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.

On Sunday, 75 black high school students, mostly from the Pittsburgh area, began intensive training sessions to become community leaders.

The young men are taking part in the 7th annual Black Male Leadership Development Institute now through June 23 at Robert Morris University in partnership with the Urban League of Pittsburgh.  

A new study finds that hands-free devices in cars aren’t as safe as people think.

Research by AAA found that hands-free technology in cars gives drivers a false sense of security.

Bruce Hamilton, manager of research and communications with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said an increase in mental workload slows reaction time, causing drivers to scan the road less and miss visual cues.

A report released by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission shows that 80 percent of juveniles in Pennsylvania that recidivate, or continually commit crimes, come from families with unmarried parents.

The commission looked at juvenile cases closed in 2007 and tracked them for two years to see if the juveniles returned to crime.

The study found that 20 percent of juvenile offenders committed other crimes within two years after their original cases were closed.

Pittsburgh’s gay pride festival continues to grow, with organizers expecting more than 100,000 people to enjoy the celebration on Liberty Avenue.

When the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh took over the festival in 2007, about 3,000 people attended. Six years later, the organization is expecting to break the 100,000 mark.

Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, attended his first Pride festival in 1996. He said he never expected Pittsburgh Pride to get as large as it has.

Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

The population of the youngest Allegheny County residents is growing, while nationally the number is dropping.

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of people five years of age and younger increased county-wide by 0.9 percent, while it decreased nationally by the same percentage.

“I think the Pittsburgh region’s been attracting people for the last few years, and most people moving into the region are going to be younger folks mostly coming for work, so I think that’s made us younger as we go ahead,” said Christopher Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Cultural Impact of Pittsburgh Pride Fest

Jun 12, 2013
Ginny / Flickr

This weekend the Pittsburgh Pride Festival is expected to generate huge revenue for the city and bring thousands of individuals and families to Liberty Avenue. The parade and concerts at Pride Fest have become mainstream collaborations with city groups like Visit Pittsburgh and major sponsorship.

Pittsburgh Pride's website quotes Richard Florida in his best-selling book on economic growth, The Rise of the Creative Class, “the most successful regions welcome all kinds of people. The presence of an LGBT community in large numbers is an indicator of an underlying culture that is open-minded and diverse. People look for cities with lots of gay people when they are hunting for a place to live and work. The presence of gays signals an exciting place, where people can fit in and be themselves.“

But how representative of Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community is Pride Fest? And how do you go about organizing a large scale festival such as Pride, in a way that's inclusive for all aspects of the LGBTQ community and Pittsburgh as a whole?

We'll have a conversation about Pittsburgh PrideFest and its cultural impact with Gary Van Horn, President of the Delta Foundation, which organizes PrideFest and Sue Kerr, Editor of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondence, an LGBTQ Blog.

Pittsburgh Public Housing Shortage

Jun 11, 2013
Halle Stockton / PublicSource

Pittsburgh's city housing authority recently closed the waitlist for the majority of public housing properties. This is the  first time in 17 years this has happened and reflects the critical shortage of public housing in the city and Allegheny County.

Reporter Halle Stockton has written about this issue for our content partner Public Source and joins us to look at this issue.

Via Tsuji / Flickr

Expansion plans to designate more of the North Side as a historic district are causing an uproar in the Mexican War Streets. It's an issue that has neighbors split and calls into question the issue of who has a say in the neighborhood's master plan.

Paul Johnson, president of the Mexican War Streets Society and Post-Gazette reporter Diana Nelson Jones who covers the city's neighborhoods talk about the controversy.

The Allegheny County Conference on Community Development launched a new website today in an effort to fill 30,000 jobs available in Pittsburgh.

The announcement was made inside PNC Park — capacity 38,362 — about one seat for every available job.

Chris Cieslak, a lieutenant colonel with the Army Reserves, returned from Kabul, Afghanistan in 2012 after a year’s duty there.

Cieslak went through what she described as a "minor depression," and only now does she feel she’s made the transition from military to civilian life. She considers herself lucky — she had a good support system in place. Not all women veterans can say the same.

It’s “Great Outdoors Month” across the nation, and for the fifth year, just about every one of Pennsylvania’s 120 state parks has planned something special to encourage people to explore outdoor recreation. 

There’s a Twilight Paddle in Moraine State Park on Tuesday geared toward people who have never kayaked before, a wildlife program focusing on bears at Keystone State Park on Thursday and an early morning wildlife viewing by boat on Friday at Ohiopyle State Park, just to mention a few.

Michael Sias / Immunity Inc.

Edward Snowden is the source of leaks of government surveillance programs within the United States. Which have raised questions about our privacy and how much information the government is gathering about us by phone and on the internet. 

Mark Wuergler, Senior Security Researcher for the cyber security firm Immunity, says the NSA has the means and motive to spy on anyone. We'll talk with him about the NSA and security.

The government has been watching ever since the NSA was created. They've been finding and trying new ways of watching and listening and recording. And they're really good at it.

 

Saint Monica prayed for her rebellious son, Saint Augustine, to strengthen his faith in the late 4th century. Now four parishes in Beaver County want to strengthen their faith community by merging into one — christened Saint Monica.

Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese Bishop David Zubik has announced that the parishes of Christ the Divine Teacher, Divine Mercy, Saint Philomena and Saint Rose of Lima will consolidate starting July 15.

Episcopal Vicar Reverend Samuel Esposito said the parishes had been working together since 2007.

Senior citizens are being targeted in the latest over-the-phone scam.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has issued a warning to seniors after a recent spike in “robocalls.”

These robocalls are designed to obtain credit card and other personal information from unknowing victims by claiming to sell medical equipment like life monitors for $35 a month. In recent calls, companies identified themselves as “Senior Medical Alert” or “Senior Medical Advisors.”

Reid Carter/90.5 WESA

90.5 WESA Programming intern Reid Carter ventured down to Point State Park Friday evening to catch some photos of the official re-launch of the iconic fountain.

WESA

In her new book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America's Sorted Out Cities, Dr. Mindy Fullilove presents a psychiatrist’s views on how to fix the American city. We'll discuss how a public health and well-being approach to urban planning and design can benefit neighborhoods and the people who live in them.

Welcoming Back the Point State Park Fountain

Jun 6, 2013
Image by Pressley Associates, courtesy Riverlife

It's been four years since the fountain in Point State Park was last in operation. The fountain and the Park were in constant use, without any renovations for more than 30 years, until Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary. The reopening of the fountain marks the final phase of a 6 year renovation process, which has been documented on the Riverlife Taskforce Blog with before and after photos.

The waterworks resume this weekend, just in time for the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Guest: Lisa Schroeder is President and Chief Executive Officer of Riverlife Pittsburgh a group that's promoting the rebirth of Point State Park and the fountain.

Courtesy Riverlife

After years of reconstruction, the fountain at the Point will be turned back on this Friday.

Since April 2009, Point State Park has undergone a $35 million renovation, including $9.6 million for the fountain makeover.

Point State Park's history goes back decades, with planning for the space beginning in the 1930s. Construction didn’t start until the 1960s, and the original fountain opened in 1974.

Image by Pressley Associates, courtesy Riverlife

After four years, the Point State Park fountain is ready to flow again, but some Pittsburghers won’t be getting as close as they had hoped.

The Great Lawn, located on the fountain side of the Portal Bridge, will be fenced off and closed to the public Friday night during the celebration at the opening of the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Bridges Around the State Evaluated by PennDOT

Jun 4, 2013
jeffrybt / flickr

In the wake of the deadly bridge collapse in Washington, interest has increased in the current condition and safety of Pennsylvania’s bridges. With the average age of bridges on the state system well over 50, PennDOT must evaluate the numerous bridges and consider the needs and costs of the state infrastructure.   According the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Allegheny County has 2,247 bridges yet many of them are categorized as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Haldan Kirsch / WESA

When Pittsburgh's food trucks hit the road, burgers, hot dogs, tacos and pierogies are all on the menu.

Standing Your Ground in Pennsylvania

May 31, 2013
University of Pittsburgh Law School

The killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin brought attention to stand your ground laws last year. A number of states have laws which dramatically expand the definition of self defense, often including personal property. So what do the self defense laws look like here in Pennsylvania? University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris is currently part of an American Bar Association National Task Force on stand your ground laws, looking into their overall impact on society.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County held a pep rally in the courtyard of the County Courthouse Friday in anticipation of the Penguins facing off against the Boston Bruins Saturday in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The rally had a carnival-like atmosphere with games, prizes, face paintings, Penguins-themed sugar cookies and performances from Pittsburgh musicians Freddie Nelson and the Kardasz Brothers. WDVE’s Val Porter hosted the event and pulled people on stage to participate in contests for best-dressed Penguins fan, best Penguins cheer, best Penguins sign and best player look-alike.

Pets are usually thought of in terms of cats or dogs, but one woman is hoping to bring chickens into the mix here in Pittsburgh.

Jody Noble feeds six chickens in her Highland Park backyard — Gregory Peck, Buffy the Worm-Slayer, Attila the Hen, Mother Clucker, Hillary Rodham Chicken and Margaret Hatcher. Noble is hoping to spread the joy of chicken ownership by organizing the 3rd Annual Chicks-in-the-Hood: Pittsburgh Urban Chicken Coop Tour.

An asthmatic child in Latin American village gasps for air, struggling to breath. The mother has gotten her son to a medical clinic where she knows the life saving medicine is stored, but she has to endure an agonizing wait as another child gets treatment from the only nebulizer machine in the district.

In the meantime, thousands of the machines that aspirate the liquid medication for inhalation sit on shelves in southwestern Pennsylvania, gathering dust never to be used again. 

90.5 WESA Weekend Watch 6/1 & 6/2

May 31, 2013

The Mattress Factory presents "Art Lab: Sculpting with Light." Stop by for a hands-on show dedicated to showing how artist James Turrell  “sculpts with light.” Participants will create their own slides to project and explore the process of making art with a fabulously elusive material. The Art Lab runs this Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Mattress Factory lobby on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Albert Lynn / WESA

Since the repeal of Pennsylvania's helmet law there has been an increase in motorcycle deaths. There has also been a doubling of motorcycle registrations. Rep. Dan Frankel has introduced legislation that would again require motorcyclists to wear helmets. Charles Umbenhauer, lobbyist for the group Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education of Pennsylvania feels helmets should be a choice.

Should vacant buildings in Homewood be renovated or demolished? How about other Pittsburgh neighborhoods with blight? Tim Stevens, CEO and chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, has called for many of the buildings to be refurbished by workers enrolled in training programs rather than continuing with demolition.  They're now gathering community input on what to do with vacant buildings. C. Matthew Hawkins, adjunct faculty member in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, recently wrote about the idea of a moratorium in Homewood and the Hill District.

What do you think of the potential moratorium on demolition in poor communities requested of Pittsburgh city council?

Touring Historic Homes in Observatory Hill

May 30, 2013
observatoryhill.net

Observatory Hill is a neighborhood just past Pittsburgh’s North Shore, on the eastern rim of Riverview Park. It’s named for its most prominent landmark, the Allegheny Observatory, part of the University of Pittsburgh. Like many Pittsburgh neighborhoods, the area boasts a range of architectural home styles from the first half of the 20th century. Many have been beautifully restored. Each year, members of the Observatory Hill community open their homes for a historic house tour. It's one of several in the city of Pittsburgh and serves as part community fundraiser, part history lesson and part renovation inspiration.

United Way of Allegheny County Breaks $33 Million

May 29, 2013

The United Way of Allegheny County filled a ballroom in a downtown hotel Wednesday with supporters and then announced it exceeded its 2012 fundraising goal. The total from the campaign hit $33,211,190, which is 2.7 percent more than last year’s total.

“Our record over the last five years prior to this year is that our community, the Pittsburgh community, has out raised the rest of the nation,” said local United Way President Bob Nelkin. “During that period of time we went up 12.7 percent. The rest of the big United Ways in the nation were down 4.4 percent.”

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