Keystone Crossroads

Hometown Pride Still Alive In A Declining Steel Town

Oct 17, 2016
Jessica Kourkounis / for Keystone Crossroads

On this episode of Grapple, you’ll hear reflections from a steel town in the Pittsburgh region. Back in the 1950s, the city of Clairton was booming with about 20,000 residents. But today there are far fewer people living there and fewer job opportunities than before. You’ll hear from someone who used to work at the mill and also from someone who had to leave Clairton to find work elsewhere. Lastly, you’ll hear about the first settler of Clairton and how the family he was part of was woven into Clairton’s history.

Google Maps


Usually, inadequate representation lawsuits go like this: your lawyer does a bad job defending your case, you're found guilty, and then you seek a new trial on the grounds of insufficient counsel. It's a single response to a single instance of misrepresentation. 

But what if a public defender system is so chronically underfunded and understaffed that criminal defendants know going into their case that they won't be able to get a proper defense? Must they wait, individually, for their case to be tried and then hope for some sort of relief? 

PA Towns Fear Financial Devastation After Top Court Decision Cutting Casino Tax Revenue

Oct 10, 2016
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY


Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt a bad hand to communities that host casinos.

Municipalities including Chester City, Bensalem Township and Erie County stand to lose millions in revenue after part of the state's gambling code was declared unconstitutional on Wednesday.

Mount Airy, LLC, a small casino in Mount Pocono, sued the state Department of Revenue, arguing that the gambling code's "local share assessment" provision unfairly burdened some casinos.



When a construction fire damaged Pittsburgh's Liberty Bridge last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed it for 24 days to do repairs.

Gene J. Puskar / AP


You know the old adage "Never judge a city by (just) its bond"? Or "Forgive and forget: bonds have histories, too"? No? How about that bumper sticker: "Reductive is as reductive does"?

OK, none of those are real.

Joshua Franzos / Pittsburgh Foundation


A foundation in Pittsburgh will dedicate 60 to 70 percent of its grant making to address poverty and disparity in the region. 

Depending on the news outlet, Pittsburgh is a lot of things: it’s Steel City or the Paris of Appalachia; it’s the new Brooklyn; it’s the best place to eat, it’s the most underrated American city. 

But for many, the debate about whether or not Pittsburgh merits all this chatter is immaterial: 30 percent of people in the region live at or near poverty.

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. 


Keystone Crossroads launches its first podcast Sept. 21.

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

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.

PHOTOS: Re-Imagining Abandoned Train Line To Rail Park

Sep 16, 2016
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

At the Reading Viaduct, it's hard to imagine that this shaded and quiet section of Philadelphia was once a part of a bustling thoroughfare to transport goods and people into Center City. 

When the viaduct was built more than 125 years ago, Philadelphia was know as the workshop of the world — a mismatch of small industries and small businesses— from hat makers to textiles manufacturers to meat markets. At the time, Philadelphia's City Hall was under construction and considered one of the tallest buildings in the world.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

A dumpster parked curbside, piled high with construction debris or outdated building guts, is not an uncommon city sight. But a certain dumpster just off one of Pittsburgh’s main business corridors is different. For starters, it’s painted bright yellow.

“We love the yellow,” says Phoebe Downey, project manager for Envision Downtown, a public-private partnership between the mayor’s office and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

State Starts Deciding On More Than $1B In Delayed Redevelopment Assistance Requests

Sep 12, 2016
Emily Previti / WITF


Nearly 400 agencies are waiting to hear from a long-standing, occasionally controversial grant program months past when they’d normally get word.

State officials have funneled more than $5 billion through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program since its inception in 1986. 

Keith Srakocic / AP


In Pennsylvania, seven out of 10 workers don't have a college degree. That's a demographic that has been particularly hard hit by unemployment and wage declines since the 1980s. 

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

By 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities, according to a United Nations estimate. Mayors could be more influential than ever.

That's why it's important to start training city leaders now, says Jorrit de Jong, faculty director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

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.

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!"

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.

Brad Larrison / NewsWorks


Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections. But this election season, analysts say it's possible that the state will swing Republican. 

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY


On a Friday night in Altoona, the Blair County Convention Center was packed to the rafters with supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. There was an overflow room downstairs and a crowd waiting outside that couldn't get in. Trump discussed everything from ISIS to Supreme Court justices. 

Emma Lee / WHYY


With its new student-weighted school funding formula, Pennsylvania took a big step forward this year to begin to correct decades of inequities.

Decision Days Away In Lancaster Refugee Case

Aug 23, 2016
Emily Previti / WITF


Five full days of testimony wrapped up Monday in the lawsuit against the School District of Lancaster.

The case claims six student refugees were denied enrollment altogether or placed at Phoenix Academy, a magnet school with an accelerated credit program where they allegedly didn't get adequate support learning English.

They’re seeking admission to Lancaster’s mainstream McCaskey High School.

Bastiaan Slabbers / Newsworks

Pennsylvania continues to wrestle with an essential question for the future of its people and its economy: What should a high school diploma mean, and what should it take to earn one?

Trial Starts Over Refugee Student Enrollment In Lancaster

Aug 18, 2016
Ed Zurga / AP


As many as 700 refugees are resettled each year in Lancaster, a high number for the city's population.

Four of them are spending today in court, where they'll testify in a lawsuit against the School District of Lancaster.

National Cancer Institute


new study finds a link between the racial makeup of Philadelphia neighborhoods and the number of primary care doctors who work there.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Christiana Care Health System, the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, and the French Institute for Agricultural Research, measures primary care doctors per resident in Philadelphia's census tracts.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads


Pennsylvania has more trash in its landfills, per person, than every other state, except Nevada. There are 35.4 tons of trash for each person in the state, according to ananalysis of data from the Environmental Protection Agency's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, conducted by the energy company

Glenn Koehler / NMIH


Visitors to the new National Museum of Industrial History, open today in Bethlehem, will be engaging with history before they even set foot inside the museum. It's built on the nation's largest privately-owned brownfield site, in what was Bethlehem Steel's electric repair shop.

Lawsuit Brewing Over Refugee Education In Lancaster

Jul 19, 2016
Alex Brandon / AP


About 17,000 school-aged refugees move to the U.S. in an average year, an estimate that's a few years old and likely growing along with overall resettlement activity.

But no one is tracking how young refugees fare in school here.

Georgetown University released a study earlier this year looking at education access by students with limited English proficiency.

It focused on undocumented immigrants.

PA Cities Vary In Response To Firearm Ordinance Rulings, Legislative Activity

Jul 18, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP


Allentown City Council is looking at reinstating as many as three ordinances previously repealed to avoid lawsuits facilitated by Act 192. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA


On a windy June day, Don Smith is proudly giving a tour of a former Jones and Laughlin steel mill site in Pittsburgh.