News

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.

Noah Brode / 90.5 FM WESA

On Monday, the Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to a budget amendment that would pull $285,000 out of the city’s paving fund and spend it on community service efforts.

Pittsburgh’s 2016 budget allocated $75,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and another $74,000 for the Pittsburgh Community Services hunger program, but those lines were zeroed out in the 2017 budget proposal submitted by the mayor’s office.

Google Maps

 

Authorities say a western Pennsylvania businessman has been charged with harboring and transporting people who weren't legally in the country and who worked at his restaurants.

Federal prosecutors said a two-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed Monday names 44-year-old Xing Zheng Lin, also known as Steve Lin.

Authorities allege that from about 2009 until January 2014, the McKees Rocks resident harbored and transported people who weren't legally in the country and who worked at Saga Restaurant in Monroeville, Robinson and Bethel Park.

Streaking Steelers Revel In December Football

Dec 12, 2016
Bill Wippert / AP

The path back to the playoff hunt hasn't exactly been daunting for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Trump's Victory Affirmed Following Recount And Court Blockages

Dec 12, 2016
Gerry Broome / AP

Republican Donald Trump's victory in Wisconsin was reaffirmed Monday following a recount that showed him defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes.

Wisconsin finalized its recount on the same day that a federal judge issued a stinging rejection of a Green Party-backed request to recount paper ballots in Pennsylvania's presidential election and scan some counties' election systems for signs of hacking.

Law Insuring 1 Million Pennsylvanians Faces Uncertain Future

Dec 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

 

About 1 million people in Pennsylvania are receiving government-subsidized health insurance under Democrats' 2010 health care law that is facing an uncertain future as Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month with a pledge to repeal it.

Don Wright / AP

 

 

An appeals court has cleared the way for refiling of a lawsuit against an engineering firm in the deaths of four people killed in flash flooding in Pittsburgh more than five years ago.

A judge earlier dismissed claims against Chester Engineers Inc., which acted as the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority's consulting engineer and construction manager.

Snow Makes For Frowns On Northeast Roads

Dec 12, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

 

Snow and freezing rain made for messy commutes and closed hundreds of schools Monday as a snowstorm pushed into the Northeast.

The storm left nearly a foot of snow on the ground in some spots in the Great Lakes and upper Midwest before dumping up to about a half-foot across New York and northern New England. Boston, New York City and Philadelphia were spared.

Speeds were reduced on snow-packed roads and there were many school delays and closures from Michigan to Maine.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

 

 

The Supreme Court is upholding the broad reach of a federal law prohibiting bank fraud.

The unanimous ruling on Monday came in the case of a California man who illegally siphoned about $307,000 out of a Taiwanese businessman's Bank of America bank account.

Justice Stephen Breyer rejected Lawrence Shaw's claim that the law applies only when a defendant intends to cheat the bank itself — not a bank customer. Breyer said the bank has property interests in the customer's account and that Shaw misled the bank to steal the customer's money.

For the 40th year, 90.5 WESA’s Kevin Gavin is hosting an all-request holiday music program on Friday, December 23rd from 9am-1pm, broadcast live on 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP.

Listeners are invited to call the station at (412) 697-2955 to make requests or year-end donations. You can also make a request via Twitter using #PCBCHoliday.

HealthCare.gov

Pennsylvanians looking for health insurance have a new option to help them find the right coverage. HealthPlanRatings.org is a plan comparison tool created for the state by nonprofit Consumer’s Checkbook.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Even Pittsburghers who don’t know exactly what The Midwife Center is have probably noticed the mural that adorns its northeastern wall while driving through the Strip District.

Pages