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City-County Building exhibit celebrates immigrants

Published by Mike Pound on .

Luis Clemente speaks in front of a photo of his father, Roberto Clemente. Luis Clemente speaks in front of a photo of his father, Roberto Clemente.

By Robert Zullo

Luis Clemente remembers the baseball seasons he spent in Pittsburgh as a child fondly.

"We loved coming to Pittsburgh as kids," said Mr. Clemente, one of three sons of legendary Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente. "For us, Pittsburgh was a source of fun."

The older he got, however, the more he noticed the differences between western Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, where he, his father and brothers all were born.

"I realized there were not many Latinos," said Mr. Clemente, 48, who lives in Puerto Rico but visits Pittsburgh frequently.

Mr. Clemente was among the speakers in the lobby of the City-County Building on Grant Street this morning as Mayor Bill Peduto proclaimed "National Welcoming Week," a nationwide event aimed at highlighting the contributions of immigrants to American communities. It is organized by Welcoming America, a national collaborative that "promotes mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans."

Speaking in front of the famous "angel wing" photo of Mr. Clemente taken during spring training 1960, on loan from the Clemente museum in Lawrenceville, Mr. Peduto said Pittsburgh has not always been a "welcoming city."

"We were the type of city that said, 'We're fine. We don't need anybody new,'" the mayor said, launching an exhibit featuring portraits of Bhutanese, Burmese, and Karen community members and commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month. Additional items on display for the next month include textiles made by rural Andean women,provided by local nonprofit Awamaki, and "Hear Me" kiosks set to play stories from immigrants and Latino youth in Pittsburgh. The exhibit, sponsored by ImaginePittsburgh and ¡Hola Pittsburgh!, dovetails with Mr. Peduto's "Welcoming Pittsburgh" initiative, which includes a 40-member advisory council whose work will be focused on making the city more inviting to immigrants.

"It's a culture change and we're all about culture change," Mr. Peduto said. "The future of Pittsburgh is going to be vastly different. It's not going to be southern and eastern Europeans and people from the southern United States ... It will be people from Asia, people from Africa, people from the Caribbean, South America and Central America. And they're going to be the future ... We have to be the type of city that recognizes that and welcomes that."

Robert Zullo: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-263-3909. Twitter: @rczullo.

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Education funding, lies and video tape

Published by Mike Pound on .

We're not sure whether there's enough time for the campaign of Gov. Tom Corbett to take control of the discussion of education funding, but if the new campaign ad released on Wednesday is any indication, it's certainly going to give it a shot.

Mr. Big:

What's new: Mr. Corbett seems to have recalled that he's running against York businessman Tom Wolf and not Ed Rendell, the former governor who was featured prominently in the previous Corbett spot. And in that same spot, Mr. Corbett, who narrated the spot, used words like "mislead" and "truth," while this time, a narrator flat-out calls Mr. Wolf a liar.

What's not: The tone may be different, but the front-and-center claims of the ad – that basic education funding has increased under Mr. Corbett, that state spending on public education is at its highest level ever, etc. – are all things we've heard before.

Bottom line: "If Wolf is willing to lie about your kids' education, what won't he lie about?"

Random things we noticed: The trend here isn't that the ads in the gubernatorial campaign going to break new ground; apparently it's that they're going to become more and more shrill between now and November. How can voters see past what is sure to be a series of similar ads and competing claims? The key has to do with different baselines used by the respective candidates. Mr. Corbett can accurately say he's increased state funding for education, because he ignores the federal stimulus funds applied to the education subsidy by Mr. Rendell during the Great Recession. And Mr. Wolf can truthfully say the governor cut $1 billion from education because there have been cuts to education funding of more than $1.2 billion in the four years that followed the stimulus-aided 2010-11 fiscal year. Does that mean that Mr. Wolf is a liar, as the "Mr. Big" ad claims? It does not.

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Dems: timing of state's loan to itself is troubling

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Corbett

Brother, can you spare $1.5 billion?

As it turns out, we can. What that means is another matter.

The timing of the Pennsylvania's loan to itself, announced earlier this week by the state treasury, is troubling to some folks in Harrisburg, who say the fact that the state is short on cash this early in the fiscal year portends a rough 2014-15.

It's not unusual that the state would borrow money from itself to cover a cash-flow problem. It's been done several times in the past, most recently in February 2009 and again in December. And it's a decent deal, according to officials at the treasury and in Gov. Corbett's office; because the source of the loan is the state's short-term investment pool , the state saves on transaction costs and pays a low interest rate to the fund.

An easy solution, right? Sort of, at least until you consider that we're just a couple months into the fiscal year and the state is already having cash-flow problems; that's months earlier than either of the previous loans have been necessary.

Is that a big deal? It depends on who you ask.

"This is directly related to the budgets that have been implemented over the past couple of years," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, who, like many of his Democratic counterparts, has complained that the state's most recent budget relies too heavily on one-time revenue sources and overly optimistic projections. "It doesn't bode well for next year."

And yeah, the loan caught the attention non-government types as well; the Tom Wolf campaign called the infusion of cash a "payday loan."

Members of the Corbett administration seemed less concerned. State Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said Democrats were making a big deal out of a routine practice and Jay Pagni, spokesman for Mr. Corbett, offered a shrug: "We see this as a short-term financing. We continually examine the budget and the spending to make sure we're keeping in line with the revenues side of the equation."

Mr. Pagni isn't wrong -- the state has done this before and municipal governments regularly take out tax anticipation notes to cover for expenses while revenue catches up -- but the timing -- and the appearance of a shaky financial situation for the state -- couldn't possibly be worse, if we're thinking about the political prospects of Mr. Pagni's boss.

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Don't bother Wolf with details

Published by Mike Pound on .

Democratic candidate for governor Tom Wolf speaks outside a school in Canonsburg. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)Democratic candidate for governor Tom Wolf speaks outside a school in Canonsburg. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)

The Battling Toms continue to battle and Harrisburg has a month to get some stuff done before November's elections. Add it all up and you have a pretty busy Tuesday.

  • Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee in the race for governor, reiterated his campaign's claim that Gov. Tom Corbett cut $1 billion from education during his first term, prompting an exchange that left both Toms looking a bit weak. Mr. Wolf was asked about the details of his opponent's cuts; he responded by saying he didn't want to "get into the weeds on the details." The response of Corbett campaign officials? They seem to be stuck in a time warp where their guy is running against Ed Rendell: "So ba­si­cally, (Mr. Wolf is) say­ing we're right and he's en­gag­ing in se­man­tics to per­pet­u­ate a lie against Gov. Cor­bett's his­toric in­vest­ments in our pub­lic schools and cuts made by his for­mer boss and men­tor that were re­placed by one-time fed­eral stim­u­lus money from Wash­ing­ton," said Billy Pit­man, a Cor­bett spokes­man.
  • As we mentioned a day ago, it seems like a good bet that a cigarette tax to help bail out the Philadelphia School District – that's a $2-per-pack tax the district says it needs to fill an $81 budget hole – will get quick attention from the General Assembly.
  • One we didn't mention a day ago? The potential for movement on a proposal to allow the use of medical marijuana in the state. State Senate Republicans will discuss the bill, which would provide for a narrow use of marijuana for medical purposes, this week; if that caucus reaches a favorable outcome, a vote by the full Senate could come next week. The bill's prospects in the House – and, if it gets that far, before Mr. Corbett – don't seem as solid.
  • Mr. Corbett is asking Commonwealth Court to block the release of hundreds of emails related to the Jerry Sandusky case, after the state Office of Open Records ruled that the emails should be released. Penn State alumnus Ryan Bagwell filed requests to review 644 pages of emails between former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, aides to Mr. Corbett and officials at Penn State.
  • And speaking of emails, the Post-Gazette has filed suit in Commonwealth Court to force the state's executive branch to halt its practice of permanently deleting emails after five days; the suit seeks to establish a policy that requires emails be stored for at least two years. The suit stems from the employment of Mr. Tomalis as Mr. Corbett's special adviser on higher education; Mr. Tomalis resigned last month amid accusations that he collected a $140,000 salary for a no-work job. A right-to-know request filed by the PG yielded just five emails from Tomalis, along with a startling admission by acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq that officials in her department delete emails daily.
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Perry on Politics: Scottish independence would bring cultural change

Published by Mike Pound on .

A passerby argues with two Scottish independence referendum Yes supporters one holding a Scottish Saltire flag up and one not seen, outside the "Better Together" No campaign offices in Edinburgh, Scotland, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. (Matt Dunham/AP photo)

A passerby argues with two Scottish independence referendum Yes supporters one holding a Scottish Saltire flag up and one not seen, outside the "Better Together" No campaign offices in Edinburgh, Scotland, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. (Matt Dunham/AP photo)

By James M. Perry

"I hope everyone thinks carefully about the (independence) referendum this week," Queen Elizabeth II said the other day.

Her comment doesn't mean the queen is taking sides, Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, said.

Not officially, maybe, but everyone knows where the queen stands. She doesn't want to break up a union that's lasted for 307 years. Losing Scotland would mean that the British monarchy, which once ruled what's now the United States, and India and Canada and Australia and New Zealand, would be left with England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

Unthinkable. But polls, most of them not very reliable, show that Scotland's 4.3 million registered voters are very closely divided on whether to say yes (for independence) or no (for staying with the union).

Putting aside the really big questions of what happens to Britain without Scotland in the European Union and what happens to the two economies, think for a moment of historical and cultural changes.

The largest regiment in the British army is, of all things, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Famous old Scottish regiments have been downsized and assigned to the Royal Regiment as battalions. The Black Watch, for example, is now the regiment's 3d battalion, with its headquarters and brand-new museum at Balhousie Castle in Perth. Other old Scottish line regiments, now battalions, are based in Edinburgh, Penicuik, and Glasgow. The Queen is the regiment's colonel-in-chief. The mascot is Lance Corporal Cruachan IV, a Shetland pony.

This, of course, is all heavily Scottish. Troops are recruited and trained in Scotland (will an independent Scotland allow that?) The band plays familiar Scottish airs. From time to time, the troops even parade in kilts.

Will all this survive a break-up of the union?

What would happen to Balmoral Castle, a private fiefdom covering 50,000 acres (and as many as 150 separate properties) in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, a royal playground since Victoria and Albert? It's a 19th Century castle, and not very pretty, but Victoria loved it and this queen and her family seem to love it too. The royal family runs the place (though it's actually owned by a trust, employing 150 full and part-time employes.) There's even a malt distillery on the grounds.

Following Albert's death in1861, Victoria became a regular visitor, spending up to four months at Balmoral in the summers. It was during this time of mourning that she met and became enamored of John Brown, one of the estate's ghillies (a kind of gameskeeper). Writers and movie directors are still trying to make something of it.

Will the royal family really want to come back to Balmoral, if it's in a different country?

Every year, it seems, the queen spends a week in Edinburgh, Scotland's grand old city. She stays when she's there at Holyrood Palace, founded by David I, King of Scots, in 1128 and still owned by the crown. The palace contains the state apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived there in the 16th Century. Elizabeth entertains her subjects and holds a number of garden parties when she's in residence.

Independence would put an end to that.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.