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

Mayor Bill Peduto said that for too long the city has had a "Kennywood approach" to pensions — with ups and downs and warnings and signals about their viability and effect on city budget.

In an effort to ensure the pension plans for police, firefighters and municipal employees do not become a financial liability, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has launched an audit of those plans. Peduto joined the auditor general for the announcement, saying it’s time to dig deep into Pittsburgh’s numbers.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Even after the governor’s race had been called for Tom Wolf by several major networks, Gov. Tom Corbett’s wife, Susan, addressed supporters, assuring them the night was young, and her husband would come back to win.

That didn’t happen – and shortly before 10 p.m. Tom Corbett addressed a crowd gathered at a downtown Pittsburgh hotel to concede the race.

“The privilege of serving as your governor for the last four years is quite an honor, it’s the honor of a lifetime,” Corbett said.

In June, an electrical fire forced the closure of the Homewood-Brushton YMCA facility. Initially, YMCA officials had expected to reopen the facility in late summer or early fall, but the whole building had to be cleaned because of smoke damage, and the entire electrical system had to be repaired. Even with the facility closed, many programs were able to continue.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Photographer Duane Michals grew up in McKeesport, but it was a trip to Russia that prompted his foray into photography.

"So going to Russia, I figured I should take pictures, so I borrowed a camera," said Michals. "Though I did take a course in photography, I didn't even own a camera. And I didn't take a light meter because I thought if I owned a light meter that meant I was officially a photographer, and that would have been intimidating ... if I had never gone to Russia, I never would have been a photographer, it literally changed my life."

The City of Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Emergency Services (EMS) has seen increased call volume in recent years, and responders have kept pace. That’s according to an audit released Wednesday by Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb.

“Back in 2006/2007 we were looking at almost 116,000 calls, now we’re up to almost 122,000 calls in that two-year period [2012-2013], and despite that increase in call volume, we found that average response times pretty much held steady,” said Lamb.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new demonstration project in Sarver, about 30 miles outside Pittsburgh, is taking a decades-old problem and turning it into a possible solution for the natural gas industry. Winner Water Service has launched treatment facility that aims to clean up polluted water – and sell it to natural gas developers for use in fracking operations.

Starting now, law enforcement agencies across Pennsylvania will be targeting aggressive drivers. Each year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation funds local efforts to crack down on behaviors such as speeding, tailgating and running red lights.

“Some people call it road rage, we call it aggressive driving,” said Juliann Sheldon, a PennDOT spokeswoman. “We see a vast number of accidents because of these road rage issues. By changing driver behavior, that will help to decrease the number of crashes and fatalities we see on our roadways.”

A one-year study on community engagement in public education found that empowering parents and the community to be more active in their children’s education could improve outcomes for students.

That's according to a one-year analysis done Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) on behalf of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments. As a result, Heinz Endowments is supporting a two-year effort to increase community engagement.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh has gotten a lot of attention from Hollywood in recent years, with several high-profile films and television shows being shot here. With the help of a new film complex in McKees Rocks, the hope is that the industry will continue to expand.

“We announce the groundbreaking for the region’s first built, newly constructed, multi-stage complex for production of TV shows, commercials and feature films,” said Mike Dolan, president of Island Studios.

A commission charged with examining the state’s basic education funding formula heard from a number of education officials at an Allegheny County hearing this week.

“The message is clear that we need to come up, as a commission, with a fair, equitable and transparent way to distribute education investment throughout the commonwealth,” said Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington), one of 15 commission members.

A recent survey of 37 energy companies in southwestern Pennsylvania found some 7,000 jobs will need to be filled between now and 2020, jobs that are critical to ongoing operations.

That’s according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which conducted the survey. CEO Dennis Yablonsky said with more than 1,000 energy companies in the greater region, the job needs are likely much higher. The problem is finding enough skilled workers to fill those jobs.

Enter the Appalachia Partnership Initiative.

The Pittsburgh region is at the top of a list of similarly-sized metro regions when it comes to home ownership. That’s according to a report from Pittsburgh Today, a nonprofit research organization housed at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Among our 15 benchmark regions, the homeownership rate in Pittsburgh is the highest of all the regions,” said Doug Heuck, director of Pittsburgh Today, “and homeownership is a general sign of stability, investedness in the place that you live.”

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.

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