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Rep. John Payne: Thank you for a wonderful 14 years in House

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks for your encouragement and support during my 14 years in office. I truly appreciate the great opportunity I have had serving the people of the 106th Legislative District.

It has been an incredible experience serving you in the state House and interacting with you at a number of events in the district. I consider myself very fortunate to have had this opportunity to serve as your voice in the state Capitol and to work on your behalf, advocating and advancing the issues that are important to all of you. 

One of the best parts about this job has been meeting residents of all ages and hearing about what’s important in your lives. Many of you have shared your stories with me — and some have even told me the hardships you have faced in your lives — and I have tried to help in the best way I could. I have always tried to do my best, to listen to everyone’s ideas and opinions whether or not I agreed, and to represent your interests in Harrisburg.

Thankfully, I had the opportunity during my time in the state Legislature to work on issues important to me and the people I represent, such as ensuring adequate funding for our local schools and the Hershey Center for Applied Research, where important biomedical research is conducted. I was also glad to be able to successfully secure the largest investment for local transportation projects of any House district in the state. Many of those projects have been completed, but there are many more to come over the next several years. 

In addition to these projects, I’ve worked to ensure we have a fiscally responsible government, a business environment supportive of job creation and expansion, and safe communities for our children and grandchildren.

Over the years, many of you have stopped by or called my district office in Hershey for assistance with a state-related matter, or attended my annual Health Expos, Veterans Breakfasts, Handgun Safety Courses or other events I’ve hosted. I must thank and commend my staff who have worked their magic over the years to be able to help our constituents. 

No matter what the question or how complicated the issue may have been, they have risen to meet the challenge, and I am grateful for their dedication and passion for helping the people of the 106th District.

The 106th District is my home, and as such, I have been honored and consider it a privilege to have served as your state representative for the past 14 years. 

In the future, I plan to spend much more time with my wife, children and grandchildren, as well as travel to some new places. 

With that, I wish you all the very best, and look forward to continuing to see you out and about in our community.

John D. Payne is a Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives whose 106th District includes Middletown.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November 2016 12:53

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I will happily admit it: I was wrong about Trump’s election chances

When a man is wrong, he admits it. Anything less is cowardly.

That said, I admit I called the presidential election wrong. Here in the pages of the Press And Journal, I predicted Hillary Clinton would emerge victorious. I did multiple times, in fact.

I really thought Hillary would clean Trump’s clock. While I sympathized with the president-elect’s attacks on neo-liberal ideology (free trade, lax immigration standards, enthusiasm for foreign policy interventionism) I didn’t think they would put him in the White House. 

What can I say? Being wrong never felt so good.

But why was I, and so many others, mistaken about Trump’s electoral prospects? Professional pundit, I’m not. Yet so many highly paid observers and reporters had Hillary pegged to win. What did they miss? The very same polls that had Hillary walking smoothly into the White House also predicted Trump’s improbable victory in the contentious GOP primary. Why was one wrong and not the other? And why did Hillary’s masterful use of feel-goody identity politics fail before “Make America Great Again”?

The answer is an enigma. It’s so simple, you’d never think it.

During the campaign, there was a lot of buzz about Trump mobilizing the poor white working class. Conventional wisdom held that if the real estate mogul was going to have a chance of defeating a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, he was going to have to rely upon a segment of the population who rarely votes.

It turns out, that wasn’t enough. Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute crunched the data. Here’s what he found: Trump’s gain in white voters wouldn’t have been enough to offset Hillary’s minority support, had her support among non-whites been similar to President Barack Obama’s in 2012. Where Trump made the most gains, and thus clinched the election, was among minorities.

That’s right: Trump won by increasing his percentage of non-white support compared to Mitt Romney’s run four years ago.

All the pother about Trump alienating minorities and forever destroying the GOP’s electoral prospects proved shortsighted. As New York Times data-guru Nate Cohn tweeted following the results, “Dems need to grapple with the fact that they lost this election because voters who supported Obama in 2012 voted Trump.”

That still doesn’t answer the question of “why?” Why was Trump able to gain more minority votes than the Republican nominee in 2012? How did he capture presumably Democratic states like Michigan and Pennsylvania?

Here’s where I, and others, really got it wrong. Voters can be fickle people. Their desires, dreams and wants are not easily understood, though there’s plenty of scientific literature out there purporting to understand what makes voters tick.

One measure I’ve relied on was outlined by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt back in 2012. In an article titled “Forget the Money, Follow the Sacred,” for The New York Times, Haidt dismissed the common understanding that voters vote based on their wallets. “When people feel that a group they value — be it racial, religious, regional or ideological — is under attack, they rally to its defense, even at some cost to themselves,” Haidt explained. “We evolved to be tribal, and politics is a competition among coalitions of tribes.”

During the Obama-Romney bout, that understanding made sense. Obama, the son of an absent immigrant dad and hardworking mom, fashioned himself as a rags-to-riches symbol for minorities and dysfunctional whites. 

He was a symbol of hope, and a reaction against greedy Wall Streeters that plunged the country into recession. Romney, on the other hand, was portrayed as a protector of the affluent. 

Both were fabrications, but it didn’t matter in the fiction machine of politics.

Likewise, Trump has spent over a year being attacked relentlessly for his anti-immigration remarks and crude gestures toward women. Every liberal epithet in the book was thrown at him. Yet he still performed better than expected among women, blacks, and Hispanics. The question is: How?

The only answer I’ve come to is a simple one. The promise of jobs. And the promise of financial and physical security. Trump didn’t campaign on esoteric policy or paeans to love. His platform was about stopping the country’s hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs and keeping criminals from entering our country. Hillary campaigned on a weird mix of warm-hearted cheer and spite for her bigoted enemies; Trump was all about the material.

Bill Clinton, of all people, noticed Hillary’s slipping grip with working class voters and reportedly tried to intervene in the weeks leading up to Election Day. The former president tried to warn his aloof wife that feting with Jay-Z and Beyoncé while ignoring blue collar types would down her campaign. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post reported that Clinton staffers in Midwest states like Michigan and Wisconsin had to raise their own money for canvassers after they were rebuked by Hillary headquarters in Brooklyn.

I don’t think Bill loves being right in this instance.

This election has upended a lot of modern notions about American politics. Media professionals aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are. Identity politics is a potent force, unless your wallet feels thin. And more importantly, the White House is earned and not deserved.

For myself, I ate a heaping pile of humble pie over my shoddy prediction.

Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States. We should all hope he succeeds in truly making America great again.

James E. Miller, a native of Middletown, works as a digital marketer in Northern Virginia.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November 2016 12:48

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When it comes to spending money, Elks Theatre is a want, not a need

Back in 1980s, I can remember going into the Elks Theatre as a teenager and sitting in the back row with my friends to watch movies and thinking, “This is great. We have our own theater in our town.”

In 2010, I can remember taking our son to the Elks Theatre as a 4-year-old and he was so excited because it was his first movie.

In 2005, I started taking a true interest in the town I called home for the last 40 years. 

I have seen our town go from all store fronts filled to having very few open. I have also watched Middletown go from a town where people had respect to a town where people don’t even slow down at stop signs let alone stop long enough to say hello. 

Society has changed. We are now a society of fast-paced, immediate-responses-needed, no time to slow down. 

For the most part, families are now a double income family (not that they want to be but it has become a necessity) with both parents working during the day as the child/children are in daycare/school. Once the parents are off from work they are rushing home to get a quick dinner, do homework and drive the child/children to some sort of practice or event that they are involved in.

The weekend of a family like this for the most part does not include going to the movies. It is the cleaning of the house one day and the next day is catching up on family time. Unfortunately, movie theaters have become a thing of the past. 

With Netflix, on demand and Hulu, we all have the movies we want from the quiet and relaxation of our own home. 

I would love to see our little theater make it, but like I said in the past I do not want to see our residents suffer because of it. I voted “no” Tuesday evening, Nov. 15, on accepting the $500,000 grant, and again on Monday. Here is my reason.

If you listen to the video of the meeting, you will hear all of the uncertainties of this grant and what we can or cannot do with it, how we can or cannot pay it back, what paperwork is needed, how much it would cost us if we decided not to proceed, where are we getting the money from and will we need to increase taxes or the electric rate. 

When I ran for council last year, I stated that I would do what I felt was best for our town. 

The vote was hard for me. While some wanted the theater because of its history, I know there are more residents in our town that could not afford to pay higher taxes or higher electric rates. I am watching the Facebook posts and I see that people are saying that there may be ways that we could fund it without these raises, but again that is another uncertainty. I can tell you the facts and what I have learned in the past two months:

1. The library which the borough owns needs a new roof.

2. The library needs a new A/C unit.

3. The borough hall needs a new A/C unit.

4. The police station needs more work to make it functional.

5. We need more Public Works employees. 

6. We need more police officers.

7. The public pool will need repairs before opening next spring.

8. The Middletown Fire Department will need two new trucks. 

9. Ann Street needs to be paved.

10. Our health insurance almost doubled.

11. We need new plow trucks/dump trucks.

And the list goes on and on with the needs of our town. While I hear a lot of people saying they want the theater open, I am also seeing and hearing what our town needs. 

I may have lost a lot of supporters or friends based upon my decision to vote no for this, but like I said last Tuesday night, I have to keep the well-being of 9,000 residents of our town as my first and foremost reason for this vote. 

As for people going onto my private Facebook page and demanding an explanation, I will not engage in demands on my private page. I stated my reasons last night at the meeting and that meeting can be viewed on Facebook. 

You can call me the skeptic’s leader, you can call me the vocal one of the group, and that is fine with me, but at least you know that I am asking questions and trying to figure out what is best and not just going with the flow of things.

I told the residents that I would be there for the majority of our town, not just vote the way the majority of council is going, and I believe I have proved that to you all.

Dawn Knull is a member of the Middletown Borough Council.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 November 2016 16:00

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Middletown is a wonderful place to live: Look at all it has to offer

I love to walk! Especially in the morning before most people are out of bed. That’s one of the reasons I love that I’m living in Middletown. 

I think some of my love of walking came from the times I’ve lived in Europe with my family, first in Switzerland with my husband, then later with my whole family, then in France for several summers. Most of the time we didn’t have a car, so we walked a lot and used trains and buses to get around to further-flung places or to bring back the groceries from the store. That’s a part of the world that knows about public transportation!

My husband and I moved here in July 2015 when I took a job at Penn State Harrisburg as the associate dean of research and outreach and professor of biology. It’s a job that has me working with faculty to help them support their research and scholarship in all kinds of subjects. I love my job.

When we were looking for a place to buy a house, we looked all over Harrisburg, in Lower Paxton and in Middletown. Where we came from in Binghamton, New York, we lived in a part of town with lots of sidewalks and parks where we could walk and where we were close to the schools were my daughters attended (five minutes to the elementary, 10 to middle school and 15 to high school — nice increase in their walking time as their legs got bigger). 

Midtown in Harrisburg had sidewalks and some interesting restaurants, the Midtown Scholar bookstore and the Midtown Cinema. Bellevue Park and Lower Paxton had areas with some sidewalks and lovely parks. It was in Middletown that we found all that and banks, grocery stores, the library and the post office within walking distance. And then I could walk to work, too. So we found a house on Spring Street that we love. 

The other really cool thing for us is to have an Amtrak train station within walking distance. I’ve used it to go to Philadelphia twice already and once to visit my family in Massachusetts. I’ll go to New York City this month to attend a meeting across from the United Nations headquarters. My husband has also used the train to go to New York once to meet with friends and do some business.

Now my mornings start at about 5:45 a.m. with a 2-mile walk while I listen to NPR news and “Morning Edition.” I usually walk down Union Street under the railroad bridge and all the way out to the Swatara Creek boat landing. In the summer, I’d often say good morning to the ducks before continuing my loop up and around past the ball field, the water treatment plant and the laundromat on Wood Street. 

Sometimes I walk to Giant to pick up a few items for breakfast or lunch. For that, I prefer to walk along Water Street rather than Main and then loop back via Adelia and Emaus streets. For the most part, the streets are well lit, so I’m not having too hard of a time stepping over the uneven pavement from the trees pushing up against the concrete.

In October, I loved seeing Halloween decorations grow up out of yards and front porches. You take this quite seriously, much more so than any town I’ve lived in before. Last year, my husband and I were driving back from the Giant at the end of October and started seeing crowds of families and kids on the sidewalk. We realized we were driving up the parade route and had to ask a policeman to let us out through one of the barriers. We won’t make that mistake again. In fact this year, I walked with a friend’s kids to watch the parade and enjoyed the spectacle from the sidewalk.

Since we’ve lived here, we have been able to walk to the Brownstone for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to Alfred’s for dinner and to Kuppy’s once for breakfast with the retirees from Penn State. It’s been great to use the new walkways along Union, giving a real nice feeling to the downtown. 

We’ve also seen two new places open up on our walking circuit, namely Tattered Flag and the Hopyard. We’re not real beer drinkers, so we haven’t made it a point to go, though we look forward to welcoming friends or meeting neighbors at both places. I also have some ideas I look forward to sharing with you about fun things we could do around town, so stay tuned!

As you can tell, I like to walk, although I’m usually alone when I do that. What I like to do with others for exercise is dancing, and not just any kind, specifically both English Country dancing and Contradancing. The first is the type of dancing Jane Austen did and is represented in several of the movies about her books like “Pride and Prejudice.”  Contradancing is a more modern type of English Country dancing with moves like you have in square dancing like do-si-do and allemande (remember your French?).  Both are low impact, done with all ages and usually with live music.  There’s someone teaching the dances for everyone and prompting you as the dance progresses. It’s great fun and something I do with my whole family.

The cool thing about our house in Middletown is we have a large living room with lovely wood floors that are wonderful for dancing. In fact, that’s the main reason I let my husband get the house when it was bigger than the one we left in Binghamton (I know it’s not logical for empty nesters). So we are hosting an English Country dance at our house this Saturday, Nov. 19, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. We’re at 207 N. Spring St. and would love to have you. If this day doesn’t work for you (maybe you’re traveling or in the midst of buying up things for Thanksgiving), you’ll get another chance Dec. 10 during the holiday open house. I’ll tell you more about our house before then.

Thank you for having such a nice town to walk in and I look forward to meeting some of you at our house for dancing or on my walks. Maybe not at 5:45 a.m. on a Monday morning. ;-)

Susannah Gal is associate dean of research and outreach and a professor of biology at Penn State Harrisburg. She has lived around the world and made Middletown her home in July 2015. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2016 15:00

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It’s time for civility again in America

The “historic” election of 2016 is over. I use these quotation marks only because in truth every election is historic, every new president makes history, every new Congress will leave its mark on us as a country and as individuals. As we move forward now to write this new phase, I am, as we all are, trying to gain perspective on all that has happened, all we have seen, heard and felt. 

Most people who are familiar with my background knew or assumed I was supporting Hillary Clinton although I chose not to express myself too loudly or too publicly prior to election day. I made that decision in an effort to demonstrate my respect for the differing opinions of my constituents, family, and friends. I hope I succeeded and did not alienate anyone.

Now I am choosing to state my support and the reasons behind it. I was with her in this campaign, I am with her now and I have been with her all the through her career. I continue to support and admire Hillary Clinton for her many years of service and a voting record that confirms her dedication to improve the lives of families, woman and children in this country and around the world. I am grateful for the determination she exhibited in working for enhanced quality health care for the 911 first responders, recognizing the protections and benefits they and their families would need as a result of the special conditions under which they performed on that day and in the succeeding weeks. 

I am awed by the trail she has blazed and the standard bearer she has been for all women for so long, working to change the landscape so that those young women voting for the first time in 2016, have never had to experience the level and type of sexism that she and so many others battled in order to be recognized, heard, acknowledged and respected and finally considered fit to lead the country. 

I supported her because I see us as a diverse and culturally rich country and she has always sought to preserve that diversity, honor that cultural richness, and embrace those who have been and continue to be marginalized.

I am proud to carry many of her ideals forward because they are mine as well. I plan to do that without rancor or anger. I hope the sharing of my opinion will be accepted in the spirit in which it is meant ... as a reflection of my personal thoughts and hopes stated without judgement and with respect for all no matter our disagreements and differences. 

Even as I state my very strong feelings for Hillary Clinton and the ideas I embrace, I recognize that it is time to move forward, despite the deep divisions that continue to exist in this nation, this state, this borough, this community. Still, as Americans, we have a long tradition of accepting new political order every time we exercise our voting power. As is our custom, it is time to move forward as the mayor has requested and put aside our anger and accusations. It will serve us well to extend empathy to those whose candidate lost and conciliation to those whose candidate won; to stop disparaging each other and the candidates for whom we voted. 

We can do this without sacrificing all that we as individuals hold dear. We can do this without acquiescing to or accepting conditions with which we do not agree. We can do this and still express our beliefs, fight for our ideals, and work to correct wrongs. Our government affords us many nonviolent, peaceful and productive ways to do so, even as we try to find common goals and work to accomplish them. We can do this by being ever vigilant and committed as active participants in the way our government functions from the local to the federal level. No matter the disparity of our beliefs, we are allowed to express them freely as is permitted and protected by our Constitution. 

It’s been a long, bitter, and painful campaign season but now it’s over. Now it’s time to return to the practice of civility, courtesy, tolerance and diplomacy. “Historically,” that is what has always made and will continue to make America great.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2016 14:43

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