Editorial: Does Pennsylvania Have a Real Groundhog Day Problem?

In Groundhog Day, the 1993 Bill Murray film, the holiday centered around a prophesying Punxsutawney Phil isn’t the point. They are just the prelude to the story about a weatherman who gets trapped in the same 24 hours with the same events happening over and over again.

There was never any explanation as to why Murray’s character got caught in this loop. He’s just woken up on Groundhog Day to Sonny and Cher playing the radio in a place he didn’t want to be while events conspired to keep him there. Ultimately, true love gives us a Hollywood happy ending.

It is fun. It’s funny. It’s also impossible – or is it?

Oh sure, a WPXI meteorologist is unlikely to get involved in what has become a film and television trope about days that never end.

But Pennsylvania seems caught in a loop when it comes to recurring themes, like “I Got You Babe” on Murray’s radio.

On Wednesday, Pittsburgh officials announced the closure of the Charles Anderson Memorial Bridge over safety concerns. That comes barely a month after the opening of the new Fern Hollow Bridge, which was replaced after the dramatic collapse of its predecessor in January 2022. The Charles Anderson Bridge is rated as poor. Such was Fern Hollow. At least a lesson was learned, because this time the closure came before the disaster.

In West Deer, a free Narcan training clinic was offered Sunday through Palmer Pharmacy. The Allegheny County Health Department provided the drug doses free of charge for participants who want to be prepared for overdoses in a state and region that remains hard hit by the opioid epidemic.

The state has been on a treadmill for years with property taxes as the primary means of funding education. It’s a system that doesn’t work, everyone agrees. But it doesn’t change.

This was made clear again when the North Allegheny School District was called to the carpet by Auditor General Timothy L. DeFoor. It is one of 12 districts that have been audited and shown to be circumventing rules put in place to limit over-indexed tax increases through strategic categorization of funds. It’s not illegal, the audit said — but it’s not right either.

And the 2023 election is just around the corner—from the special election for the Allegheny County House of Representatives seats to the county and township offices that will be up for election. If anything proves that “Groundhog Day” might have had some basis in reality, it’s the endless replay of Pennsylvania’s elections in recent years.

The unfortunate difference between fiction and non-fiction is that Murray’s character was the only thing that wasn’t captured. He learned, he grew and he changed – and that’s what eventually made things move forward.

Perhaps taking proactive steps like closing this bridge before it collapses can be that kind of cycle-breaking action in Pennsylvania. But more of this unconventional thinking will be necessary to free us from our real-world Groundhog Day.