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

Luv Purohit

Hundreds of summer camps are available to Pittsburgh youths each year, but for some parents there is really only one choice that makes sense.

“We wanted to create a space specifically for young people who have the experience of refugee and immigrant students,” said Jenna Baron, who four years ago founded the Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment (PRYSE) Academy. “We organize a three-week summer program for immigrant refugee students in Allegheny County."

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In November of 2013, Bert Dorazio decided he wanted to be part of World Kindness Day, so he called up a friend.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we go down to a grocery store, get in line behind somebody and after they check out all their groceries let’s pay for their groceries?’” Dorazio said.

Dorazio said his friend thought it was a good idea and after hanging out near the check out line at the Giant Eagle on the South Side for a few minutes they chose a women with a cart full of food.

Not Another Hostel

It all started with Jon Potter being, what he called, homeless with a purpose.

“I was just traveling around, seeing the world and a lot of people would take me in and help me,” said Potter of his life in his late teens and early twenties. “I would ask people like, ‘Hey, how can I repay you for helping me?’ And they would always say, ‘Just help out somebody in the future.’”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

As part of Remake Learning Days, Essential Pittsburgh is exploring two of the 11 districts and six individual schools in the region that have signed on to the Maker Promise, which is part of the White House-sponsored Digital Promise. While the Digital Promise works to put more technology into schools, the Maker Promise refines that to encourage the creation of maker spaces in schools that may or may not include new technologies.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

It’s remake learning week in in Pittsburgh and one of the ways learning is being “remade” is through a national effort known as the Digital Promise, which aims to put more technology into schools.  The White House-supported program has launched an additional effort it is calling the Maker Promise. Karen Cator, CEO, Digital Promise, said the maker concept incorporates several skills that are important into the workplace. 

South Hills Interfaith Movement / Facebook

Every Monday and Friday Marisa Niwa spends time with her father volunteering at the South Hills Interfaith Movement, or SHIM, food pantry.

“I volunteer and keep things neat and organized," said Niwa's father, Joe Murray. 

Murray said he, his wife and their daughter have a long history of doing volunteer work for people with intellectual disabilities, but when the opportunity at SHIM came up, they thought they would give it a try.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In a small, but growing office in Shadyside, Rhiza Founder and CEO Josh Knauer stood in front of a computer linked to the cloud and crunched big data for a Kia car dealer and a Pittsburgh TV station.

“Behind this very simple display of data are hundreds of billions of records of data that we are sifting through,” Kanuer said of the colorful mix of graphics and numbers on his screen. “And in a matter of seconds … we were able to get to results that had gone through those records and found just the ones that are relevant to this story for this television station and for this very local specific advertiser.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Students at Avonworth School District’s Primary Center had a chance every week to gather in an empty classroom to create anything from battery-powered cars to catapults. Then, one day, a few students came to kindergarten teacher Maureen Frew with a teeny request. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The days of an individual doctor hanging out a shingle and offering a general family practice are all but gone. The new norm is that your primary care physician is part of a multi-doctor practice. It’s also more likely than not that those doctors have either already hired a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant, commonly referred to as physician extenders, or they are considering making such a move.

“I find that the PA (physician assistant) generally gives you a lot of time,” said Jeff Phillips of McCandless.  Phillips said until recently he never saw a PA, but now almost exclusively sees a PA when he visits his doctor’s office. “So far so good.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

It all started in 1971 when a Jimmy Cvetic grabbed a 13-year-old boy for stealing tape decks out of cars. He didn’t arrest him and less than two years later the boy was dead from a drug overdose.

“That bothered me,” said Cvetic, who is now retired from a 35-year career with the Allegheny County Police. “If I would have said something or did something.” 

Cvetic said the boy has always represented innocence to him. His response was to open a free boxing gym in downtown Pittsburgh.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Lab rats can be taught to do just about any simple task for food or a treat. 

Scientists can also watch what is going on inside a rat’s brain by inserting a few electrodes. So it's not unusual that researchers at the University of Pittsburgh attached wires to the brains of a group of rats while performing menial tasks. The researchers wanted to understand the effect of anxiety, but what they learned was unusual.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Each month, about 20 volunteers help to hand out food to more than 200 individuals and families at the Westinghouse Valley Food Pantry in Turtle Creek. 

Among those volunteers is Rose Smeltzer, who serves as the pantry's coordinator. 

“This is my passion," Smeltzer said. "It is what I was born to do, I guess." 

Smeltzer also recruited her husband, children and grandchildren to help at the food pantry each month. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Since 1961, the Pennsylvania State Police have been able to use radar to hand out speeding tickets, but municipal police in the state have been denied the same authority. 

“We trust them with a gun, we trust them with a Taser, we should be able to trust them with a radar gun,” Whitehall Borough Mayor Jim Nowalk said.

Nowalk was among a small, but vocal group that gathered Tuesday in Harrisburg to call on lawmakers to lift the ban. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

There are two county-wide uniformed public safety forces in Allegheny County, the county police department and county sheriff’s deputies. 

While most of their efforts are separate, there are a few spots of overlap.

“So that raises the question, does Allegheny County need two police departments?” said Allegheny County Government Reform Commission member Jim Nowalk,

A report by the commission, released Tuesday, includes a call for the formation of a taskforce to review the possibility of a merger.

Mark Nootbar / 90.5 WESA

When the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter Commission was formed in 1997, the members decided it was time to move away from having three full-time commissioners running the county, and instead it was time to have a single full-time executive and a 15-member county council. 

“I think right now, we have a citizens council and I don’t want to make it a career thing, like a state legislature or Pittsburgh City Council,” said Allegheny County Council Member Charles Martoni who was also a member of the first council in 2000. “I think it works pretty well the way it is.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

For 13 years, Allegheny County has had a five-member accountability, conduct and ethics commission, and in that time it has never launched an investigation of its own. Not because its members have been remise in their duties, but because the commission does not have that power. 

That would change if the Allegheny County Government Review Commission had anything to say about it.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

With 23 recommendations and more than 60 pages of explanations and supporting documents, the residents of Allegheny County have a lot to deal with now that the Government Review Commission has released its report.

“The whole idea of self government is to improve as much as we possibly can on a daily, weekly, yearly basis. So, I think our commission can be very helpful and be a guide to (Allegheny County) council and the (County) executive,” Mark Forester, the Allegheny County Government Review Commission chair said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In 2012, Lynda Carr lost her son Charles to a heroin addiction. Three years later, her stepson was killed in a drug-related car accident.

“Most people probably would not recover from that, but in spite of her loss, Lynda has chosen to give back,” said one person, whom Lynda sponsors as part of Nar-Anon, which relies on the anonymity of its members.  “She gives back by helping people like me every day.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A giving circle is growing in the South Hills and at its center is Jennifer McDowell.

“I’ve volunteered for a million different things over the years, but this is the thing that really sparked my imagination and made me want to do something different,” said McDowell of Mt. Lebanon.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Every day, Pine-Richland High School Nurse Susan Leonberg sees 30 to 40 students come through her office door. 

She said the number of students is average, but the number of flu cases she's seen isn't. So far, no confirmed flu cases have been reported.

“Many times, we do not get notified of confirmed cases," Leonberg said. "But as far as clinically, I don’t think we have seen it. We’ve had sick children, but not flu sick. You know, the normal kind of stuff.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If you walk through the doors of the North Hills Community Outreach office in Allison Park, it's very possible that it will be Joyce Rabinovitz who greets you with a smile. According to the charity, Rabinovitz has logged more than 3,000 volunteer hours with NHCO, since 2007.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If your primary care physician says you need a test or procedure, and he suggests a location to get it done, what do you do?

“There is data that shows that patients do what their doctor says,” said Mark Roberts, chair of the department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “When your doctor tells you, ‘I want you to see a cardiologist and I want you to see this cardiologist,’ that’s who you go see.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh has seen an economic turnaround in recent years, but not every neighborhood has been part of the renaissance. 

Homewood has seen more population loss than any neighborhood and economic development for decades has been nearly nonexistent. Its reputation has become one of crime and poverty, which plays out regularly on the nightly news, with reports of murders in the 1-square-mile neighborhood on the northeastern corner of the city.

But when you ask William Baker, he sees a community on the rise.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Faith Denson’s son was sentenced to prison in 2009. That moment changed her life.

She decided to launch an all-volunteer ministry to help keep inmates in contact with their children. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Imagine if companies knew the probability of turning someone into a customer – and keeping that customer.

That’s exactly what Green Tree-based Othot thinks it can do. The start up’s current focus is higher education student recruitment, and Chief Technology Officer John Abbatico said there’s plenty of data to mine.

stclair.org

St. Clair Hospital in the South Hills is making at least one portion of the health care system a little more transparent. 

The hospital has just rolled out an online tool that allows potential patients to find out what the hospital will charge them for more than 150 procedures.

The Ellis School

In the year 2113, a city in the Katmandu Valley of Nepal will be surrounded by an earthquake mitigation system and crisscrossed by underground pneumatic tubes that will zip solid waste right out of your house. 

At least that is what a group of seventh and eighth graders at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh will be presenting next week at the national Future City competition.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

About 80 percent of the work done at Pittsburgh’s senior center on the South Side is done by volunteers. And lately, much of it has been done by one man: Charlie Mathews.

“To have Charlie here as a person that is just willing to help and is really good with people is very crucial to what we do,” said Sarah Johnston, director of the South Side Market House.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A soldier in the field with little or no technical training could fix a piece of high-tech weaponry, seniors might use a complex health monitoring device and a newlywed couple can be coached through complicated IKEA instructions, all without the help of another human. 

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science are using wearable technologies like Google Glass to place an "angel" on a user's shoulder to do those types of tasks.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

There are about 150,000 men and women serving in the U.S. military overseas, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center. 

Some of them regularly receive care packages from people they have never met, through programs like Soldiers’ Angels and Chaplains Wings.

Mary Jo Magoc has been sending care packages and cards through those programs since 2009.  She began with individual soldiers through Soldiers’ Angels, where she “adopted” four members of the military deployed overseas. She keeps in touch with three of them, even though they have returned home. Among them is Chris Samuel. 

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