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Natural disasters, underfunding by the state, and more: letters to the editor

Watch as Northern California’s ‘Camp Fire’ blazes through the town of Paradise

A wildfire in Northern California forced evacuations in Paradise as firefighters work to contain the Camp Fire blaze fueled by high winds in Butte County, Thursday, November 8, 2018.
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A wildfire in Northern California forced evacuations in Paradise as firefighters work to contain the Camp Fire blaze fueled by high winds in Butte County, Thursday, November 8, 2018.

‘An unprecedented danger/disaster’

Recently our two largest cities were paralyzed by natural disasters -- New York by ice (actually 6 inches of snow), Los Angeles by fire. In New York, 30-minute drives became 8-hour odysseys. Many New Yorkers, furious, called the city’s response, “the worst ever.” The Mayor called it a surprise snowstorm; apparently the Weather channel is not available in New York!

The situation was much more serious in Los Angeles; scores were killed, hundreds are still missing and thousands of homes were destroyed. These wild fires were so overwhelming that survivors were forced to shelter on the beach -- as the fires burned out of control -- stopped only by the Pacific Ocean.

Forest fires and snowstorms are nothing new and billions have been spent in anticipation of this type of natural event. Yet America’s two larges cities were powerless, helpless. Rising sea levels, however, present something new, an unprecedented danger/disaster (perhaps a six-foot rise by 2100).

Most of America’s big cities are on the coast. Excuse me, if I am not optimistic. - Joe Mogus, Pleasant Gap, PA

‘Detrimental to the state’s economy’

So it’s official: Amazon HQ2 isn’t coming to Pennsylvania. Don’t let disappointment overshadow the success of our commonwealth’s technology transformation over the years or steal away from opportunities to expand this vibrant sector in the future.

We need to continue to invest in homegrown tech companies and support world-class programs that drive this growth. When Ben Franklin Technology Partners launched more than 35 years ago, Pennsylvania was at the forefront of investments designed to build and accelerate the development of technology-based industries. The strategy worked.

With four regionally based centers, including one right here in State College, Ben Franklin has generated 51,000 jobs in client firms, plus another 89,000 spinoff jobs, and boosted the state’s economy by $23.5 billion. Ben Franklin investments generate $3.60 in additional state taxes for every state dollar invested.

But state funding for Ben Franklin has diminished over the years, meaning we have been unable to invest in deserving homegrown companies or seriously short-funded others. That’s detrimental to the state’s economy; studies show young firms create the vast majority of new jobs.

At the same time, other states have adopted technology-based economic development programs of their own. Among the 12 most competitive states in this sector, their spending is nearly triple Pennsylvania’s.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners is one of the nation’s longest-running and most successful technology-based economic development programs. But additional funding is essential to remain competitive, attract investments locally and drive innovation. What we lose by underfunding Ben Franklin is lost forever. - Stephen Brawley President/CEO Ben Franklin Technology Partners/CNP

‘We can act’

These days families can be spread far and wide, even overseas. This can be your family member. Your brother just died in the oversized infernos in California. Your sister had her house destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Your son was injured seriously when forced to flee a destabilized country, where drought led to mass migrations and a disintegration of governance. Your grandmother suffered heat stroke in the extended heat wave in the her retirement place in the Southwest.

Your life is being shortened by the deregulation of toxins in our everyday life, and by the disregard of businesses and our current autocratic government. My younger brother just died prematurely. Today our brothers and sisters are effected by hunger, poverty, injustice, lack of clean water, and refugee crises, which are exacerbated by heat waves, fires, droughts, floods and hurricanes, all made much worse by climate change.

It can effect your family, your friends and your fellow humans, who all have wants and needs, loves and desires, and they needlessly suffer. Our choices can make a difference, our insisting on government action on climate, something that is not onerous, but effective.

We can choose green energy alternatives, and plug in hybrid or electric vehicles. We can choose non-fluorocarbon-based air conditioners, and proper conditioner disposal. We can insist on clean air, water and land. We can insist on effective aid to our fellow humanity. We can boycott those companies that abuse people, here or in other countries. We can act. - Doug Keith, State College, PA

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