Continuing the conversation about race

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Like it or not, we need to keep talking about race.

While the killing of George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the rising level of anger over racism has been growing for years.

Since Donald Trump’s election, those who hate on the basis of skin color seem to feel like they have been given a green light to openly express their racism. That’s meant years of abusive comments, bullying and in general, butthead behavior by a small percentage of the population locally.

It impacted me personally: when the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Board of Education sat mute when it became increasingly evident that some white students were harassing Asian-American students in the wake of Trump’s election, I was angry enough that I found I could no longer fairly cover the board’s meetings and had to hire someone else to do it.

As someone who is an outspoken advocate of education and public schools – I am a former President of the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Foundation — the failure to even put out the mildest rebuke of such racism was a bridge too far for me.

Although ultimately the digital ad apocalypse caused me to decide to stop all meeting coverage, a slight upturn in revenue has me considering what to add back come September. Are we, as a community, better served by spending limited coverage dollars on the Coatesville Area School District rather than Unionville-Chadds Ford?

There’s an emerging story — some decades in the making — of the racial aspect of the public schools haves, such as Unionville, and have nots such as Coatesville. And keep in mind, Coatesville is a rich district in comparison to many of the all or mostly minority school districts in urban areas in this state.

Is the better, more relevant story for these times, writing about rich people fighting over taxes and patting themselves on the back, or a school district trying to figure out how to survive, pay its staff and educate its kids, many of whom come from challenging backgrounds?

And maybe it is the latter story that tells the story of racial equality in Chester County. Maybe we’ve made progress, but not nearly enough and not nearly quickly enough.

And that’s a story we need to tell better.


It’s kind of hard to draw any other conclusion: Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators seem to despise average people and small business owners.

A vote they took this week proves they don’t care if you lose your home, your unemployment insurance (and if, not, making scores of small businesses have to pay for unemployed workers again) — in essence, they want to you to return to work for big business and if you get sick and die from COVID-19, oh well.

They’re good. They can count on a sweet gig in the private sector even if they lose their seats.

You? Collateral damage. That’s cool, right?

These lovely people voted to terminate Gov. Tom Wolf’s Emergency declaration this week — Wolf vetoed it and the fight will go to the courts, which means there won’t be a ruling until likely after Wolf ends the emergency sometime this summer.

While there’s dozens of bad outcomes from ending the emergency declaration — loss of help with utilities for those hurt financially, loss of meals for school-age kids in need, blocking the ability of hospitals to expand as needed to handle COVID-19, issues with professional licenses that could not be renewed during the shutdown, ending bans of evictions and foreclosures and well, lots more bad outcomes, including a loss of federal emergency funding.

In short, it’s stupid, it’s cruel and completely ill-advised.

These clowns don’t think COVID-19 is a thing — sure, 2 million Americans have contracted the disease and 115,000 have died — including about 300 in Chester County.

They won’t wear masks and actually mock people who do as one of our county’s legislators pointed out not long ago on Twitter:


They also hid the fact that one of their members actually had COVID-19 and apparently his exposed Democratic colleagues.

Wolf’s shut down is unnecessary, they say. Only old people die, they say. It’s just folks in long term care facilities, they say. And other states are opening, and it’s just fine, they say. Look at Sweden, they say. The shutdown is more deadly than the virus, they say.

Let me repeat this fact: while not every decision Wolf has made has been correct, in the big things, he got it right. According to a pair of studies out this week, shutdowns around the world prevented tens of millions of infection and millions of deaths.

More than 6,000 Pennsylvanians died. Without a shutdown, that death toll would likely have been much higher.

Yes, it is true COVID-19 hits older people harder — as it is more likely that anyone with a compromised health history — but it hits men harder than women, too. Like it or not, if you’re male and over 50, it’s a real risk. Ironically, it is that demographic that seems hell bent on committing mass suicide by ignoring calls to social distance or wear masks.

And for it being safe to reopen: Texas and Arizona, three weeks after a full reopening, are a hot mess. And before you argue it is because testing is up, look at the rate of hospitalization — in Arizona there is real fear that the hospitals will be overwhelmed soon — Alabama is pretty much at that point now. Florida is is spiking, too, when it comes to cases and hospitalizations.

And Sweden? The death toll from having a minimal shut down is becoming a major issue and the government is under fire for its handling of the crisis.

So, despite the claims of Republicans in the legislature, Wolf’s careful, slow reopening is the right plan. Look, everybody wants things to get back to normal, but if it is not safe, things will get a lot worse — as we’re seeing in other parts of the nation.

It’s a tough ask, but let it play out. Wear your mask — it makes a difference (the combination of masks, hand washing and social distancing may be enough to stem the tide as we reopen) — and follow the rules.

Like it or not, we’re still not really prepared for another mass outbreak. The federal government failed to get enough personal protective equipment to hospitals, there still aren’t enough tests and few places have the money or personnel to do proper contact tracing.

Had we started to get ready in January, we wouldn’t have had to shut down in March.


It’s been a couple of weeks since the primary election, and it looks like John Kane won the 9th District Senate nomination for the Democrats to take on Sen. Tom Killion. In the 19th District, State Rep. Carolyn Comitta will be taking on Republican Kevin Runey for the seat of retiring Sen. Andy Dinniman.

In State Representative primary battles, Paul Friel won the Democratic nod in the 26th and will take on long-time State Rep. Tim Hennessey in the fall. In the 155th, incumbent State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten held off a challenge from Rose Danese and will face Michael Thomas Taylor in the fall election. In the 160th, Anton Andrew defeated Cathy Spahr and will face Republican Craig Williams for the seat of the retiring State Rep. Steve Barrar. In the 167th, State Rep. Kristine Howard held off Ginny Kerslake and will take on Republican Wendy Graham Leland in the fall.

Normally, we would have run all of that on the morning of June 4  — but because of the high volume of mail-in ballots (and a COVID-19 extension of counting for an extra week in Delaware County) there weren’t results to report accurately.

Now, this is no knock on Chester County Voter Services — they did a very solid job, undermanned and got the vote counted, calling in staff from other departments. But November is going to be a giant mess if we don’t make some big changes — and if Harrisburg refuses to help pay the costs.

First, counties need to be able to start counting votes before Election Day — they need to get ahead of the process. They also need more temporary staff — they could hire folks just to count ballots for the week before and after the election. But — and this is the big but — few counties can afford to spend additional money at this point. The state needs to come up with additional funds to manage the mail-in ballots — they’re likely to become a bigger part of elections from here on out.

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