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

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.”

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University’s WorldKit system allows a user to “paint” interfaces onto everyday objects and surfaces.

“Literally you can put a touch screen anywhere on your environment with WorldKit,” said CMU Ph.D. student Robert Xiao. “We believe this to be the future of computer interaction, where we bring interaction out from our screens and out onto the world around us.”

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has been sentenced to three years house arrest and two years of probation for misusing her Superior Court staff to aid in her campaign efforts.
 
Melvin, 57, was found guilty of using the staff in her failed campaign in 2003 and then again during her successful campaign in 2009.
 
Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus said he does not believe Melvin is an evil person, but he said her "arrogance is stunning."

A small sampling of people living near Marcellus Shale development sites were found to have higher rates of perceived health problems and stress levels.

That’s according to a study done by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. This was not a clinical study, but researchers said it could provide insight into effects of stress.

The Beaver County Borough of Aliquippa of has grappled with violence for decades, though its mayor says things are getting better. In an effort to further reduce violence, Mayor Dwan Walker along with community and faith leaders called on state lawmakers Friday to support stronger background checks for gun sales.

A recent report from global research firm GMI Ratings found the percentage of female directors in S&P 500 companies rose only one-half of a percentage point since December 2011.

Smaller companies have even lower representation on boards by women, despite reports that a diverse board is good for business.

“We have very strong data showing a correlation to having women on boards improving investment performance,” said Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord. “For large-cap companies it appears to improve investment performance by more than 25 percent.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said Thursday one of the most concerning issues facing the county is the amount of money going toward debt services.

In 2012, the county’s debt load increased $90 million, according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Total annual debt service payments have increased to $62.6 million.

“Of this $62.6 million, we are now paying more on the interest than on the principal,” Wagner said.

The debt service for the county poses a challenge to providing services and investments for communities.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5/WESA

The Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway in Pittsburgh has been designated as only one of five in the nation that meet Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) standards. It has been awarded the Bronze Standard by the Institute for Transportation Development Policy out of basic BRT, bronze, silver or gold designations.

Several members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation are calling on the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System to put in place new written guidelines outlining duties and responsibilities for infectious disease control.

The 2013 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival kicks off in early June with a splash.

On June 7, after years of reconstruction, the fountain at the Point will be turned back on permanently.

“Point State Park has been rebuilt from top to bottom over the last five years thanks to the efforts of one of the most extensive public-private partnerships in our history,” said Riverlife President and CEO Lisa Schroeder. “Planning for this massive project began in 2001 and is the largest park project ever undertaken in the commonwealth.”

Data collected from one of the largest studies ever conducted on teacher effectiveness will be made available to only 10 groups nationally. One of those teams will be led by a University of Pittsburgh professor.

“It’s a huge dataset and allows us to answer questions that we previously weren’t able to pose or answer because data simply wasn’t available to do so for average researchers like myself,” said Tanner LeBaron Wallace, a professor in Pitt’s Department of Education.

delayedneutron / Flickr

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, cities across the U.S., including Pittsburgh, are taking a hard look at security for marathons.

City officials said Thursday that the security plan for the Pittsburgh Marathon, scheduled for May 5, is ever-evolving. One certainty is that spectators and runners will see more uniformed officers patrolling.

Gasoline prices have fallen about 8 cents this week compared to last.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.56 per gallon, while the national average is $3.52.

AAA East Central said there are several reasons for the price decline.

“One thing is they were very high coming into the winter season, and typically they’re lower during the winter,” said spokeswoman Bevi Powell. “We had a lot of refinery issues at that time that made the prices higher.”

A bill approved in the Pennsylvania Senate would allow local governments to enter into stormwater authorities.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Ted Erickson (R-PA-26), said municipal leaders are looking for tools to help them respond to the rising costs of stormwater management.

“After the last round of flooding we had about a year ago, it became evident that we needed to plan on a watershed basis, which means you have to cross municipal boundaries," Erickson said. "So if you had an authority that did that, it would be extremely helpful."

A recent Supreme Court decision stated that a search warrant must be obtained before officials draw blood from people suspected of driving under the influence.

Typically, when an officer pulls over a motorist and has probable cause for arrest, the officer takes the motorist directly to hospital for a blood draw. Now, police have to get a search warrant first.  

The Pittsburgh Black Political Convention has voted to endorse State Rep. Jake Wheatley in the city's upcoming mayoral election.

More than 200 people gathered over the weekend for the city's first-ever convention of black voters. The convention also aimed to create a clear agenda on issues including poverty, unemployment, police/community relations and violence, among other things.

Across the world, people are celebrating Earth Day in a variety of ways today, from trash clean ups to tree plantings.

Pittsburgh didn’t wait for the actual day, as Earth Day events started last week and will continue in the coming weeks and days.

On Friday ALCOSAN workers gathered at several spots in Allegheny County to pick up litter.

“All the litter we pick up has the tendency to blow into the rivers,” said ALCOSAN spokeswoman Nancy Barylak, “so that litter you see on the side of the road could easily end up in the rivers.”

In the midst of national tragedies this week, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, many people are heading to their houses of worship and their faith leaders for counsel and guidance.

With congregations of varying size, a pastor or priest may hear from numerous people. So where then do the faith leaders turn for comfort?

The answer varies from religion to religion, but is also somewhat similar. For the Pittsburgh Presbytery, pastors are offered several options.

Last week, workers from Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino marched to the facility, calling on management to recognize their right to organize. They then gathered in an employee cafeteria where workers claim they  were targets of intimidation by management.

The Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) was contracted with the City of Pittsburgh almost a year ago to develop a so-called Sociable City Plan. That plan aims to improve the city’s nighttime economy while also ensuring public safety.

Several restaurant and bar owners from Pittsburgh’s South Side gathered on Wednesday to discuss progress and future steps.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

One year ago, a group of local brewers and craft beer enthusiasts gathered with an idea — a week-long celebration of the Pittsburgh region’s craft beers. The first year was deemed a success, and now, in its second year, organizers are hoping for an even bigger showing.

“We’ve got all of Pittsburgh’s craft beer heroes here pulling out all the stops putting together the best Craft Beer Week we can put together,” said Scott Smith, owner and founder of East End Brewing.

Growing Movement

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