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Letters: PSU’s Silence on Casino; Support for Organizing at the Meadows; Climate Litigation; Regime Change

Another Open Letter to PSU President

Dear President Barron,

Maybe you’ve been hoping for the casino opposition from the Happy Valley community to just fade away before your retirement ceremony. Oh my, but what if it doesn’t?

WE ARE keeping track and two casino-related Open Letters to you were published at on March 5 and March 12.  Each letter asked you to please break Penn State’s continuing silence about the proposed casino at the Nittany Mall.

Maybe you swiftly directed your team to absolutely ignore those nearly 500 public comments from area residents that are being closely tracked and posted on the College Township website here.

What percentage of those hundreds of public comments have you already looked at? Did they provide you with a pulse-check metric of sentiment analysis on the determination of the hundreds of casino opponents in Happy Valley? Do you realize the community has already anticipated your choice to pass along this uncomfortable decision to your successor when Dr. Neeli Bendapudi becomes the Penn State University president on May 9?

In case both you and your team missed this, earlier this year Dr. Bendapudi said she doesn’t plan to isolate herself in the ivory tower. The president-elect went on to say:

“Those days are long gone. I’ve always thought of our universities as places that should have ripple effects. In other words, the goodness of what comes out of Penn State should first be felt by the community of State College, then the commonwealth, then the country, and then the world. So, you will see me quite active in the community.”

Please don’t pass the buck to your successor to make the decision to break Old Main’s silence about the planned casino in Happy Valley. Dr. Bendapudi brings to her new job no unspoken pledge of allegiance to the developers of a casino in State College.

The hundreds of casino opponents in Happy Valley will continue to maintain their nonstop momentum of e-mailing their feedback of strong casino opposition directly to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) at [email protected].  To allow for proper prior planning by your successor, the public should make their comments of opposition especially more effective by e-mailing the PGCB as discussed above, and including Dr. Bendapudi as a CC: addressee at one of the President-Elect’s three e-mails already in place and available with an easy search using the online Penn State directory available here.

Senders of that suggested e-mail to the PGCB and Dr. Bendapudi, might opt to also include a CC: copy to your Office of the President at [email protected].  But then again, leaving off that particular courtesy copy to you might be more effective than some folks might imagine.

Regarding this future chaos a casino would bring to our college town, this absolute silence from Old Main should not remain in place until after your retirement parties in early May. Please break Penn State University’s silence about the casino and speak out soon. The plan of silence was initially crafted to be very effective, right up until now. Our community’s concern regarding Penn State’s silence about the planned casino will not just fade away as you may have hoped. Your focused consideration to not reject this third open letter is very much appreciated!

Daniel Materna,

In Support of Organizing Efforts at the Meadows

I grew up in a union family — my father and many in my extended family were active members — and have experienced firsthand the benefits of organized labor. These benefits kept our family together and afloat when times were tough, and helped me further my education and advance my own career. Anyone who wants to receive those kinds of benefits and protections should be free to join a union, without fear of retaliation from their employer.

Just a month ago, workers in two units at Meadows Psychiatric Center began to organize in an effort to guarantee safe working conditions and fair wages. Not only has the Meadows put up barriers to these unionization efforts, but three workers have been fired, including one who was allegedly told that they were being let go because of those efforts. If true, this would be a violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and any administrators involved should be held accountable.

Our legislature can protect those on the frontlines of healthcare and mental health services, but it’s up to them to pass those bills. As your representative, I will support the right of workers to organize, work to strengthen legal protections for workers, and hold accountable anyone who attempts to undermine those rights.

Paul Takac,

The author is a candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives 82nd District.

Climate Litigation

While the world’s attention has been focused on the Coronavirus pandemic and, recently, Russia’s murderous invasion of Ukraine, something important is happening in the fight for climate change accountability: climate lawsuits are advancing through legal systems here and around the world.

Lawsuits against the fossil fuel companies for ignoring climate damage aren’t new. But in past years most didn’t advance far through the legal systems. This is changing.

In the past six years alone more than 1,400 climate lawsuits have hit the courts. Many of these are advancing as climate damages worsen and become measurable, and as evidence of corporate malfeasance mounts. Plus, current actions by lawmakers and policy-makers have proven inadequate to meet calls for justice and accountability.

Starting with the #Exxonknew investigation of 2015, the fossil fuel industry can no longer pretend they don’t know the damages their products cause. The potential liability extends to ad agencies that promote fossil fuel lies, to the banks that finance the fossil fuel industry, and to governments that don’t take action.

Even individuals are a growing target as shown by recent legal action against Shell board members at how they failed to disclose and respond to climate risks. In another case Honolulu’s effort to hold oil company executives accountable for climate change damage is advancing.

Few cases have won so far but more and more will. The fossil fuel industry has had its way for over a century, but the tables are turning. Let’s hope it’s in time.

Bob Potter,

Regime Change

The phrase “regime change” is generally understood to mean a basic altering of a country’s governmental structure. We tried (but failed) to achieve regime change in Vietnam, we tried (with limited success) to achieve it in Iraq, and Russia is trying to achieve it now in Ukraine.

But there is another, more limited, meaning to the term, namely an effort to replace the specific leadership of a government without altering the overall structure of that government itself. We might call this “regime change light.”

President Biden forcefully opined that Vladimir Putin should be removed from his position as head of the Russian government. When he received some blowback for that comment, the White House announced that he was not calling for “regime change,” as that term is generally used. He was not advocating a restructuring of the Russian government.

He was suggesting a case of “regime change light.”

Biden is absolutely right.

Putin must go!

Our government, with support from the other NATO countries, should tighten the screws of the financial sanctions on Putin and the other oligarchs, flood the Russian population with the truth about their leaders (a return of Radio Free Europe), and inflict cyber warfare on the Russian government and military.

We should give the Russian people every support imaginable to help them depose this despot from his position.

Richard London,
State College

Can’t Ignore a Casino

Recently, there have been supporters of the Nittany Mall Casino — some not even residents of Centre County — offering a short-sighted retort to all those concerned about the negative effects a casino would have on our community: “If you don’t like the casino, don’t go there.”

This viewpoint is one that history has repeatedly shown to be erroneous. Not going to the casino will not result in it not affecting our community. It is similar to the position of segregationists who argued that we should allow them to impose racial discrimination as long as they do not force us to personally participate in it. Ergo lies the adage: “the only thing evil needs to win is for good men to do nothing.”

While each of us must tolerate some behaviors of which we disapprove, some activities demand public refutation as they are to society’s detriment. Ultimately, casino owners sell a highly addictive product and exploit the community in which they operate for their own financial gain. They acquire status and power by extracting resources from the community, causing harm to many who did not choose to become involved. These are those who did not go. For example:

• The dozens of children who are locked in cars each year while their gambling-addicted parents or guardians are inside of casinos

• Children who are neglected at home by parents who are addicted to gambling

• People whose spouses lost their jobs because of gambling addiction

• Single parents whose ex-spouses stopped paying child support due to their gambling addiction

• Business owners and employees whose work suffers because their employee or coworker became addicted to gambling

• Homeowners whose property value decreased because their gambling-addicted neighbor’s home fell into disrepair as they no longer had the finances to maintain it.

Despite not gambling, the people mentioned above were affected. None of them can buy the support of expensive attorneys, public relations firms, and state politicians the same way that casino owners can. The possible introduction of a casino into our community warrants the kind of massive public opposition that the College Township Council noted at their meeting on March 3 (starting at 2:17:55).

I’d also like to put to rest the “strapped financially” rumor that is circulating. The College Township Council previously noted that “the township is in excellent financial shape and will do just fine with or without a casino.” Considering this, and their recently acknowledged overwhelming opposition to the casino from the community, the path forward is obvious. However, the Council cannot prevent the casino from coming to the Nittany Mall on its own.

Far from being a “done deal,” the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has the final say on whether or not the license for the new casino will be approved.  If you oppose the casino, please take a moment, however brief, to send your opposition to the PGCB by e-mail at [email protected] with “Nittany Mall Casino” in the title of your message. 

Kirk Heller,
State College