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.  
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  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 

Commonwealth Foundation's Take on Budget Talks

Aug 13, 2015
Chris Knight / AP Images

The pace of budget negotiations between Governor Wolf and leaders in the GOP dominated legislature seems to be picking up. The two sides have been at odds over their respective versions of the state budget which is now six weeks overdue. Matt Brouillette, President and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank, joins us to talk about what conservatives want in the state budget.  

Carpe Diem Roadtrips To Round Out The Summer

Aug 13, 2015
Daniel Axelson / flickr

Do you often think about throwing some things together and getting out of town on a moment’s notice? If so, the rallying cry of Carpe Diem, is this week’s travel theme.  Travel contributor Elaine Labalme, this week sings the siren’s song of the open road.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane Meets The Press

Aug 13, 2015
Matt Rourke / AP Images

Embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane faced the media yesterday.She addressed the charges connected to her alleged leak of secret grand jury materials. Claiming she’s innocent of any wrongdoing Kane did not take questions. While Kane refuses to resign her post, a number of politicians are waiting in the wings to take her place. Joining us to discuss the latest travails of AG Kathleen Kane is Philadelphia Daily News Political Columnist John Baer.


The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced over three-million dollars in Affordable Care Act funding will be divided among 5 new health center sites in Pennsylvania. This funding will allow these centers to provide health care services to communities needing them most. Joining us to discuss the importance of health centers is Susan Friedberg Kalson, CEO of the Squirrel Hill Health Center, a funding recipient.

Keystone Crossroads Presents Urban Waterfront Series

Aug 12, 2015
Hannaford / flickr

The Keystone Crossroads initiative looks at the challenges facing cities in the commonwealth.  Today, marks the beginning of the initiatives urban waterfront series. Keystone Crossroads reporter Irina Zhorov and editor Naomi Starobin join us to talk about the series and how cities can make better use of their waterfronts for economic and recreational development.

Matt Rourke / AP Images

As the budget impasse grinds into its sixth week Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says he is willing to compromise but not “compromise away our future.”

“I think that is why I was elected,” Wolf said. “I’m a native Pennsylvanian and I’m not about to compromise the future of my state away.”

Encouraging Pittsburgh Businesses To 'Get To Know' Cuba

Aug 11, 2015
halbag / flickr


Last May, Mayor Peduto led a delegation of Pittsburgh businesspersons to Cuba. The goal of the trip was to lay the groundwork to establish business relationships between the Steel City and Cuba. What could this mean for the city’s economic outlook? We’ll ask President of Molimar Export Consultants Inc.  Pamela Martin who organized the Pittsburgh delegation that traveled to Pittsburgh.

Navigating New State Background Check Requirements

Aug 11, 2015
Alan Levine / flickr

Following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, members of the Pennsylvania legislature introduced a long list of bills intended to keep children safer, forced professionals to better report suspected abuse and make it easier for victims to get help.  While most of those bills never moved out of committee, many of them became laws.  Cathy Utz, deputy secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Human Services keeps track of those laws and shares her knowledge on the program.

Ralph Vituccio / Andreas Tapia-Urzua

Once the doors to Cuba opened, a couple of local college professors charged on through.

Ralph Vituccio, an assistant teaching professor at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) and an award-winning filmmaker and documentarian, talks about co-hosting and co-presenting an interactive video art installation at the 2015 Havana International Biennale this summer. Joining Vituccio as the only American exhibitor was his colleague Andreas Tapia-Urzua, chair of the Digital Media Department at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. They join us to talk about their trip to Cuba and the reaction their work received.

Applying 'Trust, But Verify' To The Iran Nuclear Deal

Aug 10, 2015
Adam Jones / flickr

  As President Obama works to convince Congress to accept the Iran Nuclear Deal, many agencies and foreign policy experts have weighed in with their thoughts. We'll talk with former Ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering who says: "We need to have a frank talk, not a rhetorical slamming match, about what's right and what's wrong with this deal and why this is a deal that Israel should accept."  

Negotiating The Iran Nuclear Deal

Aug 10, 2015
Carolyn Kaster / AP Images

  Republicans in Congress have scheduled a vote for mid-September on a resolution to reject the Iran nuclear deal. Conservatives are using the August recess to build up public pressure against the agreement.Former U.S. Ambassador Dan Simpson is now a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette associate editor. He has written an op-ed piece calling on Congress to approve the Iran deal. Ambassador Simpson joins us in studio along with, by phone from Israel, Gregg Roman, Community Relations Council Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh who says we have cause to be wary of Iran." Also in the studio, Stuart Pavilack, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Office Zionist Organization of America who believes Congress should reject the deal.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman has announced criminal charges against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Ferman has been investigating a grand jury's conclusion that Kane leaked secret investigative information to a Philadelphia newspaper to embarrass a political foe. John Micek, opinions editor for the Patriot News and Penn Live joins us to discuss the latest developments.

Shane T. McCoy / United States Marshalls

A century ago, two police officers from Pittsburgh decided they wanted better working conditions. They would go on to form the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which continues to advocate for police officers across the country.

This weekend, the FOP National Conference will be back in the city where the organization began, something that happens every quarter century, according to National FOP President Chuck Canterbury.

Urban Archives / Temple University Libraries

   During World War II, due to shortages, there were plenty of things Americans had to do without and NFL football was nearly one them. The war left the league with a shortage of able bodied men to play the game. So rather than shut down during the 1943 season, the Steelers and the Philadelpha Eagles combined their rosters to form a unified Pennsylvania team; the "Steagles." We'll talk with Matthew Algeo, author of "Last Team Standing: How the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles--'The Steagles' Saved Pro Football During World War II," and Al Wistert, the last surviving Steagle.     

Share Your Story At The Three Rivers Storytelling Festival

Aug 5, 2015

The Three Rivers Storytelling Festival is a two-day event held in multiple locations throughout the Pittsburgh region.  It features local, national and international storytellers who perform concerts, instruct workshops and seek to inspire attendees to tell their own stories.  We’ll hear from the festival’s producer Kate McConnell and professional storyteller Alton Chung.

Providing Paid Sick Leave For Pittsburgh Workers

Aug 5, 2015
Daniel X. O'Neil / flickr

  Earlier this week, Pittsburgh City Council received a standing ovation from activists and workers when it gave final approval to a bill requiring employers to provide paid sick days to workers. The  Paid Sick Days Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked. But not everyone is applauding. The Allegheny Institute calls the ordinance anti-free market and anti-business. We'll discuss the pro and cons of paid sick leave with Allegheny Institute President Jake Haulk and Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center.

'The Look Up Line' Aims To Improve Hockey Safety

Aug 4, 2015

“It’s not about a line, it’s about a life,” says our guest Tom Smith. The inventor of the Look Up Line and creator of the Thomas E. Smith Foundation, has fulfilled his life mission of making the game of hockey safer. We’ll discuss Smith’s hockey experiences as well as the long lasting impact he hopes to have on the hockey community.

Spend A Weekend In Highland Park

Aug 4, 2015
Lee Paxton / wikipedia

Cities are made up of a collection of neighborhoods with unique features and characteristics. On the first Tuesday of the month, business contributor Rebecca Harris will focus on one of the city’s neighborhoods. Today's focus is Highland Park.

Dale Nevin / flickr

Before student athletes return to school in the fall they’re required to get physical exams. In recent years, an important part of the athlete’s preparation has become baseline testing for concussions. Joining us to address the importance of this testing are Dr. Jonathan French, a neuropsychologist and clinical instructor at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Patrick Huber director of the Heads UP program at UPMC.

City Affordable Housing Task Force Convenes For First Time

Aug 3, 2015
Dave Nin / flickr

Nearly six months after its creation, the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force met for the first time last week.  The group’s mission is to help maintain healthy neighborhoods by finding solutions to housing issues and developing strategies to keep communities affordable.  Task force co-chair and city Planning Director Ray Gastil shares what was said at the first meeting and where the group plans to go from here.


Talk Radio News Service / flickr

Allegheny County health officials say they are already in line with new White House standards to fight HIV and AIDS.

The plan unveiled Thursday updates one issued by the Obama administration five years ago. Developments since then include new diagnostic tests, a daily pill for infection prevention and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which allows for more American’s to receive treatment and testing.

Robin Robokow / flickr/robokow.net

Many may not know that one of the world’s most recognizable songs is actually one of the most profitable.  The “Happy Birthday to You” tune has been around since the late 1800’s and due to copyright protections, anyone who wants to include the ditty in their movie, ringtone or stage production has to pay for permission. Now there’s a new case against the owners of the copyright and an old songbook in Pitt’s Hillman Library may be used as evidence. Here to tell us about that songbook and the future of “Happy Birthday” is Barco Law Library interim director Marc Silverman.

How Low Gas Prices Affect Consumers And The Natural Gas Industry

Jul 31, 2015
Gerry Dincher / flickr

With the local economy relying more and more on the gas and coal industry, the news that Consol Energy posted a loss for the past quarter and outlined spending cuts for the next year-and-a-half can't be good. As the price for natural gas continues to slide, what does it mean for us? We talked with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer David Conti.

Dining Destinations Part Two: San Francisco to Cleveland

Jul 30, 2015
Melt / meltbarandgrilled.com/

It’s been said an army travels on its stomach. Well if it’s good enough for the army why not a savvy traveler? This week contributor Elaine Labalme continues our tour of the U.S. via dining destinations.

Riverhounds Goalie Ryan Thompson Leads Jamaican Team To Victory

Jul 30, 2015
David Goldman / AP Images

The name Ryan Thompson may not have been well known around the international soccer world before last week. But after the Riverhounds goalie led Jamaica to a stunning 2-1 upset victory over the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi-Finals, Thompson has raised the profile of Pittsburgh soccer and the USL. He joins us live in studio.

As Medicaid Turns 50, Reflecting On Its Impact

Jul 30, 2015
Mike Richards / 90.5 WESA

Fifty years ago, on this date, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicaid program  into law. Designed as a program involving federal and state cooperation to cover medical expenses for specific segments of the nation’s population, the program has had its share of accomplishments and challenges.

We’ll mark the anniversary of Medicaid with Julie Donohue associate professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and Vice President for Health Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Edwin Park.

EPA Finalizing Federal Standard On Carbon Pollution

Jul 29, 2015
Ian Barbour / flickr

Allegheny County Courthouse will be the site of a rally in support of the Clean Power Plan. The EPA is in the process of finalizing this, first of its kind, federal standard on carbon pollution from power plants. Joining us to address what this means for the environment is Katie Bartolotta, Outreach Coordinator for Penn Future.

Life Without Bars: Reintegrating Ex-Offenders Into The Workforce

Jul 29, 2015
Joshua Davis / flickr

  The 2015 “Life Without Bars” conference works to address the challenges of individuals with criminal backgrounds as they reintegrate into the workforce throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.  The two-day program offers solutions for professionals and individuals in their journey to re-entry. We heard from Southwestern Pennsylvania Re-Entry Coalition (SPARC)  Senior Workforce Development Specialist Samson Murage and Workforce Development Job Developer Alethia Bush.

Iceoplex At South Pointe Aims To Decrease Athlete Injuries

Jul 28, 2015

The Iceoplex at South Pointe melts it's ice, not only for summer maintenance, but for safety.  A new safety feature being installed will allow athletes to look toward a bright orange future and hopefully reduce hockey injuries. Director of Marketing and Sponsorships for Iceoplex, Mandi Pryor, joins us with a look at this innovation in safety that could change the game of hockey.

Ruling Allows for More Choice of Candidates in PA

Jul 28, 2015

Pennsylvania’s Election Code sets an unconstitutionally high bar on third party candidates. That’s according to a ruling last Friday a federal court judge. We’ll discover what this ruling means for the future of third party candidates in the commonwealth with Oliver Hall, Director and co-founder of the Center for Competitive Democracy and Steve Scheetz – Immediate-past Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania (LPPA) chairman.