How Well Do You Know Your State?
Pennsylvania From Below | 03.08.2010
It's easy to think you know Pennsylvania. You might live in one of the big cities, and think the rest of the state is a vast countryside. Or you might live in a rural area and think that most of the state is like your county, with the exception of the cities. However, the diversity of our state can surprise you. read more | pafrombelow.info
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, there are 23 different geographical regions in the state. Pennsylvania is a large state, with regions that vary from the rolling hills of Lancaster County to the inclined plane of western PA. Most residents have heard of Centralia, the mine town that has been on fire for over fifty years. Fewer have heard of the geological formation called the “Whaleback” found in the same region.
Many areas of the state are as densely populated as any big city. Perry County just installed its first traffic light , while Philadelphia has two of the three deadliest intersections in the nation. Community celebrations reflect the diverse cultures present in the same state. Northwest Pennsylvania hosts an annual Chainsaw Carving Competition in Elk County, while Philadelphia has its Mummer's Parade, Puerto Rican Day Parade and Juneteenth Celebration, among very many others.
For over a century, Pennsylvania has been home to a few large industries that have fueled the state's growth—particularly coal, steel, textiles, and agriculture. In fact, the first US oil well was in Titusville, PA, drilled in 1859. The times of Coal Barons and Molly Maguires have passed, and de-industrialization has taken a heavy toll on the state. Along with the rest of the country and much of the world, Pennsylvania's unemployment has gone up, hovering around 10 percent.
In recent years, the state's desperation for new businesses and industry has been reflected in policy changes. In 2004, the state legalized casinos. There are now nine casinos up and running and another five pending approval, though not without resistance. Despite these and other new businesses expanding, Wal-Mart remains the state's largest private employer.
Change is, as always, brewing. This is where Pennsylvania from Below comes in. Despite our cultural and geographical diversity, certain issues affect us all as residents, and these issues will not change without motivation. This winter, we are investigating four issues happening in our state. Our hope is that we can raise both awareness of and networking opportunities for people affected by these issues.
The Keystone Opportunity Zone program has been created by politicians to bait new industry. with the promise of tax breaks. The state selects the zones and then encourages companies to move in and build with the benefit of paying no state or local taxes for 10 years. The first KOZ properties were designated over ten years ago, and the program is still in operation. How has this program worked? Has it delivered on its goals?
If you've read any local news in the past year, then you are aware that the state is about to be “fracked” by gas drilling companies. As residents of a state long-tied to fossil fuel extraction in the forms of coal and oil, what do we stand to gain from natural gas drilling? More importantly, at what cost?
Often mentioned, but not easily understood is the issue of immigration into the state. People from many other countries have been seeking and finding employment in this state. Besides the same old rhetoric, what do we really know about immigration? PA has put itself on the map in recent years over racial tension. What makes people choose PA as a destination? How do immigrants end up here? What is a typical immigrant experience like after arriving? How does immigration can affect small towns?
Finally, nearly everyone across the state has in some way dealt with unemployment, be it themselves, family or friends. This problem has only been worsened by recent economic trends, especially in areas like Cameron County. This rural community in north-central PA has an unemployment rate that has remained upwards of 17 percent over the past year, making it the state's most unemployed county. What events led to this, and how does a small county feel the effects?
Stay tuned. On May 1st, PA from Below will release a newspaper exploring all these issues. It will be available for free online and in print throughout the state. To get copies, see those articles and more, you can join us at www.pafrombelow.info