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.

 

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The city of Pittsburgh is on track to finish 2013 with a budget surplus, according to the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) released by Controller Michael Lamb.

The earlier, Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), showed the city ended 2012 with a surplus in excess of $20 million. Lamb also gave an update on how the city is doing so far this year.

Citing a national report out this week, Lamb said this year the Pittsburgh region is experiencing moderate growth, while many other parts of the nation are experiencing slower, modest growth.

In an effort to better understand brain aneurysms, researchers in Pittsburgh will examine aneurysm tissue to try and learn what determines whether an aneurysm ruptures or doesn’t.

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed into law a bill that is aimed at filling a hole in the unemployment compensation fund left by a cut in federal dollars.

House Bill 26 will provide the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry funding from the employee UC tax.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Billed as the world's largest furry convention, Anthrocon is returning to Pittsburgh Thursday through Sunday. The much-anticipated Pittsburgh tradition is expected to attract more than 5,500 participants, some in costume, some not.

“We’re all furries,” said Anthrocon Inc. CEO Samuel Conway. “That’s the catch-all term for the fandom. We are furries. The people in the costume – we refer to the costumes, our own little lingo, they are fursuits. So they are fursuiters, the people who are wearing them.”

Officials with the VA Pittsburgh Health System have revealed that about 10 veterans may have been sickened by Legionella bacteria several years before a larger outbreak that began in 2011.

That has been blamed for five deaths, and at least 16 people were infected in 2011 and 2012. Since that time investigations have found lax reporting of Legionella bacteria in the system and other issues. Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) said trust has been a major issue between the VA system and its veterans.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb has released an audit of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority — and found a bit of a mixed bag.

First, the good news: Lamb said the Parking Authority is mostly in compliance on their contracts and have good policies and procedures which are largely followed. Plus, revenues are up from 2012 amounts.

About a month after its re-opening, the fountain at Point State Park is being tested by the Allegheny County Department of Health for Legionella.

The move follows a report of one person coming down with Legionnaires' disease after a visit to the fountain. County health officials say it’s unlikely the infection came from the fountain, but they are testing it as a precaution.

In the spring, Gov. Tom Corbett postponed implementation of the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards, citing concerns from lawmakers and public. Corbett asked the State Board of Education and lawmakers to review the standards and make any modifications they deem necessary.

A vote is looming in a state Senate committee on legislation to potentially expand Medicaid eligibility to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians under the 2010 federal health care law.

“I cannot say enough about the importance for those individuals who don’t have health insurance, who are working every day, about a half a million people in Pennsylvania, how significant it could be for their lives, and for all of us,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-PA-7.)

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has announced a plan he says would spur growth of alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure.

The so-called Clean Vehicles Corridors Act would result in more fueling stations across interstate highways, thereby making it easier for alternative fuel vehicles to travel longer distances.

“The way it will work is the U.S. Transportation Department, in consultation with the Energy Department as well as other federal agencies, will designate highway routes where the development of an alternative fuel support system will succeed,” Casey said.

J. Todd Poling / Flickr

It was 150 years ago that the battle considered to be the turning point of the Civil War took place in a field in Pennsylvania.

Each year, thousands of people re-enact the Battle of Gettysburg, and thousands turn out to watch. This year, for the 150th anniversary, the events will be even larger than normal.

“There’ll be two major re-enactments probably attracting 12,000 to 15,000 re-enactors each, and then hundreds of thousands of spectators,” said Andy Masich, president and CEO of the Heinz History Center.  

As of earlier Tuesday afternoon, more than 300 people on Facebook said they are heading downtown Wednesday morning to catch live coverage of the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 — two cases involving same-sex marriage.

Delta Foundation organizers are expecting an even larger crowd downtown.

“Liberty Avenue will be shut down to vehicle traffic between 9th and 10th because we’re expecting so many people,” said Christine Bryan with the Delta Foundation. “We’ll have a large television set up, and a stage and various speakers.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Several years ago, a Family Dollar store was set to open on Frankstown Avenue in Homewood. The building was built, but the chain pulled out, deciding not to locate a store there.

The building has stood vacant since. The Homewood Renaissance Association (HRA) is hoping to breathe new life into it and the community by converting the space into a new community center.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a way to track the locations of individuals in complex, indoor settings such as nursing homes.

Developers liken it to the Marauder’s Map featured in the Harry Potter books and movies, which allows Harry Potter to see anyone’s location at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

But instead of magic, this system uses a network of cameras and algorithms to track movement. Researchers said this could be important in keeping track of residents of nursing homes.

As part of a national mandate from President Obama to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals in the veterans’ health system, the VA Pittsburgh Health System has hired 30 new mental health professionals plus an additional 14 to fill existing vacancies.

“I think it’s obvious that if we have more people offering service, then more people could obtain services and obtain them quicker,” said Jeffrey Peters, associate chief of staff for behavior health at the VA Pittsburgh.

Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

The population of the youngest Allegheny County residents is growing, while nationally the number is dropping.

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of people five years of age and younger increased county-wide by 0.9 percent, while it decreased nationally by the same percentage.

“I think the Pittsburgh region’s been attracting people for the last few years, and most people moving into the region are going to be younger folks mostly coming for work, so I think that’s made us younger as we go ahead,” said Christopher Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Cool Roofs program has officially launched in Pittsburgh. Through the servePGH initiative, the roofs of 10 city-owned buildings will be coated with reflective paint.

“In the coming months, volunteers will help paint approximately 50,000 square feet of city-owned roofs with a special, eco-friendly white coating,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

The reflective surface will help reduce carbon emissions and decrease energy costs for the buildings, and eventually that energy savings could extend to wider areas.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said his office has been fully cooperative with an ongoing federal investigation into city financial dealings, and that there have been no subpoenas from investigators in more than a month.

Ravenstahl maintained that he’s done nothing wrong and said he wished the truth could come out now, as opposed to a long investigation.

At an event in Mt. Washington Wednesday morning to launch a program to increase energy efficiency at city-owned buildings, he took issue with questions from the media about his lack of public appearances of late.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

For so many kids, the beginning of summer holds promise of weeks and weeks of doing absolutely nothing, or of sitting around and watching TV or playing video games all day.

Many kids will have such plans thwarted by parents who will send them to one or several summer programs. That’s probably not a bad thing — there is a growing body of research that suggests letting kids do nothing but watch TV and play video games all summer could set back their academic growth.

Chris Cieslak, a lieutenant colonel with the Army Reserves, returned from Kabul, Afghanistan in 2012 after a year’s duty there.

Cieslak went through what she described as a "minor depression," and only now does she feel she’s made the transition from military to civilian life. She considers herself lucky — she had a good support system in place. Not all women veterans can say the same.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

The Clean Rivers Campaign announced Monday it is filing a legal challenge to ALCOSAN’s denial of an open records request.

In May, the group requested any and all documents related to the scope of the work being done on ALCOSAN’s study of green infrastructure. That request was denied by ALCOSAN.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

Governor Tom Corbett stood under Pittsburgh’s Liberty Bridge to discuss the need for more investment in road and bridge projects, as well as mass transit. This comes days after the Pennsylvania Senate voted to boost state funding for transportation systems by nearly 50 percent.

“We are moving in the right direction toward a transportation funding program that is sustainable, that is long-term, that is fair, and that is balanced,” said Corbett, “between my proposal and the one offered by Senate Bill 1, it means our roads and bridges will be safer, our economy more sound.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development has announced the new Strengthening Communities Partnership, an endeavor aimed at spurring private investment in five communities that are already working to revitalize.

“What it enables is for a corporation to provide a significant donation, up to $500,000 annually, and in return for a six-year commitment at that level, they can receive an 80 percent state tax credit and an additional federal benefit,” said Taris Vrcek, executive director of McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (CDC).

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new-to-Pennsylvania program is hoping to increase enrollment in advanced placement classes in two Pittsburgh high schools, with the ultimate goal to ensure more kids, especially kids of color, are prepared for higher education – whatever form that may take.

More than 100 students at Pittsburgh Brashear High School are currently enrolled in advanced placement, or AP, classes. Through a partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative, or NMSI, and a grant from the Heinz Endowments, work will get underway to increase that number.

usda.gov / Creative Commons

Thanks to the presence of disease and tree-killing insects such as the emerald ash borer, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is reminding residents of the firewood quarantine in place.

People are asked to not move firewood more than 50 miles from its origin, and wood products cannot be moved out of Bucks County at all because of thousand cankers disease.

For the first time ever, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry will be offering amnesty for individuals or businesses who owe money to the unemployment compensation fund.

Department spokeswoman Sarah Goulet said currently about $613 million is owed to the fund.

“It works out to be 130,000 individual claimants who are eligible to participate in amnesty and the over payments that are due there are about $356 million,” she said, “and there’s about 50,000 employers who need to pay into the state’s UC trust fund through UC tax, and they owe $256 million.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Cities throughout Pennsylvania, regardless of size, are facing similar issues such as blight, aging infrastructure and unsustainable pension systems. To learn more about the future of municipalities, the state Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee held a hearing Wednesday to better assess needs.

The first person to address the committee was Pittsburgh’s 8th District City Councilman and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Peduto. He said there are four main issues facing the city: pensions, economic development, education, and infrastructure and transportation.

airnow.gov

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are partnering on the so-called School Flag Program, which debuted last week at the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park.

“The School Flag Program was developed by the EPA, and it’s an engaging, hands-on way for students to inform their entire school and community about the region’s air quality and then to take necessary steps to minimize their exposure to high levels of air pollution,” said Karrie Kressler, of GASP.

The third year of the Pittsburgh Youth Civic Leadership Academy (YCLA) is now accepting applications. The three-week program allows city high school students to get an immersion experience in city government.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (left) and B-PEP's Tim Stevens said the corporate community needs to be more diverse, especially in management and board positions.

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The Pittsburgh region has been doing relatively well the last few years, with the region returning to pre-recession employment levels faster than the national average.

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