Deanna Garcia

General Assignment Reporter

Deanna fell in love with public radio in 2001, when she landed her first job at an NPR station: KRWG-FM in Las Cruces, NM, where she also attended college. After graduating with a degree in journalism and mass communications, she spent a summer in Washington, D.C. as an intern at NPR's Morning Edition. Following that, she was a reporter/All Things Considered Host at WXXI in Rochester, NY. Before coming to Pittsburgh, Deanna was the local All Things Considered host for KUNC in northern Colorado. In her spare time, Deanna enjoys watching movies and TV shows on DVD (the Golden Girls and Little House on the Prairie are among her favorites), bicycling, yard work, and reading.

 

Ways To Connect

OpenStreetsPGH.org

Sunday morning, 3.5 miles of roadway will be closed to vehicular traffic in Downtown and beyond for OpenStreetsPGH. The pedestrian festival is meant to get people outside and into the city.

The Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce has announced that current state Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) will be its next president. Before being elected to the Senate, Smith served three terms in the state House of Representatives.

He said the work before him as head of the Chamber won’t be much different than what he’s used to.

“Workforce development, education issues, economic development and community-based issues as well as transportation infrastructure issues that we’ve worked on over the last couple of years at the state level,” said Smith.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A conservationist dedicated to saving African elephants one healthy birth at a time was chosen to receive the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s first-ever Legacy Conservation Award.

Zoo officials will honor Thomas Hildebrandt, head of the reproduction management department at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany, in a local ceremony on Thursday.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Following more than a year of planning, research and community meetings, Allegheny County has released the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny (PHA), which sets priorities for health officials and partners to work on going forward.

“It’s a five-year plan that sets forth health priorities, measurable goals and strategies to reach those goals,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The plan identifies five key areas to focus on, including access, the environment, maternal and child health, mental health and substance abuse.

Via Tsuji / Flickr

In a continuing effort to improve police and community relations, the Zone 5 station will open its doors to the community for an open house – open to everyone in Zone 5 and beyond.

“Citizens, officers, their families, lawmakers, anyone who wants to come,” Zone 5 Commander Jason Lando said. “We just want to give the community a chance to come down, meet our officers, see our station, see our equipment and help bring the community and the police closer together.”

Pennsyvlania Department of Agriculture

Invasive insects can have devastating impacts on native plants and trees, as evidenced by the Emerald Ash Borer’s effect on the state’s ash trees.

That insect was first found in Michigan in 2002; it continued to spread and has wiped out tens of millions of ash trees nationwide, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Now there’s another bug to worry about – the Spotted Lanterfly. The pest was first spotted last fall in Berks County.

“We believe it’s been here a season or two, so it can live here, it can survive here, it’s been tested,” said Russell Redding, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary. “What we want to do is send it packing.”

Keith Ewing / Flickr

This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer – which means, among other things, swimming! 

Sen. Rop Teplitz (D-Dauphin) has introduced a bill that would return lifeguards to state park public beaches.

“In 2008, the lifeguards were eliminated at all but two parks due to budgetary reasons, but I think the public safety requires that the lifeguards be restored,” Teplitz said.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources estimates the state saved roughly $800,000 a year by not having lifeguards on duty at all parks. Teplitz said those savings aren't worth risking public safety.

The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania has been working to expand the Pennsylvania Housing Trust Fund statewide; the organization will continue that work following the release of a report that shows a person would have to make $15.12 an hour in wages to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rate in Allegheny County.

The problem, according to Alliance Executive Director, Liz Hersh, is that many people don’t make that much money.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

There are approximately 8,500 people waiting for an organ transplant in Pennsylvania, and about 123,000 across the U.S. The problem, according to the UPMC transplant program, is that demand far outweighs the number of available organs.

To try and increase awareness, “crossing guards” from UPMC and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) stopped pedestrians in several downtown areas Wednesday. The goal was to get more people to sign up as organ donors.

In anticipation of a wet weather plan from ALCOSAN, Pittsburgh City Council members Corey O’Connor and Deb Gross have introduced legislation aimed at helping some of the city’s most vulnerable areas develop green infrastructure.

Under a consent decree, the city, Allegheny County and the federal Environmental Protection Agency must develop a plan to keep raw sewage from overflowing and spilling into area rivers during wet weather. Some areas are harder hit than others, including part of Gross’s district.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA News

Teens from around the world were in Pittsburgh this week presenting projects at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair hosted Downtown at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Forget electromagnets and mouse trap cars. Many of these high-level high-schoolers are published authors and hold patents. Last year’s winner created a test for pancreatic cancer now headed toward clinical trial. 

ISEF, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Approximately 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries, regions and territories compete to attend the fair. Showcases of independent research result in nearly $4 million in prizes.

Indiana freshman Noor Abdullah examined how a sweet-smelling shrub affects nearby soil.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Under the Liberty Bridge was the setting as former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called on federal lawmakers to increase funding for the nation’s roads and bridges.

Rendell joined Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania in the request, which is part of a new campaign from the Associated General Contractors of America. It’s an advertising, community outreach and social media campaign.

With warmer weather, Pittsburgh farmers’ markets are blossoming citywide.

“East Liberty opens Monday, South Side Tuesday, Carrick Wednesday, Beechview Thursday; Friday we have the City-County Building in the morning and the North Side in the afternoon, and then Squirrel Hill on Sunday,” said Mirella Ranallo, Farmers’ Market supervisor.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

It’s become a familiar and iconic sight– the dinosaur stationed outside the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland.

The life-size cast of a Diplodocus carnegii, so-named for its discovery by a team of Carnegie scientists in 1899, was the first major dinosaur fossil in the museum. An accompanying statue, “Dippy,” took shape at its centennial, and so he's stood with no major maintenance since.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Its name is Claudico, and it’s the first artificial intelligence (AI) program of its kind to take on humans in poker matches: 80,000 hands to be exact.

Four of the world’s top poker players spent two weeks at Rivers Casino. Three of the four pros had higher winnings than Claudico, but their $732,713 collective lead wasn’t large enough to be considered scientifically reliable.

Intel Free Press / Flickr

About 1,700 high school students from around the world will be in Pittsburgh starting Sunday for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the largest pre-college science competition in the world.

Twenty percent of the competitors hold patents or have published papers — this fair features high-level science.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Hoping to dispel a rumor that the closure of Wilkinsburg Middle and High School is imminent, district officials announced the school will be open for the 2015-2016 school year.

Beyond that, the district is still examining options. The struggling district is dealing with declining enrollment and has had funding issues as more students enroll in charter schools.

The VA Backlog Working Group has released a new report that shows wait times for care in the VA system are decreasing.

But chairs of the group, Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Dean Heller (R-NV) said more needs to be done. To that end, they have introduced the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, legislation aimed at ensuring the VA can handle disability claims in slow and busy times, and provide accountability. One provision would require the controller general to audit the regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

Airwolfhound / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 171st Refueling Wing will now be home to a KC-135 flight simulator.

That is the type of craft flown by pilots at the Moon Township facility. Previously, crew members would have to travel to the Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire to use a flight simulator, now they can stay in Pittsburgh and others will likely come into the region as well.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb said the city is doing well financially, but it could still improve spending.

Lamb released the 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report which showed Pittsburgh ended the year with a total fund balance of $183 million, an increase of $22.6 million from 2013.

A report released this week by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program examined how well alumni of four- and two-year higher education institutions fare after school.

The study looks at predicted outcomes for students and compares actual outcomes. It’s an area not often looked at, according to researchers at Brookings. This report compiled its data looking at three main areas: mid-career salary of alumni, repayment rate on student loans and common careers among alumni.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Since the 1970s, the AFL-CIO labor union has set April 28 as National Worker’s Memorial Day — a day to honor those who’ve lost their lives while on the job. There were nine work-related deaths in Allegheny County last year, but many more in the U.S.

“In the United States, there’s about 150 people that die every day on count of work-related injuries and illnesses,” said Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Updated at 4 p.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has stepped away from its threat to file a First Amendment lawsuit against the Plum Borough School District for trying to restrict students' comments on social media about the investigation into sexual misconduct by at least two teachers. Plum Superintendent Timothy Glasspool clarified the district's position on its website late Monday morning following the threatened suit, as well as a student protest.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Started in the 1870s, Arbor Day is the nation’s oldest environmental holiday, and it’s now celebrated around the world. In Pittsburgh, groups of volunteers gathered at West Penn Park in Polish Hill Friday to plant new trees in honor of Arbor Day.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

In the wake of several incidents of violence in Monroeville, including a shooting and 100-plus person fight, municipal leaders and local law enforcement have announced they are working together to stop the violence.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said part of the problem is drugs. When law enforcement cracked down on drug sales in Homewood, he said operations began to move out of the city into areas such as Monroeville.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (TIP) has been operated out of Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg since it started in 2009. Now, the program has moved to a new space: the former Westinghouse Electric Building in Homewood.

Mark Knobil / Flickr

North Braddock has more than 300 vacant homes, many of which are beyond repair. About 100 of those are not secured, meaning they have doors or windows that are broken or missing.

On Saturday, about 40 volunteers plan to fan out in the neighborhood to clean and secure several of the properties.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner announced that her office will fully examine the property assessment appeals process. A previous audit has already looked at the actual property assessment processes.

“And now, since most of the appeals are wrapped up, we’ll be looking at the appeals process,” said Wagner. “We’ll be analyzing at lots of data, but with this, we also want the involvement of the public.”

What her office is looking for are the personal experiences of those who went through the appeals process.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

To mark National Equal Pay Day, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner called on the county to ensure women are paid equally to men for the same jobs.

“Nationally we know that women are compensated 77 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man makes, and that’s for the same work” said Wagner. “In the Pittsburgh area, it’s even worse where you have women compensated 74 cents for every dollar a man makes.”

As the Penn Hills School District seeks an $18 million bond to cover operational costs, state Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny) is asking state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to get the bottom of the district’s fiscal woes.

DeLuca is calling for a full audit of the district’s budget after last week’s announcement that the district would seek court approval for the bond in order to meet debt service, payroll and retirement fund obligations.

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