HIT: Given the hit-and-miss nature of efforts to revitalize downtown Washington in recent decades, there was ample reason to wonder whether the Whiskey Rebellion Festival would endure when it was launched 10 years ago. Since then, it’s not only survived, but thrived. Washington’s marquee summertime event is happening again this weekend, with a full menu of music, food, arts, crafts, and historical re-enactors taking visitors back to the days of the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s. As festival co-chairman Tripp Kline pointed out this week, it’s almost certainly the only festival in the country where there’s a tarring and feathering. This year’s festival has its own rye whiskey blend and a walk where connoisseurs or the merely curious can sample goods from an array of Pennsylvania distilleries. The Whiskey Rebellion Festival has become a way to show off Washington at its finest, and we’d be happy to see it continue for many more years.
MISS: This week, a federal appeals court panel considered whether Reed O’Connor, a U.S. district judge in Texas, was correct when he ruled late last year that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional and the whole law must be thrown out as a result. In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, there was little doubting the passion U.S. Sen. Bob Casey felt about the possibility of Pennsylvania residents losing health coverage if the law is overturned. Indeed, what would unfold if the Affordable Care Act is stricken would be pretty dire: More than 800,000 commonwealth residents enrolled through the Medicaid expansion would lose coverage; rural hospitals would lose support; residents with opioid use disorder could lose coverage; individuals with pre-existing conditions could see their premiums skyrocket, or they could be denied coverage entirely. We hope the law is upheld and the legal skirmishing around it ends.
HIT: Lisa Foltz had some real horror stories to tell us earlier this week about using private transportation services to get her to medical appointments in Pittsburgh. On one occasion, she was stranded and spent the night in her wheelchair in a waiting room for the families of cardiac patients until she could get a ride home 24 hours later. So, she and others in her position are no doubt elated that the state Legislature has decided to order further study of the planned privatization of the state’s Medical Assistance Transportation Program. Under the legislation signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, an analysis of the proposal must be completed within 180 days, and a preliminary report will be due three months later. Credit state officials for recognizing that they had a big problem on their hands. There is too much at stake, and too many people affected, to proceed in a haphazard fashion.
HIT: Earlier this week, an official with the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County reached out to officials in Monongahela, asking them to consider joining the Washington County Lank Bank in order to convert some of the city’s abandoned and tax-delinquent properties to productive uses. Said Rob Phillips, assistant community development director for the authority, “Land banks help to reduce blight, decrease crime, increase the tax base and improve the overall quality of life. The past three years, we have purchased, rehabilitated and sold a dozen properties throughout Washington County, including houses, commercial buildings and vacant lots. We see a lot of potential right here in Monongahela.” Under the program, participating municipalities pay a $3,000 initiation fee, followed by a $1,000 annual fee. Once properties are sold, the land bank and the municipality share tax revenues for five years. After that, the municipality gets all the tax income. What’s somewhat amazing to us is that only six municipalities in the county are participating in the program. We hope Monongahela will join, and that others will follow.