Essential Pittsburgh Archives

Essential Pittsburgh was a daily news and talk show 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.

Ryan Deto / City Paper

Last week the Supreme Court's 4-4 vote left in place a Texas federal judge's order that has prevented President Obama from granting deportation relief to more than 4 million who are parents of U.S. citizens. One of them is Martin-Esqivel-Hernandez who was taken recently from his Pittsburgh home to prison and faces deportation to Mexico. We'll talk with City Paper reporter Ryan Deto, who recently wrote a cover story about this case, and Guillermo Perez head of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and part of the campaign to release Martin Esquivel-Hernandez from detention..

David Davies / flickr

The selection of the next Pittsburgh Public School superintendent has brought practices regarding executive searches to the forefront. Recently, PPS board members launched an investigation claims by Anthony Hamlet, who was tapped to lead the district. Media outlets allege he’d falsified some of the information on his resume and in a speech.

Hydro / flickr

Gun violence is the leading cause of mortality among young black men and the county needs to treat it as a public health issue, according to Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

How do we help to prevent this?” Hacker asked. “And how do we help communities to heal because the impact of this kind of violence is really like post-traumatic stress in many of our communities.”

She found an ally in the local Christian community.

Didriks / flickr

The latest issue of Pittsburgh Magazine looks at the best restaurants in town. But what does the making the list mean for diners, the restaurants and how what does it say about the city? We’ll pose those questions to food writer Hal B. Klein.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP Images

Pittsburgh native David McCullough has received two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards and has been granted a Presidential Medal of Honor. His work as a historian and author has earned him praise and acknowledgement worldwide, so much so that there is a bridge in Pittsburgh named after him.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Two men ambushed a backyard cookout near Pittsburgh, killing a pregnant woman, her 8-month-old fetus and four other adults, because they wanted retribution for the 2013 slaying of a friend, authorities said Thursday.

Mike Doyle / Twitter

Representative John Lewis is leading Congressional Democrats in a protest of the House's refusal to vote on gun-control measures. What are the origins of House sit-ins and the history behind them? How effective have they been? Will this one work? Franklin and Marshall College Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs, Terry Madonna joins weighs in.   

What Will Happen If Wendy Bell's Case Goes To Trial?

Jun 22, 2016
Wendy Bell / Facebook

Former WTAE-TV news anchor Wendy Bell has filed a federal lawsuit claiming her March 30 firing was racial discrimination. Bell was fired for comments she made on WTAE's Facebook page that station officials said were "inconsistent with the company's ethics and journalistic standards." Two weeks after the March 9th mass shooting in Wilkinsburg that killed six people, Bell wrote "you needn't be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago...they are young black men, likely in their teens or early 20s." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman weighs in on this latest development.     

Bill Maher / Facebook

Bill Maher, who has been hosting “Real Time with Bill Maher" for 13 years on HBO, joins us by phone. Maher started his career as a standup comedian and still performs at least fifty dates a year. He’ll be in Pittsburgh on Friday, July 8 at Heinz Hall. We'll ask him about politics, religion and all of the things people aren't supposed to discuss.  

Could A Third Party Candidate Win This Election?

Jun 22, 2016
Kelley Minars / flickr

Both major political parties’ presumptive nominees have faced heavy criticism throughout this election cycle. While it may seem like the perfect storm for a third party candidate to rise, Point Park University history professor Edward Meena said he doesn’t believe it can be done.

John Voo / flickr

According to our guest, Joseph McCormick of Duquesne’s Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, “more than 99 percent of all bacteria in this world are our friends.” Is the nation's first antibiotic-resistant superbug evidence that constant hand sanitizing and antibiotics are putting us at risk?

Jon Callas / flickr

Most homeowners have heard about solar energy, but few in Pennsylvania are actually taking advantage of the option. Many are aware of the cost-saving potential, however some demographics, especially low-income residents, who can’t afford the more than $20,000 in installation fees, being left out. New state incentives and advocacy from solar energy organizations are hoping to change the narrative for solar-powered homes, making them more accessible.  

Pittsburgh Jazz Live / Facebook

After a week of Stanley Cup celebrations, Pittsburgh’s Cultural District will again be full of music and celebration. The Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival will showcase local, national and international acts in a Pittsburgh context with free music filling the Cultural District. Bob Studebaker, WESA’s Jazz from the South Side host, said that Pittsburgh’s jazz festival has a special draw, and for good reason.

The Business of Amateurs

The class schedule of a full-time student, hours of homework and 40 to 80 hours a week of practice, all while balancing extracurricular and social activities. This is the life of a student athlete, or really, an “athlete student” according to Bob DeMars, former University of Southern California defensive end and creator of the documentary “The Business of Amateurs.”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Learning a foreign language is about more than the language itself. At Duquesne University’s Department of Modern Languages, students are encouraged to immerse themselves in cultural communities outside their own to enhance their experience. For many Spanish language students recently, this community manifests in the form of 4-and-5-year-olds at Beechwood Elementary School in Beechview.

Loss Of Revenue Taxing PA's Rural Communities

Jun 19, 2016

The commonwealth is making more land tax-exempt. However, this action is having a significant impact on the state’s rural communities which could cause a ripple effect. What can be done to help these areas? We’ll pose that question to Potter County commissioner Paul Heimel

Portraits Of An Artist: John Riegert On Display

Jun 17, 2016
Brett Yasko

A painting done by a grandmother for her grandchild, at a birthday party planted an idea in curator Brett Yasko’s mind. The  artwork reminded him of paintings by Joseph Yoakum he had just seen at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

“Why is one artist in this gallery and his work will be seen by thousands of people, and this other artist, her painting might be seen by a handful of people. It will sit on a night stand,” Yasko wondered.

1904 Olympic Medals Displayed At Oakmont

Jun 17, 2016
Emily Stock / 90.5 WESA

Later this Summer golf tournaments are taking place at the Rio Olympics. It will be the first time for golf to be played at the Olympics since the 1904 games held in St. Louis. The long lost silver medal of former U.S. Amateur Champion H. Chandler Egan, along with his team gold medal from those long ago games, are on display this week during the U.S. Open at Oakmont. We'll get the fascinating story behind these medals from USGA Historian Mike Trostel


"Body and Soul," the seminal work of the first major African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux is being given new life in a showcase tonight at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont. The screening of this feature length melodrama starring Paul Robeson comes with an original hip-hop score performed live by Pittsburgh artist Jasiri X. We'll talk with Jasiri X about how this project came together. Joining the conversation is black film scholar Joseph Kennedy.    

Delirium Prevention Program Helps Patients At West Penn Hospital

Jun 16, 2016
Allegheny Health Network

Often overlooked or misdiagnosed, delirium is a condition where patients experience an abrupt change in mental status. While it’s typically a short-term problem, medical officials are finding the condition can cause serious brain damage, especially to older individuals. At West Penn Hospital, a new program has been developed aimed at finding treatment and reverse delirium’s impact. Dr. Christine Herb, director of geriatric education for Allegheny Health Network and Dr. Allan Philp, Trauma Program Medical Director for Allegheny Health Network join us to talk about the new program.

Akira Ohgaki / flickr

When it comes to treating a stroke, experts say time loss equals brain loss. Matthew Kesinger, founder and CEO of Forest Devices Inc., developed a device entering clinical trials that aims to decrease time loss by diagnosing strokes faster and more accurately.

PghJared / flickr

Through the years, Pittsburgh-area sports have seen their fair share of team mascots. Some have been embraced by the city and others haven’t quite cut it. We’re joined now in studio by stand-up comedian and City Paper columnist Mike Wysocki. He’s written a column for the City Paper on the “best, worst and handsiest sports mascots” in Pittsburgh sports history.

Peter Rieke / flickr

If you’re a big league baseball fan, you have surely heard of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but what about the Chicago pirates or the Pittsburgh Burgers or the Cleveland Infants? They were members of the Players National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, popularly known as the Players League. The League emerged in 1890 from the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players and while it lasted only one season, it made a significant impact on the game. We’ll hear from associate professor of Global Cultural Studies at Point Park University Robert Ross, who’s written about the event in his book, “The Great Baseball Revolt: The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Noah Bendix-Balgley was the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Concertmaster from 2011 through 2015. Now the Concertmaster for the Berlin Philharmonic, Bendix-Balgley continues to showcase his artistic talent through the PSO. This weekend he will perform his own Klezmer arrangement with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

90.5 WESA

Linda Lane has been a force in Pittsburgh Public Schools since she became superintendent in 2010. At the end of June, she’ll be stepping down and stopped by Essential Pittsburgh to talk about her experience in the role and what she's learned.

Muhammad Ali Remembered As Gracious, Intelligent And Humble

Jun 10, 2016
Bob Dvorchak / Facebook

The funeral for boxing legend Muhammed Ali is being held today in his hometown of Louisville, KY. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sportswriter Emeritus Bob Dvorchak joins us to talk about his memories of  Ali whom he met and interviewed in 1970. He'll also address what the Penguins need to do to clinch the cup this weekend.

Shell / flickr

After waiting five years, Beaver County has received the news from Shell Chemical Appalachia that a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker will be built on the site of the former Horsehead zinc smelter. The plant is expected to provide 600 permanent jobs when it opens. But what concerns has this development raised for environmentalists? We'll ask Allegheny Front reporter Reid Frazier.    

Mark / flickr

Since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in April, many have wanted to tap into the industry. United States Cannabis Pharmaceutical Research and Development CEO Michael Patterson says while officials develop policies over the next couple years, interested businesses and individuals should begin to familiarize themselves with the Commonwealth’s cannabis laws so they can cash in when the time comes.

Felipe Dana / AP Images

With concerns over the Zika epidemic in Brazil, 150 health experts have signed on to an open letter urging the World Health Organization to pressure Olympic officials to move or postpone the summer games in Rio de Janeiro.

Ronald Krall from the Center for Bioethics and Health Law at the University of Pittsburgh signed the open letter. He wants to see the WHO conduct a thorough analysis of the potential risks associated with holding the games in Rio.

Torkbak Hopper / flickr

In April, Governor Tom Wolf signed two executive orders that expanded non-discrimination protections to all state workers and state contractors based on their sexual identity, gender identity and gender expression. While this marks a progressive step forward for employees of the state, transgender Pennsylvanians still face challenges when it comes to health care access, legal assistance and workplace discrimination. Representative Dan Frankel (D-23) has introduced legislation to combat these problems, and Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Physician General is a major advocate.