Wednesday, December 05, 2012

1105 Learning Outside the Factory

1105 Learning Outside the Factory Walls

(STATE COLLEGE PA) -- This town is home to the General Motors of higher education, a place with the stately name “The Pennsylvania State University,” Penn State to its friends.

Like GM, it’s huge, ungainly, hidebound, slow moving, over executived, awkward, garish. Like GM produces a mediocre product, but with an occasional and possibly accidental jewel like the ‘54 Corvette, the ‘71 Grandville, the ‘43 M-34 Light Tank and the Volt.

But by being the oversized center of this tiny universe, it has spread the gospel of learning outside its walls -- they’re porous, but only outbound -- and into the community.

First and foremost, this is a football place with more hotels per capita than any other community of its size in America.  The local stadium holds almost 108,000 people.   These people need places to stay for seven or eight Saturdays a year.

And despite the glut of hotel rooms, there’s often no room at the inn. So enterprising homeowners have long practiced renting their houses or parts of their houses or land to people who are too late to rent a hotel room or whose RVs are too big for the parking lots.

Now comes the education part.  And the Department Chairman is a man named Rich Fornicola, the county treasurer.  The name translates from Latin as something along the lines of “someone who lives in ovens.”  And that he does.  

Mr. Fornicola was quoted in the local newspaper as saying he’s on an education kick.  By which he meant he wants people who offer their houses as short term rentals to learn they must file proof of insurance with the municipality, pass a physical inspection, pay the state a 6% and the county a 2.5% tax on the income.

That 2.5% goes to the convention and visitors bureau which nominally represents all business and all organizations in the region, but whose actual spending is skewed toward outfits that pay for membership.

The treasurer also says gracefully in that news item that he is concerned the locals might undercut the prices at the motels, most of which charge reasonable rates, some slightly inflated on football weekends and at times when there is a show trial going on... like when every reporter in the western world except Dear Abby and Marilyn Hagerty, food critic for the Grand Forks ND Herald landed here to cover the trial of pedophile Jerry “Tickle Monster” Sandusky.

Digression:  The convention and visitors bureau has not acted on the membership application from Jerry’s Kids Tours.  But the company already has purchased a bus and set out routes… economy, business class and first class.  Visit the locations where the Tickle Monster got his laughs. The two higher priced tours include the homes of the fired bureaucrats and officials said to have been complicit in a coverup and you get an autographed picture of the defense lawyer, Joseph Amendola.  End of digression.

But really, this is all about education.  After all, this is home to General Motors University’s main campus and headquarters.  The other twenty or so factories scattered around the state are just pocket change.  And education is our middle name.  Well, “Motors” is our middle name.  But you get the idea, right?

Note to readers:  Wessays™ will be taking a short holiday break.  During that time, we will re-post a few “best of” oldies, many of which were in the storage box before the readership of this feature grew to its present size.  

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2012

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