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

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is applauding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, but says state lawmakers should follow up by passing a law to protect people against discrimination based on their sexual or gender preference.

Wolf said in a statement Friday that the high court's 5-4 decision makes clear that "gay marriage" is now simply marriage and same-sex couples cannot be denied the pursuit of happiness.

Senate Democrats

  Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate have offered a compromise plan that would shift school funding from property taxes to a mix of sales and income taxes but would not make the payments directly to school districts.

“We are trying to change the culture. I call it a paradigm shift in how we pay taxes,” said Sen. Jim Brewster (D-McKeesport). “The burden of school property taxes has fallen on a group of folks and it’s now time to look at that and change that methodology so that everyone shares in that burden for education.”

After a year of committee meetings, public input sessions, one-one-one interviews and open surveys, a mayoral advisory council has released 47 pages of recommendations to build a “more welcoming Pittsburgh.”

“To be competitive, we need to fill the gaps in our labor force and cultivate the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs that will create jobs for new and native Pittsburghers alike,” Mayor Bill Peduto said.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

It took just 500 write-in votes for lifelong Democrats Chelsa Wagner and John Weinstein to get their names on the November ballots as Republicans, but it will take 2,328 signatures if a third-party candidate wants to have the same opportunity.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Gov. Tom Wolf has pulled the nomination of Marcus Brown to lead the Pennsylvania State Police. The Senate was to vote this week on Brown’s nomination. Last week a committee sent the nomination to the full body without making a recommendation.

The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County tapped a Chicago native with an education background to be its next executive director. Philip Koch takes over the post on Monday.

“One of the things that was most interesting to me was the potential that exists in Westmoreland County to make an impact,” Koch said, referring to both the possibility of creating new philanthropists and “the possible impact that the dollars could make in revitalizing those communities.”

Created in 1995, the foundation merged with the Pittsburgh Foundation in 2010 but retained its own board.

A state lawmaker wants to launch an overhaul of the type and number of board members directing Penn State University's Board of Trustees.

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, 31 Penn State alumni ran for three seats on the board. Months later, the new group approved changes in the make up of the board to allow for more student and staff representation.

Pennsylvania Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), who received his bachelor's and master's degrees from PSU in 1993 and 2004, respectively, said this week those measures aren't enough.

The Cranberry Township Emergency Medical Service is hoping to destroy 50 car seats this week. 

“The thing that people fail to realize is that car seats have expiration dates,” said Cranberry Twp. EMS Deputy Chief Ted Fessides. “Typically it’s seven years from the date of manufacture.”

In an effort to get old and otherwise unsafe car seats off the roads the township will be conducting an “Old Car Seat Take Back” from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27 at 20727 Route 19 in Cranberry Township.

PA Game Commission

  A communicable brain disease similar to mad cow was detected in south central Pennsylvania wildlife.

The two most recent cases were detected in roadkill found along Bedford County highways in the western portion of Disease Management Area number 2, according to officials with the The Pennsylvania Game Commission. The discovery forced the state to slightly expand the watch area, which already includes portions of Somerset, Cambria, Huntingdon, Bedford and Blair counties. 

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Since 1999, every four years the voters of Allegheny County cast ballots for the four row offices. Those races are usually overshadowed by the race for county executive. 

However, this year there is only one candidate for the county’s top slot and the fight for county controller started early, intensified quickly and shows no signs of stopping.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Since 1999, every four years the voters of Allegheny County cast ballots for the four row offices. Those races are usually overshadowed by the race for the county executive.

But this year there is only one candidate for the county’s top slot, and the fight for county controller started early, intensified quickly and shows no signs of stopping.

Ride-sharing magnate Uber wants to add 1,000 new drivers in Pittsburgh in the next 12 months as part of a larger effort to attract 50,000 new drivers in east coast cities.

Dubbed UberUP, or Urban Partnership, officials hope to reach into more diverse neighborhoods for new drivers and passengers. 

“We’re working with those organizations to understand what is the local community need in each of the different neighborhoods in Pittsburgh,” Uber Pittsburgh General Manager Jennifer Krusis said.

Allegheny County Council

The family of Barbara Daly Danko released a letter Friday written by the County Councilwoman to her District 11 constituents not long before her death. 

Danko died Wednesday at age 61 after a 10-year battle with breast cancer. Working with and for Allegheny County was "an honor and a privilege," she said.

Allegheny County Council

Allegheny County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko passed away Wednesday night due to complications from breast cancer, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office. 

The 61-year-old Democrat first joined the council in April of 2011 when she was appointed to the seat vacated by Rich Fitzgerald, who left office to mount what would be a successful run for county executive. Danko was then elected to a full four-year term in November of that year.

Danko was running for a second term against challenger Caroline Mitchell.

Congressman Keith Rothfus (PA-12) is once again trying to crack down on bonuses being handed out to senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

“The VA is still failing veterans in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Rothfus said. “VA senior executives need to take responsibility, fix the problems and do their jobs.”

The state of Pennsylvania has filed a motion in Commonwealth Court that would force UPMC and Highmark to enter into arbitration to settle a dispute that could force some 180,000 Medicare Advantage recipients to look for new doctors or new coverage options.

If you have ever paid your property taxes and wondered why you were making the check out to the treasurer’s name rather than to the office, you are not alone.  State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks) has introduced a bill that would make such a practice illegal.

“This is a very bad practice, it’s a loophole that is ripe for abuse and fraud,” Mackenzie said. “Individuals collect taxes in their name and instead of depositing it into the tax account it makes its way into their individual account.”

Many Pennsylvanians don’t know that they can choose who supplies the natural gas that comes into their homes, and many that have chosen a gas supplier have very little understanding of that relationship, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. 

Now the PUC has taken a step toward addressing the later.

The commission has approved a tentative order to require gas bills to set aside space for information about the company that is supplying the gas.

As of Monday Pennsylvania, will no longer have an asset test for those wanting to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits, which are sometimes referred to as food stamps.

The requirement was put in place by the Corbett administration and Governor Tom Wolf came out against the test early in his campaign. Acting Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said the state spent roughly $3.5 million a year keeping tract of the requirement.

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.

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