90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh was hosted by Paul Guggenheimer and produced by 90.5 WESA until July 2016. It featured community leaders and newsmakers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, health care, government and education.

Jose Luis Magana / AP Images

A Baltimore judge cleared Edward Nero, the second of six police officers to stand trial in the Freddie Gray case, of all charges on Monday.

Gray sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody last April. The previous trial of Officer William Porter resulted in a mistrial, the state plans to retry Porter later this year.

Entreprenuer Examines Factors Behind Successful Startups

May 24, 2016
Sean Ammirati

It seems we hear about Facebook almost every day but does anyone remember Friendster? Why do some companies seem to strike gold while others simply strike out? Our guest Sean Ammirati went in search of an answer to this question and chronicles his findings in the book The Science of Growth: How Facebook Beat Friendster – and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Olga Welch said the biggest challenge she faced when named the dean of Duquesne University’s School of Education in 2005 was adapting to a new environment.

“The real challenge for a new leader is to learn your context and not assume what worked in another context will work in a new one,” Welch said.

Game 6 'Ultimate Test' In Pens' Quest For Stanley Cup

May 23, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP Images

For a Pittsburgh sports fan, the Monday afternoon blues are all too familiar following a Steelers loss on a Sunday.  Today’s Monday blues are brought to you by the blue and white, or rather, the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose quick overtime rally them to defeat the Penguins 4-3 to lead the series 3-2 Sunday night. 

Bob Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sportswriter Emeritus, joined Essential Pittsburgh to discuss this playoff series and the Penguins’ chances of a Cup run. 

Paul Weaver / flickr

Five years ago, the Penn Hills School District was in $11 million in debt. Today, a recent audit revealed the district is $170 million in debt and is also under investigation for alleged mismanagement of money.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is a part of the team tackling 74 pages of an audit detailing the district’s spending from July 2012 through June 2015 and revealed spending habits that led to what DePasquale describes as “almost unsurmountable” debt.

W&J College

Longtime civil rights activist and Georgia Congressman John Lewis received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and delivered the commencement speech recently at Washington and Jefferson College. He is celebrating his 30th year representing the Georgia fifth district and reflected on his lifetime of activism with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer.

Paul Hertneky

Author Paul Hertneky grew up in the Rust Belt town of Ambridge, north of Pittsburgh. He described his childhood as idyllic, filled with close knit communities and constant playmates. He chronicles his experience in his new book, Rust Belt Boy: Stories of an American Childhood.

“We didn’t have a lot of money,” said Hertneky. “We did have a lot of community.”

Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation / Facebook

Experience all things Wilkinsburg this weekend at “Link on Penn,” a community event celebrating local businesses and organizations in the Pittsburgh suburb

Tim Murdoch, Steering Committee member for Leadership Development Initiative says this partnership with the Wilkinsburg community was inspired by the positivity and good news arising from the neighborhood.

Eli Christman / Flickr

More than 10 years ago, Amtrak decreased the number of trains running daily from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg from two to one. Representatives from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership traveled to the state capital this week requesting an increase.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation for the partnership, said the increase makes economic sense. Her group estimated increasing service to Harrisburg would cost $10.5-13 million and allow 400,000 new trips each year. By contrast, a mile of highway costs about $8 million.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Musical artist Benjamin Scheuer is no stranger to heartbreak. He lost his father early into his teenage years, suffered a difficult break up in his adulthood and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 28. For many, such intense trials would be enough to stifle their spark, but Scheuer decided to turn the bad into something good.

Frankie Leon / flickr

District judges in Westmoreland County are trying a new approach to addressing drug abuse in their community. They’ve implemented an Alternative Adjudication Program for defendants charged with minor drug crimes focusing on rehabilitation rather than jail time. We’ll ask Harrison City District Judge Helen Kistler and Westmoreland County Judge Jason Buczak about the new program.

Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / flickr

University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health Science is entering the battle against the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Donald Burke, dean of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, said opioids affect every major demographic group in the country. He is working to compile data on the epidemic from several different sources.

Mike Moore / Pleasant Valley Men's Shelter

Passing a homeless person on the street often times evokes a sense of guilt--- an internal dilemma.  Should I give money? Buy food? Walk away?

For Daniel See, an art student at Carnegie Mellon University, a sense of uneasiness pitted in his stomach upon simply walking away.

Pennsylvania Confronts Rising Incidents Of Elder Abuse

May 18, 2016
Borya / flickr

May is Older Americans Month and elderly abuse has increased by ten percent in Pennsylvania, which claims the fourth highest percentage of citizens, age 60 or older, in the country. PA Director of Protective Services Denise Getgen attributes this increase to the rising acknowledgement of the abuse occurring.

Manchester Bidwell Corporation / Facebook

Some big names will share some big thoughts this weekend at Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s “Big Idea Session.” During 10-15 minute fast-paced, focused presentations, leaders from around the world will deliver their thoughts on how to improve the arts, education and technology.  We’ll ask National Center for Arts and Technology chief operations officer Paulo Nzambi about the conference and who’s slate to present.

Patrick Semansky / AP Images

Reports have surfaced saying that radio transmissions distracted the engineer at the helm of a train that ran off the tracks last year in Philadelphia.

The train was moving at more than twice the recommended speed of 50 mph when entering a curve, leading to a derailment that resulted in the deaths of eight people and injured more than 200.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Images

Over 1000 activists for women’s reproductive rights gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for a seminar titled the Power of Pink recently. The crowd of primarily young women and men in attendance gathered to share ideas and strategize how best to organize and rally support for Planned Parenthood facilities and the politicians who protect reproductive rights.

NAIAD / flickr

Allegheny Health Network recently released the results of Dr. Deborah Gentile’s study on the asthma prevalence, risk and severity for schoolchildren in several Pittsburgh-area school districts. We’ll discuss the results with Dr. Gentile and Phil Johnson, director of The Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project which funded the study.

Greensburg's Palace Theatre Celebrates Its 90th Anniversary

May 16, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

In 1926, the Manos family opened the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. The family of candy makers took an interest in theater following the rise of vaudeville in the 1920s. Now, the Palace Theatre is operated by the Westmoreland Cultural Trust, which works to maintain its legacy. Palace Theatre director of operations, programing, and marketing Teresa Baughman says so far, they've invested 10 million dollars in renovations.

Enthusiam Varies On Whether Police Should Stop Deadly Overdoses

May 16, 2016
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Should police stop deadly overdoses? In his latest article for our content partner Public Source Jeffrey Benzing reports on the varying degrees of interest among police departments in taking on a duty some feel would be better handled by paramedics.

Retiring Washington And Jefferson College President Reflects On The Changing Campus

May 16, 2016
Washington & Jefferson College

Tori Haring-Smith says it took many years get beyond being introduced as Washington and Jefferson College’s first female president.

Haring-Smith assumed the role in 2005 and recently announced she will be retiring effective June 30, 2017. She says the biggest challenge coming in was working with alumni to help them understand how their college had changed since becoming a coed institution in 1970.

The Third Man / Youtube

The Hollywood Theater in Dormont will celebrate its 90th anniversary Saturday with a screening of the 1949 film-noir classic, The Third Man.

Pittsburgh native and actor David Conrad selected The Third Man and will host the anniversary celebration. Conrad recalls attending films at the Hollywood, which opened on Labor Day weekend in 1926, when he was growing up in Pittsburgh in the early 80s.

Children's Institute of Pittsburgh / Facebook

As mental health awareness among young people increases, many families are looking for new, innovative ways to help their children. The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh has responded by creating a new inpatient unit focused on a holistic approach for the mind, body and spirit.

Shane Simmons / flickr

A mistrial has been declared in a civil rights lawsuit brought by a Pittsburgh police officer who clerked for the former chief. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti granted the mistrial after Officer Tonya Montgomery-Ford said her attorney was too ill to continue. Montgomery-Ford says she was suspended three years ago because she testified before a federal grand jury into alleged corruption by the administration of former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. We'll discuss the case with Trib reporter Brian Bowling.

McKnight Realty

McKnight Realty Partners has just purchased South Side terminal properties and plans on investing millions of dollars to bring it up to modern standards for use as office and green space.

McKnight will partner with Friends of the Riverfront, a group that aims to promote access and appreciation of our region’s river resources. In this case, that resource is a riverfront bike trail connected to the Three Rivers Trail.

USGA 'Play 9' Initiative Makes Golf More Accessible

May 12, 2016
Emily Stock / 90.5 WESA

The average time it takes for a golfer to complete 18 holes is about four hours and 11 seconds. For busy families, four hours of play isn’t an option. In an effort to make the sport more accessible and inclusive, the United States Golf Association has created the initiative “Play 9.” With only nine holes, the hope is to cut time on the course in half and encourage players to come out and enjoy the sport without the long commitment. From the Bob O’Connor Golf Course in Schenley Park, we’ll chat with avid golfer Councilman Corey O’Connor and Allison Vartabedian, of the USGA.

How Should Pennsylvania Measure Teacher Effectiveness?

May 12, 2016
Matthew Shipp / flickr

The Pennsylvania state senate passed the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act this week, which would end the practice of layoffs based solely on seniority, but Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the bill.

State Rep. Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland County) wrote the legislation. He says that while only 1.8 percent of Pennsylvania teachers are failing or need improvement, they should be the first considered for layoffs.

Matthew Dieterich

A foggy purple lake.  A kaleidoscope of star trails.  A shadowy, tree-lined horizon.  After vigilantly waiting two hours by Reflections Lake at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state, photographer and Pittsburgh native Matthew Dieterich was able to capture one of the most stunning time-lapses of the year.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

As part of Remake Learning Days, Essential Pittsburgh is exploring two of the 11 districts and six individual schools in the region that have signed on to the Maker Promise, which is part of the White House-sponsored Digital Promise. While the Digital Promise works to put more technology into schools, the Maker Promise refines that to encourage the creation of maker spaces in schools that may or may not include new technologies.

Anna Haensch / LMFDB

So much of our lives are lived online these days. Whether it’s paying bills or socializing the concern about keeping our personal information is ever-present. However, a team of mathematicians from around the world have been working on a database that will make our internet, credit and debit transactions even more secure. Our guest, Anna Haensch, assistant professor of mathematics at Duquesne University has been part of this effort and joins us to explain how it will impact our lives.

Pages