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Chartiers Township police chief retiring after 30 years

James Horvath will bring to a close 40-plus-year career with the Chartiers Township Police Department at the end of the month.

For 30 of those years, he has led the department as its chief.

“It’s bittersweet. This has been a great place,” Horvath said. “The good part about my job was I worked at something that I loved, worked at a place that I adore and I’m with people that I care most about.”

Among those people has been his brother, Lt. Steven Horvath, who has worked for the police department about as long as James has been chief.

Steven will take over his brother’s job on Feb. 1, and he feels he has been well-prepared for the job.

“I’m not worried. I think he did a great job; he hired well. We have a great bunch of officers,” Steven said.

The Chartiers Township Board of Supervisors approved Steven’s promotion at its Nov. 23 meeting. Gary Friend, board chairman, said James always had the township’s best interests in mind.

“I’ve known Jimmy for a lot of years, before I became chairman and when he was an officer ... I can speak for everybody here that Jimmy did his job with the best dedication,” Friend said.

He added that he believes Steven will carry on that same dedication.

“I think it’s going to be a smooth transition. I think Jimmy has taught him well. I think Steven will be able to slide right in and do the same type of job that his brother did,” Friend said.

Township Manager Jodi Noble also had praise for the outgoing chief.

“I think the chief needs to be commended for running what has been an extremely professional and dedicated, community-oriented police department. We have every confidence that Steve will continue in the same manner,” Noble said.

The Horvath brothers were born and raised in Chartiers Township, though being a police officer was not always in the cards for James.

“When I was young, I think every youngster thinks about being a policeman or a fireman, and then it kind of left me for a while. I probably wasn’t suited for the job at that time. Then I met my wife, and her dad was the fire chief, so he got me involved with the fire department. Through that, I evolved,” Horvath said.

It was around that time Eugene Oliver took notice of James and suggested he become a police officer. Chartiers police had only three officers, Oliver included.

James was hired along with another officer, and shortly after Oliver was promoted to chief, a position he held from 1979 until 1992, when James took over.

“I wasn’t able to go to the academy for a year-and-a-half. So I was the guy that (Oliver) handed the keys to and said, ‘Call me if you need me,’” Horvath said. “My first thing was I went and got a couple dollars’ worth of dimes and nickels for the pay phones, because we didn’t have cellphones back then. I made sure I found out where all the pay phones were so I knew where I could go to call him.”

While then there were only a few officers who worked part time, save for Oliver, the department has since grown to 13 full-timers.

“If I’ve done anything right in this job, I’ve hired well. My first hire was Mike Pelosi, and he was very big part of our department. Lt. Horvath was hired just prior to me being (named) chief by our old chief, Eugene Oliver,” James said.

Steven said his early days with the department were challenging, as it was difficult to overcome the perception that he was only there because of his last name.

“They all felt that he hired me, and they said I got my job because he was the chief. In the beginning it was kind of tough, because you got to establish yourself,” Steven said.

Though they have worked together as police officers for 30 years, they made an effort to maintain a separation between family and business.

Steven still calls his brother “chief” no matter the setting, but they seldom discuss their work.

“We’d go to the mountains, we’d go deer hunting or we’d go to the beach, and we never talked shop,” Steven said.

As James prepares to leave, he recognized how the community he has spent much of his life serving has reciprocated that respect.

“We’re probably the only department that you’ll know of that has a group of residents that went out there and named themselves Friends of the Chartiers Township Police Department. They go out and do fundraising to equip us,” James said.

While James has tried to prepare his brother for the job, he offered Steven this advice:

“When he makes a decision, when he makes a choice – do it for all. Not because it’s the popular thing to do. Not because it’s the political thing to do. Do it because you, in your heart, believe that’s a decision you need to make that will be the best decision for all, not just one or two. It has to be for all,” James said.


Politics
AP
Biden shied away from news conferences, interviews in Year 1

WASHINGTON – In what’s become a familiar scene, President Joe Biden lingered after delivering a recent speech on the pandemic as reporters fired a barrage of questions.

He bristled at a query about the shortage of COVID-19 rapid tests, answered another about omicron-spurred travel restrictions and sidestepped a third about whether Sen. Joe Manchin failed to keep his word when he torpedoed Biden’s social services and climate spending plan.

“I’m not supposed to be having this press conference right now,” Biden said at the end of a meandering response that didn’t directly answer the question about Manchin.

Seconds later, Biden turned and walked out of the State Dining Room, abruptly ending what’s become his preferred method for his limited engagements with the press.

As Biden wraps up his first year in the White House, he has held fewer news conferences than any of his five immediate predecessors at the same point in their presidencies, and has participated in fewer media interviews than any of his recent predecessors.

The dynamic has the White House facing questions about whether Biden, who vowed to have the most transparent administration in the nation’s history, is falling short in pulling back the curtain on how his administration operates and missing opportunities to explain his agenda.

Biden does more frequently field questions at public appearances than any of his recent predecessors, according to new research published by Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor emerita in political science at Towson University and director of the White House Transition Project.

He routinely pauses to talk to reporters who shout questions over Marine One’s whirring propellers as he comes and goes from the White House. He parries with journalists at Oval Office photo ops and other events. But these exchanges have their limitations.

“While President Biden has taken questions more often at his events than his predecessors, he spends less time doing so,” Kumar notes. “He provides short answers with few follow-ups when he takes questions at the end of a previously scheduled speech.”

Biden has done just 22 media interviews, fewer than any of his six most recent White House predecessors at the same point in their presidencies.

The 46th president has held just nine formal news conferences – six solo and three jointly with visiting foreign leaders. Ronald Reagan, whose schedule was scaled back early in his first term in 1981 after an assassination attempt, is the only recent president to hold fewer first-year news conferences, according to Kumar. Reagan did 59 interviews in 1981.

Former President Donald Trump, who regularly pilloried the media, did 92 interviews in his first year in office, more than two dozen of those with friendly interlocutors at Fox News. But Trump also held lengthy sessions with ABC News, The Associated Press, the New York Times, Reuters and other outlets whose coverage he impugned throughout his presidency.

Biden’s 22 media interviews have included one-on-one sessions with journalists at three of the major television networks, three CNN town halls, an appearance on MSNBC, a trio of regional television interviews via Zoom, as well as conversations with late night host Jimmy Fallon and ESPN’S Sage Steele. He’s given just three print interviews.

The White House has fielded requests from media outlets – and complaints from the White House Correspondents’ Association – for Biden to do more one-on-one interviews and formal news conferences.

Press secretary Jen Psaki has pushed back, arguing that a formal news conference with “embroidered cushions” on journalists’ seats is unnecessary since Biden answers questions several times a week.

But those exchanges often don’t allow for follow-up questions, and Biden can ignore questions he might not want to answer.

“Fleeting exchanges are insufficient to building the historical record of the president’s views on a broad array of public concerns. We have had scant opportunities in this first year to learn the president’s views on a broad range of public concerns,” said Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and a reporter for CBS New Radio. “The more formal the exchange with the press, the more the public is apt to learn about what’s on the man’s mind.”

Psaki also holds daily press briefings, unlike her Trump administration predecessors.

The president has answered questions at 55% of events where he’s delivered remarks or an address, more than even two of the more loquacious presidents, Bill Clinton (48%) and Trump (41%).

White House officials pointed to such frequent interactions with reporters as evidence that Biden has demonstrated a commitment to transparency. Officials also suggested that the pandemic has also affected the number of interviews and news conferences in the administration’s first year.

“I think that we have been very transparent,“ White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “I don’t think you can just piecemeal and I think you have to look at it as a whole.”

Trump had regular, and sometimes lengthy exchanges, with reporters as a thwapping Marine One awaited him on the South Lawn.

Biden has continued the tradition of “chopper talk,” a nickname coined by late-night host Stephen Colbert for strained exchanges, though he tends to keep the exchanges brief.

At other moments, Biden has used the exchanges to drive the news cycle.

Asked after a private visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican in October whether they discussed abortion, Biden said it didn’t come up. But then he quickly pivoted to asserting that Francis told him he was “a good Catholic and I should keep receiving communion.” The entire back-and-forth with reporters lasted about a minute.

The administration has put a premium on finding ways to speak to Americans where they are as it tries to maximize the president’s limited time for messaging efforts, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s communications strategy.

To that end, Biden has been interviewed by YouTube personality Manny Mua and went on the “The Tonight Show” to push his domestic agenda and encourage people to get vaccinated. The White House believes such platforms can help the president more easily reach middle-class workers or young Americans who aren’t glued to the cable networks or The New York Times.

Biden has also leaned on celebrities with big social media followings – including actress and songwriter Olivia Rodrigo and Bill Nye The Science Guy – who have done videos with Biden to help bolster his vaccination push and plug his major domestic spending initiatives.

Biden is hardly the first president to look beyond the mainstream media to try to connect with the public.

Former President Barack Obama appeared on Zach Galifianakis’s “Between Two Ferns” to help sell his signature health care law and visited comedian Marc Maron’s garage to record an episode on the popular WTF podcast days after the 2015 Charleston church shooting. Obama spoke bluntly about racism in the wide-ranging interview with Maron.

Trump frequently called into Fox News’ opinion shows, directly reaching his base without the filter of journalists.

Brian Ott, a Missouri State University communications professor who studies presidential rhetoric, said the scarcity of Biden news conferences and interviews with mainstream news media may help explain why Biden’s approval ratings are near historic lows even though most polls show that much of his domestic agenda remains popular with a majority of Americans.

While pop culture and social media offer opportunities to connect with a segment of America, Ott said, the president connecting to the electorate through traditional broadcast and print news outlets – and holding formal news conferences – will be critical to correcting that disconnect.

“The presidency has always been a predominantly rhetorical enterprise,” Ott said. “You can’t drive an agenda without vision casting and part of that has to go through the mainstream press.”

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Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.


Business
AP
Stay home or work sick? Omicron poses a conundrum

As the raging omicron variant of COVID-19 infects workers across the nation, millions of those whose jobs don’t provide paid sick days are having to choose between their health and their paycheck.

While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the beginning of the pandemic, some of those have since been scaled back with the rollout of the vaccines, even though omicron has managed to evade the shots. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure of workers having to decide whether to show up to their job sick if they can’t afford to stay home.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “As staffing gets depleted because people are out sick, that means that those that are on the job have more to do and are even more reluctant to call in sick when they in turn get sick.”

Low-income hourly workers are especially vulnerable. Nearly 80% of all private sector workers get at least one paid sick day, according to a national compensation survey of employee benefits conducted in March by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But only 33% of workers whose wages are at the bottom 10% get paid sick leave, compared with 95% in the top 10%.

A survey this past fall of roughly 6,600 hourly low-wage workers conducted by Harvard’s Shift Project, which focuses on inequality, found that 65% of those workers who reported being sick in the last month said they went to work anyway. That’s lower than the 85% who showed up to work sick before the pandemic, but much higher than it should be in the middle of a public health crisis. Schneider says it could get worse because of omicron and the labor shortage.

What’s more, Schneider noted that the share of workers with paid sick leave before the pandemic barely budged during the pandemic – 50% versus 51% respectively. He further noted many of the working poor surveyed don’t even have $400 in emergency funds, and families will now be even more financially strapped with the expiration of the child tax credit, which had put a few hundred dollars in families’ pockets every month.

The Associated Press interviewed one worker who started a new job with the state of New Mexico last month and started experiencing COVID-like symptoms earlier in the week. The worker, who asked not to be named because it might jeopardize their employment, took a day off to get tested and two more days to wait for the results.

A supervisor called and told the worker they would qualify for paid sick days only if the COVID test turns out to be positive. If the test is negative, the worker will have to take the days without pay, since they haven’t accrued enough time for sick leave.

“I thought I was doing the right thing by protecting my co-workers,” said the worker, who is still awaiting the results and estimates it will cost $160 per day of work missed if they test negative. “Now I wish I just would’ve gone to work and not said anything.”

A Trader Joe’s worker in California, who also asked not to be named because they didn’t want to risk their job, said the company lets workers accrue paid time off that they can use for vacations or sick days. But once that time is used up, employees often feel like they can’t afford to take unpaid days.

“I think many people now come to work sick or with what they call ‘allergies’ because they feel they have no other choice,” the worker said.

Trader Joe’s offered hazard pay until last spring, and even paid time off if workers had COVID-related symptoms. But the worker said those benefits have ended. The company also no longer requires customers to wear masks in all of its stores.

Other companies are similarly curtailing sick time that they offered earlier in the pandemic. Kroger, the country’s biggest traditional grocery chain, is ending some benefits for unvaccinated salaried workers in an attempt to compel more of them to get the jab as COVID-19 cases rise again. Unvaccinated workers enrolled in Kroger’s health care plan will no longer be eligible to receive up to two weeks paid emergency leave if they become infected – a policy that was put into place last year when vaccines were unavailable.

Meanwhile, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, is slashing pandemic-related paid leave in half – from two weeks to one – after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced isolation requirements for people who don’t have symptoms after they test positive.

Workers have received some relief from a growing number of states. In the last decade, 14 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or ballot measures requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

On the federal front, however, the movement has stalled. Congress passed a law in the spring of 2020 requiring most employers to provide paid sick leave for employees with COVID-related illnesses. But the requirement expired on Dec. 31 of that same year. Congress later extended tax credits for employers who voluntarily provide paid sick leave, but the extension lapsed at the end of September, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In November, the U.S. House passed a version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan that would require employers to provide 20 days of paid leave for employees who are sick or caring for a family member. But the fate of that bill is uncertain in the Senate.

“We can’t do a patchwork sort of thing. It has to be holistic. It has to be meaningful,” said Josephine Kalipeni, executive director at Family Values @ Work, a national network of 27 state and local coalitions helping to advocate for such policies as paid sick days.

The U.S. is one of only 11 countries worldwide without any federal mandate for paid sick leave, according to a 2020 study by the World Policy Analysis Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

On the flipside are small business owners like Dawn Crawley, CEO of House Cleaning Heroes, who can’t afford to pay workers when they are out sick. But Crawley is trying to help in other ways. She recently drove one cleaner who didn’t have a car to a nearby testing site. She later bought the cleaner some medicine, orange juice and oranges.

“If they are out, I try to give them money but at the same time my company has got to survive,” Crawley said. ″If the company goes under, no one has work.”

Even when paid sick leave is available, workers aren’t always made aware of it.

Ingrid Vilorio, who works at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Castro Valley, California, started feeling sick last March and soon tested positive for COVID. Vilorio alerted a supervisor, who didn’t tell her she was eligible for paid sick leave – as well as supplemental COVID leave – under California law.

Vilorio said her doctor told her to take 15 days off, but she decided to take just 10 because she had bills to pay. Months later, a co-worker told Vilorio she was owed sick pay for the time she was off. Working through Fight for $15, a group that works to unionize fast food workers, Vilorio and her colleagues reported the restaurant to the county health department. Shortly after that, she was given back pay.

But Vilorio, who speaks Spanish, said through a translator that problems persist. Workers are still getting sick, she said, and are often afraid to speak up.

“Without our health, we can’t work,” she said. “We’re told that we’re front line workers, but we’re not treated like it.”

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D’Innocenzio reported from New York and Durbin reported from Detroit.


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