News

Mike Richards / 90.5 WESA

Defending champions the Pittsburgh Passion head to Mansion Park in Altoona on Saturday to face the Carolina Phoenix in the hopes of continuing their 20-game win streak and advancing to another league title.

The Eastern Conference Championship kicks off at 7 p.m.

Emily Previti / WITF

After nine years of state intervention, Nanticoke’s got a balanced budget, most debts paid off and a full complement of financial management staff in place.

But it all happened at the expense of taxpayers and required changing the city’s form of government. 

Administrative staff, certain volunteers and university employees are no longer required by state law to be fingerprinted and submit to criminal history and child abuse background checks.

The tweaks to the child protection law were signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on July 1.

Lawmakers had beefed up background check requirements last legislative session in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. But some groups thought the changes went too far – like university professors who balked at having to be fingerprinted in order to teach their 17-year-old students.

MPD01605 / Flickr

Here’s your six-month warning.

Effective 12:01 a.m. Jan. 3, 2016, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will begin its eighth consecutive year for toll hikes.

The commission approved a 6 percent toll increase for both EZPass and cash customers on Tuesday. Officials said EZPass users will continue to save about 35 percent on tolls despite the jump.

“Our average toll for our EZPass customers will go from $1.09 to $1.16, and for our cash customers it’ll go from $1.70 to $1.85,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the long-overdue system to merge the payroll operations of the city and Allegheny County will be in place by the end of the year.

The lack of an operational system prompted the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which has financial oversight of the city, to withhold millions of dollars in slot machine revenues.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Pennsylvania is an old state, one where people settled and built infrastructure early. That means much of the infrastructure in the Commonwealth’s cities is breaking down with age, needs expensive maintenance, retrofits, or replacement, or just doesn’t fit with contemporary ideas of urban planning. Add to that many cities’ struggling budgets, which keep sewer repairs and maintenance from being addressed in a timely manner.

Flickr user Brad Wilson

The last time Pittsburgh Public Schools furloughed a substantial portion of its teachers was in 2012, when 190 teachers got pink slips. Those layoffs were based on area of certification and seniority, as is required by the district’s contract with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

House Bill 805, which is now in the Pennsylvania Senate would end that practice, instead basing layoffs on performance.

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto makes his monthly appearance on the program. He'll discuss why the city has filed suit for $11.4 million in gaming funds he says are owed to the city by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. The mayor will also share his reaction to Governor Wolf’s task force’s recommendations on municipal pensions, his experience joining with other mayors to push for immigration reforms, and what he thinks about the Steelers bid to bring the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh.  

One week after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP budget curtailing the state’s authority to spend money, negotiations over a new plan are at a standstill.

A Tuesday meeting between Republicans and the governor appeared to yield no progress toward the middle on a mix of tax proposals offered by Wolf and opposed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The City of Pittsburgh is on target to meet revenue expectations and possibly end with a surplus, according to City Controller Michael Lamb.

Lamb, who gave a mid-year update at the City County Building on Tuesday, said Pittsburgh made progress on its long-term debt through December despite having borrowed money in 2014. But, he said, city officials could do more.

Point Park University in Pittsburgh is cutting 32 full- and part-time employees as part of restructuring spurred by declining enrollment.

University officials say the cuts amount to 3 percent of the school's workforce, but did not specify how the lay-offs were spread among faculty, administrators and staff.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“This is Pittsburgh. We want French fries on our sandwiches, not (the flu),” Councilman Corey O’Connor told a group of supporters shortly before introducing legislation that would mandate paid sick days for all workers in the city.

William Del Toro is a natural lobbyist. He doesn't like noise or distractions, but in a loud, busy part of the Capitol one morning, he enthusiastically answered questions about job opportunities for people with disabilities.

"I'm going to tell you the truth," said Del Toro, pushing his glasses up. "I don't believe in the word, a disability. I think it's just we're all unique. We think a different way."

daveynin / Flickr

  Three Rivers Regatta revelers were relegated to the land this holiday weekend after the National Weather Service issued a recreational boating advisory warning of high, fast moving water in area rivers, pushing through about four times the normal flow. 

While the Formula One powerboat and other races were canceled, swift moving water has not impacted barge traffic on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

 Surveillance of U.S. citizens by the government has received quite a bit of press. However, in our age of social media and oversharing how much information do citizens willingly give up? The Post-Gazette series Surveillance Society looks at how the government, private companies and individuals are tracking the lives of everyday citizens. Our guests, Post-Gazette reporters Chris Potter and Rich Lord, created the series and share their thoughts on modern surveillance.  (Starts at 9:42)

Pennsylvania State Police are short more than 400 officers with hundreds more retirements on the way, officials said Monday, but recruitment and retention in recent years continues to plummet.

Police recruiter Cpl. Brian Carpenter said tough background checks, college education or military experience  requirements and the recent, high-profile backlash against police in general has given potential applicants pause despite a state budget cushion that could support scores of new hires.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Eve Picker takes her computer out of her bag and clicks through a mostly empty website of filler text and stock photos. Picker is a Pittsburgh-based developer with a portfolio of complicated projects, but she says this one is probably the most difficult thing she’s ever done. In just a few weeks, the newest real estate crowdfunding platform, Small Change, will launch.

Asbestorama / Flickr

  More Allegheny County residents die from asbestos-related illnesses than any other county in the state, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund.

Researchers found that between 1999 and 2013, at least 189,000 Americans died from asbestos-related diseases, including 14,216 in Pennsylvania and 1,616 in Allegheny County alone. The county’s average death rate was nearly double the national average, authors said.

Millennials Are Buying Homes Later, But Still Want A Place Of Their Own

Jul 6, 2015
Heather McCracken / PublicSource

Carlton J. Brown III is about to sign off on one of the biggest decisions of his life.

The 29-year-old is buying a three-bedroom house with a yard and a two-car garage in McKees Rocks, a borough northwest of Pittsburgh. Brown, a lab technician at an oil blending plant, has been renting with friends for the past two years.

Silk Screen Film Fest

With 30 films from 18 countries, the 10th annual Silk Screen Film festival opens in Pittsburgh Thursday with an opening night gala followed by 10 days of screenings and discussions. All of the films have Asian roots.

“Asia is defined like it used to be defined when you were in high school, which is starting with Turkey all the way to Japan,” said Silk Screen Executive Director Harish Saluja. “That includes Israel and India and Afghanistan and Pakistan … In fact our opening film this year is called Theeb which is from Jordan and UAE (United Arab Emirates).”

The not-yet-approved Clean Vehicle Corridors Act is the most recent of the many federal and state efforts to push for the use of alternative fuel vehicles in the United States.

On June 22, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) re-introduced his bill, first introduced in 2013, which would allow the Department of Transportation to establish clean vehicle corridors along interstates nationwide. The corridors would provide spaces for fueling and charging stations, travel plazas, rest stops and other roadside infrastructure.

The teen brain values reward over risk. That’s been long-known. But a new study from University of Pittsburgh researchers says teen aren’t risk-takers because they’re seeking a surge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brains reward and pleasure centers.

According to new research, when faced with the prospect of a reward, their dopamine neurons are less activated than in adults.

School district consolidation is the key to many of Pennsylvania’s education problems, according to State Rep. Timothy S. Mahoney (D-Fayette/Somerset). Mahoney recently proposed legislation requesting a statewide study of schools that would examine the possibility of merging Pennsylvania school districts into individual county administrations.

The proposition stems from Mahoney’s study in 2011 that examined the effects of a potential merger of Fayette County school districts.

AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam

The nation’s oldest state law enforcement agency is in need of recruits. The Pennsylvania State Police are looking for qualified candidates to fill a growing number of vacant positions. However, attracting more men and women to consider careers as troopers has been difficult. Corporal Brian Carpenter says he thinks recent new events involving police and the public have deterred many applicants: 

"I think that some times even the good people say 'I don't know if I'm willing to go ahead and make the sacrifices that it takes to become a Pennsylvania State Trooper.'" - Corporal Brian Carpenter  

With three rivers to take care of, Pittsburgh certainly has its hands full when it comes to making sure the waterways are clean.

This week, volunteers will be pitching in to do just that Friday, July 10 at 4th Street on the South Side, beginning at 5 p.m.

Since 2003, Allegheny CleanWays/Keep Pittsburgh Beautiful has removed 525,840 pounds of debris, including 3,203 tires and 21,660 pounds of metal and other recyclables on local riverbanks and streams under the “Keep Pittsburgh Rivers Beautiful: A Tireless Project.”

An online poll that drew more than 12,000 votes shows nearly 85 percent of Pittsburghers don't want the city's three "sister bridges" across the Allegheny River to be painted a different color when they're rehabbed.

So, the Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson — or 6th, 7th and 9th street — bridges will remain "Aztec Gold."

New legislation would make sure court-ordered fines, fees and restitution will be properly allocated to victims of crime in every county throughout the commonwealth.

State Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny) introduced House Bill 1070, which would require each of the 67 counties to establish a unit dedicated to the collection of these court-imposed obligations, unless the county chooses to outsource collections.

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.

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