On today's program: The nearly century-old former home of the YMCA in the Hill District is getting a new purpose; a look at what it’ll take to get Pittsburgh ready for 5G; state Attorney General Josh Shapiro goes after medicaid fraudsters and JUUL; and some local progressives aren’t happy with the county Democratic committee’s endorsements.
Making the YMCA in the Hill a place to call home … again
(00:00 — 11:45)
The former YMCA in the Hill District is undergoing a $7.1 million renovation to create low-income housing, including 74 single-occupancy rooms and others with accomodations for people with differnt abilities. An elevator will also be installed.
Aaron Gibson, regional executive director of the YMCA, says the construction will occur in phases, so that anyone living at the Y currently won't be forced out. He expects construction to take up to a year.
The building has a history of supporting the community—when it first opened in 1923 it was the only Y open to African American men and housed several famous visitors like Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson and Jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie.
Gibson, who landed at the YMCA after serving time, says he hopes to share his personal love and appreciation for the space with other men who need the same help post-incarceration.
“This is extremely important to me because the experience that I went through,” he says “Now I’m in the position to help those individuals who may have not had that opportunity like I did, because of the YMCA.”
What will it take to get Pittsburgh to 5G?
(13:21 — 17:51)
There has been plenty of marketing around the arrival of 5G, which promises faster and better technology than 4G, but not much about how that arrival will play out. 90.5 WESA’s Maria Scapellato reports that part of the process involves attaching small cells to street lights, rooftops and telephone poles in hot spots in places like Oakland, where many users are concentrated in one location.
These white cylindrical boxes are already in place along Forbes Avenue in Oakland, thanks in part to companies like Crown Castle, which houses its operational headquarters at South Pointe in Canonsburg. Public affairs manager Renee Morales says crews have put up 40 small cells in the city so far, but hundreds more are needed.
Shapiro takes on medicaid fraud and e-cigarette marketing
(17:53 — 30:14)
The Trump administration policy banning fruit and mint-flavored e-cigarettes in an effort to keep them from minors took effect earlier this month, but Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has taken the effort a step further, suing e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs, Inc.
Shapiro tells The Confluence that companies like JUUL have been allowed to operate in the state with little oversight about how they sell their products.
“We have said that JUUL needs to stop selling its product in Pennsylvania,” he says. “Or… go back and correct the misinformation they’ve put out there.”
Shapiro is working separately with a bipartisan group of state lawmakers to crack down on another issue facing Pennsylvanians: medicaid fraud. The work has culminated in a piece of legislation called the False Claims Act, which proposes expanded protections for whistleblowers who report medicaid fraud to authorities.
Shapiro announced a list of recommendations last year. He says even those not using Medicaid dollars should be concerned about fraud, because it could result in billions of dollars in taxes being diverted from projects like road and bridge repairs.
County Democratic Committee snubs progressive female candidates
(30:19 — 39:42)
When political party leaders endorse a candidate running in the Spring primary, they do so hoping that their decisions will help unify the party. That wasn’t the case after the Allegheny County Democratic Committee announced their choices Sunday. A slew of local progressive candidates didn’t get the stamp of approval from leaders, which led to a slew of criticism about the impact those candidates could make on the future of the party.
90.5 WESA’s Chris Potter tells The Confluence’s Megan Harris that party leaders endorsed progressive female candidates like Sara Innamorato and Emily Skopov, who faced no competition for the endorsement. But the list of progressive women snubbed by the committee includes Emily Kinkead, Lissa Geiger Shulman, incumbent state Rep. Summer Lee and Jessica Benham.
Potter says the voters still get their choice, but endorsements often serve as guide posts in down ballot races.
90.5 WESA’s Caroline Bourque and Caldwell Holden 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.