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

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto has rolled out the names of those who will fill key positions in his administration and the list is a mix of well-known political names, high-profile business leaders, and a few new faces.

“It reflects the most diverse mayor’s office in Pittsburgh’s history,” said Peduto of his “executive team,” which is majority minority.  “But more importantly, it’s the highest level of talent that a mayor’s office has been able to recruit.”

Pittsburgh City Council will get two new faces as a result of Tuesday’s election. One is a political outsider, the other is no stranger to Grant Street.

The voters of District 8 overwhelmingly chose Democrat Dan Gilman (89 percent) to represent the district over Republican Mordecai D. Treblow (10 percent). Gilman is the chief of staff for current District 8 Councilman Bill Peduto, who opted not to run so he could focus on his mayoral campaign.  

Gillman said he knows this will not be an easy job. 

Once the vote count is made official by the Allegheny County Elections Division later this month the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter will have a new amendment. By an 80-20 majority Tuesday, voters approved a ballot question that would amend the charter to require all city employees to live in the city for which they work.

“It’s important that they live in the city and be part of the city and have a commitment to the city which they control,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess.

That includes police and firefighters.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The polls are open across the country for the 2013 general election, and in Allegheny County things are reportedly very quiet. 

The Allegheny County Elections Division says a few polling places were slow to start taking voters due to problems with buildings not being open on time and poll workers calling in sick. All of those locations opened shortly after 7 a.m., and the division said replacement workers were found where needed.

HHS.gov & casey.senate.gov

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be back on Capitol Hill Wednesday. This time she will be fielding questions from members of the Senate Finance Committee about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the failure of the launch of the website HealthCare.gov.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is a member of the committee. He thinks the session will start with a look at why the website used to sign up for new healthcare insurance collapsed on the first day and has never fully recovered. However, he hopes it will not end there.

When voters in Pittsburgh head to the polls Tuesday they will be asked if they want to change the city’s home rule charter to require all city employees to live within the 58 square miles that make up the municipality.

The question was placed on the ballot by City Council in July following brief debate among council members and a long public hearing. 

Councilman Ricky Burgess represents several mostly-African American neighborhoods and pushed for the referendum.

Former longtime Pittsburgh Democratic Congressman William Coyne has died at the age of 77.

Coyne's executive assistant, Jamie Rooney, said Coyne died Sunday at UPMC Mercy hospital following complications from a fall two months ago.

Coyne was a state representative from 1971 to 1973 then spent six years on Pittsburgh City Council before he became a Congressman in 1981. He served in that post until retiring in 2003.

The local media, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and members of congress have all tried to dig into the outbreak of Legionella at the Pittsburgh VA hospital and now the American Legion is getting involved.

The group tours fifteen hospitals each year to gather information for an annual report from its System Worth Saving Task Force, which assesses the facilities on several criteria.  The Task force chose Pittsburgh to be among those reviewed this year.

Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. Senator has authored a bipartisan letter to the White House that he hopes will put money in the hands of needy families who need help heating their homes.

Sen. Bob Casey’s letter calls for the expedited release of heating assistance funds for seniors and low-income families through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP.)  The Democrat said he has recruited 40 members of the Senate as co-signers calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to release the funds. 

PNC

While many Americans quickly moved on from October’s partial government shutdown and near-default, it seems the nation’s high net worth individuals are less ready to forget about it.

One of western Pennsylvania’s iconic businesses is back up and running in a permanent location.  The ribbon was cut today for the new Wendell August forge in Grove City Pennsylvania following a devastating fire in March of 2010.

Governor Tom Corbett was on hand for the event and heaped praise on the company’s tenacity. 

“You have shown great resolve and I want to thank you for that,” Corbett said. “Not only have you recovered from the fire of 2010 but I understand you are expanding.”

The state's top fiscal watchdog says his office will scrutinize state payments made to consultants working on a plan to lease the Pennsylvania Lottery to a private firm.

"The money that was paid to these firms, what did it actually go to?" said Democratic state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale Tuesday about the planned review. He said more than $3.4 million has been paid to firms associated with the effort to lease the lottery. The money has come from the state's Lottery Fund, which supports programs benefiting seniors.

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare is hoping a new tuition assistance program will help improve childcare centers throughout the commonwealth.  The Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program will give current childcare center workers as much as $4,500 a year to pursue a related degree.

“We want to help them achieve those college credits… so that they can use that knowledge so that they can provide higher quality early learning experiences for the young children in childcare centers,” said DPW spokesperson Carey Miller.

Google.com

Motorists heading from the Liberty Bridge to the North Hills this week will find themselves taking a short detour. 

PennDOT will close the ramp connecting the Liberty Bridge to northbound I-579 (Crosstown Boulevard) starting at 9:00am Monday Oct. 28 to work on the retaining wall leading up to Duquesne University.  The ramp will reopen at 5:00pm and then will be closed each day from 9:00am to 5:00pm through Friday.

Crews will apply a protective acrylic coating to wall.

Water bills in Allegheny County are on the rise again. The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) released a four-year rate structure Thursday that begins with a 17 percent rate increase next year and then keeps growing. In the past the rates have always been released on a year-to-year basis.

For 43 years the East End Cooperative Ministry has been providing services to less fortunate members of the community.  Currently, clients are shuttled among as many as 14 locations to get all the services they need, but as of November 4th everything will be under one roof.

That roof is over what was once a gas station and a pair of parking lots on Penn Circle in East Liberty, and it will be covering a platinum level LEED certified building.

The Pittsburgh Foundation is hoping a website it is launching will help the next mayor choose fresh faces for key positions.

The site, Talent-City.org, will begin posting job openings after the November election for the top position in each city department and their direct reports.

“The website is part of a broader effort to help ensure that the city institutes a new process of hiring with an emphasis on qualifications,” said Grant Oliphant, Pittsburgh Foundation president and CEO.

While Pennsylvania’s legislative leaders argue over thresholds for prevailing wage projects and gasoline tax rates, one of the state’s most popular former governor’s is calling on lawmakers to act quickly. 

“Transportation infrastructure is key to not only the quality of life but your ability to be competitive,” said former Gov. Tom Ridge. “People will see that once Pennsylvania invested today in its future, they’ll get immediate results.”

A measure that would help some convicted criminals clear their record has been passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and is on its way to the House.

Senate Bill 391 would allow individuals who were convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor of the third or second degree and have not been arrested or prosecuted for seven to ten years following the completion of their sentence to have their record expunged. 

CSX Corp. plans to build a $50 million truck-to-train freight transfer station in one of Pittsburgh's poorest suburbs.

Officials in McKees Rocks hope the mile-long facility, which stretches into neighboring Stowe Township along the Ohio River, will jumpstart plans for a business park next to it. McKees Rocks Mayor Jack Muhr says, "This is the kind of development project that can pave the way for more growth."

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

On a typical weekday in October about 70 visitors will wander in and out of the Fort Pitt Block House in Point State Park, since Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duck has been floating in the Allegheny River that number has grown by nearly 600 percent.

“It’s just been crazy,” said Block House curator Emily Weaver who has seen weekend visitation shoot through the roof.  “It’s been a lot like having the Three Rivers Regatta here every week.  It’s just been crazy.”

With a unanimous vote, lawmakers in Harrisburg have taken the unusual step of lowering the state’s ability to borrow money.  The House and Senate approved a bill this week that reduces Pennsylvania’s debt ceiling from $4.05 billion to $3.45 billion. 

“Under Governor Rendell the debt limit was increased five times and we felt we needed to reduce our debt service payments and reduce our overall debt,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). 

The Allegheny County Airport Authority Board has approved a budget that lowers rates and assumes that traffic will hold steady at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The $95.8 million operating budget will drop per passenger fees paid by airlines from the current $14.11 to $13.92. Authority spokesperson JoAnn Jenny said the decrease is a direct result of payments from CONSOL Energy, which has leased the rights to drill into the Marcellus shale under the airport.

While Senate leaders were announcing details of a last-minute agreement Wednesday to avert a threatened Treasury default and reopen the government after 16-day partial shutdown, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) was saying the deal is just a starting point.

Casey said he is pleased that the proposal called for the Treasury to have authority to continue borrowing through Feb. 7, and the government would be open through Jan. 15, but he would prefer that the deadline be pushed back through the end of 2014 as had been included in an earlier proposal. 

Flickr user wildcellist

Opposition is starting to pile up for a recently revived proposal to keep buses out of most of the Golden Triangle. 

At the behest of some business owners and a few elected officials, the Port Authority of Allegheny County has been searching for years to find a solution to the congestion caused by buses passing through the heart of downtown.

Most recently, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City Councilman Bill Peduto proposed that routes be pushed to the edges of downtown, forcing some riders to walk a few extra blocks to get to work. 

As officials at Chatham University prepare to open their new Eden Hall Campus with a focus on sustainability, it has received its largest monetary gift ever in the form of a $15 million dollar endowment from the Falk Foundation.

The school and the foundation have long had a partnership, according to Chatham President Esther Barazzone, “starting in 1952 Chatham had a Falk Hall and since then we have been close to the foundation and its trustees.  Sigo Falk, who is the current head of the foundation, has also been chair of the board of Chatham University.”

Gasoline prices fell this week three cents compared to last week to land at $3.45 a gallon and the price could slip as low as $3.10 by Christmas, according to AAA East Central Senior Vice President Bevi Powel. 

Last year at this time the price stood at $3.89.

Powel links the slide in prices to a trio of key factors, saying “Winter blends of gasoline are little bit cheaper to manufacture, demand is always a little bit lower after the summer driving season, and we have not had one hurricane effect the production in recent months.”

A few local lawmakers are teaming up with a Democrat from Luzerne County in an effort to make it as easy to report child abuse as it is to report a fire. 

The Child Abuse Hotline Bill has made it out of the State Senate Aging and Youth Committee and is now before the Communications and Technology Committee. Senate Bill 26 would create a three digit, toll-free number similar to 911 that would be reserved for reporting child abuse.

Confusion continues to swirl around the coming split of Highmark and UPMC, and a pair of western Pennsylvania state representatives is hoping to calm the fears of many in the region.

Reps. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) and Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) this week introduced a pair of bills (HB 1621 and HB 1622) that would force all not-for-profit health care insurers and health care providers to open their services to all insurance holders, not just their own.

Courtesy of Ei Arakawa © Ei Arakawa and Henning Bohl. Commissioned by Carnegie Museum of Art for the 2013 Carnegie International. Supported by The George Foundation and The Japan Foundation, New York

From the very beginning, the curators of the 2013 Carnegie International wanted the art exhibition to be about play, so they built a playground in front of the museum.

Several artists have picked up on that theme, including Brooklyn-based performance artists Ei Arakawa.

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