MISS: Before Act 44 became law in 2007, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) raised tolls on the turnpike only five times in 64 years. Since then, rate increases have become an annual rite, and this year is no exception. As of 12:01 a.m. last Sunday, tolls increased on the highway by 6%. That means it will now cost $65.70 in cash to travel the full length of the turnpike, or $44.30 with E-ZPass. Even the 53-mile journey from Jefferson Hills to the West Virginia state line will set you back $11 if you pay in cash, or $7.20 with E-ZPass. Much of the toll increases go to cover debt service, and the PTC hands over a chunk of money every year to PennDOT for highway and bridge projects. But, as Auditor General Eugene DePasquale pointed out last year, this is probably not sustainable. As he said, “Drivers cannot continue to pay these tolls.”
HIT: The arrival of a Republican majority on the Washington County board of commissioners portends a good deal of change in county government, and that became evident Monday with the hiring of John Haynes, a 45-year-old former manager of a private equity firm, as the county’s chief of staff. The position is newly created, and Haynes brings sterling credentials to the job. At the same time Haynes’ job was approved, the county’s salary board did not eliminate the director of administration’s job currently held by former Commissioner Scott Fergus, who has been absent for several months due to medical issues. Eventually, the board will have to clarify the roles of the chief of staff and the director of administration.
MISS: The 30-year-old, 23,000-capacity concert venue outside Burgettstown seems to have changed names as often as Elizabeth Taylor cycled through husbands. First it was the Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater. Then it became the Post-Gazette Pavilion, followed by First Niagara Pavilion, and then KeyBank Pavilion. With the arrival of the new year came yet another new name: S&T Bank Music Park. Corporate names have been slapped on sports arenas and amphitheaters for a couple of decades now, and most fans are now mostly indifferent to the constantly shifting monikers. But one meme that was going around on social media summed up the feeling of most regional concertgoers: It will always be known simply as “Star Lake.”
MISS: The wisdom of President Trump’s decision to order the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani is open to debate. But Trump’s suggestion that he would order the destruction of Iranian cultural sites should Iran attack American people or interests is unwise. The annihilation of these sites would be a loss not only to Iranians but also the entire world. Columnist Jason Rezaian noted in The Washington Post this week that Iran has 22 locations that are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites – more than the United States, Turkey, Greece or Egypt. We should also remember that the Taliban and the Islamic State have destroyed cultural sites. The United States should not lower itself to their level.