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Mayor Bill Peduto has appointed Grant Ervin as the city’s Chief Resilience Officer, a position funded through a Rockefeller Foundation grant.

His first task: developing a plan to enable the city to survive, adapt and grow no matter the challenge it will face.

Ervin has served as the city’s Sustainability Manager since 2014. He will now transition into working with stakeholders across the city to determine the key threats facing the city, then work to draft a resilience strategy with the help of the other 99 Chief Resilience Officers in the world.

In an online poll attempting to determine public opinion on state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's ability to lead, more than half of respondents said they didn't "know enough about it." 

Conducted by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute from May 8 to 16, the poll offered no context about the ongoing scandal. Of the 527 participants, 49.5 percent admitted they weren't sure. Those who did weigh in responded 2-1 that Kane should resign.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The 2015 Three Rivers Arts Festival officially got underway at noon Friday in Point State Park.

Art and music lovers were already milling about even before 12 p.m., as the festival’s first band, locals Black Little Birds, sound checked.

DEP To Investigate Creek Near Mine Discharge For Radioactivity

Jun 5, 2015
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will investigate whether there are radioactive materials in Ten Mile Creek, a major tributary of the Monongahela River in Greene and Washington counties.

The Monongahela is a primary source of drinking water in the region, but John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said it is too early to tell whether there are any public health concerns.

Cleaning The Air, One School Bus At A Time

Jun 5, 2015
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

If you drive behind a diesel truck, you might not be surprised when it spews a big plume of smoke from the tailpipe. That can also happen behind a school bus. Pollution from school buses is bad for the kids on board, or anywhere nearby. But state and federal laws are starting to make some difference.

Gov. Tom Wolf issued a temporary stay of execution on Thursday for convicted killer Hubert Lester Michael, who was set to die the next day.

It’s the governor’s second intervention since he took office. He promised in February to grant a reprieve to any inmate whose execution date comes before the results of the newly established Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment are published.

Marine Corps New York / flickr

A number of  deployed soldiers return home with severe mental and physical issues. In some instances this could result in criminal actions. The Veterans Court works to find alternatives to incarceration for servicemen and women. We discussed how the program has been working here in Western PA with Ronald Scott, a veteran and graduate of the program as well as David Hickton, US States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Hickton explains that both mentors and mentees benefit from the relationship built by Veterans Court:

"I think they find that the love and support they get from someone they might have never known before gives them the faith they need to trust the society that they're re-entering, and it allows them to shed the anger which causes them to operate off the grid." -David Hickton

Also in today's program, Andy Masich helps us celebrate the 75th birthday of the Jeep (first produced in Butler), and FreeBurgh previews free events in June. 

Festivals, Food and Fun: Social Club June 5

Jun 4, 2015

This jam-packed weekend begins with First Fridays at the Frick. Feel free to bring friends, family and even food to this free event, which begins with live music at 7PM in Frick Park.

The Three Rivers Arts Festival opens this Friday with food trucks, art and free entertainment. The event starts Friday at noon but runs all day and continues until June 14.

Service and technical workers at Allegheny General Hospital voted Wednesday to unionize with more than 80 percent of the 1,200 workers voting in approval.

The employees, including radiology and lab technicians, nursing assistants, secretaries and food service workers joined the state’s largest health care union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A state budget deadline looms at the end of the month, but Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers remain divided on a spending plan.

Entities that rely on the state for funding have cautioned about the headaches caused by lengthy budget standoffs. But Wolf says he’s not resigned to a late state budget.

After high school, students with disabilities need to be prepared for the same activities other students are prepared for, according to the Education Week Research Center.

The education policy non-profit issued its 10th annual Diplomas Count report looking at the challenges and opportunities students with disabilities face as they transition from high school.

“Not all students with disabilities face the same difficulties, the same challenges,” said senior research associate Sterling Lloyd.

City Council members gave preliminary approval to updated cooperative police services agreement between city officers and University of Pittsburgh Police.

“Departments that overlap have to have agreements in place so they can share information and act in their partner’s jurisdictions,” said Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar. “The University of Pittsburgh sits in the city and quite often there are issues where our police officers are responding to an incident in the city but within the campus.”

The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County tapped a Chicago native with an education background to be its next executive director. Philip Koch takes over the post on Monday.

“One of the things that was most interesting to me was the potential that exists in Westmoreland County to make an impact,” Koch said, referring to both the possibility of creating new philanthropists and “the possible impact that the dollars could make in revitalizing those communities.”

Created in 1995, the foundation merged with the Pittsburgh Foundation in 2010 but retained its own board.

Flickr user jrgcastro

After stating last month that it would not accept Highmark Medicare patients due to Highmark's cancer treatment "mark-ups," UPMC has been ordered by Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pelligrini to continue to see the 182,000 seniors they currently serve through Highmark. UPMC has already vowed to appeal the court order under a scheduled arbitration to resolve the differences between the two providers. Pittsburgh Business Times health care reporter Kris Mamula joins us in studio. (starts at 15:13) 

Mamula explains Pelligrini's ambitious hopes for the on-going dispute between UPMC and Highmark: 

"He wants all of the contractual issues between Highmark and UPMC resolved by September 30th, which is an ambitious deadline given everything that has happened. ... He wants those things that divide them to be resolved." -Kris Mamula

Also, Acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown fielded questions from state Senators at his nomination hearing. Emily Prevetti has the details. And we'll preview this year's Three Rivers Arts Festival with director Veronica Corpuz, and finally, Elaine Labalme has special travel plans to help celebrate dad. 

A new collaboration plans to take the audience behind the scenes at the 56th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

The new video series pairs the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust with Yellow Couch Studio for this year's theme, “Unseen/Unheard.”

Studio owner and producer Steven Foxbury said he hopes Yellow Couch Sessions Live! will create a cozy environment conducive to inspiring great performances.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh said she will call for a public hearing on the status of health care at the county jail.

The move is in response to efforts of prison justice activists and family members of those who have been or are currently incarcerated at the jail.

Farmers at Phipps launched its 7th annual farmer's market Wednesday on Phipp's Conservatory’s front lawn. The market runs every Wednesday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. through the end of October.

Phipps executive director Richard Piacentini said they've had "a tremendous turnout" in years past.

“The reception’s been great," he said. "We have a lot of regular people who come here every Wednesday and we have a lot of new people that show up all the time, and it’s just really great to see.”

Wolf Pick For Police Chief Fields Senators' Tough Questions

Jun 3, 2015
AP Photo/Marc Levy

Gov. Tom Wolf's choice to lead the Pennsylvania State Police responded to a battery of questions Wednesday from Republican senators who, like the troopers' union, want the Democratic governor to withdraw Col. Marcus Brown as his nominee, while a Democrat accused Brown's detractors of opposing the integration of the overwhelmingly white force.

Pregnant women who live close to fracking sites are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights, according to a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Researchers used public records to cross-reference the proximity of gas wells to health information for 15,451 newborns in Washington, Westmoreland and Butler counties born between 2007 and 2010.

Pittsburgh City Council approved an agreement with the city and Department of Public Safety aimed at mentoring parents of young children. “Promised Beginnings” is part of the larger Safer Together Pittsburgh initiative to improve public safety.

“It helps facilitate existing resources that are already out there by the county or private providers, bringing those resources together (and) targeting the parents of preschool children,” said Public Safety Director Stephan Bucar.

Lawmakers met in Harrisburg Tuesday to announce the formation of a legislative group aimed at reforming the boundaries for Congressional districts.

The bipartisan, bicameral group cited a plethora of misshapen, poorly drawn district boundaries that they said pressure lawmakers to toe the party line at the expense of political compromise.

Democratic Sen. Rob Teplitz of Dauphin County considers himself Exhibit A. Maps were redrawn after his election, so the voters he now serves didn’t actually choose him – they inherited him.

The city provides Pittsburgh residents with the opportunity to apply for housing vouchers that can place them with attentive landlords, safe structures and affordable rent. However, when landlords become hesitant to accept the vouchers, or standards for housing become overwhelming, are the vouchers being utilized to their fullest value? David Weber, Chief Operations Officer at the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, joins us to explain the voucher program's successes and shortcomings.

Weber explains several hurdles needed to be cleared for the housing vouchers to be successful:

"There are three obstacles: one is a unit that will pass the physical inspection... the second is a landlord who's willing to participate in the program because there are some additional administrative things the landlord, as well as the tenant, have to do, and the third is finding a unit where the rent is within the standard that HUD sets that we're allowed to pay for a unit." - David Weber


Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The chair of late Allegheny County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko’s re-election committee took over her seat in Council on Tuesday.

Terri Klein is active in local politics and currently serves as vice chair of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee. The Squirrel Hill resident works as a physical therapist and sits on the board of American Civil Liberties Union’s Pittsburgh chapter.

Larkin Page-Jacobs / 90.5 WESA

Eating can be mundane. Throwing another item in the grocery cart, ordering the same dish at your go-to restaurant or grabbing something from the fridge. It’s all apart of the routine. But it doesn’t have to be.

In this installment of On the House, food writer and teacher Jessica Server tells Larkin Page-Jacobs about using food as a conduit for mindfulness, exploration and reflection.

The city of Pittsburgh announced on Tuesday that all residents 15 and younger will be allowed to swim for free at Citiparks aquatic facilities, and those ages 6-15 will have access to free swimming lessons.

“We encourage parents to sign their kids up, to engage, to learn how to swim, because it's not just delivering kids to pools that guarantees a good time, it's providing a safe experience, a welcoming experience and the opportunity to develop skills that lead to lifelong fitness and health,” said Jim Griffin, director of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“Stand up, get down, Pittsburgh is a union town!”

That was one of the chants shouted by protesters who circled the Allegheny County Courthouse Tuesday ahead of a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearing for the Rivers Casino, which is operated by Rush Street Gaming, LLC.

The board is considering whether to renew the North Shore casino’s license, a process undertaken every three years.

More of Gov. Tom Wolf's Cabinet members are removing the word "acting" from their title.

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas, Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Dunn and Banking and Securities Secretary Robin Wiessmann.

It voted 31-18 to confirm State Secretary Pedro Cortes.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Up until Tuesday, Uber drivers were only allowed to drop off passengers at the airport, but they were not allowed to do pickups. As of late Tuesday afternoon, that will no longer be the case.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority announced a new policy which allows transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber, Lyft and Yellow Z to legally operate on airport property. TNCs connect passengers and drivers through apps.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Like a lot of her classmates, 11-year-old Laney Staples has a second job.

“Their first job is to be a good student,” said Propel McKeesport teacher Keith Smetak, 41, of Irwin standing nearby. “Laney, here, is our tour guide.”

She tutors, too. Some children are bankers, others part of a tech-savvy “geek squad.” These positions offer Smetak’s middle-schoolers “a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Hormann Flexon makes high-speed roll-up doors for commercial buildings. The company, located west of Pittsburgh, has doubled in size over the past three years and recently moved into a new building. Company President, Mark Haley, attributed the growth to shrinking lead times; Hormann Flexon delivers a custom door in two to three weeks, significantly faster than their competitors, he said.

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