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Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm •  Published: October 15, 2014
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Legislators need to start thinking outside the box. Maybe they could hold session days on Thursdays or just be in session for more weeks.

It's clear that the current schedule isn't working, and changes are in order.

— Beaver County Times

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FREE SPEECH VS. COUNTY POLICY

We could use more cops like Central Bucks police chief James Donnelly. In fact, we could use more cops like Donnelly in the government. We're thinking county government. And here's why.

When Donnelly was summoned to the county courthouse in Doylestown last week to remove a couple of stubborn activists from the sidewalk, Donnelly didn't show up club in hand. He showed up hand extended and politely greeted activists James Babb and Andrew Rumbold.

After a brief and uneventful discussion, which was captured on video, Donnelly left. And the activists, who were handing out leaflets about the rights of jurors prior to Donnelly's arrival, remained at their public post — fliers and rights intact.

Questioned by our county reporter about his decision, this is what the chief said: "Clearly, the public sidewalk is public property. County policy does not trump the U.S. Constitution."

Amen!

The policy to which Donnelly referred had been recited by Bucks County Security Director Christopher Daley for the activists' benefit and coincided with a threat to call police if the two didn't play by the rule. And the rule, according to county policy, is that demonstrators and the like are to conduct their business at the corner of Court and Main streets, about a two-minute walk from the main courthouse entrance. In other words, pretty much out of the flow of courthouse foot traffic. And likely out of the view and minds of anybody entering or exiting the courthouse, including county officials whose offices can mostly be found in the courthouse.

So if the point of a demonstration — or, in this case, leaflet dispersal — is to garner attention and get people thinking about whatever cause the activists are behind, the county-mandated site for that activity is counterproductive to the cause. Maybe officials didn't have that in mind when they banished activism to an off-site location. But we suspect they did.

Either way, Chief Donnelly, in our view, was correct in allowing the activists to remain on the "public sidewalk." And county officials are correct in their decision to now review the policy. We believe the outcome of that review should be a change in policy, a change that won't infringe on the First Amendment right to free speech, as the current policy does.

Look, we get the concerns about security. Everybody does. We live in a world brimming with danger. And it is not uncommon to overreach in trying to cope with that danger. The policy banning free speech from the "public sidewalk on public property," as Chief Donnelly put it, is a clear example of overreach. It is now up to county officials to rein it in.

As they review the policy, we encourage them to do so with a copy of the U.S. Constitution in hand. If they don't have one, they might want to call a certain local police chief. He seems to know it pretty well.

— The (Doylestown) Intelligencer

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HELP DRIVERS SEE THE LIGHT

There they sit every morning and evening — long lines of cars backed up at red lights along busy stretches of local commuter routes, often in deference to empty cross-streets.

Commuters to Scranton, especially, have been frustrated by the timing of lights in a new downtown system that works well along some streets but poorly along others.

And across the region, an array of aged traffic signals from town to town present an array of issues. Timing is suspect at some, daylight visibility at others and so on.

Perhaps because traffic signals are such a common feature of daily life, many drivers don't realize what goes into one. Each is unique, engineered to its location. And each includes much more infrastructure than is obvious by the signal itself, so that the average cost to install one is about $200,000.

Upgrading signals, then, is an expensive proposition, but not as expensive as not modernizing them. According to TRIP, a national nonprofit traffic research organization, commuting delays and congestion costs Northeast Pennsylvania drivers about $158 million a year in fuel, lost time and related costs. And replacing a signal is a far less expensive way to improve traffic flow than other remedies, such as lane-widening.

So there is a substantial economic upside to keeping the traffic moving. And due to a new state transportation law that will produce substantial new revenue, PennDOT has launched a new grant program to expedite the modernization of traffic signals. It will split the cost of replacements with local governments in an effort to replace as many signals as possible, as quickly as possible.

Local governments with signals at high-volume intersections should seize the opportunity to improve traffic flow, thus the environment and the local economy.

— The (Scranton) Times-Tribune

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EARLY PRESENT FROM FISH PANEL

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is trying to lure back more people to fishing.

In an unprecedented move, the commission has lowered the price of residential and nonresidential fishing licenses for the 2015 season by $1, beginning Dec. 1.

It also has lowered the cost of 3-year and 5-year licenses by $3 and $5 respectively. But there is a catch. Those licenses must be purchased in December.

The discounts will apply to gift vouchers for annual licenses purchased throughout 2015 and to multiyear licenses purchased in December.

"We believe the price cut will catch the attention of many people who haven't fished in a few years or who have wanted to try fishing," John Arway, the commission's executive director, said.

At a time when the cost of just about everything is rising, this news comes as a pleasant surprise.

"The price of a fishing license hasn't increased in nearly a decade, since 2005," Arway said.

"Fishing has always been an affordable and fun family activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. If we can capture the attention of potential new and returning anglers, we know they'll be surprised at how inexpensive it is to fish and how easy it is to enjoy the sport."

Currently, the commission sets aside Memorial Day and July Fourth as fish-for-free events in the commonwealth. A license is not needed to cast a line on those two days, which is well-received by state residents.

The commission and groups that work hand in hand with it are trying to make fishing more attractive in the Greater Johnstown region. In the past year, Weaver Run, which meanders past Windber Stadium, has been added to the list of state-approved, stockable trout waters. And Quemahoning Creek is undergoing a transformation to make it more fishable through the addition of habitat such as root balls, boulders and other riprap.

About 850,000 licenses are purchased in Pennsylvania every year. However, a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 showed that 1.1 million people 16 years old and older had either fished in the state in 2010 or planned to fish in 2011.

"This 250,000 gap and the anglers who do not purchase a license every consecutive year represent a segment of potential customers who may better recognize the value of a license at a discounted rate," said board President Norm Gavlick.

At the discounted rate, an annual fishing license for a resident is $21.70.

For nonresident, the price would be $51,70. A three-year resident license would cost $61.70, three-year nonresident, $151.70; five year resident, $101.70; and five year nonresident, $251.70.

If you have an angler, or several, in your family, you may want to take advantage of the lower cost to purchase fishing licenses as Christmas presents.

"We will actively promote the multiyear discount during the holiday season as the perfect gift for former and would-be anglers on everyone's shopping lists," Gavlick said.

— The (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat