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 
Genre: 
Composer ID: 
5187f157e1c837e16b69e499|5187f152e1c837e16b69e482

Pages

Essential Pittsburgh
3:14 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Legislation Could Eliminate School Property Tax

Credit Tim Lambert / WITF

After a year of review, Pennsylvania House Representative Jim Cox reintroduced House Bill 76 outlining the benefits of eliminating the school property tax in the Commonwealth. With 91 co-sponsors in the House and 22 in the Senate, Rep. Cox is confident the bill will appeal to both legislators and tax-payers. Matthew Knittel, director of the Independent Fiscal Office, has reviewed versions of the bill and says from a revenue perspective, the bill could be made to work in certain parts of the state.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:08 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Cool Kids: Rockin' Out With Your Child Can Be More Beneficial Than You Think

WYEP Morning Mix co-host, Joey Spehar on stage at the 3 Rivers Arts Festival with his daughter.
Credit Joey Spehar / Facebook

As a father, WYEP Morning Mix co-host Joey Spehar has a unique outlook on modern music. This led him to develop Cool Kids, a daily segment where listeners submit, “kid approved” songs and share stories about listening to quality music with their child.

“I’m a dad, my daughter’s almost two years old, and I found that she really enjoys music,” says Spehar. “I’m sure there are countless people out there who have had similar experiences.”

Dr. Rachel Whitcomb, assistant professor of music education at Duquesne University, says Spehar’s program touches on some important ideas in early childhood development.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:28 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

The Future of Law Enforcement and Sentencing

Two major decisions on Monday may have a big impact on law enforcement.
Credit Victor Caselle/Flickr

Opponents of the New York City Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy have long accused the program of having a racial bias. On Monday, their accusations were validated, as U.S. Judge District Shira Scheindlin ruled that the city’s implementation of such searches violated both the 4th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution.

According to University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris, this ruling does not mean that there will be an end to the city’s stop-and-frisk policy. Instead, the policy must be altered so that it can fall in line with pre-existing standards for civilian searches.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:16 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

The Business of Beauty Salons

As the economy recovers, Americans are spending more and more on their looks.
Credit Bryan Costin/Flickr

The state of hair can tell us a lot about the state of the economy, says business contributor Rebecca Harris. According to Harris, beauty salons are not only a big business, employing close to 2 million people in a $50 billion market, the recent growth of the beauty industry gives us an idea of the extent of America’s economic recovery.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:40 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

CDC: 'Underutilized' HPV Vaccine Provides Effective Protection

The CDC calls the HPV vaccine "safe, effective and underutilized."
Art Writ VCU CNS/ flickr

Human Papillomavirus is spread by skin-to-skin contact, can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, genital cancer. Yet it can be easily prevented through a three-shot vaccination process, which the CDC says is underutilized. Dr. Jonathan Pletcher works at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and councils parents and their children about the vaccine and any possible risks.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:17 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Five Marathons in Five Days For MS Research

Dawn Kumlien will be running a part of the 3,000 mile relay for Multiple Sclerosis.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Beginning August 18, Dawn Kumlien of the North Hills will run five marathons in five days from Youngstown, Ohio to Clearfield, Pennsylvania as a part of the MS Run the US relay. After Dawn’s mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980, her sister ran relays to raise money for research. Now Dawn is taking advantage of her own opportunity to raise money for MS. She says she expects to raise at least $10,000 by the end of the run.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:52 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

As Knit the Bridge Gets Underway, A Community Effort Is Revealed

The Knit the Bridge project got underway at the Andy Warhol Bridge Saturday morning.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

After participating in the successful yarn bombing of an area downtown, Amanda Gross had the idea to do something larger. As a result, Gross and the Fiber Arts Guild of Pittsburgh are graduating from trees and telephone poles to knitting the Andy Warhol bridge this weekend.

“It was just a really positive experience,” observes Gross. “So I thought, why not do a bridge?”

Yarn bombing is part of the guerilla art movement, and the process amounts to a temporary, impermanent form of graffiti.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:51 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

The Uncanny Corpse Flower

A rare, interesting specimen, the corpse flower will only bloom and share its unique scent for approximately 48 hours before decaying.
Credit US Botanic Garden / Wikipedia

Phipps Conservatory will be getting a rare, rancid treat in the coming weeks. The corpse flower, a flower from the jungles of Indonesia, is best known for its distinctive smell of rotting flesh. Ben Dunigan, Curator of Horticulture at Phipps, says that the corpse flower models itself after the scent of a decaying corpse to convince flies to come and lay their eggs.

“You really do have to smell it to believe it,” Dunigan says.

Phipps’s flower—affectionately named “Romero” after Night of the Living Dead director and Pittsburgh native George A. Romero—will only spend 48 hours in full bloom, with 12 peak hours during which the flower will be at its most putrid.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:50 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

FutureDerm and the Science Behind Beauty Products

FutureDerm CEO Nicki Zevola launched her own line of beauty products with help from AlphaLab and Innovation Works
Credit AlphaLab

Nicki Zevola has been teaching the real science behind beauty products with her popular blog since 2007. When it was time to launch FutureDerm, her own line of beauty products, Zevola already had a loyal following.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:49 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Sci-Fi Marathons, Indie Films and Classic Flicks Coming in the Next Week

Credit Pop City Media

Pittsburgh theaters offer a wide range of films in a number of unique theaters. Dormont’s Hollywood Theater houses niche film festivals, indie movie one-night previews and classic flicks while other theaters around the city will show big screen blockbusters and new documentaries. Pittsburgh City Paper film critic Al Hoff helps parse out the good from the bad.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:03 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

Pittsburgh 2030 District Challenge

A year in, Pittsburgh 2030 District Challenge is gaining momentum.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA News

It’s been a year since the beginning of Pittsburgh’s 2030 District Challenge. The private-public initiative aims to cut energy, water and transportation consumption of downtown buildings in half by the year 2030.

According to Sean Luther, Director of the Green Building Alliance, a number of the big name buildings have signed on to the program’s pledge. Some of the most notable buildings include the US Steel Building and one of the oldest buildings downtown, the Allegheny Courthouse. In total, the buildings involved in the challenge account for more than 50% of downtown’s square footage.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:01 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

Computational Linguistics: Code Cracking in Our Every Day Lives

We use computational linguistics in devices like iphones and ipads. To machines, language is just a sequence of codes.
Credit Mateus / Flickr

For 18 year old Presidential Scholar Richard “Tom” McCoy, becoming immersed in computational linguistics began at an early age. Beginning with code cracking and summer camps about cryptology, McCoy developed a fascination with the way that foreign language “is kind of like a code or cypher,” he says.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:00 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

The New Girl Takes on Water Parks

The Typhoon Lagoon in Disney World
Credit Auntie Rain / Flickr

With the dog days of summer upon us, and the thermostat rising, travel contributor Elaine Labalme has a family friendly suggestion for beating the heat and getting out of town all in one go: water parks. It’s not just the classic lazy river amusement anymore, either. More complex water park rides are now as fast paced and exciting as those in traditional theme parks. As Lebalme puts it, “If you’re a roller coaster person, you’re gonna have a blast in one of these water parks.”

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:20 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Do Pittsburgh Upward Mobility Rankings Ring True?

Partially based on the city's diverse and solid middle class, Pittsburgh has been ranked in the top tier for social mobility
Credit Mark Knobil / Flickr

On the heels of a popular study tracking social mobility in American cities, Pittsburgh's top tier ranking has been widely discussed.  Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, and University of Pittsburgh regional economist Chris Briem explain how Pittsburgh’s economic past has influenced our social standing today.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:44 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

BikeFest: Celebrating the Culture of Cycling

Potential bike share station
Credit Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Bike Pittsburgh’s annual Bike Fest is back with over 100 events, celebrating the bike community and the city.  Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Brinker says with the addition of more bright green lanes, miles of bike trails and a promising new bike share program for 2014, Pittsburghers are embracing the bicycle culture.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:58 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Facing a New Life After Aging Out of the Foster Care System

The PA Youth Advisory Board is builds leadership and partnerships among young adults who are or have been in the foster care system.
Credit PA Youth Advisory Board / Facebook

Several years before he was a Youth Quality Improvement Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, Christopher Nobles faced the same challenges experienced by roughly 1000 Pennsylvania youth each year: the prospect of aging out of the state’s foster care system and facing a new life.

According to Nobles, the primary challenge for a young person who has aged out of the foster care system is the lack of a lifelong familial support structure. While the support of a steady home is something most eighteen year olds can take for granted, the sort of security a steady home provides is missing from the lives of children in foster care.

“There’s a great deal of psychological stress,” Nobles says, emphasizing that in foster care “You grow up sort of having to audition -- for everything.”

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:11 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Fast Growing Occupations

Rebecca Harris discusses the 100 best jobs of 2013.
Credit Rebecca Harris / Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship

When business contributor Rebecca Harris looked at the US News and World Report’s list of the top 100 best jobs for 2013, she noticed the effect that the aging baby boomers were having on the economy. The rapid rise of healthcare related jobs reflects this trend. Another important shift in the economy can be seen in the advent of the Chief Listening Officer position in some companies. She says this job’s rise to prominence shows that “before social media, business was really a one way communication...now when consumers talk, businesses have to listen.”

Essential Pittsburgh
5:18 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Terror Threat Closes American Embassies & Consulates in the Middle East

The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is one of the many embassies and consulates that have been closed following terror threats.
Credit Ryan Lackey / flicr

Last weekend the US Government issued a worldwide travel alert for Americans abroad, and closed American embassies in the Middle East. It's been called the “most serious” terrorist warning post 9-11. Dan Simpson, former US Ambassador and Editorial Editor for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, weighs in on the government’s decision, the NSA involvement and why he feels the alert is a political game.

Many believe that issuing these alerts is an attempt by the government to show support for the NSA wiretapping leaks.  Simpson agrees, saying that he can see the government wanting to identify a serious terrorist attack regardless of whether one is likely, in order to justify the NSA surveillance.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:57 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Trying to Live on the Minimum Wage

Credit Elyce Feliz / flickr

Originally meant to protect American workers from being exploited, the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938 and set mandatory federal minimum wages at 25 cents per hour.  In the years following, congress and the President acted to raise minimum wage to keep up with inflation and productivity. Around the 1980’s, it became much more difficult to get a labor wage bill out of congress and the term “living wage” circulates to replace the widely criticized minimum wage.  Many protesters and researchers find that the minimum wage does not reflect the actual cost of living and no longer keeps pace with the country’s economic growth. Labor Economist Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg shares his statistical findings and suggestions for improvement.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:05 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Aqua Man Miller Dives into Ocean's Seven Challenge

Swimmer Darren Miller
Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

After swimming across the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland, Delmont native Darren Miller will become the first American man to complete the Ocean’s Seven.  This challenge requires swimmers to cross the seven most difficult ocean channels in the world.  He swims almost exclusively for his charity, the Forever Fund, which has already raised over $60,000 for families struggling to pay bills for their children living in cardiothoracic wards of hospitals.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:22 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Bishop Zubik Finds Pope Francis' Leadership Refreshing & Positive

Bishop Zubik thinks Pope Francis' comments are catching the attention of the public in a positive way.
Credit Deanna Garcia/90.5 WESA

Homosexuality has historically been a highly controversial subject throughout the Roman Catholic Church. But recent comments from Pope Francis may change the way the Church approaches the topic.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis said to reporters, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord, and has good will, who am I to judge?”  A statement, deemed by some as “revolutionary.”

Many say that statement highlights the compassionate nature of the new Pope and paves the path for possible internal changes in the Church. The Most Reverend David Zubik, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is enthusiastic about the new Pope’s leadership technique and finds that those in the region are equally excited.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:12 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Shady Side Academy Farm: Planting Seeds of Sustainabilty

The Fox Chapel farmers market is hosted by the Shady Side Academy and students manage various aspects
Credit Rhonda Schuldt / Local Goodness

Three years ago an administrator at Shady Side Academy noticed there was no market near the school’s location in Fox Chapel.  This motivated the school to host a Farmer’s Market

Two years later, stemming from the school’s commitment to sustainability, the Shady Side Academy Farm was planted.

The farm is managed primarily by students and is successfully integrated into the school’s curriculum. Rhonda Schuldt of Local Goodness explains the roles that students play in the farm and the market.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:01 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Urban Farming In Pittsburgh: Better Food From Your Backyard

The bioshelter at Garfield Farms will provide year-round growing.
Credit Garfield Farms

From the country to the city, many urban dwellers are beginning to develop self-sustainable farms in the backyards of their Pittsburgh apartments. These “city farms” engage communities in the farming process and improve nutrition to citizens that do not live near a grocery store or market.

Small gardens and urban livestock such as chicken and bees can be found on balconies, roofs and oftentimes in revitalized vacant lots.

Heather Mikulas works in local food infrastructure and agricultural entrepreneurship for the Penn State University Extension Office in Allegheny County and helps backyard farmers develop their own agricultural techniques. She says that everyone has a different reason to start planting an urban garden, but anyone can do it.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
7:45 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Friday Rundown: A Progressive Papacy and the Benefits of Urban Farming

Beechview Community Garden on the Southern border of Pittsburgh
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

These topics air at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA

What Does Bishop David Zubik Think of the Pope's Comments?
Earlier this week, Pope Francis made the comment; "Whom am I to judge?" when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests. The Pope's comments about gays and women came during an in flight news conference on his way back home from Brazil and have been called "revolutionary" by some. The Most Reverend David Zubik, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh joins us to discuss the Pope's comments and what they mean for the church.

A Hands On Education: Farming and Entrepreneurship at Shady Side Academy
Throughout the growing season, our local food contributor Rhonda Schuldt has been visiting markets and farms to report back on good food that can be found in our area. She’s also asked you, our listeners, for suggestions of interesting markets and farms to visit. The Fox Chapel Market at Shady Side Academy recently responded by sharing their unique program, where students run the market as part of an agriculture and business curriculum. Rhonda Schuldt talks about what she found at the Shady Side Academy farmers market in Fox Chapel.

Farming in the Steel City
Since the 2008 economic downturn, city-farming has gone from an offbeat DIY source for cheap groceries, to a way to engage whole communities in the farming process and improve nutrition for people living in food deserts.  The city of Pittsburgh is home to some interesting agricultural projects at both the small and large-scale level. Hops and fruit trees in Garfield anyone? The possibilities for those wanting to farm in the city are pretty broad and it helps to know where to start. Heather Mikulas works in local food infrastructure and agricultural entrepreneurship for the Penn State University Extension Office in Allegheny County. She helps backyard farmers in Pittsburgh develop their agricultural ideas and talks about ways you can farm in Pittsburgh.

Essential Pittsburgh
5:16 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Pittsburgh and Detroit: A Tale of Two Cities

Did the federal government's bailouts of the auto industry worsen the city's predicament?
Credit Dave Rezendes/Flickr

Since the beginning of the great recession, Pittsburgh has often been touted as a shining symbol of economic recovery in the rust belt, while Detroit has become the poster-child of nearly apocalyptic economic strife. So what has allowed the Steel City to thrive while the Motor City has stalled? According to Antony Davies, an Associate Professor of Economics at Duquesne University, the answer lies in the two city’s differing approaches to the collapse of their largest industries.

He notes that while Pittsburgh weathered the painful collapse of the steel industry without support, “when Detroit fell on hard times, it turned to the federal government.”

Read more

Pages