Mark Nootbaar

News Director

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. In 2015, he was appointed News Director.

Mark has also worked in Illinois and Texas. He lives in the North Hills with his lovely wife and daughter.


Ways to Connect

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. 

The city of Pittsburgh is hoping to team up with some local artists to land a share of $1 million being offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies to enhance the public art offerings in larger cities.

Morton Brown, the public art manager for Pittsburgh says the city has long been searching for a way to join the community and local artists in one collective project, and the Bloomberg grant presents the perfect opportunity.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania launched his political campaign with a television ad blitz and has never trailed in the polls in the race against incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.

Tom Wolf has been knocked as a tax-and-spend liberal with ill-defined policy plans, but the biggest question is how he’ll work with a Legislature likely to remain in GOP control. The York County businessman points to his experience serving his community in the midstate as his credentials.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

From the very beginning of the 2014 campaign, Gov. Tom Corbett was fighting an uphill battle. His approval ratings were low, polls consistently showed him running far behind potential Democratic candidates, and the controversy over fracking and school funding were grabbing headlines on a weekly basis. 

Corbett staked his first campaign on fiscal discipline and a no-tax pledge. He had a GOP-controlled Legislature but faltered on most of his major policy priorities. 

With 5,200 students benefiting from the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship fund in the last six years and more than $140 million dollars raised toward a $250 million goal, Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril is pleased with the progress.

The numbers were announced as part of the program’s annual report to the community release Wednesday. 

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh think they have found a link between prenatal and early life exposure to air pollution and autism.  The study focused on 217 families with children on the autism spectrum. 

Autism now affects one in 68 children in America.  That is up nearly 800 percent in the last 20 years. Principal investigator Evelyn Talbott said her research found exposure to increased levels of chromium and styrene increased the risk of autism by 1.4 to two times. 

Brian Siewiorek

Back in the late '60s, Andy Warhol would frequently ask artists like the Velvet Underground to perform live as he projected his films. The practice nearly died with the artist, but it's being resurrected in Pittsburgh this week.

Musicians will perform live scores Friday for 15 Warhol films that experts are calling “unseen.”

“Warhol shot a lot of film and he probably looked at it, put it away,” said Geralyn Huxley, curator of film and video for the Andy Warhol Museum. “Certainly they were never publicly screened that we know of.” 

For the first time in decades Heth’s Run in Highland Park will soon reach the Allegheny River, and the change is as much due to a transportation project as it is an environmental effort. 

The state is hoping to partner with municipalities across the state to improve traffic signals that will lead not only to better traffic flow but also to added energy savings.

PennDOT will use Act 89 funds to support its “Green Light-Go” program.  The act sets aside $10 million for signal improvements in the current budget.