Family Relationships Deter Crime

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The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative has instituted programs and systems to reduce the number of former inmates who commit new crimes and return to jail.  Yesterday, we looked at how addiction and criminal thinking contribute to recidivism.  Today we look at the role the family can play in motivating an inmate to turn around his or her life.

Pittsburgh Launches First Edible Gardens Program

Feb 4, 2013

Pittsburgh residents who live a significant distance from grocery stores or farmers' markets are being encouraged to apply to grow fruits and vegetables on a nearby city-owned lot in their neighborhood. Volunteers will work side-by-side with Pittsburgh’s Green Team on vacant properties to create, design and plant produce.

Community garden stewards will be responsible for maintenance, weeding, harvesting and distribution throughout the season.  

Wheatley Draws Attention to Black AIDS

Feb 4, 2013

One in ten Pennsylvanians is African American, yet blacks account for about 50% of state residents afflicted with AIDS.

As part of an effort to raise awareness of AIDS and HIV in the black community, State Representative Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny County) has introduced a resolution proclaiming February 7th as Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The day is part of a national movement to get members of the black population tested and educated about the disease’s prevention.

Pittsburgh Schools Report Slipping Test Scores

Feb 4, 2013

In its annual report to parents, the Pittsburgh Public School District said that on average, reading and math scores in all types of schools fell in 2012 with the worst scores going to the district’s four high schools where 50.5 percent of all students scored “proficient” in reading and just 36.1 percent hit the “proficient” mark in math.

The report has been posted on the district’s website and will be mailed out to all parents in March.

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The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s volunteer program increased dramatically in 2012.  The group links the growth to a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation that facilitated staffing and the purchase of supplies.  

President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup said the number of volunteers increased by 860%, and the number of hours volunteered went up 332%.

College Success Forum Focuses on State Education

Feb 4, 2013

What does it take to make successful Pennsylvania students?  Money, for one thing, said the keynote speaker at a forum held at Robert Morris University Monday.  Ron Cowell, president of the Educational Policy and Leadership Center, said the Corbett administration's $900 million slash to educational funding for the 2011-12 school year influenced the chances of a student succeeding.

Officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Amtrak are in talks about the future of the Pennsylvanian – that’s the route from Pittsburgh to New York, which also makes stops in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The train currently runs once a day each way. Amtrak is paying the $5.7 million to operate the route, but the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 forces Amtrak to transfer the cost of certain routes to the state. As a result, PennDOT will have to foot the bill starting in October 2013.

Pittsburgh's three rivers remain heavily tainted with metals, harmful chemical compounds, pathogens, and silt, according to a report released last week by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Some of the most common sources of pollution are abandoned mines, as well as the "urban runoff" that results from a lack of vegetation along the riverbanks. Both of these are known to suppress aquatic life. The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers are all experiencing problems from mine drainage and runoff. 

Corbett to Flat-fund PA Higher Education

Feb 4, 2013

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett said Friday he won’t propose a funding cut for state-supported and owned colleges and universities next fiscal year.

The governor’s announcement comes with strings attached: the schools will receive level funding, but they’ve promised to keep tuition hikes as low as possible. Last year, when lawmakers worked a similar deal with colleges and universities, the rule was to keep hikes within the rate of inflation – about three percent.

Despite earning a $431,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study semiconductors, Duquesne University associate chemistry professor Dr. Jennifer Aitken has no delusion that her research team will find the next important synthetic material to hit the markets.

"The odds are that we won't find the next best material," said Aitken. "More people fail than will succeed."

For the first time, PennDOT is conducting an inventory of all the bridges in Pennsylvania. Previously, the agency was only required to keep a log of any state or locally owned bridge more than 20 feet in length.

PennDOT spokesperson, Erin Waters-Trasatt, said only numbers and not conditions would be reported. “This initiative is taking a bridge and local road inventory. It is not assessing or inspecting these roads and bridges,” Waters-Trasatt said.

Visitors will soon be able to mosey about in one of the greenest buildings in the world, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory.

Starting February 12, general admission will include access to the research and education facility situated behind Phipps' glasshouse gardens. Any Phipps visitor will be able to simply walk about and read up on the building's environmentally-friendly features.

With support and rehabilitation in every aspect of their lives, some people have been able to build new lives and avoid going through a revolving door at the jail.  It's not easy, and it takes a lot of resources:  GED and job training; interview skills; drug and alcohol addiction treatment; cognitive behavioral therapy to identify and modify "criminal thinking" and "risk thoughts"; parenting classes and interaction with family specialists; and services for a year after release.

For more than 40 years, Leon Panetta has split his life on two coasts: his home in California and his work in Washington, D.C. It's a career that included 16 years in Congress, stints as White House chief of staff for President Clinton, and as the head of the CIA and the Pentagon under President Obama.

As Panetta prepares to leave his job as defense secretary, he sat down with Rachel Martin, host of Weekend Edition Sunday, to talk about his years in Washington and serving in the Obama administration.

Education to be Highlighted in Corbett Address

Feb 3, 2013

The plight of Pennsylvania's public schools will dominate many of the Legislature's debates this spring as the politics of education grows increasingly volatile.

It'll start with Gov. Tom Corbett releasing his budget proposal Tuesday.

Corbett has left open the possibility that he'll propose more aid for public schools. School districts continue to struggle a year after Republicans pushed through deep reductions in state support.

Union: 'Framework' Reached with PA Universities

Feb 3, 2013

Negotiators for Pennsylvania's state university system and the union representing about 5,500 faculty members say they have reached "framework" for a new contract to resolve a prolonged dispute.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said the accord with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education was reached early Sunday after two full days of negotiating.

Monongahela River Runs Away With Award

Feb 1, 2013

Even rivers get awards.

The Monongahela River, flowing through Greene, Fayette, Washington, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, has been named Pennsylvania’s 2013 River of the Year following online voting across the state.

Terry Brady, spokesperson for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), said the Mon won because of the strong voter turnout.

Pension Reform: Big Part of PA Budget Debate?

Feb 1, 2013

Governor Tom Corbett is expected to focus in part on the state’s rising public pension costs in his budget address Tuesday.  

Corbett has suggested he’s interested in a reform package that includes reducing the unearned benefits of current state and school employees.

But Dave Fillman, director of Council 13 of the Pennsylvania American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the state’s largest public sector union, said his group will definitely take the commonwealth to court if legislation is passed to change the benefits of current employees.

Pennsylvania’s third largest school system, the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Catholic Schools, has a fresh outlook on education. The launch of The Catholic Schools Network is a marketing initiative to create a universal platform to promote enrollment, retention, vitality of curriculum and awareness, and the benefits of a Catholic education.

The Network will include all 91 Catholic schools in the diocese, ranging from pre-K through 12th grade, in the six counties of the western Pennsylvania region. The formalized network was introduced to school administrators in January.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County voted 5 -3 Friday to oust CEO Stephen Bland.  Bland has served as head of the Port Authority since 2006, but recently, rumors of friction between him and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald have circulated. Fitzgerald has been critical of Bland over budget numbers, union relations, and service cuts. 

The “no” votes came from board veterans Mavis Rainey, Eddie Edwards Jr., and Amanda Green Hawkins.

Casey Urges Passage of Gender Pay Equity Bill

Feb 1, 2013

Nearly fifty years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of gender, women still earn significantly less than men for doing the same work.

How much less? In 2012 in Pennsylvania, women were paid $694 per week while their male peers received $849, a pay gap of 18.3 percent.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on Congress to pass pay equity legislation citing a recent report on the continuing gender pay gap.

After more than four years of construction, US Steel Corp. welcomed government and labor officials Thursday to officially commission its newest coke battery. C Battery, along with new low-emissions quench towers are expected to reduce emissions from the Mon Valley Works Clairton Plant.

US Steel has invested more than $500 million in the project, which replaces ovens that were more than 50 years old in some cases. Officials say C Battery meets all regulations set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Allegheny Department of Health.

“Stan the Man”…”A True Sports Hero”

Jan 31, 2013

The Pennsylvania State Senate today passed a resolution honoring Baseball Hall of Famer Stanley Musial.

“Stan the Man," as he was known, was a Donora, Pennsylvania native, and died January 22nd at the age of 92.

Senator Tim Solobay (D-Washington County), who introduced the measure, said Musial leaves behind a great legacy.

“ 'Stan the Man' Musial was an athlete from the greatest generation. He was a true sports hero in every sense of the word.”

Former SCI Pittsburgh Guard Found Guilty

Jan 31, 2013

A fired Pittsburgh state prison guard accused of physically and sexually assaulting inmates who were gay or serving time for child-sex crimes has been convicted on 27 counts of mistreating them and exposing himself, but was acquitted of dozens of other charges — including all of the sexual assault allegations he faced.

Beer Distributors in PA Irked By Privatization Plans

Jan 31, 2013

Governor Tom Corbett’s plan to sell off state liquor stores and allow consumers to buy wine, liquor, and beer from a wider array of retailers is rankling some businesses.

Pennsylvania has more than 1,200 beer distributors and their product is already privatized.

Under the governor’s plan, supermarkets and convenience stores would be able to buy licenses to sell beer.

That’s a scary prospect for Randy King, spokesman for the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania.

Visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Art are being asked to take photos, share experiences, and eat free cake as part of the museum’s two new projects.

Debuting February 9 and 21 respectively,  20/20: Celebrating Two Decades of the Heinz Architectural Center and Oh Snap! Your Take on Our Photographs are designed to help visitors see a trip to the galleries as part of a conversation.

"Wanna Bet?" Pennsylvanians Should Think Twice

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Pennsylvanians should probably stop to think before saying, “Let’s bet on it.”  It’s illegal in the commonwealth to organize or participate in a small betting pool like ones often seen for the Super Bowl and March Madness. 

State Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh) wants to change that.  Boscola introduced legislation to legalize small betting pools, in part to save taxpayer money.

What has become a flashpoint in the national debate over guns doesn’t appear to be gaining traction in Pennsylvania: arming school teachers to ward off mass shootings.

The same day the state Senate adopted a resolution creating a task force to study how Pennsylvania schools could be better protected in light of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut last month, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said state law already provides for arming guards in schools, and about 140 school districts and charter schools have such officers.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, restaurants and "big box" stores would be able to sell beer and wine to go under a liquor license privatization plan announced by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

"Why do we continue to deal with an antiquated liquor system that is seventy-five years old? The question should be, why don't we have choice? Why don't we have convenience, like 48 other states in the union?" asked Corbett, calling the state's system of liquor sales a "vestige of prohibition."

Earlier this month Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced he would file an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA for how it planned to appropriate $60 million in fines against Penn State from the Jerry Sandusky case.  Corbett said any fine money should remain in the state.

The state Senate today voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would require the fine money be spent on programs to prevent child abuse and help abuse victims in Pennsylvania.