News

UPDATE:

The 38th annual EQT Three Rivers Regatta returns to Pittsburgh once again - but without the water events. The high level of the rivers, along with strong currents and debris, prompted officials to announce Friday that water events, from boat racing, to jet ski shows to the "anything that floats" event are all canceled for the duration of the Regatta. All land-based activities will go on as planned.

The three-day event will take place at Point State Park, on the North Shore, and on the Clemente Bridge, Friday through Sunday.

While Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders continue to battle over a new budget: how much to spend, where to get the necessary revenues — tax hikes? — the Department of Revenue reports that the commonwealth ended Fiscal Year 2014-15 with a surplus.

“About $412 million, which is 1.4 percent above the estimate that was set last July,” said department spokesperson Elizabeth Brassell.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

In a chemical engineering lab at Carnegie Mellon University, Matt Cline and William Alba stand in front of three rectangular packets made of tinfoil. An arm’s length away from the range hood, they use their thumbs to eclipse the flash they know is coming.

United Way organizations serving Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette and Armstrong counties have combined efforts as the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Bob Nelkin, formerly the director of the Allegheny branch and now President and CEO of the larger operation, said the change was rapid after discussions of combining branch strengths began in June.

Gov. Tom Wolf has let fly another veto of a major Republican priority – the privatization of the state-run liquor system.

In a written statement Thursday, Wolf said he doesn’t want to sell a state asset before it reaches its full money-making potential: “This legislation falls short of a responsible means to reform our state liquor system and to maximize revenues to benefit our citizen.”

Steve Miskin, House GOP spokesman, called the move disappointing.

Flickr user Carlos

As many Americans ready their grills and fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July, others are celebrating another American tradition: the barbershop quartet. Pittsburgh is the site of the week-long Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention running through Saturday.

It’s no longer four guys in boater hats and stripes, though those groups are still around – barbershop is a whole movement, encompassing many different kinds of groups from one or two men or women to 150 and more. Dallas-Based Vocal Majority is one of the big ones with 150 volunteer members.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says even though formal budget negotiations will not begin until Monday morning, he and his staff will be busy over the holiday weekend. 

The Democratic governor rejected the budget passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate, leaving the state without a spending plan as of Wednesday. He said both sides have put down their markers.

4th of July Celebrations: Social Club July 3

Jul 2, 2015

It's the 4th of July weekend and that means fireworks, good food and sunshine...according to meteorologist Josh Raulerson. 

Speaking of fireworks, there are many places around town to check them out. Rachel suggests the west end overlook on Mt. Washington or the 31st street bridge in Lawrenceville.

Start the long weekend off with Wigle Whiskey's Fourth of July Eve with City of Play. Guests can enjoy cocktails, food and backyard games.

Also this weekend is the Three Rivers Regatta with boating, racing, the I Made It! Market and Food Truck Row. 

Grab some dessert at the DreamOn Pittsburgh Ice Cream Festival. Each flavor of ice cream helps out a great cause all weekend. 

Late budgets aren’t the statewide shock they used to be.

Sure, the commonwealth loses the authority to make certain payments. Standoffs in the '70s, '80s and '90s meant thousands of state workers went unpaid. But recent court rulings say the state has to pay its employees’ salaries. Other critical services will have to be funded as well.

“I don’t think people should be terribly panicked or concerned,” said Christopher Craig, chief counsel to the state Treasurer. “It will take quite some for any real impact to be noticeable.”

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Infrastructure decisions affect the public every day — which sewer should be repaired first, which pothole should be filled next—but it’s rare to be asked to weigh in on those decisions. However, an online poll will help decide the future color of the "Three Sisters" bridges, as well as a question of regional identity.

Chris Knight / AP Images

Shortly after a $30 billion budget was approved in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, Governor Tom Wolf vetoed the entire plan.  He’s the first governor in 40 years to turn down an entire budget proposal.The governor tells us why he decided to veto the plan and what he’d like to see change about the next proposal. Wolf says he speaks on behalf of the compromises needed to be made from both sides to get the next budget proposal underway: 

"The job now is to bring those two points together because whether we like it or not Pennsylvanians voted for divided government and we both have to agree in the end... to come to a place that we can all agree will make Pennsylvania better. We all know we need a budget, we all know we're gonna have to agree and we're gonna have to do that as quickly as we possibly can." - Governor Tom Wolf

 

Also in the program, as The Salvation Army turns 150 years old, discover how the charity has evolved over the years and how they'll be celebrating their anniversary. WESA Celebrates reports a lesser-known story of the Homestead strike, the possibility of larger fireworks being legal in our state will be addressed and our travel contributor shares her favorite 4th of July weekend getaways.

When Allegheny County’s Home Rule Charter was adopted in 1999, it established a council comprised of 13 members elected by districts and two at-large members: one Democrat and one Republican.

Now, Republican County Councilman Edward Kress of Shaler wants to increase the number of at-large members to three, to account for citizens who might not affiliate with either of the main parties.

Courtesy Good Jobs Healthy Communities

Public education advocates with the group Good Jobs Healthy Communities gathered outside the former William Penn School in Harrisburg Wednesday morning, as part of a week-long “occupation” of Pennsylvania’s capital city.

The vocational and alternative high school was closed by the school district in 2010 due to a lack of funds to upgrade the deteriorating structure. Classes were relocated to other buildings in the district.

Pittsburgh area nonprofits that receive state funding are being warned to prepare for a long budget delay.

Kate Dewey is president of The Forbes Funds, the host organization for the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, which offers an array of services to assist nonprofits throughout the region. Dewey said the partnership is recommending several steps nonprofits can take to ensure their long-term stability.

Following the release of recommendations from Gov. Tom Wolf’s Task Force on Municipal Pensions, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said that while the recommendations do not contain every pension change he’d like to see, it’s an important start.

“We wanted to see some movement on a hybrid model, defined benefit plan, and perhaps reform state Act 205 which gives funding to cities with distressed pension plans like Pittsburgh,” said Peduto’s spokesman Tim McNulty, “but, it was an important first step.”

AP Photo/Chris Knight

The war of rhetoric has begun in earnest in Harrisburg over the state budget. This week, the Republican controlled House and Senate approved a balanced $30 billion budget that was quickly vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday.

Wolf, who is a Democrat, said the budget is based on gimmicks and lacks fiscal integrity.

Kraft shareholders have approved the sale of the company to ketchup maker H.J. Heinz, creating one of the world's largest food companies with annual revenue of about $28 billion.

Heinz' owners, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital engineered the deal, first announced in March, and will control 51 percent of the new Kraft Heinz Co.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Pennsylvania's Democratic governor is inviting legislative leaders to meet in his Capitol offices, a day after the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a state budget he vetoed.

Gov. Tom Wolf said he hopes the Wednesday afternoon meeting will restart negotiations over a spending plan for the fiscal year that has just begun.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Republican Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh on Tuesday suggested to the Government Review Commission that the legislative body on which she serves be disbanded.

At a news conference ahead of the commission’s meeting Tuesday afternoon, Heidelbaugh called the council “superfluous,” citing a 91.8 percent passage rate for ordinances proposed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

In Gettysburg, An Extreme Makeover: Battlefield Edition

Jul 1, 2015
Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

Even more than 150 years after the battle, there's still plenty at Gettysburg that kind of makes you feel like you're stepping back in time. Some things, like the stone walls that are an essential part of any Civil War landscape—those are actually the real deal. Other things are a little more kitschy, like visitors doing battlefield tours in horse-drawn carriages.

Essential Pittsburgh: Evaluating the Supreme Court's Rulings

Jul 1, 2015
Mark Fischer / flickr

The 2014-2015 Supreme Court session has come to a close. Among the issues the justices have weighed in on are historic decisions on health care and same-sex marriage. However, there were also other cases regarding housing discrimination and lethal injections. Our legal contributor Pitt Law Professor David Harris looks at the rulings the justices have made and how they will impact our lives.  Harris explains the ruling of the recent lethal injections case decided by the Supreme Court: 

"This was the argument made by opponents of the use of that drug that it is cruel and unusual because the people being executed are experiencing pain. The Supreme Court says no there is nothing cruel or unusual about using this particular drug cocktail and they legitimized execution this way by all the states that want to do it." -David Harris

Also in the program, Heinz History Center President Andy Masich describes the background of the iconic Rosie the Riveter and to mark the beginning of July, FreeBurgh highlights fun and inexpensive events this month in the Pittsburgh area.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed the entire GOP-crafted budget package sent to him Tuesday.

The governor announced his plans shortly after the bill passed the Republican-controlled Legislature Friday night. He has pointed out that the spending blueprint lacks his top priorities — a new tax on the natural gas industry, for starters. On Tuesday, Wolf said the budget also lacks basic fiscal integrity.

In mid-June, the Port Authority announced it is considering a one-time $5 fee for ConnectCard service. The proposal has been met with some criticism from riders, who expressed their views at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Many who spoke also offered potential fixes to avoid charging for the cards.

Edward Wagner of Brighton Heights opened up the public comment session by suggesting the Port Authority should not only keep ConnectCards free, but should also offer a discount to riders who use them because they save time.

Counties, school districts and other groups that rely on state funding are preparing themselves for a late commonwealth budget, as Gov. Tom Wolf has all but promised to veto a GOP-crafted spending plan expected to land on his desk Tuesday.

A budget deal between the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Democratic Wolf administration could be elusive. That would not stop commonwealth employees from being paid, due to a 2009 court ruling. The commonwealth would also have authority to pay for critical functions, like state prison meals and human services.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Speaking at a press event in Troy Hill Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey pushed for legislation he’s supporting that would improve summer food programs for children.

The bill would improve the area eligibility test to allow communities to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (rather than the 50 percent it currently is). It would also provide funding for transportation grants that could be used for food trucks and allow sites to serve a third meal (rather than two meals and a snack).

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Republican majorities in the Pennsylvania House and Senate are expected to send budget legislation today to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, along with bills to completely change how wine and liquor are sold and to squeeze billions in savings from public sector pensions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in seven people currently living with HIV is unaware they have the virus.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health would like to see that change, and it's urging all people between the ages of 13 and 64 to get tested for the disease.

“The HIV rates in Pennsylvania continue to be a significant and serious health problem,” said Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine.

Pennsylvania residents can only buy “novelty fireworks,” such as party-poppers and sparklers under current law, but a trio of lawmakers wants that to change.

A bill will soon be introduced in the Senate that would make it legal for residents to purchase larger “consumer fireworks,” such as Roman candles, mortars and bottle rockets, according to co-sponsor Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver).

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

In "Oliver!" the musical adaptation of Charles Dicken’s "Oliver Twist," orphan boys at a workhouse sing “food glorious food” as they fantasize about a bountiful spread. That vision is realized in the small, eponymous bakery in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood. In this segment of On The House, Larkin Page-Jacobs talks to owner and baker Tom Hambor about the tricks and tips he’s learned over a lifetime of baking.

In Regent Square, Sharing The Craft Of Stained Glass

Jun 30, 2015
Tanner Lange

Pittsburgh is a city of diverse neighborhoods, each full of people with unique stories. 90 Neighbors, a visual storytelling project from students at Point Park University, seeks to tell those stories through photo and video essays.

Glenn Greene’s Stained Glass Studio is located in Regent Square. Greene specializes in stained glass restoration, and he produces custom installations and art pieces for residential, institutional, commercial, and liturgical environments.

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