Mark Nootbaar

Senior News Editor

Mark Nootbaar is a native of Illinois but moved to Pittsburgh more than 16 years ago to become the Assistant News Director at National Public Radio Charter Member Station WDUQ. As assistant News Director, Mark served as WDUQ’s lead reporter and morning assignment editor. After WDUQ was sold in 2011, Mark moved with the frequency to the new station to become the Senior News Editor where he is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the 90.5 WESA newsroom. Mark has also worked in Illinois and Texas. He lives in the North Hills with his lovely wife and daughter.

 

Ways To Connect

When you think about wildfires or brush fires, you might think about hot July and August days, but May is actually the most dangerous time for uncontrolled fires in Pennsylvania.

“We don’t have a good green canopy yet, we don’t have grasses in our fields and we don’t have green brush, so just a day or two of sun and wind… can really create problems,” said Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Eleven years ago, Tina Gaser moved into a home in Lawrenceville and right away noticed that when the wind blew in just the wrong direction she could smell the McConway & Torley Steel Foundry just a few blocks away.

A few years later, her husband had a stroke that doctors say could have been indirectly caused by high levels of fine particulate matter in the air. Tonight she will speak at a public hearing calling on the plant to live under tighter environmental controls.

After slogging through weeks of hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2015-16 budget proposal, the Pennsylvania Legislature returns to session Monday. Now their real work on the budget begins. 

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) says lawmakers need to get down to business quickly if they hope to make the June 30 deadline. Senate Republicans have scheduled only six session days this month and the same number in May. 

Topping Yudichak’s list of priorities is debating the governor’s proposed 5 percent Marcellus Shale severance tax.

City of Pittsburgh

As part of its ongoing effort to make data more accessible to the public, the city of Pittsburgh has created an interactive map using the list of streets scheduled to be repaved this year.

Rather than reading down a long list of streets divided by often confusing intersections, a user can simply zoom in on a neighborhood and click the thoroughfares that are highlighted in grey.

Chris Nottingham / flickr

State Sen. Shirley Kitchen of Philadelphia is worried that children in Pennsylvania are not getting immunized against preventable illnesses simply because they don’t have access to the shots. 

The Democrat has introduced Senate Resolution 27, which would mandate the Advisory Committee on Public Health Law of the Joint State Government Commission undertake a study of the issue.

Israel has been referred to as “Start-Up Nation” due to the strong entrepreneurial spirit displayed by its citizens, and a conference this week at The university of Pittsburgh is hoping to use a small group of visitors to foster that spirit here.

“Pittsburgh is very strong in medical device technology, drug innovation and medical IT,” said Paul Harper, Entrepreneurship Professor at Pitt. “Those happen to also be areas that Israel leads the world in.”

U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh is elevating one prosecutor in each of four Western Pennsylvania counties to the status of Special Assistant United States Attorney in an effort to fight back against gun crime in the region.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton Tuesday launched the program that will allow cases to more easily move from state to federal court.

“The decision on whether it goes state or federal is usually a collaborative discussion between the U.S. attorney and the district attorney," Hickton said. "And the decision is usually based on where you can get the best sentence. It also is based at the investigative level on the resources that are needed.”

dansheadel / flickr

In school we were all taught about the number represented by the symbol π. Our understanding of the number might be a bit foggy, but most of us remember it has something to do with a circle and that it is 3.14.  In reality, the irrational number (by definition) goes on forever, but it starts with 3.141592653. 

For the last several years, the popularity of so-called “Pi Day,” or March 14 (3/14), has been growing in the U.S., and Saturday will mark what many are calling “Super Pi Day,” where we can add the next two digits of the mathematical super number (3/14/15). And if you really want to geek out you can make sure you are near a clock at 9:26:53 a.m. (3/14/15 9:26:53).

A state legislator from a much more rural portion of Pennsylvania wants to make it legal for farmers to grow industrial hemp. 

State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said the level of THC, which gives cannabis its psychoactive effect, is so much lower than the plant used in the drug trade that it can hardly been considered in the same conversation.

http://www.pittsburghpa.gov

The city of Pittsburgh and its firefighters have finalized a new contract. The four-year agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Local No. 1 includes a wage freeze in 2015 and increases of 1% in 2016 and 2% in both 2017 and 2018.

“The city is still dealing with financial problems but [this deal] still maintains the safety necessary for the residents as well as our firefighters,” said Ralph Sicuro, president of IAFF Local No. 1. 

Edward N. Johnson / US Army

Pennsylvania’s senior US Senator says he is ready to give another try at passing a bill that makes access to pre-kindergarten learning nearly universal.  Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) this week once again introduced the Prepare All Kids Act, which is intended to provide one year of voluntary, high quality pre-k to all children.

pittsburghpa.gov

With two weeks to go before the deadline to file nominating petitions, Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak has officially announced her candidacy for City Controller. 

The campaign office of Mark Patrick Flaherty has fired the first shot in the 2015 Allegheny County Controller’s race.  Flaherty, who was unseated from the post in 2011 by now County Controller Chelsa Wagner, says the incumbent left key data off her most recently campaign filing.

In specific, Flaherty says Wagner did not file home and work addresses for several of the individuals who donated to Wagner’s campaign more than the state reporting threshold of $250.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is defending its use of dogs to help elephant handlers control the animals.

The move comes as the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a USDA inspection report that was critical of the practice. That report noted that the dogs displayed aggressive behavior toward the elephants and that the elephants were subjected to unnecessary anxiety from the encounter.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is taking a strong stance against a bill making its way through Harrisburg that he says would “would hurt city taxpayers & hamstring efforts to cooperate with nonprofits.”

The state’s finance committee passed and sent to the Senate floor last week Senate Bill 4 , which would clarify the Purely Public Charity Act of 1997 to make the legislature the sole body to determine what qualifies an organization as a charity.

As Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes the oath of office Tuesday many in the state have high hopes that he will lead Pennsylvania into an improved business and economic climate but most analysts admit the governor has very little day-to-day impact on the state’s economy. 

However, the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development seems to hold a little more sway.

December was “pretty quiet,” but January is proving to be a “little more complicated” in treating Pittsburgh’s streets, said city Public Works Director Mike Gable.

“Every event is a different coordination of how many people you need and what we need to do and when you need to start, he said. "I’ve been very happy with what our crews have performed up to this date.”

So when the next snowfall hits, do you want to know when your city street might be salted and plowed?

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is once again coming under fire from rank and file officers, this time it is over an official memo rather than a social media gaffe.

McLay sent a memo to every officer outlining a new policy that all information about police activities must be moved up the chain of command before being released to the public. Officers that leak information could be disciplined.

“A lot of the rules that are already in place in police bureaus around the country have just been protocols within the city of Pittsburgh,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Saying that Pittsburgh and several other cities in the state have “openly defied” state law in passing gun ordinances that are more restrictive than state laws, the National Rifle Association has sued Pittsburgh. 

The move comes one day after Houston-based U.S. Law Shield sued Harrisburg for its firearm laws.

The Second Amendment groups are taking action a week after a new state law went into effect giving such organizations standing to file such suits.

When the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recently asked community leaders to identify the biggest unmet needs for children the number one priority was prevention of childhood obesity.

It just so happens that Children’s Hospital has a weight and wellness center, and a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public school district was quickly formed.

“When we interacted with [district leaders] they asked that we partner with some type of program with established outcomes that would help us better monitor our success,” said Children’s Hospital Vice President Kathy Guatteri.

Republicans in Harrisburg are still floating the idea of trying to take advantage of a quirk in the state constitution that separates the swearing in of the Legislature and the governor by more than two weeks. 

With 2014 ending on a financial high note, PNC Financial Services Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman expects to see a strong 2015.

Hoffman predicts that by the end of 2015 there will be 2.75 million new jobs in the United States, unemployment will dip to 5.2 percent and wages will climb 2.5 percent.

“We think the drop in oil process is a big win for the U.S. economy,” Hoffman said. “And we think that is a real big win for consumers.”

It might not have started well, but according to PNC Financial Services Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman 2014 is ending strong.

“We had a terrible first quarter most of us at the time attributed it to the polar vortex,” Hoffman said.  “Then as the year went on it sprang back.”

Hoffman says the second and third quarters of 2014 were strong, job growth was good all year long and the market, despite a few dips, will end the year higher.

October saw a stock market correction of nearly 10-percent, but it was erased by the end of November.

We have all heard of the “holiday blues,” but until you or a loved one actually experiences them you might think it is more something of myth than of reality.

“Everyone at times can experience grief around the holidays,” said Anna Boettcher, Medical Director of Community Psychiatry at Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. “Just because of those warm thoughts and if those expectations are not met … then it can be a depressing time of year for some people.”

The rental car company Hertz owes Allegheny County nearly three quarters of a million dollars, according to County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

Wagner found the error while auditing three years worth of activities at Pittsburgh International Airport. Car rental companies are to collect and send to the county a $2 per vehicle per day tax. Due to a computer glitch, Hertz Corporation had not been submitting the receipts to the county.

A handful of health care advocates are worried that confusing messages in the media might prevent thousands of Pennsylvania from getting the free and low-cost health insurance they deserve.

The Corbett administration reached an agreement with the federal government this year to launch the Healthy PA program in lieu expanding Medicaid. Open enrollment in the program has started and coverage will take effect Jan. 1.  However Governor-elect Tom Wolf says he will scrap Healthy PA and opt in to Medicaid expansion.

Despite rumors that she was setting her sights on the County Executive’s office, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner will be officially launching her campaign for a second term at an event Monday night.

“I recognize that when you are running against any incumbent, that’s something that’s difficult,” Wagner said of her decision to not run for what's considered the third most powerful position in the state. “I think things can be done better in the county. It’s probably obvious by my position on some things, but at the same time I enjoy my job.”

You can do it for your retirement, you can do it for your child’s education, but you can’t put money away tax free to help make sure your child with a disability will have the money he or she needs after you are gone. A bill up for a vote Wednesday in the U.S. Senate would make that a reality.

Every minute of the last six months has been captured by a series of four high-end panoramic cameras trained on some of the most scenic views to be found in southwestern Pennsylvania.

But the collection of pictures has not been created to help the sell the city to tourists and businesses, instead they have been put up to document the pollution that often gets in the way of seeing the landscape.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he will “not let congressional gridlock get in the way of progress” as he and more than 20 other mayors from across the country launched Cities United for Immigration Action (CUIA) Monday. 

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