Chris Potter

Government & Accountability Editor

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.

And yes, that is his real hair.

He can be reached at 412-930-8006 or at cpotter@wesa.fm.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

This morning will mark a bid by Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to reaffirm its focus on economic messages, targeting some of the voting blocs – namely union workers and people of color – that are key to Democrats hopes in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania.

Trump campaign livestream

President Donald Trump characterized himself as a law-and-order president in a characteristically disordered campaign speech in Latrobe Thursday evening – a visit that likely heralds a busy fall election season in western Pennsylvania.

Summer Lee for PA

Local unions, particularly those tied to fracking and heavy industry, spurned state Rep. Summer Lee this spring, backing Democratic challenger Chris Roland in the June primary. And even after Lee easily won re-election in her Mon Valley district — even after a local union council lined up behind her — some in the labor movement are apparently having a hard time letting go.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A new poll of Pennsylvania voters shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a strong lead over President Donald Trump — but the voters themselves may not quite believe it.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pittsburgh will not be hosting its annual Labor Day parade this year, as one of the nation’s largest union gatherings – and a political touchstone in a crucial Election Year – joins the long list of events canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A half-dozen people involved in a June 1 East Liberty protest have filed a federal lawsuit against city of Pittsburgh officials, alleging that police violated their civil rights and “escalat[ed] a peaceful protest into a scene of pandemonium, panic, violence and bloodshed.”

Keith Srakocic / AP

Less than a year after producing a harrowing report on the health crisis facing black women in Pittsburgh, the city’s Gender Equity Commission has offered some solutions – with a focus on crises in policing and health care that have dominated headlines.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

At a Friday-morning appearance outside a Washington County bakery, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and local Congressman Guy Reschenthaler hailed the state’s economic re-opening while complaining that much of the state’s shutdown had never really been necessary in the first place. And while they denounced the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, they showed little enthusiasm for protesters' calls to reform policing in its wake.

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

The votes are in – most of them, anyway – and in Allegheny County, there were at least two big groups of winners on Election Day: female candidates, and the elections workers themselves.

Matt Rourke / AP

Allegheny County elections officials spent Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday morning churning through hundreds of thousands of ballots for the primary election. Election officials called it a night around 2:30 a.m., having tallied more than 263,000 ballots, with more to go.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Given that Pennsylvania’s 2020 primary is taking place amid a global pandemic and nationwide unrest over policing, voting has preceded quietly in Allegheny County since the polls opened at 7 a.m. With two hours left to go before polls closed at 8 p.m., there were few problems to report -- although lines at some polling places were getting longer as the workday ended. An Allegheny County Judge, in fact, agreed to keep the polls open at the Penn Hills Libary on Stotler Road until 9 p.m., owing to concerns about access to the site. 

 

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

It began as a march, one of dozens across the United States, to protest the death of a black man at the hands of Minneapolis police. Thousands marched through Downtown Pittsburgh and the Lower Hill District, and even as they chanted “no justice, no peace,” the police kept their distance.

That changed after about two hours, as police cars were burned, buildings vandalized, and police used tear gas and horses to disperse crowds. Shortly after 7:30 p.m., public safety officials had declared a curfew to go into effect from 8:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday. 

Niven Sabherwal / 90.5 WESA

Democratic state House candidate Heather Kass withdrew a request for an injunction against her own political party this morning, but will continue to seek damages in a dispute over access to party voter information.

Heather Kass’ bid for the state legislature continues to roil western Pennsylvania Democratic politics, as Kass herself has now sued the Allegheny County Democratic Committee and the state Democratic Party for allegedly failing to provide her with access to voter information and other benefits that Democrats endorsed by the party enjoy.

Mel Evans / AP

Allegheny County plans to conduct the June 2 primary with just one-eighth of the polling places it usually offers to voters, with just one voting center for each of the 129 municipalities other than Pittsburgh.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Democrats in Congress passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill Friday, but without the support of western Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb, one of just 14 House Democrats to oppose the bill.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Public swimming pools in the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Parks will remain closed this summer, an announcement government officials made just as coronavirus restrictions were eased by the state. Fourth of July festivities and other big draws to the city are also cancelled.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County's efforts to encourage mail-in voting for the June 2nd primary may be almost too successful: A state database has apparently sent out duplicate ballots as it struggles to keep up with demand – although the county says no matter how many ballots come in the mail, no one will get more than a single vote.

Matt Rourke / AP

State health authorities revised Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 death toll upwards by more than 200 people Thursday – the latest in a series of efforts to bring the count in line with local totals. But other key metrics showed that both the state and Allegheny County are wrestling down the virus’ spread.

Matt Rourke / AP

Both Allegheny County and the state of Pennsylvania reported a spike in deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday – and separately, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration pledged to track the disease’ impact on the state’s LGBT community.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Both Allegheny County and the state as a whole posted only modest numbers of new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Mark Scolforo / AP

Late Friday, the Wolf Administration released a list of 6,123 Pennsylvania companies that were granted waivers from a state shutdown order closing all non-life-sustaining businesses. The late-day disclosure came amid mounting calls for transparency about the program, though it seems unlikely to silence them.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

The day after Gov. Tom Wolf announced plans to ease some coronavirus restrictions in Allegheny and nearby counties, Allegheny reported 31 new cases of the disease. In all, the county has tracked 1,486 cases of COVID-19 since March. Saturday’s total is on the high side for recent days, but still comfortably below the roughly 43-cases-per-day average needed to meet a state target for being placed in “yellow” status.  

Gov. Tom Wolf / Livestream Press Conference

As expected, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday afternoon that Allegheny County and much of the surrounding region – with the conspicuous exception of Beaver County – will be moved from “red” to “yellow” status effective Friday, May 15.  But in making the announcement Wolf warned, “Residents should be mindful that yellow still means caution.” While restrictions will be eased, they will not be removed. And a spike in cases could mean a return to stricter limits.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

As 13 western Pennsylvania counties prepare to move into Gov. Tom Wolf’s yellow phase of reopening May 15, local businesses and officials are cautiously optimistic.

Eric Gay / AP

A Republican-affiliated polling firm is arguing that backing the legalization of marijuana can be a winner for GOP legislators in Harrisburg, where efforts to advance the cause have languished.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Rachel Levine, who heads the state Department of Health, said Saturday that counties in southwestern Pennsylvania were a priority for efforts to reopen the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But she didn’t specifically endorse a two-week timeline suggested by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald on Friday. And she pushed back on suggestions that the state’s communication on reopening policy had been unclear.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Fitzgerald said it’s no surprise that Allegheny County wasn’t among two-dozen counties where COVID-19 restrictions will be eased starting next week. But he’s optimistic it won’t be much longer.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Western Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb took to Twitter to voice concern about healthcare supplies on Twitter Friday. And while the state’s top medical official says the state can manage on its own for now, Lamb says the country needs a better long-term strategy.

Nati Harnik / AP

As Pennsylvania looks to restart at least some of its economic activity, everyone agrees more testing for the coronavirus is necessary. But almost no one seems to know yet how exactly it is going to happen, or what the expansion will look like.

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