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The View from the Valley

An Exploration into Town-Gown Relations


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EcoAction Fights For Rockview Conservation

Our club, EcoAction, has joined forces with many other organizations including the Moshannon Group of the Sierra Club to battle for responsible ownership of the Spring Creek Canyon lands, currently owned by the State Correctional Institution at Rockview.

Rockview is selling off large tracts of land that it currently owns, the largest portion of which is set to go to Penn State University. One quick Google search will yield numerous results showing the protests to the land transfer. The main goal of all organizations involved is to transfer the land to an entity that will maintain the ecosystem of the Canyon and allow public access to the area.

The legislation regarding this land transfer is Pennsylvania House Bill 1657. The University has offered a sum of about $900/acre for 1,124.19 acres. The Pennsylvania Game Commission also has interest in the property and is willing to pay near $1,800/acre. Although it is unclear exactly what the University intends to do with the potentially acquired lands, they have definitely stated that it will be used for agricultural research.

The Game Commission has shown interest in reforesting the land and maintaining it as State Game Lands. The Game Commission currently has a sum of money in an escrow account due to damages incurred on State Game Lands 176 near the University Park Airport by Penn State agricultural spraying. The money has to be used to purchase equivalent lands within 60 miles of the damaged property. The Spring Creek Canyon lands provide a quite preferable substitute. A summary of the issue and a map that shows the potentially allocated lands is available on Clearwater Conservancy’s website.

The land is considered by many to be prime real estate, due to the fact that it borders and surrounds I-99 and a large interchange on the route. The Spring Creek Canyon is particularly known for its biodiversity and fishing resources. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, after studying the region, stated “Spring Creek Valley contains some of the most intact examples of limestone dependent natural community types to be found anywhere in Centre County, and these communities host a number of plant and animal species that are extremely uncommon in Pennsylvania, several of which are globally rare.”

The Canyon’s namesake stream, Spring Creek, is a world-renowned wild brown trout fishery. The brown trout are completely self sustaining and very abundant. This is just one of the resources that stand to be lost if water qualities are affected. Currently, many people use the land for other recreational purposes, such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and dog walking.

If the land is used for agricultural testing by the University, sediment, chemicals, manure, and fertilizer will flow into the canyon and cause damage to the unique ecosystem. Chemical and fertilizer runoffs have been shown to cause degraded land and water qualities. The University has a history of affecting lands surrounding its agricultural fields, as can be seen by the fact that the Game Commission is currently searching the area for a suitable substitute for its damaged game lands.

Many different arguments can be proposed regarding this issue. I personally have spoken to many community members who have not even heard mention of the land transfer or its consequences. Our club, along with many other organizations, is trying to make it known to the public that this land transfer is set to occur.

We believe that if people do hear about what can happen, then they will speak out against it. In conclusion, when the issue boils down to simplicity, the true question is: What will be more important in the future, another expanse of cropland or a unique ecosystem that is open to the public?

Benjamin Tutolo
EcoAction Public Relations Officer

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PSU Prof knows his stuff…

I enjoyed this piece.

Especially this part:

“If every state in the nation tolled all roads, it would be like a tax on all commerce,” he said. “It would reduce economic activity, retard growth and cost jobs. In economics, we call it ‘dead weight loss.’”
Swan said eastern Pennsylvania – from Harrisburg northeast to Allentown and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – is seen as the distribution capital of the country, because of the state’s network of interstate highways.
“The reason for (being a center of distribution) is that it is too expensive to operate in New Jersey,” Swan said. “If there were tolls, it would cause companies to go elsewhere for their warehouse locations.”

Maybe we can get him on The LION 90.7fm’s Radio Free Penn State public affairs talk show?

Another interesting tidbit.

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Smoking guns…

I had a good time writing Follow the Money.

…and so today, i enjoyed the piece on SOS and in the Collegian about how the FAB is essentially being killed. I won’t regurgitate my comments on its timely death, as i already said i don’t think it changes the basis of a case for suing PSU, (you can check that here if you missed it).

So anyway, a lot of people misinterpreted “Follow the Money” as being partisan or anti-leftist, when in fact it was about violation of a higher principle. From my post:

Make no mistake about what I am saying here… the problem isn’t with the SAF funding liberal causes, its with the SAF funding liberal causes EXCLUSIVELY.

…but the demagogues and charlatans out there wanted to make it a left/right debate and discredit my post, rather than deal with the higher principle at stake i was writing about.

Specifically, the higher principle was first, the notion of student control, and secondly, the notion of equal opportunity to funds. forgive me if illustrating the facts of the matter make it appear partisan, its hardly my fault the FAB funded liberal stuff (or non-political stuff) exclusively, not even allowing anything else to apply. so again, i won’t rehash that post here, but it ties into the point i want to make today.

I read this in the collegian.

and again i was amazed at how so many people can miss the point. the “board of editors” wrote the piece, they are:

Kelly Anthony, Ian Brown, Marissa Carl, Terry Casey, Julia Chapman, Katie Dvorak, Adrienne Fedyna, Kristen Huth, Devon Lash, Katie Maloney, Kelsey Maxin, Lauren McCormack, Andrew McGill, Dan Serpiello, Rossilynne Skena, Leslie Small, Nathan A. Smith, Andrew Staub, Halle Stockton and Billy Wellock

…and its anyones guess as to who above is actually responsible for that tripe. but it started an email exchange i will copy and paste:

I wrote:

I would love to know what geniuses wrote this article:

{link to article}

I guess you are unaware that michael moore got paid huge fees by the DSS (aka psu admin and their student lackeys) to stuff his fat face with twinkees while Gallagher came free to raise funds for vets? 100% charity on his part?

Perhaps you are unaware that when howard dean came here, also paid by the dss, that he told the audience, or rather, commanded them, to vote for kerry, statements which are strictly FORBIDDEN by the DSS’s own rules!

How can a board of opinion, made up of so many people, be ignorant of this? How is it no one there on this board has a conservative viewpoint?

DSS should be dissolved. Students, and student groups should bring in speakers via the SAF, (that they alone should control), and that’s it. That way the University proper would not face any jeopardy for whoever comes, or whatever they may say.

and a friend of mine corrected me:

I would like to correct a few points – which in no way detracts from MrSinatra’s points but rather bolsters them.

Moore was not a DSS speaker, he was a College Democrats speaker. What was interesting was that UPAC made an exception for the Dems and allocated honoraria money for Moore in an amount that was way of above the speaker’s cap that UPAC sets for all student orgs. That given year it’s doubtful they would have granted the same exception to an ideologically opposing speaker.

Gallagher didn’t come to promote his movie, he came to debate Moore, (which Moore’s people declined), and to raise money for vets. Of course he promoted his cause. The point is, an administratively-advised UPAC made exceptions to their own rules to fund Moore, while the same administration simply allowed Penn State Young Americans for Freedom to reserve venue space to host Gallagher. How convenient for PSU, some (non-admin-advised) students here took it upon themselves to bring balance to the night, (and without even costing anymore SAF money to do it).

On to the DSS:

Twas the night before the election, and Howard Dead, gave precisely a stump speech in Eisenhower for John Kerry. He admitted that he didn’t care, he’s “here to tell us to vote for Kerry”. This is not just a violation of DSS’ rules, but more importantly it’s a violation of the Student Activity Fee Board’s and Student Activity Fee handbook’s rules governing how the fee can and can’t be used. Dean should have forfeited his honoraria, as per the contract. PSU should have demanded it or sued him for it, not just to remain honest, but to keep themselves legally protected for how they disburse student fees in light of their own rules. The student body should have had his honoraria in SAF money reimbursed back into the DSS’ account. So what happened?

an administratively-advised DSS looked the other way.
an administratively-advised UPAC, who funded the DSS back then, looked the other way.
The same administrator(s) who coincidentally advised BOTH UPAC AND DSS, looked the other way.
PSU looked the other way.
The Collegian looked the other way.

Liberals cheered, and Conservatives were too busy complaining about Moore.

Students read headlines about grandiose speeches, and letters from conservatives complaining, and remained oblivious.

(Incidentally, the DSS’ “counter balance” to Dean, was to present Bob Novak 2 whole months before the election, who gave a bland down-the-middle analysis of the election along with his own jabs at George Bush. It was certainly not the blatant partisan stump speech of Dean, who also vilified Bush).

Why is this timely now?

Now that FAB is dissolving, that leaves big-ticket items like DSS needing to be funded once again directly by UPAC.

The Collegian would far better serve the student body as a whole if it looked specifically into how equity is or is not given to certain viewpoints on this campus, rather than making some broad sweeping generalizations about how everything is all fine and dandy as long as the speech is plugging the next “leader of the free world”.

Just my humble opinion

and i replied:

Thx for the correction. I actually thought it may be the dems via upac as opposed to DSS, but I couldn’t remember so I just kept it simple. Fact is, functionally there is hardly any difference [certainly not ethically or morally] based on what you wrote below, but facts are facts and I appreciate the correction.

Other than that, I don’t think anything else I said was incorrect.

I also fully support your take and views on these events, and I hope the board listens to what you said.

-mrsinatra

Ps. What would the collegian have said if Gallagher hadn’t come for free?

so then it occurred to me…

this whole ridiculous issue tied to my Follow the Money post as well as the news the FAB is dead.

how so?

well, first of all, this dean incident happend PRIOR to the FAB. so it is directly applicable to todays current post-FAB upac/saf system. in other words, the lesson we have to learn from this directly applies to what we have today, here and now.

secondly, we need to remember that upac is almost entirely appointed, not elected, by administrators. there is no student control, only a cabal of proxies, the admin call the shots. (obviously, upac should be 100% democratically elected)

so what did admin do? they changed the rules to afford Dean’s costs, and then violated the rules of the DSS, UPAC, and the SAF (as well as state and federal laws and supreme court precedent) by not getting that money back once dean made his appearance into a blatant political solicitation of votes for Kerry.

why did PSU do nothing?

is there any clearer example of abuse? is this not a smoking gun?

its bad enough the admin proxy exempted him from honoraria caps, but once he violated the rules, to unabashedly advocate for a presidential candidate against all the rules and laws regarding using SAF money, ie. MANDATORY STUDENT FEES, psu admin should have done as my friend wrote above, and demanded the money back.

their failure to do so just goes to show how corrupt the system, as it is TODAY, is.

call them fees, call them taxes, but once again money taken from students under the lying guise of “student funds” is used by PSU admin to promote a leftist presidential candidate. this is a violation of principle of the highest order, not b/c dean is on the left, but b/c he is a PARTISAN and this money can NOT be used for partisan causes!

it not only illustrates the institutional bias that allows student fees to be used in a unilaterally partisan way, but it illustrates the even larger problem of total lack of student control over monies we should have 100% ownership of!

psu violated its own rules, and then did nada about it.

and not about some small stupid thing, but about a flagrant presidential political stump speech on the eve of an election!

somehow i don’t think even the liberal justices would look too kindly upon that.

this isn’t a left/right issue. it would be just as wrong if it had been bob dole here saying vote for bush. (although personally, if that had happened, i think the university would have acted, but thats just my guess)

the point is there is a higher principle at stake regarding how the SAF is supposed to be handled and who should control it. the time for admin appointed lackeys has long passed, we need student control via democratically elected students, and all students need equal opportunity of access to the funds.

and the collegian should know better.

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WVIA gets it, why not WPSU?

One wonders why the good folks at WPSU don’t get the I-80 issue?  Perhaps their ivory towers have helicopter landings at the top?

I surfed their site a bit, and didn’t find much on I-80, well, nothing really.  Now, maybe they’ve had it there before, or maybe done shows before, but there’s nothing I could see now.  Or maybe they simply have never covered it?  One can’t help but wonder why?  What has moved it off the front burner?  Scholastic scrimmage?  To the best of graham crackers knowledge?

WVIA on the other hand, gets it.

http://www.wvia.org/tv/stateofpa.html

Not only are they doing a show, but it’ll have audience participation!  Now THATS public television.

They even had a little blog feedback and I of course gave us a plug.

WPSU, wakeup…  you need to talk turkey, not PSU PR.

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Corman: Feds reject I80 tolls

In typical politico style, the State Gov’t has planned all its budgets and so on for the future as if the tolls were already a ‘done deal.’

Not so fast.

Come 2010, we might not see tolls on I-80 afterall. The State didn’t consider the fact that the Feds might not approve it, or that other states have been trying to do the same thing for over 10 years, and still gotten nowhere. But that didn’t stop PA from planning like it was a slam dunk, a classic case of counting your chickens before they hatch.

In any case, the Feds rejection of tolls is a huge win for the moment, lets hope it stays that way:

FEDS SAY “NOT SO FAST” TO PENNSYLVANIA’S EFFORTS TO TOLL I-80

Corman Announces Feds Rejection of PA Application to toll I-80

(HARRISBURG) – State Senator Jake Corman said he is not surprised that the U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday rejected a joint application by the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to toll Interstate 80, saying citing a lack of information on a variety of important issues.

Federal Highway Administration Deputy Administrator King Gee wrote to PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission that “In reviewing the application, we conducted a thorough technical analysis of the application’s merits based on the statutory criteria in TEA-21. At this time, the application does not contain all of the information required for a Phase I provisional acceptance, as specified in our guidance, or a conditional provisional approval.”

“The public isn’t buying this idea, and the federal government isn’t buying it either,” Corman said. “The state’s application simply doesn’t make a case for tolling I-80, and even worse, it leaves out important information that makes it even more likely that the federal government will reject this ill-thought-out application.”

Corman, who has been a vocal opponent of tolling I-80 said PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler and PA Turnpike Commission CEO Joe Brimmeier were notified yesterday by the federal government that it was returning the October 13 application filed by PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission because it “does not sufficiently describe the planned reconstruction and rehabilitation project.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation also questioned the fact that PennDOT transferred over $250 million in federal highway transportation money over the last few years to fund other programs including mass transit costs.

And the federal government requested that the state “provide further details explaining how the toll implementation plan takes into account the interests of local, regional and interstate travelers.”

“The simple answer to that request is that it will hurt commuters who drive on I-80, it will have a devastating impact on local economies and it is not in the best interest of our state,” Corman said. “Opponents of this ludicrous funding stream have been saying that it won’t fly, and I’m pleased that the federal government is taking a closer look at the ramifications of this and, most importantly, didn’t rush to approve it.”

Senator Jake Corman, the Senate’s Majority Policy Chairman, represents the 34th Senatorial District, which includes Centre, Mifflin, Juniata, Perry and Union Counties.

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For Whom The Road Tolls?

In 1966 the late great senator from Pa, Joseph Sill Clark, said on the senate floor re: the highway system: “It is presently being operated by Barbarians.”

My, how little has changed.

Toll roads are unfortunately legal. That isn’t a surprise since its politicians who make the laws, and also tax us and waste the funds. Roads are undoubtedly a public good we all believe in, and one of the few things the Constitution actually calls for the Federal gov’t to facilitate.

However, when politicos get their wheels all cranked, instead of tightening up the massive current revenue they already get, they grind our gears and find a new way to tax us to account for the revenue shortfalls their own mismanagement created.

For all the complaints about big bad oil companies, they only get about 9 cents of profit per dollar earned, which is comparable to other industries. The gov’t however, gets anywhere from 40 to 50 cents a gallon, (depending on location), which at $3 a gallon, would be ~$0.13 to ~$0.17 earned per dollar spent.

In other words, the gov’t, who does nothing to facilitate it, earns more per dollar of gasoline than the big bad oil companies. But who is calling for repeal of gas taxes? Virtually no one in spite of their regressive nature on the poor. Hillary Clinton meanwhile, wants to soak the oil companies and tax the hell out of them, even though percent wise, they make no more than other comparable industries. (Their record profits are a derivative of the volume of their sales, not a profit margin markup).

In any case, gasoline taxes are just one way the state already gets revenue for roads. Let’s not forget other revenue sources, like sales tax, income tax, property tax, and on and on…

Are Pa politicians really trying to tell us that they aren’t driving enough of our money to Harrisburg for roads? Or are they peeling out money on a lot of fluff and nonsense known as district pork and other such ill conceived waste before they take care of the basic fundamentals first, like roads?

I would venture to guess that rather than cut out their political payoffs and paybacks, they would prefer to Toll the road to cover the shortfall, and further soak the folks that have to use them.

Then there is this little nugget. Once the tolls are enacted, which they promise will 100% go to I-80, what happens to the taxes formerly used for I-80? No doubt they will be shifted to urban mass transit programs, or so it seems. Does the former mayor of Philadelphia really have the ALL the states residents best interests at heart?

I can’t help but feel railroaded.

Politicians have been trying to toll this road since Milton Shapp in the 70’s, with the last failure to do so being under Tom Ridge. The reality now though is that come 2010, we are likely to see tolls in action. The plan has passed as of July ‘07. It passed in spite of the daunting fiscal projections mentioned in the previous post here on the SOS I-80 blog. I would add that in addition to that horrifying information, Dept. of Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler in 2005 told the Senate appropriations committee “it wasn’t a wise move to institute tolls at this time.” Rep.John Peterson has said not a single diversion study has been conducted to see if this would in theory help or hurt the state.

Do we really want to make the PTC, or Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission twice its size by adding Tolls to I-80? This is perhaps the most corrupt state agency in the country, and is responsible for the lack of an interchange between I-76 and I-70, (the “Breezewood mistake”). Need I mention I-99? How long till they toll the acid rock highway?

Finally, this is going to hurt rural residents and businesses the most. If you live north of I-80 in Pa, you especially can’t get by without using I-80. If you’re a company like ‘First Quality’ based in Lock Haven, who specialize in making low cost paper products, your transportation costs just shot up thru the roof! This company has single handedly kept afloat the economic brownout area and turned moribund industrial sites like the old International paper mill into a tax payer again and recently gave a half million dollars to Clinton county for civic uses. It serves all people especially lower wage earners by creating affordable goods and providing good jobs; now suddenly it loses the edge the free highway gives it; don’t be surprised to see it leave via I-80 in your rearview mirror.

The fact is that whether someone, anyone, uses the road or not, doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from it and shouldn’t help support it. Yes, many Pa residents don’t personally ever drive on I-80. But how many of those people don’t benefit from the goods and services they do use that come to them on it? How many communities outside of the two urban centers depend on it for commerce and economic development? Is it fair to place all of the burden for the fire dept on only those whose homes catch fire?

I can only hope, this will drive Clean Sweep II. -mdw

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The Revamped Off Campus Student Union

The concept of an off-campus student government-type organization has existed for quite some time, but the organization “Off-Campus Student Union,” affectionately known as OCSU, has been around for only a few years.

Starting off as an ad-hoc committee of the now defunct Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the OCSU quickly became its own entity and proclaimed itself an independent organization shortly after its creation.

Over the past few years, OCSU members have pursued many projects to make life off-campus better for students. Examples of these projects include pushing the borough for better lighting downtown, working with the borough to improve alcohol-related issues, and pairing up with the Smoke-Free Bars campaign.

The current executive staff of OCSU has worked very hard over the past several months to make OCSU a better resource for students and more prominent in the on- and off-campus community than ever before.

Our new website now offers students a wealth of information about off-campus issues as well as updates on what is going on internally in the OCSU. A few of the newly installed features include:

  • The ability to rate and view ratings of apartments and jobs in the downtown area
  • Contact information for over 150 different realtors in the area, as well as contact information for bus companies, taxi cab services, airport shuttles etc.
  • A map and schedule of the Loop and an interactive map and schedule of the Centre Link
  • A ride share board where you can post your need or offer for a ride to various locations
  • Links to the Off-Campus Living Office of Penn State and the State College Borough websites
  • Present and past copies of “News In Briefs” our off-campus version of Stall Stories along with past Collegian articles discussing matters dealing with the OCSU

Along with the new resources we now offer, OCSU is also in the midst of planning some very exciting events that will be happening over the next few months. A few of these events include:

  • Downtown Tours: FREE walking tours of downtown State College highlighting artistic and historic landmarks
  • Borough Forum: A chance for students to both listen to and voice their concerns to prominent members of the Borough Council in a uniquely personal setting
  • Holiday Lights Tour: A trolley tour of fraternity houses decorate for the holiday season
  • Triathlon for Transposition: A new philanthropy OCSU is hopefully going to have in late November which will help financially support children in need of heart surgery

Finally, though the OCSU has already filled its executive council positions, we are still looking for committee members! If either government, community, leadership development, enhancing student life, creating a positive image for the Penn State student body, or just being involved interests you- then you should certainly consider the OCSU! The following committees are accepting applications (due Sept. 28th):

Tour Guides:
Enjoy walking backwards? Talking to and leading groups of people? The OCSU is looking for tour guides to lead the Downtown Tours in much the same way as is available on-campus. Tour guides will also help with the Holiday lights tour. Training will be available…and fun J Please contact OCSUspecialevents@psu.edu for more information.

Communication Committee:
Have dreams of being a reporter some day? Do you enjoy writing? Have interviewing skills? The Communications Director, Pat Gordon is looking for individuals who want to inform the student body about different organizations and businesses both on- and off-campus. Your work will be featured in the bi-weekly publication of “News In Briefs” which is available to entire student body. Please contact OCSUcommunications@psu.edu for more information about the specific positions Pat is looking for.

Philanthropy Committee:
Give back to the community by serving on the philanthropy committee! You will be given the opportunity to help create and facilitate Triathlon for Transposition- a brand new philanthropic event at Penn State! You will also be included in the fundraising efforts for the Rocco Davis Fund, THON, and Relay for Life! Please contact OCSUphilanthropy@psu.edu for more information.

Residence Representatives:
Want to be the voice of your apartment building? Want to make sure your concerns are heard? We are looking to have a representative from each apartment complex/area in State College. We have hopes that apartment boards may be formed for each complex so the renters have a unified voice. Please contact OCSUhousing@psu.edu for more information.

Applications for the above committee positions are available on our site.

For more information about our growing organization or how to get involved with OCSU, please check out the OCSU website or e-mail us.