Downtown Pittsburgh Matches 'The Condition Of Our Society,' Peduto Says

Jul 29, 2019

On today's program: Mayor Bill Peduto says downtown crime is stable, but homelessness is on the rise; a Homewood artist quilts the history of her community; the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery is closing; a county program packs kids backpacks for the outdoors; and Port Authority won't cooperate with ICE agents. 

Out-of-towners may perceive more crime Downtown, but stats don't line up
(00:00 — 12:41)

Earlier this month, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust CEO Kevin McMahon raised concerns about crime and security in the Cultural District after a shooting near Katz Plaza on Penn Avenue. Mayor Bill Peduto says those concerns don't match city data that show homicides have dropped every year since 2014 and a more recent 3% drop in property and violent crimes Downtown. 

But as crime drops, Peduto says, public perception may not follow. 

“What Mr. McMahon is talking about, with the number of panhandlers, the number of homeless, the number of people who are addicted, is a trend we’re not only seeing in Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania, but all through the United States,” Peduto says. “That may be an inconvenience that some who are coming in to the city for theater or a symphony show might not want to see, but it’s the reality of the country that we live in at this moment.”

Peduto says he has not talked to McMahon and doesn't plan to. The mayor also discussed a new Lawrenceville zoning designation aimed at increasing affordable housing in redevelopment projects; a state Supreme Court victory ruling in favor of a city paid sick leave requirement; and an upcoming court challenge to the city's recently approved gun law. 

Diaspora Series: Rising From The Thicket, 2014
Credit Courtesy of Tina Williams Brewer

Homewood resident sews her cultural history
(14:00 — 17:50)

In 2018, Homewood artist Tina Williams Brewer received the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Artist of the Year in recongition for her quilts that document community history. Brewer, who has worked with the Society for Contemporary Crafts for 23 years, incorporates many different types of fabric into her quilts, including her father’s ties and other scraps given to her by family members. 90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort spoke with Brewer about her art

Philly refinery closure sparks conversation on phasing out fossil fuels
(17:51 — 23:15)

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery filed for bankruptcy for the second time in two years last week amidst plans to close the site after a recent explosion. More than 1,000 jobs could disappear with the closure, but environmental advocates are celebrating the end of what they claim is one of Pennsylvania’s largest polluters. WHYY’s Emily Pontecorvo talks to some Philadelphians who are discussing how the closure could fit into a larger pivot to a “just transition” away from nonrenewable fossil fuels.

The Nature Explorers Program launched this summer with dozens of themed backpacks spread across 36 county libraries. The most popular so far include lessons on wildflowers, bugs and wetlands.
Credit Carrie Lane / Allegheny County Library Association

County libraries offer themed backpacks for nature-loving kids
(23:16 — 34:01)

A new program through the Allegheny County Library Association gives families the chance to be backyard scientists. The Nature Explorers Program stems from a community partnership and offers 12 themed packs for exploration across county parks, landmarks and preserves. 

Youth services coordinator Carrie Lane tells The Confluence's Megan Harris about the collection—including water, wildlife, land, culture and plants—now available in 36 county libraries.

“If you ask a child what their favorite animal is," Lane says, "they're going to say a dolphin or a tiger, and if you really think about it, they're not going to see that in their backyard. So these backpacks are reflective of what they will see ... in Western Pennsylvania."

The flourescent orange packs come equipped with maps, field guides and site- or theme-specific tools like magnifying glasses, nets, binoculars, sound machines and more. Lane says some are meant to be used in specific Allegheny County parks and Allegheny Land Trust areas, but most apply to urban play as well. Patrons can request the backpacks through their local library.

Port Authority won't collaborate with ICE
(34:02 — 38:51) 

Pittsburgh Port Authority CEO Katharine Kellman stated at a monthly board meeting that the transit agency will not help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents find undocumented immigrants. 90.5 WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss says Kelleman wasn’t certain there had been ICE raids in the Pittsburgh area, but said she still wanted to reassure people.

At the same meeting, the board approved a downtown streets study and talked about a proposed $195.5 million Bus Rapid Transit system between Downtown and Oakland.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.