Government & Politics

Public Safety
10:15 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Peduto Says Rank-and-File Police Officers Want Fairness in Discipline

Mayor Bill Peduto on Monday attended the first of two meetings with rank-and-file police officers to find out what they’re looking for in a police chief.

Peduto said he was pleasantly surprised that the comments he heard from officers “were very much in line” with what he’s heard from the public and with his own ideas about what kind of police chief Pittsburgh needs.

The mayor said one of the officers’ primary concerns is fairness.

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Public Safety
10:11 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Councilwoman Encourages Pittsburghers to Plan Actions for National Week of Non-Violence

Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds of the national activist organization Black Women for Positive Change addresses press and supporters outside City Council chambers Tuesday morning.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

According to a 2014 report from the Children’s Defense Fund, American children and teens are four times more likely to be killed by gun violence than Canadian kids, 13 times more likely than French kids, and more than 64 times more likely to be killed by guns as children in the UK and Germany.

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Government & Politics
2:47 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Internet, iPhones Among Technology Upgrades at Bureau of Building Inspection

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday took a tour 200 Ross St., which houses, among other offices, the Bureau of Building Inspection and Department of City Planning.

BBI Chief Maura Kennedy said they were showing off the long-awaited implementation of a decades-old technology: as of this month, every employee in the building finally has Internet access.

“Previously the building was not wired for the Internet, in large part,” Kennedy said. “So now people are actually using the laptops we purchased several years ago to do real-time data entry.”

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Alerts Expands
1:23 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

County Health and Public Works Departments Join Allegheny Alerts

Allegheny County is making it easier to avoid road construction and get vaccinations now that its notification program has expanded to the Public Works and Health departments.

Allegheny Alerts is a program that will call, text, or email people who sign up about the four departments involved. The program began in April with the Parks Department and the Kane Regional Centers.

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City Government
12:26 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

With Lawsuits Dropped, Peduto Says Negotations Between City, UPMC Ongoing

The aura of tension around Pennsylvania’s largest employer is slowly dissipating, as the city of Pittsburgh announced Friday that it is dropping its lawsuit against UPMC.

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Government & Politics
7:58 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Property Reassessments for Tax Bills Inspire Big Drama in Pennsylvania

Braddock Borough Council President Tina Doose.
Credit Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Property taxes are considered a relatively stable, easy-to-collect tax. In many states government officials conduct regular property reassessments, which help calculate accurate tax bills, without much to do. Not so in Pennsylvania, where reassessments can cause upheaval and dramatic political wrestling matches.

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Government & Politics
7:51 am
Tue July 29, 2014

'In Sync' with Wolf, Stack Absolves Himself of Opinions

For candidates vying to be the governor’s number two, denying one’s own policy platform is part of the process.

Mike Stack, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said Monday he’ll march in lockstep with his de facto running mate, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and York County businessman Tom Wolf.

There isn’t much daylight between the priorities of Mike Stack and Tom Wolf. Even so, Stack is distancing himself from prior votes and campaign stances during his four terms as a state senator representing Philadelphia.

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Liquor Permits
3:29 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Some Lawmakers Say 'Pop-Up Gardens' Take Advantage of Liquor Laws

“Pop-up gardens” are stretching the intent of laws that regulate liquor catering permits, say some PA lawmakers.

Liquor license holders that cater to weddings, company celebrations, non-profit fundraisers, and other events rely on off-premise permits to serve alcohol at various locations. However, some Philadelphia liquor-license holders are taking advantage of these permits to set up semi-permanent bars dubbed “pop-up gardens” that sell liquor ten hours a day, seven days a week.

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Government & Politics
3:36 am
Mon July 28, 2014

State Lawmaker: Pay Up Or Lose Your Driver's License

Pennsylvanians owe $1 billion in unpaid fines and court costs, and a state lawmaker wants the scofflaws to pay up or lose their driver’s license and have any wages and lottery winnings attached.

State Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) has introduced two bills to pressure individuals to pay the fines, fees and delinquent costs they owe.  Under SB 918 PennDOT would “suspend your driver’s license.  If your driver’s license was about to expire, they wouldn’t renew it,” said Stack.

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Courts
3:31 am
Mon July 28, 2014

PA Court Records to Enter 21st Century

Currently most Pennsylvanians who want to see court records and documents have to look at them on microfilm or microfiche.

“We’ve always got to look at ways we can modernize government,” says State Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) as he noted Governor Corbett’s signing into law his court modernizing proposal that he says will save tax dollars and give the public easier access to court records.

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Witness identification
10:43 am
Fri July 25, 2014

DA Wants Pittsburgh Police To Change Eyewitness ID Procedures

Prosecutors must approve felony arrest warrants issued by Pittsburgh police because of concerns expressed by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala over the bureau’s eyewitness identification procedures.

In a letter to city officials, Zappala wrote that Pittsburgh police must adopt eyewitness identification procedures outlined by the Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association by August 16. If not, eyewitnesses might be used to establish a suspect, but the information provided could not be used to charge an individual.

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Immigration
5:29 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Undocumented Workers Call for Relief, Work Authorizations

Maria Antonio came to the United States 11 years ago with her husband and her son, who is now 13 years old.

She has since had two more children, but they all face the threat of losing their father because he has been involved in a deportation case with immigration for two years.

“My children say to me regularly: ‘Mommy, are we going to be separated, are they going to send daddy away?’” Antonio said. “This is what we most fear – not just my family, but all families.”

She, her husband and her oldest child are part of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

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Government & Politics
5:23 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

With New Tools to Fight Blight, Communities Look to Arm Themselves to Reclaim Neighborhoods

With the heavily boarded up community of Homestead as a backdrop, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania released a toolkit to fight blight today.

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Government & Politics
3:09 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Corbett Has Spent $1.7 Million on TV Ads Since the Primary

Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf.
Credit Pennsylvania National Guard, Tom Wolf via Flickr

Gov. Tom Corbett, trailing opponent Tom Wolf by 20 to 25 points in the polls, has poured $1.66 million into television ads blanketing the state in July, according to FCC reports.

That’s more than one-third of the $4.8 million in campaign funds Corbett had left over from the primary.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll of registered voters in late June showed Corbett, a Republican, trailing Democrat Wolf 47 percent to 25 percent.

Wolf has spent no money on ads this month.

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City Government
11:46 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Acting Public Safety Director Says He Has To Build Trust Between Police, Community

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is one step closer to filling out his administration, as City Council Wednesday held hearings on the mayor’s recent Public Safety and Management & Budget appointments.

For more than two hours, Acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar took notes as he was peppered with questions, concerns and suggestions from council members.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:43 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

A Pitt Professor’s Inside Look into Ukraine

A pro-Russian rally with members of one of the militias believed to have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Credit Andrew Butko / Wikipedia

University of Pittsburgh assistant professor of economics Tymofiy Mylovanov is in Kiev participating in talks with the Prime Minister of Ukraine to try and help stabilize the country after this past winter's events.

Mylovanov’s visit is at a time of extreme tension after a civilian plane was shot down as it was flying over Ukraine.

Mylovanov said Kiev was surprisingly quiet when he arrived.

"It's a little bit of a surreal feeling. It is as if there was no war. There are no military or uniformed police on the streets and everything was very, very quiet."

To add to this surreal feeling, Ukrainian government officials still can't view the crash site because separatists have closed off access. It's believed that they may be clearing the site so there will be no evidence that they were responsible for shooting down the plane.

The officials appear to have accepted that separatists are responsible for the downed plane and instead of discussing the plane, Mylovanov said officials are focusing on reform efforts.

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City Government
3:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

City Council Preliminarily Approves Adding Gender Identity as a Protected Class

Transgender activists wore shirts reading "Ask me about the T" at this year's Pittsburgh Pride Parade. Council President Bruce said transgender issues are currently "part of a national debate."
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council took preliminary steps Wednesday to add gender identity and expression as an explicitly protected class with regard to housing, employment and public accommodation.

Council President Bruce Kraus sponsored the legislation and said the issue was brought to his attention by Jason Goodman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, or PSEC.

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Government & Politics
5:12 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Pittsburgh City Council Votes to Continue Funding for Crime Reduction Initiative

Pittsburgh City Council has approved a measure for a professional service agreement between Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the city for the continuation of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC).

This comes with a $150,000 price tag, which Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith questioned.

“I don’t mind funding anything if we see results, but I don’t want to fund something if we don’t see results, and I have not seen results from this program,” she said.

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Government & Politics
4:33 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

U.S. Faces Backlog of Black Lung Benefits Claims

Health professionals, lawyers and U.S. senators met in Washington Tuesday to explore the challenges faced by coal miners suffering from black lung disease.

The U.S. Department of Labor will look to hire two administrative law judges and bring back a retired judge in Pittsburgh in 2015 to handle growing black lung claims, according to Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu.

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Government & Politics
10:02 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Corbett Shrugs Off Possibility Lawmakers Will Sue Over Blocked Earmarks

Gov. Tom Corbett is shrugging off the possibility state lawmakers will sue him for blocking their earmarks earlier this month.

Legislative leaders say the line-item veto of seven-point-two million dollars in projects was unconstitutional.

They could try to override the veto with a two-thirds vote, or sue the administration.

Corbett said he doesn’t think a court battle is likely, though he’s not troubled by the possibility.

"Let them sue me," he said. "Last time I looked, that’s in the constitution, isn’t it?"

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Government & Politics
9:55 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Another Investigation Into Lawmakers Implicated In Corruption Sting

Yet another governmental body appears to be investigating four Philadelphia Democrats for allegedly accepting cash or gifts from an undercover informant.

A letter from the State Ethics Commission indicates an investigation into the four state lawmakers implicated in a corruption sting.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:16 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Peace Corps to Revamp Application Process

Karen Corey is the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania Recruiter for the Peace Corps.
Credit Marcus Charleston / WESA

Since its creation over 50 years ago, the Peace Corps has been sending Americans overseas. Volunteers are sent to countries where their work can make a difference in the lives of others. However, applications for the Peace Corps are at an all time low.

Karen Corey, a recruiter for Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, talks about changes the Peace Corps is making to the application process, in order to attract more volunteers. Corey says there are three main changes to the application process to make it easier to enroll. The first step was making the initial online application easier.

“The actual application used to take about eight hours to fill out. What we’ve done is we’ve looked at the application again, we’ve thought about ‘what do we really know from our applicants right up front?’ We’re only asking for that most essential information, so now the application really only takes about an hour. We’re trying to eliminate the application itself as a barrier to Peace Corps service.”

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Corbett Not Letting Up On Public Pension Overhaul

Gov. Tom Corbett is not giving up the ghost of a public pension overhaul proposal — saying he may still call a special session of the state Legislature to address the issue.

The measure still does not have enough support in the House and Senate, Corbett said at a roundtable discussion in Hummelstown Friday.

The governor has been making daily statements about the plan, which would reduce retirement benefits of future public workers.

Supporters say the changes would reign in long-term costs of public pensions.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Property Tax Reform Efforts Spring Eternal

State lawmakers have snubbed two different efforts to reduce property taxes buoyed by recent activism on the issue. But for every season, turn, turn, turn.

Recently proposed tax shifts fit into one of two categories: statewide or local. But a nascent effort from Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) combines both approaches.

"With the increased discussion on property taxes, over the last year or so, I thought maybe it's the right time to try to put together another proposal that kind of meshes some of the different thoughts together," Reed said.

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Government & Politics
4:11 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Partial Veto of Projects Could Prompt Lawsuit

Lawmakers think the governor overreached when he vetoed not just parts of the state budget, but parts of another related piece of legislation, and House and Senate leaders are weighing their options to retaliate.

The state constitution allows the governor to partially veto “appropriations.” Lawmakers have interpreted that to mean specific sections of a state budget can be struck down by the governor.

Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett did that.

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Government & Politics
7:32 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Right-Sizing Supporters Eye House Reductions After Spring Fiasco

The past several weeks saw much action, but little advancement, on proposals to reduce the number of seats in the state House and Senate.

Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country, with 253 state lawmakers. Efforts to thin the ranks ground to a halt over the past several weeks.

Opponents argue that membership cuts will lump more constituents in each district, leaving them with representation of lesser quality. They say a big shrink would concentrate legislative representation in more populated urban areas.

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City Government
12:04 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Peduto and Staff to Participate in Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' Forum Thursday

From pension plans to Act 47 and dog parks to bike lanes – many Pittsburghers have questions about the future of the city and Mayor Bill Peduto and his staff hope to have the answers.

That’s why he is taking to popular social media forum Reddit Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for the city’s first “Mayor’s Night On(line).”

Peduto has used Reddit in the past to connect to the community – especially while campaigning – but this is the first time he’s done so as mayor, and this time he’s doing it differently.

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Government & Politics
10:14 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

New Law Gives Legal Aid for the Poor a Boost

Legal aid for the poor and disadvantaged is slated to get more funding under a measure approved by the legislature and signed by the governor this month.

Court fees are slated to increase in order to set aside more money to help eligible Pennsylvanians pay their legal bills when settling basic needs regarding things like housing, health and safety. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tara Toohil (R-Luzerne), passed with nearly unanimous support in the House and Senate.

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Government & Politics
7:47 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Charters Dodge Special Education Funding Changes

A recently approved tweak to special education funding won’t apply to charter schools, after all. State lawmakers shied away from the changes after charters argued it would have been unfair.

There will be changes to the way traditional public schools receive any new funding for special education — it’ll be based on the needs of individual students and school districts, instead of being tied to an average special needs cost across the state.

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Pension Reform
5:34 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Corbett Touts Tobash's Pension Reform Plan in Shaler Township

Governor Tom Corbett talks pension reform with Alice Beckett-Rumberger (center), of the non-profit North Allegheny Foundation, and Tara Fisher, vice president of the North Allegheny School District board.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Less than a week after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett ended the budget standoff with the state Legislature, he’s setting a new deadline for pension reform: election season.

Corbett was in Shaler Township Monday afternoon pushing an overhaul of the public pension system, which he said is necessary to help struggling school districts and stem the wave of rising property taxes.

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