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Gov. Tom Wolf is earning a reputation as a social-media savvy executive.

Wolf took to Facebook to answer questions sent in from around the state and selected by his staff. He answered about a dozen of them during the live, video-taped exchange.

Topics ranged ranging from Wolf’s budget proposal and plans for tax increases and accompanying tax relief, to his desire to raise the state’s minimum wage and sign legislation protecting Pennsylvanians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

 The “Fight for $15” will take to the streets of Pittsburgh April 15th.

A small group of fast food workers and Pittsburgh organization heads gathered Tuesday in front of the Northside McDonalds to announce plans to strike for an increased minimum wage.

Lolene Germany, a worker at KFC, said the strike will call for fair treatment in the workplace as well as fair wages.

“We wanted to let people know that if you support what we’re doing and you feel like you’re being disrespected at work, wherever you work – at a healthcare, fast food, retail – just come out and fight with us,” Germany said. “And let them know that you’re going to get your respect and you’re going get what you deserve.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Just two years ago, your options for getting a ride in Pittsburgh were pretty much limited to public transportation, taxis, or for those in higher income brackets, executive car services and limousines.

But when ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft rode into town in with their slick mobile apps, quick response times and, in the case of Lyft, their hot pink mustaches, a sea change that had already taken hold in cities such as San Francisco and New York began closing in on the Steel City.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The city of Pittsburgh along with the Heinz Endowments has announced P4: People, Planet, Place and Performance — a framework for a model of redevelopment of city spaces.

It will consider the four “Ps” when looking at future development and will connect resources and initiatives already working in the city.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The oldest park in Pittsburgh is getting a facelift. A section of Allegheny Commons around a popular Northside fountain will be rebuilt this summer.

The Allegheny Commons Initiative is a volunteer group, that up until recently was handling most park matters. The group wanted to undergo a multimillion dollar project that would restore the park to its heyday, but was met with some funding challenges.

So the Initiative partnered with Northside Leadership Conference, and with the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy.

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

For many, the mention of "homeschooling" conjures negative stereotypes about the people who practice it: Homeschool families are religious fundamentalists who shun secular society, or libertarian ideologues who reject the whole idea of public education on principle.

Chatham University

Our guest Cokie Roberts has long been familiar to NPR listeners. She offers political commentary during Morning Edition on Mondays and provides analysis for ABC News. This year, Ms. Roberts is being honored as Chatham University’s Elsie Hillman Chair in Women and Politics. On Wednesday she’ll present the lecture An Insider’s View on Washington, D.C.

Asked about how she manages her own political beliefs when reporting on political issues, Roberts explains:

"When you do it as long as I have, you stop, really, having political beliefs. You care about the issues, and you care that people understand the issues, but you see both sides all the time. And you see people who make a lot of sense on one side, and people who don't make any sense on the same side and vice versa. So it's really a question of just trying to explain it." -- Cokie Roberts

Also in the program, Career Consultant Sasha King offers up tips for peer evaluations, Margaret J. Krauss re-lives Pittsburgh's Whiskey Rebellion and business contributor Rebecca Harris preps us for impending holy holidays with the business of Easter. 


State environmental officials have granted a request to give the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County more time to include more "green" solutions to the region's sewer system problems.

The antiquated sewers overflow during heavy rains because storm drains are tied to sewers in a way no longer permitted under environmental laws.

The department said Monday that it will provide an 18-month extension to a March 30 deadline for a plan to fix the problem.

Area educators gathered Monday to discuss best practices in promoting student achievement in public education at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s first Learning Together conference.

The day-long conference featured 50 round-table discussions and sessions showcasing what regional educators do to increase achievement in schools.

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit is one of 29 units in Pennsylvania. It provides specialized education services to the 42 suburban Allegheny county school districts.

Flickr user Joseph A

There are currently 19 cities and boroughs in Pennsylvania designated as “distressed” municipalities under Act 47, including Pittsburgh, Braddock, Rankin, Duquesne and Clairton in Allegheny County.

A State House bill meant to help those municipalities identify ways to make their operations more efficient may end up not doing that at all.

Courtesy Photo/ ADI

Pennsylvania Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) is finalizing a bill that would ban "exotic animals" from circus performances in Pennsylvania.

The bill follows an announcement by Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus that “The Greatest Show on Earth” will phase out use of elephants by 2018. Leach said this was a step in the right direction, but his bill goes further.

Submitted

Beatrice Dias has asthma, and her three-year-old has had his own respiratory issues, so she installed a personal air monitoring device known as a Speck to see if the air in her home was contributing to their health problems.

“It was as simple as turning on the hood vent above the stove and realizing, ‘wait, the air quality is getting worse, what am I doing wrong? This was supposed to be good for it,’” she said. “But then I followed the trajectory of the air and realized the hood vent was just venting the air up as opposed out of the house.”

Revelations like this is why the Community Robotics Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab began selling Speck Monday.  The air quality monitor detects fine particulates in a room by using a fan to create a vacuum that sucks the matter into the sensor.

A recent survey by Erie Insurance found that drivers are doing everything from playing the guitar to public displays of affection while driving.

The survey asked about 1,900 people what kind of distractions they found other drivers doing, and what behaviors they were engaging in themselves.

Pittsburgh City Council will take a final vote Tuesday to approve a $500,000 state grant to renovate Knoxville Library.

The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Award would help cover the costs of adding a second public meeting space and a new teen area to the library, as well as structural updates to comply with ADA accessibility mandates.

According to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Assistant Director of Neighborhood Libraries Mary Monaghan, the Knoxville branch was built in the 1960s and hasn’t been renovated since.

Essential Pittsburgh: Celebrating Courageous Women in Journalism

Mar 30, 2015
James McGrath Morris

As Women’s History Month comes to a close we’ll celebrate the achievements of Ethel Payne. The pioneering journalist was the third African American in history given a White House press pass. In his new book Eye on the Struggle, our guest James McGrath Morris chronicles the life of Ethel Payne.

Morris talks about just one of the many legacies left by Ethel Payne:

" One of the legacies of her story is a constant reminder of who has a seat at the table makes an enormous difference. And as each group begins to gain rights-- gay rights, transsexual rights, Hispanic rights--whatever group. If those folks are not at the table, not asking questions of those in power... The groups who are there will fail to ask the questions that are significant for that audience." -- James McGrath Morris

Also in the hour, independent director and presenter at Pittsburgh's first Humanities Festival John Sayles  discusses the past and present of independent cinema. Then, the Director of International Media, Advocacy and Communications at Columbia University Anya Schiffrin visits City of Asylum and recalls a century of global investigative journalism.  


Task Force Would Increase Prostate Cancer Awareness

Mar 29, 2015

One in six Pennsylvania men will suffer from prostate cancer in his lifetime. One in 30 dies from the disease, more than the national average, according to the Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Coalition.

Legislation has been introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate to create the Prostate Cancer Task Force through the Department of Health.

Seven participants in the 18-member task force will be healthcare professionals with experience treating prostate cancer, according to the text of the bill.

Saturday is the national opening day for trails, and even though the Three Rivers Heritage Trail stays open year round, the Friends of the Riverfront will be out planting trees to get the trail ready for heavy traffic.

The opening day also corresponds with the release of a survey conducted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to evaluate users and economic impact. It found that the Three Rivers Trail has one of the greatest numbers of yearly visits and has among the highest economic impact of the trails surveyed by Rails-to-Trails. The group, which advocates for turning old train rails into trails, has done about 14 economic impact and user surveys, mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Christopher Lancaster / Flickr

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN)  announced on Thursday the creation of a subcommittee tasked with developing a Customer Assistance Program, similar to those available for electricity and natural gas utilities.

Two unrelated missing persons cases were solved when the bodies of the men each surfaced separately downstream in a river in West Virginia in recent days — with the death of one of the Pittsburgh men now being treated as a homicide, police said.

The cases of Andre Gray, 34, and Paul Kochu, 22, aren't related, except by the coincidence that their bodies each surfaced in the Ohio River in recent days, likely because of the spring thaw, city police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney said at a Thursday night news conference. Bodies can remain submerged for weeks or months when rivers are icy or the water is near freezing, but rise to the surface as temperatures warm.

In Kentucky, A Prairie Made By Coal

Mar 27, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Patrick Angel pulls his pickup truck off a small road in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and points to a long ridge covered with dried, brown grass.

“If you didn’t know where you were, you'd think you were standing in a prairie land in South Dakota or Wyoming, because it’s all grass,” says Angel, a forester with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

Litterbugs beware: There might be someone watching you.

A Pennsylvania environmental group has launched a new initiative to provide municipalities with the equipment to catch people illegally dumping trash on camera.

Essential Pittsburgh

Joyce Brabner and Mark Zingarelli produced a book last year that puts the history of AIDS into a vastly new perspective. With comic-book-style graphics and vivid, larger-than-life characters, Second Avenue Caper describes the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in America with the kind of humor and imagination that is seldom associated with such a poignant topic. 

Brabner talks about the heroes in this story in the fight against AIDS :

"The real heroes are my friends who made space in their crowded NY apartment for people who didn’t have the strength to walk up five flights of stairs. My friends who fed, cared, clothed everybody." -- Joyce Brabner

Also in this hour, AIDS researcher Dr. Charles Rinaldo and Alan Jones of the Pittsburgh AIDS Taskforce talk about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Furthermore,  Tom Baxter of Friends of the Riverfront and Carl Knoch of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy talk about their thoughts on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.


Israel has been referred to as “Start-Up Nation” due to the strong entrepreneurial spirit displayed by its citizens, and a conference this week at The university of Pittsburgh is hoping to use a small group of visitors to foster that spirit here.

“Pittsburgh is very strong in medical device technology, drug innovation and medical IT,” said Paul Harper, Entrepreneurship Professor at Pitt. “Those happen to also be areas that Israel leads the world in.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s visitors and tourism bureau, VisitPITTSBURGH said 2014 was a strong year, but that 2015 is shaping up to be busier.

The organization released its annual report Thursday, highlighting the economic impact tourism has on the region. Each year the industry brings about $5.6 billion to the region and supports some 40,000 jobs.

Education Budget Makes Charter Schools Nervous

Mar 26, 2015

Advocates for Pennsylvania’s charter schools are worried that Governor Tom Wolf’s new education budget would force some schools to close their doors.

Wolf’s 2015-2016 education budget includes more money for preschool through college education, but one school group is feeling ostracized.

“Charter schools in Pennsylvania are already receiving far less per pupil than their traditional school peers,” said Kara Kerwin, President of the Center for Education Reform. “On average it’s about 30 percent less per pupil.”

Investments in Pittsburgh companies and the city’s technology sector continue to grow. A report by Innovation Works, an investment firm, and Ernst & Young LLP, a professional services company, found:

A Democratic state senator says a racist, anonymous letter sent to the Cumberland County home of the acting State Police commissioner raises troubling questions.

Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) is denouncing a letter sent to Acting Commissioner Marcus Brown that used a racial slur and referred to his decision to wear the Pennsylvania State Police uniform. The letter was delivered to Brown's mailbox Monday evening.

Alexis Gideon is a multimedia artist who has recently relocated to Pittsburgh. The New Hazlett Theater is a center for collaboration as well as an incubator for new ideas. Together they recently provided Pittsburgh with a unique world premiere event.

"The Crumbling" is a 21-minute stop-motion animation video opera set in a surreal dream-like town following the trials of a librarian as she tries to save her city from crumbling down around her. Much of the music is performed live by Gideon.

Essential Pittsburgh / WESA

Former congressman Joe Sestak is running for the U.S. Senate by walking. He's making a 422-mile trek across the state to better connect with Pennsylvanians. Joe Sestak joins us in Studio A for a talk about his plans to challenge Senator Pat Toomey and why the state's Democratic party doesn't want him to run.

Sestak comments on his opponent Senator Pat Toomey's action regarding Iran and the nuclear weapons issue:

"What I saw is the unrivaled respect that the presidency of the United States has as the foremost instrument to secure our freedoms and our security overseas. To actually have had Senator Toomey sign a letter that says disregard our presidency shows reckless abandon of the responsibilities of a Senator, it shows truly no experience in world affairs and it also shows a disregard for the security of America, placing politics above security." -- Joe Sestak

Also in this hour, a Pittsburgh artist's sketches of servicemen are finding their way back home and Louis Ortiz, star of the documentary "Bronx Obama" and the President's closest doppelganger visits for a screening of the film. 

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

When Diane Faust started losing her eyesight in 2008 as a result of optic nerve damage, she didn’t know where to turn, but she knew she had two options.

“I could hide in my house the rest of my life, ignore the outside world,” Faust said. “Or, I could try to gain as much of my independence back and get back to as much of a normal life as possible. Those folks have been so instrumental in helping me to do that.”

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