News

Gridlock And Grudges: Toxic Relationships In Pennsylvania Cities

Jun 11, 2015
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The Commonwealth’s Act 47 program to help cash-strapped local governments doesn’t address how elected officials might get along better, despite how critical relationships are to their financial well-being.

Local officials who have trouble getting along have some options for mending their relationships.

The state House formally expressed its disapproval of Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on Pennsylvania’s death penalty.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted largely along party lines to condemn Wolf for issuing reprieves to two death row inmates who had exhausted their appeals and were scheduled for execution.

“I didn’t set this process up. Gov. Wolf didn’t set this process up,” said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery). “But the bottom line is, it is the law of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

In the quest for online gambling, and additional gaming revenue, Republican senators are asking casinos to keep one foot firmly in the corporeal world.

A Senate GOP proposal would legalize online gambling, but players would have to register first with the casino — by showing up in person.

After nearly a year of study and work from water suppliers, state officials, environmental groups and others, a plan has been announced to protect drinking water from its source – the rivers.

The River Alert Information Network (RAIN) announced the Lower Allegheny Regional Partnership and the Lower Monongahela Regional Partnership. It’s a consortium of water suppliers which, in addition to protection, will employ an early-warning spill detection system.

Essential Pittsburgh: Healing the Hearts of Pittsburgh Children

Jun 11, 2015
Flickr user Michael Goodin

UPMC’s Children’s Hospital is one of the nation’s top research facilities for pediatric cardiac care. The recent arrival of our guest pediatric cardiologist Dr. Bernhard Kuhn to the hospital is a testament to the facility being able to attract top talent. Dr. Kuhn is leading the charge to find a treatment for heart failure in children, and he joins us today in studio to discuss his progress thus far.

Dr. Kuhn expresses hope in how the recent discovery of proliferation in heart muscle cells could be a leading factor in pediatric cardiac care:

"My vision and hope is that neuregulin one day may become something like insulin for heart failure. Neuregulin is currently in phase two trials in adult patients and we want to understand better how it could potentially work in our pediatric patients." - Dr. Bernhard Kuhn

Also in the program, Circle Camps for Grieving Children gives young girls the opportunity to cope with the loss of a parent within a supportive and understanding environment and Andrew Cohen remembers the 48 hours where JFK first implored us as a nation to change our perceptions of race and nuclear weapons.

Volunteers working with children will find themselves free of the $20 fee from both the child abuse clearances and criminal background checks beginning July 25.

For non-volunteers, the standard cost for both the child abuse and criminal history record checks are being reduced from $10 per check to $8. There is no reimbursement for those who have already paid the fees.

AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File

Cases of Lyme disease are on the rise in Allegheny County, with a more than 40-fold increase in a little over a decade.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACDH) is warning the public of this rise and offering preventive tips.

Flickr user Ronald Woan

Mayor Bill Peduto said he receives weekly requests from American cities and abroad asking him to visit and tell the Steel City’s story of resilience.

He couldn’t possibly visit them all, so it’s convenient that 25 municipal, non-profit and business leaders from across the country are coming to Pittsburgh this week for the Innovative + Inclusive City workshop.

The United Way of Allegheny County raised $34,698,986 during their 2014 fundraising campaign, a two percent increase over what they raised the previous year. Their fiscal year ends June 30.

Much of this year's cash went to the United Way’s helpline, PA 211, which answered more than 72,000 calls from people needing help with food, shelter and clothing. Call volume has increased three times since the line was established four years ago.

Gov. Tom Wolf is vowing to appeal a court ruling reversing his dismissal of the director of the state’s Office of Open Records, the latest counter-punch in a months-long legal dispute over the independence of the agency and the powers of the governor.

The Commonwealth Court ruling reinstates Erik Arneson to his post as executive director of the agency. It also awards him back-pay.

Schools In 40 PA Counties Would Struggle With Keystone Graduation Requirement

Jun 10, 2015
Map via Research for Action

Pennsylvania students in the class of 2017 are the first who will be required to pass standardized Keystone exams in algebra, literature and biology in order to graduate high school. A new brief details how complicated it could get to help students graduate who can't pass those exams.

State law passed under Gov. Ed Rendell and implemented under Gov. Tom Corbett says that if students can't pass the tests after two tries, schools must help them to complete a project-based assessment.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Gov. Tom Wolf argued last week that taxing Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry could help compensate for an anticipated $1 billion structural budget deficit in 2016.

His budget includes a state severance tax of 5 percent on extractions based on the value of gas at the well head and a charge of 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet extracted. The commonwealth produced 3.23 trillion cubic feet in 2013.

There has been a public outcry and calls for changes at the Allegheny County Jail in the wake of the unexplained deaths of two inmates in May. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald decided to sever ties with Corizon Health Inc., the provider of health care services at the facility. The first public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for June 23  in the County Council chambers of the Allegheny County Courthouse. We'll talk with County Council member Heather Heidelbaugh and Julia Johnson of the Allegheny County Jail Health Justice Project.

Johnson expresses her concern for the proper treatment and counseling of inmates in hopes to better the health care services in the jail:

"There just needs to be more compassion as far as people with mental health issues and they're compounding those issues at the jail. 60% of people at the ACJ have mental health issues and they are not being give their anti-psychotic medicine, they are not getting counseling." - Julia Johnson

Also in the program, beloved music teacher Adrianne Kelly is retiring after 33 years at Minadeo Elementary School and Steel City Squash is teaching a little-known sport to youth in the Hill District, combining its physical activity with academic development.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A month after Republican lawmakers advanced a plan to end the traditional pension for new state workers, they’ve set their sights on doing the same for future municipal employees in Pennsylvania.

The cited reason for the change has been repeated in most debates over public pensions: People are living longer, and the annual pension payouts for city retirees are getting harder for municipal governments to afford.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday issued an executive order aimed at repairing and maintaining the city’s aging public safety, public works and parks facilities.

The order coincided with a previously planned City Council post-agenda meeting with administration officials and leaders from the city’s three public safety unions.

A state Senate proposal would prevent child victims from being prosecuted for participation in sex trades and related charges as part of last year’s crusade against human trafficking.

“We have to concentrate on the victim and make sure that the victim is treated as a victim,” said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), a sponsor of the measure.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Iggy Azalea canceled her headlining act at Pittsburgh Pride on Sunday.

The rapper wrote on Twitter, "This has been a difficult decision... however I feel my participation at this point would only serve to further distract from the true purpose of the event."

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

It took just 500 write-in votes for lifelong Democrats Chelsa Wagner and John Weinstein to get their names on the November ballots as Republicans, but it will take 2,328 signatures if a third-party candidate wants to have the same opportunity.

A House GOP spokesman says the majority's lawmakers aren't giving up on a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

A plan to let doctors and nurse practitioners recommend different forms of marijuana for various ailments passed in the state Senate by a huge margin last month.

In the House, the bill's fate was always less certain. One problem popped up as soon as it was referred to the Health Committee: the panel's chairman, Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tiog), said he wouldn't put the measure to a vote.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

Ron Donoughe has been painting Pittsburgh for 30 years. It was in the last year, however, that he completed 90 separate paintings, each depicting a unique snapshot of each of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. All 90 paintings are on display together at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, where we met with Mr. Donoughe to learn his reasons for undergoing the project, and what he discovered along the way. (starts at 11:11) 

Donoughe explains his motivation towards the scenes he chose within each Pittsburgh neighborhood: 

“In a lot of cases it was a lighting situation, other times it was where I could find a parking spot. … It was getting out in an area and just walking the neighborhood and finding what really spoke to me.” –Ron Donoughe

Also, Governor Wolf has pulled his nomination for Acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown in order to allow more time for consideration. The Frick draws parallels between the industrialization of Wales and Pittsburgh, and Rebecca Harris continues her look at Crawford-Roberts.  

The Pennsylvania House will take up a bill that makes some changes to the Child Protective Services Law. That is the law crafted after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

“This is the bill that clarifies the existing statute requiring employees and adult volunteers who work directly with children to obtain criminal background check clearances and child abuse clearances,” said Rep. Katharine Watson (R-Bucks), the bill’s sponsor. “The legislation further delineates who is and who is not subject to those requirements.”

After years of waiting, avid skiers in western Pennsylvania may finally see their wishes come true. The Laurel Mountain Ski Resort will finally reopen in 2016.

Hopefully.

Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the bidding process for Laurel Mountain’s $6.5 million renovation project will begin in the next 2-3 weeks, after which construction is set to begin this fall. If all goes according to plan, the DCNR aims to have it complete by fall 2016.

PA Group Takes First Steps To Protect Seniors

Jun 8, 2015
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

Statewide reforms to improve protections and justice for older Pennsylvanians are in the works.

A state Supreme Court committee is examining the proposed expansion of a rule that allows the courts to preserve testimony of victims who might not be available to testify if a case languishes in the system.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Gov. Tom Wolf has pulled the nomination of Marcus Brown to lead the Pennsylvania State Police. The Senate was to vote this week on Brown’s nomination. Last week a committee sent the nomination to the full body without making a recommendation.

Imagine someone comes to your house claiming to be from the water or gas company. He says he's come to do some work in the area, but you weren’t expecting him. What if he isn’t who he says he is, and how can you tell?

State Senate Republicans want to tweak casino rules and legalize online gambling this year to help ease the commonwealth's fiscal woes.

A forthcoming proposal would allow round-the-clock alcohol sales in casinos and let certain casinos put slot machines miles away from their main premises. The big change, however, would be letting existing casinos offer online gambling. A report last year found the state could generate more than $100 million in tax and fee revenue from Internet gambling alone.

courtesy Allegany College of Maryland

 

Somerset County and Allegany College of Maryland officials are downplaying the county’s pending takeover of operations at ACM’s Somerset campus as little more than a formality.

The county is set to assume responsibility for maintenance and operational expenses at the campus July 1 with the start of the next fiscal year.

Free summer meals will be available to Allegheny County children starting Monday.

Children ages 6 months through 18 years old can enjoy free, nutritional breakfasts and lunches at 78 locations Monday through Friday through Aug. 21. There is no income requirement.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services starts the SummerFood Program each year as schools begin to close. Persons with disabilities aged 24 and younger are also eligible.

Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board

Mayor Peduto's office and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board have declared the summer of 2015 as one where the youth of Pittsburgh should prepare to "Learn and Earn" through an increased dedication to placing them in meaningful summer jobs. Stefani Pashman, Chief Executive Officer at the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board and Barbara Parees, Deputy County Manager for Allegheny County join us to outline the joint plan for a productive summer. 

Also in the program, Steve Inskeep chronicles the life of Andrew Jackson in his new book and Bob Dvorchak tries to connect the dots of a potential Penguins ownership shakeup.

Grab your capes and grab your books: a superhero book club is headed your way.

As the school year winds down, many area libraries are about to begin their summer reading programs with the national theme of “Every Hero Has a Story.” They are planning their own superhero events to motivate kids to continue reading during their break to avoid what is known as the “summer slide.”

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