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

Bottleworks Celebrates And Supports Arts In Johnstown

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Like so many other industrial buildings in rust belt cities, the Tulip Bottling Company and Gainers Brewery buildings in Johnstown’s historic Cambria City neighborhood had fallen into disuse after the companies that once employed hundreds dried up and closed their doors.  But the buildings have been given new life as the blue color neighborhood is transformed into the city’s art and cultural district.

“Throughout the year we offer exhibits, classes, lectures, anything art-related,” said Bottleworks Executive Director Angela Rizzo of the buildings that now also house nine local artists in rented studio space.  “Our mission is to provide opportunities for artists and audiences to experience the arts.”

Remembering The Johnstown Flood

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

The residents of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s were no strangers to floods.  Sitting at the confluence of the Stonycreek River and the Little Conemaugh River, the booming city often went under water.

An eight-inch rain that passed through the region in May of 1889 had submerged much of downtown Johnstown under several feet of water but people were coping, however the South Fork Dam, some 14 miles miles up the Conemaugh Valley was about to let loose, releasing millions of gallons of water that would smash everything in its path.

Lock the Gate Alliance / flickr

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that landowners and developers filed against individuals and environmental groups who have been fighting fracking near the Mars Area School District complex.

Cotholic Diocese of Pittsburgh

Thousands of Pittsburghers will travel to Philadelphia this week to see Pope Francis including Pittsburgh Catholic Dioceses Bishop David Zubik. 

The papal visit will likely occur surprise-free, Zubik said. Unlike Pope Paul II -- known as a philosopher -- and Pope Benedict XVI, who was a theologian, Pope Francis has built his reign on the pastoral relationship between the Vatican and the common men and women it serves.

Pittsburgh Public Schools / http://discoverpps.org/westinghouse

Middle and high school students from the Wilkinsburg Public School District could be going to Pittsburgh schools next year. 

In a joint move Wednesday night, the Wilkinsburg district announced it will close its grades 7-12 school building and send those 200-plus students to Westinghouse 6-12 next year.  The plan is still pending approval next month by the boards of both districts.

Keith Srakocic / AP Images

“A whirlwind” is how Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay describes his first year in the position. McLay marked the one-year anniversary of being appointed to the post Sept. 15, 2015. 

McLay told Essential Pittsburgh he was hired with some specific objectives; Implement data-driven community-oriented policing, start to repair police-community relations, and improve moral while restoring faith in the bureau’s internal leadership systems.

McLay said he was greeted with a positive attitude when he went to a Fraternal Order of Police picnic in the city between the time he was named and his first day on the job.

Alberto G / flickr

Throughout Pennsylvania parents of elementary and middle school students are opening their mailboxes today to find standardized test scores for their children and their schools that are much lower than they were last year.  The drop has been nearly unanimously attributed to a more difficult set of tests that are more closely linked to Pennsylvania’s Common Core standards than they have been in the past.

“I would caution any parent from over interpreting these scores…this is a new baseline,” Heidi Ondek, Superintendent, Quaker Valley School District said.  “It may take years before this is a reliable enough measure to base too much on instructionally.”

Flight 93 Memorial Grows on 14th Anniversary

Sep 11, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 FM WESA

The mother of Flight 93 victim Deora Bodley walked through the new visitor center this week before the public was invited in and described it as a “very moving rendition of the story of what happened September 11th.”   

Debby Borza’s daughter Deora was a college student on September 11, 2001.  She was traveling back home to San Francisco from New Jersey where she had been visiting friends, when the plane was hijacked as part of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. 

Simon & Schuster

We take for granted that we can jump on a plane and get to every corner of the globe in a mater of hours, but there was once a time when there was no such thing as a flying machine.

Pittsburgh native and Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough has recently published the book The Wright Brothers looking at the lives of the two men most responsible for the invention of flight.

We all know the Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics from Dayton who invented the airplane said McCullough in an interview with Essential Pittsburgh leading up to his sold-out lecture in Pittsburgh.

Office of Jake Wheatley

A project at Pittsburgh’s Brashear High School to place small “libraries” throughout the community is picking up steam with local lawmakers.

The project, launched last year by parent Debra Smallwood and a career and technical engineering class, builds and decorates wooden boxes to be installed at local organizations. Host facilities agree to stock the boxes with books and place them in a public location so that passersby can borrow the books or add to the collections.

Greg Nichols / Thomas Dunne Books

July 1959 500,000 steel workers in southwestern Pennsylvania walked off the job in a contract dispute.  They expected a quick end to the strike like they had seen in previous work stoppages but as the summer turned to fall and the men were still idle and the one bright spot was a local high school football team on the verge of setting a national record.

A National Acrobat / flickr

UPDATE 8/26/15:

As of 8:00 am PennDOT has  postponed the work for 24 hours.  The project is now slated to begin Thursday Aug. 27.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Getting from Oakland to Bloomfield will get a bit harder starting Wednesday morning. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is closing Baum and Bigelow (officially designated as PA Route 380) boulevards from Melwood Avenue to the Bloomfield Bridge for an estimated 91 days.

UPDATE: Tuesday 8/25/15

Early Tuesday morning the teacher's union called off the strike after a tentative contract agreement was reached. 

“We are happy to have been able to reach a responsible agreement together with the BVAEA (Belle Vernon Area Education Association). We have a responsibility to the taxpayers and citizens of the Belle Vernon Area School District,” said School Board President Aaron J. Bialon.
 

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

All 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods will see an influx of bike riders this week as Bike Pittsburgh celebrates the 11th annual BikeFest.

The 10 days of events began Friday with a breakfast for bike commuters and wraps up Sunday with the group’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Pedal Pittsburgh.

Gerry Dincher / flickr

A coalition representing students attending Mars Area School District teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union to fight a lawsuit brought by shale drilling corporations that contends the group’s actions are halting appropriate and legal drilling opportunities.

ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak called the suit filed by Dewey Homes & Investment Properties a "SLAPP" suit, or strategic lawsuit against public participation. Such suits have been made illegal in nearly half of U.S. states including Pennsylvania.

“What these are is lawsuits that really have no merit that are typically filed by corporate interests, often developers, against political opponents," Walczak said. "And they have virtually no chance of succeeding.”

22 Pirates Baseball Hats Sent To Cuba From Pittsburgh

Aug 17, 2015
Mayor Bill Peduto

Cubans love baseball. They especially love former Pittsburgh Pirate and Puerto Rican native Roberto Clemente so when Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto led a delegation of business leaders to the island nation in May, it was no surprise that the Pirates and Clemente often came up in conversation. 

What was a surprise was the email Bill Peduto received after returning home.

Allegheny CleanWays

At last count, Joe Divack noted 15 abandoned garages and more than 30 trashed, vacant lots in Beltzhoover, most so overgrown he said he’d need a machete just to uncover it all.

Overhauling those sites will be the next year-long focus for the Clean Pittsburgh Commission’s new effort to reclaim blighted Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is hanging not only his budget proposal, but at least some of the state’s economic future, on continued growth in natural gas production in the state, but rumors of gas being sold at 60 cents per thousand cubic feet (MCF) is prompting concern among many.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

Long-time Republican political insider and well-known philanthropist Elsie Hillman has died at the age of 89.

The family says she passed away peacefully Tuesday surrounded by family.

State Sen. John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) believes the Americans with Disabilities Act has greatly improved access to the physical world and employment for those with special needs since its passage 25 years ago, but says it has fallen short when it comes to protecting life.

Individuals with mental or physical disabilities are often denied the opportunity to be listed on organ transplant lists because of their disability, he said. Sabatina introduced legislation to change that as a House member in February, and said he intends to file a similar measure as a freshman member of the Senate.

arnet4statesenate.com

Voters in Pennsylvania’s 37th senatorial district now have two candidates from which to choose as they begin to think about the November special election. 

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee chose Heather Arnet as its candidate on Saturday. Last month the Republicans chose Guy Reschenthaler as its candidate.

The seat was left vacant when Democrat Matt Smith resigned to run the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. 

Talk Radio News Service / flickr

Allegheny County health officials say they are already in line with new White House standards to fight HIV and AIDS.

The plan unveiled Thursday updates one issued by the Obama administration five years ago. Developments since then include new diagnostic tests, a daily pill for infection prevention and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which allows for more American’s to receive treatment and testing.

The U.S. Department of Defense extended its secure software system contract with Carnegie Mellon University researchers for the the next five years, officials announced Tuesday.

“[The contract] endorses the fact that over the last 30-plus years, we have made some major contributions and major impact for the Department of Defense in the area of software engineering and cybersecurity,” said Robert Behler, deputy director and chief operation officer of CMU’s Software Engineering Institute.

Every 10 years a fight explodes in Harrisburg over how to redraw state House, Senate and U.S. Congressional districts, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers wrangling over what often becomes a map full of oddly shaped districts drawn in an effort to keep one party or the other in power. 

State Rep. Ted Harhai (D-Westmoreland) wants to end the fight by creating a new independent panel to redraw the districts following the decennial U.S. census.

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Gov. Tom Wolf said he would be "willing to have conversations" about compromises on the 5 percent severance tax on natural gas he's proposed to balance the state budget.

"I'm willing to have conversations," Wold told reporters while touring Big Beaver Elementary School in Darlington on Monday. "I want a better Pennsylvania. If I'm convinced we can have a better Pennsylvania with something better than what I've proposed, then I'm all ears."

A long-standing Downtown feud could be on its way to resolution.

Point Park University President Paul Hennigan announced Monday that his administration had dropped its objection to the unionization of the school’s full-time faculty.

“This case started ... under a different administration,” Hennigan said.  “This administration is just not interested in a fight.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) has enlisted the support of the entire Pennsylvania delegation and more than 200 other members of Congress in asking fellow members working on appropriations bills to force the U.S. Army to leave the Apache helicopters currently assigned to National Guard units right where they are. 

The Republican this week circulated for signatures a letter asking that funding to move the 200 helicopters be removed from the pending budget. Twenty-four of those aircraft are based in Johnstown.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the long-overdue system to merge the payroll operations of the city and Allegheny County will be in place by the end of the year.

The lack of an operational system prompted the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which has financial oversight of the city, to withhold millions of dollars in slot machine revenues.

Pennsylvania State Police are short more than 400 officers with hundreds more retirements on the way, officials said Monday, but recruitment and retention in recent years continues to plummet.

Police recruiter Cpl. Brian Carpenter said tough background checks, college education or military experience  requirements and the recent, high-profile backlash against police in general has given potential applicants pause despite a state budget cushion that could support scores of new hires.

Silk Screen Film Fest

With 30 films from 18 countries, the 10th annual Silk Screen Film festival opens in Pittsburgh Thursday with an opening night gala followed by 10 days of screenings and discussions. All of the films have Asian roots.

“Asia is defined like it used to be defined when you were in high school, which is starting with Turkey all the way to Japan,” said Silk Screen Executive Director Harish Saluja. “That includes Israel and India and Afghanistan and Pakistan … In fact our opening film this year is called Theeb which is from Jordan and UAE (United Arab Emirates).”

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