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

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.

The state will fund the purchase, delivery and planting of 450 red maple trees at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Wednesday.

The “Red Sunset” maples will be planted next spring along the Memorial Groves walkway from the visitor center to the memorial plaza at the crash site.

“This planting at Flight 93 provides an opportunity to engage the public in the hopeful act of planting a tree at the site of a national tragedy,” Corbett said in a statement.

The state’s TreeVitalize program is contributing $160,000 to the project.

Following aggravated assault and child abuse charges within the National Football League, Americans are now more skeptical than ever when it comes to professional sports teams and player misconduct, according to the Robert Morris University Polling Institute.

Of the 1,004 people polled across the country, 82.4 percent believe sports teams and their owners hide reports of scandalous player behavior to protect a team’s image.

Erik Arneson will become the new executive director of the Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records Gov. Tom Corbett announced Friday.

Arneson will replace Terry Mutcher, the office’s first director who is stepping down to join the law firm Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia where she will head a government transparency practice.

In 2006, Arneson joined the staff of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R- Delaware County) as communications and policy director. There, he helped develop the Right-to-Know Law and the office of Office of Open Records.

FracTracker

The FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit oil and gas industry watchdog, has launched a free iPhone app that allows users to track and report on the quality of nearby wells.

“Your geolocation gets shared with the app and so you can actually immediately see unconventional and conventional oil and gas wells near you…” said Samantha Malone, manager of education, communication and partnerships with FracTracker. “You can click on wells to see more information about a particular site, such as the operator or when it was drilled.”

Trust in the state and federal governments have hit “historically low levels,” according to the Robert Morris University Polling Institute.

Of the 1,004 voters and nonvoters polled across the country following the November 2014 election, 21.7 percent said they trusted the federal government, while 20.3 percent said they had confidence in the state. Local governments were seen as the most trustworthy with about 40 percent approval.

Despite a bump in December, Pennsylvania’s slot machine revenues were down nearly 3 percent in 2014.

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, nearly all of the state’s 12 casinos experienced growth in slot revenue last month, with the exception of Rivers Casino, which saw a .16 percent drop in revenue compared to December 2013.

The National Hockey League is not the only place mumps are being  found in Western Pennsylvania and public health officials say they are ready to react.

The Sharpsville Area School District in Mercer County canceled classes and sporting events Monday due to a possible mumps infection, according to the district’s website. At least one individual is suspected of carrying the mumps virus and schools are expected to reopen Tuesday unless otherwise announced.

There hasn’t been much snowfall in Pittsburgh so far this season – just a little less than 4 inches, according to the National Weather Service – but that hasn’t stopped the Department of Public Works from stockpiling rock salt and updating its plows.

“Winter up to this point really hasn’t been one,” Mike Gable, public works director, said. “We’ve only had a few, basically, icy events and haven’t had to use a lot of salt, but all our domes are filled to capacity. We’ve not had any trouble at all with delivery from the vendors.”

In an effort to cut down on prescription drug abuse, the state is working to put together the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) oversight board by Jan. 25. Part of the law that created the board will also create a prescription drug database.

After 15 years as President and CEO of Riverlife, a pro-riverfront development organization, Lisa Schroeder is leaving Pittsburgh.

“The rivers were, in many ways, the sewer of the region, as well as an industrial highway,” Schroeder said. “So it really took some deep digging philosophically to start looking at the riverfronts as the natural treasure.”

More than 300 people filled a ballroom at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh Thursday to devise the framework for a regional energy development plan.

Representatives from more than 20 energy-related organizations led the event, trying to pinpoint key issues to address in the energy development plan.

Pittsburgh and the surrounding 32 county region have a long history of being energy innovators, according to Power of 32 Implementation Committee Chairman Greg Babe, but the area lacks vision and strategy.

90.5 WESA / Michael Lynch

Dozens of University of Pittsburgh medical students wearing white lab coats and surgical masks lay in the lobby of Scaife Hall Wednesday as part of a national “die-in” to raise awareness of racial injustices.

Students played dead for 4 minutes and 30 seconds to represent the 4 hours and 30 minutes 18-year-old Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after being shot and killed by a white police officer in August in Ferguson, Mo.

Two Pittsburgh organizations known for their sometimes controversial art installations are teaming up to talk about the First Amendment.

Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza and the Mattress Factory on the North Side are hosting a panel discussion Tuesday on the challenges artists face when creating and presenting work inspired by the relationship between Palestine, Israel and the United States.

90.5 / Michael Lynch

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, with the support of Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf, announced his bid for re-election Thursday.

The Squirrel Hill Democrat is seeking a second four-year term, and his campaign can be summed up in two words: jobs and transportation.

With desirable jobs come young talent, and according to Fitzgerald, that talent leads to progress.

The Red Kettle Christmas Campaign isn’t seeing as much green as the Salvation Army would like in Western Pennsylvania.

According to the nearly 150-year-old charity, 24 of the 39 Worship and Service Centers are trailing behind last year’s pace. Allegheny County is off by more than $37,500. The charity hopes to raise $577,000 in the county.

Major William Bode, divisional commander of the Salvation Army’s Western Pennsylvania Division, said the popularity of online shopping could be one reason for lag in donations.

More than 60 percent of Allegheny County’s impoverished residents live in suburban neighborhoods, according to a 2013 report by the Brookings Institution, and veterans make up about 33 percent of Pittsburgh’s homeless population.

Those are just two of the reasons why the United Way of Allegheny County announced Wednesday that the nonprofit will expand several programs over the next three years to improve the quality of life for struggling families, women and veterans in the region.

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. 

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