News

PA Budget Becomes Law; Some Lawmakers Cry Foul

Jul 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state officially has a budget.

The $31.5 billion spending plan went into effect at midnight on Monday, without Governor Tom Wolf’s signature. But negotiations still aren’t finished on the revenue plan to back it up.

Deadline notwithstanding, lawmakers did seem to have a productive day of talks on the spending plan.

Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher called the progress “encouraging.” She said it seems likely a vote could come soon.

HAS Haiti / Facebook

For the past 60 years, Hopital Albert Schweitzer has provided medical care to some of Haiti’s most vulnerable. The facility started under the leadership of the late Dr. Larry Mellon of the Pittsburgh philanthropic family, and his wife, Gwen. Since their inception 60 years ago, they’ve sent some of the best medical experts to Haiti to deal with everything from natural disasters to global health epidemics. We’ll hear about what the hospital is focusing on now and how they’ve evolved over the past 60 years from HAS volunteer Loroushima Ostin and  Jayson Samuels, Major Gifts Officer for HAS..

Margaret J. Krauss / Keystone Crossroads

 

"Are you registered to vote?" Dave Tessitor asked a man as he walked past the library in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

"Yes," the man said, not stopping.

Tessitor fell in step. "We're collecting signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot," he said, walking up the street with the man. He only turned back several blocks later, the cargo pocket of his shorts one pamphlet lighter. He shrugged and smiled. And then a young couple came out of the library. "Excuse me, are you registered to vote?"

Toby Talbot / AP

A new report praises Pennsylvania doctors for their use of opioid-based pain treatments for chronic illnesses, especially cancer.

The report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network comes at time, though, when many legislators and organizations are working to fight opioid addiction.

David Sibley / Facebook

Ornithologist David Sibley is a celebrity when it comes to all things birds. He’s written several books documenting his findings throughout the U.S. including the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior and The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Mr. Sibley is coming to the Steel City as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture summer series and joins us to talk about his career writing about birds.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is making Market Square more engaging through super-sized games. All ages gather to play with the giant Jenga, Connect Four, ping pong, and corn hole sets. PDP CEO Jeremy Waldrup says incorporating games and other activities, such as yoga and farmer’s markets, are all part of the partnership’s goal of making downtown a fun place to visit.

Sen. Judy Schwank

All kinds of signs can decorate a highway work zone. One local lawmaker wants to make sure at least one enforcing speed is taken more seriously.

Joseph LaQuatra, business manager of the Laborers’ Local No. 1058, which represents Pittsburgh highway workers, said signs for speed cameras make a difference. 

“All you see is break lights,” LaQuatra said, referring to drivers slowing down after spotting speed cameras in the 13 states where they're required. “People actually go the speed limit through the work zone. Up here (in Pennsylvania) … there’s no consequence.”

US Department of Education / Flickr

A shortage of certified substitute teachers is leading school districts across Pennsylvania to put students in gyms and cafeterias instead of classrooms.

“It’s a crisis,” said state Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), the minority chairman of the Education Committee. 

According to Dinniman, school district officials told the committee that they’ve only been able to fill 70 percent of vacancies because of the lack of certified substitutes. He said the shortage is impacting urban, suburban and rural schools.

Espen Sorvik / flickr

Pigovian taxes, such as Philadelphia's new soda tax, create very mixed reactions among consumers. University of Pittsburgh Katz Business School professor Cait Lamberton explained an individual's’ view of the issue depends on their perception of how certain personal behaviors impact the whole community.

Tobacco Opponents Tout Cigarette Tax Benefits

Jul 11, 2016
fried dough / flickr

Anti-tobacco advocates from the American Cancer Society are calling on state lawmakers to levy an increased cigarette tax as part of the 2017 budget.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

It may be summer, but on a recent sunny June day, a small group of teachers and students stayed indoors. They sat in classrooms at the South Fayette School District campus for a different take on traditional summer school.  

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he'll let a roughly $31 billion spending bill become law without his signature, even though lawmakers are struggling to figure out how to pay for some of it.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of grassroots activists from across the country marched through downtown Pittsburgh Friday afternoon, demanding racial, economic and environmental justice.

The participants are part of the People's Convention taking place this weekend. The gathering of community leaders aims to create a community of action and share best practices for inciting change. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Torrey Davis wants the police violence to stop.

After the police shooting deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Davis planted himself in front of the North Side Zone 1 police office on Thursday, holding up a sign decrying the violence against black men by police officers.

Center for Popular Democracy / Facebook

Hundreds of activists, community organizers and progressive elected officials from around the country are meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend. 

    I scream, you scream, Pittsburghers scream for ice cream. Summer is prime time for everybody’s favorite treat. WESA’s Sarah and Yelp Pittsburgh’s Rachel have taken on the daunting task of exploring, researching and taste-testing Pittsburgh’s favorite ice cream joints for your eating needs. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Elaine Thompson / AP Images

Former Seattle city councilman Nick Licata is in town this weekend for a series of social justice events. Licata will march alongside 1500 demonstrators in the Still We Rise march on Friday, speak at the People’s Convention on Saturday and promote his new book “Becoming a Citizen Activist” at the Big Idea Bookstore on Sunday.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Tracy Organ Cease spends every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Northside Common Ministries kitchen preparing lunch. Coffee in hand, he also meets with his lunchtime diners and makes sure they’re connected to any other services they may need.

“It’s very humbling to be at the point where you may need to go and get this kind of assistance to be able to eat today,” Cease said.

And Cease would know. It wasn’t long ago that he was the one getting a free lunch, rather than making it. That’s why he tries to provide an inviting atmosphere to those he serves.

dmva.pa.gov

An audit of the commonwealth’s veteran affairs program has turned up preventable admissions delays in state homes for elderly vets.

Over nearly two years, investigators found admission to the six veterans’ homes could range anywhere from one day, to 443 days, depending on location.

The homes are located in Chester, Lackawanna, Erie, Allegheny, Philadelphia and Blair counties.

Medill DC / Flickr

Pennsylvania's junior U.S. senator watched his anti-sanctuary city legislation come up short on Wednesday.

Republican Pat Toomey’s proposal is seen by some as largely a byproduct of running for office in an election year dominated by partisan issues. 

The measure would have cut off certain federal funding to cities, like Philadelphia, where jails and police don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

In the past, Toomey was best known for his fiscal conservatism.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration announced Thursday it has finalized the acquisition of 660 acres of woodland to create a park in the southern Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hays.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority bought the “Hays Woods” property from Pittsburgh Development Group II for $5 million, a figure city leaders said is well below market value.

In a statement, Peduto called the sale of the property a "tremendous gift."

"It will preserve hundreds of acres of untouched urban forest for generations," Peduto said.

Ezra Wolfinger / NOVA

For decades following the horrors of the Holocaust, rumors circulated about an escape tunnel in the Ponar Forest near Vilnius, Lithuania dug by a band of imprisoned Jews.  The claim remained folk legend, until recently.  

Google Maps

Built in 1794, the Beltzhoover Homestead, located in the Beltzhoover area of South Hills, is one of the oldest buildings in Pittsburgh. According to historian Jessica Cox,  the home was present when the immediate area was just a “rugged” outpost.

Andrea Koerner

Know a fictional language? Here’s your chance to show off your skills.

Pittsburgh's Office of Public Art took to Craigslist and Facebook this week seeking translators proficient in Klingon, Elvish and Dothraki to translate a specialty art tour to coincide with the Wizard World conference visiting in November.

Director Renee Piechocki said the office is always looking to broaden its engagement with regional public art by offering an experience passionate fans will find exciting. It’s important to consider different perspectives, she said.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

It’s been 200 years since Pittsburgh’s first mayor, Ebenezer Denny, was sworn into office on July 9, 1816, and on Saturday, his great-great-great-great-great-grandson Harmar Denny IV will join hundreds of other descendants of 50 former mayors to celebrate Pittsburgh’s bicentennial.

In total, 470 people related to former mayors will be in attendance.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

With little news of progress on the 2017 state budget coming out of Harrisburg, school advocates around the state are crossing their fingers a resolution comes soon.

If not, Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said state-funded institutions will be in bad shape come fall.

Robinson said schools used up a lot of resources during last year’s nine-month budget impasse.

Kelly DeLay / flickr

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland is still two weeks away, but local citizens are already preparing for it.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Norfolk Southern blasted loose boulders Wednesday from a Mt. Washington hillside that were threatening to tumble onto its railroad tracks and a busy city road below. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

When Dakila arrived last year, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium doctors decided something wasn't quite right.

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