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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Composer ID: 
5187f157e1c837e16b69e499|5187f152e1c837e16b69e482

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Business
7:45 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Leveled Up: How This Pittsburgher Achieved Every Kid's Video Game Dream

Mark Bussler poses in his "Intergalactic Space Arcade," where he broadcasts his reviews and answers online fan questions.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

For video game enthusiast Mark Bussler, simple, retro 8-bit games can be just as fun as complex modern ones.

He should know, and in fact, it's his business to know.

The 38-year-old of Oakmont has been collecting games since he was five, and today his collection reaches the thousands, all thanks to fans who send him old-school games and accessories to review on his website, Classic Game Room.

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:12 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: Pittsburgh's Olympic History and Climate Change & National Security

A demolished home in Union Beach, NJ after Hurricane Sandy. Find out why climate change could be as much of a threat to national security as terrorism.
Credit Wavian / Flickr

These topics air Tuesday February 11, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:22 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Cambria County Guardianship Agency Under Investigation

Norma Carpenter's mother is a ward of Distinctive Human Services, the guardianship agency at the center of an embezzlement investigation.
Credit Halle Stockton / Public Source

The Social Security Administration is investigating the alleged embezzlement of funds from a Cambria County guardianship agency, which handles the finances of incapacitated people under its care.

Reporter Halle Stockton has been covering this story for Public Source.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:16 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

State of the Reunion: Sharing Small Community Stories with the Nation

Al Letson is the host of the NPR program, State of the Reunion.
Credit Al Letson / alletson.com

Saturday’s in February, 90.5 WESA is airing State of the Reunion. The host, Al Letson describes the program as "telling the stories of America, one community at a time."

The State of the Reunion began after Letson watched a popular television show.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:08 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

How Michael Sam Became Bigger than the Olympics

Defensive end, Michael Sam, carries his souvenir (a rock from the rock 'M' at Memorial Stadium) after his final home game at the University of Missouri.
Credit Marcus Qwertyus / Wikipedia Commons

This weekend was a very exciting weekend in the sports world, with the opening of the Olympics. But, something off the field and closer to home was the story that stole all the headlines.

Michael Sam, a graduating defensive end from the University of Missouri publicly announced Sunday that he is gay.

Sam was the Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year this past season and played a key part to a surprisingly successful Missouri football team. With this announcement two weeks before the 2014 NFL Draft, Sam is on the fringe of making history by becoming the first openly gay NFL player.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:45 pm
Sun February 9, 2014

Monday Rundown: State of the Reunion & Protecting the Disabled

Al Letson, host of State of the Reunion
Credit Al Letson / alletson.com

These topics air Monday February 10, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:10 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

When it Comes to Patching Potholes, Funding is the Biggest Pitfall

Mike Gable was appointed as the new Department of Public Works Director by Mayor Peduto last week.
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is an old city with old roads. From cobblestones, to brick, to brittle asphalt, the addition of winter weather can make our daily commutes pretty treacherous.

Last week, Mayor Peduto appointed public works veteran, Mike Gable as the new Department of Public Works Director.

Gable hopes the city can find more funding in order to get on track with  winter street maintenance plans.

“Well this is a very tough time of the year, obviously. The roads are in bad shape as a result of the freezing and thawing that has been occurring over the past couple of weeks. But, its also a product of not making the investment that we’ve had to make to repair the roads with our resurfacing program.”

In the resurfacing program calls for a target of 80 miles per year, but the department has only been paving 30 to 40 miles per year, Gable says this is not a recipe for success.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:40 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

The 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' Big Night

A screenshot of The Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan Show nearly fifty years ago.
Credit CBS / Wikipedia

Fifty years ago this Sunday, February 9, 1964, the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It was a live performance of several of their songs that had been hyped extensively and preceded by their hit song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" rising to the top of the American pop charts. WYEP Music Director Mike Sauter talks about the impact of the Beatles performance that night.

“It’s just an absolutely unique and remarkable phenomenon. The adulation that the Beatles instantaneously received, not just here in the US, but preceded by the UK and other countries subsequently around the world. It was just a very unique phenomenon to have happened and there’s no one reason why you can say why it happened in any one country or happened at that particular time or place.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:46 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Three Historic Places in Western PA in Danger of Demolition

The Coraopolis Railroad Station is one of three historic places in Western Pennsylvania that Preservation Pennsylvania believes is at risk of being destroyed.
Credit Tim Engleman / Flickr

Throughout the commonwealth there are a number of places with historic significance in danger of fading away.

Neglect, weather, and the wrecking ball pose a seemingly continual threat to the existence of these sites. How will Pittsburgh save these cultural treasures?

Preservation Pennsylvania field representative Erin Hammerstedt, gives some insight to what historic places in Western Pennsylvania are in danger.

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:00 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Friday Rundown: Patching Pittsburgh Streets, Endangered Buildings & A Beatles Milestone

Credit Matt Niemi / Flickr

These topics air Friday February 7, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:01 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

August Wilson Center Must Find Deep-Pocket Donors

Credit AWC / Facebook

The plight of the August Wilson Center has been a source of constant stories in the local media.

Despite liquidation, debt and other fiscal battles many are working hard to save the center.

City Paper reporter Rebecca Nuttall has followed  efforts and provides an update on the latest news regarding the August Wilson Center.

The building, which took $42 million to open in 2009, had more construction costs than were originally estimated and put the center in debt before it had even opened. Nuttall says a lot of the people she talks to seem to have great ideas about how to save the center, but the financial backing may not be available. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:47 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

The Hebrew Mamita Breaks Through Cultural Stereotypes

Native New Yorker and slam poet Vanessa Hidary, a.k.a. the Hebrew Mamita grew up on Manhattan's culturally diverse Upper West Side, as a Sephardic Jew with close friends from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

This experience inspired her to write "Culture Bandit," the nationally toured solo show that chronicles Vanessa's coming of age during the golden age of Hip-Hop and her dedication to fostering understanding and friendship between all people.

She will perform her poetry at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh Thursday.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:28 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Take a Road Trip and Tour of Presidential Homes

Mount Vernon
Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/chuck_taylor/5287916645/

Ohio and Virginia are both nicknamed the home of presidents. From Mount Vernon to Monticello presidential homes are great places to visit and learn about history. 

With President’s Day a little over a week away, travel contributor Elaine Labalme gives some suggestions of presidential residences you might like to visit.

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Essential Pittsburgh
9:30 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Thursday Rundown: Rallying Around the August Wilson Center & the Hebrew Mamita

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture, in Downtown Pittsburgh
Credit Thomas Alan / Flickr

These topics air Thursday February 6, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:43 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Breaking Down Corbett's Budget Proposal

Governor Tom Corbett giving his fourth budget address Tuesday, calling for more than $900 million in additional state spending over the current fiscal year.
Credit pa.gov

Governor Tom Corbett delivered his fourth budget address Tuesday, calling for more than $900 million in additional state spending over the current fiscal year.

A sizable portion of Corbett's roughly three percent increase in state spending would go to education. Is this year's version of the governor's budget really the "pivot point" that Budget Secretary Charles Zogby is calling it?

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review capitol reporter Brad Bumsted points out that the budget has supporters and critics. Senator Tim Pawlenty showed support for the budget plan by declaring the latest speech as the best budget speech of Corbett's tenure. But how does Corbett plan on completing this budget plan without raising taxes?

According to Bumsted, “his budget director says its by anticipating 4% revenue growth with a number of one-time fixes and continuing fixes. But some of the things he is counting on requires approval outside of his control."

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:39 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Dr. Jim Withers: Bringing Healthcare to the Streets

Credit Pittsburgh Mercy Health System

There is a doctor in Pittsburgh that still makes house calls, to a certain extent. For more than 20 years Dr. Jim Withers’s house calls have brought healthcare to the homeless.  What began as a nightly service in 1992 has become the non-profit, Operation Safety Net.

"I was just frustrated with the gap between how healthcare looks at people and how much each person's own reality is unique to them," says Withers.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:18 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Underneath The Lintel: A One-Man Show About Moving Forward & Looking Back

A picture of Randy Kovitz, a Carnegie Mellon Alumnus, in the one-man play Underneath the Lintel.
Credit Underneath the Lintel / Facebook

Pittsburgh based actor, Randy Kovitz, is the lone performer in a one-man play called Underneath the Lintel. The play is a journey of self discovery in which the hero, a librarian, tries to solve the mystery of a book that's been missing for over a century.

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:14 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Wednesday Rundown: Corbett's Budget Plan and House Calls for the Homeless

Credit pa.gov

These topics air Wednesday February 5, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:31 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

POLITICO Kicks Off Editorial Series Starting With Pittsburgh

Credit MARK PETERSON/REDUX / POLITICO.com

POLITICO kicked off a yearlong, editorial series Tuesday, showcasing innovative ideas from cities across the nation and how they can be re-engineered for Washington.

POLITICO Editor Susan Glasser explained why Pittsburgh is the first city featured.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:14 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Heroin Addiction & the Social Stigma of Rehab

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The recent rash of deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl, and the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman have brought attention to the need for more efficient clinical treatment for drug addiction.

Gateway Rehab Medical Director Dr. Neil Capretto works with addicts and talked about what a relapse can mean to someone trying to conquer their dependency.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:56 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

The Business of the Winter Olympics

Credit http://www.mcwade.com/DesignTalk/2009/12/does-sochis-olympic-logo-work/

The 2014 Winter Olympics open this Friday. While they are taking place a world away, how will they impact local businesses? We posed that question to our contributor Rebecca Harris.

There are seven Pittsburgh Penguins headed to  the Olympics, along with bobsledder Lauryn Williams and a local Pittsburgh nurse going to provide medical care, so Pittsburgh will be well represented in Sochi.

While airlines and travel agents are booking low numbers of trips to Sochi, local advertising sales are up because of the large amount of TV viewing and streaming that NBC will be offering during the games.

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Technology & City Data
3:34 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Steel City Codefest Shows the Potential for Open Data

Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/weinakademieberlin/5417420791/

Pittsburgh's second Steel City Codefest is almost here. The second annual 24-hour technology competition aims to create relevant and useful apps for the Pittsburgh area.

One of last year's winning teams created an app called ParkIt, which would allow users to pay for parking meters using their phone. The app would also remind users when their meter is about to expire and allow them to refill it.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:44 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: POLITICO Spotlights Pittsburgh & How Stigma Affects Addiction

Snake robot at CMU's Robotics Institute. POLITICO has set its sights on Pittsburgh thanks to its robotics industry.
Credit Jiuguang Wang / Flickr

These topics air Tuesday February 4, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:30 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Details on Local Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Overdoses

State police are still trying to track down the source of a drug that has killed as many as 23 people in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler and Westmoreland Counties, based on data released Friday by the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office.

There have been 14 deaths in Allegheny county in which victims tested positive for both heroin and Fentanyl, a powerful analgesic used to treat cancer patients.

90.5 WESA reporter Liz Reid has been following the story and says leading up to January 24th, the County Medical Examiner saw one opiate overdose death per day, which was not considered abnormal, but he became concerned when that number jumped to 3 in one day, on Friday and 4 more that Saturday.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:05 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Right to Know Law Could Be Less Important with #OpenPgh

Steel City Codefest is challenging developers to create apps for street cleaning, trash pickup, even ways to top-up parking while away from the meter, using open data.
Credit jacob caddy / flickr

Pittsburgh plans to join 19 other American cities and counties in releasing city data for public use online. As the city works out the details of how this initiative will take shape, they’re looking for public input.

Debra Lam, Mayor Peduto's pick for Chief of Innovation & Performance and Laura Meixell, data and analytics manager for the City of Pittsburgh, say the initial ordinance brought to city council last month is meant to change the perceptions of how Pittsburghers think about data and city disclosure of information.

“It sets the default to open.” Laura Meixell explains, “There’s a whole variety of state laws around what information is public and what isn’t, in the PA Right to Know law. And here in the city we’ve been following those rules since that legislation was enacted, but much more on the basis of, if folks asked for information we would provide it. With this [open data] legislation we’re going to  have the chance to go ahead and be proactive, to open things up and to make things more available and useful in the short term.”

City organizations have encouraged the software community to creatively use municipal data, even before the introduction of this legislation, through Steel City Codefest.

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