November 19, 2012
When Navy veteran Valerie Lechner saw a "Veteran's Appreciation Tent" that Jane Wilson had set up at Smythe Park (Mansfield, Tioga Co.) during the annual July 4 celebration here, she said it inspired her to do something more to honor veterans in the area. That was 2010, and Lechner said after she visited Towanda and saw their banners honoring service personnel hanging from utility poles, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. So in July of last year, after receiving permission from borough council, Lechner launched her "Hometown Heroes" banner program with assistance from co-chairwoman Wilson and the chamber of commerce, as well as local photographer Bruce Dart. At first, she said, she was worried about getting interest in the banner program because they cost $130 each with shipping.
However, the shipping costs were generously covered by the local VFW, and all the banners have been hung by Blue Ridge Cable, she added. "When we ordered our first 60 banners, we only had 37 pictures to go on them," she said, but that soon changed as word of the project spread throughout the community.
In order to qualify, the person honored must be or have been a military person must have a connection to Mansfield - either are from here, graduated from a local school, lived or worked in the Mansfield area, or are a regular member of the Mansfield VFW or American Legion, Lechner said. "We didn't want to exclude neighboring communities like Roseville and Mainesburg but we didn't want to go as big as Towanda which covers the entire county," she said. The concept seems to be spreading, as surrounding communities take notice and begin to investigate starting their own programs, such as in Blossburg, where the idea is gaining momentum. "We were even contacted by someone in the Harrisburg area that wanted to start one for their area," she said.
Lechner said looking at the banners, which now number 182, with 16 more being readied, as they stretch from the Route 15 on ramps at the north and south ends of town, and east to west to the borough limits, is inspiring and makes her want to "get out and walk just to look at them." Lechner has one and so does her father, Dick Crittenden. Some families have multiple banners, such as the Darts, who have four and the Bartletts, who have seven, she said. Though some of the banners were subsidized by scholarships at the beginning of the program that money is gone, and anyone wishing to purchase a banner must come up with the money themselves now, though it could be a "family project" if siblings want to do something to honor a relative, she said. To order a banner, Lechner said people can either visit the chamber website at www.mansfield.org and print out the order form, and then bring a photo of their loved one with the form to Elite Therapy at 285 S. Main St. where Lechner works, or call 662-1400. Williamsport Sun-Gazette
Dish Network Corp. Chairman Charlie Ergen said his bet to enter the wireless industry is looking "increasingly risky," highlighting the hurdles the satellite operator faces in light of restrictive conditions that may be set by regulators and a failed effort to buy a cellular carrier over the summer. Mr. Ergen quietly made a $4 billion bid for wireless carrier MetroPCS Communications Inc. in August, people familiar with the matter said, the latest sign that the poker-playing executive was more serious about getting into the business of selling cellphone service than many had thought. But the talks fell through, and MetroPCS announced a deal in early October to merge with a competitor, Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA, depriving Mr. Ergen of an opportunity to buy a nationwide carrier and leaving him with limited options for doing so in an industry that has grown increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few players.
The Federal Communications Commission is leaning toward putting limits on how Mr. Ergen can use the billions of dollars of spectrum he controls, FCC officials said. The Dish chairman bought rights to use the airwaves for satellite communications and has petitioned the FCC to let him use it to support terrestrial cellphone traffic. The commission, however, is seriously considering requiring him to limit his use of a slice of the spectrum to protect against interference on a neighboring spectrum band, the officials said-a move that Mr. Ergen said in an interview Thursday "would be a game changer for us."
The developments further muddy the outlook for Mr. Ergen and his large spectrum holdings-one of the wireless industry's most closely watched wild cards. Not owning a wireless carrier of his own could make it more likely that he seeks to partner with another carrier as he looks to build out his network. Dish has held talks recently with a number of potential partners including Google Inc., people familiar with the matter have said. Dish, best known as a satellite-TV provider to 14 million homes, has gained a foothold in the U.S. wireless industry by amassing spectrum since 2008. But a large portion of that spectrum was designated for satellite use.
Current FCC rules require operators using satellite spectrum to offer handsets with a satellite chip, making the devices more expensive. Dish has been awaiting the FCC's decision on whether to allow the satellite operator to use its spectrum for a solely ground-based cellular network. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the FCC is close to approving Dish's request, but with a buffer zone in which Mr. Ergen could only operate at low power, which could mean worse wireless service. Mr. Ergen said that limit would reduce the capability of Dish's "uplink" spectrum-which handles the pathway from the cellphone to the tower-by 25%. An additional 25% on top of that would be impaired due to interference, he said, endangering Dish's ability to compete in the wireless business against incumbents like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, which own much larger swaths of spectrum.
The reclusive satellite-TV pioneer has spent a large amount of time this year in the public eye attempting to convince Washington that he is serious about entering the wireless business, even as analysts speculated that Dish may simply try to sell the spectrum at a big profit. Mr. Ergen's offer to buy MetroPCS came to light through a MetroPCS filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday. "This is proof positive that Dish was very ready to spend real money," said Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett on Sunday.
Mr. Ergen's bid in August to buy MetroPCS for $11 a share, to be paid in 30% cash and 70% stock, came after several months of talks, according to the filing and people familiar with the matter. Mr. Ergen had courted MetroPCS since at least last March, when he took the carrier's chief executive, Roger Linquist, and general counsel, Mark Stachiw, to a dinner where he inquired whether the wireless carrier was up for sale, according to the filing, which identified Dish only as "Company C." The people familiar with the matter said Company C was Dish. After receiving notice from MetroPCS that its offer wasn't adequate, Dish told the carrier that its recently improved stock price made it more difficult for Dish to make an acceptable offer, according to the filing. In late August, Mr. Linquist spoke to Mr. Ergen to gauge whether Dish was still interested. Mr. Ergen responded that he was focused on other business matters. In October, MetroPCS announced the deal with T-Mobile USA.
Stifel Nicolaus analyst Dave Kaut said that a partnership with MetroPCS would have given Dish "a platform and a springboard" to enter the industry. It is unclear how much the FCC's limitation requirement will hinder Dish's ability to use its spectrum to build out a mobile wireless network. Mr. Kaut said that new restrictions mean Dish will have to secure new device specifications for the use of those airwaves, which could further delay the company by several months. "Every month that goes by that [Dish] can't roll out, that's less of an advantage for Dish, and they are essentially starting from zero," Mr. Kaut said.
Mr. Ergen has said that entering the wireless business is vital to Dish as it looks to diversify its business in the face of a mature U.S. pay-TV market. While in the past, he has often brushed off Wall Street's questions about his habit of making big bets-even saying once last year that he prefers to operate via a "Seinfeld" strategy where the different plot elements only come together at the very end-he made an effort in a November earnings conference call to calm investors. "Based on our track record, we don't normally spend money unwisely, and we don't normally take exuberant risk," he said at the time. "So I think that we would be prudent about it." Noting Dish's large cash balance, Mr. Ergen said in the November call that he's "ready and willing to invest that in this business. If it makes sense and we have a high likelihood of success...then we're going to do that," he said. But he added: "If we don't, then we're not going to do that." Wall Street Journal
News Corporation is on the verge of acquiring up to 49 percent of the YES Network from the Yankees and their partners, according to three people familiar with the negotiations. The purchase price for the noncontrolling stake is based on a valuation of the channel at slightly more than $3 billion. Even a minority stake in YES would be a prize for News Corporation, whose Fox Sports division owns 19 regional sports networks around the country. YES is the most valuable regional sports network, having built its appeal on televising Yankee games, pre- and postgame shows and the "Yankeeography" series to a large, rabid fan base. YES, which also televises Nets basketball games, has served as a model for other team, league and college-conference-owned channels.
Although News Corporation prefers to have 100 percent ownership of its regional networks, it would be able to share in the profits of YES. And according to the people familiar with the discussions, who spoke late last week, the deal would provide News Corporation a route to eventual control of YES - an option would exist in three to five years for the company to increase its investment to as much as 80 percent. But at that point, the price would be based on a valuation of at least $3.5 billion. The people who spoke of the deal were not authorized to speak publicly because negotiations were continuing. News Corporation and Yankee officials declined to comment.
The potential price for a News Corporation stake in YES underscores the soaring value of live sports and sports networks. Indeed, at $3 billion, YES would be worth more than the Yankees themselves. The Los Angeles Dodgers were sold earlier this year for a record $2.15 billion - largely on the likelihood that approaching TV negotiations will yield an enormous local television deal from a swelling group of potential bidders. Through their holding company, Yankee Global Enterprises, the Yankees own 34 percent of YES; another 40 percent is owned by Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity, and the remainder is held by some former owners of the Nets, who operate under an entity called Community Youth Organization.
At some point the Yankees would have to sell some of their stake for News Corporation to reach 80 percent. That decision would rest with Hal Steinbrenner, the team's managing general partner, who succeeded his late father, George, as the family member overseeing the team. Since YES's start nearly 11 years ago, Yankee management has exercised control over the pro-Yankee tone of YES; if News Corporation acquires the majority of the network, YES could turn into a more conventional, less-biased sports network. The deal could also include other payments to the Yankees, including higher rights fees.
News Corporation is currently preparing to split off its publishing assets, including The Wall Street Journal and The Sun, a tabloid in Britain, into a separate, publicly traded entity. The YES Network talks signal that the cash-rich entertainment company would continue to grow through acquisition, particularly in its regional sports and cable television businesses. The Yankees and News Corporation have a family connection. George Steinbrenner and Rupert Murdoch were friendly and Mr. Murdoch's son James sits on the board of Yankee Global Enterprises. In recent months James Murdoch has taken on more responsibilities domestically, after he stepped down from his post in Britain amid controversy over a phone-hacking scandal at the company's British newspaper division, which he oversaw. In his newly expanded job as the company's deputy chief operating officer, James oversees News Corporation's television business, including its regional sports channels. James Murdoch reports to Chase Carey, News Corporation's chief operating officer and a die-hard Yankees fan. New York Times
In the following edited exchange, former Pennsylvania Republican Chairman Alan Novak and former Democratic Chairman T.J. Rooney discussed the results of this year's election in Pennsylvania and considered the consequences looking ahead.
Alan Novak: I look at the numbers in this month's election, and I see that cities across Pennsylvania performed very well. This was a strategist's or tactician's election, and clearly the strategy of the Obama campaign, both nationally and within Pennsylvania, was successful. They did very well in identifying who their votes were and getting those people to vote.
Philadelphia produced an 83 percent vote for President Obama four years ago, and it came very close to that again in 2012. Looking at other cities around the commonwealth, such as Harrisburg, Erie, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Democratic vote turnout was almost the same as in '08. They got the number of votes they needed in cities to offset the nearly 60 counties that Romney won. You can win Pennsylvania by getting big votes out in big Democratic populations, which was in the cities.
T.J. Rooney: I think there was a more tense feeling among Republicans than among Democrats. Pennsylvania has become a reliable blue state.
Yet don't forget about the thumping we Democrats took in the statewide races two years ago. We still have a Republican governor and legislature, and Pennsylvania is still controlled by the Republican Party. We have to figure out how to win elections other than the national ones.
Novak: In two years, Republicans should have a good year for two reasons: It's not a presidential election, and there will be a "six-year itch" with respect to the incumbent president.
You look at Pennsylvania, and you see that today there are 13 Republican congressmen and five Democratic congressmen in a state where Obama won by five points. And you think, How is that?
Rooney: I think that one inescapable takeaway is that candidates matter a lot in this state. When you nominate someone who is a moderate in deed and in action, those candidates tend to do well. If Republicans could realize this in their primary elections, they would do much better.
Novak: You can check all the conservative boxes for most of the state's members of Congress, including those from the Southeastern Pennsylvania suburbs: Pat Meehan, Jim Gerlach, Mike Fitzpatrick. But they don't wear it on their sleeves. They reach out and are very connected to their communities. They outperformed the Republican national ticket in every case, which adds to your point.
Rooney: Look at how many crossover numbers there were for Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. Some Republicans would suggest that the more moderate Meehans and Dents are the future for the party, and some say absolutely not and don't want to bend or yield. I am certainly praying for the former.
Novak: I agree. You do not have to sacrifice good conservative government principles to be a moderate, solution-driven member of Congress. We have big problems ahead - the debt, taxes, the fiscal cliff - and it will take members of Congress who are willing to reach across the line to solve them.
Rooney: If there was a message or mandate that came out of this election, it's that people are demanding that the government work together to come up with solutions. The biggest fear is that the new members of Congress come into office and are polarized and start poking each other with a stick. Hard decisions need to be made. If we go through another two years of stalemate and gridlock, Democrats will pay for that in the ballot box in 2014.
Novak: I received wise advice when I started out as a young party leader: It was to build your base from the middle out. Don't build it from far out on the political spectrum and start moving inward; it's hard to do. I think that's almost the message for Congress. We need to find a way to make the word compromise a good word again.
Rooney: Put aside the partisan rhetoric, and let's come together and do things that are good for the state of the nation, not just what's good for a particular political party.
Novak: I think that is what the electorate wants. They want to see solutions. If bipartisanship is popular among the voters, we need to make sure that the right people get credit for it.
Rooney: We all have a stake in it. Whether you are a Republican businessperson or a unionized ironworker in Pennsylvania, we all have to work together and come up with these solutions. Politics is still politics at the end of the day. philly.com
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