Margaret J. Krauss

Reporter, Keystone Crossroads

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA's reporter for Keystone Crossroads, the statewide reporting initiative that covers problems facing Pennsylvania's cities and possible solutions. Before joining Keystone Crossroads, Margaret produced a 48-part radio series about Pittsburgh's lesser-known history, biking 2,000 miles around the region to do so.

Margaret has researched and reported for The Nature Conservancy and National Geographic books, Pittsburgh Magazine, NEXTpittsburgh and The Allegheny Front.

Before answering Pittsburgh's siren call and returning to the city in 2012, she worked in Washington, D.C. at National Geographic Kids magazine. There she learned the Latin names of all 13 otter species and a love for interoffice mail.

Ways to Connect

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Cobblestone, brick, asphalt: the commonwealth has an abundance of street-paving options. But there’s one we don’t talk about a lot: wooden blocks. Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are each home to one of the last wooden streets in the nation.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

  A giant billboard went up at the intersection of Centre Avenue and Crawford Street in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood in 1960. It read, “No Development Beyond This Point.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Below a tangle of highways along the southern edge of Pittsburgh’s downtown is a truncated section of concrete. The Mon Wharf Landing may look as if it goes nowhere, some sort of multi-modal experiment that was never completed.

Until now. 

Matt Rourke / AP

The demand for new apartments in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh has grown swiftly over the last few years. Developers have met that demand with a tremendous amount of construction, said Barbara Byrne Denham, senior economist at Reis, a real estate data and analytics company based in New York. 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Like being the first person to leave tracks after a snowfall, a stretch of brand new pavement can incite glee, regardless of age.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo

Unless Congress passes the Miners Protection Act by April 28, more than 2,000 retired union coal miners in Pennsylvania will lose their health care.

The bill proposes to use interest from the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to shore up the health and pension funds administered by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).  

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Emerald View Park encircles Mt. Washington, Duquesne Heights and Allentown in a tight hug, an embrace from which Derek Stuart prepared to depart.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Ride-sharing and technology company Uber will pay $3.5 million into the state’s general fund to settle a long-running dispute with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Commissioners approved the settlement in a four to one vote Thursday. The civil penalty is one-third of the original $11.4 million fine levied against Uber. 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

City leaders considered ideas to restructure the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority in a half-day discussion at the City-County Building on Friday.

Mayor Bill Peduto and his appointed Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel interviewed candidates competing to help evaluate the debt-ridden authority, which has been under more intense scrutiny lately for lead and other contaminants in some city water lines.

Christian Naenny / Flickr

 

 

From a conference room at the North Shore offices of Peoples Gas, president and CEO Morgan O’Brien has a view of Pittsburgh’s rivers.

David Goldman / AP Photo

Like many municipalities in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh’s water system faces significant structural challenges, from aging infrastructure to ongoing concerns about lead in the city’s drinking water.

To address them, Mayor Bill Peduto kicked off the process of evaluating Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA), with the goal of restructuring.

Gene J. Puskar / AP File Photo

Population data has a way of freaking people out. After all, population determines federal allocation dollars, which trickle down to the state, county, and local levels, said Peter Borsella, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, which released county and metro-area population estimates on Thursday. 

So let’s get this over with: From 2015 to 2016 Pennsylvania waved goodbye to just fewer than 8,000 people. Most counties lost population, though 19 posted some growth.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Sabrina Spiher Robinson and her husband Ted Robinson live on a hill in Upper Lawrenceville. From the set of steep steps leading to their front door, they can see the Allegheny River. But mostly what they see are construction scars.  

 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are in the midst of multi-year building booms. More than 4,000 apartment units were built in the two cities last year.

For many years in Pittsburgh, new apartment buildings weren’t a priority: the city had plenty of available housing stock and, despite a steady flow of college students, fairly pedestrian demand. But in 2012, 958 new units were built. The next year, that number jumped to 3,227 and hasn’t fallen below 2,100 since, according to Jeff Burd, president of Tall Timber Group, an information service for the construction industry.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

Bob Gradeck can’t stand the term “data-driven.”

It might seem odd that the project director of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center would recoil at a data-centric phrase, but Gradeck sees data as tools and not answers.

The WPRDC is the repository for more than 150 data sets from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County government, as well as organizations throughout the region.

Bill Sikes / AP Photo

Pittsburgh is the only Pennsylvania city in 100 Resilient Cities, an initiative created by the Rockefeller Foundation to prepare urban areas to weather the shocks and stresses of the 21st century. Throughout more than a year-long process, Pittsburgh identified racial and socioeconomic inequity, aging infrastructure, public health, and severe weather events as the city’s greatest weaknesses.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

With no exceptions, the $1 million Safe Water Plan will distribute water filters to city residents to reduce exposure to lead. People living within the city’s boundaries are eligible to receive one, regardless of income level, whether they rent or own, or who their water provider is.

While it’s a start, Mayor Bill Peduto said this is not a long-term solution.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Emerald Mine sits dormant just beyond the boundary of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. Conveyor belts undulate over hundreds of yards of open land. After 38 years of continuous operation, the mine closed in 2015. Danny Ollum remembers the last time it was quiet there.  “I used to play Little League baseball where that coal mine was. It was called the Emerald Field. Years ago. And then next thing you know, boom. A coal mine comes up.”

 

Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool Image via AP

President Donald Trump called for “a new program of national rebuilding,” in his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Trump said he would push forward with his plan to invest $1 trillion to replace the country’s crumbling roads, bridges, and airports. Though his comments were short on details, some Pennsylvanians saw them as reason for optimism.

“I was very encouraged,” said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Sharon Serbin describes herself as a Jane-of-all-trades: an artist, a personal trainer, and most recently, a life skills counselor at the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services. Serbin lost her hearing in her teens, and has spent many years working in the hearing and deaf communities. 90.5 WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss interviewed Serbin as part of an ongoing series in which we speak with leading experts and people of interest in the Pittsburgh community. Their conversation has been edited for length.

 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

At a people’s town hall in Washington, Pa., southwest of Pittsburgh, an audience of about 45 listened to Leeann Howell talk about how repealing the Affordable Care Act would affect her.

Joseph Kaczmarek / AP

Heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness. For some people, crossing a bridge induces the same physiological responses as those experienced by an animal frozen in fear, said Dr. Rolf Jacob, a professor of psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh.

Alex Brandon / AP

Pennsylvania wasn’t among the states where large-scale immigration enforcement took place last week, but communities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have reported raids.  

On Wednesday morning, the City of Philadelphia tweeted on its official account, “City is working to gather info on how many people have been impacted by increased ICE enforcements,” and gave the number for a hotline created by New Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith immigrant justice organization.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

When Alhena Torres turns on her car, a gentle rumble of pop music spills out of the speakers. She used to listen to the news while she drove, but after the first few weeks of the new administration in Washington, she says music has felt like a better option.

“Sometimes I’m just sad and disappointed,” she said, pulling up Google maps on her phone and plugging in an address.

Torres drives all around Pittsburgh for work, a cleaning business she started in 2015.

“I like organizing and fixing things,” she laughed.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

It was a busy day of protest in Pittsburgh.

In support of the rights of immigrants, more than 100 people linked arms and marched into a South Side intersection on Saturday, blocking traffic for 15 minutes. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Thursday that State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh will shut down by June 30, 2017.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

It’s been three weeks since the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced five prisons were being considered for closure: State Correctional Institutions Pittsburgh and Mercer in the western part of the state, and Waymart, Retreat, and Frackville in the east.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous broadband internet, improved energy systems — attendees at the U.S. Conference of Mayors buzzed with the potential technology in store for their cities.

In the 20 years the internet has existed, it has revolutionized the way we interact with the world, said Joanne Hovis. She’s president of CTC Technology & Energy, an IT consulting firm in Maryland.

John Minchillo / AP

 

While Washington, D.C. prepared for the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, more than 300 mayors gathered blocks from the White House for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

They chatted, they swapped cards, they exchanged insight on engaging seniors, dealing with hunger, and and how to pay for infrastructure.

While Pennsylvania mayors said they’re largely hopeful that the new administration will work with cities, they’re not holding their breath.

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