Michael Lynch

News Fellow

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."

Personal fun facts:  "a typical Penguins' and Pirates' fan;" inaugural recipient of the Roy McHugh Prize for Writing Excellence, and vinyl record collector.

Ways To Connect

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

When Diane Faust started losing her eyesight in 2008 as a result of optic nerve damage, she didn’t know where to turn, but she knew she had two options.

“I could hide in my house the rest of my life, ignore the outside world,” Faust said. “Or, I could try to gain as much of my independence back and get back to as much of a normal life as possible. Those folks have been so instrumental in helping me to do that.”

On Monday, nearly 20 student organizations are expected to meet with community leaders at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium in Oakland to announce the formation of a student-run diversity council.

The organization will work with university officials, students and the greater Pittsburgh area to bring attention to diversity-related problems, said Ernest Rajakone, senior advisor for Pitt’s South Asian Student Association and a diversity council student organizer.

Rajakone said there are dozens of ethnic and cultural groups at Pitt, but there is a lack of unity among them.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Despite not having a professional team, basketball is expected to bring big bucks to the city of Pittsburgh this weekend.

Tourism agency VisitPittsburgh projects as much as $7 million will be pumped into the local economy thanks to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships at the Consol Energy Center on March 19 and 21.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Public safety officials from around the Pittsburgh region joined U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) at the Allegheny County Courthouse today as he announced his support for a bill that would form a national train derailment task force.

The Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs and Safety Evaluation, or RESPONSE ACT, would create a new set of training and resource recommendations for derailment first responders. It would be a subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

David Trawin / flickr

Support for legalizing medical marijuana is growing in Pennsylvania, according to a poll conducted by Robert Morris University.

The survey showed 67.5 percent of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, up from 56.1 percent in a similar RMU poll last year.

Children with mental health issues in Pennsylvania face a variety of challenges as they age, including difficulties finding state and federal assistance, as well as proper healthcare.

These issues and more are being addressed today and Thursday by State Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) at his second annual Children and Youth Disability and Mental Health Summit.

“Anybody, in my opinion, who are dealing with disabilities in mental health, cannot be satisfied by what we are seeing from our state and federal government now,” Miller said.

Cory Doctorow / flickr

For the second time in two years, the Pennsylvania House is considering a bill that would expand high school students’ access to advanced placement (AP) courses in the state.

House Bill 512, introduced by Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), would establish standard practices for how public colleges and universities accept transferable credits from students who pass AP, International Baccalaureate or College-Level Examination exams. The measure has moved out of committee and awaits action by the full house.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Two bills are sitting in the Senate Committee on State Government aimed at strengthening Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

Legislation introduced by Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) would bring more transparency to state-related universities, while Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s (R-Delaware) bill would establish a fee structure for commercial requests and update definitions within the law.

More than two dozen former Pennsylvania Department of Health nurses were offered reinstatement by Gov. Tom Wolf last week after their positions were eliminated by the Corbett administration.

In November, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which sued Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013 over his plan to close 26 community health centers and eliminate 26 nursing positions to save an estimated $3.4 million a year.

Powerfund / flickr

It could be a big year for energy decisions; state and federal policies could affect everything from conservation to energy costs:

  • The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is set to unveil the next phase of its Energy Efficiency program, which requires electricity distribution companies to implement energy conservation plans, later this month.
  • Later this year, courts will decide whether conservation programs should be run by the utilities who sell energy or the owners of the grid who distribute it.
  • And, the Environmental Protection Agency will finalize new carbon emissions standards this summer.

PennDOT

Some Pennsylvanians will be receiving new driver’s licenses after PennDOT officials learned Wednesday a vendor error led to security flaws in more than 100,000 cards.

According to PennDOT, the laminate supplied by Morpho Trust USA and its subcontractor OpSec, did not include the correct hidden security image. Viewed under an ultraviolet black light, proper licenses show a row of keystones with the letters “PA.” The defective cards read “AP” instead.

Kumar Appaiah / Flickr

For the third time in as many sessions, State Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny) will introduce legislation putting a limit on outside income for legislators.

House Bill 566 would cap outside earned income for representatives and senators at 35 percent of their base salary as a member of the general assembly. In other words, a legislator with a salary of about $84,000 will be able to bring in as much as $29,400 in outside income.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency

It’s a common plot point in science fiction stories – someone loses an arm and gets a prosthetic limb that can move and feel just like the original. And, that’s exactly what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working toward.

Clinicians, engineers and scientists have teamed up to develop prosthetic arms that not only move naturally, but also allow the wearer to experience the sensation of touch.

The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC have signed an agreement to streamline the commercialization of medical research technologies and techniques.

The arrangement skips the negotiation process by pre-setting the terms of licensing, royalties and new company equity, allowing technology to get out of the lab and into the hospital between 60 and 90 days sooner, according to Marc Malandro, director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute.

About 35 Allegheny County constables attended the first of three mandatory training sessions Thursday designed to teach the officers how to properly process their payments.

An audit by County Controller Chelsa Wagner’s office last year found some constables received payments from the courts and the county for the same job. There were 33 duplicates between January 2012 and June 2013, totaling $1,618.02.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s snow plow drivers are working extended 12 hour shifts to clear the 1-3 inches of snow expected to fall Wednesday afternoon.

“Their typical shift ends this afternoon, but their shift has been extended... ‘snow fighting mode’ as we like to call it,” said City spokeswoman Katie O’Malley.

All of the city’s 70 trucks are out treating the streets.

O’Malley said the city has plenty of salt and is using a calcium chloride blend to help the salt work in the single digit temperatures forecast overnight.

PA DEP

Nearly 90 percent of Pleasant Hills sits above old mines. So, the state Department of Environmental Protection is sending mine subsidence insurance (MSI) reminders to about 2,000 property owners in the borough.

The fliers show each recipient’s property on a map in relation to the nearest abandoned mines and urge residents to apply online for MSI, with coverage ranging from $5,000 to $500,000.

Pleasant Hills will be the first municipality to receive the mailers, according to DEP spokesman John Poister.

The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing in Pittsburgh Wednesday, where city and county officials called for amendments to state laws that limit the use of body-worn cameras by police officers.

According to Cole McDonough, chief of the Mt. Lebanon Police Dept., the state Wiretap Act requires officers to turn-off or remove their body cameras before entering a private residence without a warrant. McDonough said this creates safety and liability issues.

There are nearly 7,000 different rare diseases around the world, and according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), more than 25 million Americans have one of them.

To develop new treatments for the “orphan” diseases, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has established the Center for Rare Disease Therapy.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

The City of Pittsburgh is taking big steps toward financial transparency.

Officials Wednesday unveiled Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh, a web project that tracks the city’s revenues and expenditures over the last three years, including the 2015 estimated budget.

What started as a benefit for Special Olympics Pennsylvania at the Quemahoning Reservoir has evolved into a mix of live music, roaring bonfires and a lot of cold water.

The Chillin’ for Charity Winter Festival and Arctic Splash, has partnered with 16 nonprofits in Cambria and Somerset Counties with the hopes of raising $100,000 from donors looking to take a dip in the reservoir, all in the name of charity.

Pittsburgh’s Mercy Health System (PMHS) is the latest healthcare organization to expand its no-smoking policy by implementing tobacco-free work shifts.

Starting today, PMHS employees, volunteers and visitors are prohibited from smoking on property owned or rented by the nonprofit.

“The buildings have already been smoke free, but now the grounds are going to be smoke and tobacco-free,” Mark Rogalsky, manager of prevention services, said. “And also, we’re instituting a smoke-free work shift policy, so they will be unable to smoke during their work shift.”

Northside Leadership Conference

For more than 40 years, Becky Coger could be seen piling mulch and gardening supplies into the back of her pickup to tend to one of her six North Side community gardens. Coger’s green thumb was given an unwanted rest when a drunk driver destroyed her 1984 GMC more than three months ago.

But Thursday, Coger, or “Miss Becky” as she’s affectionately known, was handed the keys to a 2003 Dodge Ram paid for through donations from more than 130 North Side neighbors.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner Wednesday threatened to take four county agencies to court for refusing to comply with her requests and delaying audits launched by her office.

Wagner wants to examine the contracting processes used by the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Port Authority of Allegheny County and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (Alcosan), as well as the distribution of free tickets by the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA).

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is threatening to withhold nearly $682,000 from VisitPittsburgh until the nonprofit tourism promotion agency explains why it allocated public funds to Mayor Peduto’s “Undercover Boss” appearance last month.

As part of the CBS reality show, Peduto promised $155,000 to four city employees for college tuition, mortgage payments and startup costs for a new church. Peduto said no public funds would be used, but according to Wagner, VisitPittsburgh was asked to contribute $25,000 toward the gifts.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he would void 28 last-minute nominations made by his Republican predecessor, Gov. Tom Corbett, as well as the "midnight appointment" of Erik Arneson as director of the state's Office of Open Records.

Arneson, a former top aide in the state Senate GOP, was selected to run the OOR less than two weeks before Wolf's inauguration.

Wolf criticized the appointment at the time.

When Pennsylvania’s junior senator sits at his desk for the State of the Union Address tonight, he will have a specific list of items he would like President Obama to address.

The second-term senator would like to see the president focus on the economy and national security, not broadband speeds and net neutrality as he has already previewed in stops around the country this month.

“The fact is, the average working family in Pennsylvania is not getting ahead,” he said. “That’s the reality. We need a stronger economy and we change that reality.”

The City of Pittsburgh, through the Urban Redevelopment Authority, approved plans Thursday to purchase the Alfred E. Hunt Armory in Shadyside from the state.

The 102-year-old historic landmark will be purchased by the URA without having to go through a bidding process, according to Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman.

“That allows us to have better local control over the future redevelopment plans, whereas the state just requires selling to the highest bidder,” he said.

But Gilman said the city doesn’t want to own the property for long.

What do the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the Carnegie Science Center have in common? The answer is Conservation Day.

Back for a fifth year, this environmentally-themed celebration offers free admission, parking, Omnimax film and a live theater show to all science center visitors on Monday, Jan. 19 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Martin Luther King Day is a great time to focus on community,” Co-Director of the Carnegie Science Center Ann Metzger said.

She also said the day is a break for the Pittsburgh region midway through January.

Pittsburgh City Council again delayed action on a bill Wednesday that would create a rental property registry.

“We did hold the bill for two more weeks while we continue to collaborate and work through some of the issues of the bill,” City Council President Bruce Kraus said.

As it stands, the bill requires landlords to submit all available forms of contact information, allowing the city to keep a close eye on problem properties. Owners could face a $500 penalty if they fail to submit their name, address, phone number and email address.

Pages