URA Promises To Hear Residents' Concerns

Feb 17, 2020

On today's program: community residents have questions about big development in their neighborhoods; a jury has acquitted a man charged in connection with a 2016 mass shooting in Wilkinsburg; poverty has created a new type of swing voter; mild winters are bad news for ice fishers; and a Pittsburgh original makes a comeback to candy aisles. 

New URA head in the midst of a 90-day listening tour
(00:00 — 12:00)

Among the Larimer East Liberty Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, Smallman Street and the produce terminal project in the Strip District, the long awaited redevelopment of the old Civic Arena site in the lower Hill District and more, Greg Flisram says he knows he’s taking over the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority at a moment rife with change

Though new to Pittsburgh, Flisram says he’s already well aware of skepticism among long-time community members, as well as the area’s growing dearth of low-income housing. 

“I think it’s a long process,” he says. “To get community buy-in in a broad way, you have to start on the front end and work throughout the project. So yes, we’re committed to having a very aggressive, robust public outreach strategy. It’s something we’ve done in fits and starts in the past, but we want to institutionalize that throughout all the URA business units.”

Flisram says he’s hoping to ultimately refocus existing and future projects to prioritize workforce readiness so people know to look to the URA for employment in their own neighborhoods. That could take awhile, he says, so the immediate goal includes a series of public listening tours.

The office is still finalizing a schedule for the listening tour.  Dates and locations will be announced soon, according to the URA. 

Cheron Shelton acquitted in Wilkinsburg mass shooting trial
(13:25 — 17:25) 

As the jury's foreman announced the verdict in a courtroom at the Allegheny County Courthouse, accused shooter Cheron Shelton wiped away tears. Family members of victims wept in the courtroom gallery, some audibly upset. 

"It seemed to me that Mr. Shelton was a suspect early on without much evidence to corroborate that," Shelton's attorney Randall McKinney told 90.5 WESA after the verdict was announced. "They narrowed in and focused in on him without following any other leads, and I think they did that to their detriment." 

Shelton, 33, was accused of ambushing attendees of a March 2016 backyard barbeque in Wilkinsburg that left five people dead, including a pregnant woman. The prosecutor told jurors that Shelton had been "holding a grudge" against a man at the barbeque, allegedly believing the man had killed Shelton's friend in 2013.

No time for politics when you’re trying to find a home
(17:30 — 24:22)

Usually the phrase “swing voters” means those who can be convinced to vote either Republican or Democrat, but there’s another swing voter less talked about: those who either vote occasionally or not at all.

As part of Keystone Crossroads’ Embedded 2020 project, reporter Miles Bryan spent time in Reading, where the instability of poverty often keeps potential voters on the sidelines.

Ice anglers are longing for hard water
(24:27 — 32:40) 

Outdoors enthusiasts of all stripes have suffered this season with unseasonably warm temperatures plaguing most of the area. 

Outdoors editor John Hayes with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports local ice anglers have been forced as far north as New York and Erie to find frozen spots stable enough to support the sport. Hayes found a minimum of 4 inches is recommended for a single angler, and 7 inches for group activities.

“In ice fishing we don’t say ‘safe ice,’ we say ‘good ice,’” Fish and Boat Commission education specialist Mandy Smith told Hayes. “Clear ice that formed after a long hard freeze—maybe translucent depending on the color of the water— is typically the strongest. Frazil ice is just a thin film. The most dangerous is rotten ice with a honeycomb appearance with water percolating through.”

Pittsburgh’s favorite ‘Clark Bar’ returns for Valentine’s Day
(32:47 — 36:30) 

Pittsburghers love things made in Pittsburgh. The toffee, peanut butter, chocolate concoction known as the Clark bar is no exception. The candy bar was invented on the North Side in 1917, but after it’s former owner NECCO went bankrupt it disappeared from shelves. Then Altoona-based Boyer Candy Co. bought the Clark bar in 2018. 

The Confluence’s Kiley Koscinski reports that it took months of experimentation for Boyer to get shape, texture, colors and flavor right. The company was sent the list of ingredients but not much else from NECCO about how to put them together. “We made some very goofy-looking Clark Bars  to start off with. The shapes were odd. The colors were odd,” says Anthony Forgione, president of Boyer Candy Company. Once the formula and methodology were perfected, Forgione says it was important to get the first shipment to Pittsburgh in honor of the candy’s birthplace. 

Boyer will continue its roll out of the candy in Pittsburgh before bringing it back to other markets. 

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.