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.  
  • Tweet your question to @esspgh
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 

What's Being Made At Pittsburgh's Maker Faire

1 hour ago
Maker Faire Pgh / Facebook

From robots, to rockets to bicycles: this weekend, Maker Faire Pittsburgh will exhibit the work of many creative minds from all over the region.

Dale Dougherty, creator of Maker Faire, said ‘maker’ is an umbrella term that broadly defines anyone who builds, creates, or puts something together.

“I think one of the elements of Maker Faire is that we’re using technology often to transform materials and turn it into something that means something to us and to other people,” he said.

Joe McHugh

For thirteen years journalist and musician Joe McHugh searched for the African American woman who helped raise him here in Pittsburgh. The story of that became an award-winning Post-Gazette article and the book Coins in the Ashes. Joe McHugh joins us to recount this family story.

The Color Of Sundays

Oct 8, 2015
Cardinal Publishers Group

Pittsburgh Tribune Review reporter and author Andrew Conte laces together a history of racism in sports and the creation of the 1970s Steelers dynasty with his latest book, The Color of Sundays.

The book tells the story of Pittsburgh Courier sports writer turned Steelers scout Bill Nunn Jr., who by 1970, was the first African American promoted to a front office position with the Pittsburgh Steelers as Assistant Director of Player Personnel. 

Though at first reluctant to have a book published about his life and work, Conte says Nunn warmed up to the idea when they agreed to make the story not just about one man and the Steelers, but rather as a story about black athletes finally getting recognized by the National Football League.

Grading Restaurants By Health Code Compliance

Oct 8, 2015
Omar Chatriwala / flickr

Facilities that serve food throughout Allegheny County must be inspected by a health official each year in order to continue serving customers.  Proof of this inspection can be found hanging in the restaurant in the form of an "approved-to-operate" green sticker.  Some officials don't believe this is enough evidence that the facility is truly abiding by the health code.  Public Source reporter Eric Holmberg and 90.5 WESA reporter and All Things Considered host Larkin Page-Jacobs have explored a proposed restaurant grading system that would categorize businesses with an A, B, or C, based on their health code compliance. They'll take us through what the system could mean for consumers, health officials and business owners.

Mayor Peduto On The Police Bureau's Growing Diversity

Oct 7, 2015
Keith Srakocic / AP Images

As word that one of the cadets moving through the Pittsburgh Police academy would upon graduation be the first transgender officer hired by the city begins to spread throughout the ranks and being reported by local media, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is calling it a non issue.

“I’m not even sure if that is the case,” said Peduto while on WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh.  “It’s not a criteria that we have as part of a test to become a police officer, nor is it something that we can even ask.”

Peduto said the criteria for becoming an officer is very different than asking about sexual identity.

City of Pittsburgh Council District 9

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess is rolling out a few more details on his plan to preserve and expand affordable housing in the city’s East End.

“You have to rebuild schools, make the community safe, rebuild housing and rebuild social service entities all at the same time in the parts of the community on the edge, next to strength,” Burgess said.

Lawrenceville's Transformation Continues

Oct 6, 2015
Lawrenceville Pittsburgh / Facebook page

Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood is truly a tale of urban redevelopment. From a historically industrial district to the city's "hippest" spot, Lawrenceville has seen it all.  Business contributor Rebecca Harris walks us through what's happening in the community, including the best spots to eat and shop.

Bringing Mark Twain Tonight Alive Today

Oct 6, 2015
Jerry Mosey / AP Images

The longest continuously running stage show in American theater history, “Mark Twain Tonight,” is coming to Pittsburgh.  The one-man show was first performed in 1954 by Tony and Emmy Award winner and Academy Award nominee Hal Holbrook, who has staged it at least once every year since then.

After a run as an actor in a two person show with ex-wife Ruby, Holbrook was desperate for work.  Through his connections with the son of Twain’s manager, he was steered toward performing a one man stage show as Mark Twain.  Having never read any of Twain’s books, Holbrook headed straight to the bookstore to immerse himself in the classic works in order to familiarize himself with the “character.”

A Century Of Steel City Cinema

Oct 5, 2015
Stephan / flickr

Pittsburgh is no stranger to the cinema.  From blockbusters like “The Dark Knight Rises” to the cult classic, “Night of the Living Dead,” the Steel City has a long and close relationship with Hollywood.  Pop culture contributor Joe Wos says the region’s film industry has been strong for a century, beginning with the production of the feature “Cupid’s Garden Party.” 

Chad Cooper / flickr

In August of 2014, after 15 days of testimony, U.S. District Judge Claudia Ann Wilken for the Northern District of California issued a ruling that used the Sherman Antitrust Act to strike at the heart of the idea of amateurism in college sports.  With this ruling, the NCAA could no longer prevent school athletic programs from compensating athletes for the use of their names, images, and likenesses. 

The case went back to a 2009 filing by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon who sued the NCAA after seeing his likeness portrayed in a video game without his permission, and without receiving compensation.

What's Coming From The Supreme Court?

Oct 4, 2015

A new session of the US Supreme Court opens today with a great deal of expectation but not as big as we saw last year.

“We’re not going to top the gay marriage decision, that’s for sure,” said University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris with a laugh. Last year’s session also a landmark decisions on the affordable care act.

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Braddock native LaToya Ruby Frazier didn’t believe the person on the other end of the line when she was told she had been chosen as a MacArthur fellow.

“I kinda thought they were playing a prank on me,” said Frazier whose work as a photographer focuses on the African American community in Braddock. 

Turnpike's 75th Celebrated By State Museum

Oct 2, 2015
Pennsylvania Turnpike

Seventy-five years ago this week the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened from Carlisle to Irwin at a cost of one cent per mile and the rates have been increasing ever since. 

“The bargain rate that was established for a round-trip between Carlisle and Irwin was $2.25,” said Curtis Miner, Senior Curator of History, State Museum of Pennsylvania. A one-way trip from Carlisle to Irwin would cost $19.40 cash and $13.78 with an EZ pass.

To mark the anniversary Turnpike officials organized a vintage car cruise and the state museum of Pennsylvania has mounted and exhibit chronicling the roadway that would be widely duplicated not long after its opening.

Showcasing Pittsburgh's Design Heritage

Oct 2, 2015

The Hot Metal Modern exhibit, which opened last month, at the Carnegie Museum of Art, is the first in a series of exhibitions highlighting Pittsburgh’s role as a design center from the 1920’s through the 1960’s.

California Dreamin' In The Autumn Season

Oct 1, 2015
Prajit Hadinata / flickr

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray. So what could be better than some California dreaming on an autumn day? Travel contributor Elaine Labalme recently returned from the golden state and shares her experience with Essential Pittsburgh.

Investigating State Police Misconduct

Oct 1, 2015
David Holt / flickr

From 2009 to 2014 internal investigations uncovered more than 1,000 allegations of misconduct among the PA State Police. While reforms have been made the State Police remain vague on any type of punishments that have been administered. Reporter Jeffrey Benzing, of our content partner Public Source, joins us to discuss the results of his investigation into this issue.

Dispute Arises Over UPMC Mold Claims

Oct 1, 2015
Jon B / flickr

Last month, UPMC broke the news that it temporarily halted its transplant program following the discovery of mold and the sickening of several patients.

Tribune Review reporter Ben Schmitt wrote the original story on the incident, and says he has received incredible feedback from readers.  The question on everyone’s mind seems to be: are UPMC facilities not completely sterile?

Keeping Reporting At The Center of the Newshour

Sep 30, 2015
90.5 WESA

Veteran reporter James Coomarasamy has been a BBC correspondent in Moscow, Warsaw, Paris and Washington. Some of the stories he has covered are President Obama’s 2008 election, Russian opposition to Putin and much more.

In Pittsburgh, for the Public Radio Program Directors Conference, James Coomarasamy, joined us in studio on the same day as news broke of Russian air strikes over Syria. When asked if this is an action that could bring President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin together Coomarasamy responds, “Whether it’s something that brings America or the west more broadly back together with Russia remains to be seen.”

Don Wright / AP Images

Pittsburgh native Meghan Klingenberg played all 630 minutes of the World Cup Tourney in Canada this summer helping to lead the U.S. to its third Women’s World Cup championship in seven years. 

“I’m not sure there are really worlds to describe what winning a World Cup feels like,” said Klingenberg while on 90.5 WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh.  “I was just in awe of what we had accomplished because of how many years we had put into training.”

On the heals of that amazing finish Klingenberg and much of the rest of the championship team hit the road for a series of “friendly” matches with the Costa Rican team in cities across the United states including one in Pittsburgh.

Johnstown Is Hockeyville USA, Today, Tomorrow, Forever

Sep 29, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

When the Pittsburgh Penguins take the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening at the historic Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, PA, the experience will be anything but ordinary.  The match, along with several other special events, represents the small town’s contest win and the designation as “Hockeyville, USA.”   

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen this town with this kind of buzz,” Johnstown Tomahawks play-by-play announcer Rick Hull told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.  “People are so happy and it’s just a celebration of Johnstown hockey in general. I don’t think anything could pull the plug on that.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Along with national bragging rights, winning the designation of Hockeyville USA brings with it $150,000 dollars to upgrade the local hockey venue, which in the case of the 65-year-old Cambria County War Memorial Arena was much needed.

“There have been probably been about 20 plus years or so since any real substantial upgrades have happened at this building,” said Johnstown Tomahawks Director of Media and Communications, Chad Mearns. “These improvements came at a very crucial time for this city, at a crucial time for this building. Pretty much any direction that you look, even if you don’t realize it, you see something that has some sort of change, some sort of improvement this summer.”

Triumph Books

After being named Kraft's first-ever Hockeyville USA, the Cambria Country War Memorial Arena will see the return of a decidedly different hockey legend. 

While Dave Hanson enjoyed a 10-year career as a professional hockey player, he is perhaps most well known for playing one of the Hanson brothers from the classic 1977 sports comedy Slap Shot.

Filmed in Johnstown, Slap Shot was based on the Johnstown Jets in an era where violence was a major selling point for many minor hockey leagues. Hanson fit nicely into the league.

Johnstown's Economic Forecast: Green And Growing

Sep 28, 2015
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 FM WESA

Following the devastating flood of 1889, Johnstown quickly rebounded and began to grow. The region has been bouncing back from a series of set backs ever since.  The city has seen more floods, the near-demise of the steel industry and the gutting of military contracts, just to name a few.

Bottleworks Celebrates And Supports Arts In Johnstown

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Like so many other industrial buildings in rust belt cities, the Tulip Bottling Company and Gainers Brewery buildings in Johnstown’s historic Cambria City neighborhood had fallen into disuse after the companies that once employed hundreds dried up and closed their doors.  But the buildings have been given new life as the blue color neighborhood is transformed into the city’s art and cultural district.

“Throughout the year we offer exhibits, classes, lectures, anything art-related,” said Bottleworks Executive Director Angela Rizzo of the buildings that now also house nine local artists in rented studio space.  “Our mission is to provide opportunities for artists and audiences to experience the arts.”

Remembering The Johnstown Flood

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

The residents of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s were no strangers to floods.  Sitting at the confluence of the Stonycreek River and the Little Conemaugh River, the booming city often went under water.

An eight-inch rain that passed through the region in May of 1889 had submerged much of downtown Johnstown under several feet of water but people were coping, however the South Fork Dam, some 14 miles miles up the Conemaugh Valley was about to let loose, releasing millions of gallons of water that would smash everything in its path.

NPR's 'Ask Me Another' Coming To Quiz The Steel City

Sep 25, 2015

What will happen when Ask Me Another, NPR’s show of puzzles, games and trivia takes over Essential Pittsburgh? We’ll find out when host Ophira Eisenberg and acoustic musician Jonathan Coulton place Essential Pittsburgh host Paul Guggenheimer and reporter Margaret J. Krauss in the hot seat.

Rock Musician Peter Frampton Goes Acoustic

Sep 25, 2015
Jeff Daly / Invision/AP Images

Rock and roll legend Peter Frampton will be coming to the Carnegie Music Hall on October 16th as part of his tour “Peter Frampton Raw.” Frampton joined Essential Pittsburgh to discuss the tour, as well as sharing some of his history as a musician.

The tour features Frampton performing many of his without his signature electric guitar sound. He’ll play all his pieces on acoustic guitar with “not an electric instrument on stage.”

The Politics Of Pope Francis

Sep 24, 2015
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Images

Wading into bitter disputes, Pope Francis urged a divided Congress and America on Thursday to welcome immigrants, abolish the death penalty, share the nation's immense wealth and fight global warming. Lawmakers gave rousing ovations to the leader of the world's Catholics despite obvious disagreements over some of his pleas. It was the first time a pope has directly addressed Congress.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the U.S. However, not many people know about the pawpaw or have even tasted the fruit. Author Andrew Moore chronicles the story of this singular plant in his book, “Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit.”

Is Pittsburgh Becoming A 'Foodie' Destination?

Sep 23, 2015
Nick Amoscato / flickr

Pittsburgh's evolving food scene has been gaining national attention. Is it enough to make the city the country's next great food destination? This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of food in Pittsburgh.