Jess Lasky

News Fellow

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014.  The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science.  Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.

Fun fact:  "I own all the Pokemon GameBoy games...and still play them!"

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Holiday Travel
2:40 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Holiday Travel Breaking Records and Travelers Are Saving Money

Travel is cheaper this year, with gas prices and plane tickets being less expensive than they have been in recent years, and this has led to AAA project a record breaking travel season.

“Well this year our holiday travel volume nationally and regionally broke all records, and we’ve been keeping track of this since 2001. So for the yearend holidays, which is Christmas and New Year’s, there’s going to be more people on the road than ever,” said Spokeswoman for AAA, Chelsea Pompeani.

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Essential Pittsburgh
12:10 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Gingerbread Display Replicates Pittsburgh

Gingerbread Heinz Field is loaded with Steeler Pride
Marcus Charleston WESA

Gingerbread houses are part of what makes Christmas delicious and special, and this year the gingerbread game has been stepped up at the Grand Concourse with a tiny Pittsburgh village.

The display features the Duquesne Incline, the Smithfield Bridge, Heinz Field, the three rivers and many more miniature replicas.

“We wanted to do something different this year, and actually started planning it way back in January, after last year’s holidays, and [we] just started planning it out and about three months ago to really work on it and build it,” said Grand Concourse General Manager Milo Boering.

Executive Chef, Loren Halperin says they must have used about 50-60lbs. of gingerbread dough. Then after baking the dough in September the chefs had to let it completely dry out, which took about a month. Then in early November they began construction.

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Somerset Lake
3:21 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Somerset County Agrees to Match Donations to Save Lake

Commissioners of Somerset County have agreed to use drilling revenue to match any public donations to save Lake Somerset.

The lake has one of 12 “high hazard dams” in the state. The county is trying to save the dam to save the lake. The 253 acre lake’s water level has already been lowered by 6 feet to take pressure off the dam.

The county is also trying to make the land around the lake into a community park. It just has to wait for the Fish and Boat Commission to approve the plans, which Commissioner John Vatavuk thinks is very likely.

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Land Bank
3:15 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Community Land Bank Could Come to Pittsburgh

More affordable housing could be coming to Pittsburgh after the Allegheny Land Trust received a $200,000 donation from The Heinz Endowments to test the feasibility of a community land bank.

The community land bank would make housing about 25% cheaper by only selling the house on the property, and not the land. Right now the Trust is focusing on the Larimer neighborhood.

$40,000 dollars will go to researching, and the rest of the money will be used to set up the community land bank.

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New Aluminum
1:45 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

New ALCOA Aluminum Could Create Better Cars

A new type of aluminum could change the way cars are made, making them lighter stronger and greener.

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa’s Micromill® takes molten metal and turns it into an aluminum coil in 20 minutes; previously the process took 20 days. It creates a product unlike any seen before.

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First Night Pittsburgh
3:00 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

'First Night' In Pittsburgh Set To Be A Blast

Sax Funk Group, Beauty Slap, will be performing at First Night
Credit Jess Lasky

This year’s First Night will be jam packed with events for the New Year right in the heart of Pittsburgh. Tens of thousands of celebrants are expected to crowd Downtown to enjoy events including fire dancers, musical performances, magicians, a parade and a lot more.

The event kicks off at 6 pm December 31st with a performance from funk group, Beauty Slap, and fireworks.

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Transportation
4:32 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

PennDOT Asks For Feedback

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released a draft of its long-range transportation plan and is asking for public feedback.

“This is a plan that looks far into the future to help set the vision and direction for where we want our transportation system to go,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt. “So it goes beyond a list of projects or future enhancements. It looks at things like where we want to go as a whole.”

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Community
2:24 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Organization Provides New Shoes for the Needy

Volunteers help the needy pick out the proper footwear one on one.
Credit Jess Lasky

With the slush, snow, salt, and ice, good shoes are a must for the winter, but for the homeless good shoes are not always easy to come by because often the donated ones are the wrong size or worn out.

That is why Our Heart to Your Soles spent Monday properly fitting brand new shoes to the needy right before the winter hits at its annual give away event.

They gave away about 400 pairs of shoes and anti-bacterial socks to anyone who needed them.

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Transportation
3:30 am
Mon November 24, 2014

With Gas Averaging Below $3, AAA Expects Lots of Cars on the Road This Thanksgiving

Gas prices averaging below $3 per gallon could spur many Americans to travel this for Thanksgiving, which might cause some traffic delays, according to AAA.

Chelsea Pompeani, director of public affairs at AAA east central, says the best way to avoid the increased traffic is to leave a little early.

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Community
4:45 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

City Council Declares Nov. 19 'Healthy Together Day'

City Council has declared Nov. 19 as “Healthy Together Day”, as part of an initiative to help the 2,000 uninsured Pittsburgh children enroll in affordable healthcare plans.

Healthy Together received a $200,000 grant from the League of Cities in July, and has been working with the Consumer Health Coalition and other organizations in communities that have a high concentration of uninsured children to inform parents of available healthcare plans for their children.

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Public Schools
2:16 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

PPS Shows Progress, But Not Equally Among Schools

Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) are making progress in the graduation rate, and the number of students enrolled in AP classes, but that progress is not seen equally throughout the district according to A+ Schools 10th anniversary report on the 2013-14 school year.

The report examines all schools in several categories including: proficiency of teachers, per pupil spending (excluding transportation, principal salary and building costs), if students feel challenged and cared for, suspension rates, PSSA scores, and a breakdown of most scores based on race and income.

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Public Safety
3:30 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Study: Teen Drivers Learn A Lot From Their Parents, Including Unsafe Behavior

Teaching teens how to drive sometimes consists of crying, yelling, frustration and sometimes some new scratches on the car, but getting angry at teens for their bad driving could actually end up pointing the finger back at parents, according to a new study.

The University of Michigan and Toyota say parents are the number one influence on how a teen will drive.

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CJ's Turns 15
3:45 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Constuction Junction Turns 15

Pittsburgh has battled the notion that the city is a dirty dusty polluted old steel mill town since the 1950’s, and finally it seems that the world is catching up with Pittsburgh’s environmental friendly initiatives. As a fighter in the battle to make Pittsburgh greener, Construction Junction in Point Breeze will turn 15 on November 12th, marking the changes that Pittsburgh has been making to respect the environment.

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Children's Free
3:24 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Children's Museum to Celebrate Building Anniversary

Children museum's "Lantern Building" turns 10 on September 6th.

 Ten years ago the Children Museum’s “Lantern Building” began to illuminate the North Shore, and to celebrate the anniversary the museum will offer free admission Saturday.

As part of the festivities families can help the museum build a giant lantern. There will also be a family resource fair with booths from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Center for Women and CEASEfire PA.

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Election 2014
11:29 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Democratic Incumbent Jake Wheatley Wins 19th State District

State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) has won his seventh consecutive two-year term in the Pennsylvania House, defeating independent Mark Brentley by an 86 percent to 13 percent margin.

Wheatley says that he will focus on three things this term: education, jobs and redeveloping neighborhoods.

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Voter Rides and Watchers
1:12 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

B-PEP Helps Citizens Vote Through Rides and Watchers

Tuesday is  Election Day,  but what happens if you have trouble getting to your polling place?  The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) could give you a lift.

“We do not want to have people prevented in any way to vote, and that’s our mission as B-PEP,” said CEO Tim Stevens.

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Economy
3:30 am
Mon November 3, 2014

Survey: Recent College Graduates Don't Stay At Their First Jobs Very Long

Most people are expected to stay at a job for about four and a half years, and yet millennials have been labeled as job hoppers, for leaving jobs much sooner. A new survey conducted by job placement company, Express Employment Professionals, found that recent college graduates stay in their first jobs on average for 7 months to a year.

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Transportation
3:30 am
Mon November 3, 2014

PennDOT Pedestrian Bridge To Use PAT Funding

In 2011, 29 Port Authority (PAT) bus routes were eliminated due to lack of funding, and some residents are questioning why the 2015 Allegheny County budget allocates PAT funds to build a PennDOT pedestrian bridge, instead of working to reinstate the old bus routes.

In 2009 a court ruling stated that the drink and car rental taxes could only be used for PAT expenditures , yet the $1 million bridge will be paid for with those taxes and built by PennDOT.

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Public Safety
10:49 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Experts Offer Tips On Keeping Halloween Safe For Trick-Or-Treaters

Safe and spooky: Health and safety advocates offer tips for keeping trick-or-treaters safe as they don their costumes and seek out Halloween candy.
Credit AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Halloween is supposed to be full of treats and colorful costumes and a few harmless scares, but health and safety advocates are warning about potential dangers for trick-or-treaters.

More than twice as many children are killed in pedestrian/vehicle accidents on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Dave Phillips, spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said government data shows that 115 children nationwide have died from being struck by a vehicle on Halloween from 1990-2010.

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Health
2:13 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Lack of Donations to Ebola Crisis Could be for Emotional Reasons

Ebola has killed thousands of people in West Africa — yet the absence of victims’ names and faces could be just one reason why large numbers of people have not been donating money to the fight the outbreak.

“Unlike many natural disasters that we have seen in the past with massive outpouring of donations support, we’re not seeing people making donations … it’s something that everybody’s talking about, but it’s not driving us to donate,” said Nicole Coleman, assistant professor of business and marketing at University of Pittsburgh.

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Education Innovation
1:03 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

'Unconference' Promotes Unconventional Approaches to Learning

The Ellis School in Shadyside focuses on unconventional approaches to learning, not only in the classroom, but also for its upcoming “Unconference” where techniques already implemented in their classrooms will be used to address education challenges.

The school will host the “unconference”  Saturday to attempt to solve problems such as how to decrease the fear of failure, and how to show, not tell students.

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Ebola Outbreak
3:09 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Pittsburgh Charity Ships Supplies to Fight Ebola

A Pittsburgh-based charity is continuing its efforts to help fight the spread of Ebola in Africa. Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF), which provides medical supplies, food and other humanitarian goods to countries around the world, will load another container of donated medical supplies and equipment  Tuesday for hospitals and clinics in Freetown, Sierra Leone. 

“If they know that more [medical supplies are] coming they will just use it faster and they’ll use it better, which means more protection for both the patient and the caregiver,” said BBF President Luke Hingson.

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Mobile Medical
1:31 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

New Mobile Medical Unit to Take to the Streets

The new 39-foot $310,000 RV sits outside of PMHS

A doctor’s office on wheels, which looks just like an RV on the outside, is taking to the streets Monday.

Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s (PMHS) new mobile medical unit features: three private examine rooms, one for therapy and psychiatric evaluation, and the other two are physical exam rooms, one of which can double as a dental clinic.

“For all practical purposes, the luxury on the inside is as good as any physician’s office in town, but it offers that level of care to people who don’t normally get it,” said PMHS CEO Ray Wolfe.

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Unions
2:25 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Security Officers Seek Unionization

When an emergency strikes a skyscraper the pressure is on for the in-house safety workers to act quickly, but if the building’s security officers don’t even know where the elevator keys are, first responders could remain stuck on the first floor looking for keys.

On Wednesday, security officers from several downtown Pittsburgh buildings rallied outside of the PPG building with paramedics, elected officials, clergy, and firefighters to encourage unionization.

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Big Read
12:05 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Reading Day In Pittsburgh

Reading will be celebrated at the Carnegie Library in Oakland Tuesday October 7th as the Community College of Allegheny County joins forces with local libraries, high schools and correctional institutions to promote literacy in our county through its program The Big Read in Pittsburgh.

“Literature is transformative by its very nature, but to have different people and races connect with a novel, it allows them to ignite a love of reading through engaging activities,” said Barbara Evans, Big Read Project Director at CCAC. 

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DCNR Public Meet
12:02 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

4-Year Plan From DCNR Looks for Public Feedback

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is working on a 4-year Recreation Plan, and Pittsburghers have a chance to comment on the ideas before it is implemented.

The DCNR with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will host an event to take public comments on Thursday October 9th at the Schenley Park Skating Rink.

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Environment
2:11 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Fall Foliage in PA to Take Off Soon

The leaves on the trees have taken on their fall colors as seen over a stream Oct. 14, 2011 near Kingston, Pa.
Credit AP Photo/Alex Brandon

It’s October, and that means it’s time for cider, sweaters, pumpkins and colorful leaves, but for the Pittsburgh area it might be a couple more weeks before the yellows, oranges and reds really emerge.

Rachael Christie, Environmental Education Specialist at the 58,000 acre Forbes State Forest in Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties, predicts this year will be great for fall colors, “we’ve had the cooler nights, and we’ve had the nice sunny days as well. So [this is] very ideal fall weather patterns to have some really beautiful fall foliage.”

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PSP Award
4:05 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Point State Park in Top 10 for Design

After a 12-year $35 million renovation effort, Point State Park has been named nationally as one of the “10 Great Public Spaces of 2014” by the American Planning Association.

Lisa Schroeder, President and CEO of Riverlife, says the restoration was much needed.

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Government & Politics
3:34 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

State Rep. Costa Advocates for Raising the Minimum Wage in PA

To earn a living wage for a family of four while only making minimum wage, the two adults in that family would each have to work 68 hours a week. Another option, according to state Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny), is to raise the current $7.25 minimum wage so that families in Pennsylvania could buy groceries and live comfortably while earning minimum wage.

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Community
3:30 am
Mon September 29, 2014

County Promotes Child Development Through 'Use Your Words' Campaign

Talking to your baby could be one of the best things a parent can do developmentally, and to help get that idea across Allegheny County the Department of Human Services has launched what it is calling the “Use Your Words” campaign.

The campaign encourages parents to talk to their infant about things that they are doing. For instance “I am cutting up orange carrots” in an expressive manner is the best way to help children develop.

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