Government & Politics

Government & Politics
9:38 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Jobs Conference Focuses on Global Talent Recruitment, Innovation and Energy

The job market of the 21st Century is increasingly global and focused on innovation. That was one of the takeaways at the Governor’s Jobs 1st Summit in Pittsburgh Monday.

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Business
2:14 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

As PA’s Largest State Liquor Store Opens, Turzai Pushes for Privatization

The largest retail state liquor store in Pennsylvania opened Thursday – but not everyone is excited.

The expanded store, located on Penn Circle South in East Liberty, is a remodeled and refurbished version of the previous Fine Wines & Good Spirits Store.

At 17,674 square feet, it’s 35 percent larger than its predecessor.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) aimed to make the store environmentally responsible by using LED lighting and offering to sell reusable shopping bags made from 60 percent recycled materials.

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Government & Politics
3:50 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Ex-Justice Melvin's Conviction Is Upheld, But Her Sentence Is Modified

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has up held the convictions of former State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her sister Janine Orie but has slightly changed Melvin’s sentence.

Melvin was originally ordered to send letters of apology to every judge in the state, and she was required to write them on pictures of herself in handcuffs. Thursday’s ruling found the decision to use the picture was “emblematic of the intent to humiliate Orie Melvin.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:49 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Law Professor David Harris: Ferguson Shooting is More Complicated Than It Appears

Credit Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Much of the nation’s attention has been focused on the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a young African American man, by a police officer has led to riots, looting and tension between law enforcement officials and the citizens of Ferguson.

Pitt Law Professor David Harris evaluated the police department’s response to the incident.

“What you have here is not just the killing of one person by another, but the killing of a person by an agent of the state, a police officer."

Because of these stipulations and "the possibility that the police officer went beyond his duty to protect with reasonable force while depriving the person of their 'constitutional right to life without due process,'" Harris said there is a possibility of both state and federal court cases.

If the officer is charged, which Harris said is "a big if", the court case would still be a long process. Harris pointed out that a police officer has the right to use force to effectuate the job.

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Election 2014
4:14 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

McGinty Blasts Corbett on Education Spending, Tomalis Controversy

Katie McGinty spoke in the gallery at the Allegheny County Courthouse Wednesday morning. She's heading up Fresh Start PA, a group that's working in tandem with Tom Wolf's campaign for governor.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The he said, she said debate over state education funding and the controversy surrounding former Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis made its way to Pittsburgh Wednesday morning.

Former gubernatorial hopeful Katie McGinty spoke in the Allegheny County Courthouse gallery, criticizing Gov. Tom Corbett and stumping for Democratic nominee Tom Wolf.

McGinty is chairwoman of the Campaign for a Fresh Start, a new organization working in tandem with Wolf’s campaign for governor and the campaigns of Democratic legislative nominees statewide.

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Government & Politics
10:33 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Lame-Duck Sessions Unlikely in PA Legislature, For Now

It doesn’t look like lame ducks will vote in the state Legislature this year.

Of course, that could change. House leaders say they haven’t discussed whether they would hold votes after the November election. Senate leaders have said they may call a lame-duck session for some kind of emergency.

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Sophie Masloff, 1917-2014
5:17 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Family, Friends and Others Celebrate Sophie Masloff's Life

Family, friends, faith leaders and elected officials gathered at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill Tuesday to say goodbye to former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff. She was remembered for her love of the city, and her grandmotherly, yet tough demeanor.

Sophie Masloff’s casket, draped with an American flag, was carried past mourners as the congregation sang “America the Beautiful.”

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Courts
2:04 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Grand Jury Dissolved Without Indicting Ravenstahl

The federal grand jury, which heard evidence against then Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, has been dismissed without handing up any indictments against the mayor or anyone in his administration.

David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, would not comment on the development. Ravenstahl’s attorney Charles Porter Jr. could not be reached for comment. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:46 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

A Tribute to Sophie Masloff

Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff waves goodbye to residents of the Garfield Senior High Rise after hearing tenant complaints. Photo Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Credit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff died Sunday at the age of 96. In the spring of 1988 she became Pittsburgh's first female and first Jewish mayor, after the death of Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri.

Joseph Sabino Mistick was Masloff's longtime friend and former top aide. He spoke about the legacy she left behind in Pittsburgh.

“I guess the best way to remember Sophie is, she was always Sophie. She was the mayor of the city of Pittsburgh, but when she was herself, when she could be herself, which she learned to do after the first few months in the mayor’s office, people began to appreciate what a remarkable leader they had. … I think what’s important now is to celebrate her life.”

Read more about Sophie Masloff and her role in Pittsburgh government.

Pittsburgh
3:24 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff Memorialized

Nancy Burns retrieves Masloff's official City Council portrait to be used in the memorial.
Kaye Burnet 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s first and only female mayor, Sophie Masloff, who died Sunday at age 96, is being honored with a memorial stand in the lobby of the City-County Building.

The memorial will be open all week to anyone who wishes to stop by, look at her portrait, or write a few words in one of the many books available.

Nancy Burns from the Office of Special Programs organized the set-up of the commemorative space.

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Sophie Masloff, 1917-2014
7:06 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Remembering Sophie Masloff, Pittsburgh's First Female Mayor

Sophie Masloff knew from an early age she wanted to work in those government buildings, but never though she would hold office, let alone become mayor of Pittsburgh.  

“I used to walk to town from the time I was a little girl to the City-County Building and the court house, and I used to pay the bills," Masloff said in a 2008 interview, "and while I was there, I wandered around the buildings, and early on I thought this was something I’d like to do to be a part of this."

Masloff, who rose from a tax clerk to Pittsburgh's first female mayor, died Sunday. She was 96.

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Education
3:30 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Plan Would Increase Charters' Teacher Certifications

Traditional public schools and charter schools don't have the same rules when it comes to teacher certifications, but one new proposal would bring the two types of schools a little closer together.

State certification is required for 100 percent of professional staff at traditional public schools in Pennsylvania. Contrast that with charter and cyber charter schools, which are only required to have 75 percent of their teachers state-certified.

Forthcoming legislation from state Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery) would hike that level to 80 percent.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon August 18, 2014

State Open Records Chief Says E-mail a Blind Spot in PA Transparency Laws

The head of Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records says state transparency laws are out of step with modern communication technology and are long overdue for an update.

The call to action comes after Gov. Tom Corbett shared his own technique for evading certain record requests from the public.

Corbett recently told reporters that he tries to avoid using e-mail, and deletes his e-mails about once a week. Otherwise, he said, reporters would be able to see e-mails requested under the state's Right-to-Know law.

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Pittsburgh
10:33 am
Sun August 17, 2014

Sophie Masloff, Pittsburgh's First Female Mayor, Dies at Age 96

Sophie Masloff, who rose from a tax clerk to become Pittsburgh's first female mayor, died Sunday. She was 96.

She died at an area nursing home, said Joseph Mistick, Masloff's longtime friend and former top aide.

Masloff took office in May 1988 after the death of Richard S. Caliguiri, and she served until January 1994.

She good-naturedly described herself as an "old Jewish grandmother" and promised when she took office to be at work by 8 a.m. every day except Tuesdays when, she said, "I get my hair done."

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Government & Politics
4:52 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Proposed Cigarette Tax Would Funnel Revenue Into Property Tax Relief for Seniors

One state lawmaker is taking Philadelphia’s idea for a cigarette tax and applying it statewide.

Republican Rep. John Lawrence of Chester County is proposing an additional 80-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes. The revenue would go into a property tax relief program for seniors.

The House and Senate have been at odds over a plan to let Philadelphia levy a $2-a-pack cigarette tax to help fund its schools.

Lawrence said if lawmakers can pass that, they should approve a broader effort to help low-income seniors pay for rising school property taxes.

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Government & Politics
8:03 am
Fri August 15, 2014

State Liquor Control Board Not Considering Higher Markup For Wine and Spirits

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is not considering boosting its markup on wine and spirits, an assurance from the board’s chairman which comes after a leaked memo suggested the 30 percent markup get its first increase in roughly 20 years.

The memo shared with The Associated Press was penned by the LCB’s financial department and suggests a 5 percent increase to the agency’s 30 percent markup on wine and liquor.

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Allegheny County
7:50 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Audit Finds Issues at DHS Could Lead to Treatment Delays for Mental Health Care

A recent audit from Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner has found that complex procedures and internal deficiencies in the Department of Human Services (DHS) could lead to problems in the facilitation of mental health services in the county.

“I think this audit shows that there are a number of breaks in the process and those breaks could result in residents in need falling through the cracks if they’re not receiving that help that they need in that most critical hour,” Wagner said.

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Government & Politics
3:45 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Casey Seeking $10M To Cut Down On Backlogged Black Lung Claims

Late last month, Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu announced that his department would seek a nearly $3 million funding increase for the Office of Administrative Law Judges to handle a growing backlog of black lung benefits claims.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) will send a letter to the Obama administration Thursday requesting an additional $10 million that would go towards hiring 20 new Administrative Law Judges.

Casey said the office needs to drastically increase its budget to keep up with the growing backlog of black lung claims.

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Infrastructure
2:49 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Controller Lamb Talks ALCOSAN Audit, Hydro-Electric Power

The 140,000 gallons of water that flow into the Ohio River from the ALCOSAN plant every minute are a potential source of hydro-electric power.
Credit Google Maps

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb said Wednesday that he didn’t find any evidence of nepotism at the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority in his latest performance audit, but the perception of such favoritism is hurting the organization.

“There’s this continuing perception that everything at ALCOSAN is pay-to-play, whether it’s contracting, personnel hiring, any of these issues,” Lamb said. “We wanted to get in and make sure these procedures are in place, because we know ALCOSAN is going to grow over the next 20 years.”

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Government & Politics
6:39 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

City, County and Law Enforcement Officials Hear Case for Keeping Crime Lab Funded

Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams (left) and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald testify on the importance of the county crime lab in front of a joint legislative hearing on funding.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Crime Lab is a full lab that performs a wealth crime-related tasks, such as DNA testing and crime scene analysis, but it’s funding has been cut by the state in recent years.

If the lab continues to receive no state funding, it’s in danger of closing. On Tuesday, a joint legislative hearing heard from a list of speakers about why the lab should be a funding priority. Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams said, for starters, it’s a one-of-a-kind facility.

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Penn State
3:35 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Penn State Trustees to Discuss Status of Lawsuit over $60M Fine

The Penn State University (PSU) Board of Trustees will meet 8 a.m. Wednesday by phone to discuss a potential settlement of a lawsuit between state officials and the NCAA over the use of the $60 million fine PSU was ordered to pay in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

In 2012, PSU consented to a number of sanctions imposed by the NCAA in response to attempts by high-ranking university officials to hide Sandusky’s molestation of young boys. The consent decree included a $60 million fine to be used for programs for the protection of children.

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Government & Politics
2:26 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Corbett Adviser Resigns Following Scrutiny of Schedule, Duties

An education adviser to the governor is stepping down from his post, weeks after a newspaper report found little evidence he was working.

Ron Tomalis’ resignation letter includes a list of his accomplishments as a special adviser on higher education. Those accomplishments were called into question by a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report last month that found little in schedule documents, phone logs or interviews to suggest Tomalis had been doing much in his job paying nearly $140,000 a year.

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Government & Politics
8:04 am
Tue August 12, 2014

No Oversight of Seized Assets Under New Trafficking Law

Despite years of criticism of the state’s asset forfeiture laws, Pennsylvania lawmakers approved a new human trafficking law that expands law enforcement’s ability to seize assets of the accused, without any statutory oversight of where seized property and proceeds end up.

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Government & Politics
4:48 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

Lawmakers Buy Time to Help 911 Centers

State lawmakers have given themselves another year to address what counties are calling a funding crisis for the commonwealth’s 911 call centers.

A key revenue source for the county-managed centers was set to expire in June, but lawmakers extended its life by one year. That gives the Legislature until next July to consider more comprehensive changes to the emergency service system.

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Government & Politics
7:40 am
Mon August 11, 2014

PA's Revenue Estimates Need Improvement, Policy Researchers Say

Creating a viable state budget depends heavily on knowing how much money will be available to spend. According to a recent report by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Pennsylvania’s annual revenue estimate is one of the least accurate among the 50 states.

The report evaluated states by identifying five “best practices” that supposedly create reliable revenue estimates to guide state spending. PA scored a two out of five, and ranked below 38 states.

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Government & Politics
2:13 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Schools' Reserves Raise Ire, But Advocates Defend Savings

Not everyone thinks schools in Pennsylvania are hurting for money.

For years, Republican lawmakers and officials have insisted that school districts have more money than they're letting on — in the form of rainy day funds. According to the state Department of Education, school districts reported having $4.27 billion leftover in their fund balances as of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

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Government & Politics
5:23 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Councilwoman Wants Inquiry Into Real Estate Deals

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak is asking Mayor Bill Peduto to look into the sale of an apartment complex. She said how the sale happened could lead to a loss of tax revenue to the city.  

The Cork Factory Lofts in the Strip District were recently sold to GMH Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum. But instead of buying the converted lofts outright, GMH purchased the two companies that previously owned the converted lofts and associated properties. The sale included three buildings.

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City Government
1:20 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Q & A with Maura Kennedy, Pittsburgh Chief of Building Inspection, on Blight

A blighted property sits on Kincaid Street in Garfield.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Maura Kennedy is Pittsburgh's new Bureau of Building Inspection Chief. She came to the job four months ago from Philadelphia, where she led a strategic building code enforcement campaign targeting the city's many blighted properties.

Keystone Crossroads' Irina Zhorov spoke with her about her experience in Philadelphia and her plans for Pittsburgh.

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Government & Politics
10:27 am
Thu August 7, 2014

With New Technology, New Reason For Lawmakers to Revisit PA's Game Laws

New technologies that could aid or impede hunting are giving state policymakers reason to revisit the Pennsylvania's game laws.

Measures before the state House and Senate aim to allow things like electronic calls to attract deer, or ban the use of drones by hunters and people suspicious of hunters.

For decades, Pennsylvania hunters — and their regulators — have debated the fine line that separates acceptable hunting aids and being fair to animals being pursued.

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Government & Politics
10:12 am
Thu August 7, 2014

No Sign Lawmakers Will Oblige Corbett's Request That They Return Early

Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday asked state lawmakers to end their vacation early to address legislation concerning a Philadelphia schools funding gap that threatens to delay the school year in the state's largest school district.

"I'm calling for the Legislature though to come to Harrisburg before school starts," Corbett said at a news conference with Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite at his side. "And I expect them to address this issue as their first and number one order of business."

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