Friday Happy Hour: Screwed, Blued, Tattooed Edition

Crime pays

We do not often have the opportunity to begin our screed in the State of Nevada, but this week we return to the scene of some rather painful bludgeoning, carried out by Democrats on members of their own species. We’re referring, of course, to the presidential debate. It'becoming really hard to imagine this merry band uniting behind any candidate after all the ugliness on display Wednesday night. Here’s how the NY Times scored it. 

Penn State’s student-led Thon took a significant financial hit a few years ago, when organizers deemed that “canning” – the practice of soliciting money at stop lights – was too dangerous. We are happy to report that event leaders now say social media and other online technology have offset much of the loss and hold greater long-term potential. BTW, this is Thon weekend.  

Four years ago, supporters of wine and liquor privatization figured they had started the death knell for the state-run wine and spirits system. Surprise! Despite wine now being available at more than 1,000 not-state-run outlets, the state stores are doing just fine, thank you, owing to an 11 percent increase in the sale of liquor, on which the state maintains its monopoly. 

The Post-Gazette this week warned us that the Commonwealth is approaching another transportation funding crisis, as the federal government insists that we divert dinero from local roads and show a little love for the Interstate System, which in recent years has been shuffled to the back burner in anticipation that Congress and the president would step up and helpDiversion of transportation funds, inflation, fuel efficiency and the expiration of a subsidy for public transportation are contributing to the dilemma. 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection this week, seeking financial breathing room as it deals with hundreds of complaints of child sex abuse by predator priests. The diocese said the move was necessary in order to continue to function as a religious and social welfare entity. 

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman found himself in a kerfuffle with a Harrisburg attorney after the LT blocked a couple of dudes from his Twitter account who had the gumption to criticize the photo Fetterman posted of his wife in a Brazilian carnival costume. The attorney demanded that Fetterman apologize and unblock the duo; Fetterman said, in essence, pound sand. 

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee voted on Sunday to endorse a slate of moderate Dems over their more progressive opponentsThere is quite a bit of political turmoil going on out west. We’ll see how this all shakes down in the April 28 primary. 

Tuesday was the filing deadline for candidates running in the April primary. We offer this link for those of you who are interested in statewide races, and this one for fans of congressional contests. 

And speaking of the primary, Sen. Bob Casey says he believes the election should be moved up, as voters in 37 states and territories will get to weigh in before Pennsylvanians do. Others note that moving the primary up would also require moving the filing deadline up, creating its own set of challenges involving weather and holidays. 

Igeneral election news, it appears that Pennsylvania will prove to be quite important in this year’s presidential race. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, we are again among three swing states that could determine the outcome of the election. The others are Michigan and Wisconsin. At present, the poll says President Trump trails Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Mike Bloomberg by six to eight percentage points in PA. 

One issue causing some angst among PA Democrats these days is fracking. While some on the more progressive side of the spectrum support banning it, leaders of organized labor – particularly in the building trades – consider that position a nonstarter. In any case, adhering to a position of banning it will make for a bumpy ride in some corners of the Commonwealth. 

It appears that the health care industry and trial lawyers are amassing for another battle royale over where medical malpractice lawsuits may be filed. In 2003, the state Supreme Court decreed that med mal suits could be filed only in the county where an injury occurred, rather than an any county in which a health care provider operates. The court is considering whether to reverse the rule.  

In this week’s We Can’t Make This Up segmentwe trek on over to Indiana, where a man who has “crime pays” tattooed on his forehead wound up in jail, charged with resisting arrest, reckless driving, possession of meth and auto theftThe headline on the story very helpfully points out that this is not the first time the man has been in prison.” We’ll go out on a limb here and predict it won’t be the last time, either. 

And that’s what passes for news ‘round here this week, boys and girlsA tip of the Triad hat to those who are dancing the weekend away in State College, and we’ll be back next week with more of the same sad stories. 


Friday Happy Hour: Rogue Wiener Edition

Wienermobile

President Trump this week unveiled his shiny, new $4.8 trillion government spending plan for the next fiscal year, and it was promptly thrown in the trash by Congress. Regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office, this seems to be the case every year, which leads us to believe that the entire exercise is a giant waste of time.   

Fresh off his impeachment acquittal and subsequent victory/vengeance tour, Trump was also reminded that not every senator is in lockstep on everything he desires, especially when it comes to his chosen nominees to the Federal Reserve. Our own SenPat Toomey made it pretty clear that Trump’s nominees are not exactly his brand of whiskey.   

If you watched the Oscars on Sunday, you likely saw Joaquin Phoenix give a rambling speech about cows and a baby calf and milk and UFOs and whatever else popped into his mushy brain. His screed did not sit well with dairy farmers here in Pennsylvania, we have been told, which is why we watched hockey instead of the Oscars in the first place.   

Back here in relatively sane Pennsylvania, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati announced he will not seek re-election this year, joining House Speaker Mike Turzai, who announced the same in January.  It is pretty rare that two presiding officers head to the exits in the same year, so expect a moderate amount of upheaval around these parts.    

Fresh data from New Hampshire exit polls tell us that a mere 11% of Granite State voters get their political news from Twitter. This is your periodic reminder that Twitter isn’t the be all/end all of information delivery, despite what @theRealDonaldTrump might say. This news dovetails nicely into what Triad’s own Jennifer Riley has to say on delivering effective messages in this low-trust, often fact-free world we live in. Check that out here.   

Gov. Tom Wolf this week embarked on a tour of the state’s 14 public colleges to tout his new $200 million tuition forgiveness plan. The scholarship fund would be built by taking loot away for the state’s horse racing development fund, setting up a classic battle between students and horses. It is gonna be epic.    

Wolf this week also whipped out the old veto pen and squashed a bill that would have prevented him from closing two state-run centers for people with intellectual disabilities. Helpful legislative hint moving forward: if you pass a bill to stop a governor from doing something he clearly wants to do, he is PROBABLY GONNA VETO IT!   

A federal judge this week picked the winner of the “who gets the old Philly refinery site” lottery, and while we do not know the future of the property, we do know this: it ain’t gonna be a refinery. Expect to hear more – perhaps much more – from our friends in the building trades.   

Although Pennsylvania residents have largely been spared from the spread of the coronavirus, experts are starting to warn that the pandemic’s impact on the world economy might be severeputting a hurtin’ for certain on your wallet. Viruses, it turns out, are not good for the commerce.   

Pennsylvania’s hemp farmers are getting a lesson in supply-and-demand economics, as a glut of hemp has driven the price from $40/ton to a mere $10/ton. So before you run out and throw some hemp seeds into the ground, think about waiting until there is an actual demand.    

One lawmaker this week rolled out a plan to help protect “vulnerable travelers” on our state’s roadssuch as pedestrians, bikers, scooter aficionados and even horse-and-buggy users. Lotsa road out there for all of uslet’s do the right thing and share, people.     

A report out of Philadelphia this week reminds us all that everyone loves to talk about campaign finance reform, while at the same time benefiting from the lack thereof. This time, it is our progressive pals in the east who have figured out that there is indeed life after Citizens United if you learn how to play the game.     

Redistricting is right around the corner for Pennsylvania and the nation, so naturally, some folks would like to see the process reformed, whatever that means. The problem for the reformers is any redistricting legislation that might be passed this year won’t take effect for another decade. Maybe by then the General Assembly will have eliminated property taxes too.    

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to chilly Wisconsin, where police pulled over the driver of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, giving the wiener pilot a verbal warning for failing to obey traffic laws. Even processed meats must follow traffic laws, kids.      

That’s what passes for news around here as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, which we all know was celebrated a little differently in Chicago in 1929In 2020, instead of lining up and executing seven mafia membersmaybe just go out and have a nice dinner. From all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!  


Persuasion in a Low Trust World

Triad2020_32 (2)

by Jennifer Riley 

In our profession, we often think about how to persuade. What will resonate? What will drive action? 

Oftentimes, we spend our time creating “myth vs. fact” sheets or one-pagers that are clear, concise and fact-driven.

But even most compelling statistics don’t guarantee successful persuading. Instead, the greatest predictor of success depends less on the “facts” and more on your audience’s entrenched beliefs.

In our world of public affairs, we have to remember that trying to correct someone’s misperceptions, or trying to persuade them with facts can create a backfire effect, making people embrace their existing beliefs even more.

As Mark Twain said, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”

A Low Trust World 

Frankly, people don’t trust “facts.”

Known as “confirmation bias,” people embrace information that supports their existing beliefs and reject “facts” that contradict them. 

This is why people don’t trust the media. Even a truly balanced news article that represents all sides fairly would still be considered biased. Why? Because everyone thinks their side is right, so the article should have emphasized their side more. 

But this mistrust extends beyond the media. Consider the public opinion polling shared by Morning Consult and the Public Affairs Council at the recent Advocacy Conference in Las Vegas. Both surveys mirrored data that tested online and offline public trust. 

Approximately 65% of people are more likely to trust a friend or a family member, greatly outpacing any other source of information. Only 40% of people trust the news media and less than 25% trust political ads or messages. 

But, even though people are much more likely to believe information that comes from their friends/family “group”, this group is likely sharing facts and information that they probably already agree with. 

And so it continues.

Emotional Storytelling

This doesn’t mean that truth is doomed, or even that people can’t change their minds. Because there are facts, and then there are beliefs.

Facts rarely drive decisions --- but beliefs do. And beliefs are born from emotions. Therefore, emotions drive decisions. 

Emotions are often not precise and don’t require a lot of facts because they don’t involve much cognition. Because of this, great communicators know that the best way to motivate and persuade others is through emotional storytelling.

During the conference, Matthew Luhn, a former Pixar animator and storyteller, discussed the five principles of effective storytelling. And he would know. Matthew spent 25 years crafting some of the world’s most engaging stories, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Up.

1. Start with the Hook 

A person’s average attention span lasts about eight seconds. Think about what you would say or show in eight seconds that pulls people from their ordinary world. Matthew recommends using something unusual or unexpected that asks a question, like: “What if a rat dreamed of becoming a French chef?” 

2. Change is Good

Another important element of great storytelling is character transformation. Interestingly, people are usually resistant to change, but people love to see stories about characters who experience change, like Woody learning that he will still be loved even if someone else holds the rank of “Andy’s favorite toy.”

3. Know Your Audience

If you need to target a certain audience, you must craft a narrative that’s relatable to that particular demographic. But if you need to connect with a larger or unknown audience, use universal themes built around emotions. At our core, we all have very similar emotions and universal desires/fears, including: Love, Safety, Freedom, Failure and Abandonment.

4. Be Authentic

Authenticity is key, because inspiring stories come from a place of truth and vulnerability. At the same time, people don’t want to be told what to think, they want to figure it out on their own. For example, instead of saying “letting Nemo go will allow him to discover life on his own,” Dory explains, “You can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.” 

5. Focus on the Journey

Successful stories are structured in three phases: set-up, build and payoff. In simplest terms, a good story is just a hero on a journey.  And in an apropo way, Matthew showed us what he meant, rather than explaining it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw3hSEbWIrs

My biggest takeaway from all of this? 

Successful persuasion needs great storytelling that is simple, honest and emotional. 

And I’ll be shredding my myth vs. fact sheets. 


Friday Happy Hour: Tennessee Weed Edition

Not legal in Tennessee

Last week was quite a long year in Pennsylvania and national politics, so let’s jump right in with the biggest story, the formal Senate acquittal of President Trump. In his usual understated and calm style, the president thanked the Senate for doing its constitutional duty and quietly went about his business, never once mentioning Mitt Romney’s name.   

The POTUS also gave his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, which was basically he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doing their best “I know you are but what am I? fifth-graders in the schoolyard impersonation.    

The president did, however, take a whack at our own Governor Wolf for vetoing a school choice bill last year. This should give you all some idea of how important Pennsylvania will be in this year’s presidential election. For his part, Wolf sort of shrugged it off, ate a hot dog and went about his business.  

The U.S. economy seems pretty oblivious to the petty politics of our time, as the January job creation numbers came in at more than 225,000, marking the 112th straight month of positive job growthAt some point, aren’t we just gonna run out of humans to take those jobs, or no?   

Governor Wolf this week unveiled his 2021-2022 spending plan to the eager ears of the General Assembly and, as usual, public schools were the big winner. Wolf is looking to pour an addition $114 million into K-12 education.  

If you’d like a handy-dandy rundown of the budget highlights, head over to the Triadvocate, where our staff did all the work for you.   

One of the more interesting plans unveiled by the governor is his proposed creation of a new $200 million college scholarship fund aimed at poor kids attending state system schools. The loot for this endeavor will come from the state’s horse racing development fund, because after 14 years of cash rolling into that fund, if horse racing isn’t “developed” yet, maybe it ain’t ever gonna develop.    

It took all of 30 minutes for the horse racing industry to write its own obituary, saying that the Wolf plan will kill 20,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in tax revenue, two numbers that are gonna get a helluva lot of scrutiny over the next few months. If the horse racing industry wants to Win, it is gonna have to Place that data in front of lawmakers and Show the impact. See what we did there?   

Governor Wolf wrapped up his budget address with a personal and impassioned plea for the General Assembly to take up several bills designed to crack down on gun violenceOnce again, he will attempt to push that rather large rock up a very steep hill 

Speaking of Sisyphean tasks, the General Assembly has once again stalled out in the annual game of We Can Eliminate Your Property Taxes. Wake us when something interesting happens.  

Pennsylvania health officials are reminding folks that the regular, garden-variety flu is a much more imminent threat to your well-being than the coronavirus, which incidentally sounds like it should come with a lime wedge. Suffice it to say that you don’t want either of them, so go get a flu shot.    

Punxsutawney Phil was hoisted out of his luxury hole last weekend to let us all know that spring will come early this year. As we write this, it is snowing sideways outside our windowsGood job, varmint.   

A state rulemaking body has given the greenlight to a new regulation that will dramatically expand the number of Pennsylvania workers who qualify for overtime pay. The move was the predictable result of the General Assembly failing to pass minimum wage legislation. There was a quid there, but it never met the pro quo.    

If the Pennsylvania Senate has its way (and it often does), the 2024 Pennsylvania primary will be held on Super TuesdayBut before that ever happens, let take you to the current race where…  

This just in:  Iowa is never again allowed to have nice things.    

After three days of weirdness and someone apparently unplugging Iowa and plugging it back in, South Bend Mayor and first-time candidate Pete Buttigieg shocked the world by finishing in a tie with Sen. Bernie Sanders, a man who has run for president 16 times already.     

If you haven’t yet had the chance, head on over to the Triadvocate and introduce yourself to our newest public affairs whiz, Jennifer Riley! Welcome, Jen!  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Tennessee, where a man standing trial for misdemeanor drug possession thought it was a good idea to approach the bench and light up a joint in front of the judge. People are gonna write songs about this dude’s giant set of guts.     

That’s what passes for news around here as the howling wind blows us all into the weekend! From all your friends at Team Triad, enjoy the weekend and we will see you next week!  


Pa. State Budget Proposal Highlights

Gov. Wolf

Governor Wolf unveiled his 2020-21 General Fund budget during his annual address to the legislature, proposing to spend $36.06 billion, an increase of 4.22 percent.

The governor urged the legislature to tackle gun violence, student debt, and toxic schools. The proposed budget items targeting lead and asbestos in schools, day cares, homes and public water systems would total more than $1.1 billion in funding for remediation.

Highlights of the governor’s Budget in Brief include:

Investing in our children 

  • Proposes an expansion of universal, free, full-day kindergarten for all Pennsylvania students.
  • Continues Governor Wolf’s commitment to investing in education at all levels, including a $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts, a $5 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, a $100 million increase in basic education and a $25 million increase in special education.
  • Includes a $15.3 million increase in federal funds to create a more stable business environment for childcare facilities and to ensure equal access to these services.
  • Invests in our state’s early intervention programs by increasing county administrative allocations by $2.5 million for birth to age 3 services and providing an $11 million increase to fund an additional 2,000 slots for children ages 3 to 5.
  • Proposes Charter School Law reform.
  • Repurposes $204 million from the Pennsylvania Racehorse Development Trust Fund to support the Nellie Bly Tuition Program, which will provide financial assistance to full-time PASSHE students who agree to stay in Pennsylvania for the same number of years for which they receive the benefit.
  • Proposes a total of $60 million in new funding for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program through PHEAA.
  • Proposes $12.9 million to support a system redesign and shared IT infrastructure initiative for all PASSHE universities.
  • Implements lead and asbestos testing and remediation through the federal Health Services Initiative, PENNVEST funding and expansion of RACP-eligible projects

Building the nation’s strongest workforce

  • Provides $12 million in grant funding to implement recommendations brought forth by the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center to assist workers in overcoming barriers such as transportation, childcare, training, licensure and community re-entry.
  • Invests $14.8 million in federal dollars into the Department of Human Services redesign of its employment and training programs to meet the needs of individuals and families working toward career pathways and family-sustaining wages.
  • Invests $23.4 million in federal funding for TANF recipients to address the benefits cliff by creating a work expense deduction that will pave a pathway for Pennsylvania families to work toward self-sufficiency.
  • Proposes combined reporting and to reduce the Corporate Net Income Tax from 9.99 to 8.99 percent on January 1, 2021, and then incrementally to 5.99 percent by 2025.
  • Increases teacher salaries to a minimum of $45,000/year.
  • Proposes increasing the minimum wage to $12/hour for all Pennsylvania workers, with a path to $15/hour by 2026.
  • Invests more than $20 million in new manufacturing and technology jobs, works to attract new innovative businesses and provides job training opportunities throughout Pennsylvania.

Keeping Pennsylvanians safe

  • Commits $6 million in additional funds to reduce and prevent gun violence throughout Pennsylvania.
  • Proposes an additional $4 million for Philadelphia’s Gun Violence Task Force.
  • Assesses a fairer police service fee to all communities benefiting from police services provided by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Protecting our most vulnerable

  • Invests $1.4 million for adults living in long-term care facilities who require ventilator care.
  • Provides $1 million to expand legal services to low-income individuals and families.
  • Commits $1.2 million in new dollars to establish a training program for direct care workers in the Participant Directed Model to support individuals with physical disabilities living in the community.
  • Invests $4 million more to counties for risk management to support individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism.
  • Proposes $5.1 million additional dollars to fund staff within the Department of Human Services to implement changes in law, regulations, and licensing as recommended by the Council on Reform.
  • Proposes $1.25 million for 20 Community Hospital Integration Projects Program discharges to reduce state hospital populations.
  • Proposes $8.1 million in new funding to provide services to 1,700 seniors on the OPTIONS in-home services waiting list.
  • Invests $1.3 million in the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program so that children who have been victims of abuse or neglect have an advocate to share their voice in court proceedings.
  • A combined $2.4 million is proposed for evidence-based and evidence-informed home visiting that will support at-risk families.
  • Invests $1 million in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, which addresses food insecurity and ensures more Pennsylvanians have access to healthy meals for their families.

Environmental protection, restoration and job creation

  • Invests $2.5 million in the Department of Environmental Protection to support several core initiatives, including implementation of the Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan and support for the Bureau of Air Quality.
  • Proposes $2.5 million for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to hire additional state park and forest rangers.
  • Calls for legislative action on a $1 per ton increase to the tipping fee on municipal waste landfill deposits to generate an additional $22.6 million and maintain solvency of the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.

The governor continues advocating to fund Pennsylvania’s critical infrastructure needs with Restore Pennsylvania. First unveiled last year, the plan funds broadband, flooding, and other critical infrastructure projects.

The House Appropriations and Senate Appropriations budget hearings start on Feb. 18. 

The House and Senate Republicans provide their perspectives on the governor’s proposal.