Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Mahanoy City: The End Of Coal Country

Sep 21, 2016
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

On episode 01 of Grapple, we explore how Mahanoy City transformed from a vibrant coal town into a distressed community struggling with job loss, low home values, blight, and fire. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

That vote was part of the national organization’s choice to endorse Trump, announced Friday. Pittsburgh FOP President Robert Swartzwelder wouldn't say how many officers cast votes during the August meeting. He would only say the vote represented the 730 officers who pay dues. He said he hasn’t heard any pushback from officers who may disagree with the endorsement.

Drug Suspect Issues Facebook Warning Not To Call His Phone

Sep 21, 2016
Sean MacEntee / Flickr

Police say a Pennsylvania drug suspect who dropped his cellphone while running away from police took to Facebook to warn his friends not to call that phone number.

Lackawanna County detectives say 25-year-old James Lee Hankins, of Scranton, ran away after police tried to arrest him for an undercover drug deal involving heroin and cocaine on Monday afternoon.

Submitted / PennLive.com

  Some residents in a small Pennsylvania town say plastic bags were left on their lawns that contained rocks, lollipops and a flier seeming to advertise for the Ku Klux Klan.

The flier read: "Are there troubles in your neighborhood? Contact the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan today."

 

Keystone Crossroads launches its first podcast Sept. 21.

Grapple will give voice to people living and working in distressed communities both big and small.

Judge Upholds Researcher's Conviction In Wife's Poisoning

Sep 20, 2016
Keith Srakocic / AP

  A judge has upheld a jury's verdict that a former western Pennsylvania medical researcher purposely killed his neurologist wife by cyanide poisoning.

Sixty-seven-year-old Robert Ferrante has been serving life in prison since an Allegheny County jury convicted him in November 2014 in the April 2013 death of 41-year-old Dr. Autumn Klein.

State Legislators Again Put Local Gun Laws In Crosshairs

Sep 20, 2016
Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

  Pennsylvania lawmakers are moving closer to re-enacting legislation that would let the National Rifle Association and similar groups challenge local gun regulations that are more restrictive than state law.

Preservationists Praise State Tax Credit Program, But Hope For More

Sep 20, 2016
Ron Larson / Ace Hotel

 

Dozens of historic buildings in Pennsylvania — from an 1815 tavern in Erie to a Frank Furness church in Philly to an early 20th century YMCA in Pittsburgh — have been saved thanks to a tax credit program established by the commonwealth in 2012.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Seven or eight years ago, Stephen Shelton started worrying about the future.

It wasn’t just his own Pittsburgh-based construction company, but his entire industry. 

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

When a drunk driver struck and killed Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec, his parents began a personal crusade against drunk driving. They also set out to protect and assist law enforcement officers.

Now, eight years later, the foundation they started has purchased more than $600,000 worth of safety equipment. The money is mainly used to purchase portable breathalyzer tests, which police called PBTs.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

Navy veteran Ken Haynes stepped off a beefed-up RV, sporting military logos and said he was impressed with the vehicle.

The RV was a Vet Center’s mobile unit, touring the Pittsburgh area this week. Haynes stopped by on Wednesday when it was parked outside the Veterans Leadership Program offices in the Strip District. Later, it parked and opened its doors at the River Hounds Game on the South Side.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police Zone 2 Commander Anna Kudrav rented awhile, then bought her own wheels. Riding a bicycle calms her, she said.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

 

Watching Abdullah Salem manage his staff of half-a-dozen men behind a Strip District counter, it’s clear who runs the show. 

“We’ve been working since yesterday, 6 a.m. straight, ‘til now,” said Salem, 35. “We still have six cattle to cut, and then we’ll be done.”

Matt Rourke / AP

 

Last June, nearly 200 members of the state House of Representatives and Gov. Tom Wolf pushed for a special legislative session to address the opioid crisis that has killed more than 5,000 Pennsylvanians in the past two years.

House Speaker Mike Turzai stood inside the Capitol rotunda just a few months ago.

"We will be asking the Governor to give this heightened attention by calling the General Assembly into special session," he said.

Coal Town Wary Of Clinton And Trump Campaign Promises

Sep 13, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Every year the King Coal parade winds through the center of Carmichaels. Hundreds of people line up to see the fire engines, classic cars, floats, and marching bands.

It’s fair to say the presidential race has people pretty fired up –and worried– in this small town in Greene County, about an hour’s drive south of Pittsburgh. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to bring back coal, with few details on how he will accomplish it. Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton has said she’d put miners out of work, but is pushing a big plan to reinvest in coal communities.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Several Pittsburgh City Council members said the city’s police chief and director of public safety assured them during a private briefing Thursday that if a crime against a person is reported in the city, an officer will be available to file a report in person.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s bicycling community is in shock after Dirty Dozen founder and local cycling legend Danny Chew suffered a fall from his bike that could leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

Chew’s nephew, Stephen Perezluha, said the family is still awaiting further information from doctors about whether Chew will ever be able to walk again.

PennDOT / AP, file

Last week, 47- year-old Kevin Ewing kidnapped his estranged wife at gunpoint. At the time, Ewing was under home confinement on charges he held 48-year-old Tierne Ewing captive and assaulted her for nearly two weeks in June and July.

Following Tierne Ewing’s abduction on Aug. 30, Washington County and state law enforcement officials fanned out around Findley Township to search for them. The search ended that night when Kevin Ewing shot Tierne and himself as state troopers approached a barn where he had taken her.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

An independent investigation into the Pittsburgh Police chief’s appearance at the Democratic National Convention has found no violation of city code. The Office of Municipal Investigation’s findings were released Friday.

After investigators reviewed city code, conducted interviews and reviewed emails, they found complaints against Chief Cameron McLay “unfounded.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Smoke enveloped the Liberty Bridge this afternoon after sparks fell onto plastic piping below and caught fire. Workers were torching beams to replace the bridge deck, says Scott Fennell, a laborer with Joseph B. Fay Company. There were no injuries, but Fennell said the incident would cost them time.

The final phase of the bridge deck replacement began August 29 as part of the $80.8 million Liberty Bridge Rehabilitation Project.

 Liquor Reforms
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A Wegmans supermarket in Cumberland County has become the first such store in the state to sell wine. And the inaugural bottle was purchased by none other than Governor Tom Wolf.

Wolf was joined by state House Speaker Mike Turzai, as well as members of the Liquor Control Board and other lawmakers.

Turzai played a significant role in supporting the state’s liquor expansion, which went into effect early last month.

He says the change was a long time coming — it’s been commonly called the commonwealth's biggest liquor reform since prohibition. 

Can A Computer Algorithm Be Trusted To Help Relieve Philly's Overcrowded Jails?

Sep 2, 2016
Emma Lee / WHYY

 

Of the roughly 7,400 people sitting in Philadelphia's jails right now, more than half of them aren't there because they've been found guilty of a crime.

They've been accused of one and are waiting for trial. Many of them just can't afford to pay bail.

That's what happened to Joshua Glenn.

When he was 16 years old, Glenn was arrested for allegedly shooting another guy in the arm — a crime he says he didn't commit.

Son of Groucho / Flickr

  Pittsburgh police Chief Cameron McLay wants more non-emergency calls referred to civilians trained to take police reports over the phone to free up patrol officers for more proactive police and community relations work.

But the new policy has its critics on City Council who believe it's better for officers to take reports in person.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

It’s not always easy for a person to find basic services when they are homeless, according to Bob Firth.

“For example, Google, ‘free dental care Pittsburgh,’ and you will get 10,000 hits for a free dental evaluation, followed by $5,000 in work,” Firth said.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

A developer wants to build an ice cream factory on a stretch of vacant lots in your city. The city is eager to have the ice cream companies and woos them with tax abatements and other public subsidies.

"Jobs!" the city council cries. "An increased tax base!"

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

Two top editors of the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh have announced they are retiring, and a third tendered his resignation.

Trib Total Media officials said Monday that executive editor Frank Craig and managing editor Jim Cuddy are stepping down immediately. Deputy managing editor for sports Duke Maas is also leaving.

Craig, 62, became the Tribune-Review editor in 2000. He was previously an assistant managing editor at The Blade in Toledo, Ohio.

Rich Schultz / AP

It’s been a bumpy few weeks for leadership in the state Attorney General’s office.

Kathleen Kane resigned, and her first deputy Bruce Castor has taken over. But Governor Tom Wolf has nominated his inspector general to the position.

The candidates for the November AG election are taking pains to distance themselves from the tumult.

Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty both independently called the Kane scandal a “sad chapter” for the state.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

On Wednesday, a court will decide whether a referendum to change Pittsburgh's home rule charter will remain on the November ballot. The city argues the proposed amendment unduly hampers city government.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

City officials said Monday they’d lost track of who was responsible for testing three flash flood safety gates on Washington Boulevard that malfunctioned Sunday, resulting in the heavy rains submerging two cars. 

First responders used tow ropes to rescue a 54-year-old woman from one of the vehicles. Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said the woman told him she saw some kind of indication that she should not drive through the street but thought she could make it. It was unclear what indicator she saw. Three passengers were able to escape from a vehicle without assistance.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Bill Peduto acknowledged efforts by Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay to restore relationships between officers and the communities they serve since his hiring in in 2014, but said police need to work a lot harder to achieve the same stasis within their own bureau. 

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