PublicSource

PublicSource is an independent, nonprofit news group that focuses on original investigative reporting about critical issues facing Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region. It was launched to undertake in-depth reporting in the public interest.

​PublicSource is a content partner of 90.5 WESA.

More about PublicSource here.

Aaron Warnick / PublicSource

What was supposed to be a routine visit to the pediatrician with little Oren resulted in a finding that sent Katy Rank Lev and her husband, Corey, into a frenzy. Their 1-year-old had lead in his blood.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Confluence – where the news comes together is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Pittsburgh's Startup Activity Isn't As Strong As It Claims

Oct 3, 2016
Mike Petrucci / Upsplash

You’ve heard it in the news or maybe even from your neighbor: These days, Pittsburgh is hailed as the center for innovation. The Steel City is thriving and building the new economy and even “birthing the age of self-driving cars,” as Wired Magazine recently put it. The idea that Pittsburgh is the bleeding edge of the startup frontier seems to be as much a part of its present narrative as steel was in its past. But federal data tells a different story. According to the most recent U.S. Census...

Andy Boenau / Flickr

More than in any other major Pennsylvania city, Pittsburgh’s young adults are living on their own instead of moving in with mom and dad. Pittsburgh ranked 13th out of America’s 600 largest cities for the percentage of young adults aged 18 to 34 living alone, according to new data released Thursday in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 1-year American Community Survey. Pittsburgh also ranked 45th in terms of the percentage of young adults living with roommates. The breakdown in Pittsburgh: 29...

George Pankewytch / Flickr

A Nestlé Waters representative stood before angry residents in a northeastern Pennsylvania fire hall earlier this summer and admitted defeat. He told the Eldred Township zoning board — and more than 100 residents who attended — that the multinational corporation he represents was withdrawing its permit to drill for water underneath the town. The concession ended a yearlong battle between the world’s largest player in the bottled water market and the town. Up until that day, the residents were...

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Black health experts want to leverage growing awareness of racial inequality into a fight against cigarettes. Lung cancer kills black men at higher rates than any other group nationwide, and last week a group of health experts and activists called for President Barack Obama to ban menthol cigarettes, making a direct link between health and social justice. The federal government found that four in five black smokers have smoked menthols, as The New York Times reports. The mint flavoring makes...

Jeffrey Benzing / PublicSource

A subtle breeze and pristine blue sky set a peaceful scene in the Hill District this morning, so the immediate thought might not be on the dozens of young men killed in the span of only a few blocks. It’s almost always guns. Often stolen, or obtained through a straw purchase, then used against a teenager or young adult. In this neighborhood, in Homewood, Larimer, East Liberty, and across the Allegheny and Monongahela in areas where bursts of gunfire – and stolen weapons – are not rare ....

J. Dale Shoemaker / PublicSource

“Would you like to register to vote?” Nearly every time Elaine Harris-Fulton asks the question, she gets a version of, “I’m already registered.”

Is Pittsburgh’s Land Bank Operational? City Says Yes. Residents Disagree.

Sep 15, 2016
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Six Garfield residents pore over neighborhood maps inside a cramped office. They’re debating what properties and lots they could claim to expand a community park. They are members of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation [BGC], and the properties they want to acquire are either tax-delinquent or vacant lots surrounding Fort Pitt Playground. With an expanded “Garfield Park,” the community can reclaim forgotten homes and lots and put them to productive use, all while returning them to the tax...

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Through the dated kitchen and a hallway with a gaping hole, past the stacks of dusty Bibles and art history books, a grand staircase snakes through the old mansion. Cracked vases are strewn at the foot of the landing — at one time, the homeowner was a collector. Now, this home on Millionaire’s Row in McKeesport smells of mildew and you can’t stay inside for too long without getting lightheaded. But the crown molding still wraps the perimeter of each bedroom. You can imagine its Victorian...

How Allegheny County Is Trying To Move On From The Legacy Of Blight

Sep 13, 2016
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

When Lena Andrews moved from Friendship to East Liberty, she was enamored with her new neighborhood’s array of restaurants and shops, easy access to transit and its diversity. The lack of parks and gardens puzzled her, though. At the time, trash covered the corner of East Liberty Boulevard and Mellon Street: empty cans, bottles, fast-food paper bags. When the city mowers would cut the grass, they would mow right over the garbage, crushing it into the earth. The litter sent the wrong message. ...

Why Are Pittsburghers' Property Taxes Going Up? Blame School Pensions

Aug 19, 2016
Anita DuFalla / PublicSource

Pennsylvania legislators about a decade ago passed a law to protect homeowners by limiting property tax hikes to the rate of inflation. Has the law, known as Act 1, worked?

How To Check Safety Records For Rides In PA Amusement Parks

Aug 17, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP

A fun day in the sun turned to inexplicable horror last week when a freckled 10-year-old boy who loved soccer was decapitated on the world’s largest water slide in Kansas City. The next day, three children in Tennessee plunged 30 to 40 feet to the ground after their Ferris wheel basket flipped over. They each suffered non-fatal injuries. Days later, a boy reportedly fell from a roller coaster at Ligonier's Idlewild and SoakZone amusement park. He was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital, and the...

Peretz Partensky / flickr

Last month’s shootings at an Orlando nightclub reignited the debate over gun control . Here in the commonwealth, gun advocates feel money can be saved by doing away with the background check system. By leaving this up to the federal government, gun opponents feel public safety could be at risk if this is left up to the federal government. We’ll address the issue with Public Source reporter Jeffrey Benzing.

Paul L. Dineen / flickr

In a recent article for our content partner Public Source reporter Eric Holmberg addresses Pennsylvania’s reporting of open data . It appears the Commonwealth is one of 25 states that doesn’t provide an open data website. We’ll discuss what’s being done to make the state more forthcoming with information and analyze how helpful the site could really become.

What's It Like Being An Abortion Clinic Escort In Pittsburgh?

May 5, 2016
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

Pittsburgh has two abortion clinics. They attract women seeking care as well as abortion protesters and volunteers who guide patients inside. Laura Horowitz began volunteering when violence at abortion clinics in the late 1980s and early 1990s became more pronounced. She joins us to talk about how it works along with Sabrina Bodon who wrote a recent piece about this topic for our content partner PublicSource .

Self-Driving Cars Are Coming, But They’re Not Ready For Pittsburgh Yet

Mar 4, 2016
Anita DuFalla / PublicSource

Ninety percent of car crashes are preventable. As it stands, about 30,000 people die in car crashes every year in the United States, said Mark Kopko of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation [PennDOT]. “If you could reduce that by 90 percent, that’s huge.” Autonomous cars have the capacity to do that. In Allegheny County, that could mean a vast reduction in the roughly 12,000 crashes in 2014 — especially of those attributed to driver error, like drunk or distracted driving and speeding...

Ryan Loew / PublicSource

The street where Carol Speaks grew up is only blocks from where her grandson Antwann died. At 19 years old, he was shot 17 times, according to Carol, in front of witnesses just down the street from Homewood’s Westinghouse Academy.

Ryan Loew / PublicSource

Monica Hawkins can still laugh at her son Donté’s sense of humor as she replays it nearly four years later on YouTube. And she can smile at the uncanny resemblance her grandson Jaiden has to his dad. The same smile. The same mischievous energy. But fresh tears come when she recounts the night Donté died at age 20, the helplessness she felt at the scene, and the hole his loss leaves in their family.

State Won’t Disclose Names Of Doctors Prescribing In Youth Corrections

Nov 7, 2015
Illustration by Anita Dufalla / PublicSource

The state defied an Office of Open Records ruling and took the matter to court to conceal the names of doctors prescribing to kids confined in its six correctional facilities. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services insisted the physicians who care for and prescribe to the state’s most chronic or violent youth offenders would be endangered if their names were made public. PublicSource requested the names of the doctors with whom the state contracts to determine their qualifications,...

PA Juvenile Offenders Given Psychiatric Drugs At High Rates

Nov 6, 2015
Illustration by Anita Dufalia / PublicSource

They are the toughest kids in the juvenile justice system. And, in some ways, the most vulnerable. In the months they spend at correctional facilities, they receive mood-altering psychiatric medications at strikingly high rates, particularly antipsychotic drugs that expose them to significant health risks.

Where’s The Oversight Of Psychiatric Meds For PA Youth Offenders?

Nov 5, 2015
Illustration by Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Pennsylvania is lagging when it comes to tracking the powerful psychiatric medications kids get in the state’s youth correctional facilities. While other states have reformed the way they control and track such medications so that it is done systemwide, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services follows only the total amount paid for the drugs prescribed in its six facilities on a systemic basis.

Michael Chen / flickr

Our content partner PublicSource did a special investigation into medications purchased for youth offenders at the state's six juvenile corrections facilities over seven years. What did they find ? A higher of rate antipsychotics being prescribed than for the state's foster children. We'll delve into it with PublicSource reporter Halle Stockton.

Back-To-School Preparations Often Exclude Vaccines In PA

Sep 1, 2015
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Children going back to school in Pennsylvania could be walking into classrooms where as many as one out of every five classmates don’t have all the vaccines required by the state. While many parents believe that disease outbreaks in school are rare because of vaccines, there were a record number of measles cases in the United States in 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Millennial Women Are Closing The Gender Wage Gap

Aug 17, 2015
Peter Tobia / PublicSource

Currently a freelancer, Philadelphia resident Jillian Ivey is faced with a dilemma about her future and identity as a young woman. The 31-year-old communications strategist wants children with her husband of nearly three years, but she feels that being pregnant and caring for an infant would be a direct choice not to make money or build her career.

At Least 1.1 Million Pennsylvania Homes Lack Internet Access

Jul 20, 2015
Molly Duerig / PublicSource

President Barack Obama called the Internet “one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.” However, for many Americans, like Tracy Emerson of West Philadelphia, full connectivity remains out of reach.

Millennials Are Buying Homes Later, But Still Want A Place Of Their Own

Jul 6, 2015
Heather McCracken / PublicSource

Carlton J. Brown III is about to sign off on one of the biggest decisions of his life.

The 29-year-old is buying a three-bedroom house with a yard and a two-car garage in McKees Rocks, a borough northwest of Pittsburgh. Brown, a lab technician at an oil blending plant, has been renting with friends for the past two years.

Two Men. One Coal-Ash Dump. No Answers.

Jun 26, 2015
Reid R. Frazier

George “Sonny” Markish stood in his yard with a TV reporter in April 2013 and pointed to a towering hill next to his house in LaBelle, Fayette County. The camera zoomed in on Markish, with slicked-back gray hair, swiping his hand across a window sill coated in a dusty substance.

Prison Release Rarely An Option For Dying State Inmates

Jun 14, 2015
Photo courtesy of Peggy Garrity / Via PublicSource

Leon Jesse James was supposed to die in prison. As a convicted murderer, Pennsylvania gave him no possibility of parole, meaning he’d spend nearly his entire adult life incarcerated for a 1971 fatal shooting in Philadelphia. Barely 18 at the time, he was angry and immature. Over four decades, his family watched him grow up and then grow old in prisons across Pennsylvania. The anger faded, but its consequences remained, leaving little hope that he’d ever return home.

PA Group Takes First Steps To Protect Seniors

Jun 8, 2015
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

Statewide reforms to improve protections and justice for older Pennsylvanians are in the works. A state Supreme Court committee is examining the proposed expansion of a rule that allows the courts to preserve testimony of victims who might not be available to testify if a case languishes in the system.

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