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

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Sen. Bob Casey joined UPMC officials Friday to assure the Pittsburgh region that area facilities are equipped to deal with any possible Ebola cases.

This as Gov. Tom Corbett announced that three Pennsylvanians are being monitored for symptoms; they were on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas with the nurse who tested positive for the virus.

A ninth grade Pittsburgh-area student is the 2014 winner of the national 3M Discovery Young Scientist Challenge. He won this week for a prototype new generation battery called the PolluCell.

“My innovation is a battery that uses carbon dioxide and recycled materials such as aluminum and silver to generate electricity,” said Sahil Doshi.

The 16th annual competition has a goal of reaching a new generation of scientist at an age when interest in the subject largely begins to wane – middle school. Doshi entered the competition as an 8th grader.

Corporations large and small, along with service providers, local activists, leaders and education officials are gathered in Pittsburgh for the first Disability Employment Summit, sponsored by the PNC Financial Service Group.

“Knowing that there’s a high unemployment rate with people with disabilities in this region,” said Amanda Snow, with PNC, “there are a number of opportunities and current openings, so how do we match those up?”

As the Pittsburgh Police continue to work to mend relationships with the community, some officers are allegedly throwing the mayor under the bus. Director of Public Safety Stephen Bucar has sent an e-mail to the new police chief, asking that officers stop blaming Mayor Bill Peduto for tickets they issue.

The 10 colleges and universities that make up the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE) represented approximately 32 percent of the city’s gross domestic product in FY 2012-13, according to a report released by PCHE.

“We have contributed close to $9 billion into the regional economy and we’re supporting more than 70,000 jobs in the City of Pittsburgh, which is one out of every four jobs,” said Paul Hennigan, PCHE chair and president of Point Park University.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s acting police chief and Mayor Bill Peduto were two panelists in a discussion on police/community relations as part of the Mayor’s Night on Air at the Community Broadcast Center Wednesday evening.

Tensions have been high between police and the black community in Pittsburgh due to issues that have been building up for decades. Now, Peduto said work is underway to change that.

“We have done more than just hiring a police chief; we have created a culture change within Pittsburgh,” Peduto said.

Peduto cited his hiring of Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar and bringing in a new chief from outside the ranks of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. He also said through years of politics in the department, control over the organization and morale has taken a hit. Acting Police Chief Cameron McLay said he has been welcomed by rank-and-file officers, but he knows change won’t occur overnight.

“Culture is a slow thing to change. It takes years and years and years to change culture,” McLay said. “But effective leaders working together can change climate a lot faster, so that’s what we are trying to do here.”

To start to tackle the issue, Peduto said three critical areas within policing need to be reformed. The first is how officers are recruited.

With all of the medical and scientific advances of recent decades, there is still a bit of a mystery within the human body — the brain. To try and better understand it, Carnegie Mellon University has launched the BrainHub initiative.

“It’s actually, I would say, almost embarrassing how little we know, and even more than that, how little we can do, to try and deal with brain disorders of a variety of kinds,” said CMU Interim Provost Nathan Urban.

The hope is that more can be learned about disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Corbett announced Friday that U.S. Steel is keeping its headquarters in Pittsburgh and expanding its Mon Valley Works operation.

The announcement came as state officials fanned across Pennsylvania to mark National Manufacturing Day.

U.S. Steel employs some 4,300 people in the Pittsburgh region. In an effort to keep them headquartered in the steel city, Corbett says the state has committed up to $30.7 million in grants for expansions and improvements.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

While many kids spent the summer swimming, playing video games or going to camp, six area kids spent theirs working with theater professionals to produce plays they’d written.

City Theatre’s Young Playwright’s contest takes six works from middle and high school students in Western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. The contest is in its 15th year, and this year’s selections were whittled down from more than 300 submissions.

Ground has been broken for the fourth building at the Pittsburgh International Business Park in Moon Township.

The new building, on Cherrington Parkway, has no announced tenants yet, but that’s not a concern, said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“We broke ground over the last couple of years on three of them that are now full,” he said. “They are full with tech companies, engineering companies and mortgage service companies.”

A group working to expand access to early childhood learning programs in Pittsburgh has released its recommendations to state officials – as Pennsylvania gears up to apply for a piece of a nationwide $250 million preschool development grant. In Pittsburgh, the share would be used to expand access for lower-income children first.

“This grant would provide more access for 378 more children who are currently on a waiting list to be served in a high-quality program,” said Cosette Grant-Overton, manager of educational development in the mayor’s office.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Heroin and prescription drug abuse is at epidemic levels in western Pennsylvania and across the nation, according to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David Hickton. His U.S. Attorney’s Working Group on Drug Overdoses and Addiction has released a report outlining the problem and making recommendations to combat it going forward. The main goal of the group is to reduce overdose deaths.

One of the perks of being a kid in the winter is the “snow day,” but a new program being introduced in Pennsylvania may make those even more coveted than they are now.

Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq has announced that a Flexible Instructional Days pilot program is now open to schools.

“What this does is it provides alternatives for schools across the commonwealth to offer anything from cyber to digital-based learning in place of students being able to physically be in the classroom,” said department spokesman Timothy Eller.

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health may shed light on some of the risk factors heart disease – namely that race and ethnicity may place a role in a man’s likelihood of accumulating fat around the heart.

“This is important because fat around the heart has been shown to be a risk factor of cardiovascular disease,” said Samar El Khoudary, an assistant professor of epidemiology and the study's lead author.

Pittsburgh has been chosen as one of seven cities nationwide to house Code for America fellows, who will spend a year delving into a city issue and developing applications to tackle it. The issue the city has chosen to take on is procurement.

“Procurement refers to all the money the city spends on everything,” said Laura Meixell, analytics and strategy manager for the city, “from services and dealing with properties that we own to thinking about the contracts that we have, to the technology and the goods that we purchase as a city.”

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The Emerald Ash Borer has all but wiped out ash trees in and around the Pittsburgh region, and even though the insect only goes after one tree species, the effects will be felt on a much wider scale.

Pretty soon you won’t be able to tell dead trees from live trees as leaves begin to fall. For now, as you’re driving around Pennsylvania, you can look out over stands of trees and see lush, green landscape – but – that landscape is dotted in many areas with dead trees.

A recent series of stories produced by The Allegheny Front and 90.5 WESA explored the influence of industry money on Pennsylvania’s oversight of the natural gas boom.

In one of the reports, there was an assertion from environmental group PennFuture that the former head of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was available mostly to industry:

Median household income in the Pittsburgh metro was up in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

“For Pittsburgh, we see that the 2013 median household income was just over $51,000, the poverty rate was 12.8 percent and a little over 7 percent of the people in the metro area did not have health coverage,” said Ed Welniak, chief of the Income and Statistics Branch of the Census Bureau.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County.
 
“We have fined Range Resources $4.15 million, the largest fine that has ever been brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era,” said DEP spokesman John Poister.
 
In addition, Range Resources has agreed to close five impoundments and upgrade two others. The impoundments in question are used to store water.
 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

As school budgets continue to shrink or remain flat, many teachers are left short of needed equipment, or have classroom wish lists that don’t fall into budgeting priorities.

Enter the website DonorsChoose.org.

Through Donors Choose, teachers submit requests and then anyone can donate to whichever project they chose – hence the name.

On Thursday, Google announced it was fully funding the requests of 79 Pittsburgh-area teachers.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh Thursday voted to terminate a contract with the Buncher Company for possible redevelopment of the Produce Terminal in the Strip District. The URA then voted to negotiate with two separate entities over the next 90 days about possible development.

One of those is McCaffery Interests of Chicago.

National, state and local education leaders are gathering in Pittsburgh to explore how to better integrate the arts into education. The Arts Education Partnership National Forum’s theme this year is preparing students for the next American in and through the Arts. Many conversations about education in recent years have centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but many are trying to add arts – STEAM.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

State and local elected officials joined UPMC officials for a ribbon cutting Tuesday on the new Children’s Hospital of UPMC of Pittsburgh South Hills location.

The outpatient facility in South Fayette Township is replacing the current Children’s South in Bethel Park. The new location, with easy access off I-79, is expected to expand access to care.

A group of anti-abortion activists has filed suit against a 15-foot buffer zone outside of Planned Parenthood’s downtown Pittsburgh location.

The move follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer that struck down 35-foot protest-free zones outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts for violating the First Amendment rights of protesters.

“We filed suit seeking to have the ordinance found unconstitutional, that it’s an inappropriate restriction on speech,” said attorney Lawrence Paladin.

Fast food workers weren’t the only ones taking their message to the streets Thursday. The same day, healthcare workers at the Allegheny County Jail gathered at the County Courthouse, calling on the County Jail Oversight board to enforce staffing requirements laid out in a contract between the county and Corizon, a prison health management company.

“The numbers that have been agreed to as far as staffing for the infirmary, the mental health units – are not being met,” said Randa Ruge, and organizer with United Steelworkers, the union representing the workers.

Pittsburgh’s film credits have been steadily growing over the last few years, and the Steel City is the location of a new series called “The Chair,” which premieres on the cable channel Starz this weekend.

It’s about the making of two films – each from the same screen play, but adapted by different directors.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The August Wilson Center’s future remains uncertain, but a group of community volunteers and activists have been holding community meetings to formulate a plan for a new August Wilson Center.

The August Wilson Center Recovery Committee laid out plans for the center’s future, plans that group members said were formed by looking at past failures and successes. Group leader janera solomon said things must operate differently in the future.

Courtesy image

Eight months after taking office, Mayor Bill Peduto has announced the hiring of Cameron McLay as the next chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

It's a job, Peduto said, that comes with a lot of ground to cover.

“He most certainly must restore the trust with the community," Peduto said. “He must rebuild the morale with the rank and file and he must make the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police a national model of professionalism.”

Starting next year, UPMC will implement a universal influenza immunization policy for all staff working in clinical locations. The current policy strongly encourages employees to get the flu shot. The reason for the new policy is primarily patient safety.

Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber have been granted temporary operating licenses in the Pittsburgh area, but it’s still up the Public Utility Commission to determine if they should be granted permanent permission to operate, and whether regulatory changes are needed to fit them into the transportation landscape.

A PUC hearing Thursday tackled the issue.

“I think that it would be embarrassing if we step back and say ‘no, we’re not going to accept this innovation,’” said state Rep. Erin Molchany.

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