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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Special Programming
12:00 am
Mon May 26, 2014

America Abroad: Shrinking America’s Military

US military truck in Afghanistan 2011
Credit Cpl. Timothy P. Chesnavage, U.S. Marine Corps / wikipedia

This special Memorial Day program airs May 26, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

The Pentagon has announced plans to shrink the U.S. military to pre-World War II levels following the end of the war in Iraq, and the continued withdrawal from Afghanistan. On this edition of America Abroad, hosted by Madeline Brand, hear reactions to a smaller U.S. military from allies in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and whether America's ability to advance its interests is compromised. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:20 pm
Sat May 24, 2014

New Bill Would Help People With Disabilities Live Independently

Credit Office of Senator Bob Casey

For people living with disabilities, life is filled with difficulties both large and small. Among the concerns is the often difficult financial situation that many of the disabled find themselves in.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act, is a bill backed by Senator Bob Casey that would allow the creation of tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities that could be used to fund education, housing, transportation, and more. The money saved in this account would not count against the person’s eligibility for programs like Medicaid.

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Essential Pittsburgh
11:45 am
Sat May 24, 2014

Highlighting Southwestern Pennsylvania's ALS Clinics

A glass mosaic created by Larry Jacknin, who suffers from ALS
Credit Luke Torrance / 90.5 WESA

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. That I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

These were the words of baseball legend Lou Gehrig from his iconic 1939 speech, which has become a part of his legacy as much as his consecutive games played record and the disease named after him.

75 years later, there is still no known cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Living with the disease is still difficult as Larry Jacknin, a Pittsburgh native with ALS, can attest. He discussed the changes in his life since being diagnosed.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:18 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Friday Rundown: New Ways For People With Disabilities To Live Independently

Credit tdmalone / wikipedia

These topics air Friday May 23, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

The ABLE Act

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, also known as the ABLE Act has the potential to help people with disabilities live independently and work without fear of losing important benefits. US Senator Bob Casey is sponsoring the legislation and joins us along with Jillian Zacks, an estate attorney specializing in special needs planning, and a mother of 2 children on the autism spectrum.

Life with ALS

Larry Jacknin is a Pittsburgh man living with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease as it is commonly known. He joins us to discuss what it is like to live with ALS and his hopes for the future. Merritt Spier, Executive Director of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the ALS Association, joins the conversation to discuss the latest ALS research.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:03 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Overturning Pennsylvania's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

A rainbow flag flown in Harrisburg Tuesday in response to a judge's ruling on same sex marriage.
Credit Lindsey B / Flickr

“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” wrote Judge John E. Jones III in his Tuesday ruling, ending Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

It was a sudden, entirely unexpected ruling from a judge appointed by President George W. Bush and endorsed by Rick Santorum. The public was further surprised when Republican Governor Tom Corbett decided not to appeal the decision.

The ruling was met with jubilation by same-sex couples across the state, who can now marry, and for those who married out-of-state and want their union recognized in PA.

Asserting human rights or disregarding democracy? 

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:46 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Thursday Rundown: Overturning Pennsylvania's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The Whitewood family of Bridgeville, PA were plaintiffs in the legal case which overturned PA's same-sex marriage ban.
Credit ACLU-PA

These topics air Thursday May 22, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Join the conversation LIVE between noon & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

The Tuesday decision by U.S. District Judge John Jones III in the Whitewood v. Wolf case makes same-sex marriage legal in Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Corbett has said the state will not appeal the decision.

Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania joins us to discuss the ruling along with Michael Geer, President of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

In looking at the local ramifications, Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus has been a vocal supporter of LGBT rights and is the city's first openly gay council person, he and Deborah Whitewood, a plaintiff in the legal case, talk about what the ruling means for them and their families.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:21 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Election Wrap Up - Tom Wolf Victorious

Tom Wolf voted Pennsylvania democratic gubernatorial nominee for governor.
Credit Tom Wolf Campaign

Pennsylvania Democrats have chosen York County businessman Tom Wolf as Governor Tom Corbett’s opponent in the fall. Wolf hopes to be the first to unseat an incumbent governor in Pennsylvania.

90.5 WESA Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar anchored election night coverage of the political races, and talked about what he thought of Wolf winning the election by such a large margin.

“I think where he stole most of those votes was from Allyson Schwartz. If we were talking about this a few months ago, it was her race to lose. Tom Wolf came in and flooded the airwaves and got out there and rode his Jeep around the state. It just can’t be name recognition, something must have resonated somewhere, but 58% is a very big number.”

Allyson Schwartz was not able to win Philadelphia from Wolf. Even though Schwartz spent five years representing Pennsylvania's 13th district in Congress, Nootbaar said she failed to gain support from Ed Rendell and others in Southeast PA.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:48 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Pittsburghers Tell Port Authority CEO How to Improve Transit

Ellen McLean was named the CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County on Friday, January 24, 2014.
Credit Jim Ritchie / Port Authority of Allegheny County

What needs to be done to improve the region’s public transit? That’s the question Port Authority of Allegheny County posed to the public through a survey, and the first round of results are in.

Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean said the results were revealing.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:28 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

From East Liberty to Hollywood, Gene Kelly Brought His Pittsburgh Roots to Dance

Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly will be remembered by his widow in a show at the Byham Theater this evening.
Credit Gene Kelly Fans / Wordpress

The life of Gene Kelly, legendary dancer, director, choreographer and Pittsburgh native, will be celebrated Wednesday evening in a show presented at the Byham Theater called Gene Kelly: The Legacy, An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly. As his widow and biographer, Ward Kelly discusses both Gene Kelly’s career and personal life.

She explained that no matter which direction her husband took his career, where he came from was always a huge influence.

“Gene was very distinct among the Hollywood elite. He was kind of the outcast. He wasn’t in the upper crust, and in fact, he used to say he wasn’t even invited to the Basil Rathbone house. He was the lower, middle income guy. It started, obviously, with the Pittsburgh roots, which were very important for him. But, very distinct from [Fred] Astaire who hung out with the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys. That was not Gene Kelly.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:43 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Wednesday Rundown: Having Your Say on Public Transit

Credit Piotrus / Flickr

These topics air Wednesday May 21, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Join the conversation LIVE between noon & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Primary Wrap-Up

Pennsylvania Democrats have chosen York County businessman Tom Wolf to take on Republican Governor Tom Corbett in the fall. We'll get a wrap up of Tuesday's political races from WESA Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar.

Port Authority Improving Transit

What type of improvements need to be made to improve the region’s transit? That’s the question Port Authority posed to the public and the results are in. Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean joins us to discuss the recommendations made to a panel of transit oriented development experts.

Gene Kelly's Legacy

The life of legendary dancer, director, choreographer and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly is celebrated Wednesday in a show at the Byham Theater called Gene Kelly: The Legacy, An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly. Ms. Kelly is his widow and biographer. She joins us in studio to discuss aspects of Mr. Kelly's career and personal life. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:28 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Do the Major Television Networks Still Matter? TV Writer Rob Owen Says Yes

David Letterman during an interview on the Late Show in New York City.
Credit Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Wikipedia

This week the major television networks each release their respective schedules for the fall, schedules that will include new shows ABC, CBS, and NBC hope will win back their audience.

Given the availability of streaming sites such as Netflix and the quality of content on cable channels, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s television writer Rob Owen said the public is tuning in less and less to the major networks. The networks have tried a variety of programming to try and boost sagging ratings, and this year we're seeing major changes in late night TV hosts. And according to Owen, the major networks are still important.  “I do think that that broadcast networks matter because really its all about the content. Even if people aren’t watching on the linear broadcast channel, they are watching it, online, on demand, something like that.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:08 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Exploring Pittsburgh's Forms of Alternative Transportation

Lyft vehicles, a ride-sharing form of transportation, are easily recognized on the street by their pink mustache.
Credit Marnie Schleicher / 90.5 WESA

According to a Census report released last week, Pittsburgh ranks third among large cities with commuters walking to work. As residents of cities look for alternative transportation the reasons they cite include convenience, affordability and environmental awareness.

According to Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University,  gridlock on Pennsylvania roads costs commuters “billions in terms of time lost at work as well as increased gasoline expenses.” 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:16 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Indictment of Chinese Hackers Marks A New Way to Prosecute Cyber Crime

Credit lizzardo / Flickr

  

An indictment out of Western Pennsylvania charges five military officers in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with directing a conspiracy to steal information from Pittsburgh based organizations.

According to the indictment, the six organizations victimized include U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, Allegheny Technologies Incorporated, Alcoa, Solar World and the United Steelworkers International Union. The charges were announced Monday in Washington by US Attorney General Eric Holder and David Hickton, US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:35 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: Could Pittsburgh Establish a New Form of Cyber Crime Indictment?

Credit Gflores / wikipedia

These topics air Tuesday May 20, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.  

International Cyber Crimes Against Pittsburgh Organizations

Five Chinese military officers have been charged with cyber-crimes aimed at stealing information from Pittsburgh based organizations including U.S. Steel, Westinghouse and Alcoa. But will they ever stand trial in a U.S. courtroom? U.S. Attorney David Hickton joins us for a discussion of where the case goes from here.

Do the Major Television Networks Still Matter?

Cable television shows and binge watching have become the new must see TV. With the quality and popularity of shows on cable such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men we’re asking the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s television writer Rob Owen if the major networks still matter. We’ll also get his thoughts on the changes to late night TV and the major networks fall schedules.

WESA Celebrates - Noah Hertzman

This 12-year-old humanitarian is turning dough into donations to feed the hungry. His work to help others is profiled in this week's WESA Celebrates.

The Business of Alternate Transportation

According to a Census report released last week, Pittsburgh ranks third among large cities with commuters walking to work. Residents of cities are looking for alternative transportation for a number of reasons. Among the reasons cited are convenience, saving money and environmental awareness. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of alternate transportation.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:02 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

What to Know About the Four Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates

The Primary for the four Democratic Candidates for Governor (Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf, Rob McCord and Allyson Schwartz) is Tuesday.
Credit Essential Pittsburgh Staff / 90.5 WESA

Throughout the past year Allyson Schwartz, Tom Wolf, Rob McCord and Katie McGinty have all made their way to the 90.5 WESA Community Broadcast Center to talk about why Southwestern Pennsylvanians should choose them to be the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate. 

On Tuesday polls open for the Democratic primary election, so we've rebroadcast portions of those candidate conversations.

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:13 pm
Sun May 18, 2014

Monday Rundown: Conversations with Pennsylvania's Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates

Hear from the Democratic gubernatorial candidates before you hit the polls Tuesday
Credit Lettawren / Flickr

These topics air Monday May 19, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Throughout the past year Allyson Schwartz, Tom Wolf, Rob McCord and Katie McGinty have all made their way to the 90.5 WESA Community Broadcast Center to talk about why Southwestern PA should choose them to be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Hear portions of those Essential Pittsburgh conversations again before the Democratic primary election on Tuesday.

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Election 2014
12:55 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Where Do The Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Stand On Issues Important To You?

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates, from Left to Right: Rob McCord, Allyson Schwartz, Tom Wolf, Katie McGinty
Dem Campaign Websites and Facebook

Voters in Pennsylvania go to the poles Tuesday. Along with State Senate and House races, Democrats will be asked to choose from among four candidates vying for a chance to run for the governor's office in the November election.

Candidates in a field of four Democrats are fighting to earn the right to take on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett in the November General Election. Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to make the selection.

Western Pennsylvania could play a major role in the outcome. None of the candidates have ties to the region but many political insiders think the way Allegheny County falls will dictate who wins the election.

Funding for education, taxing gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale, and growing the economy were among some of the topics that played large during the run up to the election.

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Essential Pittsburgh
8:47 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Special Programming: A Statewide Look at the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

Credit Tim Lambert / WITF

As the four Democrats running for Pennsylvania Governor make one last push for votes ahead of Tuesday's primary, we bring you special campaign coverage from NPR member stations across the state. Join us Friday May 16, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:45 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

How Likely is Governor Corbett to be Unseated?

Will the negativity between democratic gubernatorial campaigns help or hurt Gov. Corbett?
Credit pa.gov

Republican governor Tom Corbett is considered to be the nation’s most vulnerable governor facing reelection. His chances are clouded by low approval ratings and a recent unsteady relationship with the press.

In the run up to Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Gubernatorial democratic primary election, Philadelphia Daily News Political Columnist John Baer has written about Corbett’s chances of reelection. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:35 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Three Out of State Amusement Parks You Need to Visit

The Maverick roller coaster at Cedar Point
Credit Craig Lloyd / flickr

People chase their endless summer in different ways. Some visit ballparks, others beaches. A dedicated group of fun seekers visit amusement parks in search of the perfect roller coaster thrill ride.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme, suggested three out of state coasters to visit in the next few months.

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Essential Pittsburgh
9:49 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Thursday Rundown: Gov. Corbett, And The Democrats Hoping To Unseat Him

Credit Timothy M. Stepanski / wikipedia

These topics air Thursday May 15, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Governor Corbett's Chances of Reelection

Tom Corbett is considered the nation’s most vulnerable governor facing reelection. Low approval ratings and an uneasy relationship with the press have been recent hallmarks of his tenure. We’ll look at the governor’s chances for a second term, as well as the Democrats hoping to unseat him, with Philadelphia Daily News Political Columnist John Baer.

Out of State Amusement Parks

People chase their endless summer in different ways. Some visit ballparks, others beaches. A dedicated group of fun seekers visit amusement parks in search of the perfect roller coaster thrill ride. This week, travel contributor Elaine Labalme, suggests some out of state coasters to visit. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:08 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Peduto Talks About Cleaning Up the City From Top to Bottom, Using Outside Ideas

A photo of the the Heliotrope in Freiburg, Germany taken by Mayor Bill Peduto during his recent trip. Built in 1994, it was the world's first "net plus" building, it produces 3-4 times the amount of energy it uses.
Credit Bill Peduto / Twitter

Mayor Bill Peduto announced Wednesday that FBI Special Agent Stephen A. Bucar will be Pittsburgh's new public safety director.

He said Bucar brings experience with emergency preparedness, counter terrorism, along with local police experience at the state and municipal levels. And while Bucar has personal ties to this region, he comes from outside Pittsburgh city government. 

“What Bucar gives us is an opportunity to start new,” Peduto said. “We have a lot of work to do to clean up city government, and it starts at the top."

Bringing an Outside Approach to City Government and City Development

From Chicago, to Washington D.C., to Ludwigsburg Germany, since Bill Peduto was sworn in as mayor he’s done some pretty extensive traveling in order to gather and share ideas for a new Pittsburgh vision.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:41 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

'The Sweet Allegheny and Monongahela' Set To An A Cappella Love Song

BYU Vocal Point is a contemporary a cappella ensemble which released the song Allegheny, based on the rivers in Pittsburgh.
Credit BYU Vocal Point / Facebook

The A cappella group Vocal Point, out of Brigham Young University, has just released their tenth CD titled Spectrum. One of the tracks on the latest album is titled Allegheny, with lyrics referencing "the sweet Allegheny, Monongahela.”

Carnegie Mellon Ph. D candidate Ben Tengelsen wrote Allegheny and said he had put his songwriting on hold indefinitely. However, the birth of his son, and a little motivation from his wife, provided the songwriter with the inspiration to write Allegheny.

“The words came first. My wife and I were driving around Pittsburgh when we first moved here (trying to get to know the place) and crossed the bridges many, many times. And the thought came to me once, ‘What would it be like to write a song with the words Allegheny and Monongahela in them? And is that even possible? Because I can’t think of many words that rhyme with or sound good next to those words.’ And so that was the prompt that was sort of sitting in the back of my mind. And my wife gave me a kick in the butt and said, ‘Why don’t you write me a song?’ And so those two things together got the words together." 

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Community
1:00 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

MAP: Pittsburgh's Farmers Market Season Is Back In Swing

Bust out the reusable shopping bags and prepare to buy some organic goat cheese, because Farmers Market season is back in swing.

This year Pittsburgh will be home to at least 14 different farmers markets from downtown to Lawrenceville.

This Thursday marks the start of the Market Square Farmers Market, which is one of the biggest in Pittsburgh with more than 30 vendors and live music every week.

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Government & Politics
12:01 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

FBI Agent Selected As Pittsburgh Public Safety Chief

Mayor Bill Peduto announced Wednesday that he has chosen FBI Special Agent Stephen A. Bucar as the city's new public safety director.

Bucar is currently assigned to the Washington, D.C. FBI office as a Supervisory Special Agent Section Chief in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. Peduto points out that Bucar has experience overseeing the analysis of information associated with domestic and international terrorism at both the federal level and for New York City.

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