Banner reminding people to fill out their census form online, by phone, or on paper

Today is Census 2020 Day

Census Banner on West High Street, Bellefonte, PA Asking Everyone to Participate in the 2020 Census

Once every ten years, the United States counts every person residing in the country.  This is the year!  And today, April 1, 2020 is Census Day! The census includes every person living in a household or apartment, group quarters, and individuals living on the streets throughout the United State of America..

Throughout the country, April 1 is the designated day on which every person residing with you, even if only temporarily, is to be counted. This includes all newborn babies and children and anyone else who resides with you that day – including people (like foster kids or your parents) who might be temporarily residing with you.

Why is the census so important? The results are used to determine how much funding local communities receive for key public services. Funding for such things as our roads, our police and fire departments, and our schools and hospitals are based on the Census. It also determines how many seats each state gets in Congress. State and local officials also use census counts to draw boundaries for congressional, state legislative, and school districts.

On or about March 15, every household should should have received a postcard from the US Census Bureau inviting you to fill out the Census on-line, by phone, or you can request a paper version. This postcard contains a unique number so that the Census only counts people at your address one time only.  If you lost this card (see sample below), you can still fill out the Census, but it will take a bit of extra work.

Sample Postcard from the US Census Bureau Inviting You to Participate in the 2020 Census.

The website where you fill out your census information is On the landing page, you are asked to press the button labeled, “Start Questionnaire.” On the next page, you are asked to enter the unique number listed on the postcard that was mailed to you.  Once you do that, you will confirm your home address and answer the census questions for each member of your household. 

If you don’t have that unique number, you can click on the link that says, If you do not have a Census ID, click here. That link will take you to a series of questions asking for your if you live in a state, in Puerto Rico, or somewhere else. Note, “somewhere else drops you out of the program indicating that either your location is ineligible for the Census OR that you live in a territory where an enumerator will come to your home to complete the Census with you.  The other two links step you through a series of questions to locate your residence.  Once the “where do you live” type questions are complete, you will then answer the census question for each member of your household.

Getting a complete and accurate census count is critically important. If you do not respond to the postcard, the U.S. Census Bureau will send you a paper version to fill out and mail back to them.  If you still haven’t filled it out by probably the end of April , they will follow up in person to collect your response. And in this era of the Corona Virus pandemic, filling it out on line, by phone, or on paper will help keep you and your neighbors safe.

Note to college students. Due to the pandemic and the resulting closure of colleges, universities, and trade schools throughout the country, you may have returned home.  The US Census Bureau wants you to fill out the form as if you are living in the college town on April 1. Here’s what the Census Bureau says re college students and Covid-19:

In general, students in colleges and universities temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus will still be counted as part of this process.  Even if they are home on census day, April 1, they should be counted according to the residence criteria which states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. We are asking schools to contact their students and remind them to respond.

Census Bureau Statement on Modifying 2020 Census Operations to Make Sure College Students are Counted,

No matter how you respond, your personal information is confidential. The Census Bureau is required by law to protect your answers. Your responses are used only to produce statistics. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information and it can never be used to identify you.

Thank you for being a good neighbor and for filling out your Census 2020 form.

FactChecking the Vice Presidential Debate –

Last night, the two Vice-Presidential candidates–current VP Mike Pence and US Senator Kamala Harris–took the stage in Utah to debate each other for the upcoming general election on November 3, 2020. This debate was sponsored by the Presidential Commission on Debates.

Both candidates made several broad statements on the topics raised. Questions as to the accuracy of these responses by both candidates were asked (or shouted at our television and computer screens and at our radio speakers).

As many of those engaged in the presidential election season, I wanted to know who gave the clearest and most accurate presentation on the policies and concerns of the American people.

Was it Kamela?

Senator Kamala Harris (CA) – Joe Biden’s Running Mate

Or was it Mike?

Vice President Mike Pence – Donald Trump’s Running Mate

So I turned to the Annenberg Center for Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania for their non-partisan review of the claims made by both candidates. As suspected, there was the truth, part truth, less than clear statements, and some falsehoods or exaggerations in what was said during the 90-minute debate. By Pence and by Harris.

So here is the link, without comments, to their analysis for your review.

You make your decision on whom to vote for based on this review as well as other information you gather. I have made my decision. I hope you make yours as well, based on the facts in this critical race for our democracy in 2020.

Banner reminding people to fill out their census form online, by phone, or on paper

A Brighter Future Can Happen with a #Census2020 Complete Count

For the last six weeks, everyone across the United States has experienced the worldwide pandemic and quarantine from the COVID019 coronavirus. Many have also experienced illness, loss of jobs and income, and in some cases, death of loved ones.

But America will eventually come back from this COVID-19 pandemic. We are all looking for a brighter future where we will eventually have family gatherings, concerts, and sporting events again.

When we do, we will need funding to help sustain the infrastructure to help make this happen. Infrastructure like our parks, our ballfields, our roads, our schools, our healthcare facilities, our transportation, and our economy. This infrastructure is overseen and funded by multiple entities, including the federal government.

The 2020 Census helps make this happen. Completion of the Census affects how much funding your community receives, how your community plans for the future, and how you are represented at all levels of government. For each person that completes the Census, the community will receive an estimated $2600/year/person in grants and funding from the federal government.

As of Thursday, May 7, 2020, 58 percent of the US population has completed their Census forms. Pennsylvania is doing a bit better at 61 percent. But we need a COMPLETE count in every community so that we can each receive our fair share of the federal funds and representation in our governmental bodies at the federal and state levels.

You can help out your community when it comes back from the COVID-19 pandemic by filling out your #2020Census form. You can fill out your form online today at, over the phone at 844-330-2020, or by mail.

Let’s make it a brighter future for all. Thank you.

Children Count Too

April 1 was Census Day. That’s the day that you are counted as living in the United States. But that doesn’t mean that you missed your chance to be counted.

As of May 3, only about 57 percent of the US population has completed their Census forms.

But we need everyone to be counted. The US Census Bureau is still asking you to fill out your census form. It’s time.

You count. Your children also count. So… remember to include your children, including newborns born on or before April 1, when you fill out your Census form.

As the Census Borough states, not only do your responses help us adults, it also helps the kids:

Census results affect planning and funding for education—including programs such as Head Start, Pell Grants, school lunches, rural education, adult education, and grants for preschool special education.

By each of us completing our forms, both my community and your community can get the federal funds necessary to help keep our schools and community vibrant. FYI, for every person listed, your community will receive an estimated $2,600 per year per person for the next ten years from the US Treasury.

You can complete your census form online at, by phone at 844-330-2020, or by mail.

Thank you, once again.

Banner advertsing the 2020 Census

Social Distancing and the US Census

I co-chair the Bellefonte Borough Census Complete Counts Committee. This committee is made up of members of the communty who are working with the US Census Bureau to help ensure that everyone in our town is counted in the 2020 Census.

Over time we have done several outreach efforts. At the beginning of March, before the pandemic spread to Pennsylvania, we hand-delivered postcards to every household in town. It included a picture of the letter that the US Census Bureau sent out to everyone on approximately March 15.

A copy of the face of the envelope that the US Census Bureau sent out on March 15 to encourage people to fill out their Census forms.

The borough is putting a one-sentence reminder to all households and businesses that pay for utilities in town to remember to fill out the census.

We also created banners that went up on our two main streets in town reminding people to “Participate in the 2020 Census.”

Census Banner over South Allegheny Street, Bellefonte, PA.

We had also planned on holding drop-in centers around town to help the public fill out their Census forms. But due to the coronavirus pandemic and the shelter-at-home/social distancing orders, these assistance centers were canceled.

Instead, we are attempting to send out a message on social media during this era of social distancing, to take a few minutes to fill out your Census form in the safety of your home. You can do it online at, by phone at 844-330-2020, or by mail once you receive your paper version of the Census.

We have spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, and Youtube. Here is the first one posted on YouTube.

Why 4 Percent of World’s Population Has 30 Percent of COVID-19 Cases — Nel’s New Day

The beaches and businesses in two Southern states are opening up in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic. On April 27, the number of U.S. confirmed cases is 1,010,507, and the number of deaths is 56,803, just short of the 58,220 U.S. military fatalities in the 20 years of the Vietnam War. The actual number […]

Why 4 Percent of World’s Population Has 30 Percent of COVID-19 Cases — Nel’s New Day

Bellefonte Borough and Pittsburgh Region Green Cities would like to invite you to a Drive Electric PA Initiative Ride/Drive and Workshop on August 9 and 10, 2019 from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm each day.

This event will be held at the Temple Court Building, 3rd floor meeting room and in our parking lot behind the YMCA here in Bellefonte.

The first two hours of the workshop will provide you with information regarding electric vehicles and the benefits of using them. The last hour will be used to see, ride, and drive in the various electric vehicles that will be in the parking lot.

Attendees are encouraged to register; however, there is no registration fee. Attached is the flyer for this event with a linkage to the registration page.

The program on Friday, August 9, 2019 is designed for municipalities, authorities, fleet managers, school districts and any others associated with community governance and services. The program on Saturday, August 10, 2019 is designed for businesses, developers, and the general public. You may however attend whichever event you prefer.

Three Mass Shootings and Two Vigils with One Hitting Close to Home

There have been three mass shootings across the country in the last week.

On January 23, 2019, a 21-year old man entered a Suntrust Bank in Sebring, Florida and killed all five people present, none of whom he knew according to news reports. His victims were all women: Cynthia Watson, Marisol Lopez, Debra Cook, Ana Pinon-Williams, and Jessica Montague. The alleged shooter is Zephen Xaver, who is currently under arrest for five counts of premeditated murder.  A vigil in honor of these victims was held on January 27, 2019.

On January 26, 2019, a 21-year old man from Livingston Parish, Louisiana killed his girlfriend, her father, and her brother at their home then drove to his parents’ house and killed them. His victims were: Summer Ernest; her father, Billy Ernest; and her younger brother, Tanner Ernest, 17 as well as his parents Elizabeth and Keith Theriot. His name is Dakota Theriot. He was arrested at his grandparents’ home near Richmond, VA and now faces five counts of murder. According to a comment I received (see comments below) the community did not hold a vigil in honor of these mass shooting victims. The first funeral was held on Saturday,  February 9, 2019, two weeks after the shooting occurred.

And on January 24, 2019, the third mass shooting occurred in my community.  In this case, a 21-year old man from Bellefonte, PA who graduated high school with my son shot and killed four people in State College, PA. The victims included himself, two men visiting State College from Ohio, and an 83-year old man who was killed on his 60th wedding anniversary. He also critically wounded a fifth person.

The shooter was Jordan Witmer, a 2015 graduate of Bellefonte Area High School who had just finished a 3-4 year stint with the US Army. The critically-wounded woman is Nicole Abrino, who was or may have been his girlfriend at the time of the shooting. The father and son were Dean Beachy (age 62) and Steven Beachy (age 19) from Ohio; they had attempted to intervene in the argument between Witmer before the shooting occurred.  George McCormick was murdered in his home after Witmer fled the scene at P.J. Harrigan’s Bar and Grille. After crashing his car, Witmer broke into the McCormick home in Ferguson Township and then shot and killed Mr. McCormick. Witmer then died by suicide.  George’s wife, Joann Shaw McCormick was unharmed; she had locked herself in their bathroom and called 911.

Abrino (age 21) of State College was shot in the chest and is currently in stable condition at UPMC in Pittsburgh. She has had two surgeries so far to deal with her injuries, and a GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help her family pay for her medical expenses.

After the shooting, McCormick’s family reached out to the other victims with a message of condolence. Kristine McCormick Vahey, younger sister of George McCormick, offered her condolences to the other victims of this mass shooting, which was published in

“The family of George McCormick would like to offer our condolences to the Beachy family on the loss of their loved ones and prayers for Nicole Abrino and her family. We would also like to offer our condolences to the family of Jordan Witmer. While we don’t understand and may never understand why this happened, we know that the Witmer family is also grieving a loss.”

And, just like in Florida, our community held a vigil to honor these mass shooting victims.  I attended this vigil.  We came together to honor the first responders, the victims (including Jordan Witmer) and the families of this shooting and called for some actions to end this type of violence.

Picture of several of the vigil attendees at the Allen Street Gates holding candles at the vigil for the victims of the mass shooting in State College. In the background is a Penn State Police officer, the Engineering building, and the main gates to Penn State University.

The State College and Bellefonte, PA communities come out to honor the victims and first responders of the mass shooting in State College. Vigil hosted by Standing at the Gates for Justice, Third Way Collective and Ni-Ta-Nee NOW.

Due to the solemnity of the event, I did not create a video.  So that you get to an idea of what was said, I have culled several news reports of the vigil to obtain quotes from the speakers and some of the people who came to the vigil.  Here are these comments:

“In the wake of the violence that has taken four lives and left one hospitalized, we thought it was fitting to have it this week, honor those victims and remember their lives.” (quote from WJAC-TV)

”We enter into silence today, remembering the employees of P.J. Harrigan’s and the Ramada Inn and Conference Center. First responders, law enforcement and medical professionals. Nicole Abrino, the single gunshot survivor, and her family as they mourn and heal. Those whose lives have been taken forever: 19-year-old Steven Beachy, his father, Dean Beachy, and 83-year-old George McCormick, a longtime State College and Penn State community member. And Jordan Witmer, the Bellefonte grad who perpetuated the crimes, and his family as they make sense of what happened.” (quote from The Centre Daily Times)

  • Ben Wideman, campus pastor for 3rd Way Collective at Penn State and chief organizer of this vigil

“The violent loss of our friends and neighbors is all but unbearable. And so, God, we come today asking you to help us fathom that which is unfathomable.” (quote from WPSU Radio)

—Carol Thomas Cissel, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in State College

“I just feel a little lost, actually, because I don’t totally know what the solution is. We need a different way of expressing or dealing with issues, more sensible gun regulation but also mental health, but I don’t know totally what the answer is or what formula it should be.” (quote from The Centre Daily Times)

Michele Hamilton, President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, one of the co-hosts for this vigil

“I think certainly something like what happened this evening, to draw people together and say, ‘this didn’t just affect those families that were involved, but it affected all of us.’ This to me is actually the beginning of healing — allowing people to connect to each other and finding resources, whether it’s faith, communities, Tides or just one another, to band together and say ‘let’s support each other.’ The very first thing is to know you’re not alone.” (quote from The Centre Daily Times)

  Tides Program Director Evelyn Wald (Tides is a local non-profit organization offering no-cost support to families coping with the death of their loved ones)

Yes, we all need to heal.  Here in Bellefonte, many people knew Mr. Witmer. My son didn’t know him personally but said he recalls that Witmer was well liked. At one time, Witmer lived about two blocks away from us. The community, his former neighbors and family state that they had no idea of any violent tendencies. All are hurting.  We can’t condone what any of these shooters did.  But we can mourn.

I agree.  We should never have to deal with any form of violence against others. Mass shootings or otherwise.  But we can come together to mourn and then work to reduce these kinds of incidents in the future.

Meanwhile, I think Patty Kleban sums up the thoughts of those of us who attended the vigils both here in Pennsylvania and Florida. She wrote the article titled, “In the Face of Tragedy, a Victim’s Family Responds with Grace”  After quoting Kristine McCormick Vahey, she eloquently ends her article:

Life is short, and we never know what we have beyond right now. Hug those close to you. Forgive your enemies. Show others grace and compassion. Perhaps by sharing our love, we may give others — and ourselves — hope.

A Shout Out to a Mensch of a Santa

Rick Rosenthal looks the part. He has a white beard. He wears red suits all the time. His job for the last seven years has been that of a surrogate Santa Claus. And he’s an Orthodox Jew. Here’s his story of giving back to kids.

(JTA) — Just like any other Santa Claus, Santa Rick will spend much of the next couple of weeks sitting children on his knee, asking whether they’ve been good and listening to their Christmas wishes.

If it’s a Saturday, he may have slept overnight in the building. And he’ll only accept payment after nightfall.

For Santa Rick’s last name is Rosenthal, and he’s an Orthodox Jew who does not drive or handle money on Shabbat. But that doesn’t stop him from doing his job.

“I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t help a child,” said Rosenthal, 66, who lives in Atlanta and attends Young Israel of Toco Hills. “If you look at the world as children do, that’s a better feeling. I’m a better person and a better Jew because I’m Santa.”

Rosenthal — a full-time, professional Santa — sees no contradiction between serving as the symbol of Christmas and living as an observant Jew. To him, Santa is a nonreligious spiritual figure who provides trust, reassurance and comfort to the young and old.

He says that anyone who is inclined to criticize him for working as a Santa should consider ways they help non-Jews observe holidays — like working a shift on Christmas when Christians take the day off.

“As a Jew, we are to be a light unto the world,” Rosenthal said, paraphrasing a famous Jewish aphorism from the Bible. “That’s one of our jobs. If we can help make people’s lives better, we should do that. It’s a mitzvah. If we can ease tensions between Jews and non-Jews, we can do that….”

A Gift to Me from a Good Friend

Happy Holidays, everyone!

It’s almost December at the White House, and Donald Trump orders his aides to put up a nativity scene on the lawn. They all grovel before him and begin their task.

After working for a few hours to set one up, the aides step back to look at their work.

“It looks pretty good,” says the first one.

“Yeah, but I’m not sure the boss will like it,” says the second….

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