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

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.

Edit | Remove

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.

The traditional kick-off to the summer driving season officially gets underway this weekend as millions of people travel for the Memorial Day weekend. According to AAA East Central, approximately 31.2 million motorists will hit the road starting Thursday.

“In the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, there will be about 3.78 million drivers out on the roadways, so very busy if you’re heading out on a road trip,” said AAA spokeswoman Bevi Powell.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

City Councilman Bill Peduto beat out three other Democratic contenders Tuesday for a win in Pittsburgh's hotly contested mayoral primary.

Peduto is hoping to win the seat currently held by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who announced in March he was not seeking re-election. While this was a primary race, Peduto’s victory all but guarantees him the seat. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pittsburgh by a wide margin, and the city hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1934.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

For the next few weeks, law enforcement officials throughout the commonwealth will be stepping up enforcement of the state’s seat belt law. It’s an effort to get more people to buckle up.

On the heels of news that Pennsylvania ranks 42nd in the nation for best places to do business, the CompetePA Coalition is calling on lawmakers to change the corporate tax structure. In particular, the group is asking that the $3 million cap on net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards be eliminated.

As part of National Bike Month, hundreds of Pittsburghers and cyclists from outlying areas commuted to work on two wheels Friday. It was the fifth year for Bike to Work Day in Pittsburgh.

Last year’s event saw about 550 people participate, numbers for Friday won’t be available until a later date. Russell Duff is from the Baldwin area and was at a relief station on the South Side for this year’s Bike to Work Day.

“I’ve been biking since I was 5-years-old," Duff said. "I’ve done BMX, freestyle, and I just can’t stay off a bike.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

In an ongoing effort to connect multiple bicycle trails and communities with one another, the plan for the Ohio River Trail has been completed.

Community leaders from around Allegheny County gathered at a Rite Aid store in McKees Rocks Thursday to outline the plan.

“This project is going to connect the City of Pittsburgh to McKees Rocks, along Route 51, along the McKees Rocks Bottoms, and finally connecting to the Montour Trail, which now has a spur to the airport,” said Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker.

Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

One week before Pittsburgh’s primary election, three of the city's mayoral candidates gathered at 90.5 WESA for an issues forum.

City Councilman Bill Peduto, former state Auditor General Jack Wagner and state Rep. Jake Wheatley participated in the Tuesday evening forum. The first question was what the candidates, if elected mayor, would do to keep Pittsburgh on strong economic footing if the city were to exit Act 47 fiscal oversight status. The city has petitioned to be removed.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Saturday morning, artists from around the region gathered at Homewood Cemetery to turn chopped-down trees into mushrooms.

State College artist Ed Crow and his wife Janise sculpted a small morel mushroom and transformed a large three-pronged piece of wood into three morel mushrooms. This was one of several public events surrounding the so-called reGenerations project.

“ReGenerations is really the cemetery engaging with the arts community here in Pittsburgh to make arts and crafts from the trees we’re salvaging,” said project director Kenn Thomas. 

Joe Gratz / Flickr

The annual state Supreme Court’s State of the Commonwealth Courts report finds the two biggest issues facing Pennsylvania’s court system are financial shortfalls and misperceptions about the system.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee gathered in Pittsburgh Thursday to hear from the public and other elected officials on proposed changes to voting in the commonwealth. State lawmakers are considering measures that would allow for online voter registration and expand early voting.

“Also same-day voter registration, so you can just go to the poll, register to vote, and then vote on that particular day,” said Sen. Matt Smith (D-37). “No fault absentee voting would allow people to get their absentee ballot and then send it back in to their local county division of elections.”

Pages