but in fact, did not.
In Harrisburg, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a $32.3 billion budget proposal that was noticeably austere, and balanced largely on about $2 billion in efficiency savings. There is less for local school districts than in the previous two years. The budget included a fee proposal that communities patrolled full-time by Pennsylvania state police — about half of the state's municipalities — would pay $25 per resident for the service.
Betsy DeVos’ nomination to Secretary of Education was sealed with a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence. But despite all the public hand-wringing over DeVos — who has never attended a public school nor sent her children to one — we learned there are certain things that she can and cannot do as Secretary of Education, and talked about how here actions might affect local schools.
Later that evening, as U. S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Ma, condemned Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general by reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, Republican senators invoked the obscure Rule 19, voting to silence Warren, saying the letter impugned Sessions. No matter. Warren and the Dems immediately took to social media. Warren read King’s letter on Facebook and attracted two million views, and the hashtag #letlizspeak trended on Twitter. Sessions was confirmed Thursday afternoon.
A sanctuary cities discovery
Also in Harrisburg Tuesday, a sanctuary cities bill cleared the Senate. The bill would limit state funding to sanctuary cities. Cities with sanctuary status are those in which local law enforcement officials in some situations refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Washington, the prime sponsor of the bill, stressed his proposal pertains only to "undocumented immigrants who are in police custody pursuant to a lawful arrest. Victims, witnesses and individuals reporting crimes — they're not affected."
Speaking of sanctuary cities, local politicians and residents in Bedford County, which voted overwhelmingly for Trump, were stunned to discover Wednesday that they share sanctuary city status with places like Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.
“Everyone here was saying, ‘What?’ ” County Sheriff Charwin Reichelderfer said. “It was utter confusion.”
We can’t end the week without a little more confusion, this time surrounding a civil rights icon. How can we forget the president kicking off Black History Month by paying homage (?) to 19th century abolitionist, author and activist Frederick Douglass as “an example of someone who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.”
Whether Trump actually knows who Douglass is, is a matter of debate for another time. We’ve already had enough acrimony for one week.
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Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis — and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, Web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.