Essential Pittsburgh

PGH Walks Kicks Off Advocacy Efforts With East End Tour

Jan 22, 2016
Chris Rubber / flickr

After a number of incidents involving careless drivers last year, a new group called “Pittsburgh Walks” has formed with the focus of improving pedestrian safety and awareness.  This weekend they’re kicking off the organization with a walking tour of East End coffee and tea shops. Along the way, members will reach out to participants in an effort to start a conversation about how to make Pittsburgh a safer place to walk. Joining us to discuss the group’s mission are Pittsburgh Walks members Lilly Denhardt and Adrienne Jouver.

How Safe Is Pittsburgh's Drinking Water?

Jan 22, 2016
Paul Sancya / AP Images

After thousands of children were exposed to lead due to poor water quality in Flint, Michigan, many across the nation are wondering if their own water is safe. Could it happen in Pittsburgh? Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with James Good, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, to see what the agency is doing to remain compliant.  

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Health Department officials announced their first group of “Live Well” restaurants on Thursday in a continued effort to provide healthier options to locals.

The list, so far, includes the Bridges Restaurant in the Oakland Wyndham hotel and four UPMC hospital cafeterias and cafes.

Women's Leadership and Mentorship Program / Robert Morris University

Many young women struggle to pursue promotion and advancement in the corporate and business world because they are not seeing examples of other women in positions of leadership and power.  However, female to female mentoring may provide the tools necessary to change that.

Ryan Loew / Public Source

From 2010 through 2015, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police investigated 311 homicides. Only 163 of those have been cleared with an arrest or other explanation for the death. This week WESA, working with our content partner Public Source has begun airing the multi-part series, The Aftermath of Murder, on unsolved African American homicides in Pittsburgh. Joining us to discuss the series are WESA reporter Megan Harris and Public Source reporter Jeffrey Benzing. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A committee tasked by city council to look at wages of Pittsburgh's hospital service workers recommended they get a $15 minimum wage during a post-agenda meeting on Tuesday.

Analyzing Our Fascination With True Life Crime

Jan 20, 2016
Making A Murderer / Netflix

Long before the debut of Netflix’s documentary series Making a Murderer, cable television networks have been devoting programming to true crime investigation shows featuring tales of hometown homicides and vicious serial killers.

But why are we so fascinated with murder and violent crime? 

David Schmid, professor of English at SUNY Buffalo and author of Violence in American Popular Culture says the public’s interest in true crimes, particularly homicides, stems from a need to cope with fear.

Dissolving Small Town Police Forces

Jan 19, 2016
David Holt / flickr

Wilkinsburg is one of several small towns considering the dissolution of their police department for financial reasons. It’s a trend among some small towns that dates back over 10 years. 

Christine Manganas of WESA’s content partner PublicSource joined Essential Pittsburgh in studio to talk about the issue with Ohio Township Police Chief Norbert Micklos, whose police force covers seven neighboring boroughs.

Pgh Murals / Twitter

After viewing the results of the workplace diversity survey, what can employers and employees do to make Pittsburgh a more inclusive and diverse region both in the workplace and in the community? Dignity and Respect, Inc. founder and CEO Candi Castleberry Singleton says the conversation in Pittsburgh echoes much of what her organization stands for: action and commitment. 

'Suitable' Helps Connect College Students To Future Careers

Jan 14, 2016
Suitable / Facebook

To help college students be better prepared for the real world, Mark Visco came up with an idea. The result is Suitable a startup company tracking students out of classroom experiences. Mark Visco joins us to explain how his company could be a game-changer for college students.

Pittsburgh Today

People of color who live in the city are significantly less likely to recommend Pittsburgh and say race plays a more significant role in their jobs than their white counterparts. 

That was the finding of a survey done by the University Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s called the Pittsburgh Regional Diversity Survey.

Western PA's Community Colleges In Decline?

Jan 14, 2016
State Farm / flickr

Community colleges are praised for their ability to provide a quality education at an affordable price. In addition, they've been a resource for communities when workers need retraining. However, declining enrollment is one of the challenges facing two-year colleges in western PA. Joining us to address this issue are Quintin Bullock, president of Community College of Allegheny County and Chris Reber, president of the Community College of Beaver County.

Keith Srakocic / AP Images

During his first regular visit to Essential Pittsburgh of 2016, Mayor Bill Peduto previewed what is projected to be a great year in the Steel City.

Tuesday morning marked Mayor Peduto’s official announcement of Wendell Hissrich as the city’s new acting Public Safety Director.  A Forest Hills native, volunteer firefighter, and Duquesne University graduate, Hissrich’s extensive resume includes work with Pittsburgh EMS, as well as 25 years with the FBI.  Mayor Peduto says that with Hissrich’s diverse background, the public safety department is adopting a new focus centralized in community outreach.

Burfict Ending? Evaluating Last Week's Steelers Wild Card Game

Jan 12, 2016
Gary Landers / AP Images

It's being called one of the greatest games in Pittsburgh Steelers history. Their come from behind 18-16 playoff victory over the arch rival Cincinnati Bengals was filled with thrilling, hold-your-breath moments. But there were plenty of ugly ones provided by several players including Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict who knocked the Steelers' two biggest offensive stars out of the game. In the wake of the release of the movie "Concussion," is this the image that the NFL wants to project? We'll put that question to John Affleck, Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and the Director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism an Penn State.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Would you leave your travel plans in the hands of a stranger not knowing where you’re going until you’ve reached your point of departure? Our guest Lillian Rafson, founder and CEO of the start-up Pack Up & Go bet on this premise when she made her pitch to the judges of the Invest in Her competition. The result - she won the competition which came with a cash prize to fund the venture.

Evan Vucci / AP Images

President Obama is set to deliver his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress tonight. His speech is expected to be “non-traditional,” focusing more on his legacy as president and less on work with the legislature. Many speculate he’ll also return to his original campaign mantra of “hope,” encouraging every American that they have the ability to succeed.  Here to preview the President’s address is Dr. Jerry Shuster, University of Pittsburgh professor of presidential rhetoric and political communication. 

East End's 'Print' Returns To Neighborhood Reporting

Jan 11, 2016
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A new newspaper has been started in the East End. It's called "Print" because it's not on the web. It's a throw back to the days of the community weekly and even carries the police blotter and the school lunch menu. We'll talk with "Print" founders Ann Belser and Brian Hyslop.

Bridget Coila / flickr

For couples living with mixed HIV status, risk and stigma are unavoidable.  The infected partner carries the medical burden associated with their positive status and the uninfected partner must take precautions to prevent transmission. For couples wanting to conceive a child, however, these issues present greater challenges.  Fortunately for two families, the parent’s serodiscordant status didn’t stop them from having a healthy, uninfected baby.  The stories of these couples are chronicled by author and journalist Heather Boerner in “Positively Negative: Love, Pregnancy, and Science’s Surprising Victory Over HIV.”

Naosuke / flickr

Citing the withholding of state and federal school funding “illegal” and “unconstitutional,” the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is suing Governor Tom Wolf and the state legislature, calling for courts to weigh in and force the state to pass through federal funds.

Could You Win The Laurel And Hardy 'Laugh Challenge?'

Jan 8, 2016
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Think you lack a sense of humor? Or maybe you are good at not laughing? If so, you can put your skills to the test this Sunday as the Hollywood Theater in Dormont presents a special challenge; watch a series of Laurel and Hardy silent films without laughing and win a ticket refund and large popcorn.

PA Farm Show Celebrates Centennial Anniversary

Jan 8, 2016
PA Farm Show / Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website

The 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show will begin Saturday, January 9th. The eight-day expo will include crowd favorites like the annual butter sculpture or the sheep-to-shawl contest, where contestants start by sheering a sheep and create clothing on sight.

According to the Farm Show, there will be 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 300 commercial exhibits from January 6th to the 19th. 

Rod Waddington / flickr

President Obama’s town hall meeting regarding gun violence has stirred up both controversy and conversation among the American public, provoking pro-gun lobbyists and rallying those in favor of gun restrictions.

Keith Srakocic / AP Images

New regulations for oil and gas drilling released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hope to address environmental concerns by many residents throughout the Commonwealth. Before Wednesday’s revisions were announced, the state hadn’t modified drilling rules since 1984.  Recent increases in hydraulic fracturing and concerns over potential health risks prompted the DEP to begin the process of updating the laws in 2011.  David Yoxtheimer, a hydrogeologist with Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, explains the new statues were met with criticism from environmental advocates as well as members of the oil and gas industry.

“If you’re not making anybody happy on either side of the spectrum, then you must be doing something right,” he said.

The Constitutionality Of The President's Executive Order

Jan 6, 2016
M & R Glasgow / flickr

“Executive orders by presidents are very common,” says our guest Wilson Huhn, distinguished professor of Law at the University of Akron who also teaches constitutional law at Duquesne University. He’ll provide us with a constitutional perspective regarding President Obama’s executive order on gun control. 

Interpreting The President's Gun Control Proposal

Jan 6, 2016
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Images

Each year, 12,000 Americans are gunned down by their fellow citizens.  In the past twenty years, 600,000 Americans have been lost to gun violence—more than the number lost during combat in World War II.  It is for these reasons that President Obama says he’s taken action to tighten gun laws.

In an emotional live speech Tuesday, President Obama addressed his plans for the future of gun control laws and expanding background checks during the buying process, citing recent mass shootings including the incident in Newtown, CT in 2012.

Connecting Pittsburgh's Urban Landscape

Jan 5, 2016
David Brossard / flickr

More bike lanes, benches and signs guiding residents and visitors to the next Downtown location are just some of the changes that could be in store for Pittsburgh. But if space annexed by one mode of transportation will be missed by the others, what tensions could be created? PublicSource reporter Eric Holmberg has explored this question and joins us to look at how people's use of public spaces and major streets is evolving in the Steel City.                   

The Changing Face Of Pittsburgh

Jan 5, 2016

As the city continues to earn accolades as an example of urban reinvention, how will the changing face of its neighborhoods impact the city and will everyone benefit? We’ll pose those questions to Diana Nelson Jones who writes the Walkabout column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and John Conti, freelance architectural columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Tony Alter / Flickr

Nine University of Notre Dame students will spend two days sleeping and volunteering in homeless shelters throughout their native city for school.

The one-credit, winter course aims to teach students about the complexities of urban poverty through an overnight “urban plunge” this week.

Organizers said 150 students will participate in 25 cities around the country. In Pittsburgh, students plan to visit organizations like the North Side's Pleasant Valley Men’s Shelter (male students only) and the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center located Downtown, among others.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Head injuries are a concern for anyone participating in sports. A number of products have been developed to provide additional protection for athletes participating in sports where head injuries are possible. Seeing his son fall from an electric four-wheeler, while wearing a helmet, created a tense moment for Federico Olivares inventor of 2nd Skull headgear protection. The bike helmet didn’t do much to protect his son. “At that moment I felt compelled to do something,” Olivares recalls.

Former Steelers Wife Recalls Family's Struggle With CTE

Jan 4, 2016
Keana McMahon / Twitter

The new movie "Concussion" contains scenes depicting the deterioration of former Steeler Justin Strzelczyk. Following the former offensive lineman's tragic death, Dr. Bennet Omalu studied Strzelczyk's brain and determined that, like former Steeler center Mike Webster, he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. We'll talk with Strzelcyk's former wife Keana McMahon who now refuses to watch NFL football.