Mark Nootbaar

Special Reporter

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. In 2016 he returned to his reporting roots as Special Reporter and in that context oversees such reporting projects as 90.5 WESA Celebrates, Tech Reports, and more.

Mark has also worked in Illinois and Texas. He lives in the North Hills with his lovely wife and daughter.

 

Ways to Connect

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

  Gov. Tom Wolf created a new charter school oversight body through the state Department of Education on Wednesday, nearly two years after his gubernatorial campaign promised charter reform.

The Division of Charter Schools will be composed of a director, who has yet to be hired, plus three staffers. They're tasked with making sure the laws, processes and information already in place are followed, and that the data charter schools submit to the department is accurate and timely, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said.

St. Clair Hospital

 

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is known for employing doctors with highly refined subspecialties, and now St. Clair Hospital doctors can tap into that expertise.

An agreement between the two hospitals, finalized this week, will allow St. Clair doctors to access eTumor Boards – a virtual version of tumor board reviews, in which multiple doctors brainstorm ways to treat an individual patient.

National Human Genome Research Institute / genome.gov

At the most basic level cancer can be defined as the DNA of a normal cell going haywire. 

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

New data show that almost all types of contaminant air emissions created by the Marcellus shale industry were up in 2014. 

The data come from a report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The 2014 numbers are the most recent available data and are self-reported by the Marcellus shale industry. 

HelenCobain / flickr

Despite having a balanced 2016-2017 budget, Pennsylvania has taken out a loan to pay its bills. 

The state's $31.5 billion budget approved in June created revenue increases, including a new tax on video streaming services and higher taxes on tobacco, but some of those have yet to start flowing into the state.

Fearing the Revenue Department’s check book, officially known as its general fund, would hit zero before those new taxes arrived, the department asked the state treasurer to give it a $2.5 billion line of credit.

John Bazemore / AP

  

Western Pennsylvania home sales were up in the first seven months of 2016.

A new report from West Penn Multi-List indicates that sales were up 2.2 percent between January and July. Though it’s an overall positive sign, there’s also a downside said Ron Croushore, President of West Penn Multi-List and owner and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.

“The negative there is there is not enough inventory,” Croushore said. “We need more homes for people to look at.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

For years, Pittsburgh-based medical relief charity Global Links has taken donations of wheelchairs, crutches and other mobility products.

Chris Meyer started volunteering with the group in 2010 after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, to help prepare those donated devices before they’re shipped to people in need.

Ted Murphy / Flickr

The fight between the City of Pittsburgh and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, involving millions of dollars in gaming revenues, is over. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

For someone in hospice, a song might not cure them, but it could help brighten their final days.

“It’s not about healing, it’s not about making people feel better,” said Cindy Harris. “I often say that what we do is traveling music. We are all walking the same path in life… the only difference is that the person we’re singing to, they’re much closer to the end of the path.”

Harris is the director of the Pittsburgh Threshold Choir, which sends small groups of singers to Pittsburgh-area hospice facilities. The roughly 20 members offer bedside songs to those who are ill.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Nearly three hours of testimony on the use of police body cameras before a state House committee on Wednesday boiled down to three main issues: when to record, how much to release to the public and how long to retain the files.

commons.wikimedia.org

Last year, when the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania held its annual conference, the focus was on the budget stalemate that, at the time, was less than two months into what turned into a nine-month deadlock.

“Who would have ever thought it would go that long,” said Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk. “The angst there this year will be nowhere near what it was last year.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Along South Aiken Avenue in Friendship, a sign reading, “Caution … Tomatoes” sits proudly on a utility pole.

It’s referencing the nearby community garden.

“I really wanted to create something where people understand how important it is to connect with nature and also understand how easy it is to grow your own food,” said Octopus Garden founder Kristin Hughes.

HealthCare.gov

Open enrollment for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins in a few months. And for many, navigating the provider exchange can be a daunting task.

Matt Rourke / AP

As Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton heads off on her post-convention campaign trip, she’ll stop in Pittsburgh on Saturday where she is expected to talk about her jobs initiative. 

Clinton said, if elected, she will launch “the largest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II.” The plan includes a goal of bringing “affordable broadband Internet to all Americans by 2020.” 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Throughout life, a person experiences many firsts – a first kiss, first pet and even a first bike ride.

“When I started riding a bicycle it was one of those things that was life changing for me,” said 16-year-old Rhys Rocher. “Doing things like being able to go for a bike ride with your family is something that we take for granted and I would love to share that experience with someone else.”  

Andrew Hamik / AP

Republicans have been keeping a close eye on the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week, and one Pennsylvania congressmen said the speakers seem to be disconnected from the concerns of voters, especially those in Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep Keith Rothfus, who represents the commonwealth's 12th District, said Democrats have failed to address "a world that is on fire with disruption across the planet and a lack of American leadership.”

Rothfus said there is also not enough attention being paid to Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record.

~My aim is true~ / flickr

A coalition of housing and health advocacy groups from across Pennsylvania want Medicaid expanded to include supportive housing services. 

“Even with bricks and mortar dollars and housing subsidies, it’s the supportive services dollars that we are often really struggling with how to find and how to sustain,” said Monica McCurdy of Project HOME in Philadelphia. “We see Medicaid as the missing piece in this equation to solve homelessness.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

When a child leaves their home for foster care, they often have to leave their belongings behind. And if a social workers is able to grab a few things, they’re usually jumbled in a trash bag.

Foster Love Project aims to ease that process by offering a new bag filled with comforting items like new pajamas, a stuffed animal and blanket, we well as essentials such as toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.

Mary Altaffer / AP

The Republican National Convention wraps up in Cleveland tonight with speeches from prominent republicans, religious leaders, business moguls and presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Katie McGinty said she has been struck by the negative tone of the gathering.

College of Engineering / Carnegie Mellon University

It’s no bigger than a smartphone, but it could have a big impact on one of the world’s most deadly parasites.

Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. student Blue Martin is developing a device that she said will sort malaria-infected red blood cells from healthy red blood cells.

“Malaria, when it infects a red blood cell, eats the hemoglobin and spits out an iron crystal, which makes the cell magnetic, before the malaria splits it open and moves on,” Martin said.

Toby Talbot / AP

A new report praises Pennsylvania doctors for their use of opioid-based pain treatments for chronic illnesses, especially cancer.

The report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network comes at time, though, when many legislators and organizations are working to fight opioid addiction.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

It may be summer, but on a recent sunny June day, a small group of teachers and students stayed indoors. They sat in classrooms at the South Fayette School District campus for a different take on traditional summer school.  

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Tracy Organ Cease spends every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Northside Common Ministries kitchen preparing lunch. Coffee in hand, he also meets with his lunchtime diners and makes sure they’re connected to any other services they may need.

“It’s very humbling to be at the point where you may need to go and get this kind of assistance to be able to eat today,” Cease said.

And Cease would know. It wasn’t long ago that he was the one getting a free lunch, rather than making it. That’s why he tries to provide an inviting atmosphere to those he serves.

Wellbridge

In a small office at the base of the Birmingham Bridge on Pittsburgh’s South Side, social workers and app developers are coming together to help vulnerable medical patients.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are making tiny strides -- no, really -- that could revolutionize the solar industry.

Paul Leu runs a lab at the university where students work with tiny particles called nanotubes.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

For some receiving treatment for cancer, Mrs. Claus doesn’t just visit at Christmas.

“Our mission statement is to bring comfort, hope, encouragement and love to the (person) who has been recently diagnosed with cancer,” said Jeana Watenpool, founder of the Mrs. Claus Club of the North Hills.

The Mrs. Claus Club, which delivers gifts minus the sleigh year-round, has given out more than 500 comfort baskets since it was formed seven years ago. In the last seven months alone it has delivered more than 70 baskets. 

Laurl Valn / Flickr

In a sparsely decorated office in Braddock, two men are trying to build a parking payment empire and it all started with a lunchtime conversation.

“One of our colleagues, she opened up her purse to help chip in and instead of pulling out money she pulled out a fist full of parking tickets,” said MeterFeeder co-founder and CEO Jim Gibbs. “She looked at us with desperation in her eyes and said, ‘If you make an app where I can pay for parking I would use it every day.’ And two weeks later MeterFeeder was born.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Luann Monteleone focused more seriously on painting after her husband died. She said she found it helped her deal with the pain. Then one sleepless night, she asked herself what she was going to do with her life to make sure her husband’s death was “not a waste.”

“I prayed and I just got the idea … and the name in one night,” Monteleone said. That was the birth of Art. Healing. Hearts.

Jon Dawson / Flickr

With Pennsylvania natural gas production slowing in the last year and a half, money generated by the state’s Act 13 impact fee in 2015 fell by nearly 20 percent compared to the year before. That drop means most counties and municipalities hosting the gas wells will see smaller checks when they are sent out this month than they did last year.

Greene County Commission chair Blair Zimmerman said when he saw that the county would be getting $3.9 million this year compared to $4.5 million last year, he had to pick himself up off the floor, but for the reason one might think.

Michael Righl / Flickr

The Stanley Cup might pass right under their windows, but for most big Downtown businesses it will be business as usual, with a chance to catch the Penguins championship parade.

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