News

In case you’ve missed the sudden onslaught of green decorations around the ‘burgh, this Social Club is all about Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations!

For those interested in an authentic Irish experience, Rachel and Josh tip you off on how to tell if you’re in an authentic Irish pub, and recommend the top Irish watering holes around town guaranteed to provide the best Saint Patrick's Day celebrations.

Not one for shamrocks and whiskey? On Friday night, the Carnegie Science Center is hosting their 21+ Night, H2OH, and the Thrill Mill will host a Yoga + Wine Mixer.  

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The state Commonwealth Court must decide whether to consider a lawsuit filed by schools and advocates that attempts to force the state Legislature to boost education funding.

Essential Pittsburgh: Investigating Greek Life

Mar 12, 2015
Jeff Simms / Flickr

A video of members of the SAE fraternity at University of Oklahoma performing a racist chant has been garnering national headlines. It also places a spotlight on the negative aspects of Greek life at institutions of higher education in the United States. Atlantic Monthly magazine writer Caitlin Flanagan conducted a yearlong investigation of Greek problems titled The Dark Power of Fraternities. And Eric Kelderman writes about Greek life for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Talking about the enduring popularity of the rather old-fashioned tradition of fraternities, Flanagan says:

“You would think if there were something as un-modern, essentially un-modern, as a fraternity -- you know, clubs that are largely all white, clubs that are exclusionary in all sorts of ways and that have real problems in terms of violence against women -- you would think in modern America those would be the sort of things dying on the vine. You’d think there’d be no role for them at all anymore. And yet they are currently at kind of a zenith of popularity. So we’re really stuck here with a system that nobody knows what to do with but that hundreds of thousands of young men absolutely love.”

Asked about the challenges of university oversight of fraternities and sororities, Kelderman explains:

“Universities have struggled with this idea of holding Greek organizations accountable. They’re private organizations, they often live in privately owned housing, and that creates a number of complications …”

Also in the program, former August Wilson Center CEO Andre Kimo Stone Guess and Robert Morris University Director of Special Programs and Student Community Standards offer their perspectives on contemporary fraternity culture.
 

  

Flickr user DrivingtheNortheast

Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and celebration is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday. We’ve put together a list of what you need to know to make the most of the day.

Mary Wilson / WITF

The dispute over Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to fire the state’s Open Records director is in the hands of a state court.

A Commonwealth Court panel will consider whether Wolf had the power to dismiss Erik Arneson, appointed by former Gov. Tom Corbett.

Wolf’s lawyers say the Open Records director is an at-will employee of the governor’s administration.

But Matt Haverstick, a lawyer for Arneson, says the law creating the office clearly intends to insulate it from the whims of the governor.

David Trawin / flickr

Support for legalizing medical marijuana is growing in Pennsylvania, according to a poll conducted by Robert Morris University.

The survey showed 67.5 percent of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, up from 56.1 percent in a similar RMU poll last year.

Children with mental health issues in Pennsylvania face a variety of challenges as they age, including difficulties finding state and federal assistance, as well as proper healthcare.

These issues and more are being addressed today and Thursday by State Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) at his second annual Children and Youth Disability and Mental Health Summit.

“Anybody, in my opinion, who are dealing with disabilities in mental health, cannot be satisfied by what we are seeing from our state and federal government now,” Miller said.

The state's acting treasurer has said the commonwealth spent about $100,000 complying with the federal investigation into former Treasurer Rob McCord.

McCord pleaded guilty last month to two federal charges that he tried to shake down potential donors to give to his gubernatorial campaign or risk losing business or perks with the commonwealth.

"No agency chief counsel wants to spend funds on an investigation," said Christopher Craig, executive deputy state treasurer and chief counsel. "However, these matters have to be and demand to be taken extremely seriously."

Mary Wilson / WITF

Attorney General Kathleen Kane was all about the budget when she arrived in front of the state House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and lawmakers fired no questions her way about legal "bumps in the road" involving her office over the past year.

Brad Knabel / Flickr

Mt. Lebanon has been trying to reduce its deer population with a controversial program in which deer are baited, trapped into a small area, and then shot. Township officials have said they are trying to reduce the number of incidents involving deer and cars.Tom Fazi, Information and Education Supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Southwest Region, says the plan was developed by Mt. Lebanon's community leaders, and that the Commission is there to guide their decision-making.

 

"They met the provisions of the law in all respects. We are duty-bound to offer them the permit. That doesn't mean we'll wash our hands of it. We have the authority to revoke this permit immediately if the provisions aren't met." -Tom Fazi

 

But some members of the community say the deer cull is inhumane and barbaric. Leila Sleiman, a representative of Pittsburgh Animal Rights believes that the process is not being accurately presented to the community. 

 

"From its conception, this plan has not been transparent. It has nothing to do with public safety or how inhumane it is. It's been hurdle after hurdle for [local government], of doing things wrong with public safety not in mind." -Leila Sleiman

 

They were joined by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter John Hayes, who has been covering this issue.

 

Also in the program is a discussion of Hillary Clinton's email account usage, with former U.S. Ambassador Dan Simpson.


Women make up 74 percent of the workforce at nonprofits in southwestern Pennsylvania but they are only being paid 75 percent as much as men.

That’s according to a survey from the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management's most recent survey.

“There’s a whole collection of reasons why this pay gap persists, but it really is troubling because we are supposed to be about social justice,” Peggy Outon, executive director, said. “And nonprofit organizations mostly have a mission to advance social justice, and we have a bigger pay gap in nonprofits than we do in business.”

Eric E Castro / flickr

Public school watchdog group A+ Schools wanted to know what principals in the Pittsburgh Public Schools were doing to help support students, so they asked them.

Carey Harris, A+ Schools Executive Director, said they found that many of the schools – even those with a large number of low-income students – are getting “great results.”

Pennsylvania Sen. David Argall (R-Schuykill-Berks) recently introduced a bill which would limit insurers to a year to challenge a bill to a provider.

The legislation would require insurance carriers to review treatment plans, claim forms and bills within a year. It would also require a written statement from the insurer explaining the basis for any retroactive denial so the physician understands what the denial is.

According to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, inefficient claim processing and payment can take up 10-14 percent of work time for a physician.

AP Photo/Pittsburgh Police Department via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A man whose fatal stabbing of a K-9 prompted Pennsylvania lawmakers to stiffen the penalty for harming police animals has been sentenced to up to 44 years in prison.

A judge on Tuesday decided John Lewis Rush should serve a minimum of 17 years, nine months in prison and said he must also serve eight years of probation after being released.

The 22-year-old Stowe Township resident was convicted in December of torturing a police animal, aggravated assault on the dog's handler and three other officers, and other offenses.

Tax Exemption Payback Could Stabilize PA Communities, Some Lawmakers Say

Mar 10, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

State Rep. Rob Freeman, D-Easton, wants to use liquor tax proceeds to make up for local government revenue lost to property tax exemption.

Freeman first pitched this to an enthusiastic House Local Government Committee in 2007, but the recession hit before it got any traction.

Autophotomoto / Flickr

There’s a continual emphasis on the importance of obtaining a college education. However, as the costs associated with higher education continue to increase, is a college degree diminishing in importance among college students and their parents?  Marty McGough Vice President for Market Insights, of Campos Research Strategy gives his take on that theory.

Students and would-be students are increasingly weighing the costs of college against the benefits, McGough says:

“I think that the pressures placed on [college students] -- the cost of college tuition, what’s expected of them, a job market that’s pretty bleak, and that they’re going to be saddled with the student loan debt -- makes their emphasis right off the bat in freshman year thinking, ‘When I graduate, what kind of job am I going to get? Will I be able to pay back my student loans?’ And they make a calculation in their mind whether university is really worth it from a financial perspective. And I think that maybe ten or twenty years ago that was less likely.”

Also in the program, Post-Gazette politics editor James O’Toole talks about the local political endorsement process, Rep. Dan Miller describes the Children and Youth Disability and Mental Health Summit, Margaret J. Krauss looks back on the history of Pittsburgh’s “h.”


Some of the big ticket items in Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for FY 2015-16 include $6.1 billion for basic education for public schools across the commonwealth and $2.27 billion for the Department of Corrections to operate state prisons.

A smaller line item in the governor’s $29.9 billion spending plan is for human services at the county level. 

“We will restore a small amount of funding,” Wolf said in his budget address March 3. “It’s not a lot of money, but it is important money.”

Beth Navarro

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the publication of "The Great Gatsby" – the height of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary fame. But a new novel suggests that some of Fitzgerald’s best work came much later, at a time of loss and personal struggle.

Flickr user Alex Proimos

The Wolf administration has announced its timeline for the transition to a traditional Medicaid expansion.

Beginning in April, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will transfer individuals enrolled in the General Assistance and Select Plan programs from the private coverage option (PCO) to the new Adult benefit package, dubbed HealthChoices.

Cory Doctorow / flickr

For the second time in two years, the Pennsylvania House is considering a bill that would expand high school students’ access to advanced placement (AP) courses in the state.

House Bill 512, introduced by Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), would establish standard practices for how public colleges and universities accept transferable credits from students who pass AP, International Baccalaureate or College-Level Examination exams. The measure has moved out of committee and awaits action by the full house.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

The state budget discussions are a week old, and lawmakers are mired in dueling numbers.

Governor Tom Wolf's administration has referred to a $2.3 billion budget deficit, but the state Independent Fiscal Office estimates the deficit to be a bit south of that figure.

"We would revise it down to something closer to $1.5 or $1.6" billion, said IFO Director Matthew Knittel, during his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee. Knittel said his agency's estimate accounts for lapses -- budget funds that were never spent.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new proposal from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) strengthens regulations on the oil and gas industry, while attempting to increase transparency and protect the general public.

“The release of today’s draft update to the commonwealth’s Oil and Gas regulations  in my view represents a great step forward for responsible drilling in Pennsylvania, and my definition of responsible drilling is protecting public health and the environment, while enabling drilling to proceed,” said Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Quigley.

Even 23 inches of snow in 1993 was not enough to stop the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, so organizers this year are hoping for a great turnout with the spring-like weather being predicted for Saturday. 

The March 14 parade is expected to include 23,000 participants, making it the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S.

The parade, which steps off at 10 a.m., will feature more than 200 units, including high school bands, bagpipers, drum corps, Irish dancers, Irish entertainers and groups of Irish organizations from throughout the region.  

Advocacy groups that work on behalf of prisoners' rights to free speech won a right to a trial on constitutionality of the Crime Victims’ Act, which was passed in October of 2014.

It was proposed and passed in the aftermath of when Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has spent the last 33 years in prison after being convicted in the homicide of a police officer, was invited to give the commencement speech at his Alma Mater, Goddard College via video recording of a phone call.

Abu-Jamal has maintained innocence.

Allegheny County Police Still Keep Many Records On Paper

Mar 9, 2015
Halle Stockton / PublicSource

For the Allegheny County Police Department, searching for details on past crimes sometimes calls for cabinet duty.

That means a team of detectives literally thumbing through paper records in old-fashioned file cabinets.

Last year, the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Reviews ruled on more than 10,000 appeals from property owners, municipalities, and school districts that thought certain homes and businesses were paying too much or not enough in property taxes.

The number of appeals declined from 2013, when many property owners and taxing bodies challenged the 2013 county-wide property reassessment values, according to Eric Montarti, senior policy analyst for the conservative Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Two bills are sitting in the Senate Committee on State Government aimed at strengthening Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

Legislation introduced by Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) would bring more transparency to state-related universities, while Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s (R-Delaware) bill would establish a fee structure for commercial requests and update definitions within the law.

New Map Shows Fracking on PA State Lands

Mar 9, 2015
Courtesy photo/ PennFuture

  There are more than 8,000 Marcellus Shale natural gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania, with 430 on public lands. Now the public can see exactly where drills are on state lands, thanks to environmental interest group PennFuture, which collaborated with digital media artists from the FracTracker Alliance to create an interactive map that shows the overlap between public lands and gas wellheads.

Creative Commons Flickr User: B.

According to the group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS),  hundreds of lives could be saved if Pennsylvania strengthened its driving laws. The comments are part of the “Lethal Loopholes” report.

“We selected 15 of the most important highway safety laws… based on research that has proven that each one of these laws saves lives and prevents injuries on the road,” said Cathy Chase, vice president of governmental affairs.

Neon Tommy / flickr

More than 9 million 9-1-1 calls are made in Pennsylvania each year to call centers serving 67 counties and two cities. Fielding all these calls requires a lot of employees and increasingly high-tech facilities in which they can work. And all of this costs money—lots of money.

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee met recently to discuss renewing the 1996 Emergency Telephone Act, which expires June 30 and outlines funding guidelines for Pennsylvania dispatch centers.

Pages