Written by Dan Miller
The newest business in downtown Middletown is likely a familiar face to a lot of borough residents.
Phist Martial Arts, the karate school Duane Pelletier is opening in the first floor storefront across from Tattered Flag at West Emaus and South Union streets, revives a passion that Pelletier has been following for most of his 56 years.
Twenty-eight years ago, in 1988, Pelletier opened a karate school on Spruce Street in Middletown. Later the landlord wanted to do something else with the property, so Pelletier moved his school to Highspire, where he remained until 2009 when he said he had to close because of the bad economy.
Now, Pelletier believes the economy has bounced back enough for him to make another go of it.
“Parents have a little extra money,” Pelletier said. “I didn’t want to get back into it until I thought the economy was good enough that parents could go out and do something like this for their children.”
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, Pelletier will hold an open house at Phist Martial Arts so people can learn more about what he wants to do.
Classes will start on Monday, Oct. 3, and run from Monday through Thursday. Pelletier will also offer a Saturday class.
Phist Martial Arts will focus on traditional taekwondo classes for children and adults. Children seven years of age and up can take the classes, although Pelletier will accept 6-year-olds.
There is no upper age limit. Pelletier has had students as old as 65. Any adult of any age can sign up, as long as their doctor says it’s OK. Adults can take classes, or they can sign up for cross training and personal fitness classes.
“Whatever you want out of it, that’s fine,” he said. “If you want me to motivate you and make you work your butt off, I’ll do that too.”
Pelletier started practicing martial arts in 1981, when he was in the Air Force and living in a bad part of town in Austin, Texas. In a January 2013 article in the Press And Journal, Pelletier talked of seeing guys get stabbed outside the apartment where he lived with his wife and then 16-month-old daughter.
He felt that he needed the martial arts training to help protect his family, but it ended up evolving into something much greater.
“I taught thousands of kids” over the years since, Pelletier said. “I’ve got doctors, lawyers, Marines, you name it. They are out there and I’m proud of them.”
The space Phist Martial Arts will occupy is one of the key storefronts in the ongoing revitalization of downtown.
The space was last occupied by a hookah lounge that opened in early 2015. The owners at the time talked of great expectations of capturing the Penn State Harrisburg crowd, but for reasons unknown it didn’t happen.
The lounge quietly died, and the space has been vacant for several months.
The space is part of a building owned by Dana Ward. Ward’s daughter is one of Pelletier’s black belt students, he said. A few months back when Ward told him she still hadn’t leased the space, Pelletier decided he would revive his dream.
“I want to get with the younger kids and teach. That’s what I’ve been good at. That’s what I enjoy doing,” he said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 September 2016 13:27
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council likely will decide Oct. 4 whether to move forward with the so-called “downtown overlay” zoning revisions that in some cases would affect changes owners want to make to their properties.
If council chooses to proceed with the overlay, council must also provide “guidance” on whether to adopt all the overlay recommendations as proposed by a consulting firm, or some of the recommendations and which ones, solicitor Adam Santucci advised council on Sept. 20.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 13:14
Written by Dan Miller
Since 2009, the amount of travel from China into and out of the midstate using Harrisburg International Airport has more than doubled, the airport says.
And that may just be the tip of the iceberg.
“Travel is going to explode. That’s what everyone says,” said airport spokesman Scott Miller regarding the potential growth of the Chinese travel market.
To maximize that potential, HIA is hosting a “China Welcome” event to be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, at The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey, located in Londonderry Township.
Participating will be Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting firm; and China Ni Hao, a Boyd Group initiative to help airports like HIA attract a greater share of the Chinese travel market.
Among factors driving the increase of Chinese travelers to the midstate is the growing number of students from China attending Penn State Harrisburg, Miller said.
He also noted manufacturing ties between midstate businesses and China, and Chocolate World in Hershey, which is “a big international destination,” Miller added.
Most travelers from China still fly to the East Coast via major gateway airports in New York City and Washington, D.C., that offer nonstop flights. These travelers then take tour buses to visit places in the United States like Hershey and the midstate. But in recent years more travelers from China are connecting from the major gateway airports to secondary airports like HIA, Miller said.
The secondary airports that can best take advantage of this trend are those that go the extra mile in welcoming the Chinese, which is what the Oct. 4 event is all about.
Among things to address are overcoming the language barrier, having good signage, and ensuring that vendors at HIA accept the credit card that travelers from China use.
HIA also hopes to establish better connecting service between HIA and the major gateway airports that offer nonstop service to China; such as in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New York City and Washington, D.C., Miller said.
In 2015, 248 Chinese students were enrolled at Penn State Harrisburg — the largest number of students attending from a foreign country, said campus spokeswoman Yvonne Harhigh. Students from China represent about 5.3 percent of all those enrolled at Penn State Harrisburg. International students combined totaled 10.5 percent of the school’s enrollment in 2015, Harhigh said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 September 2016 15:00
Written by Eric Wise
Two areas in Lower Swatara Township were selected for future commercial development in the draft of the township’s comprehensive land use plan as recommended by the township planning commission.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 September 2016 14:58
Written by Eric Wise
Police need to build strong relationships with the communities they serve in order to develop a mutual trust and understanding, panelists agreed during a Sept. 13 discussion at Penn State Harrisburg.
In Susquehanna Township, police responded to about 15,000 calls this year, said Robert Martin, the township’s public safety director. When this number is multiplied by the police departments throughout the nation, police have millions of interactions with the public, and yet they are scrutinized based on only a few.
Many members of the public consume news and gain familiarity with the names of those killed by police in recent years, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and Walter Scott, said Jennifer Gibbs of Penn State.
Moderator Shaun Gabbidon, distinguished professor or criminal justice at Penn State, said finding the exact number of police shootings per year has proven difficult. The FBI has placed the number at about 400 per year, while media investigations have shown 945 to 1,100 per year. Local police have not been given an effective way to report officer involved shootings to improve accountability for police nationwide.
These heavily publicized police shootings, especially when scrutinized by the media without an understanding of the entire incident and circumstances, fueled a misconception that “racial misconduct is the rule,” said Jason Umberger, police chief in Swatara Township. “It lit a fire, especially in minority communities,” he said.
“Violence and hateful rhetoric against police is at an all-time high,” he said.
Martin began his remarks by reminding the audience that law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty often, about one every 61 hours.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported 123 deaths in the line of duty during 2015, with 41 deaths from shootings. Comparing year-to-date law enforcement fatalities through Sept. 15 of both years, 83 officers died in 2016, two fewer than the same period in 2015. From 2015, the other top causes of officers’ deaths include 34 killed in auto crashes, 22 from job-related illnesses and 10 struck by a vehicle. The same source reports that about 200 officers died in line of duty from 1967 to 1982, which was the worst period for police deaths except for the period of Prohibition.
Umberger and Martin agreed that building relationships and trust are key to maintaining a strong relationship with residents of the communities they serve.
“Most times we are called to have contact with people are unfortunate events,” Martin said. Instead, he wants officers “out of the car, interacting with the public in positive situations,” he said.
“One of the worst inventions and one of the best inventions is the climate controlled police car,” he said. This began when more people had moved to the suburbs from the cities. “Foot patrol was no longer conducive,” he said. However, using cars to cover a larger area meant that officers are “not on foot having personal contact.”
“The best policing takes place when the officer is out of the car, not in the car,” he said.
This emphasis on community policing got a boost in the 1990s, thanks to the support of President Bill Clinton, Martin said.
Umburger said community policing relies on using officers nondirected time for positive interactions. He said he’s encouraged by initiatives his officers take, including stopping at schools and having lunch with students.
Swatara Townnship police spent about 82 percent of their shifts with directed time, which is the time they are responding to calls, Umburger said. In order to increase his officers available time for an ideal amount of community policing, they should raise that 18 percent in nondirected time to about 45 percent. However, based on Swatara Township Police’s current call volume, they would need 20 new officers to make that happen.
An emphasis on making the best use of nondirected time for community policing is a topic Umberger said he uses in officer performance reviews to provide encouragement.
Research to back it up?
Jonathan Lee, a Penn State professor and consultant to local police departments, cited opinion polls, specific to Pennsylvania, that have shown that many people are generally supportive of the police, with more than 80 percent of respondents having confidence in the police. The support is particularly strong from white people, but is not universal, said Lee, who was a panelist.
“Black respondents have low confidence in the police,” Lee said.
Those who interacted with police, as a victim of crime or recipient of a traffic ticket, also show lower confidence than the study as a whole, Lee said.
Lee said a study of Penn State students also examined other variables that affect perceptions, including asking whether respondents knew an officer by his or her first name or if they feel comfortable speaking with them. When respondents had positive reactions — and a closer “social distance” — the difference in confidence level in the police was eliminated between black and white respondents. Lee said he hopes to expand the study to include Swatara Township and Harrisburg residents, and may eventually expand it to include all of Dauphin County.
Clues from history
In contrast, following the killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a national Gallup poll showed a higher distrust of police in the black community. At the time, both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged in public comments that there is a history of tension between police and the black community in many parts of the nation.
Blacks have historic reasons for being suspicious of police, Gabbidon said.
“The police have always been a part of black people’s lives,” he said. He referenced a history of issues black people in America have had with the police since the abolition of slavery.
Umberger stressed the role of police is to remain unbiased.
“Police swear an oath to the law without regard to race or social standing,” he said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 15:50