90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

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

Essential Pittsburgh is a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA dedicated to developing a deep, ongoing exploration of critical issues affecting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, as well as 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.
  • Dial (412) 256-8783 to leave a question or comment before or after the show.
  • Follow #EPLive on Twitter or tweet your question to @esspgh.
  • Continue the conversation on our station Facebook page.
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
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Essential Pittsburgh
3:59 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Professor and Poet Terrance Hayes Reflects on his MacArthur Genius Grant

Credit The Associated Press

The MacArthur Genius Grants were announced this week. University of Pittsburgh Writing Professor and Poet Terrance Hayes was among the twenty-one recipients. He speaks with WESA Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson.

Essential Pittsburgh
3:54 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

The DEP Sends a Message to the Shale Industry With Record Fine For Range Resources

Credit Daniel Foster / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County. The $4.15 million fine is the largest ever brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era. We'll be joined by DEP spokesman John Poister.

Essential Pittsburgh
3:24 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Permitting School Officials to Carry Concealed Weapons

Credit Paul Weaver / Flickr

State Senator Don White wants Pennsylvania school districts to be able to permit their staff to carry firearms in school buildings and on the grounds.

Supporters say his proposal would make schools safer but critics are arguing for more police. We talked with Senator White and Shira Goodman, Executive Director of Cease Fire Pennsylvania.

Here is what Essential Pittsburgh listeners on Twitter had to say about Senator White's decision to propose this legislation in response to the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School last spring.

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90.5 WESA Celebrates
3:30 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Todd DePastino, Hosting Breakfast For Veterans

Todd DePastino
Credit Debbi Casini Klein / 90.5 WESA

Read and listen to a story about Todd DePastino as part of a series honoring the individuals who make a difference in people’s lives: 90.5 WESA Celebrates People Making a Difference.

“Nobody else really knows and understands what this kind of thing means to the veterans that come to it.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:15 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Friday Rundown: Permitting Firearms on School Grounds

Credit Ken / Flickr

These topics air Friday September 19, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Firearms in Schools?

State Senator Don White wants Pennsylvania school districts to be able to permit their staff to carry firearms in school buildings and on the grounds. Supporters say his proposal would make schools safer but critics are arguing for more police. We'll talk with Senator White and Shira Goodman, Executive Director of Cease Fire Pennsylvania.

Range Resources Receives Record Fine

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County. The $4.15 million fine is the largest ever brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era. We'll be joined by DEP spokesman John Poister.

MacArthur Grant Recipient

The MacArthur Genius Grants were announced this week. University of Pittsburgh Writing Professor and Poet Terrance Hayes was among the twenty-one recipients. He speaks with WESA Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson. 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:59 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

TEDxYouth@HotMetalBridge : A Fresh Perspective on Millennials

Credit TEDxYouthHMB / Facebook

At age 15, Sophia Sterling-Angus attended her first TED talk, the first TEDx Grandview. She was so motivated by the event that she began to plan her own TEDx. Now as a 17 year old high school senior at the Ellis School for Girls, Sophia organized a group of volunteers to create TEDxYouth Hot Metal Bridge at the Carnegie Museum of Art on September 7th.

One thing that made this event unique was the fact that it was developed with a younger demographic in mind and by teenagers. Find out how Sophia Sterling-Angus developed the TED talk and what she thinks about the future of TED.

Essential Pittsburgh
4:38 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

How Do Musicians Survive in 2014?

Credit SouthernWI / Flickr

When Justin Currie was the lead singer for the band Del Amitri, he scored a top ten single in the U.S. and was heard regularly on top 40 radio.

But earlier this month he had sold only nine tickets to his upcoming solo show at the Club Cafe.

That's when he posted a desperate message on Facebook saying that he was going ahead with the show and that the people of Western Pennsylvania ought to show up. He joins us along with WYEP Program Director Mike Sauter to discuss the business model for the modern musician.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:30 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

It's That Time of Year: Upcoming Fall Festivals and Fairs

In case the football games, cooler weather and heralding of all things pumpkin flavored escaped your attention, the celebration of the autumn season has begun.

This week our woman for all seasons, travel contributor Elaine Labalme, joins us with a lineup of fall fairs and festivals you might enjoy. 

Check out the details about these upcoming events:

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:45 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Thursday Rundown: A New Generation of TED events

Credit TEDxYouthHMB / Facebook

These topics air Thursday September 18, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

TEDxYouth@HotMetalBridge

At age 15, Sophia Sterling-Angus attended her first TED talk, the first TEDx Grandview. She was so motivated by the event that she began to plan her own TEDx. Now as a 17 year old high school senior at the Ellis School for Girls, Sophia organized a group of volunteers to create TEDxYouth Hot Metal Bridge at the Carnegie Museum of Art on September 7th. One thing that made this event unique was the fact that it was developed with a younger demographic in mind and by teenagers. Find out how Sophia Sterling-Angus developed the TED talk and what she thinks about the future of TED.

Justin Currie

When Justin Currie was the lead singer for the band Del Amitri, he scored a top ten single in the U.S. and was heard regularly on top 40 radio. But earlier this month he had sold only nine tickets to his upcoming solo show at the Club Cafe. That's when he posted a desperate message on facebook saying that he was going ahead with the show and that the people of Western Pennsylvania ought to show up. He joins us along with WYEP Program Director Mike Sauter to discuss the business model for the modern musician.

Fall Festivals

In case the football games, cooler weather and heralding of all things pumpkin flavored escaped your attention, the celebration of the autumn season has begun. This week our woman for all seasons, travel contributor Elaine Labalme, joins us with a lineup of fall fairs and festivals you might enjoy. 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:17 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Scottish Highland Games Return to Ligonier

A bagpipe performance at the Ligonier Highland Games
Credit Sandra Cole of Indiana, PA / ligonierhighlandgames

Break out the bagpipes and dust off that kilt because the Ligonier Highland Games are back this weekend, celebrating Celtic culture for a 56th year.

The festivities start Saturday morning at Idlewild Park with dancing, drumming, harping and piping contests, along with a Scottish-breed dog show.

The Heavy Athletics begin at 9 a.m. where the region’s biggest and baddest compete in events such as the caber toss, where contestants throw what looks like a telephone pole end-over end through the air. Athletes will also participate in the hammer throw and sheaf toss, where a 16 to 20 lbs. bundle of straw is launched into the air with a pitchfork.

Richard Wonderly, executive director of the games, said the athletics were originally used hundreds of years ago to prevent confrontation between Celtic clans.

“By getting together to show off your feats of strength, it helped to intimidate the other clans to avoid combat,” he said. “So basically, it was a way to say, ‘Here’s our guys, look how big and strong they are. Maybe you don’t want to mess with us.’”

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:03 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Can Living Near a Fracking Site Cause Health Problems?

Credit Ari Moore / Flickr

 A new study has found that residents in Western Pennsylvania living close to natural gas drilling sites were twice as likely to report health problems than those living farther away. We talk with the study's lead author Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, who says public health researchers surveyed nearly 500 adults and children in Washington County, southwest of Pittsburgh.

Essential Pittsburgh
1:59 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Pittsburgh Views as the Scottish Independence Vote Approaches

Credit Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill / Flickr

Tomorrow, Scots will vote on possible independence from England, one of the most important issues facing the Scottish people and their heritage. We talk with Ron Linden, director of the European Studies Center and professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as with John Kelman, one of the many natives of Scotland living in the Pittsburgh area, who talks about which way he'd like to see the vote go.

Essential Pittsburgh
1:55 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Wednesday Rundown: Community Health and Shale Drilling in Washington County

Credit Ari Moore / Flickr

These topics air Wednesday September 17, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Drilling Study

A new study has found that residents in Western Pennsylvania living close to natural gas drilling sites were twice as likely to report health problems than those living farther away. We'll talk with the study's lead author Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, who says public health researchers surveyed nearly 500 adults and children in Washington County, southwest of Pittsburgh.

Scottish Independence?

Tomorrow, Scots will vote on possible independence from England, one of the most important issues facing the Scottish people and their heritage. We'll talk with Ron Linden, director of the European Studies Center and professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh. Along with John Kelman, one of the many natives of Scotland living in the Pittsburgh area, about which way he'd like to see the vote go. 

Ligonier Highland Festival

A gathering of the clans will take place this weekend at the Ligonier Highland Festival. From bagpipes to kilts, and don’t forget the haggis we’ll get a preview of this weekend’s festival from Richard Wonderly, executive director of the Ligonier Highland Games. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:58 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

How to Encourage Women in Bio Sciences?

Credit Women in Bio--Pittsburgh

Next week Pittsburgh’s Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs Rally (P.O.W.E.R.) will host a conference promoting leadership for women in life sciences. Susan Catalano, chapter chair of Women in Bio Pittsburgh, and Rebecca Harris, director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, talk about the economic breakthroughs that are being made by women in these fields.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:54 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Pitt's New Research Center Investigates the Effect of Social Media on our Health

Dr. Brian Primack
Credit UPMC / University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

We’re living in age of rapidly advancing technology. With so much of our everyday tasks being done online is it taking a toll on our health? We’ll pose that question to Dr. Brian Primack, director of the new Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

Take a look at these additional sources that  discuss social media and its effects on our health and well-being. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:05 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: Technology and its Impact on Our Health

Dr. Brian Primack director of the new Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh
Credit UPMC

These topics air Tuesday September 16, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Pitt Announces New Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health 

We’re living in age of rapidly advancing technology. With so much of our everyday tasks being done online is it taking a toll on our health? We’ll pose that question to Dr. Brian Primack, director of the new Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

WESA Celebrates - Rev. Harold Hicks

The Miracle Field of Murrysville is a special baseball field constructed for anyone age 10 and older with physical or mental challenges. While the idea for the field came from George O’Donnell his friend Rev. Harold Hicks, former president of the Murrysville Rotary Club helped to make it a reality. Rev. Hicks is profiled in this week’s celebrates.

Women in Bio Sciences

Next week Pittsburgh’s Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs Rally (P.O.W.E.R.) will host a conference promoting leadership for women in life sciences. We’ll address how much economic breakthrough is being driven by women in this field with Susan Catalano, chapter chair if Women in Bio Pittsburgh and Rebecca Harris, director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University. 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:10 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Viral Story Sparks Questions on Employment Law

The revelation of her cancer diagnosis has resulted in a Hopewell woman being laid off by her employer, a Beaver County oral surgeon. She was informed of her layoff via a letter which has been posted online and gone viral. We’ll address the employment issues this situation raises with attorney Allison Feldstein.

Essential Pittsburgh
3:55 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Of Rice and Men: Raising the Standards Set for Athletes

Running back Ray Rice made headlines and sparked a controversy in the NFL when video surfaced of Rice punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer.
Credit Keith Allison / Flickr

In her latest column our guest, Nafari Vanaski of the Tribune Review, takes the NFL to task for its handling of the Ray Rice assault case. She also poses the question of why athletic organizations don’t hold players to higher standards of conduct when they’re involved in wrongdoing. 

Essential Pittsburgh
2:53 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

VFW Celebrates 100 Years In Pittsburgh

VFW historical marker outside of the William Pitt Union
Credit Marcus Charleston

In September of 1914, 250 veterans from across the U.S. and its territories gathered at the Schenley Hotel in Pittsburgh to form what would become the largest veterans’ advocacy group in the nation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

The hotel is now the William Pitt Union, but former military members and public officials are assembling there once again to mark the organization's centennial.

“The people can feel that the community supports veterans around here,” Matt Hannan, president of Pitt-Vets, said, “but they don’t understand the legacy of what the veterans have committed to the community and contributed and that that legacy continues.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
11:23 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

Monday Rundown: Could a Cancer Diagnosis Give an Employer Cause?

Credit Dennis Matheson / Flickr

These topics air Monday September 15, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Employment Law

The revelation of her cancer diagnosis has resulted in a Hopewell woman being laid off by her employer, a Beaver County oral surgeon. She was informed of her layoff via a letter which has been posted online and gone viral. We’ll address the employment issues this situation raises with attorney Allison Feldstein.

VFW Centennial

In September of 1914 a gathering of 250 delegates from across the United States and its territories took place in Pittsburgh. It was the beginning of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) We’ll mark the centennial of the event with Matthew Hannan, a Marine veteran, graduate student and president of Pitt vets.

Of Rice and Men

In her latest column our guest, Nafari Vanaski of the Tribune Review, takes the NFL to task for its handling of the Ray Rice assault case. She also poses the question of why athletic organizations don’t hold players to higher standards of conduct when they’re involved in wrongdoing. 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:01 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Tales of Lawrenceville: Commemorating a Neighborhood Bicentennial

Established in 1814, the Lawrenceville community celebrates its 200th anniversary this Friday.
Credit Joseph A / Flickr

The neighborhood of Lawrenceville was established 200 years ago, by the father of Stephen Foster. In that time the riverside area has seen an interesting range of people, events and industries which helped shape American history and culture.

On Friday the 200th anniversary will be commemorated with movies and lectures presented by the Lawrenceville Historical Society, at the Row House Cinema. Community Historians Carol Peterson and James Wudarczyk join us to chat about Lawrenceville history and share a few lesser known stories.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:56 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Thrival Innovation + Music Festival Returns to Pittsburgh

The crowd at one of last year's Thrival Festival shows.
Credit Thrival Festival Facebook page

The now two-day Thrival Innovation + Music Festival is being held this weekend in Bakery Square. While the music is the big draw, the organizers say the goal of the festival is to provide an outlet for entrepreneurs to get the word out on their projects as well as the opportunity to bring major national music acts to the city. 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
2:53 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Pittsburgh's Lone Beatles Concert Reaches its 50th Anniversary

50 years ago this Sunday, Pittsburgh's old Civic Arena played host to the Beatles's first and only concert in the city.
Credit Perry Quan / Flickr

It was fifty years ago Sunday that the Beatles performed at the Civic Arena, their one and only appearance in Pittsburgh.

We'll talk with legendary concert promoter Pat DiCesare, who brought the band to town and is producing this weekend's 50th anniversary events. Also joining us in studio is Chuck Brinkman, a former KQV disc jockey who introduced the Beatles on stage on that memorable night in 1964.

90.5 WESA Celebrates
3:30 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Harold Hicks, Making Miracles Happen on the Baseball Field

Harold Hicks
Credit Debbi Casini Klein / 90.5 WESA

Read and listen to a story about Harold Hicks as part of a series honoring the individuals who make a difference in people’s lives: 90.5 WESA Celebrates People Making a Difference.

It’s called The Miracle Field of Murrysville: a special baseball field constructed for anyone age 10 and older with any physical or mental challenges.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
10:28 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Friday Rundown: Music and Milestones in Pittsburgh

The crowd at one of last year's Thrival Festival shows.
Credit Thrival Festival Facebook page

These topics air Friday September 12, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Lawrenceville Turns 200

The neighborhood of Lawrenceville was established 200 years ago, by the father of Stephen Foster. In that time the riverside area has seen an interesting range of people, events and industries which helped shape American history and culture. On Friday the 200th anniversary will be commemorated with movies and lectures presented by the Lawrenceville Historic Society, at the Row House Cinema. Community Historians Carol Peterson and James Wudarczyk join us to chat about Lawrenceville history and share a few lesser known stories.

Thrival Innovation + Music Festival

The now two-day Thrival Innovation + Music Festival is being held this weekend in Bakery Square. While the music is the big draw, the organizers say the goal of the festival is to provide an outlet for entrepreneurs to get the word out on their projects as well as the opportunity to bring major national music acts to the city. We'll talk with festival organizers Bobby Zappala and Dan Law in studio and Justin Pierre, lead singer of Motion City Soundtrack.

50th Anniversary of the Beatles' Pittsburgh Concert

It was fifty years ago Sunday that the Beatles performed at the Civic Arena, their one and only appearance in Pittsburgh. We'll talk with legendary concert promoter Pat DiCesare, who brought the band to town and is producing this weekend's 50th anniversary events. Also joining us in studio is Chuck Brinkman, a former KQV disc jockey who introduced the Beatles on stage on that memorable night in 1964. 

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:31 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Life of Learning: American Education and the Arts

Credit Josh Staiger / Flickr

Local and national arts education leaders gathered in Pittsburgh this week for a two-day Arts Education National Forum. There, teachers and advocates discussed how to prepare students for a new America through the arts.

As part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative, Essential Pittsburgh explored the state of arts centered learning programs in area schools, community involvement and the future of arts education.

While the discussion of access to arts education has often meant a lack of resources, Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership said the problem often is money and a lack of faith in arts.

“In some places around the country I believe the arts are not being taken seriously. The arts are sometimes considered more of an enrichment than a core academic subject and a necessity. Sometimes the arts are viewed for kids that are at risk or for the gifted and talented and not for every child,” she said. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:23 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Thursday Rundown: The Future of Arts Education

Credit Navy Hale Keiki School / Flickr

These topics air Thursday September 11, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. 

This week the Arts Education National Forum is being held in Pittsburgh. The theme of this year’s program is Preparing Students for the Next America in and through the arts. As part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative, Essential Pittsburgh is devoting this hour to arts education.

State of the Arts

Is arts education being cut at national and local levels? If so, is it being done equitably? We’ll begin our look at arts education by posing this question to Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership and Sarah Tambucci, director of the Arts Education Collaborative.

Arts Education and the Community

What role do community arts organizations play in arts education? We’ll get a national and local perspective on this issue with Doug Herbert, special assistant at the U.S Department of Education and Carol Wolfe, director of Education and regional director of Western PA Wolf Trap Gateway to the Arts.

The Future of Arts Education

Can arts education be saved by incorporating it into other disciplines? We’ll address this issue with Ayanna Hudson, director of Arts Education, National Endowment for the Arts and Sarah Tambucci, director of the Arts Education Collaborative. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:52 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Does the City's High Self-Esteem Create New Problems?

How does Pittsburgh's attitude toward itself translate to reality?
Credit Flickr user jmd41280

There’s no doubting Pittsburghers take pride in their city. However, can that civic pride result in turning a blind eye to ongoing issues such as race, transportation and poverty? We pose that question to Joe Wos, executive director of the Toonseum and Chris Potter, editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper.

Read the City Paper article that inspired this segment.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:43 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Mayor Peduto Talks Pre-K Education, Transportation, and Chief Cameron McLay

Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Like any new city mayor, Bill Peduto has a whole lot on his plate, and room for creative decisions. This month we talk with him about some of his most recent plans for the city, from selecting a new police chief, to improving pre-k education and developing bike lanes on some of the city bridges.

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Essential Pittsburgh
11:04 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Wednesday Rundown: How Well Does the Steel City Handle Constructive Criticism?

Can we really help it if Pittsburgh keeps showing up on the top lists?
Credit Flickr user jmd41280

These topics air Wednesday September 10, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Decision Making and the Mayor

Like any new city mayor, Bill Peduto has a whole lot on his plate, and room for creative decisions. This month we’ll talk with him about some of his most recent plans for the city, from selecting a new police chief, to improving pre-k education and developing bike lanes on some of the city bridges. Share your thoughts with us on these topics.

Exit Interview

There’s no doubting Pittsburghers take pride in their city. However, can that civic pride result in turning a blind eye to ongoing issues such as race, transportation and poverty? We’ll pose that question to Joe Wos, executive director of the Toonseum and Chris Potter, editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper. 

Read more

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