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The Latest Edition of Voices of Central Pa


Defense contracts create fewer good jobs

Centre County’s Top Defense Contractors – 2000-2008

Centre County’s Top Defense Contractors – 2000-2008

by Suzan Erem

Centre County is home to 118 defense contractors that have accounted for almost $1.2 billion dollars of federal monies brought back into the community from 2000 to 2008, according to data tracked by the Federal Procurement Data System, a U.S. government Web site that monitors 12 million federal contracts in real time.

But many local contractors are a far cry from Blackwater operatives shooting Iraqis in the middle of a war zone. One is a caterer; another a mechanical bull manufacturer and even a municipal garbage hauler makes the list.

Penn State University won the bulk of defense contracts, to the tune of $1.06 billion over that time, according to Government Contracts Won, a company that aggregates defense contract data and makes it searchable. The university won its contracts listing itself under a variety of categories including “minority institution,” “other educational institution,” “other small business operating in the United States,” “small disadvantaged business,” “other nonprofit institution” and “large business operating in the United States.” No Penn State administrators, including those in the Office of Sponsored Programs in charge of such grants, would make themselves available for an interview. The only information Voices could obtain from the university was funneled through Penn State’s Office of Public Information, whose staff was unfamiliar with specifics of the grants.

Other local contractors are a mix of household names and obscure acronyms. Minitab doesn’t even make the top 10 and Raytheon itself is closer to the bottom 10 though Raytheon’s subsidiary, HRB Systems, Inc., listed separately, brought in $20 million over the past eight years. HRB, like many of the high tech contractors, was founded by a former Penn State researcher.
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The Kindergarten War

The lessons kids learm from the Pa legislature.

New SCASD chief ready to fill big shoes

Richard Mextorf

By Marylouise Markle

Richard Mextorf, who in March assumed the job as superintendent of the State College Area School District, describes himself as a man with a mission.

We talked for about an hour in mid-August in his office on Nittany Avenue.

A polished, red, glass apple was perched on the front of Mextdorf’s desk.

His bookshelves were fully loaded, an ample literary collection, evidence of his years as teacher, musical performer, mentor, athlete and scholar.

Some of the books reflected a creatively imagined academic universe that combines the capacity to connect seemingly disparate dots—of humanism and management; of technology and quiet reflection; of pragmatism and idealism. Peter Drucker, philosopher, professor, revered management icon, is one of Mextorf’s favorite writers and thinkers. Like Drucker, Mextorf sees the implicit value in the human potential of his coworkers, his staff and his students; he tends to focus his considerable energies on challenges and on bold opportunities. Read more »

Struggle over West End vision continues

The State College West End

                 By Suzan Erem

When Holmes-Foster residents turned out this August for a State College Borough Council meeting to say their piece at the late-night work session that followed, the script was straight out of any local development debate: Increased and misdirected traffic will cause problems; higher density means higher crime and higher cost of public services; if only the borough would invest in good sidewalks and decent street lamps, responsible development would follow.

What was unusual was the sheer endurance of those residents and others who spoke that night. They have been attending meetings, contributing to reports, talking with their neighbors and advocating their vision of this area just west of Atherton Street for almost 20 years.

This latest upsurge in community involvement was caused by the suspicion among homeowners that they’d been the victims of yet another bait-and-switch, the latest chapter of which began three years ago when the borough hired Delta Development and its subcontractor EDSA. After paying more than $308,000 in public funds for a report the community appeared to agree upon in 2007, why was council now considering a plan that had changed so radically? Where did some notion of high-rise student housing come from, for example, and why was it landing in their back yards? Read more »

Sad news - State College Mayor Bill Welch passed away

Voices has learned that State College Mayor Bill Welch died today, September 4th, at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, as a result of complications from leg surgery, at the age of 68. Bill Welch was a low key but progressive mayor, who was recently famed for presiding at same-sex civil unions at PSU. "Mayor Bill Welch said he was asked to perform the ceremony by a Penn State group supporting gay, bisexual and transgender students. "It's not illegal or immoral," Welch said. "I'm pro-commitment. I favor love and I didn't see any reason not to do it."

Health care reform debate videos

"I got to witness something really special. About a dozen tea party activists had staked out Sen. Al Franken's booth, and confronted him loudly when he arrived. But within minutes, he'd turned an unruly crowd into a productive conversation on health care. The discussion went from insurance reform, to the public option, to veterans benefits, to cap and trade. He made a few laugh and even told a touching story that moved a few to tears. A whole lot of common ground was found." "Women In Wheelchair Booed At New Jersey Health Care Town Hall - 09/03/09"

For The Next 7 Generations

By Sara Blackwell Thirteen women’s journey to promote spiritual unity, compassion, healing and world peace came full circle in a documentary five years in the making and recently premiered at The State Theatre in State College. “For The Next 7 Generations,” directed by New York-based Carole Hart, is dedicated to her husband Bruce, who died in 2006. The film’s production, which was launched in October 2004 culminated in its screening in August in front of an estimated 200 people. “It’s been deeply informative, deeply transformative and I am grateful to the grandmothers,” said Hart, who came from New York City to attend the premier. “I hope that people around the country and the world will feel the transformation I felt.” The grandmothers profiled in the film came together because of a vision they shared to help promote peace throughout the world. A spiritual leader name Jyoti also had a vision of 13 indigenous women. The grandmothers met for the first time in New York in October 2004. The thirteen women shared their own experiences of being grandmothers and realized they also share a strong belief in the power of prayer and in the idea that Mother Nature has blessed humanity with water, earth, fire and air. The grandmothers are from around the world, from different backgrounds and nations. Their colorful dress sets each apart but also helps identify them as a group and they overcome language barriers through interpreters and a fair amount of body language and laughter.

Influx of returning vets may set record

By Art Goldschmidt Penn State administrators must scramble to prepare for the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who qualify for federal benefits under the Post 9-11 GI Bill passed by Congress in July. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 112,000 veterans applied for educational benefits from May through July 2009. Nearly all will qualify for the new benefits, which include tuition charges, a living allowance comparable to what military families receive, and even a $1,000 annual allowance for textbooks. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the projected cost will be $62 billion over the next decade. “This fall you’re going to see the largest influence of vets on campus since Vietnam. We’ll be changing the landscape of American classrooms,” Brian Hawthorne, 24, regional director of Student Veterans of America, recently told U.S. News and World Report. What is this likely to mean for Penn State? Statewide student enrollment, as of November 2008, was 92,613, an increase of 2,000 from the previous academic year, with the largest increase in the World Campus. University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses will be challenged by an influx of returning veterans in 2009 and more so in the years to come. In an August 3 press release, Penn State’s Office of Public Information predicted that as many as 340 degree-seeking veterans--twice the number enrolled during spring 2009—can be enrolled at University Park through the Yellow Ribbon Program, under which Penn State has agreed to share tuition costs with the Veterans Administration if costs exceed those of the state’s most expensive public institution. More than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities, especially the expensive private ones, have signed up for the Yellow Ribbon Program. For Penn State, the program’s main cost will be forgoing part of the additional charges customarily levied on out-of-state students.
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by Dr. Radut