This election all about 'local'

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From a national or state perspective, it's a low-key election season, but Tuesday's primary ballots will be jammed with local names in making it an important day at the polls.

We continue today with stories that detail the candidates and issues for school board, borough, township and Shamokin city races. There is only one contested countywide race in the primary, and readers no doubt saw the headline earlier this week produced from that suddenly contentious campaign.

In addition to the competitive races for local school boards, which have drawn many new candidates into the fray in recent years, 2013 proves to be a curious one in terms of local mayoral races. The incumbents in three of eastern Northumberland County's largest municipalities, Shamokin, Mount Carmel and Kulpmont, are not seeking reelection, opening the door in each case to multiple candidates, many of them political newcomers.

No matter the race or community, we encourage voters to inform themselves about the candidates and their positions and then get out to the polls on Tuesday.

Invited inside

We were happy to take up Northwestern Academy's invitation to cover a graduation ceremony and open house at the Coal Township juvenile detention facility this week.

The combination of "juvenile" and "detention" naturally creates a lot of barriers to public access, but we think Northwestern's more open approach will prove beneficial in that the public will better understand its goals, challenges and successes.

Phone records

We're told no Pennsylvania AP reporters are thought to have been targeted in the U.S. Department of Justice's secret seizure of phone records from AP reporters. AP executives are obviously concerned about this development and CEO Gary Pruitt on Monday fired off a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the issue. He called it a "massive and unprecedented intrusion by the Department of Justice into the newsgathering activities of The Associated Press."

Pruitt's letter said that at some unidentified time earlier this year, the department obtained telephone toll records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to the AP and its journalists. Those phone lines are said to have included an AP general phone number in New York City as well as AP bureaus in New York City, Washington, D.C., Hartford, Conn., and at the House of Representatives.

"This action was taken without advance notice to AP or to any of the affected journalists, and even after the fact no notice has been sent to individual journalists whose home phones and cell phone records were seized by the department," Pruitt wrote. "There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters."

He said simply based on the "sheer volume" of records seized, they can have "no plausible connection to any ongoing investigation," as has been suggested as the reason for the government intrusion.

Pruitt was succinct in his analysis of the gravity of the situation and, as an AP customer, The News-Item wholeheartedly agrees.

"We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news."

(Andy Heintzelman, editor of The News-Item, writes "The Week In News" for each Saturday edition.)

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