The News-Item’s cheers and jeers from the past week of news:
• Cheers to state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale for his demands that Penn State University not change its charter and bylaws to further prevent board members from obtaining information about the university they are charged with governing. The proposed changes would further hamper input from all but the most leading members of the board, argues DePasquale, who believes a board of no more than 21 voting members, not the current 38, would also improve Penn State’s governance and accountability. More significantly to the public, he also wants the Legislature to make Penn State subject to all the provisions of both the Right-to-Know Law and Public Official and Employee Ethics Act (remember the Joe Paterno salary secret?), accurately noting that the institution is a “recipient of a significant amount of taxpayer dollars.”
• Cheers, for a second time, to DePasquale, this one for his visit to Northumberland County on Wednesday to meet with Children and Youth Services (CYS) workers to gather input and offer his empathy for the growing challenges faced by caseworkers and other staff. DePasquale is meeting with CYS staffs in counties throughout the state in a followup to his 80-page “State of the Child” report from September that highlighted issues of overburdened caseloads, low pay and workers safety within the child-welfare system, and recommendations to improve it. Katrina Gownley, Northumberland County Children and Youth administrator, not surprisingly was “thrilled” for her staff and partners that DePasquale would spend the time to collect input firsthand. Children and Youth workers in particular face growing safety issues in entering homes where, among other things, drug use is prevalent. As Gownley said: “The thing that struck me the most was he really understands the danger these caseworkers are in when they go to these homes and he really made them feel validated.”
• Cheers to members of Maine Fire Company and the Coal Township Fire Department for remembering their fallen brother, Timothy DiOrio, at a service last Sunday marking 15 years since he sacrificed his life in service to his community as a first responder. DiOrio, 36, who was also a state policeman and fire marshal, died Nov. 2, 2002, fighting a fire in Trevorton. The beautiful monument along Cliff Street that memorializes his life was the setting for last Sunday’s service, and it includes this poignant phrase: “I answered the call, and although I did not return, I am safely home.” DiOrio’s service lives on in that he reminds us of the dangers faced by those who serve in firefighting today, those who run toward danger while others run away.
• Cheers to Cub Scout Pack 3254, affiliated with St. John’s United Church of Christ in Shamokin, for participating in a mock election on Tuesday. What stands out about this civic lesson is that pack leaders took the Scouts to a site where voting was actually taking place (the career and arts center) and the Scouts used a voting machine not unlike those used by Northumberland County voters to cast their ballots. The Scouts’ votes obviously didn’t count, but we’re confident the experience will pay dividends for these young minds when they reach 18, and we encourage leaders of other youth organizations to teach children about and expose them to the voting process.