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WITF March Pick of the Month: Giving Our Kids A Fighting Chance
March 26, 2013 02:15 PM PDT
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Keynote address given by Donna Celano. This is a compelling, eye-opening portrait of two communities in Philadelphia with drastically different economic resources. Over the course of their 10-year investigation, the authors of this important new work came to understand that this disparity between affluence and poverty has created a knowledge gap–far more important than mere achievement scores–with serious implications for students economic prosperity and social mobility. At the heart of this knowledge gap is the limited ability of students from poor communities to develop information capital. This moving book takes you into the communities in question to meet the students and their families, and by doing so provides powerful insights into the role that literacy can play in giving low-income students a fighting chance. Important reading for a wide audience of educators, policymakers, school reformers, and community activists.

WITF November Pick of the Month: Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Thousands of Children and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme
November 21, 2012 01:44 PM PST
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Keynote address given by William Ecenbarger, a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk award–winning investigative journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and a Hummelstown resident. The talk was given in celebration of the October release of his dramatic and important new book, published by the Free Press: "Kids forCash: Two Judges, Thousands of Children,and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme."

WITF Pick of the Month: Keynote address by Shippensburg University's Professor Susan Rimby
November 12, 2012 03:10 PM PST

Keynote address by Shippensburg University's Prof. Susan Rimby, author of a forthcoming biography of Mira Lloyd Dock (pictured left), a leading activist in Harrisburg's City Beautiful Movement.

TF Pick-of-the-Month: Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania
October 17, 2012 03:36 PM PDT
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Nathanial Gadsden, Marjorie Maddox, Jerry Wemple, David Bauman, and Melanie Simms read poetry to commemorate Pennsylvania at 12:00 pm on Thursday, October 11th, at the Harrisburg Capitol East Wing Rotunda. The event will air on PCN on Oct. 27th from 3:45-5:15.

The evening of the 11th from 7:00-8:00 pm, the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore hosted poets Jack Veasey (anthology contributor), Jerry Wemple and Marjorie Maddox (anthology co-editors), David Bauman, and Melanie Simms. Click on the above to hear their reading!

Over the years, Pennsylvania has been graced with an abundance of writers whose work draws imaginatively on the state's history and culture.  Common Wealth sings the essence of Pennsylvania through comtemporary poetry.  In these pages, poems sketch the landscapes and cultural terrain of the state, delving into the history, traditions, and people of Philadelphia, "Dutch" country, the coal-mining region, the Poconos, and the Lehigh Valley;  the Three Rivers region;  the Laurel Highlands, and Erie and the Allegheny National Forest.  Theirs is a complex narrative cultivated for centuries in coal mines, kitchens, elevated trains, and hometowns, a tale that illuminates the sanctity of the commonplace - the daily chores of a Mennonite housewife, a polka dance in Coaldale, the late shift at a steel factory, the macadam of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

With its panaromic vision of Pennsylvania, its culture, and its thriving literary heritage, Common Wealth is a collection of rememberance for a state that continues to inspire countless contributions to American literature.

The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, & Endurance in Early America
September 06, 2012 03:22 PM PDT
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The Midtown Scholar Bookstore-Cafe is delighted to host author Scott Weidensaul for our monthly WITF Book Salon as a part of "PA Frontier History Day," sponsored by Millersville's Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art. This talk was recorded on Saturday, July 21.

A conversation about Harrisburg University
June 22, 2012 12:51 PM PDT

A conversation about Harrisburg University 06.21.12

Ed Rendell promoting his new book "A Nation of Wusses"
June 20, 2012 03:45 PM PDT
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Democrats who voted for the healthcare bill but pretended they hadn't; Republicans who took local credit for stimulus money while condemning the bill on TV; Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney, and the Democratic former governor of Maryland, Parris Glendening. What do they all have in common? According to former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, they're all wusses—and after more than three decades in politics, he knows a wuss when he sees one.

In A Nation of Wusses, Rendell revisits some of the toughest fights of his career. He recalls most vividly those moments when he saw someone stand his ground, even at the risk of incurring the wrath of supporters and losing the next election. Unfortunately, as he surveys the current political scene, what he sees is a herd of elected officials, both legislators and executives, who seem far more concerned with their own job security than with serving the people who elected them.

Among current office holders and candidates, he sees politicians pretending to stand on principle while, in fact, pandering to their bases; flip-flopping on issues, not because of new information, but because of new polls; and criticizing rivals for actions they would have praised if done by allies. While not at all shy about singling out Republicans like Scott Walker, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell, Rendell has no trouble taking on Democrats who refuse to stand up to the teachers' unions or distance themselves from allies who run into trouble. Other politicians might have left out of their memoirs stories like what happened to their plaque in the park, the story of Swifty the five-legged donkey, a dirty Al Gore joke, the time they considered pretending to faint, and who they're already supporting for president in 2016. Luckily for readers, Ed Rendell is not that kind of politician. Complete with a scathing list of the "Top Ten Reasons Why Most American Politicians Are Wusses" and packed with uproarious tales of politicians in action that will make you wonder why these folks keep getting elected, you might have to go back to Ulysses S. Grant to find a politician with a book as lively and honest as A Nation of Wusses.

Flood stories: History, Memory, and Migration
June 20, 2012 05:32 AM PDT
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In a Panel Discussion, three prominent speakers will compare urban communities' experiences of floods from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Waterproof author Judith Coopey will discuss the historical circumstances of the 1889 Johnstown Flood.

Harrisburg historian Jeb Stuart will recount the transformation of the capital region in the aftermath of 1972's Agnes Flood.

Eminent playwright and cultural scholar Lenwood Sloan will examine the
legacies of race and migration in New Orleans after 2004's Hurricane Katrina.

Kimi Cunningham Grant at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore on Saturday, April 28th
May 03, 2012 11:12 AM PDT
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Introducing the Midtown Scholar - WITF Pick of the Month! 

We've teamed up with the folks at WITF TV/FM to bring you the very best books and more. Here's how it works! Every month we'll recommend a great book for you to check out - from biographies and novels to poetry, children's books and more. We'll promote selections monthly on WITF TV and on WITF FM 89.5. Read along with us as we discover literary finds that engage, enlighten and entertain. Bookmark this page to keep up to date with the latest info about monthly picks-including details on how you can meet the authors. The Midtown Scholar - WITF Pick of the Month is available for purchase at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore-Cafe and online at So pick up a copy and start reading today!


Kimi Cunningham Grant’s Silver Like Dust (Pegasus Books, 2012) is an eloquent memoir of a Japanese-American family from the early twentieth century to the present day.  In an evocative series of conversations with her grandmother, Grant peels back the years to uncover the devotion, anguish, and resilience that have marked her grandmother’s eventful life. 

The core of this compelling story is Grant’s reconstruction of the challenges and heartaches of her immigrant family’s imprisonment in war-time internment camps in Ponoma, California, and Heart Mountain, Wyoming.   

Combining the descriptive powers of a gifted writer with engaging historical and personal reflections, Grant expands our contemporary understandings as she reflects on the past.  By moving seamlessly between her grandmother’s dramatic reminiscences and the quotidian experiences of modern suburban life, she explores how families make sense of their histories.

Grant grew up in rural Central PA, graduated from Messiah College, and received a Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Fellowship in creative nonfiction.  She is an English Instructor at Penn State - State College.

20 Years Out: The Legacy of the “Harrisburg Thirteen” – A 1992 Citizens’ Lawsuit against Mayoral Abuses of Power
April 25, 2012 01:58 PM PDT

“20 Years Out: The Legacy of the ‘Harrisburg Thirteen.’”
In 1992, Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed’s pattern of secretive, unsupervised spending was briefly checked by the lawsuit of 13 brave citizens. The “Harrisburg 13” insisted that the Court’s 1989 decision in Moore v Reed be enforced, and that City Council must exert its oversight over the City’s finances. As a result of this case, Reed changed course and began what Receiver David Unkovic called “twenty years” of corruption and financial mismanagement. Instead of spending and borrowing directly, Reed used the Municipal Authorities, whose Boards he controlled, to accumulate debt and transfer funds for “Special Projects,” without any effective oversight, accountability, or public scrutiny.

Synopsis of the Harrisburg Thirteen Suit:

Twenty years ago, thirteen taxpaying citizens of the City of Harrisburg sued Mayor Stephen Reed for spending the proceeds from the sale of the City’s water system without the approval of City Council. They cited the precedent established three years earlier in Moore v Reed, when the Commonwealth Court ruled City Council possessed “the sole authority to negotiate and make contracts granting rights to sell or use City-owned property.”

Mayor Reed’s response to Moore had been to elect his own slate of candidates to City Council. When these newly-elected Reed Team members, after the fact, passed an ordinance saying they did not object to the Mayor’s usurpation of their authority, the thirteen citizens, represented by attorney Steve Schiffman, saw no choice but to bring suit. The Court of Common Pleas granted the plaintiffs standing in 1992, but it took five years for the Court to rule in their favor. By that time, the seven million dollars in proceeds from the sale of the water system to the Harrisburg Authority had been spent. Nonetheless, (the late) Judge Joseph Kleinfelter condemned City Council for having turned “a blind eye.” Citing Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Kleinfelter compared Council to the naked King’s yes-men, who blindly shouted “Beautiful! Excellent!” even though they all knew the truth to be otherwise.

Kleinfelter concluded, “Such behavior by the branch of government which most directly represents the interests and concerns of the citizens of Harrisburg is clearly a cause for concern. In abjuring its legislative authority, City Council invites executive action without the opportunity for public scrutiny of or input to the process of spending money. City Council must exercise its responsibility to appropriate the city’s revenues. We would add that it is truly commendable in this instance that at least thirteen citizens of this City felt strongly enough about the Mayor’s apparent singular authority over city assets to make an issue of this matter.”


On January 23, 1990, the City sold its water system to the Harrisburg Authority for $7,000,000. According to the Management Agreement, the funds were to be used for “operating expenses or capital expenses of the Municipality.” Instead, the Authority deposited these funds into a secret account at Pennsylvania National Bank and Trust. Four days later, the Mayor created, by executive order, a Special Projects Revolving Loan Program, through which he dispersed much of the money without the knowledge of City Council, the Comptroller, or the Treasurer. Reed “loaned” the money to a motley assortment of businesses, including at least eight owned by major campaign donors to Reed (Patriot News, December 18, 1991).

In addition to the Revolving Loan fund, $414,508.95 from the sale was used to facilitate the demolition of the Warner Hotel, an action that, Kleinfelter noted “by no stretch” could be considered “as operating expenses or capital expenses of the city.” In March 1992, an “investigative report” by then District Attorney Richard Lewis and his Chief Deputy, William Tully,” examined what happened. “Because of the apparently large profit made by TWH Properties, Inc. (from the sale of the Warner Hotel just three years after its purchase), the substantial contribution of public funds by the City, and because of apparent benefits enjoyed by WWW Enterprises, several requests were made to this office to investigate whether any criminal conduct or other improprieties were involved in the aforementioned transactions.”

Lewis’s investigative report did not note that WWW Enterprises was owned by two of Reed’s largest campaign contributors. The report did conclude that the Mayor repeatedly acted “beyond the limits of his legal authority” but stated that these actions had not risen “to the level of criminal conduct,” even though the public could “only be protected when executive and legislative powers are adequately separated.”


In 1992, the lawsuit of 13 brave citizens briefly checked Reed’s pattern of secretive, unsupervised spending. The “Harrisburg 13” insisted that the Court’s 1989 decision in Moore v Reed be enforced, and that City Council had the right and responsibility to exercise oversight over City finances. As a result of this case, Reed changed course. So began what Receiver David Unkovic called “twenty years” of corruption and financial mismanagement. Instead of spending and borrowing directly, Reed used the Municipal Authorities, whose Boards he controlled, to accumulate debt and transfer funds for “Special Projects,” without any effective oversight, accountability, or public scrutiny.

On December 27, 1992, the Patriot-News warned that, although such “dangerous” financing projects were thought to be “self-liquidating,” the City’s guarantee might someday be required to cover unanticipated deficits. Reed responded, “If the world would come to an end, and there was the second coming of Christ, then there would be a 1-in-1,000 prospect city money would have to be used. I didn’t run for office to bankrupt this city.”

In March 1993, the Patriot-News again highlighted the increasing powers and massive debt of Harrisburg’s seven Municipal Authorities. But when confronted with the widespread nepotism, mismanagement, and criminal violations at other authorities throughout the state, Reed claimed, “Some towns have formed authorities for the purpose of hiding things. That is not the case here.”
In 1993 the state Ethics Commission cleared Reed of “allegations he rewarded firms with city contracts for a hydroelectric dam project because they donated to his campaigns.” Here’s the Patriot-News report:
Firms associated with the $390 million Harrisburg Hydroelectric Dam project were paid $9.8 million between 1985 and the present. The firms contributed more than $50,000 between 1985 and 1989 to Reed’s political committee.

The Dam project, proposed for the south end of City Island, is tied up in state courts.
The seven-member panel that investigated the case said it could find no link between the dam project and the receipt of campaign funds.

Reed supporters in 1982 formed the Mayor’s Club, which made private funds available for the mayor’s office for various uses. About $30,000 was raised by the club from 1982-1986, some of which was spent on artwork, antiques and memorabilia for the mayor’s office.

Those items belong to the city, and have never been Reed’s personal property, the commission findings stated. The Mayor’s Club was disbanded in 1986 when it ran out of money, Reed said.
The commission ruled that there was no violation of the Ethics Act since funds from the club were gifts and that money came from private sources.

Immediately after the DA and the Ethics Commission seemed to exonerate Reed in 1992-93, he began building an even grander fiscal “house of cards.” The Harrisburg Authority’s “Special Projects Fund” replaced the Mayor’s Club as Reed’s source for artifacts purchases, thought now it was no longer clear who owned what, or even where the items were stored. And one by one, the thirteen citizens who challenged the powerful mayor had to face his wrath and were effectively driven out of the City.
On Sunday, April 22nd, from 5-7 PM, four of the original Harrisburg Thirteen return to tell their stories, reflect on past and present, and answer audience questions, at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore-Café.

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