90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh airs weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. and is repeated at 8 p.m.
  • Hosted by Paul Guggenheimer

Essential Pittsburgh is a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA featuring community leaders and newsmakers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, government and education.

  • Call (412) 246-2002 from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays to participate in the discussion.  

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
David Goldman / AP Images

New Hampshire isn't the only state where there is lots of enthusiasm for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Even though the Pennsylvania primary is over two months away, young voters in the Keystone state are excited about the senator from Vermont including 26-year-old Adam Wells of Aspinwall who runs the twitter account @PittsBern. We'll talk with Post-Gazette Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello, who is covering the New Hampshire primary, about the chances that Sanders will be able to ride his momentum to victory in PA.   

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Does Pennsylvania have too many state legislators? That’s what Brian O’Neill, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, believes. He has been advocating shrinking the legislature since 1994. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with O’Neill to discuss the idea and how to make it a reality.

Is Pennsylvania's Primary Relevant?

17 hours ago
John Minchillo / AP Images

As New Hampshire holds its' first in the nation presidential primary, voters in Pennsylvania are waiting until late April to cast their ballots for their preferred Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. We'll talk with Terry Madonna, Director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, about the chances that the Pennsylvania Primary will still be relevant.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Acrobatic lion dance teams and traditional Chinese melodies entertained attendees at this past Saturday’s celebration of the beginning of the Chinese New Year in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. In the 12-year Chinese zodiac rotation, 2016 is the Year of the Red Fire Monkey. Essential Pittsburgh assistant producer Katie Blackley spoke with Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition executive director Marian Lien about what to expect during the two weeks of festivities.

UPMC / Inside UPMC

A fourth patient infected during the UPMC mold outbreak has died. The infection was contracted while the patient was being treated at UPMC’s transplant program. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Ben Schmitt, joins us to discuss this latest development.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

No women represent Allegheny County in the Pennsylvania state legislature, and only 18 percent of the state seats are filled by women at all. The situation is more than a diversity problem, argues Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner. She calls it a crisis. As a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, she’s advocating for more women to run for office, to improve the political process and better reflect the actual demographics of the Commonwealth.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

After quadrupling visitation during his previous position as head of a New Zealand museum, Eric Dorfman hopes he can use his techniques and experience to improve profits as new director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Dorfman comes to the Steel City after five years with the Whanganui Regional Museum and Ward Observatory. He shared his vision for the museum’s future with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.

Governor Wolf Previews 2016-17 Budget Address Despite Impasse

Feb 5, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP Images

With his 2016-2017 budget address due on February 9th, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf joins us to talk about some of what he's planning to propose including more funding for education. But does it make sense for Governor Wolf to give a budget address without having one now? And can revenue come from somewhere other than taxes which Republican legislators are opposed to raising

Phalin Ooi / flickr

Plastic surgery gets a bad reputation.  Whether its nose jobs for Hollywood’s young elite, or cosmetic breast implants for the Real Housewives of Orange County, the media often obscures what plastic surgery can do for patients in need of reconstructive surgeries. From  repairing skin with severe burns to fixing birth defects like clef palettes, the procedure can greatly improve the lives of those with physical medical ailments.

How Super Bowl Ads Have Evolved Over 50 Years

Feb 4, 2016
Youtube

This Sunday, many Americans will huddle around their televisions with friends and family to watch some of the best advertisements the industry can create. Oh, and they'll be watching a football game also. It’s Super Bowl 50 and at the tune of $5 million for 30 seconds of air time, advertisers are lining up with check books in hand. But how has a sports game come to be dominated by its ads? Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with Duquesne University Associate Professor of Sports Marketing Ron Dick and Marketing Professor Audrey Guskey to explore the history of Super Bowl commercials.

Changing How The Commonwealth Draws Legislative Districts

Feb 4, 2016
Wikipedia

The process for drawing Pennsylvania’s legislative districts has been highly criticized among political scientists and many state leaders. They contend that the districts are becoming more partisan, swinging favor to GOP candidates. Senator John Wozniak (D-Cambria) is introducing a plan to change the way the Commonwealth redistricts. He joins us live to share his hopes for the bill.

Why Do We Sympathize With Animal Suffering?

Feb 3, 2016
Keith Srakocic / AP Images

If you saw a runaway bus hurtling toward a dog or a tourist, who would you save? If you chose the dog, you’re not alone.

How Harsh Are Punishments For Animal Abusers In Pennsylvania?

Feb 3, 2016
Yornik / flickr

An emaciated dog was recently rescued from a Homewood apartment where it nearly starved to death at the hands of its owner. State rep. Dom Costa has introduced a bill seeking to create stronger penalties for people who beat, neglect or abuse an animal.  So why is his legislation languishing in the House Judiciary Committee? We'll ask Representative Costa his thoughts as well as Mary Withrow, director of government and community relations at the Humane Society of Western Pennsylvania. We'll also ask Dan Rossi, executive director at the Animal Rescue League, how his organization handles abuse cases.

Shenandoah National Park / flickr

The popular Bill Murray film and Pittsburgh’s proximity to Punxsutawney always draw headlines for  Phil and his Gobbler’s Knob troupe each Groundhog Day. But do you know the origins of the tradition? Who was the first to celebrate and why did they designate a woodland rodent to act as their part-time meteorologist? We’ll ask Patrick Donmoyer (Duhn-moi-err) the story behind the holiday. He’s the Site Manager at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University and says the event actually has a lot to do with the Commonwealth’s German history.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Out of the growing number of candidates running for Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro believes he's the best at cleaning up messes. As chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Shapiro says his past reforms are proof that he’d succeed as the Commonwealth’s leading lawyer.

“I inherited a mess in Montgomery County,” Shapiro tells Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer. “We turned things around. I can do the same thing in the Attorney General’s Office.”

Shane Simmons / flickr

Described by City Controller Michael Lamb as a "runaway train," Pittsburgh is experiencing a problem paying overtime, holiday and other premium costs to public safety personnel.  Public Source reporter Eric Holmberg’s investigation of the matter found that existing workers earn nearly $30 million in additional funds to their salaries each year, but are burdened by under staffing and increased workloads. Holmberg shares his thoughts the issue and its contributing factors.

Twitter

A tall, stovepipe hat.  A buffalo skin fur coat.  A peg leg and bushy beard. A Pittsburgh icon. 

Charles Orton, better known as the XX Cough Drop Man, sold cough drops rain or shine on the corner of Market and Diamond Streets for forty years.  A native of Allegheny City, presently known as the North Side, Orton was not only a cough drop salesman, but a walking history book, sharing stories of Pittsburgh neighborhoods through the years. 

Joe Wos, Maze Toons creator and Essential Pittsburgh contributor says everyone in the late 19th century Pittsburgh knew Orton, but his story is much less well-known among Pittsburghers today.

Deciphering The Befuddling Budget Situation

Feb 1, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP Images

90.5 WESA Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer spoke with  House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) and  Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) about their concerns and the public’s perception that lawmakers can’t get along.  

Costa blamed lawmakers' philosophical differences.

“At the end of the day, we recognize that we want to do many similar things, investing in education, human service programs, economic development (and) job growth,” he said. “The question becomes about how we go about doing that.”

Ryan Wick / flickr

Between now and February 20th you can see the five brightest planets in our solar system at the same time. It’s the first time this has happened since 2005. Point Park University professor and astrophysicist Brendan Mullan stopped by our studio to discuss happenings in outer space.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh's iconic sports commentator Myron Cope is being remembered Sunday at the Senator John Heinz History Center as part of a special public tribute called "Yoi! Remembering Myron Cope." We'll talk with Steelers and Pitt Panthers play-by-play voice Bill Hillgrove and David Schlitt, Director of the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Heinz History Center.    

Kristi Jan Hoover / City Theatre

From the murderous Phantom in the musical Phantom of the Opera to the ex-convict Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, theater is notorious for making seemingly villainous characters appear sympathetic. But could anyone imagine feeling sympathy for an alleged Nazi war criminal? Some Brighter Distance, a new play premiering tonight at the City Theatre in the South Side, explores the possibility .

Some Brighter Distance tells the story of Arthur Rudolph, a German aerospace engineer who participated in Operation Paperclip, a post-WWII program in which scientists, technicians and researchers from former Nazi Germany were brought to the United States. Playwright Keith Reddin says Cold War-era American officials hoped these individuals would help the country achieve an edge over the Soviet Union in the Space Race.

401 (K) / flickr

For low-to-moderate income families, tax season can be a confusing and intimidating time.

PhotographyMontreal / flickr

After a lawsuit launched by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth has agreed to use more resources to house and treat criminal defendants with mental illnesses. ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak led the legal battle and spoke to Essential Pittsburgh about the case.

Behind-The-Scenes At The Fort Pitt Museum

Jan 27, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Paintings, figurines and dioramas fill the hallways of the Fort Pitt Museum. However, for most of January, the doors of the museum have been closed, as the pieces underwent renovations and workers installed new exhibits. Essential Pittsburgh took a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility ahead of their re-opening to see what went into the process.

supremecourt.gov

Pennsylvania has more people sentenced to life in prison as juveniles than any other state.

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court Monday could reduce those sentences for 497 inmates in Pennsylvania. Those people were convicted as juveniles for homicides; which used to mean automatic life in prison without parole.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that was cruel and unusual punishment. Monday, the court said that ban is retroactive to cases decided before 2012.

Pitt Med Student Earns Spot On Forbes' 30 Under 30 List

Jan 26, 2016
Chris Murawski

University of Pittsburgh medical student Christopher Murawski’s interest in orthopedics came as an accident, literally. After sustaining several ankle injuries from his high school baseball team, Murawski began showing an interest in the treatments he was receiving, eventually earning himself a spot on a renowned UPMC doctor’s orthopedic team.  He’s been chosen as one of this year’s Forbes’ ’30 Under 30 2016’ in health care and shares his thoughts on the experience.

Pittsburgh's 'Ghost Bomber' Still Missing After 60 Years

Jan 26, 2016
Filmet Inc.

The Bermuda Triangle may be legendary for disappearing boats and aircraft, but the Golden Triangle has its own mysterious disappearance. 60 years ago, a B-25 Mitchell bomber sank beneath the waves of the Monongahela River. It has not been seen since. Andy Masich, President and CEO of the Heinz History Center, told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer about the history of the so called “Ghost Bomber.”

Balancing Privacy And Security On A Global Scale

Jan 26, 2016
Global Panorama / flickr

Public disclosures related to government surveillance capabilities and activities, and subsequent reforms, have brought the privacy versus security debate front and center. How should the U.S. balance privacy and national security? We'll talk with Sina Marie Beaghley, Senior International Policy Analyst for the Rand Corporation.

Learn About Your Digital Footprint At CMU's Data Privacy Day

Jan 25, 2016
Yuri Samoilov / flickr

Data Privacy Day is "an international effort to empower and educate people to protect their privacy and control their digital footprint." A series of events around this topic will be taking place later this week at Carnegie Mellon University. Joining us to address how we can protect our privacy as our interaction with computers increases is Jason Hong, associate professor at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon.

George Lange / Instagram

Through sharing stories on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and other social media sites, we’ve come a long way from telling tales around a campfire and painting pictures on cave walls.  Nowadays, storytelling through social media allows for self-expression through powerful depiction of the senses.

George Lange, famed photographer, Pittsburgh native, and author of the book, The Unforgettable Photograph, says that through his new position ‘Artist-in-Residence’ with Instagram, he inspires both ordinary people and companies to build their brands, including everything from personal snapshots to paid campaigns.

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