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Some veteran Pennsylvania state lawmakers lost their seats in Tuesday's primary election

The Pennsylvania State House chamber.
Matt Rourke

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

Incumbents in the state house knocked off by primary challengers
(0:00 - 7:32)

Most of the attention on the Pennsylvania primary results focused on the gubernatorial and US Senate contests. However, there were several upsets for veteran state lawmakers of both parties on Tuesday.

State Rep. Stan Saylor, with a nearly three decade career, lost to a challenger, and state Sen. Pat Brown is trailing by a razor thin margin. Both legislators are the chairs of the appropriation committees in their respective chambers.

“They've been the folks who have been the most knowledgeable about what pots of money need to be spent and where the money needs to go,” says WESA’s capitol bureau chief Sam Dunklau. “So, their loss is is tremendous for the way that things get done in Harrisburg”

The challengers in these races and some others were financed by billionaire Jeff Yass, the richest man in Pennsylvania. Yass, a registered Libertarian, put some of his money into a conservative advocacy group that funded candidates that it viewed as more conservative than the longtime legislators.

Moderate Democratic Rep. Pam DeLissio of Philadelphia also lost reelection to a progressive challenger by thirty percentage points.

“[DeLissio is] one of those proponents who has been in the legislature for long enough to understand that working across the aisle and compromise is how legislation gets done,” says Dunklau “So for her to lose, I think, is indicative indicative of a larger trend”

Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard will use a $2 million grant to build a new multi-purpose housing and wellness center
(7:35 - 14:17)

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many people experience homelessness at some time. Veterans comprise 7% of the general population, but make up nearly double that of the homeless adult population.

Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard in Pittsburgh supports veterans in the area, and assists those in need of housing.

“We're seeing a lot of veterans enter and exit in and out of homelessness, and a lot of those aren't even truly being counted because they're living on a friend's couch or living with loved ones in a spare bedroom,” says Rob Hamilton, executive director of Veterans Place.

“In 2020, Veterans Place launched a long range strategic plan,” says Hamilton. “Through that plan, we identified a need to expand transitional housing for veterans experiencing homelessness, but specifically female veterans, as well as the aging veteran population and veterans who need handicapped accessible units.”

Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program awarded Veterans Place a $2 million dollar grant to build a three-story building with handicap-accessible apartments, a wellness center and behavioral health area.

Hamilton says they hope to break ground on the project this year and begin using the facility in fall of 2023.

A local nonprofit is developing and sharing a curriculum on Afrofuturism with adults and children
(14:23 - 22:30)

A makerspace based in the Garfield neighborhood is asking kids and adults to reconsider the people who have shaped the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

The nonprofit, Assemble, is hosting an “Afrofuturism Learning Party” tomorrow afternoon to share its Afrofuturism curriculum.

Ja’Sonta Roberts, Assemble’s off-site programs manager, began developing the curriculum in 2019. She defines Afrofuturism as “a way of reconnecting and re-envisioning what the fields and STEM and arts are going to look like through the African diaspora.”

“What do they say, the history is written by the victor?” says Roberts. “When you have a marginalized group who aren't given a voice, you know, you're not going to see that reflected in your history class. You're not going to see that in your science book. And so we have to dig to bring those things to light.”

Assemble’s Afrofuturism Learning Party takes place tomorrow, beginning at 4 p.m., as part of Remake Learning Days.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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