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Editor's Voice: A Night Out will do you good

Whether it is to meet your local police officers or take a symbolic stand against crime, you should make it a point to attend the National Night Out events in your community on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

They're informative. And fun. And free!

Your attendance sends lots of positive messages – messages of support to your police force, of vigilance to the criminals in our midst, of morally right, law-abiding behavior to your children.

Middletown will host National Night Out at two locations – Hoffer Park and Oak Hills Park – from 6 to 9 p.m. Last year's inaugural effort drew a huge crowd, and this one promises to be popular, too.

Royalton will host its first National Night Out at Kiwanis Park from 5 to 8 p.m. Highspire will host its event at Memorial Park from 6 to 9 p.m.; Steelton, in front of the Steelton Fire Department on Front Street from 6 to 8 p.m.; and Swatara Twp., at Vanatta Park from 6 to 9 p.m.

Enjoy meeting the officers who protect you, the neighbors who can help you remain vigilant against crime, the food, the entertainment, the camaraderie.

It's a win all the way around. 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 July 2014 19:51

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Editor's Voice: Demey School was a reflection of its namesake

The Alice Demey Elementary School lived up to its namesake. Alice Demey taught second grade there for 50 years – her dedication to education and helping others was legendary, and the school reflected that before it closed in 2003.

 

Former students rave about the school, the great teachers, the warmth and loving spirit they felt within its walls. Demey, who died in 2010, was an example whom others tried to emulate: an accomplished teacher who was the first recipient of the Pennsylvania State Education Association’s Golden Apple, a Sunday school teacher at her church who took flowers to shut-ins, a tireless volunteer who gave 9,000 hours of her time to Frey Village, where she had lived for almost 10 years.

 

Demey, who lived on her family’s farm in Lower Swatara Twp. all her life, graduated from high school at the age of 16, and from Elizabethtown College at the age of 18. She immediately went to work upon her college graduation, at a one-room schoolhouse, before moving to Grandview Elementary School. Her career was so impressive that they named the school after her.

 

“She cared about her kids. She She cared about her colleagues. She cared about teaching,’’ said Richard Weinstein, former superintendent of Middletown Area School District.

 

Knowing the woman whose name was on the school makes it harder for local residents to see what’s happening to the building: It’s about to be demolished.

 

Penn State Harrisburg, which bought the empty school in 2003, has begun the demolition, and plans to turn the site into a recreation area, parking or possibly student housing. Dorms were planned at one time – the university had considered remodeling Demey School into housing for students –  but the cost of constructing student housing is great, and private developers have stepped in recently to build housing complexes on the edge of the university’s campus, making the need for dorms less critical.

 

Today, it is impractical to remodel Demey School into dorms because of the building’s age – it was built in 1953 – and condition, the university said. Fences have been erected around the school, in preparation for demolition, which is scheduled to begin by the end of July, according to the university.

 

Fortunately, Penn State Harrisburg won’t let Alice Demey’s legacy disappear from the physical world. The university plans to erect a marker in her honor at the site. “Penn State Harrisburg recognizes the important role that the Alice Demey Elementary School, and its namesake, played in the education of numerous Middletown area residents,’’ said Chancellor Mukund Kulkarni.

 

Indeed, Alice Demey taught all of us the importance of education and compassion for others.

 

Her dedication to teaching and helping others was a shining example that will live through time, and will resonate in every student and colleague who met her, school or no school.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 20:36

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A very welcome case of political transparency

Politicians promise transparency when they run for office, but too often seem to ignore that tenet when it’s convenient and politically expedient.

 

But in this instance – the hiring of a new chief for the Middletown Police Department – Middletown Borough Council is involving the public to an unprecedented degree in the department’s recent history.

 

The three finalists for the job were scheduled to meet the public during two meetings of council’s Public Safety Committee, which will recommend a candidate to the full council. One finalist was scheduled to appear at a committee meeting on Tuesday, July 15, while the other two are scheduled to appear at a meeting beginning at 4 p.m. on Monday, July 21.

 

The committee – councilors Scott Sites, Robert Louer and John Brubaker – will interview each finalist privately before each public appearance by the finalists. But the opportunity for the public to, as Sites puts it, “meet and mingle’’ with those who want to serve Middletown as the borough’s top cop is unusual. Mayor James H. Curry III, who was invited by the committee to join in the interviews, said it’s the first time residents have had the chance to ask questions of those seeking the job.

 

Even if the public segment of the interview process does not produce tidbits that would sway committee members toward or away from any of the finalists – though each finalist’s ability to deal with the public should be a factor – it’s a great idea to open up the process as much as council has done. At the very least, the public can see that there is actually an attempt underway to find the best candidate. Too often, government hires are simply announced to the public, and the voters wonder if any other qualified candidates were considered. In this case, the public can perhaps be a factor in the hiring of a chief – and at least feel as though it was considered when a candidate was hired.

 

Council has the right under the law to keep the interview process private, but has chosen to invite the public to join in. We expect the public will be anxious to meet its newest public servant. 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 20:07

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Editor's Voice: They step forward to save a patriotic tradition in town

 

Did you see the U.S. flags hanging in Middletown’s square for Independence Day? Along Union Street?

 

Were you surprised?

 

The man who has carried on the tradition of hanging the flags on poles in town during patriotic holidays, Sam Bangert, had announced his retirement from the enterprise in an article published in the Press And Journal on Wednesday, July 2. He’s now 70, and after 25 years of spearheading the effort – at its heyday, sponsors paid for 114 flags that Bangert and a Boy Scout troop posted throughout Middletown – he decided he could no longer keep going.

 

He offered to sell the flags and poles at $10 apiece to anyone who wanted to place a flag in front of their business, and hoped to find someone who would supervise the effort in the future. While no one has stepped forward to take over for Bangert, several residents and businesses did step forward to buy flags and keep the patriotic tradition alive, at least in part.

 

Resident Mike Bowman, a local landlord, purchased 30, placing some on the square. "Guys have died defending this flag,'' said Bowman, a regular at Middletown Borough Council meetings and sometime critic of government spending. "If you are going to spend money on something, spend it on something worthwhile."

 

Businesses like Dunn’s Antiques and Collectibles purchased a flag to hang in front of their establishments (including the Press And Journal, we’re delighted to point out). "They belong in Middletown,'' said owner Charles Dunn, citing the tradition that Bangert perpetuated.

 

It’s a tradition that should be preserved – and we thank Bangert for carrying the responsibility for so many, many years.

 

And we applaud those who were so moved by the patriotic tribute – can you imagine an Independence Day, or a Veterans Day, or a Memorial Day without the flags flying in Middletown? – that they did something to preserve it. We're encouraged that, as Bangert points out in a follow-up story on page A1 of this edition, that many others still are calling him to buy the flags.

 

This is what can happen when Middletowners put aside their political differences to do something good for the town. The flag display was tremendous. Long may they wave.

     

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 July 2014 18:14

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Editor's Voice: A salute to Middletown's one-man holiday tradition

Those U.S. flags that lined the streets of Middletown’s business district on patriotic holidays – Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day and the days of elections, among others – were erected by one man, Sam Bangert. How he inherited the duty from local Boy Scouts and borough government is a story about the closeness of a small town like Middletown, and the devotion its residents feel for it.

 

For nearly 25 years, Bangert has led the charge in what is Middletown’s only July 4 tradition. He’s 70 now, and looking for someone to take over the duty. He’s been looking for the past five years, in fact – to no avail.

At its peak of popularity, the patriotic display reached 114 flags flying on poles around town, paid for by individual sponsors and businesses. Lately, Bangert has put up fewer flags, but the responsibility still is daunting, physically and mentally.

Twisting the poles into the sidewalk has taken a toll on his wrists, and he feels “dead beat’’ at the end of each patriotic holiday from installing and removing the flags. And he hasn’t been able to get away on holidays like everyone else, because he had to be in Middletown to take the flags down quickly.

So after Armed Forces Day on May 17, Bangert stopped, he told our reporter, Dan Miller, in a story on A1 of this edition. You can’t blame him. The fact that he carried out his flag duty for so long is absolutely amazing, and a credit to his character and devotion to his town, his country and those who served.

Bangert still has the flags and poles in a trailer at his house. He’s hoping individuals and businesses will buy their own flag and pole from him for $10 and put it up for holidays.

His flag displays are one of the things that made Middletown unique. And such a show of patriotism is a source of pride in Middletown, where military service is valued – look at the number of flags flown from porches on patriotic holidays as proof.

It would be a shame for Bangert’s one-man tradition to end. Will someone step forward to preserve it? We hope so.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 July 2014 18:25

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