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

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. 

More people were working in Pennsylvania in October than had been since August of 2008. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry released its seasonally adjusted employment situation report for October 2014 on Friday, pegging total nonfarm jobs in the commonwealth at 5,802,300. That is up 12,600 jobs since September.

“We had a tremendous amount of growth,” said Sara Goulet, state Department of Labor and Industry spokeswoman.

Six people have been wounded in an early morning shooting in Clairton.

An emergency dispatch commander says the gunfire erupted around 3:30 a.m. Friday in the river town about 15 miles up the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh.

The police commander says one victim was airlifted and two victims were taken by ambulance to a trauma center. Three others reportedly went on their own to a local emergency room.

The commander says all were reported to be awake and breathing.

With an estimated 850,000 holiday celebrants heading into downtown Pittsburgh this weekend for Light Up Night and the carryover events Saturday, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is hoping to generate as much revenue as possible for its members. 

Duquesne University marketing professor Audrey Gusky predicts shoppers will leave about $20 million downtown this weekend, which is much more than it has been in the past.

“If you can believe it this is the 54th annual Light Up Night, and it has really blossomed and changed over the last 50 years,” Guskey said.

Heinz Endowments

As revilers traipse around downtown looking at holiday lights Friday night and through the rest of the holiday season, the Breathe Project hopes they will take a few moments to learn a little bit about the region’s air quality.

The work titled Particle Falls is being projected on the façade of the Benedum Center on Penn Avenue. Its cascading lights give viewers a real-time look at how much pollution is in the air above their heads. To be more specific, it measures the fine particulate mater in the air.

In 2012, Tracey Schaeffer of Leechburg became the foster parent for her four grand nieces and nephews whose parents were deemed unable to take care of them. Since then, she has been fighting with the Allegheny County Department of Children, Youth and Families to get help paying for their care.

Now the ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed suit asking for payment and for a change in any policy or practices that might be illegal.

In reaction to charges that he might have misused a county-owned vehicle, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has written a $42,737.52 check to cover all of the mileage he has put on his take home car since assuming office.

Last week County Controller Chela Wagner publicly questioned Fitzgerald’s use of the car citing several instances where he used the vehicle to get to and from what she labeled as political events. Wagner specifically questioned 19,556 miles, which she equated to $13,125 by applying the federal mileage reimbursement rate.

Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Inside a government lab near Washington D.C., Denise Akob holds up a glass jar filled with water. At the bottom of the jar is what looks like sand.

“It just looks like mud from any old stream—it’s got this brown color, it’s rocky, the water is still really clear,” says Akob, a microbiologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The sediment is from a clean streambed. It’s been inside the bottle for 90 days.

The 2015 budget for the city of Pittsburgh still needs to have a few more numbers plugged in before City Council can approve it, but the New Year could mean higher property taxes and higher parking rates. 

The mayor has outlined a $508 million operating budget and a $76.6 million capital budget for 2015.  It calls for $4.5 million in additional property tax income and another $5 million in earned income taxes.

Those hoping to lure a $2.5 billion ethane cracker plant to Beaver County got a boost this week when Shell Chemical LP exercised its land-option on an industrial site near Monaca.

The company has been evaluating the land owned by the Horsehead Corporation for more than two years.  If built, the company expects to use the facility to process gas pulled from the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations into ethylene. Ethylene is used as a building block for a long list of every-day products including drink bottles, detergents and adhesives.

Of the 51 schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district rated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, only 16 of them met or exceeded the state’s goal of have all schools obtaining at least 70 points on a 0-100 scale.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is offering praise for a deal between Dollar Bank and a group of regional foundations to sell the August Wilson Center.

“I am overjoyed to have the August Wilson Center for African American Culture back in the community’s hands, and we as a city owe thanks to all of those who worked to make it happen,” Peduto said.

The move comes just two days after the bank bought the building at Liberty Avenue and William Penn Place in downtown Pittsburgh at sheriff’s sale for $1,912.50. Dollar Bank held the delinquent $7.9 million mortgage on the building. 

Pages