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Community disappointed after loss of Bradford County's biggest event

TROY – The 2020 Troy Fair has been cancelled as of Thursday evening due to the COVID-19 restrictions put in place by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, a decision that has left some local disappointment in its wake.

In a post announcing the cancellation on the Troy Fair’s Facebook page Thursday, Troy Fair officials stated that it was not their decision, but one made by the Troy Borough Municipal Authority, the owner of the fairgrounds, that cancelled the biggest event in Bradford County, though authority officials stated it was Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order that kept it from happening this year.

“The Troy Municipal Authority did not make the decision to cancel the 2020 Troy Fair. That decision was made by the governor‘s executive order restricting events in the commonwealth,” Troy Borough Manager Dan Close said. “That order, which carries the same legal authority as law, in combination with the terms of the lease agreement with Alparon Park, make it illegal to hold the 2020 Troy Fair at Alparon Park at this time.”

“The authority is a government entity, which is bound to its duty to operate within the laws and status of governance. Counsel, both internal and outside, have advised the authority that any violation of the law would potentially place officers and directors into a position of vulnerability,” Close continued. “The municipal authority is well aware of the unfortunate loss across the entire community caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular, the extraordinary efforts of everyone committed to Alparon Park and the Troy Fair. Regrettably, the municipal authority had and has one option, and that is to operate legally.”

Troy Fair Board President Cathy Jenkins said this is the first year the Troy Fair has ever been cancelled, noting that it was kept open through even major flooding in 2018.

Jenkins stated that cancelling the 2020 Troy Fair was “so heartbreaking” for board members as planning has taken place for almost an entire year and “some great entertainment and events” were lined up for this year’s festivities.

The fair board has been working diligently with Pennsylvania State Police, Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman, Bradford County Commissioners, attorneys, other fairs and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for the past four weeks to “find a way to have the fair safely with the coronavirus guidelines,” according to Jenkins.

“We felt that we had the answers and were in the process of putting together the safety plan for the fair,” she said. “Unfortunately the fair grounds are owned by the Troy Borough Municipal Authority and they have a lease with Alparon Park that states we can not hold any events that are illegal, they felt that under the governor’s rules it would be illegal for us to open.”

Jenkins said the “heartbreak” associated with the cancellation is not only because of the planning that has been put into this year’s fair, but because the loss of it impacts so many individuals of all ages in the county and beyond.

“It’s so sad to think of the fair not happening this year. lt’s about the kids that raised their project animals in hope to show them or sell them at the fair and then the chance to be with their friends and family and enjoy the rides, games, and food. They have missed so much this year with the virus closing the schools and keeping them home,” Jenkins explained. “We also feel for the farmer who has to struggle over years with low milk prices and this year was worse than ever, they counted on bringing their animals to fair to show and to enjoy the camaraderie in the barns with all the other farmers. For so many of the farmers it was a vacation for them and for some it was the only vacation they would have.”

Jenkins stated that the fair board is also compassionate towards those who will be impacted negatively financially by the cancellation of the fair including food vendors, the amusement company, entertainers, fair employees and local businesses including grocery stores, gas stations, motels and more that often gain large amounts of business from the fair.

“This year most events have been cancelled so they (vendors) had high hopes that the Troy Fair would survive so they would have a place to make some money,” she said. “So many are left without a place to make a living and will they all survive? We hope, but I am sure there will be some that do not. We hope that the fair business can survive through this pandemic.”

Alparon Park itself has also taken a financial hit from COVID-19 cancellations, according to Jenkins, who explained that funds raised through the Troy Fair and other events that have been cancelled, including the Maple Festival, go to maintain the park year round.

Jenkins stated that the park’s budgeted expenses for 2018 totaled $208,000 just for daily costs not including large projects or repairs and that while the park is thankful for campers that have helped supplement some finances Alparon has lost over $33,000 due to COVID-19 cancellations so far this year.

Currently Alparon Park is permitted to host smaller events with crowds of less than 250 such as horse shows and hopes to hold the livestock shows and sale that would normally be part of the Troy Fair, but will not be able to do so unless state restrictions are lifted.

“To look around the fairgrounds and think there will be no laughing children, bright colorful lights, rides, smell of all the great food, the tractors taking off and pulling down the track, the sound of the concert through the grandstands, the bulls bucking and noise of the cars in the demolition derby as they smash into each other, it sure is heartbreaking,” Jenkins commented. “We hope that we can come back stronger in 2021, we are working with all the shows and entertainers to have them come back July 26 through 31, 2021.”

“I personally want to thank the Troy Fair Board of Directors for going above and beyond to work through this tough time, they reflect the international fair theme for 2020; FAIRSTRONG,” Jenkins continued. “Also a special thank you to Rep. Clint Owlett (R-68) and Eric Winters from the Prince Law Firm, and (Bradford County Commissioner) Doug McLinko for helping us all the way!”

Any individuals who have purchased tickets for Troy Fair events will receive refunds or the option to hold the tickets to be honored for the same show in 2021. Vendors scheduled to participate in the 2020 Troy Fair will have deposits refunded or transferred to 2020, all 2020 Troy Fair entry fees will be refunded and any tickets won for the 2020 Troy Fair will be honored at the 2021 Troy Fair.

More information regarding refunds can be found on the Troy Fair’s Facebook page or at www.troyfair.com.


National
AP
Appeals court: Trump wrongly diverted $2.5B for border wall

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday ruled against the Trump administration in its transfer of $2.5 billion from military construction projects to build sections of the U.S. border wall with Mexico, ruling it illegally sidestepped Congress, which gets to decide how to use the funds.

In two opinions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a coalition of border states and environmental groups that contended the money transfer was unlawful and that building the wall would pose environmental threats.

The rulings were the latest twist in the legal battle that has largely gone Trump’s way. Last July, the Supreme Court allowed the $2.5 billion to be spent while the litigation continued, blunting the impact of the latest appeals court action.

The administration has already awarded much of the money, including a $1.3-billion job in Arizona that was announced last month. Trump visited Yuma, Arizona, on Tuesday to mark completion of the 200th mile of border wall during his administration, much of it with the transferred military funds that the 9th Circuit panel found illegal.

After the $2.5 billion transfer of military funds, the Pentagon diverted another $3.6 billion that an appeals court in New Orleans ruled in January could be spent.

Still, critics of Trump’s wall praised the rulings on Friday for upholding the Constitution, which grants Congress the power of the purse.

“The funds that he is pilfering, which were appropriated by Congress, are vital to support the safety and well-being of the brave men and women in uniform, as well as their families,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.

The 9th Circuit ruled that the Trump administration not only lacked the authority to authorize the transfer of funds, “but also violated an express constitutional prohibition designed to protect individual liberties.”

The vote on both rulings was 2-1 with judges appointed by former President Bill Clinton in the majority and a Trump nominee dissenting.

The panel said the government was proceeding with border wall construction without ensuring compliance with any environmental regulations, thereby harming the interests of Sierra Club members who visit the border region for hiking, bird watching and other recreational activities.

The panel also held that the government failed to show that construction would halt the flow of illegal drugs. It said the administration had cited drug statistics but didn’t address how the wall would have an impact on the problem.

“The executive branch’s failure to show, in concrete terms, that the public’s interest favors a border wall is particularly significant given that Congress determined fencing to be a lower budgetary priority and the Department of Justice’s data points to a contrary conclusion,” the majority wrote.

The White House said the decisions won’t interfere with its ability to continue building the wall and noted that the Supreme Court has overturned many of the court’s rulings.

After the Supreme Court gave the green light last year to begin work on the wall using Defense Department money, the Justice Department vowed to continue to defend the administration’s efforts to protect the southern border.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led a 20-state coalition of attorneys general that sued the administration, praised the court decision.

“While the Trump administration steals public funds to build an unauthorized wall at the southern border, families across the country are struggling to pay their bills,” Becerra said. “They deserve to know that their hard-earned dollars are going where Congress intended — to benefit them and their communities.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued on behalf of Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, said if the Trump administration appeals, the case will go back to the Supreme Court where the ACLU will seek to tear down sections of the wall that were built with the military money.

“There’s no undoing the damage that’s been done, but we will be back before the Supreme Court to finally put a stop to this destructive wall,” said ACLU staff attorney Dror Ladin.

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin at the White House, Brian Melley in Los Angeles and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.


National
AP
Plan advances to allow dismantling Minneapolis Police Dept.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously advanced a proposal to change the city charter to allow the police department to be dismantled, following widespread criticism of law enforcement over the killing of George Floyd.

The 12-0 vote is just the first step in a process that faces significant bureaucratic obstacles to make the November ballot, where the city’s voters would have the final say. It also comes amid a spate of recent shootings in Minnesota’s largest city that have heightened many citizens’ concerns about talk of dismantling the department.

The proposed amendment, which would replace the police department with a new “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” that has yet to be fully defined, next goes to a policy committee and to the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review, at which point citizens and city officials can weigh in.

“I hope that the Charter Commission will recognize the moment that we are in and take our offer of support, however we can provide it, to expedite this process so that voters have a chance to have their voices heard on this important question and this important moment in our city’s history,” Council President Lisa Bender said before the vote.

The Minneapolis force has come under heavy pressure since Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Activists have long accused the department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture, and earlier this month, a majority of the council proclaimed support for dismantling the department.

Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the council, said after the vote that the charter is one of three major barriers to “transformative public safety,” along with the city’s police union and the Minnesota Legislature. The charter — which requires the city to have a police department of a certain size — is the one thing the city council has a say over, he said.

According to draft language posted online, the new department “will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”

The amendment goes on to say the director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” It also provides for a division of licensed peace officers who would answer to the department’s director.

Council member Phillipe Cunningham said they’re committed to a year-long community process to determine how the new agency would work. “We are not starting from scratch. We are not starting with a completely blank slate,” he said, pointing to changes meant to prevent violence at other law enforcement agencies across the country.

Ten years from now, Council member Steve Fletcher predicted, everybody will be looking to emulate the Minneapolis model.

“The path that we’re going to chart will steal the best ideas from everywhere and combine them in away that is uniquely appropriate to our city,” he said.

The board of the city’s police union called the move “irresponsible” without a clear plan for what comes next.

“Politicians are good at making promises, but not at following through on them, and voters should be wary of any promises that delivered by the City Council about how they will figure it out when and if the charter amendment passes,” it said in a statement.

Some activists against police brutality were displeased, too. The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, named for a black man who died in a 2015 confrontation with police, said the amendment would leave power in the hands of the council and mayor’s office, which it said have already failed. The coalition wants the department under community control via a new elected civilian council with the power to hire, fire and prosecute officers.

Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, a sharp critic of the department, said the move is premature and counterproductive to building trust with the Black community amid the current uptick in crime.

“There are a lot of people in the African American community who are anxious, who are fearful, who are concerned about the irresponsibility of the Minneapolis City Council and the failure to articulate a clear plan of action on what to expect, and they want an opportunity to weigh in on that,” Armstrong said.

Council members who support the change wanted to seize on a groundswell of support for significant policing changes following Floyd’s death. If they don’t get the charter change on the November ballot, their next chance won’t come until November 2021, they say. The measure faces some time pressure to be finalized and clear a potential mayoral veto in time to make this fall’s ballot.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes abolishing the department, said he’s concerned by the draft amendment.

Frey said when something goes wrong now, the chief and the mayor are accountable. Under the new plan, which would have the council appoint a director of the new agency, accountability would be spread among 14 people. Frey, who has said he supports deep structural changes in the existing department, questioned whether policing practices would vary based on ward or other factors.

Suad Mire, 30, a receptionist at a mental health clinic, said she’s “very torn” between supporting dismantling the police and whether reforming the existing department should be the path toward significant change. Mire said she wants to see an end to police brutality but doesn’t know if a society can function without law enforcement. She fears a reduced presence by officers citywide may lead to an increase in violence.

“I just feel like they should be better trained, have new officers and their training should be at least a little longer ... and if a police officer that lives deep down in the suburbs, if they’re going to work in the city then they should know the surroundings and the civilians that are from that city and protect them,” she said. “But I’m not sure about dismantling them.”

———

Report for America reporter Mohamed Ibrahim contributed.


Vette Brown, 4, reacts to the "Lava in a cup" experiment created by YMCA day camp coordinator Jasmine LaRue recently at Coopersdale Homes in Johnstown, Pa., Friday, June 26, 2020. (Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP)