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

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The Liberty Bridge reopened on Monday to vehicles weighing less than nine tons.

“The bridge is good for cars, ambulances and pick-up trucks,” said PennDOT District Executive Dan Cessna. “It excludes buses, empty tri-axle trucks and heavier trucks than that.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf brings his message on combating the opioid epidemic to a joint session of the state legislature Wednesday, he will be speaking to a group that for the most part is already aware of the issue.

“They’re all fed up with this,” said State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver, Greene, Washington) of her constituents.  “It’s a scourge and they know that we have to all stand together and try every angle we possibly can.”

Last year, more than 3,000 Pennsylvanians died of an opioid overdose including 424 in Allegheny County.

Alan Diaz / AP

Most mental and behavioral health patients first get help through their primary care doctor.  In fact, more prescriptions for antidepressants drugs are written by primary care physicians than by mental health doctors. 

Evan Vucci / AP

 

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went before a group of shale gas industry professionals gathered in Pittsburgh Thursday and promised that energy industry workers are going to “love Donald Trump,” if elected.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

More than 1,300 energy industry representatives are in downtown Pittsburgh this week for the annual Shale Insight Conference that this year is focusing on getting the gas from the well to the user.

Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer told a crowd gathered inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center that the Pittsburgh region is lacking when it comes to pipelines and other infrastructure needed to get the gas to market.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A law requiring businesses in Pittsburgh to give workers paid sick leave has been tied up for nearly a year in the courts, so a workers advocacy group is taking the fight directly to restaurant owners.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

The lead acid battery, invented in the mid-1800s, has been the technology of choice when it comes to starting cars for decades. Though small advances over the years have made car batteries more reliable, lead acid batteries are still essentially the same.

Michael Conroy / AP

When the for-profit college ITT Technical Institute ceased operations this month, officials at the Community College of Allegheny County decided to help.

“This is a group of people who are just blindsided by this, they have an interest in moving forward and maybe we can help,” CCAC Provost Stuart Blacklaw said.

Blacklaw said CCAC has several programs similar to ones offered at ITT.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

Navy veteran Ken Haynes stepped off a beefed-up RV, sporting military logos and said he was impressed with the vehicle.

The RV was a Vet Center’s mobile unit, touring the Pittsburgh area this week. Haynes stopped by on Wednesday when it was parked outside the Veterans Leadership Program offices in the Strip District. Later, it parked and opened its doors at the River Hounds Game on the South Side.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Under a tent in a Canonsburg parking lot Wednesday, the free hamburgers and chips flowed like shale gas through Washington County.

The food was there to feed a few hundred supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at his new volunteer center, located in an office building.  

Many of them held hand-made signs reading, “Deplorables for Trump.”

Katie Meyer / WITF

This year, state legislators determined that the Department of Health would be responsible for reducing the backlog of untested rape kits. So far, department of health officials said that effort has not been successful.

Part of that agreement also stipulated that the Department of Health would ensure that local police departments submitted all of the untested kits.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Alisa Grishman has dealt with the effects of Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, for 15 years. And though the Americans with Disabilities Act aims to make life easier for those with disabilities, she can find it frustrating.

“In my opinion, one of the failings of how the ADA was written is that it’s a complaint-driven law and you have to complain all the time,” said Grishman.

Studio Roosegaarde / Flickr

People cannot be defined by their mental health symptoms and should be treated as complex people, according to Familylinks Senior Director of Behavioral Health Paul Tedesco.

Russell Lee (Public Domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Roughly 100,000 retired coal miners across the U.S. are collecting pensions, but there isn’t enough money left in the system.

Some coal miners are planning to rally in Washington D.C. Thursday in an effort to convince lawmakers to release nearly $300 million in federal funds needed to shore up deleted pension programs. About 12,000 retired miners in Pennsylvania stand to benefit from it.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s auditor general is painting a no-win picture with his most recent audit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

While Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the turnpike is doing well when it comes to controlling spending and managing its money, he said there are structural problems in place that could eventually lead to the collapse not only of the turnpike, but also of much of the state’s transportation system.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said it will save $214 million over the next three years by changing health benefits and long-term non-paid leave rules for government employees.

“This is the first health plan design change in over 12 years for the state and the changes represent the most significant health plan savings in Pennsylvania in recent history,” said Spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

Much of the savings will be generated through having employees and retirees in PPO plans cover deductibles and make co-pays for some in-network services and prescriptions.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

When Chico Ficerai’s son admitted he was addicted to heroin, she turned to her church. The prayer and support helped, but she needed more guidance.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Democratic Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Candidate Katie McGinty rolled out her jobs creating package Wednesday during a stop in Pittsburgh.

She said manufacturing jobs are a part of Pittsburgh’s past, but also need to be a part of its future.

“The cutting edge of manufacturing is not about cheap labor,” McGinty said while standing in front of the “Industry” mural at the Allegheny County Courthouse. “It’s about skilled labor, plus technology, plus speed to market.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

It’s not always easy for a person to find basic services when they are homeless, according to Bob Firth.

“For example, Google, ‘free dental care Pittsburgh,’ and you will get 10,000 hits for a free dental evaluation, followed by $5,000 in work,” Firth said.

Tax Credits / Flickr

Pittsburgh’s pension funds continue to stumble and, for the second time in three years, Pennsylvania Attorney General Eugene DePasquale has launched an audit of the system.

DePasquale said Wednesday that he is not singling out Pittsburgh for additional audits.

“We think that this is one of the biggest financial challenges facing municipalities all over the state,” DePasquale said. “So we are really going to stay on top of this to make sure that cities are doing what they need to do to make sure (their pension programs) are financially in good shape.”

Keepingtime_CA / flickr

Watson, the computer known for beating Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, is now branching into health care.

Last month, IBM Watson Health partnered with UPMC to launch a new company called Pensiamo, with the goal of saving health care providers money by better utilizing supplies and services.

“The concept of Pensiamo was to provide some cognitive analytics or some artificial intelligence to help hospitals and health system better utilize the products that the patients need,” said Pensiamo Executive Vice President of Cognitive Solutions Mary Beth Lang.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A group of middle-schoolers sat quietly at their tables in South Fayette Intermediate School this past June, while getting some last minute programing and building instructions from teacher Michael Lincoln. He was all that stood between them and a pile of still-boxed, black drones.

Lincoln, who usually teaches at Avonworth Middle School, encouraged the kids: “Use everything you’ve learned,” he said. “Don’t just start doing things. Think before you do.”

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.

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