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.  
  • Tweet your question to @esspgh
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 

Erie Legislator Offers Budget Compromise Proposal

Jul 23, 2015
Sean Wiley / Facebook Page

While it appears that Governor Wolf and Republican legislators in Harrisburg are entrenched in their positions on the budget with no end to the impasse in sight, there are some legislators offering up compromise proposals. We talk with one of them; State Senator Sean Wiley of Erie.

How The Budget Impasse Is Impacting Local Service Agencies

Jul 23, 2015
David Flores / flickr

With the state budget stalemate no closer to being resolved, the Conference of Allegheny Providers (CAP) and several Westmoreland County agency representatives are highlighting the local impacts, and in some cases the dire consequences, of a lengthy impasse on social service agencies and the people they serve. Former state legislator Allen Kukovich and Stephen Christian-Michaels, President and CEO of Family Services of Western Pennsylvania  join us in studio.

Reporting On 'American Coyotes' Along The U.S.-Mexican Border

Jul 22, 2015
Justin Merriman / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

  People who enter the country illegally have a great impact on the American labor force. But that same American labor is helping to smuggle migrants cross the U.S.–Mexico border. These smugglers, known as “coyotes,” are the focus of a week-long series in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman joined Essential Pittsburgh to discuss their work. 

The Challenges Of Being A Startup In Pittsburgh

Jul 22, 2015
Apps for Europe / flickr

Despite a report released last week by the Kauffman Foundation ranking Pittsburgh low for startup ecosystems, Thrill Mill President, CEO and Co-Founder Bobby Zappala said “not all is lost” for entrepreneurs. Zappala joined Essential Pittsburgh as a Tech Startup Contributor. He also runs Thrill Mill, an independent organization that serves as an incubator/accelerator for startup companies in Pittsburgh.  For this segment, he looked at challenges of being a new business and discussed some startups coming out of their infancy and the challenges they're facing now.

Pittsburgh's Continual Apartment Growth

Jul 21, 2015
Perry Quan / flickr


From Bakery Square to downtown, Pittsburgh is experiencing a surge in apartment development and rental. This week business contributor Rebecca Harris looks at at the contributing factors behind the growth in apartment construction in the Pittsburgh.

Using Title IX To Engage Students In Deeper Discussions

Jul 21, 2015
teenlife / flickr

Higher education institutions are using Title IX as a jumping off point to have discussions with students about issues of harassment, stalking, dating violence and domestic abuse. Libby Rosemeyer, assistant director of Tittle IX compliance at Point Park University helps listeners understand the relevancy of the law and its impact on the Pittsburgh community as a whole.

Pennsylvania Could Explore Citizen Redistricting

Jul 21, 2015
Gettysburg National Military Park

 Federal law mandates that legislative districts be revised every ten years to reflect new census data. In the past, legislators in Pennsylvania, as with other states, have been known to redraw the lines of a congressional district in a way that benefits the majority party. Our guest, state Rep. Ted Harhai (D-Monessen) introduced a bill that would create a citizens commission to handle redistricting and ensure that they don't unnecessarily divide municipalities. 

Street Stages Bring Outdoor Performances To Squirrel Hill

Jul 20, 2015
NextGen:Pgh, Shift Collaborative


Street Stages, a new project from City Council Members Dan Gilman and Corey O’Connor along with representatives from NextGen: Pgh and Shift Collaborative’s Busker Street Union, is a designated space for street performers in Squirrel Hill. The collaborative space is being billed as a “third place” between work and home where friends and neighbors can gather. Gilman, NextGen:Pgh Founder and Executive Director Alec Rieger and Shift Collaborative Creative Strategist Eric Sloss share their thoughts on the project.

Another Hottest Year On Record

Jul 20, 2015
Jessica Mullen / flickr


On average, 2014 was Earth's hottest year ever -- in the ocean and on land. That's according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has been gathering data from more than 400 scientists around the world on climate trends. We were joined in studio by John Radzilowicz, adviser to the Science Communication Group at CMU, for a look at what's causing this trend and what can be done to slow it down or reverse it.

Trying To Control The Message During The Budget Standstill

Jul 20, 2015
Dave Newman / flickr


As the budget stalemate continues in Harrisburg, Republicans in the legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf are engaged in a battle to make sure the voters get their message about who is responsible. Essential Pittsburgh broke down how the media war is being waged with Jeff Ritter, chair of media, communications and technology at La Roche College.

Serving Ice Cream 'With A Cause' At Pittsburgh's Dream Cream

Jul 17, 2015
ashton / flickr

In anticipation of National Ice Cream Day, Essential Pittsburgh is taking a look at some of Pittsburgh's favorite ice cream stores and creameries. From homemade soft serve to ice cream "with a cause," we'll explore the different types of frozen treats available in Pittsburgh.

A Rocky Road Trip For National Ice Cream Day

Jul 17, 2015
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

150 Years of the Penn State Creamery

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Penn State Creamery. The creamery has played an important role in the development of a number of national and local ice cream brands. Penn State Creamery manager Tom Palchak will tell us about the history of the creamery.

Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor

Walking into Klavon’s Ice Cream parlor in the Strip District is like stepping back in time with its marble counter soda fountain and antique light fixtures. We’ll discover the influence Penn State Creamery is having on its ice cream with co-owner Jacob Hanchar who’ll tell us about parlor’s history.

Exploring Ice Cream From Page's Dairy Mart To Dave And Andy's

Jul 17, 2015
Katherine Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Four Generations of Signature Scoops at Page’s Dairy Mart

Since 1951, the Page family has been serving desserts to hundreds of Pittsburgh residents. Now in their fourth generation, Marjorie Page reflects on what’s kept the family business so successful and shares some memories of the shop that put them on the front “Page.”

Homemade Treats at Dave and Andy's

In the center of bustling Oakland, Dave and Andy's has served their homemade ice cream since 1983. What started as a small business for two friends after college has evolved into a staple on Pitt's campus.  Andy Hardie shows us around the shop and shares some of what makes his store truly one of a kind.

Slinging Satire: Political Cartoons And The First Amendment

Jul 16, 2015
Rob Rogers / robrogers.com

 A new ToonSeum exhibit is opening this Friday. It's called Slinging Satire: Political Cartoons and the First Amendment, This compelling exhibition showcases the work of today's top political cartoonists. Part of the exhibit is dedicated to cartoons that were created in response to the January 7th terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers joins us in studio to discuss the exhibition.

Southern Museums And Monuments To Check Out This Season

Jul 16, 2015
John Seb Barber / flickr

From the Mason-Dixon Line to the Gulf Coast, the south is home to some of America’s most famous cities and landmarks. This week travel contributor Elaine Labalme takes recommends places where you can enjoy that famous southern hospitality.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

Josie Badger says people with disabilities have significant roles to play for next generation by being active participants in society and role models for other with disabilities. Josie, along with three other panelists, participated in a live forum hosted by 90.5 WESA and Essential Pittsburgh in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Unearthing An Ancient Mosaic

Jul 16, 2015
Philip Reeder

To call it a journey of discovery would be an understatement. Duquesne University’s Dr. Philip Reeder, dean of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, was co-investigator on a project making a major discovery in Nazareth, Israel. He discusses the importance of this archeological find.

Increasing Accessibility Through the Arts

Jul 15, 2015
David Wilson / flickr

Our special look at the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act concludes with a discussion of accessibility to the arts for individuals with disabilities. Earlier this year the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, for the second year in a row, received an NEA Arts Works Grant. The support provided by the NEA is helping to fund and increasing accessibility to the arts for people with disabilities. Here to tell us more about the initiative is Anne Mulgrave, manager of grants and accessibility for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

Join us this evening beginning at 7 p.m. on 90.5 WESA for a live community forum on our city and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Improving Life For People With Disabilities

Jul 15, 2015
HERL / University of Pittsburgh

The Human Engineering Research Laboratories, also known as HERL, is located on the University of Pittsburgh campus is working to improve the lives of people with disabilities. What innovative designs and concepts are in the works? HERL Director Rory Cooper shares some of the technology they have in the works.

Join us this evening beginning at 7 p.m. on 90.5 WESA for a live community forum on our city and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Senator Tom Harkin Reflects on the ADA, 25 Years Later

Jul 15, 2015
LCCR & LCCREF / flickr

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress 25 years ago this month. Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin authored what became the final ADA Bill and was its chief sponsor in the Senate, He joins us to discuss what led up to the passage of the ADA, how the law has changed life for people with disabilities, and what more needs to be done.

Join us this evening beginning at 7 p.m. on 90.5 WESA for a live community forum on our city and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Jul 15, 2015
Max Barners / flickr

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990.  Today's Essential Pittsburgh explores the progress the country has made and what still remains to be accomplished. We'll hear from from those who continue to work on policy, advocate for equal rights and create technology to assist people with disabilities. 

Life Before the ADA

  From parking lots to street corners to access ramps, accommodations for people with disabilities are an everyday part of our lives. However, it wasn’t that long ago when these devices were first taken into consideration. Joining us for a look at what life was like before passage of the ADA is associate dean at Pitt's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Katherine Seelman and Jeff Parker, who along with Ms. Seelman is a member of the city/county task force on disabilities.

What Does Macy's Closure Mean For Downtown Retail?

Jul 14, 2015
jpellgen / flickr

  Macy’s announced the closure of their downtown Pittsburgh store yesterday, surprising many residents and setting the stage for a discussion on the future of large brick-and-mortar retailers in the city.  Before yesterday’s announcement, Macy’s, which had once been home to Kaufmann’s department store, had already been gradually cutting back their selling space.  The Pittsburgh Business Times has covered the story and explored what a closure might mean for downtown retail.  Reporter Tim Schooley shares his thoughts on today’s show.

Eric Risberg / AP Images

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are looking to implement a vast network of sensors and devices

on their campus and into the city of Pittsburgh through a Google-sponsored initiative called the “Internet of Things.”  Developers believe the project has the potential to profoundly change the way we approach the world around us as well as improve city infrastructure, communication and decision-making.  But what would it look like if our cars could talk to coffee makers and our calendars to air conditioning units? Lead investigator for the project and director of CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Anind K. Dey, shares his hopes for the CMU undertaking.

Paul A. Hebert / AP Images

The man known for hit songs like "Chances Are," "Misty" and "It's Not For Me To Say," Johnny Mathis, is coming to Pittsburgh next week to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as part of the PSO's Thursday Icons Series. Mr. Mathis will talk about a career in which he has sold millions of records as well as aspects of his personal life including his battle with alcoholism. (starts at 13:06)

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

More than a week after the budget deadline passed for Pennsylvania legislators, it’s become clear that very little progress has been made in negotiation efforts between the governor and Republican majority. Governor Tom Wolf wants to see increases to the personal income and sales tax to help fund his property tax plan for schools and homeowners, however legislators on the right believe that money would be better in the pockets of Pennsylvanians.  Keystone Research Center Executive Director Stephen Herzenberg and Commonwealth Foundation Director of Policy Analysis Liz Stelle provide an economic analysis of the two proposed budgets as well as their thoughts on President Obama’s overtime salary threshold changes. (starts at 14:59)

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto makes his monthly appearance on the program. He'll discuss why the city has filed suit for $11.4 million in gaming funds he says are owed to the city by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. The mayor will also share his reaction to Governor Wolf’s task force’s recommendations on municipal pensions, his experience joining with other mayors to push for immigration reforms, and what he thinks about the Steelers bid to bring the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh.  

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

 Surveillance of U.S. citizens by the government has received quite a bit of press. However, in our age of social media and oversharing how much information do citizens willingly give up? The Post-Gazette series Surveillance Society looks at how the government, private companies and individuals are tracking the lives of everyday citizens. Our guests, Post-Gazette reporters Chris Potter and Rich Lord, created the series and share their thoughts on modern surveillance.  (Starts at 9:42)

AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam

The nation’s oldest state law enforcement agency is in need of recruits. The Pennsylvania State Police are looking for qualified candidates to fill a growing number of vacant positions. However, attracting more men and women to consider careers as troopers has been difficult. Corporal Brian Carpenter says he thinks recent new events involving police and the public have deterred many applicants: 

"I think that some times even the good people say 'I don't know if I'm willing to go ahead and make the sacrifices that it takes to become a Pennsylvania State Trooper.'" - Corporal Brian Carpenter  

Chris Knight / AP Images

Shortly after a $30 billion budget was approved in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, Governor Tom Wolf vetoed the entire plan.  He’s the first governor in 40 years to turn down an entire budget proposal.The governor tells us why he decided to veto the plan and what he’d like to see change about the next proposal. Wolf says he speaks on behalf of the compromises needed to be made from both sides to get the next budget proposal underway: 

"The job now is to bring those two points together because whether we like it or not Pennsylvanians voted for divided government and we both have to agree in the end... to come to a place that we can all agree will make Pennsylvania better. We all know we need a budget, we all know we're gonna have to agree and we're gonna have to do that as quickly as we possibly can." - Governor Tom Wolf


Also in the program, as The Salvation Army turns 150 years old, discover how the charity has evolved over the years and how they'll be celebrating their anniversary. WESA Celebrates reports a lesser-known story of the Homestead strike, the possibility of larger fireworks being legal in our state will be addressed and our travel contributor shares her favorite 4th of July weekend getaways.

Essential Pittsburgh: Evaluating the Supreme Court's Rulings

Jul 1, 2015
Mark Fischer / flickr

The 2014-2015 Supreme Court session has come to a close. Among the issues the justices have weighed in on are historic decisions on health care and same-sex marriage. However, there were also other cases regarding housing discrimination and lethal injections. Our legal contributor Pitt Law Professor David Harris looks at the rulings the justices have made and how they will impact our lives.  Harris explains the ruling of the recent lethal injections case decided by the Supreme Court: 

"This was the argument made by opponents of the use of that drug that it is cruel and unusual because the people being executed are experiencing pain. The Supreme Court says no there is nothing cruel or unusual about using this particular drug cocktail and they legitimized execution this way by all the states that want to do it." -David Harris

Also in the program, Heinz History Center President Andy Masich describes the background of the iconic Rosie the Riveter and to mark the beginning of July, FreeBurgh highlights fun and inexpensive events this month in the Pittsburgh area.