11 posts from Commentary


Veteran questions Toomey's voting record

I'm a Vietnam War veteran and a Past President of the PA State Council of VVA.  I would like to respond to your report of Senator Pat Toomey's news conference in which he discussed new legislation called the VA Accountability Act.  I understand that the bill would include several items to make people in the VA accountable by, for example, providing remedies for those veterans harmed as a result of willful VA misconduct.

While I think it's nice he wants to question VA practices, I question how substantially effective his action will be.  I wonder if he, in fact, may be a bit politically opportunistic. His record of support for veterans is woefully inadequate.  He has had many opportunities to demonstrate his support for veterans and has repeatedly failed to deliver.

For example, Toomey voted against every veterans' funding bill (13 of them) in the 10 years he has served as a Congressman from 2000-2005 and as a Senator from 2011 until now. He only voted for one in his career, in 1999. In addition to his votes against Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appropriations bills, he voted against every other bill that would fund veteran programs, such as the Veterans Jobs Act and the recent Health and Benefits bill for our veterans.

Let me just point out what his votes against those bills mean to our veterans. When he filibustered the Health and Benefits bill for veterans, he voted against increasing assisted living services for veterans who have traumatic brain injuries. That bill also would have expanded care for women veterans through various programs such as occupational counseling and stress reduction therapy.  When Toomey filibustered the bipartisan Veterans Jobs Act, he blocked efforts to help our Iraq and Afghanistan warriors get jobs in their communities after deployment -- even after he voted to send them to war.

While it's good Toomey is paying attention to the issues at the VA hospitals, I wish he would have stood with us veterans in the past -- when we really needed his votes.
Very respectfully,
Larry Holman, MS, MBA
Past President, PA State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America
Past President, PA War Veterans Council


Hamilton Crossings mall TIF

By John Donches - There's rumors that the Lehigh County Commissioners will reconsider their previous 6/3 NO vote on the "Hamilton Crossings mall" TIF (Tax Increment Financing), actually a NO vote for $7,000,000 in "Corporate Welfare" to an out of state developer. This developer, Mr. Tim Harrison, led several closed to the public meetings with select members of the East Penn School District Board, Lehigh County and Lower Macungie Commissioners to determine how much "Corporate Welfare" he would receive. The school district and Lower Mac voted YES to the tax handout.
Mr. Harrison has stated many times that if he doesn't get this corporate welfare he will not be able to build. Essentially he is saying property taxes in Lehigh County are too high and he can't afford them. Can you?

Would we actually rather give corporate welfare tax handouts to out of state developers, so we can shop at yet another mall? Or fully fund our schools, county and local government services?
Let the elected officials know what you think about a revote on corporate welfare; call or E-mail.

Phone: 610-782-3050       E-Mail -   

School District
Phone: 610-966-8333       E-mail -

Lower Mac.
Phone: 610-966-4343       E-mail --

CC me too

John Donches


Response to "District: Northampton mascot not a front for KKK"

To:  Editorial Staff

Channel 69 News

This editorial has been written to address the recent news headline that Northampton School District's Konkrete Kids logo is in some way connected to the infamous, horrific, clandestine and disgusting, cloaked segregationalists- The KKK.  As a retired teacher in the Northampton Area School District, I find this deeply offensive both personally and professionally.  This is not only preposterous; it is ludicrous, uneducated, immoral and unprofessional.  Putting us in the same category as the "KKK" is an insult to all of us who were and are dedicated to Northampton Area School District and the Konkrete Kids.  I was, am now, and always will be proud of serving the Konkrete Kids, and I will do everything in my power to stand behind them and continue to support the logo.

As deeply rooted Christian, I feel this intimation borders on a sin of the highest order and the person or persons who started this need to do some very deep self-examination and soul searching.  In my entire career, I never once heard anything referenced to the "KKK" and, or African-Americans.  I pray to God that these people never get to a position of authority or Washington D.C.  Let all of us pray that this dies on the vine before it destroys an excellent school district.

Sterling M. Ritter
Retired German Teacher


Reminder to government officials: elephants are in the room

Kraft_randyby Randy Kraft,

Elephants are in the room at many public local government meetings in the Lehigh Valley.
Just a few years ago, only one or two were present. But now there sometimes are as many as a half dozen.
Like all elephants in rooms, they remain silent and mostly are ignored, as perhaps they should be.
But they can be useful, powerful or even dangerous.
Those elephants, of course, are journalists.
Reporters, photographers and videographers at public meetings are in awesome positions of responsibility. Often within hours, we report to thousands of readers and/or viewers about the most important things that happened at those meetings... or at least what we think were the most important things that happened.
One of the more common frustrations of local journalism is when the folks at the front of the room conduct their business as if they don't know people -- including elephants -- are in the audience. Or as if they don't care. They vote on things with no discussion or explanation and don't share copies of whatever they are voting on with the public.
At a school board meeting not long ago, a member of the board said this about the district superintendent's report: "If the superintendent were providing information for the public in a form that the public would understand, I think it would take more context and more time and effort to make sure the message was crisp and communicating exactly what is intended."
So what? As long as one member of the public is sitting in the audience at a public meeting, don't educators especially have some ethical obligation not only to educate students, but the public as well?
And shouldn't they do that even if no one is in the room except a couple of elephants?
Don't all elected officials in a democratic society have the same obligation to clearly communicate what they are doing in a public meeting?
Too often, clear communication is lost in jargon at school board and other municipal meetings.  What those in the audience hear is fragmented and, at times, perhaps intentionally obscure.
 And no one is permitted to just shout out: "What's going on here?"
The amount of information shared with the public at public meetings varies widely right here in the Lehigh Valley. Some local governing bodies are far more open than others.
 Among the most transparent are Allentown City Council and Lehigh County Commissioners. They provide the public with copies of nearly every document they will be discussing and/or voting on that night. And they invite comments from the public on non-agenda items at the beginning of each meeting-- which sometimes can continue for an hour, even though each speaker has a time limit. They again invite the public to speak just before every vote on an issue.
Among the municipalities I regularly cover, Lower Macungie Township runs a close second when it comes to running open meetings. It does the same thing city council and the county commissioners do, except it does not provide hard copies of all documents to those attending its commissioners meetings.
Some may be surprised to learn Allentown City Council is among the most open, because it recently created a firestorm when its president refused to let people speak about the controversial water and sewer lease. By tradition, council does not permit public comment on bills and resolutions that are being introduced but not discussed -- a tradition that may have to be replaced by a rule, or discontinued.
Anyone who feels stifled at an Allentown Council meeting should go to certain school board meetings, where the public gets only one opportunity to speak. And people who do speak feel like they are talking to an empty room, because they usually get no response from their elected school board members. There is no dialogue.
Even in meetings where officials do invite public comment on each issue before it is put to a vote, by tradition most journalists never ask questions during meetings. Like I said: silent elephants.
Our job is to observe, not to participate. We're there to cover the news, not make the news. We too easily could influence the course of a discussion simply by asking a key question....although we sometimes have to bite our tongues because we wish someone would ask that question.
Those local officials have a captive audience of news people who are there to get a story and will be coming up to them with questions at the end of every meeting, often for clarification about things they said. And things they didn't say.
As soon as meetings adjourn, journalists scramble to the front to ask decision-makers questions before they leave their seats. It reminds me of a deli counter where we should take a number to be the next to be waited on.
I have encountered reporters who don't want other reporters to hear questions they ask, but that seems to be rare. More often, the decision-makers find themselves answering the same questions several times. 
Elected officials and their hired managers may be mentally exhausted by the end of a long meeting (and probably a long day). The last thing they may want to do is answer the same questions over and over.
But these days "call us tomorrow" just doesn't work any more, not when young reporters start writing stories on their laptops before a meeting even ends and others among us frequently are writing until the wee hours of the morning to keep up with the competition.
What's worst is when boards and councils immediately rush into private executive sessions of indeterminate length at the conclusion of their public meetings. Journalists have to wait until they return if we want our questions answered. We also have to trust officials when they say no action will be taken in public at the conclusion of their executive sessions or hang around for a long time just to make sure for ourselves.
After 37 years in journalism, I never have understood why an opportunity for media to ask questions is not more formally built right into the system, immediately after public meetings adjourn.
Why not routinely announce "a media briefing will be held immediately after the conclusion of this meeting"? After all, it is in officials' best interest to make sure information is being communicated accurately.
Such a crazy idea may be dismissed as totally unnecessary, and perhaps that is true if there are no problems with meeting coverage. To the credit of the East Penn School District, the superintendent and school board president usually remain planted in their seats long enough to field questions from the media. Others do the same. Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza has even invited reporters with questions into a conference room just off the public meeting room to meet with him immediately after the township commissioners adjourn.
I was surprised when I recently covered a couple meetings of the Warren County Freeholders. The last thing on their agenda was a time for public and media questions. I never saw that on anyone's agenda before.
Distasteful as the thought might be to some journalists, a post-meeting media briefing also gives decision-makers an immediate opportunity to attempt some preemptive damage control. They can try to influence what we will report.
But more important, it helps ensure that what we write is correct. Our questions fill in the gaps regarding what really happened at the meeting.
It's a sad fact that most people don't go to municipal or school board meetings unless they are concerned about a specific issue. But journalists are there -- some of us quietly wishing residents would demand that their elected officials more consistently conduct the public's business in public.


Was a "No" Vote Big Government Intrusion?

Brad-Osborne-SMBy Brad Osborne, Lehigh County Commissioner

Five hundred years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a book titled The Prince.  One phrase from that text that remains a paradox today is "the end justifies the means".  In other words, an action can be justified by the intended outcome rather than the action itself.  On Wednesday, March 13, five members of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners exercised the political equivalent of this maxim.  In doing so, they not only diminished the integrity of our office, but also increased the uncertainty of the future cost of water and wastewater treatment in Lehigh County. How is that?

The Board voted, by the slimmest of margins, 5-4, to deny the extension of the Lehigh County Authority (LCA) charter, in order that they not meet the bid requirements for the pending Allentown water and wastewater system lease.  These commissioners, known as "the bloc" for their record of voting together, brushed aside the very facts they professed to need, to decide in favor of the result they wanted.  Deny the extension LCA needed to bid on the lease, and maybe we can scuttle Allentown's plan of financing their pension debt by eliminating the most viable, publicly accountable bidder.  Was this decision based on good government principles or a need to feel powerful?

Our responsibility as Lehigh County Commissioners was to evaluate the performance of LCA since the last charter extension in 1999 and determine if they were worthy of another 14-year extension.  The board proceeded to detail the necessary elements of the charter review.  It was a good, comprehensive framework from which to work.  It included financial metrics, environmental records and customer satisfaction measurements.  In short, everything you'd need to know to make an informed decision as a commissioner.  We studied this matter for seven weeks, which included a public forum moderated by the League of Women Voters, a 4-hour public hearing conducted by a commissioner subcommittee, and unfettered access to any information we wanted.  We were approached by communities ranging in size from Lower Macungie to Upper Milford, organizations as diverse as the East Penn Chamber of Commerce, Renew Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley Partnership and Wildlands Conservancy, respected businesses such as Samuel Adams Brewery and Ocean Spray, and professionals in the field to listen to their positive experiences, and consider their informed and reasoned recommendations. The board had no unanswered questions, no outstanding concerns about LCA's performance, and understood the weighted opinion of the public.  We were ready to make a decision. 

What was our response to all this information, study and analysis?  Denial of the request by a five to four vote.  How did that happen?  Concern was shifted from the tangible and measurable performance of LCA, to the intangible and immeasurable argument of how bad an idea the lease of the water system is.  That should not have been the basis of our decision; that was outside our scope and jurisdiction.  The "bloc" allowed their personal bias and agenda to overshadow their duty, and used words such as "toxic", "house of cards", "bad deal" and "city politicians" to justify their denial.  In other words, they employed Machiavellian tactics to force an outcome they want to see down the road.

This could turn out to be a costly mistake that will raise water rates on families and businesses for years to come.  Their actions may prevent an established, non-profit, regional organization with local government oversight from bidding.  It was a shortsighted decision based on personal politics.  Simply put, it is bad public policy.

To make matters even worse, a member of the bloc proposed using our board and county resources to investigate and pursue every legal means possible to stop the city transaction from taking place.  These self-proclaimed believers in limited government are now apparently ready to expand the role of County government to attack those municipalities they disagree with.  Isn't the contradiction evident?

To express your opinion on this decision and the "bloc's" intention to investigate and possibly litigate using your tax dollars, call, write or email the commissioners' office, or come to our March 27 meeting. 


The State Of Lehigh County

Billhansell_editby Bill Hansell, Lehigh County Executive

Under our charter, the Lehigh County executive is required to deliver a "State of the County" message to our Board of Commissioners before the end of February each year.  I decided against an elaborate presentation of this message and instead chose to simply deliver it to you in writing.  I was invited to speak at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon next month and I will also outline the state of our county to the businesses and members there.

Our county is among the largest in Pennsylvania.  More than 350,000 people call Lehigh County home.  Tens of thousands of businesses operate here, countless cultural arts institutions and organizations thrive here, and we assess property taxes on more than 125,000 properties. The sum total of all of those people, institutions and businesses is the essence of Lehigh County.

This message is intended to brief you on the state of Lehigh County's government, not necessarily the state of Lehigh County, which encompasses much more.

Over the past seven years, through Don Cunningham's stewardship and, more recently, mine, Lehigh County's government has been  managed in a fiscally prudent but responsive manner, balancing the need to keep our tax burden low with providing services needed to help the  county's most vulnerable residents.  Despite the increased demand that a recession brings to county services, Lehigh County's government is considerably smaller than it was seven years ago.

The 2013 budget that my administration proposed was the third consecutive year for the County's budget to be lower than the prior year and was a full $50 million lower than in 2010.  The number of employees working for Lehigh County is now 6 percent below our employee compliment of twenty years ago.  As a result of bipartisan collaboration that was carried out in good faith with four commissioners as well as other elected officials, we committed to find another $3.5 million in spending cuts and turn a planned one-year tax credit into a permanent reduction in our millage rate.

I have been privileged to serve local governments for over half a century, from a small town to a growing suburb to the 1st and 3rd largest cities in our Commonwealth.  I have lead two major associations devoted to improving local government and have advised local governments from Australia to South Africa to the Balkans.

Because of the long career and wealth of experience that I have with government budgets, I know what a well-managed government looks like.  The management and direction of Lehigh County at present and over the past seven years has been a resounding success by any measurable standard.

In that period of time, Lehigh County was able to renovate our county courthouse, saving $20 million in the process, build Coca Cola Park, which is rapidly becoming one of the biggest attractions in our area, and create a plan to significantly enhance the Trexler Nature Preserve.  With the capital funds that were saved through numerous cost-cutting measures on the courthouse, the county was able to undertake the most comprehensive facilities and capital program upgrade in this county's history, ranging from a state of the art 911 dispatch center to more than 20 bridge replacements and repairs. 

Through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program we are providing $2.2 million which will be used in neighborhoods that are in danger of decline by purchasing, rehabilitating and selling of distressed properties.  Meanwhile, our Green Future Fund program has pushed the total of farmland acres preserved past the 20,000-acre mark and, most recently, released $1.1 million to six municipalities for important parks and recreation projects.

As a result of the business community and our county government's hard work in the area of economic development, earlier this year, Lehigh County was recognized by the Fourth Economy Community Index as one of the top ten best counties in the nation to attract growth and investment in the future.

The first priority of the county must be to protect the people who live here. Providing a safe environment is the first and most important step to creating economic growth.  Our highest priority over the past seven years has been a commitment to public safety and justice.

More than seventy cents of every Lehigh County tax dollar is spent on people, institutions and systems that combat crime and help to maintain law and order.  Strong efforts in this area have benefits that are twofold.  First, our efforts help to make Lehigh County a safer place to live in the short term, and second, every dollar that we spend today on law and order helps to prevent further spending to pay the costs associated with crime and punishment down the road.
We have fully funded the effort to connect every police department in Lehigh County to police departments in other counties, to each other and to the State Police with "real time" sharing of data records.  We also provided funding to put ten new police officers on the streets of six Lehigh County municipalities, opened a new state-of-the-art 911 center and fully renovated and expanded our work release center with a focus on more effective counseling for both men and women. 

In collaboration with District Attorney Jim Martin, we have opened a Central Booking Unit designed to put officers back on the street quickly after making an arrest, a digital forensic lab in collaboration with DeSales University and a Regional Crime Center, which can pull in data from an extremely wide range of law enforcement sources to determine crime patterns, cross-match information on potential suspects and provide solid leads to the local police.

The overall goal has been simple.  We want Lehigh County to be a safe place to live and a very unfriendly place for lawbreakers.

Just last week, some of you may have attended the groundbreaking of a facility that was the result of a unique partnership between Lehigh County and Cetronia Ambulance Corps.  We sold the land to Cetronia, who built a facility that was big enough to house their own public health and safety operations and include a new medicolegal facility for our coroner as well as space to house our emergency management vehicles.  We were able to save millions on the facility through this partnership.

In a month or so, we will hold a grand opening for our new Lehigh County Detoxification Center in partnership with a private provider, White Deer Run.  This facility was built without the use of Lehigh County tax dollars.

The only way that Lehigh County can enhance services in these crucial areas without putting a burden on taxpayers is to be as frugal  and efficient as possible with what we spend on our basic operations, and I'm proud to report that that's exactly what we've done and what we will continue to do.  Most important, our employees have been committed to that goal and I take particular pride in recognizing the great partnership that we have gotten from our unions.
Total staffing has been reduced by 143 full-time positions and another 28 positions have been converted to critical public safety positions--with the reductions occurring in both our union and non-union units.  All the while, we have successfully avoided having any contract negotiations move to arbitration.

I am also proud to say that the County's healthcare costs have increased an average of only 1.3% annually since this administration took office in 2006, which is something I doubt many private sector companies can say.  We have gotten there by tough negotiating, transferring a significant portion of the costs to all of our employees and increasing the focus on wellness programs to limit the future growth of this very challenging budget line item.

This has happened not in spite of, but because of, our union contracts. Without arbitration, we have negotiated agreements with all our unions to keep wage growth under control and for all workers -- union and non-union -- to pay about 20 percent of the cost of their healthcare.

We are emerging from the recent recession in sound financial condition, and in better shape than many other municipal and county governments in America.  Any way that you choose to measure it, the state of our county finances is sound.

Thanks to the spirit of cooperation that has prevailed on the Board of Commissioners, especially through the early years of the administration, we have been able to accomplish a great deal in just seven short years--and we have been able to do what we have done in a cost-effective manner.  But I am a strong believer in continuous improvement.

When I was appointed County Executive, I made a commitment to focus on continuous improvement and we are following through on that commitment.  I have tapped into my old rolodex and sought out resources and former associates from the professional association that I used to lead, the ICMA, to begin the implementation of a performance management process for all departments.  This performance management initiative will sharpen the focus on the goals that we hope to achieve and it will increase efficiency in the processes we use to get to those goals.

We have also launched a major priority-based budget initiative which could have a dramatic impact on the way we approach our budget process and on how we analyze the things we do with our taxpayers' money.  We plan to explore several possible and examine different scenarios for changes or reductions in functions and services.  Over the coming months, we will undertake a new way of looking at how we choose what is important and what ends up in our budget.

Despite the County Executive's veto and the administration's advice against reassessing last year, we were able to make the best of the situation and follow the Board of Commissioner's direction to reassess, and the process went smoothly.

We have come through the reassessment process and the required appeals period with very good results from a County financial perspective, if not to the delight of almost half of our property owners.  As we have experienced, reassessment can be a very controversial issue and one which can be seriously flawed if left in the hands of politicians.  Barring unexpected action by the State to make the process occur at regular intervals, this administration recommends that the Board of Commissioners press for a charter change via referendum to ensure that it happens.

Lehigh County is home to all of us, and the decisions that we make will have an impact not just today, but far into the future.  I believe that government has a place in our lives; it has a role to play in the provision of basic services and that it must be properly funded in order to fulfill its mandates.

Overall, the state of Lehigh County government is strong and our county is steadily recovering from the devastation of the recession.  Reports from the housing market are encouraging, salaries are beginning to rise again and we are seeing more companies opt to move from outside the area to within our borders, which should work positively on the stalled job market.

However, we're certainly not out of the difficult times yet and there is a greater need than ever to demonstrate the spirit of cooperation that has always been the hallmark of Lehigh County government.  This is a time when we have to put political party differences and ideology aside, as we did in crafting a bipartisan 2013 Budget, and work together toward the common good, and in the best interests of our county's taxpayers.  That's what I committed to do when I was appointed County Executive and what I continue to hope can be forged with our Board of Commissioners, despite the fact that it is an election year.

We've weathered an extremely difficult economic stretch but were still able to get many important things accomplished.  We need to do even more together now that we see a light at the end of the tunnel.


North Whitehall Airport Matter

In early January, the body overseeing zoning for North Whitehall Township denied the author permission to establish a heliport. View article on


By Michael Selig, MD, FACC, CFI-H - The issue in this case, is that the zoning ordinance lists private airports as a reasonable and permitted commercial use by special exception in the AR zoning district.  An airport is inclusive of heliports or helicopter use by definition of the Ordinance and the State Bureau of Aviation.  The ordinance that allows airports was determined and written into law with extensive deliberation by legislation. The ordinance already considered the potential impact on the community by limiting the number of flights is just 15/week.  There are 2 private heliports in North Whitehall.

If people object so strongly to airports, then they needed to undergo the proper procedure to remove it from the ordinances, so individuals such as myself do not waste their time and money to pursue what is a listed and permitted use.  If people are so opposed to having airports/heliports in their area, they needed to review the ordinances ahead of buying their property and find a dwelling elsewhere.  This goes to Usufruct, the right under the constitution to enjoy ones property according to listed uses.

The land mass, surrounded by farmland and elevation of this property provides a large natural buffer.  It was selected for just that reason. The helicopter is only a single engine, 2 bladed helicopter, about half the size of the medivac helicopters (twin engine, 4 bladed) the Townspeople kept relating to and nearly half the noise level; to that of a lawn mower.

This hearing became a venting session and character assassination vs dealing with the matters of law.  North Whitehall residents have limited knowledge pertaining to these legal matters and to helicopters, so it became an emotional issue for them.  Many local people were rallied up by a low income mobile home park owner, who lives in another Township and financially benefits from her property.  She was worried about her mobile park income, when her mobile home park has greater negative effects on property values.  Private airports and heliports increase property values. Look at how many of them are in Somerset, NJ where some of the most beautiful estates in the country are located.

The principle purpose for purchasing this property was for the Airport.  Before the purchase of the property I spoke with the zoning officer, we reviewed the ordinances who stated he did not see a reason for not allowing it and wrote a letter stating this.

I have served this community for the last 25 years as a solo, private practice cardiologist, did cardiac catheterization for 15 years and genuinely have concern about our community.  Obamacare has closed down most all private practice in our area and has negatively impacted my private practice.  Seeing this trend, I have been transitioning into the helicopter business I started with a friend in year 2000.

Not only do the residents of North Whitehall live in microcosms of indifference towards organ donation, shortages, and disease processes that necessitate the need for transplantation; it is apparent that they are prepared to preserve their "quality of life" without regard to others.  These same people spent several sessions proclaiming their concern only for themselves yet were unconcerned about the 12 years of prior EPA violations on the 309 property, a litany of violations that contaminated their streams and wildlife.  Not one of those people protested or requested remediation of that destruction, not the nurse, the mobile home park owner, or the agricultural land barrens.  Lost in the shuffle was the primary reason for the airport, to provide low cost transport of donor organs and advocacy services so I can continue to promote and preserve life.  This requires at times, rapid access to the aircraft and rapid departure.  Living on the property and avoiding the tower control of ABE allows that.

The matter is not yet closed, I believe my rights were violated; therefore I will pursue a request for reconsideration or appropriate appeals.  I suspect the Common Pleas will not grant me relief, but perhaps at the Commonwealth or Supreme Courts where the matter can be looked at purely as a matter of right and a matter of breach of law, to see if the written law has been properly applied. 



Learning from Sandusky Case

Sarcc_logoOctober 9, 2012

Dear Editor,

For many, the sentencing of Jerry Sandusky for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over 15 years can't come soon enough. Sandusky's abusive behavior and Penn State's initial response has been a painful reminder of ways in which adults and organizations fail to protect our vulnerable children. The unprecedented NCAA sanctions against Penn State and the more general condemnation of some college’s “over the top, win at any cost" culture of sports has been an eye opener. Our surprise has not been that this culture exists, but with the fact that it can so dramatically compromise the safety of our children.

For all that is disturbing about this case and all those that have been harmed, there is the potential for good to come from what we have learned.

Estimates suggest that each day tens of millions of youth participate in activities that could be made safer by systematic prevention activities. While many organizations already incorporate prevention efforts, ALL organizations working with children or teens would benefit from stronger screening policies, regular self-assessment, and greater efforts to empower staff to keep youth safety in the forefront. The Sandusky case also reminds us that we need to do more to educate parents and the public about the everyday role that they can play in creating safer environments for children. SARCC is committed to ending sexual violence by educating adults and children in how to prevent violence by learning the skills necessary to be a good bystander. We can’t do this work alone. It takes a community to change this norm.

In the long run, the real tragedy of the Sandusky case will be measured by how we respond to this tragedy. Child sexual abuse is preventable and there is a role for all of us. Take time today to find out what you can do in your community to make the world safer for all of our children.


Jenny Murphy-Shifflet

For additional resources, visit SARCC’s website or to volunteer.


Iran, a Nuclear Bomb and Why a Sixteen Year Old Thinks They Shouldn't Have It

By Nicholas Mellen

After tumultuous years of proliferation drove our planet to our current state of mutually assured destruction, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran refuses to end their quest to enter the world arena of sorts.  Nuclear deterrence is at this point on our planet a side program that governments have to maintain in a global strength contest.  Weaponization of a nuclear energy program in Iran is a waste of time both for the government of Iran and for the countries that will inherently feel the duty to deter the Iranian strike capability.  To analyze this I visualize three scenarios: the first being sanctions on Iran fail to force the government to abandon its program and Iran proceeds to publicly test a nuclear weapon; the second being sanctions force the government of Iran to continue development but only to a breakout capability discussed later; and third being sanctions on Iran succeed to force the government to end their nuclear program. 

Scenario #1
"Iran tests nuclear device!" reads international headlines as the Iranian government displays a successful nuclear test on national television.  This scenario has most likely brought Iran already into a deep world of trouble.  Israel, with an already unchecked nuclear capability in the region, has likely stepped up efforts to infiltrate and attack Iran's nuclear program, possibly with full scale attacks such as bombing of facilities and political assassinations.  If Iran would even attempt to retaliate to any of these activities outside of influencing terrorist groups, resources and manpower for a nuclear program would dry up instantly as facilities would be bombed with precision by Israel and the human element of innovation would be gone as well.  So, inevitably in this scenario, Iran weathers significant attacks upon its infrastructure and has a government that with all of its anti-Israeli rhetoric does not attack Israel.  This part is not impossible as the ayatollahs are still sensible officials who want to ensure the survival of their nation and culture. 

The government of Iran now faces issues much greater than before the test.  Unlike other deterrence scenarios referenced by officials such as India and Pakistan or the United States and the Soviet Union, Iran's likely minimal nuclear program is both deterred and overwhelmed by Israel and its ally the United States.  For perspective, if a nuclear volley were launched at Israel, and the United States wanted to both deter the threat and attack Iran, it could do so with merely a Virginia class submarine and the current naval fleet already stationed in the Middle East supporting operations in Afghanistan.  If Iran develops a nuclear program, they are not deterred; they simply possess an excuse to have nuclear weapons used against them.  Beyond that, the influence of the United States and its Western allies on the world stage will likely demand even tighter sanctions, to a point likely worse than sanctions imposed on North Korea.  With a nuclear weapon, the ayatollahs are inviting their society to suffer from a lack of medical supplies and starvation.  Iran has no ability to compete on the world stage economically or militarily, and its people likely foster resentment for the government because of its actions, outside of the current youth who resent government policy. 

Scenario #2
"Iran possesses breakout capability" tops international headlines as the Iranian government has successfully deployed nuclear reactor facilities across the country and through this enterprise has developed the necessary infrastructure to build and test a nuclear bomb, yet reserves the ability to do so at the moment.  This scenario invites similar heat from the Israeli government with respect to infiltration and attacks on scientists and facilities and invites a similar response from the rest of the world with a quest for transparency.  The transparency argument splits two different ways.  For a true and swift breakout capability, Iran must have facilities that are producing highly enriched uranium which has no use in nuclear energy.  Facilities which produce such a unique enrichment of uranium would have to be hidden very well to keep international observers from discovering them and moreover Western intelligence from finding them.  Therefore with the lack of resources to build more enrichment facilities either underground or well hidden above ground, it is unlikely Iran would allow international observers to accurately gauge the extent of their nuclear program.

There is though a second transparency scenario, in which Iran develops less extensive infrastructure for weaponization and does not proceed to manufacture highly enriched uranium or develop test sites and other necessary facilities.  With this, Iran is poised to allow international observers to witness a program that at that very moment solely provides for a system of nuclear energy.  There is though an obvious downside to the Iranian government, in which developing a nuclear weapon with sufficient knowledge of the technology would take measurably longer than the first transparency scenario, as uranium would have to be enriched and weapons-specific facilities would have to be constructed, all with the full knowledge of the world that these events were occurring.  All evaluated, a breakout capability scenario invites still more trouble to Iran then the weapon itself is worth.

Scenario #3
International headlines read "Iran abandons nuclear program!" as the government of Iran shuts down all reactor and enrichment facilities and slowly invites international observers to evaluate the extent of their program and negotiate the removal, repurposing and destruction of facilities and other infrastructure related to the Iranian nuclear program.  Sanctions are dropped against Iran promptly after all fissile material exits the country or is properly secured, while Western nations reopen diplomatic channels.  Immediately, Iran and its people are in a much more secure and stable situation, and can continue normal economic functions such as oil exports and foodstuffs imports.  This scenario truly is the best for Iran, as the government has the opportunity to bring nationally unprecedented economic growth and prosperity as seen in other oil rich Middle Eastern nations.  Nearly all nations on the planet consume a large amount of oil and oil rich nations should be in a position to benefit from this.  Iran has a largely inefficient state sector and reliance on its oil industry, but with proper economic policymaking and patience, the government can develop sustainable growth.  Iran by 2011 estimates has a trillion dollar economy placing 18th in the world, but ranks 4th in oil production and 3rd in oil exports.  With a reference to the Islamist culture issues in the nation, Iran is experiencing a tug from traditionalists to keep a strict grip on the economy and a tug from a new generation, who want the country to grow and develop and truly expand their production capabilities as an economy.  In this modern era, economic supremacy dominates world affairs and trivial culture issues tear at nations with otherwise healthy economic affairs.

Looking past Iran's own actions in this world affair, Western governments must reexamine their stances on nuclear weapons.  While there is obviously a threat from a nation attacking another with a nuclear weapon, much direr and much more likely attacks are being developed and make a mockery out of mutually assured destruction due to a lack of deterrence.

Cyber warfare for example seems like a nuisance to the public, but in reality, a government aligned hacking collective with the ability to control power stations, commercial industries, and military hardware threatens more lives than a deterred nuclear threat from another nation. 

Conflicts in space are also another serious issue, as nations develop independent GPS and communication systems; they are vulnerable to attack just like any ground or air target, but with much more devastating consequences.  If, for example, a country destroys 9 or so of our current 31 healthy GPS satellites, positioning efforts across the country would fail, disrupting all commercial aviation and shipping, and severely weakening our military's ability to navigate a large section of the Earth's surface until repositioning could occur.

Overall, much larger threats exist in our heavily economically dependent nations, and nuclear ambitions are likely to evolve into a serious prospect for many nations as the technology becomes more readily available and the materials are more easily created.  Weaponization should become nearly a spinoff of what could be a prosperous era in nuclear energy efforts through both fission and fusion, along with other alternative energies.  In short, the world is ready for a new shift in energy dependency, away from the Middle East and out into the unknown, and nations like Iran just happen to not understand that. 
I would hope that this rational Iranian government does not pursue nuclear efforts at this time.  It is ever more likely that when proven oil reserves dry up and processes to gather natural gas reserves threaten public safety, a new era of peaceful proliferation in nuclear energy will occur spreading the enormous wealth of efforts in fusion and more efficient fission.  While more developed nations will likely control the commercial aspects of the nuclear industry, the prospect of nuclear energy in the Global South is more likely then rather than now as production or purchase of radioactive material will become more available to these developing and least industrialized nations. 

The author is a senior at Wyomissing Area High School, and president of the school's Model U.N.


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