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Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

This is the second in a three-part web series looking ahead to 2017 with members of Pittsburg City Council. Find part one here.

Council members Deb Gross, Corey O’Connor and Daniel Lavelle represent three very different districts, but the issue of equitable development looms large for each of them. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania is staking its claim to more than $23 million in federal funding that Verizon turned down to expand high-speed internet service to rural customers in the state.

The Federal Communication Commission's Connect America Fund provides funding to telecommunications providers to build new network infrastructure or upgrade existing broadband networks in regions that lack it. Companies that take the money must agree to offer fast internet speeds as well as meet other targets.

Ian Willms / for Keystone Crossroads

 

A diverse group of very young students sit cross-legged for story time at Rose Avenue elementary in Toronto.  The kids are joyful, yet focused, and the group is small enough that the two teachers in the room are able to give one-on-one attention when needed.  

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Despite numerous layoffs and realignments in the Pennsylvania gas industry in 2016, the year is ending with more drill rigs operating in the state than at the same time last year.

The number of active gas drill rigs in Pennsylvania went up from 26 in December of 2015 to 31 in 2016. The increase comes at a time when the number of active rigs nationwide is down more than 10 percent – down to 637 in 2016, versus 709 in 2015.

Matt Rourke / AP

The 2017 legislative session has yet to begin, but some lawmakers are already making plans for the new year, and casino-related laws are among those at the top of the list.

A closed-door meeting on Jan. 3 has been planned between lawmakers and representatives from all of the state’s 12 casinos.

When it was passed this summer, the state’s operating budget included $100 million in new gambling revenue, but no bill was ever passed to provide the money.

courtesy: city of Pittsburgh

  When Bill Peduto became mayor of Pittsburgh three years ago, he restructured some of the city departments and created a new one: the Department of Innovation and Performance.

One of his first hires was Pittsburgh native Debra Lam to be the city’s first ever Chief Innovation Officer.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Lam said. “We took the old city Information Systems Department, which was just an IT department, and (Peduto) saw technology as a means rather than an end; and he wanted to see technology as a driving point to improve the quality of life for Pittsburgh.”

Ian Willms / for Keystone Crossroads

When Erica Brunato decided to become a teacher in Ontario, she knew the road ahead would be long and steep.

“We all knew coming into this program — even just applying for the program — what it was going to be like, right? And I said, ‘I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl.’ So that didn’t stop me,” she said.

Compared to Pennsylvania, teacher preparation in Ontario is more rigorous and the job market is much more competitive.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania’s deer and elk farmers are optimistic about new research into chronic wasting disease. 

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a form of prion disease. 

Joe Ulrich / WITF

 

Jobs in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry declined 32 percent in the second quarter of 2016, compared to the same time period last year, new state data show.

nanoGriptech

The team at nanoGriptech is eager to talk about the company’s products, but they’re less enthusiastic about discussing how their products are made.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 FM WESA

When Pennsylvania Attorney General Elect Josh Shapiro takes the oath of office Jan. 17 he will be moving into an office that has been racked by controversy.  The last elected Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, was sentenced in October to 10 to 23 months in prison on charges of perjury and abuse of her office.

Shapiro said he believes he as a track record of acting ethically and will instill that in his staff.

Mel Evans / AP

Pennsylvania is throttling back on one of its signature economic development programs.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  reports the administration of Governor Tom Wolf has sent rejection letters to Philadelphia, Coatesville and other municipalities that submitted applications to the Keystone Opportunity Zone program.

Baastian Slabbers / NewsWorks

This year saw the end of one of the most dramatic political roller-coasters in recent Pennsylvania history: the tenure of former state Attorney General, Democrat Kathleen Kane.

Kane was convicted of perjury this summer and stepped down from her post, but the controversy surrounding her far predates that.

Ian Willms / For Keystone Crossroads

 

Eight year-old Sirvat Labiba emigrated with her family from Bangladesh to Ontario, Canada when she was three. She lives in the Crescent Town neighborhood of Toronto with her mother, father and little sister in a high-rise apartment tower.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Air quality in western Pennsylvania improved in 2016, according to three regional monitors tracked by the Allegheny County Health Department.

“It was a good year in ozone,” said Jayme Graham, the department's air quality manager.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

It started as a pothole.

A driver blew a tire in the Borough of Ephrata at 6 a.m. on Election Day and alerted the public works department.

City of Pittsburgh

This is the first in a three-part web series looking ahead to 2017 with members of Pittsburgh City Council.

Pittsburgh's nine Democratic City Council members will soon find themselves governing in an era where Republicans control not only the state legislature, but both houses of Congress and the presidency. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Lawyers for a Pittsburgh man accused of entering the United States multiple times without permission are asking for prosecutors to lessen the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez lived with his wife and three children in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, where he was an activist for immigration rights. He was arrested in May and has been in a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Sure, everyone in the family bundles up, squishes into the family car and drives to the one street with the good Christmas lights each year. 

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve year this, a phenomenon some are dubbing Chrismukkah. In 2013, the second night of Hanukkah was on Thanksgiving and was dubbed Thanksgivukkah.

But why do the dates of Hanukkah vary so widely from year to year?

“The basic thing to know about the Hebrew calendar is that it’s a lunar calendar and not a solar calendar,” said Adam Shear, director of the Jewish Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Deb Schmersal glides around the floor, holding hands with her partner, Jeffrey, as they dance. Their moves aren’t perfect, but that’s not the point at Yes, You Can Dance!

The organization, founded in 2011, uses dance to promote wellness for people with special needs, chronic degenerative diseases and disabilities.

Over the past six years, it has grown and blossomed with the help of some dedicated volunteers, including Schmersal.

New App Helps Immigrants Deal With Complicated Tangle Of Forms

Dec 23, 2016
Jennifer Lynn / WHYY

 

For the 2 million people who move to the U.S. every year who wish to live and work here legally on a permanent basis, one big step involves paperwork — and lots of it. Filling out immigration forms can be tedious, confounding, and it comes at an expense.

In an effort to streamline the process, attorneys Jeremy Peskin and James Pittman have created Borderwise, a Philadelphia company with an app that prepares immigration applications based on answers to simple questions.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Moving people from one place to another means traffic: highway jams, crowded buses, and overworked subways. But one transit option remains blissfully serene: cable-propelled transit systems.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

For the third straight year, the Pittsburgh Public School’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a general budget without a tax increase.

Michael Conroy / AP

Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown is donating $100,000 to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The hospital's president and chief development officer, Greg Barrett, says there were "little rumblings" that Brown might be planning a donation. The mystery was put to rest when Brown posted a picture of the check on Snapchat Thursday night.

Brown says this is his first big charitable donation, but he's hoping to do more in the future. Brown says it's "a wonderful time of the year to give back."

This Pittsburgh Group Is Pioneering The 'Uber Of Food Recovery'

Dec 22, 2016
412 Food Rescue

Chances are,  all that leftover food from your office party or wedding might end up in a dumpster—and eventually the landfill. Unless a hero swoops in.

Because it’s the 21st century, that hero is a new app. It’s called Food Rescue Hero, and 412 Food Rescue—a nonprofit in Pittsburgh—has been working with local developers over the past 18 months to get it off the ground.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state health department plans to start accepting applications for growers and dispensers in Pennsylvania’s newly-formed medical marijuana program on Feb. 20.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is a pretty good place to talk about why reliable infrastructure matters, said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The celebration in Pittsburgh City Council chambers Tuesday over the creation of a Housing Opportunity Fund was short-lived. Even before the final vote was taken, the focus turned to finding a revenue stream to support the fund.

“We have now created a box with a bow and wrapping paper but there is no gift in it,” Councilman Ricky Burgess said.  “We are now telling low- and moderate-income people in Pittsburgh that they count. The question is will we actually mean it?”

Jed Conklin / AP

The benefits of treating ear infections with antibiotics for 10 days far outweighs any benefit associated with reducing a child’s exposure to the medication, according to researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“No question,” said Alejandro Hoberman, the hospital's division chief of general academic pediatrics. “Even more than what we expected. The five-day treatment did not work.”

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