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

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.

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.

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