heal and shoulder ardboard cutout of Representative GT Thompson

Where is Rep. Glenn Thompson?

heal and shoulder ardboard cutout of Representative GT Thompson

Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-PA05): The Cardboard Substitute

Not at the PA 5th Congressional District Town Hall Meeting in the Forum Building at The Pennsylvania State University today.

Neither Representative Thompson nor any member of his staff showed up for the Town Hall Meeting that he was invited to in the 5th Congressional District in Centre County where he lives. This meeting was held during the February 2017 Congressional Recess when he was in the district.  These recesses are designed to give Congressional members time to go home and “tackle constituent concerns” back in the district.

Town halls are often used to help “tackle” these issues in an efficient, open and transparent way.  When a Representative fails to set up a face-to-face town hall meeting, his/her constituents set it up for him/her and invite the Representative and/or his staff. This is what happened here in Centre County today.

Since no representative from G.T. Thompson’s office, including Thompson himself, showed up to answer our questions, concerned constituents talked to his cardboard substitute. The meeting was taped and will be sent to him for his response.

 

About 300 voters in Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District showed up at this town hall today to ask Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson questions of concern. These issues included but were not limited to  sexual assault, Title IX, education,  immigration,  gun safety, ethics, healthcare,  disability,  access to the representative,  and open and transparent government.

I spoke about 47 minutes into the meeting about transparency and about the increase in hate crimes and tension here in Centre County, in the state, and across the country over the last several months. This included telling Mr. Thompson about an incident reported to me in my capacity as Chair of the Centre County Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Two or three days ago, a voter’s tires were slashed in State College by another individual because this voter had a sign inside his car that said, “I support immigrants.”

Here’s the full video of the Town Hall Meeting.

The town hall meeting lasted about 90 minutes. But #WhereWasThompson? Where was he hiding? Was he avoiding his constituents?

Mr. Thompson, or as you like to be called, G.T., you were hired (elected) to represent the entire congressional district. Not just those that you agree with. As your boss, we need you to answer our questions. We are not “paid activists” or “the political opposition” as you seem to think; we are your constituents. We want to hear from you now. We want to know what you think and why you are voting the way you do in Congress.

NOW. Not months down the road. And we want your responses on record. Not behind closed doors.

As Marc Friedenberg told the audience and the Centre Daily Times today at this meeting,

“We’re not protesters, we’re not political opposition, we are constituents and there are a lot of things that we care about,” Friedenberg said. “We care about health care, we care about the environment, we’re very worried about the way a lot of different issues in our country are moving right now, and we’d like a chance to at least know that we’ve been heard.”

And isn’t it more efficient for our concerns to be heard at a town hall meeting?  Especially since your offices are “overwhelmed” by the calls, letters, etc.?

We as your constituents think so.

Watch “Michael Moore in Trumpland”!

This video cost $4.99 through either Amazon or iTunes but should be well worth the 70 minutes of showtime.

And remember to vote and vote wisely on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

 

Central Oregon Coast NOW

trumplandIf you’re still on the sidelines when it comes to this election, or if you’re feeling conflicted about voting for Hillary, or if you love Michael Moore’s films and are a strong Hillary supporter, then I strongly encourage you to take an hour and 10 minutes right now and check out “Michael Moore in Trumpland”. No one else has made the unique and persuasive arguments Michael Moore is making in “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” — and  you’ll want to hear what Moore has to say and share it with your friends and family. If you’re in need of a “pick-me-up” today, this is the movie for you.

You can get it on iTunes here.Or you can get it at Amazon by clicking here.Both of them, are letting people buy it and OWN it (not just “rent” it) for under five bucks.

So if you’re feeling fed up by this election and…

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Picture of the APRL Library from the 2nd floor with the organizational logo and the words "American Philatelic Research Library," "Stamplibrary.org," "Ribbon Cutting," and date and town printed on top of the picture

Historic Preservation and the APRL

Picture of the APRL Library from the 2nd floor with the organizational logo and the words "American Philatelic Research Library," "Stamplibrary.org," "Ribbon Cutting," and date and town printed on top of the picture

Ribbon-Cutting Program brochure

The grand opening ceremony of the APRL at the Match Factory in Bellefonte was held this morning here in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

About 15 years ago, the American Philatelic Society (APS) and the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) purchased the Match Factory complex here in Bellefonte . When purchased, the Match Factory was a structure with extremely leaky roofs and walls.

Over the last decade, the APS and the APRL  took the time and effort to restore this grand, historic building. This morning, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to open up the newest section. It is a two-story research Library containing the largest set of philately research materials in the world.

This slideshow gives you a quick picture of the speakers that were at the ceremony along with the crowd from around the country who came to help celebrate this great moment.

I Believe and I Vote

I believe in democracy.
I believe in every citizens’ right to vote.
Without intimidation or fear.
I believe in justice and opportunity for all.
For our Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters…
For our Fathers, Sons, and Brothers.
… It’s the American Way.
What about you?
Remember in November!
VOTE!

Words are very powerful.  Sometimes, however, pictures are worth a 1000 words.

Here’s one such video.  Believe in yourself and your power as a voter.  Get out and vote!

Complete Video with audio 10-10-2016 from George Polisner on Vimeo.

Civic Works -GOTV Video for 2016 -George Polisner and Muhammad Azim.

Republicans Must #DumpTrump: Trump’s Lewd Language & Sexual Assault Braggadocio

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, here’s something you can do.

Yesterday, the Washington Post released a 2005 video of Donald Trump. In this video and news article, Trump, using lewd language where he essentially brags about sexually assaulting women.


Video Courtesy of the Washington Post (Trigger Warning: Crude, lewd language)

A few hours after the video was released, Trump released a classic non-apology in a statement, saying “I apologize if anyone was offended.” What he said was that he was sorry for others being offended by his language and behavior condoning sexual assault.  Not that he was personally sorry for his offensive behavior.

A few hours after that, he released a short video again “apologizing” saying“I said it. I was wrong and I apologize.”  I put apologizing in quotes because he then immediately segued into blaming the Clinton’s for abuse of women saying that they both abused women but he only used bad language.


Video Courtesy of USA TV.

His “apology,” stated:

“I’ve said some foolish things. But there’s a difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary [no last name mentioned as he consistently does with men] has bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victim”

Trump saying he hasn’t abused women???!!! His words in the 2005 video speak otherwise:

“I did try and f— her. She was married.”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married”

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”

All of these statements meet the definition of sexual assault as defined by the FBI:

Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

In 2013, I wrote a blog about the climate of indifference related to sexual assault on college campuses.  This is no different. Trump’s indifference towards women and his misogynistic and possibly criminal behavior is unacceptable and disgusting.  As Bridgette Stumpf, co-executive director of Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. told the Washington Post:

“That’s nothing less than someone talking about committing sexual violence — the kissing, the grabbing. He’s talking about women as if they’re objects, as if they don’t have a right to consent to the way someone touches them. This is how sexual violence becomes accepted in our culture.”

So what can you do?  If you are a survivor of a sexual assault or abuse OR personally know someone who has been assaulted or abused, please take a moment to sign the UltraViolet.org letter to Republican leaders, candidates, and elected officials.

Only your first name will be used to protect your privacy.  This letter calls upon…

 “ALL Republican leaders, candidates, and elected officials to take a stand against sexual assault and abuse–and take a stand against your own nominee for President. You must not only denounce Trump’s words, but clearly and unequivocally denounce his candidacy and do all in your power to make sure that this sexual predator never sets foot in the White House. And we urge you to support strong policies that will end the epidemic of sexual assault in this country and support survivors of abuse.”

This has to stop.  No “Assaulter in Chief!” Please sign this letter now!

Tosti-Vasey Bellefonte 2015: Vote for a Change in Leadership

 Picture of Tosti-Vasey yard sign

Joanne Tosti-Vasey’s yard sign. Created by local artist Mary Vollero. The former Garman Opera House is pictured in this sign.

On May 19, 2015, I won the Democratic primary election for Bellefonte borough’s West Ward seat against a 32-year incumbent by almost a two-one majority. He won the write-in vote on the Republican ticket.  So we are having a ” do-over” contest in the General election on Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

I have been very active all summer and fall campaigning for this seat.  Talking to local businesses. Attending house parties (the big Open House Party is being held this coming Sunday at a local art studio), door knocking, and putting out yard signs all around town.

In addition to these direct contact events, I also attended a debate at the end of September held by the Centre County League of Women Voters. And answered their Voters’ Guide questionnaire that will be included in a county-wide voters guide that will be sent to the public about a week before the November 3rd election.

Then on October 11, I was interviewed by Jeremy Hartley, a reporter for the Centre Daily Times.  We discussed how my campaign is going, my background and thoughts on major issues for the town, parking in Bellefonte, development of the downtown and waterfront areas of town, attracting residents and investors, affordable housing, and the budget and expanding the tax base.  The video of this interview was taped by C-NET, our local cable television station.  C-NET gave me permission to distribute this tape. So here it is for your viewing.

Take a few minutes to hear what I had to say and why I’m running for borough council. If you are local and want to learn more about me in a fun venue, come to Mary’s Open House on Sunday, October 25. And then come out and vote for me on November 3 if you live in Bellefonte’s 3rd Ward. Regardless of where you live, you can also volunteer/donate – email me at tosti-vasey@pobox.com and we’ll fit you in!

Thanks!

picture of Stained glass windows on north side of Saint Paul's AME Church in Bellefonte, PA

The Underground Railroad, the Mills Brothers, and an AME Church in Crisis

picture of Stained glass windows on north side of Saint Paul's AME Church in Bellefonte, PA

Stained glass windows on north side of Saint Paul’s AME Church in Bellefonte, PA

I live in a town in central Pennsylvania with a history of abolitionism and civil rights for people of color and for women. This history goes back to the early 1800’s when the Quakers first settled in what had just become known as Lamb’s Crossing and eventually Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. According to Bellefonte Secrets,

Bellefonte Pennsylvania was the first town in America where human slavery was forbidden. Even though the law of our land was still that people who were slaves, and were identified as such, were to be returned to their owners. This town did not break any laws even though the slaves, or former slaves, in Bellefonte had no fear of being sent back.

As a result of this early anti-slavery movement in Centre County, Bellefonte became a home for former slaves and freemen. And a community grew up and around a Black church community that became known as the Saint Paul AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church. It is a church associated with the Underground Railroad during the Civil War and with the Mills Brothers and their family during the early part of the 20th Century.

According to RootsWeb, Saint Paul’s AME Church was established in 1859 through the merger of two other religious houses. The first house was originally founded in 1836 by Samuel Johnson of Chambersburg, Pa. It was known as Zion’s Wesleyan A.M.E. church. The second one was created in 1844 by the Rev. Willis Nazery and was known as the A.M.E. congregation. In 1859 these two merged; they built a church on land donated by a Quaker named William Thomas.

This church has had several leaders, including William Hutchison Mills, the grandfather of the Mills’ Brothers Barbershop Quartet, the folk, jazz, and gospel singing group famous throughout the mid- and late 20th Century. Here’s a bit of history about the anti-slavery movements, Bellefonte, and the Mills Brothers…

With its Quaker roots, Bellefonte has long been a place where people of different races and backgrounds could live and work side by side.  From about 1818 until the Civil War, Bellefonte was a stop on the Underground Railroad and several homes [as well as St. Paul’s AME Church] in the town have now been identified as being former safe houses for runaway slaves.  In the late 1820’s, the ancestors of the Mills family escaped slavery in the South on the Underground Railroad.  Upon arriving in Bellefonte, they decided to stay rather than continue on to Canada.  Of their four sons, Lewis and Edward Mills, joined the Union Army’s Colored Troops and fought in the Civil War.  Lewis’ son, William Hutchinson Mills (b. 1847, d. 1931) was to become the singing Mills Brothers’ grandfather.

William Hutchinson Mills became a barber in Bellefonte in 1871.  In 19th Century northern cities, the barber trade was historically delegated to African-Americans.  In fact, we’ve read that Bellefonte did not have a white barber until sometime after 1880.  Thus William H. Mills began a barbershop at 215 W. High Street in downtown Bellefonte that continuously did business until 1931.  Due to the location of his barbershop, we can assume that William H. Mills had both white and black customers.  An April 19, 1874 reference in the Centre Democrat newspaper states, “Mr. William Mills, one of Bellefonte’s best barbers, is refitting his shop in the most tasteful manner.”

….In 1872, the great black abolitionist and orator, Frederick Douglass, visited Bellefonte to speak at a fundraiser.  While there, he had his hair cut by Williams H. Mills.  Douglass was, perhaps, the inspiration for William H. Mills and the other officers of St. Paul’s AME Church to persuade the Bellefonte school board to integrate their schools, in 1885. 

This history of concern for civil rights and music continues to the present. The current pastor of Saint Paul’s is Dr. Donna King; she is an Instructor in Black History and Women’s Studies at Penn State University and is a visiting researcher at the Dickinson School of Law who describes herself as an activist.

Saint Paul’s church is now, however, in serious disrepair and needs some help and tender-loving care. Our community – both members of the church and community members at large – are now pulling together to save both the congregation and this historic building. The heating system needs to be replaced. Oil needs to be purchased for the winter. Leaks in the roofing need to be repaired. The stained glass has some broken spots that need to be fixed. And that’s what I could either see or heard about; I assume there is much more.

Interior South Side of St Paul AME 20150919_165530

Band Burrage holds a benefit concert that includes music by the Blues Brothers at Saint Paul’s AME Church in Bellefonte, PA. This shows the south side of the church’s interior.

Interior East Side of St Paul AME 20150919_165546

Members of the Bellefonte, PA community gathering inside Saint Paul’s AME Church for a benefit concert to help restore the church. This shows the east side of the church.

Showing financial community support will help obtain necessary historic grant funding to fully restore this historic gem. So on Saturday, September 26, a fundraising afternoon was held. A silent auction was held along with the serving of a soul-food luncheon. But the big event was a free concert by Band Burrage paying tribute to The Mills Brothers; his group was joined by a gospel group from Penn State University. This concert helped bring in many community members to see the church to see and hear about its history associated with the Civil War civil rights and equality.

I attended the concert and taped it so that you could get both a feel for the church interior as well as the music in our community.

Here are the three videos that I made.  If you are so inclined, please help our community save this historic civil rights and musical heritage landmark. Donations can be made at gofundme.com/stpaulbellefonte.

Band Burrage: Part 1

Band Burrage: Part 2

Help Preserve This Historic Church

Once again, donations to help preserve this piece of history can be made at gofundme.com/stpaulbellefonte. Thank you!

Video: Women Read Social Media Online Threats

For just about 2 months now, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women.

Today I thought I’d share a video I stumbled across.  It’s called “Feminists Read Mean Tweets.” The text describing this video tells the story of why mic.com created this video last fall:

A Mic Video original: Jimmy Kimmel’s Angry Tweets is on to something. When it comes being trolled, many people on the Internet have it bad. But feminists in particular are often singled out for vitriol.

The lethal combination of being a woman and having an opinion about the patriarchy is a recipe for a troll cocktail.

This video shows how women who challenge the status quo are treated online on a daily basis. While many have tried to describe what it’s like to be the target of constant, horrible abuse online, sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.

As the last sentence says: “Sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.” So here’s the “show.”

Be forewarned: there is a lot of rude and nasty language as well as threats of violence directed at these women.

Now that you’ve seen the video, you might also want to read the background story on Mic.com.

Joanne Tosti-Vasey for Bellefonte Borough Council

On May 19, 2015, I will be standing outside my precinct polling place asking my constituents to vote for me in the 2015 Primary for a seat on the Bellefonte Borough Council representing the 3rd (or West) Ward.  There are three seats for this section of town with one seat being elected for a four-year term starting on January 1, 2016.

There are two people — myself and a 32-year incumbent — running on the Democratic ticket. There is no one running on the Republican ticket. So I am running both a regular primary campaign on the Democratic side and a write-in campaign on the Republican ballot.

Volunteers on both sides of the aisle are writing letters, door knocking, and making calls on my behalf.  Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for links to the letters to the editor that have so far appeared in the Centre Daily Times endorsing my campaign for Bellefonte Borough Council. Thanks everyone.

As part of the campaign, I was interviewed by C-NET, our local cable access TV network on April 25.  The following clips are from that interview broken down by question.

Question 1: Why are you running?

Question 2: How should Bellefonte Council deal with developing a town budget?

Question 3: How do you see Bellefonte dealing with affordable housing?

Question 4: Thoughts on the development of the Garman and Cadillac sites

FYI, the Garman and Cadillac buildings, aka “The Mews,” is the downtown development project.  This project will renovate the Cadillac Building (designed by Anna Wagner Keichline, Pennsylvania’s first female registered architect) and build a new building on the former site of the Garman Opera House and the Hotel DoDe into a set affordable housing units. There has been a lot of controversy about this project including how decisions were made in selecting the developer and how the community and historic preservation were ignored during the process.

 

Question 5: Courthouse v. Town

With legal issues surrounding the Courthouse, how do you raise the town above that? How do you let people know that Bellefonte is more than just the Courthouse and the people involved in it?

 

Question 6: Should Bellefonte become part of the Centre Region?

Centre County is divided into seven planning regions. The Centre Region is where State College and the Pennsylvania State University are located.  It is the population center of the county.  Bellefonte is part of the Nittany Valley Region.

Question 7: Economic Development of Bellefonte’s Downtown and the Waterfront Districts

Q8: Tell us about yourself

In answer to this question I talked about my community organizing and community policy background and how that qualifies me to serve as a member of the Bellefonte Borough Council.

AND NOW: Get Out and Vote!

So… if you live in Pennsylvania, remember to vote on Tuesday, May 19. Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

If you live in Bellefonte’s 3rd (West) Ward, please vote for Joanne Tosti-Vasey.  If you are a Democratic, I am number 2 on the Borough Council section of the Democratic ballot; please fill in the bubble next to my name on your ballot. If you are a Republican, please write in “Joanne Tosti-Vasey” in the Borough Council section of your ballot.

Help make a difference in your community. VOTE!