News

Gov. Wolf Eliminating 'Thousands' Of Unfilled State Jobs

Dec 16, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says he's eliminating thousands of unfilled positions in state government as the state faces a large budget deficit.

The Wolf administration told cabinet agencies in a Friday memo obtained by The Associated Press that it is effectively limiting the size of the state workforce to the number of positions now filled.

Wolf's press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, says the decision will affect thousands of positions. But he says he doesn't have a precise number or know how much money will be saved.

Sarah E Schneider / WESA

The Confluence – where the news comes together is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin. They go behind the headlines taking an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region. 

Notorious 86-Year-Old Jewel Thief Strikes Again

Dec 16, 2016
John Bazemore / AP

 

An 86-year-old jewel thief who has kept jewelry sellers on their toes since the 1970s has struck again, police say - this time by slipping a $2,000 diamond necklace into her pocket.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Dominic “Mickey” Sgro leaned on the back of a highly adaptive, metallic pink bicycle shaking his head. His friend is bragging on him again.

Are We Heading For A Hydropower Boom On The Three Rivers?

Dec 16, 2016
Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr

Behind a chain link fence, Paul Jacob watches water spill over a dam on Neville Island—a 1,200-acre stretch of land in the Ohio River near Pittsburgh that’s a hive of industrial lots and chemical plants. 

TheUglySweaterShop / Flickr

We know you’re itching to get a few more miles out of your favorite ugly holiday sweater and squeeze in some last-minute holiday shopping. That’s why 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Kovash, Yelp Pittsburgh’s Rachel Carlson and Josh Raulerson of the PA Environmental Council have you covered.

Gateway School District / Facebook

School police officers sworn into the Gateway School District were equipped with firearms for the first time after the district’s petition for an armed force was approved Tuesday. The district plans to have an armed officer at each of the district’s seven schools.

A similar petition was denied in September by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Timothy O’Reilly who said the school board did not think the decision through and officers did not have enough training. The school board is still appealing that verdict.

Joshua Ganderson / Flickr

Power has been restored to a suburban Pittsburgh borough after three transformer explosions left its 3,000 residents without power for more than six hours in frigid temperatures.

Pitcairn is about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh and lost power about 3 a.m. Thursday.

Although Duquesne Light supplies electricity to Pitcairn, a borough-run company distributes it to residents. Duquesne Light restored the power and Pitcairn officials say residents were back in service by about 9:30 a.m.

Oil And Gas Development Could Pose A Risk To Struggling PA Bats

Dec 15, 2016
US Fish and Wildlife Service

 

A coalition of nine oil and gas companies is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a 50-year permit that would allow the killing or disturbing of five bat species in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The permit, which is covered under the Endangered Species Act, is called an incidental take permit because the impacts are incidental to carrying out a legal activity, like constructing pipelines.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to the creation of a “Housing Opportunity Fund,” but didn’t create a revenue stream for it.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A bill given preliminary approval by the Pittsburgh City Council Wednesday would extend the use of parking meters in the South Side until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. City officials plan to enforce the new parking rules in February.

GOP Eyes Big State Government Changes In Lean Budget Year

Dec 14, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State officials warned Wednesday Pennsylvania faces a projected $600 million shortfall for its current budget year, while one of the Legislature's top Republicans suggested sweeping structural changes to state government may be needed to solve the latest fiscal jam.

The projected shortfall in the state government's $31.5 billion budget is very bad fiscal news for budget makers who have struggled to address a persistent post-recession deficit that has damaged the state's credit rating.

Yoshimitsu Kurooka / flickr

A new program aims at rewarding Pittsburgh employers who hire Pittsburgh Promise scholarship recipients.

Councilman Corey O'Connor announced the program on Monday. Businesses that hire Pittsburgh Promise alumni would be eligible for grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.

Companies must hire a college graduate for full-time employment and retain the employee for at least six months. O'Connor says the money will benefit employers and employees. 

Matt Rourke / AP

As the state legislature and governor contend with a mounting structural state deficit of more than two billion dollars, the topic of government spending—and the need to make it more efficient—has become inescapable around the Capitol.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Tens of thousands of commuters who use light-rail trains to travel through Pittsburgh ran late this morning.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County blamed an unspecified computer glitch that caused significant delays. At one point, trains couldn't travel into Downtown or the North Shore on Wednesday morning.

Transit spokesman Jim Ritchie said the problem was based in the rail operating center in the South Hills.

Trains returned to normal service about 8:15 a.m., Ritchie said, but they remained off-schedule through the morning rush.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

The city of Pittsburgh has cited itself for owning run-down properties and a local judge isn't letting the city withdraw some citations, which officials say were mistakenly filed.

The city's Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections has ramped up citations against owners of eyesore properties, in hopes landlords will repair them.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

  The Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania is opening 365 miles of snowmobile trails on Friday.

Forest Supervisor Sherry Tune says recent snows made it possible to open the trails. Registration with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is required.

Tune said the only trail that won't open Friday is the Snowmobile Trail Connector No. 12, which is flooded.

Katie Meyer / WITF

The state Department of Banking and Securities has issued a progress report on a year-old program intended to educate Pennsylvanians about financial risks and management.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

A lot has changed over its 35 year history, but the Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour has always started on Beech Avenue at Calvary United Methodist Church.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

For decades, the city of Pittsburgh has struggled to diversify its police force. The Census Bureau says that African Americans comprise about 25 percent of the city’s population, but according to the Bureau of Police, African Americans only make up 13 percent of the police force.

“But we’ve made a turn,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. 

Katie Meyer / WITF

More than 500 people employed at three of Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation offices are losing their jobs right before Christmas.

The reason was political, and has erupted into a partisan battle.

But behind the scenes at the Altoona, Lancaster, and Allentown UC centers, the furloughed employees and state officials are working make sense of the situation.

The news of the layoffs came November 16th, after the GOP-led Senate declined to vote on a funding bill that had been supported by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Professors at Pennsylvania’s 14 state colleges and universities have voted to approve a contract agreement between the union that represents them and the state school system that employs them.

That contract was hard-fought—a standoff over its terms culminated in a three-day faculty strike in October.

Pennsylvania Seeks Safer Ways To Buy And Sell Online

Dec 13, 2016
Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

Allentown’s Mayor Ed Pawlowski and Police Chief Keith Morris announced recently that people who are engaging in internet-based sales and purchases can now conduct their transactions at a designated parking spot in front of the police patrol station at 10th & Hamilton Street. The idea is to provide a place where people can buy or sell items with a heightened level of safety.

Charlotte Cooper / flickr

Reproductive health advocates around the region are reacting to last week’s legislative action in Ohio that would ban abortion at six weeks gestation, well before many women know they are pregnant. Gov. John Kasich now has 10 days to act on the “heartbeat law.”

Identified Technologies

The logo may look like a drone, and the drone might get all the attention on the job site, but the leadership of Identified Technologies Corporation in Larimer says drones are not the focus of their growing company.

“We do use them as a tool as part of this work flow, but the drone has become the least interesting and least special part of the work flow,” said Dick Zhang, the company's CEO and founder.

They use commercially available drones and cameras to create two and three-dimensional models of construction sites to help monitor progress.

UMVUR1972 / Wikimedia Commons

Nurses at Indiana Regional Medical Center called off a strike scheduled for Dec. 23 after reaching a tentative agreement with management early Tuesday morning.

The union represents more than 340 nurses and nurse anesthetists who have been working without a contract since October 2015.

Indiana Registered Nurses Association spokesperson Annie Slezickey said the two sides reached a “fair and equitable” contract after 13.5 hours of overnight bargaining.

“Last night we saw a true effort of compromise from both sides, from the hospital and from the union,” she said.

Keith Srakocic / AP

 

Approximately 190 Ambridge Area School District teachers are on strike.

Schools are closed Tuesday after educators in the Beaver County district walked off the job following months of contract negotiations. The school board and teachers' union remain at odds over salaries and health benefits.

Specifically, the district says the teachers pay only $25 per month for full family health care coverage, and are balking at a proposed increase in their share of the monthly premium.

The teachers' contract expired in June 2015.

Kristi Jan Hoover / City Theatre

For Pittsburgh’s theater community, national headlines like “Oscars So White” feel just as relevant to local stage productions. 

City Theatre Company artistic producer Reginald L. Douglas said playwrights often write with certain types of actors in mind to speak about themes of race, class or gender. A play about the immigrant experience could be cast with white actors, he said, but that might not tell the same story.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

First year medical student Aneta Kowalski knocked on the door of the classroom. Upon entering, she used sanitizer to clean her hands and introduced herself to the patient, Brandi Welle. 

Kowalski and Welle sat down and began to talk. Welle said that she was in a car accident four years ago. She was suffering from hip pain and was dependent on pain killers. But she also no longer has a prescription and had been dropped by several doctors for her dependency.

“I think I have a problem,” Welle told Kowalski. “I think I need some help." 

Dad Who Received Cell Phone Video Of His Lifeless Son Is Headed To Trial

Dec 13, 2016
Allegheny County Police

 

A man accused of not calling 911 when the mother of his toddler son sent him videos of the boy's lifeless body during hours' worth of angry text messages is headed to trial on child endangerment charges.

Andre Price Jr., 24, of McKeesport, waived a preliminary hearing Monday.

Defense attorney James Sheets said Price is still mourning the death of his 17-month-old son, Andre III. Sheets told The Associated Press that the boy's mother, Christian Clark, had made similar, but empty, threats before to kill the boy and the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Angel.

Pages