News

Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed Pennsylvania budget has a detractor: the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP).

The group, which represents all of the state's hospitals, takes issue with a $166.5 million reduction to hospital Medicaid payments. HAP's Vice President for Research Martin Ciccocioppo said the reduction is significant for a program that already doesn't cover the costs hospitals incur.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Encouraging women to enter the STEM fields may not be a matter of how, but when. As part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative, guest host Andy Conte of the Tribune Review talks with Theresa Richards, who is CMU’s FIRST  (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Program Coordinator, about mentoring young girls in STEM fields. Also taking part in the conversation is 9th grader Lauren Scheller-Wolf, a past participant on the Girls of Steel robotics competition team.

Scheller-Wolf encourages young students to be a part of Girls of Steel:

“It’s an amazing opportunity. You will learn so much, but it’s the kind of learning that is so fun you don’t realize you’re learning anything.” -Lauren Scheller-Wolf

Also in the program, historian John Brewer takes us on a photo tour of black life in America from the Pittsburgh Courier, and Robert Miles is making life a little easier with a downtown concierge service. 

Forgotten Courier Closet Yields Wealth Of Pittsburgh Black History

May 21, 2015
Sidney L. Davis / Trib Total Media

One photograph shows a young Fidel Castro with boxer Joe Louis, standing next to men in shorts and beach shirts.

Another shows six Tuskegee Airmen huddled outside of a plane as they pore over a map sprawled on the ground.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

There are approximately 8,500 people waiting for an organ transplant in Pennsylvania, and about 123,000 across the U.S. The problem, according to the UPMC transplant program, is that demand far outweighs the number of available organs.

To try and increase awareness, “crossing guards” from UPMC and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) stopped pedestrians in several downtown areas Wednesday. The goal was to get more people to sign up as organ donors.

Bicycle accidents account for only 3.7 percent of reported crashes, yet they comprise 11.2 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to PennDOT.

On Wednesday evening, local bicyclists will gather in silent protest to honor victims of bicycle-related traffic accidents at Pittsburgh’s 11th annual Ride of Silence.

“The Ride of Silence is part of a global event,” said Ngani Ndimbie, spokesperson for Bike Pittsburgh. “It’s an event that was created to remember and to honor the people who have been killed and injured due to traffic violence while riding their bicycles.”

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Dog parks and basketball hoops bolstered Pittsburgh in the 4th annual rankings by The Trust for Public Land of the best park systems in American cities.

On a scale of 1 to 5, the city earned a 3.5 “park benches” rating — tying Anchorage, Lincoln, Raleigh and Virginia Beach for 24th in the ParkScore Index.  This is Pittsburgh’s first year in the rankings which expanded in 2015 from the nation's 60 largest cities to 75.

Millennials Wanted As Boomers Expected To Leave A Crater In The Job Market

May 20, 2015
Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

Max Inks attended Pennsylvania State University for three years before he dropped out, a decision prompted by his underwhelming performance in classes toward an electrical engineering degree.

The field of candidates for three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is now set.

Republicans on Tuesday chose Superior Court Judge Judy Olson, Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey and Adams County Judge Mike George as their candidates. Democrats nominated Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty, and Superior Court judges David Wecht and Christine Donohue.

Philadelphia Judge Alice Beck Dubow was dubbed the Democratic nominee for a seat on the state Superior Court. She defeated Allegheny County Judge Robert Colville.

Wolf Urges Railroads To Adopt Oil Train Safety Measures

May 20, 2015
AP Photo/Chris Tilley

Governor Wolf is urging rail companies shipping crude oil through Pennsylvania to adopt voluntary safety measures to help prevent the risk of accidents.

Ed Massery, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Since its founding in 1996 the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has worked with the city to maintain its historic parks. The conservancy is currently in the process of renovating one city park. Joining guest host Elaine Labalme to address the current state of the parks and what these green spaces mean to the city is Director of Community Projects Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Heather Sage.

Sage addresses the challenge of air quality in the Pittsburgh area in connection with parks and green spaces:

"There's countless amounts of research that tell us you know our lives are better, we're healthier, our mental health is improved, our physical health is improved if were active and living and spending time outdoors. So just spending time intentionally improving those park spaces is very directly and indirectly helping peoples health..." -Heather Sage

Also in the program, TED Talks make their yearly Pittsburgh visit at the ever-expanding local TEDx conference and Smallman Galley is a local restaurant incubator that's giving potential restaurateurs the tools and templates for success.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner credited her campaign team for her victory over challenger Mark Patrick Flaherty Tuesday night.

Supporters gathered at Young Brothers Bar in Brighton Heights, welcoming the incumbent with cheers shortly after Flaherty, himself a former controller, called to concede the primary.

Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr

Residents in Wilkinsburg and Bellevue voted to pass referendums Tuesday allowing liquor licenses for the first time in 80 years.

Marlee Gallagher, communications and outreach coordinator for the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC), said the group hopes the measure will spur much-needed economic growth.

With no Republicans on the ballot, all five Democratic incumbents should keep their City Council seats another four years.

District 1 Councilwoman Darlene Harris, 62, of Spring Hill beat out challengers Bobby Wilson, 32, of Spring Hill and Randy Zotter, 65, of Central North Side. Harris received nearly 47 percent of the vote, while Wilson received about 33 percent.

Harris said her campaign was successful because she's in-touch with the neighborhoods she represents.

City Controller Michael Lamb will serve as Pittsburgh’s fiscal watchdog another four years after Tuesday's 2-1 defeat over primary challenger and City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak.

Lamb, 52, will run unopposed in November for his third consecutive term, effectively ensuring a win. The Mt. Washington resident said his biggest priority for the next term is to provide an objective view of the city.

Pennsylvania ranks worst in the country for structurally deficient rural bridges, according to a report released by the Road Information Program (TRIP).

The report called “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” found that the nation’s rural transportation system is in need of improvements to roads and bridges, reducing high crash rates, and increasing connectivity and capacity. 

State Pension Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

May 19, 2015
AP Photo/Chris Knight

Pick your favorite issue or cause in Pennsylvania: public education, services for the poor, tax breaks for businesses.

Chances are, there's going to be less money for any of these moving forward because the state's public employee pension bill is growing exponentially, with a current unfunded liability of $53 billion.

Somerset County is on track to upgrade its 30-year-old 911 radio system by early fall, according to 911 coordinator Dave Fox.

Fox said four of the six tower sites have been put together.

“The (concrete) slabs have been poured … the prefabbed (equipment) shelters have been set,” Fox said. “All the grounding that needs done for the electrical around the complex has been done, the fence has been put up, the microwave dishes and antennae have been hung.”

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA


Produce distributor Paragon Foods is a behemoth in the region, providing fresh produce, dairy and poultry to institutions large and small, including Pittsburgh Public Schools, Google, Olive Garden, Mad Mex and Meat and Potatoes — even universities, hospitals and living facilities. In this episode of On The House, Larkin Page-Jacobs visits Paragon’s Chief Operating Officer John McClelland at their Lawrenceville facility.

Gates Foundation / Flickr

The Wilkinsburg School District is undergoing changes. It’s putting resources toward renovating the district’s two elementary schools. In addition, our guest , acting superintendent Dan Matsook is seeking an education partner to take the district’s middle school students. He sits down with guest host Kevin Gavin to address the challenges facing the Wilkinsburg school district. 

Matsook talks about the possibility of partnering with neighboring school districts, and the benefits it has over merging: 

“The plan we set in motion was to meet with representatives from the districts and to talk about the pros and cons of what this partnership could potentially be. What would be the hurdles? And what would be the questions you want answered?” - Dan Matsook 

Also, a program at LaRoche College keeps students globally-minded after events like the devastation in Nepal and the Green Apple Day of Service connects local people and organizations to non-profits. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Popular lore credits "world’s skinniest building" to the Sam Kee Building in Vancouver, B.C. The building measures 4-foot-11 on the ground floor and 6 feet on the second floor to accommodate overhanging bay windows.

But Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Monday that record keepers might want to reconsider, because Pittsburgh’s Skinny Building at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Wood Street measures just 5-foot-2 on each of its three floors.

Peduto called the structure, which was built in 1926, “our own unique, quirky little building.”

Toby Atticus Fraley

The robots are taking over — starting with Pittsburgh International Airport.

If Pittsburgh artist Toby Fraley gets his way, Southwest Airlines passengers arriving at gate 15 in the airport’s A Concourse will be among the first to meet them.

More than 500 structurally deficient bridges across Pennsylvania are slated for upgrades in the next year and a half.

PennDOT has contracted with Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners in what project manager Dan Galvin calls a unique public-private partnership.

“This is something that’s done quite a bit in Europe and Asia, but it is something rather unique in the United States,” Galvin said.

PA Game Commission

  A communicable brain disease similar to mad cow was detected in south central Pennsylvania wildlife.

The two most recent cases were detected in roadkill found along Bedford County highways in the western portion of Disease Management Area number 2, according to officials with the The Pennsylvania Game Commission. The discovery forced the state to slightly expand the watch area, which already includes portions of Somerset, Cambria, Huntingdon, Bedford and Blair counties. 

The signs read “work zone...reduce speed," but some Pennsylvania drivers are failing to get the message.

Three state senators have introduced legislation aimed at creating safer work zones on highways within the commonwealth.

The bills would raise fines and place cameras within active construction zones, according Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny).

Costa’s bill, specifically aimed at increasing fines and penalties, would require a one-year license suspension and $10,000 fine to any driver who kills a highway worker or first responder in a work zone.

If you are planning to purchase an alternative fuel vehicle in the next six months, you might be able to get some money for it.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has decided to continue its six-year-old Alternative Fuel Vehicle Rebate Program that provides rebates to those purchasing vehicles operating on alternative energy.

opensource.com / flickr

Companies such as UberLyft, and Airbnb have been growing in popularity in the Pittsburgh region. Today’s special look into the sharing economy begins with Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark, who discusses the business models and the effects of the sharing economy. 

According to O'Roark, the sharing economy itself is not new, but the widespread scale of it is a recent development:

"The idea of a sharing economy has actually been around for some time, but this taking off of the sharing economy -- the expansion of the sharing economy to things like tools and meals and even clothes -- is much more of a recent phenomenon." -- Brian O'Roark

Also in the program, Sociologist Kimberly Creasap talks about the role of trust in the sharing economy. In addition, we hear from Pittsburghers Bruce Chan, Andrea Wetherald and Frank Battista about their own experiences with different sharing platforms. And finally, Marty McGough of Campos Research Strategy compares the new system of sharing to older models.

UGI Energy Services has announced plans to build a new $60 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Meshoppen, Wyoming County. It will help meet peak demand for gas during cold days, and service emerging markets for LNG, like truck fleets, drill rigs, and industrial sites.

The plant will take locally produced natural gas– in its gaseous form– and cool it down to -260 degrees Fahrenheit, converting it into a liquid that can be stored and used as a transportation fuel.

The Pittsburgh Presbytery on Thursday narrowly voted to ratify the church’s national constitution to allow pastors to conduct and churches to host same-sex marriages.

The measure proposed last fall by the church’s General Assembly received enough approval from the 171 presbyteries throughout the country to ratify the constitution in March, but not all had voted before the May 15 deadline. Clergy and lay representatives voted 122-110 in favor with three abstaining.

Amtrak CEO: Railroad Takes 'Full Responsibility' For Crash

May 15, 2015
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

As federal investigators try to find out why an Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia sped up in the last minute before it derailed, the railroad's top official said it takes full responsibility for the deadly wreck.

Joseph Boardman, Amtrak president and CEO, said in a letter on Amtrak's official blog Thursday that it is cooperating fully in an investigation into the accident that killed eight people and injured more than 200 this week.

Wolf Breaks Silence On His Ideas For Fixing Underfunded Municipal Pensions

May 15, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf announced a four-person task force focused on municipal pensions – and suggested some tactics they might consider when deciding what to recommend.

Wolf had yet to say during his five months in office what, specifically, he thinks municipalities should do to deal with retirement systems underfunded by an estimated $7.7 billion.

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