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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As counties, municipalities and school districts prepare to send tax bills, Allegheny County is reporting a drop in taxable real estate values. Due to assessment appeals, the overall value of land and buildings in the county dropped by 4.8 percent.

There is now a total of a little more than $75 billion in taxable property in the county, versus more than $79 billion last year. But, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that’s not unusual following a reassessment.

Flickr user Chealion

The state of emergency medicine in Pennsylvania is improving, but a national report card from the American College of Emergency Physicians, or ACEP, shows the commonwealth lagging behind the rest of the US in some categories.

Overall, the state received a grade of "C+," which was compiled by looking at several areas.

Over the next three years, researchers across Pennsylvania will be examining two different methods of mental health treatment, to determine which has the better outcomes. One of those is the Person-Centered approach.

“That’s focusing on the person who has a behavioral health condition getting support and information from a peer, someone who also has the experience, to prepare for the meetings with their doctors,” said

Kim MacDonald-Wilson is with the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care.

Pretty soon there will be more police officers, firefighters, paramedics and building inspectors on the ground in Pittsburgh.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced this week he has authorized one class of police officers to begin training in March followed by another class in the fall, with the possibility of a third, one class of firefighters to begin as soon as possible and the hiring of more paramedics.

Even though Pittsburgh didn’t have the most extreme temperatures in the polar vortex, the mercury did go below zero. And as a result, hospital emergency departments saw an uptick in visits, including UPMC, which saw 12 cases following the worst of the cold.

Updated 3:53pm 1/8/2014

The City of Pittsburgh has been under Act 47 state oversight since 2003. Back then, Pittsburgh was operating with a debt burden of more than 20% of its operating budget, pools and recreation centers had to close and hundreds of city employees, including police officers, were laid off. In late 2007, former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl along with Act 47 coordinators said the city was ready to be released. Even at that time, then Councilman Bill Peduto said the city wasn’t ready.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

From South Africa to Pittsburgh — four cheetahs are now living at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

The animals are considered “genetically valuable” according to Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, the zoo's director of animal health. The goal of acquiring such animals is to ensure that future populations of the endangered cats can continue to be diverse.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

It’s official – Pittsburgh has a new mayor.

Bill Peduto took the oath of office during a ceremony at Heinz Hall Monday. The city’s 60th mayor vowed to help build the next Pittsburgh.

“Pittsburgh has grown and changed and grown again from the day a small campfire burned at the confluence of our three rivers and heralded the new boundaries of the American nation,” Peduto said in his inaugural speech. “But we did not only inherit this city from our forbearers, we are also borrowing it from our children.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

When Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was quietly sworn into office following the 2006 death of Mayor Bob O’Connor, the 26-year-old City Council president became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. 

Headlines around the time included the following: “Hope surrounds new Pittsburgh mayor, 26” and he made several national television appearances, including a spot on "The Late Show with David Letterman." But as he heads out of office, the last months of his tenure included headlines such as “Luke Ravenstahl Maintains Low Profile Amid Federal Probe.”

A recent PNC survey found that many millennials, a group generally considered born in the 1980s and 1990s, are not saving money, but they'd like to.

More than 3,000 people were surveyed, and 56 percent identified savings and budgeting as their biggest financial issue. The problem is many millennials don’t know where to start when it comes to saving.

In 2005 and again in 2009, the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank, put together a list of recommendations for Pittsburgh’s new Mayor. With Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto set to take the reins in 2014, those recommendations have been updated and re-released.

Wolfie Rankin / Flickr

When families are going through a tough time economically, many turn to food banks to help keep meals on the table. But sometimes furry and/or feathered family members are part of the equation and families can struggle to feed them as well.

Enter Animal Friend’s Chow Wagon program.

The United Way’s 21 and Able campaign kicked off in early 2012 with the goal of streamlining the service system for people with disabilities and their families.

A person living with disabilities is eligible for a wide range of supportive services until they turn 21. When they enter adulthood, available services can be hard to secure, and unemployment for people with disabilities remains an issue, despite laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s the “season of giving” but in the hustle and bustle of the season, some forget that can also mean giving blood. Each year, blood and platelet donations drop off during this time of year, according to the American Red Cross Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region. There are several reasons for the decline.

“One is the holidays,” said spokeswoman Marianna Spampinato. “People are busy shopping, baking, decorating, enjoying themselves – which is great, but meanwhile, patients are still in hospitals needing transfusions.”

This is often called “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many it’s one of the toughest times of the year, thanks to depression. There are several types of depression, including major depressive disorder, or what is more commonly known as clinical depression.

“It’s a mood state that lasts for an extended period of time and to a degree of severity that really interferes with a person’s usual functioning,” said Edward Friedman, a psychiatrist with UPMC. “That’s kind of different from holiday blues or seasonal blues.”

Approximately 94.5 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this week for the Christmas and New Year holidays, according to AAA East Central. That’s a half a million more travelers than the Christmas travel season last year and the highest number ever recorded for the season.

“The Mid-Atlantic region there’s expected to 10.5 million travelers and most of those will be driving,” said AAA East Central’s Bevi Powell. “There will be about 9.49 million drivers on the road. The Mid-Atlantic region includes New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”

It’s a common New Year’s resolution – to get more exercise. In hopes of jump starting those efforts, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is sponsoring free, guided hikes in 19 state parks.

“This is actually part of a nation-wide effort to get people active outdoors,” said DCNR spokeswoman Chris Novak. “Here in Pennsylvania, it’s to remind people that our state parks and forests are open year-round, including winter, and can offer great activities including not only hiking, but ice fishing, sledding, all kinds of things in the winter.”

The Pittsburgh Promise has announced it has received its largest-ever individual gift.

Marty and Ann McGuinn have pledged $1 million to the scholarship fund.

“This money will support hundreds of kids in their pursuit for higher education after high school,” said Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril, “and will ensure the majority of them will be able to graduate from college or whatever post-secondary education they pursue, without debt.”

The first phase of a riverfront revitalization project north of Pittsburgh is now complete.

The official ribbon cutting ceremony for Bridge Street freight access took place Thursday morning. It's an effort that has been in development for about a decade.

“The road was in horrible condition, and the business fronting the road makes specialty window systems, and for a number of years they weren’t able to use the road effectively because of the potholes and such,” said Iris Whitworth, executive director of the Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone (ARTEZ).

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is calling on Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25.

“As the state’s fiscal watchdog, I think this would be good for the state budget," DePasquale said. "I believe it would help stimulate the economy and most importantly, it’s just the right thing to do to put money in the pockets of working families who have gone without a raise for far too long."

Emergency Unemployment Funds, which go to people who’ve been receiving unemployment benefits for more than six months, are set to expire Dec. 28.

“We estimate that 80,000 Pennsylvanians who are claiming emergency unemployment compensation benefits will lose those benefits as of the end of December this year because the federal government is not continuing that program,” said Sara Goulet, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

A week after Mayor-elect Bill Peduto’s plan to offer some city worker’s an early retirement faced a veto threat from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Peduto’s staff announced a second plan that would operate separate from the pension.

On Thursday, more details of the plan were released: Those changes could expand the number of eligible workers.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bingo has been a popular past time in the U.S. for decades. It may conjure images of playing with Grandma in a church hall or rows of intense players, daubers in hand, good luck trinkets in front of them, eagerly awaiting the next call.

In Pittsburgh, players can experience a slightly different bingo game – one that has been held monthly since the late 1990s – OUTrageous Bingo.

It takes place at an unlikely venue, Rodef Shalom in Oakland, and each month the place gets packed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has announced the 2013 grantees of Children’s Trust Fund grants. $1.5 million dollars will be divvied up to 13 organizations across the state.

“These are grants that are awarded to organizations to focus on strengthening families and building protective factors and resiliency within parents, caregivers and children in order to prevent child abuse and neglect,” said Theresa Campisi, family support program manager with DPW.

After more than three years without a hospital, Braddock is set to get another medical facility.

On Friday, ground was broken on a new commercial development that will include a Highmark and Allegheny Health Network full service urgent care center, to serve the more than 2,100 people who live in the borough.

“They’ll have access to health care services as well as good, positive development on the main drag of Braddock,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

UPMC Braddock closed its doors in early 2010.

The Community College of Allegheny County Board of Trustees has named Quintin B. Bullock as its ninth president.

Bullock is currently president of Schenectady County Community College in New York. He was appointed unanimously by the Board of Trustees after a national search.

“Dr. Bullock, really as I’ve described him to everyone, has what we were looking for,” said board Chair Amy Kuntz. “Being a community college president is such a unique position. It requires a skill set that is multi-dimensional.”

Heather Dougherty was new to Pittsburgh and without a car, so she’d walk everywhere in and around Lawrenceville.

“And I experienced street harassment almost every time I stepped outside my office,” Dougherty said. “Men would shout at me you know, ‘Hey baby; nice hips,’ stuff like that. They would honk their horn as I crossed the street.”

Dougherty said she did as she’d always been told — ignored it — but it began to happen more frequently.

Members of the Neville Island Good Neighbors Working Group are quitting, saying they're frustrated that air pollution caused by a Pittsburgh-area coke plant isn't being fixed fast enough.

“We’re starting to get the feeling that we’re serving as a tool for DET Energy to placate the public rather than addressing the real and compelling regional health concerns,” said group member and Ben Avon Councilman Michael Bett.

The Pittsburgh Public School Board has four new members, the largest turnover for the group since 1999.

A+ Schools is calling on the public to help keep the board accountable. The public education advocacy group is seeking volunteers for the Board Watch Program.

“We think it’s important that the public is aware of what’s happening, what kinds of decisions the board is making and the manner in which they’re making them,” said A+ Schools Executive Director Carey Harris.

The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, but as many people who’ve gone through high school and who are familiar with pop culture know, kids finds ways around that all the time.

A new study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh finds that teens that do their drinking alone may be at greater risk for alcohol problems later in life.

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