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.

Pittsburgh’s annual Labor Day parade is considered the second largest in the U.S., behind New York City.

Thousands of union members and officials will converge on downtown Monday morning to celebrate the history of the labor movement, American workers and to call attention to specific issues.

“We’ll be discussing a number of issues, one of them is transportation funding, another one is the right to organize as it relates to UPMC, and most of the issues that labor feels are important,” said Jim Kunz, business manager of Operating Engineers Local 66.

Leaving Detroit, and Those Who Remain

Aug 1, 2013
Don Harder/Flickr

When Ben Schmitt, a free lance writer and former journalist at the Detroit Free Press, left the city, he felt as though the cliche of the American dream “had evolved to fight or flight.” After packing up and heading back to Pittsburgh, he has a few parting words for those who stayed behind:

“I wish them nothing but the best of luck.”

For those who did remain, however, the city’s recent decision to file for bankruptcy is neither a surprise nor a game changer. As Craig Fahle, host of The Craigh Fahle show on Detroit’s NPR member station WDET, puts it, “we’re handling it the same way we’ve always handled the situation here.”

Flickr/Roller Coaster Philosophy

Ten days ago, a woman riding the “Texas Giant” at the Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas., fell to her death from the 14-story roller coaster, and the investigation of the death is ongoing.

Texas Department of Insurance requires yearly inspections of amusement rides by the park’s independent insurance company. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the states’ departments of agriculture regulate ride inspection. Ohio requires yearly, mid-season and spot inspections. Six states, Alabama, Nevada, Mississippi, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah, don't have any inspection requirements.

Why Does the Pittsburgh Police Residency Requirement Matter?

Jul 29, 2013
South / Pittsburgh for Trayvon

A group of Pittsburghers gathered in the Hill District two weeks ago to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman and to show their disdain for the American legal system. Commander Rashall Brackney was one of the officers who patrolled the demonstration.  The protestors spoke with Brackney throughout the evening, and it became evident that she had personal connections with many of the men and women sitting in the street.  She negotiated with the group on many issues and the protest continued peacefully. 

City Paper Editor Chris Potter wrote in his op-ed “Hitting Home,” that “her ties clearly helped defuse tensions on Centre Avenue that night.”

Brackney is a resident of the city of Pittsburgh and Potter points to this fact as an important element of the peaceful demonstration that night.  She had connections in the community in which she lived and therefore was able to deal with a potentially tumultuous situation in a calm manner.  But the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in the city of Pittsburgh says that lifting the standing residency requirement for officers would make recruitment and retention easier, but many taxpayers feel differently.

Triumph Books

National League and World Series MVP, Baseball Hall of Fame member and Pittsburgh Pirates all-time home run leader are only a few of the many titles held by the great Willie “Pops” Stargell. 

As a leader and advocate both on and off the field, Stargell remains one of the most beloved sports figures in Pittsburgh. His legendary status and continued admiration from baseball fans, prompted Pittsburgh native Richard “Pete” Peterson to author the player’s biography, Pops: The Willie Stargell Story.

District 2 Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said she might propose forming a task force to tackle city parking issues from a safety perspective. 

In some neighborhoods, like Mount Washington, Smith said parked cars can impede public safety vehicles such as ambulances or fire trucks.

“We had some issues in my district and other districts where public safety vehicles could not access roads in the time frame in which they would like to have access, and so we want to address parking as it relates to public safety,” Smith said. 

Patriotic Cabs Provide Jobs for Veterans

Jul 24, 2013
Star Transportation Group

VETaxi is the most patriotic ride on the road. The Pittsburgh-based company owned by Vietnam veteran Robert Delucia hires American military veteran drivers, transports customers in American-built vehicles and uses solely American-sourced fuel.  As a branch of the Star Transportation Group, VETaxi aims to provide jobs to veterans where they are then given the opportunity to own and operate their own cab.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of men, women and children sang, screamed and chanted outside of the East Liberty Target Wednesday to call out one of the nation’s largest low-wage employers.

Residents are demanding that the development taking place in the East End directly benefit the community.

According to protesters, Target entered a “gentleman’s agreement” with the community before the store was built, saying that the shopping giant would hire East Liberty residents and offer them well-paying jobs to revitalize the community.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s latest Pop Up project began Monday with rain splashing off vacant patio furniture, but the nonprofit believes the seats will soon be filled during lunch hours.

With its brightly colored bistro tables and chairs, the Pop Up Patio fills downtown's Strawberry Way from Smithfield Street to Montour Way.

Jeremy Waldrup, partnership president and CEO, said he hopes the month-long pilot program will encourage people to not only hang out downtown but also frequent nearby businesses.

Can the Steel City Be A Fútbol Town, Too?

Jul 22, 2013
Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

With their new stadium in Station Square, the Pittsburgh River Hounds are hoping that professional soccer will finally score in the “City of Champions.” The club, founded in 1999, is a part of the USL Pro League and has not had a successful history in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Sports Writer Emeritus Bob Dvorchak explains that soccer has been unable to share in the popularity of the city’s other professional sports because it is the least established.  Despite high numbers at Steelers, Penguins and Pirates games, Pittsburgh may not be big enough to sustain a fourth professional sport.

Explosives Maker In PA Has 400 Times More Ammonia Than West, Texas, Plant

Jul 21, 2013
Martha Rial

On April 17, when 30 tons of fertilizer detonated in West, Texas, a shock wave traveling faster than the speed of sound crushed homes. Windows shattered seven miles away. The United States Geological Survey recorded a 2.1 magnitude tremor from the blast.
 
Fifteen people died, 12 of them firefighters and emergency responders, and 200 were injured.

The same chemical that blew up West — ammonium nitrate — is manufactured in Donora, Pa., 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

The number of police pursuits in Pennsylvania has increased once again, according to state police.

Law enforcement agencies across the commonwealth reported 1,522 vehicle pursuits in 2012, up 69 from the previous year.

Eight hundreds pursuits began as simple traffic violations, registration plate violations or inspection violations, and 214 chases were initiated because of suspected DUI. Felony criminal offenses accounted for 228 pursuits, and 131 were due to a stolen or suspected stolen vehicle.

County, state and federal teams will finish conducting damage assessments Friday afternoon after flash floods and severe weather plagued the Pittsburgh region.

Alvin Henderson, chief of Allegheny County Emergency Services, said he and his teams are trying to restore a sense of normalcy.

“We’re working as quickly as we can to try to collect this data so we can find out what forms of assistance we’re hopefully going to be able to receive,” he said.

Assessment teams first visited areas hardest hit by the flooding.

A dozen speakers came out today to express their opinions about whether city police should be required to live inside the City of Pittsburgh - with a unanimous “yes.”

The public hearing was held on Councilman Ricky Burgess’s proposal to put the police residency issue on the November 5 ballot.

Those who testified all argued the same point - how could the police properly protect them when they don’t even know them.

Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

Protesters responding to the acquittal of George Zimmerman filled the courtyard of the Allegheny County  Courthouse Wednesday at noon.

Their shirts read “White Supremacy Acquitted Zimmerman,” and they held signs that said “Pittsburgh for Trayvon.”

Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was acquitted Saturday of murder and manslaughter of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

Kaffeeeinstein / Flickr

The question of whether Pittsburgh police officers should be required to live in the city goes before arbitrators in September. 

But City Councilman Ricky Burgess believes that all voters in the city should have a say in the matter, not just the three members of the arbitration panel.

“I think that the arbitration, whatever the results are, will probably be appealed and come before a judge,” said Burgess, who is sponsoring legislation to put the issue on the November ballot.

Storms Roll Through Pittsburgh Area

Jul 16, 2013

UPDATE: 12:00pm Approximately 250 Duquesne Light customers are without power this morning.  Spokesperson Joey Vallarian said crews are expected to have all service restored this afternoon.

UPDATE: 7:00 am  Approximately 1,400 Duquesne Light customers are without power this morning.  Spokesperson Joey Vallarian said crews are expected to have all service restored this afternoon.

Less than a week after heavy rainstorms triggered flash flooding and power outages, the Pittsburgh area is seeing a repeat with storms rolling through the region.

Are Gratuities Becoming Gratuitous?

Jul 12, 2013
David Dugdale / Flickr

A recent article in the online magazine Slate called Tipping is an Abomination calls for the end of this practice. It’s a custom that originated in Europe. It transferred across the ocean when wealthy Americans returned from the continent. At first is it was slow to catch on but now it seems tip jars are as ubiquitous as cell phones.

Local Goodness: Roadtrip for Ripe Cherries and Erie Beaches

Jul 12, 2013
Rhonda Schuldt / Local Goodness

Nestled in the northern edge of Erie County is a region of rich and fertile farmland slowly becoming recognized for grape growing, vineyards and a seasonal favorite: cherries. Rhonda Schuldt of Local Goodness suggests some favorite destinations in Erie, PA including local diners, beaches and fruit farms.

They're trying to keep a stiff upper lip in Missouri, but the ruggedly handsome truth is that the American Mustache Institute is relocating from St. Louis to Pittsburgh.

The Mustache Institute released the news Friday morning. The group calls itself the world's only facial hair advocacy and research organization.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith says in a statement that attracting the Mustache Institute is a significant win "from an economic development and good looks standpoint." A press conference at City Hall is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Currently, the Pennsylvania State Police is 12 percent below full complement, but the increased funds from the new budget might close that gap.

The 2013-14 budget includes an additional $15 million for state police - bringing the department’s total budget to $210 million.

Public Information Officer Adam Reed said this money will help the department fill some vacancies.

“For us, that means that we can avoid some very critical decision that may have been looming without proper funding like hiring and closing additional stations” Reed said.

UPDATE: 12:19 p.m.

PennDOT is reporting that of state routes closed in Allegheny County, Route 4057 (Locust Street/Roosevelt Road) is closed between Center Avenue in Emsworth Borough and Mt. Nebo Road in Ohio Township.

*************************

While other 11-year-olds were outside playing with their friends, Lilli Curry was fighting a bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma in the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.

Ewing’s Sarcoma is found mainly in children and is treated with chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

Lilli’s family bought her an iPad to help time pass more easily during her chemo and surgical treatments.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

UPDATE: 9:47 a.m. Thursday

After heavy rain from storms Wednesday brought flash flooding across the Pittsburgh region, officials are advising that some roadways remain closed Thursday. More details here.

All weather warnings and watches for Allegheny County have expired, and the National Weather Service is forecasting a slight chance of showers for the Pittsburgh region before 11 a.m. Otherwise, Thursday is expected to be mostly cloudy with a high near 77.

A day before a scheduled preliminary hearing, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala announced he's dropping charges against a Pittsburgh teacher who was arrested outside a meeting about police/community relations.

Dennis Henderson, a 38-year-old teacher at the Manchester Academy Charter School, was arrested June 26 in Homewood after leaving a Community Empowerment Association meeting.  

Southwestern PA in Need of Blood Donations

Jul 9, 2013

The Red Cross says it needs your blood today.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region services 80 hospitals in 100 counties in six states, including nearly all of southwestern Pennsylvania. Spokeswoman Marianne Spampinato says they are starting to get a dangerously low levels.

Blood donations always drop in the summer, and Spampinato said with the Fourth of July falling in the middle of the week, donations were extremely slow all of last week.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region needs to collect 700 units of blood a day to keep up with demand.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Since 2006, furries, or people fascinated with anthropomorphics, have descended on Pittsburgh for Anthrocon. It's billed as the world's largest furry convention, and this year, organizers expected the event to attract more than 5,500 participants.

"Anthrocon has become so deeply entwined with Pittsburgh itself," said Anthrocon CEO Samuel Conway. "This is a magnificent city, and heck, if they want to keep having us, we'll keep coming back."

Thousands of people have been flocking to the visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park for the 150th anniversary of the three day battle.

The facility displays about 1,300 historical items at any given time. But it barely scratches the surface of the entire collection.

Through the years, the park has acquired about one million artifacts, mostly by donation.

The National Park Service's Greg Goodell says each one helps to tell the comprehensive story of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The man who wrote probably the definitive book on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge will have a bridge named for him in his native Pittsburgh.

The 90-year-old Sixteenth Street Bridge, which links the Strip District and the North Side, will be rededicated Sunday as the David McCullough Bridge in honor of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian.

McCullough will be joined Sunday — his 80th birthday — by family members, friends, fans and local officials for the unveiling of the plaque formally renaming the bridge.

Gettysburg Mayor William Troxell is busy welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to his hometown this week.

He calls the 150th anniversary of the largest battle ever fought on American soil a wonderful event for Gettysburg and the nation.

Troxell brings plenty of perspective to this week’s sesquicentennial events. His is one of the few faces in the crowd that was also here for the 100th anniversary in 1963.

In fact, Troxell was here for the 75th too. He was 11-years-old when President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Light Peace Memorial in 1938.

Pages