Friday, April 25, 2008

Fast work

Yesterday afternoon I noticed that equipment had been moved into position near the old Second Ward School to get ready to demolish the empty green house beside it on Second Avenue.

demolition site on 2nd Ave in TarentumThis morning I saw that the house had already been brought down.

This is part of a very positive development for Tarentum. The former school building was sold last month to Rabkin Dermatopathology Laboratory.

The vacant house was purchased for demolition so that the laboratory would have adequate parking, always at a premium in Tarentum.

So Tarentum has a new business coming to town, and one that may generate some medical synergy with the presence of Blackburn's Physicians Pharmacy. Tarentum is not just a town with a number of doctor's offices, but it is a town to which doctors look for a number of needed services.

And there is now one less vacant house in town.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

2008 Tarentum Skatepark closure

I am feeling very disappointed right now. On Saturday, Tarentum's Earth Day Cleanup went so well, with about 80 volunteers helping to clean up the litter in town.

Then on Tuesday someone told me that he had seen a lot of litter around the skatepark and had told the young people inside that they needed to get the mess cleaned up.

Yesterday afternoon I had some time to check out what was happening at the park, and was very dismayed by what I found. There was litter inside and outside the park. Even before I got out of my car I could see that there had been damage to the fence. When I walked over to the gate I saw the sign that the park was closed.


I started picking up some of the litter outside the park. A few minutes later some young people arrived, hoping to use the park, and they were disappointed to see that the park was closed. Against my advice a couple of the young children climbed over the fence to clean up the litter that was inside the park. In their minds they were doing a good thing by picking up the litter (which they were), but eventually I convinced them that they were also trespassing and needed to get out of the park.

I learned from a groundskeeper at Dreshar Stadium that "men in suits" had gone to the park that morning and were upset about what they found, and that the lockout had begun that morning.

No one seems to know who did the damage or spread the litter. Perhaps the cameras on the park will show something.

It saddens me that the local young people will be without a decent recreational facility because of the actions of unknown persons.

photo of damage to the fence at the Tarentum Skateboard Park

photo of damage to the fence at the Tarentum Skateboard Park

photo of damage to the fence at the Tarentum Skateboard Park

photo of graffiti on the sign at the Tarentum Skateboard Park

photo of graffiti on the sign at the Tarentum Skateboard Park

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Life without Florida tomatoes

I'm giving some consideration to this statement from Senator Dick Durbin (D-Il)
"If Florida tomato growers can't live with workers being paid a decent wage, then I can live without tomatoes from Florida on my hamburgers."
Except I have been thinking about all the ways in which I consume tomatoes beyond using them as a condiment on hamburgers.

And I do think that I can live without Florida tomatoes.

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What the USDA won't tell you

USDA does not endorse any products, services, or organizations.

So the USDA won't tell you that the ham loaf dinner at Central Presbyterian Church is delicious, or that eating ham loaf is the patriotic thing to do, or that with an appropriate level of activity and the right dietary choices a ham loaf dinner can be among the steps for a healthier you.

The USDA has developed twelve different personalized food pyramids depending on your age and level of activity. Visit and find the pyramid that is right for you.
Then make your plans to attend the Ham Loaf Dinner at Central Presbyterian Church on Saturday, May 3, from 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM.

Based on your food pyramid, plan your exercise and diet for May 3 so that you can enjoy the delicious ham loaf.

The second ham loaf dinner of the year at Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum will feature the traditional menu of ham loaf, parsley potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, apple sauce, and an array of cakes and pies. $7.50 for adults and $3.75 for children 12 and under. Take-out and delivery are available.

Advance tickets sold by April 26 will be $6 for adults and $3 for children under 12. Call (724) 224-9220 if you want to purchace advance tickets.

Central Presbyterian Church is located at 305 Allegheny Street, Tarentum, PA.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The week that was

The past week turned out to be a very busy one, with major events that included Tarentum's first Earth Day Clean-up, and a presbytery meeting.

A major accomplishment of the week for me was mastering the route between Tarentum and the part of Verona where the Seneca Place Nursing Home is located. The trip is supposed to be only 12 miles, but there are some tricky opportunities to make wrong turns that can add 5 to 10 miles to the trip. What a sense of accomplishment I had when I finally figured it out and could make the trip without getting lost! And then Janet K- was transferred back to a hospital that I already knew how to find perfectly well.

Local Obama headquarters in the center of TarentumWith the Pennsylvania Primary coming Tuesday the 22nd I've had to deal with an increasing number of political telemarketers calling me at home to promote their candidates. (Who hasn't?) But a neat discovery I made on Thursday morning explained the appearance of numerous Obama signs in the neighborhood around the church. It seems that the local Obama headquarters is right across Third Avenue from Central Presbyterian Church.

I think they made a good choice of location in the town that is the crossroads of the Alle-Kiski Valley. Their HQ is only a block and a half from a Port Authority bus stop at the corner of Corbet and Fourth. As I have gone to and from the church over the last few days I've seen volunteers carrying campaign materials as they prepare to take the bus to other nearby areas. I don't know if Hillary even has a local headquarters. Maybe she thinks she doesn't need one now that she has the endorsement of Tarentum Mayor James E. Wolfe and Lower Burrell Mayor Donald L. Kinosz.

The meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery on Thursday felt long even though it actually got out almost on time. A major item of business was the settlement with the Memorial Park Presbyterian Church. Although some in the presbytery felt we should continue to defend ourselves in civil court against MP's lawsuit, in the end the presbytery voted to allow Memorial Park to withdraw their "clear title" suit and be dismissed.

We also learned that a local group is going to distribute a photograph of the Steelers praying, with a scripture portion attached. It'll be a true collectible for all the local fans.

The Earth Day Cleanup in Tarentum on Saturday was a great success. Tarentum had never before held a day when the borough encouraged everybody to get out and clean up the litter in town. The weather cooperated and volunteers (some of whom were from outside Tarentum) turned out all over town. The presence of so many volunteers helping with the litter was an extra motivation to residents to take a little extra care of the places where they lived.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My quandary about Burger King and tomatoes

I didn't participate in the Taco Bell boycott.

I didn't threaten to boycott McDonald's.

Now that the Campaign for Fair Food is focusing its attention on Burger King, I would be likely to act as I have in the past, except for one fact: Burger King doesn't want my business.

Screenshot from Burger King website showing no Burger King Restaurants at this addressBurker King has closed its stores in the area so threats to boycott would be especially empty.

The dispute between the Campaign for Fair Food and the fast food chains has always struck me as highly triangulated. The actual parties (at least in my understanding) are the tomato pickers and their employers, but the Campaign's strategy has been to threaten boycotts against the restaurant chains that purchase the tomatoes.

It would be hypocrisy for me to go to economic war against the corporate purchasers of tomatoes when I make my own small-scale purchasing decisions in the same way they make their large-scale decisions.

When the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was putting pressure on Taco Bell, I continued to eat there, and I communicated with the chain as a customer to tell them that if they reached an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, that would enhance the value to me of patronizing their restaurants.

When McDonald's was in the cross-hairs of the Campaign, I made the same kind of communication, while continuing to patronize their restaurants.

But now that I am living where Burger King has closed their restaurants, I have no standing as a loyal customer. What am I to do?

The recent dealings with Burger King have brought to light new information about the actual parties to the dispute. It seems that there is an organization of tomato growers called the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. This cartel (they call themselves a "cooperative") has an amazing amount of power over the wages the growers in Florida are allowed to pay. It has even interfered with the fair agreements that Yum Corporation and McDonald's reached with the CIW.

Is there any reason why I should not simply boycott Florida tomatoes?

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A new invention with a local origin

Today's Valley News Dispatch has an interesting article about a creative new product from a company in New Kensington. A press release last week announced Monday's prototype launch. Prototypes are going to be tested by the Westmoreland County Sheriff's Department and the Arnold Police Department.

The Balla Base is intended to keep police officers and suspects safe while the police officer performs a search. The Balla Base is mounted to the trunk of a police car. It includes a bar to which a suspect can be handcuffed, a light source, and locked trays for holding weapons or evidence found during the search.

I like the idea of keeping the police safe during situations can change rapidly. It seems to me that this invention is a good start, but it creates new dangers for the person being detained and searched.

Once a person is handcuffed to the device, what (beyond proper training and procedures) is to stop the officer—or anyone else—from operating the patrol car? The Balla Base does not seem to have any safety features that would prevent the patrol car from running while the device is being used.

Most lawnmowers today have 'dead man' switches. Even the guns that police officers carry have safety switches. Shouldn't the Balla Base be connected to some form of ignition interlock for the safety of the person being searched?

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Secret meeting of Highlands school board calls for an extra hour of daylight savings time in the district

Families in the Highlands School District will need to remember to turn their clocks ahead Sunday for an extra hour of Daylight Savings Time. The District had to call so many two hour delays this winter that the only way to make up the time was by calling for an extra hour of daylight savings time.

The school board made the decision in a secret meeting, convened without notifying the Valley News Dispatch.

Superintendent of the Highlands School District Dr. Karol Galcik explained, "The Board probably should have called the Valley before we held the meeting, but it was an emergency. This was simply something we had to do to preserve state funding. The extra hours of school between now and the end of the year will make up for the shortfall we experienced during the winter months, while providing an enhanced educational experience for our students."

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