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.

 

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Would You Pay Higher Income Taxes to Avoid Property Taxes?

For decades, small pockets of lawmakers, property owners and education activists have been pushing to end the use of property taxes to fund education in Pennsylvania, and now a local lawmakers is hoping to forward the debate with fresh legislation.

On average, school districts in the United States pulled 44 percent of their funding in 2011 from local sources, and most often that funding came from property taxes. In that same year, districts in Pennsylvania turned to local sources for 57 percent of their revenue, which is the fourth highest percentage in the country. 

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Community
3:30 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Grownups Get to Play Saturday in Downtown Pittsburgh

A few hundred Pittsburghers are expected to gather downtown this weekend to make some new friends, get a little sweaty and play some of the best new games invented this year. 

It's all part of the Best Games Festival put on by City of Play.

“You don’t have to be a hyper-athlete to show up to what we do,” said City of Play Director Adam Nelson.  “That’s one of the foundations of the organization and the festival.”

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Public Safety
1:56 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Drug Bust in Wilkinsburg Nets 18 Arrests and 13,500 Bags of Heroin

Eighteen people alleged to have ties to a violent drug gang based in Wilkinsburg have been arrested in what is being called a major bust. The suspected drug dealers were taken into custody as part of a joint effort involving the PA Attorney General's Organized Crime Section and the Allegheny County Police.

The "Operation Wilkinsburg Crew" was launched, according to Attorney General Kathleen Kane, in reaction to a series of homicides and shootings in Wilkinsburg believed to be related to heroin trafficking.

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Economy & Business
4:24 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

State of the Labor Report Shows PA Sliding

Just ahead of Labor Day, the left-leaning Keystone Research Center is calling on the state to spend more to support public sector jobs and on the private sector to pay their low-wage workers more. 

The Harrisburg-based think tank’s State of Working Pennsylvania report shows the state’s strong employment position immediately following the recession has begun to falter.

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University of Pittsburgh
3:31 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Student Group Convinces Pitt to Join Anti-Sweatshop Program

A student group at the University of Pittsburgh has been successful in its effort to get the school’s administration to sign on to a program aimed at guaranteeing workers rights wherever official school apparel is manufactured.

“As soon as I found out for sure I jumped up and down for like a good two or three minutes,” said Joe Thomas, co-founder of the Pitt chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy.

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Marcellus Shale
2:53 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

47 Wells to be Drilled at Pittsburgh Airport

Consol Energy's drilling plan.
Credit Consol Energy

Consol Energy plans to build six well pads and three impoundment ponds on land surrounding the Pittsburgh International Airport as it works to tap into the Marcellus shale under the facility. 

Miles of water and gas pipelines and access roads are also part of the plan that is currently up for public review.

Allegheny County Council inked a deal with Consol to drill at the airport pending regulatory approval from several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration. The deal could be worth as much a $500 million dollars to the county.

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Port Authority
1:57 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

PAT Board Leaves Without Naming New CEO

The nine-member board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County closed a special meeting Friday without choosing a new CEO, meaning the task will be left to a new board that will feature nearly all-new faces. 

Currently the board is fully appointed by the County Executive, but a bill passed in the state legislature this spring changes the make up of the board to include 11 members appointed, in part, by the state. 

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Community
10:52 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Sala Udin Remembers the March on Washington

Fifty years ago, Sala Udin was a 19-year-old living with his aunt and cousin in New York. He was involved in the civil rights movement but was not as active in the struggle as he would soon become.

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Government & Politics
4:36 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Sen. Toomey Works for Tax Code Changes, but He's Not Optimistic

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) has long been a supporter of changing what he calls the “burdensome” U.S. tax code, and he says although he will continue that fight from his seat on the Senate Finance Committee, he does not want to artificially inflate the hopes of his constituents that change will happen any time soon.

“The fact is it takes strong presidential leadership to get this done, and I don’t think it is a very high priority for the president,” Toomey said.

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Environment & Energy
3:21 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Sen. Casey: More Money for Energy Research Needed

Funding for the National Energy Technology Laboratory is set to be cut by 20 percent in the upcoming federal budget, and that has U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania upset. 

The Democrat has sent a letter to House and Senate leaders calling for the restoration of more than $80 million in the NETL budget. 

Casey said the funding is important to not only the region’s economy, but also the future of the nation's energy supply.

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Arts & Culture
4:22 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Why Will Phipps Smell Like Death This Month? Blame the Corpse Flower

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will soon smell like something crawled up inside of it and died. 

Some time in late August a rare corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum), that Curator of Horticulture Ben Dunigan has been pampering since 2009, is expected to bloom. When it does, the 6-foot-tall flower will emit an “intense” scent resembling rotting flesh.

“And when I say intense, you can imagine that these have evolved to attract pollinators from miles away,” Dunigan said. “So in our Palm Court, which is quite a big room, it's sure to smell the entire room up.”

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Economy & Business
3:30 am
Mon July 22, 2013

It's Cheap to Buy a House in Pittsburgh, But Not a New One

A national survey shows the median home in the Pittsburgh region in 2011 was valued at $69,000, compared to $110,000 nationally. However, the study found the median price for a new home in the Pittsburgh region is slightly higher than the national median.
Credit Flickr user Casey Konstantín

It’s an often-repeated fact that Pittsburgh homes are cheaper to buy than those in the rest of the country, but a new study shows that does not hold true for new construction.

Every other year, the U.S Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conduct a national survey measuring home prices, conditions, maintenance costs, and other relevant data. The survey also takes an in-depth look at 25 to 30 individual metro-areas on an ever-changing basis. 

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City Government
6:51 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Red Light Cameras Have Their Day in Council

Red light cameras, like the ones shown here in Boston, could be on their way to Pittsburgh.
Credit Flickr user compujeramey

State Rep. Paul Costa grew up where the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill come together, and he knows to be careful when passing through the intersection of Forbes and Dallas avenues on the way to visit his mother.

“They run red lights there often,” Costa said.  “You wait for that light to turn green for a couple of seconds before you decided to proceed.”

That intersection and several others are on the list of intersections in Pittsburgh that could soon host red light cameras if legislation under consideration in City Council passes.

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Music
2:08 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

Through Donations, Pittsburgh Blues Fest to Help Combat Hunger

With names like Los Lonely Boys and Tab Benoit the 19th annual Pittsburgh Blues Festival is bound to be good, but the true measurement of the event's success is what it does for the community. The three-day music festival serves as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“My mantra is no child hungry,” said festival chairman Ron Esser. “One in seven children in this area goes to bed hungry every night; we can’t have that.”

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City Council
3:00 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Same-Sex Benefits Bill Ready for Debate in Pittsburgh Council

Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus believes Pittsburgh has a track record of being progressive when it comes gay rights, and he is about to put his theory to the test. 

Council is set to debate legislation Wednesday that would force all companies doing $250,000 or more worth of business with the city to offer same-sex benefits to its employees.

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Robotics
3:30 am
Mon July 15, 2013

CMU Researchers Create Snake-Like Robots to Patrol Nuke Plants

What’s two inches in diameter, four-foot-long and can find a leak in the most remote area of a failing nuclear power plant? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say it's one of their snake-like robots. 

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Opera
3:20 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

It's an Opera Night (And Weekend) in Pittsburgh

Summer Fest includes some well-known works such as Jacques Offenbach’s "The Tales of Hoffmann."
Photo by Patti Brahim, via the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh

It will be a weekend full of opera performances in Pittsburgh, but they will be far from the grand Eurocentric affairs you might imagine.

The Opera Theater of Pittsburgh began its second annual Summer Fest last weekend, but it hits its peak over the four days that began Thursday. In all, there will be eight different operas performed along with several concerts of Mozart’s works and free cabaret performances.

“Opera Theater has a little mantra, which is ‘up close and personal and we do everything in English,’” said Theater director Jonathan Eaton.

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Veterans
4:21 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

VA Backlog Still Too Long for Sen. Casey

A pair of U.S. senators is hoping their staffs will have more success than the Department of Veterans Affairs has had in its efforts to reduce the backlog the VA faces in processing disability claims.

In some instances it takes more than two years for the government to process those claims.

“We (in Washington) all hope that we are working every day to pay tribute to our veterans and their families,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). “How can we be true to that promise when you have this kind of a backlog.”

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Environment & Energy
7:22 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Unions Call For Local Jobs to be Part of Green Energy Future

The theme of taking action today to combat climate change tomorrow ran rampant through Tuesday’s BlueGreen Alliance roundtable on president Obama’s recently released climate change plan. 

While the event spent very little time talking about the specifics of the president’s plan, it did offer several opinions on making sure climate control efforts also benefit the local economy.

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Community
2:01 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Southwestern PA in Need of Blood Donations

The Red Cross says it needs your blood today.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region services 80 hospitals in 100 counties in six states, including nearly all of southwestern Pennsylvania. Spokeswoman Marianne Spampinato says they are starting to get a dangerously low levels.

Blood donations always drop in the summer, and Spampinato said with the Fourth of July falling in the middle of the week, donations were extremely slow all of last week.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region needs to collect 700 units of blood a day to keep up with demand.

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Same-Sex Marriage
10:00 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Federal Suit Filed in PA to Force State to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

Susan Whitewood, of Allegheny County, speaks during a news conference about American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit against the state's gay marriage ban.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

The American Civil Liberties Union is filing a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania to make the state recognize gay couples.

The suit comes two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on gay marriage but left state prohibitions intact. Lawyers say this is the first federal case since to be filed challenging a state's gay marriage law.

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Community
2:08 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

Policies Change as Part of Poppy Seed Child Custody Settlement

The Lawrence County woman who lost custody of her child after testing positive for drugs after eating a poppy seed bagel has settled her suit against the county and the hospital where the test was preformed. 

The American Civil Liberties Union took the case of Elizabeth Mort in 2010 and announced the settlement with Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County Children and Youth Services Tuesday. The two entities will pay $143,500 to settle the suit. 

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History
11:06 am
Mon July 1, 2013

With 150th Anniversary, Gettysburg Comes to Life

On this day 150 years ago the Battle of Gettysburg began. By the time the three-day battle was over, nearly 8,000 Americans were dead and another 40,000 were wounded or missing. But the battle changed the tide of the Civil War. 

This week, thousands of spectators will gather in Gettysburg to mark the anniversary, as Civil War re-enactors play out some of the key skirmishes that made the three-day battle so memorable. That means Gettysburg Chief Historian Scott Hartwig will be busy.

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University of Pittsburgh
12:35 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg to Leave in 2014

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg will leave his post in the summer of 2014.
Credit University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh will soon be looking for a new chancellor.  Mark Nordenberg told the University’s Board of Trustees Friday that he will leave the post in the summer of 2014.

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Penn State
1:42 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

State Lawmakers Push for Debate on PSU Oversight

Nearly eight months ago, then state Auditor General Jack Wagner issued a long list of recommendations that he thought would provide for more oversight of the operation of Penn State University. Most of those recommendations have not been adopted, but Democrats in the state Senate are pushing to change that.

“We are calling upon our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to have that conversation with us over the course summer and the fall,” said Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny).

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Pennsylvania Budget
9:49 am
Thu June 27, 2013

PA Dems Won't Let Medicaid Debate Die

As the budget battle comes to a boil in Harrisburg, the fight over Medicaid expansion is heating up right along side it.  

Lawmakers for the most part are split along party lines with Republicans supporting Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to not opt into the federal government’s offer, while Democrats are calling for the state to expand the program as soon as possible.

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Health
3:37 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Study: Weight Loss Does Not Lower Cardiovascular Risks ... Or Does it?

The longest study of the link between obesity among Type 2 diabetes patients and cardiovascular disease recently wrapped up, and it found that among the 5,145 participants, losing weight did not improve their chances of having hospital stays due to things like chest pain and heart attacks. 

However, researchers warn there is much more to the study once you start to dig a little deeper.

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State Budget
5:46 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Poll Shows Voters Support More State Education Funding

An education funding advocacy group says it has polling data that shows Pennsylvanians place public education high on their priority list and would not mind paying higher income or sales taxes to better support school.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center commissioned the Lake Researcher Partners poll.

The poll found that 56 percent of all respondents have a favorable opinion of public schools, and 48 percent said they were very concerned about funding for the schools.

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Science & Technology
12:22 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Highmark and CMU Look to 'Disrupt' Healthcare Industry

Highmark Inc. and its recently formed healthcare arm Allegheny Health Network are hoping Carnegie Mellon University will be able to dive into the systems’ terabytes of patient care and payment data to find industry changing breakthroughs. 

CMU’s Allen Russell will head the Disruptive Healthcare Technology Institute. He believes the healthcare industry, as a whole, has been resistant to what he calls “disruptive change,” like what the mobile phone did for communications or the personal computer did for mainframe computing.

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History
3:04 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

At 249 Years Old, the Block House is Holding Strong

The Block House in Point State Park is approaching 250 years old is said to be in good condition.
Credit Roy Engelbrecht

The oldest man-made structure in Pittsburgh is looking pretty good, according to a local architecture firm hired to assess the Block House in Point State Park.

The building will celebrate its 250th year in 2014, and its owners are hoping to spruce it up a bit before blowing up the balloons and cutting the cake.

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