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Washington County Raises Its Glass To The Whiskey Rebellion

Whiskey Rebellion Festival
Reenactors wield their muskets in a street theater performance honoring the Whiskey Rebellion in 2017.

On today’s program: How to celebrate the 225th anniversary of Western PA's whiskey rebellion; how much parking revenue has the city lost to bike lanes; a new building at Millersville University touts energy efficiency; a local musician creates space for fellow Brazilians to perform; and new state reforms aim to protect victims of campus sexual assault. 

Death and taxes and whiskey
— 11:33)

Western Pennsylvania's whiskey rebellion ended 225 years ago this summer. The revolt, sparked by whiskey distillers over an excise tax on the beverage, was one of the first major conflicts to occur inside the fledgling United States after it became a new republic.

To mark the occasion, Washington County is hosting its 10th annual Whiskey Rebellion Festival Thursday through Sunday. The celebration features reenactors portraying scenes and significant figures from the rebellion, such as U.S. Treasurer Alexander Hamilton, plus visits from 15 local distillers, including Wigle Whiskey, which was named after rebellion leader Philip Wigle. 

“You wonder why anyone would celebrate a rebellion against your own government, but I think the importance is the impact it had on American history, and that’s what we’re celebrating,” festival co-chair Tripp Kline says. “It was the first true test of the young federal government, and it really established a strong federal government, an ability to tax and an ability to enforce the taxes and enforce the laws, so that was a first.”

The whiskey rebellion lasted about four years and fizzled out when then-President George Washington led troops into Pennsylvania. Many of the leaders were convicted of treason, but were eventually pardoned by Washington in the first use of a presidential pardon.

Balancing the needs of business and cyclists 
— 17:34)

Mayor Bill Peduto’s focus on bicycle infrastructure has garnered conversation and criticism he has jokingly referred to as “bikelash.” Since 2016, bikes have been included in the city’s “Complete Streets” model to promote safety for pedestrians, cyclists and cars.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ashley Murray took a look at parking data to determine how investment in bike lanes and their effects on parking profits fit into the city’s budget. She found that since Peduto took office in 2014, 162 parking spaces have been lost to bike lanes, which has resulted in an estimated loss of just over $1 million for the city. Other factors, Murray says, have offset the difference.

“The parking authority’s revenue has just been increasing, and really that has to do with something that was before Mayor Peduto was in office as mayor, and that was the switch from coin meters to digital meters,” Murray says.

Over the past two years, the city has been meeting with stakeholders, including bike advocates and business owners, to develop a “master bike plan.” The plan is scheduled to come out sometime later this year.

Millersville University green building leads the way in efficiency
— 23:38)

A new building on the Millersville University campus is the first Pennsylvania building to earn a “zero-energy” certification from the International Living Future Institute, a Seattle organization that promotes sustainable development and construction.

StateImpact Pennsylvania's Marie Cusick takes a look at the $10 million Lombardo Welcome Center, which generated more energy than it consumed in 2018 through its array of solar panels and geothermal wells. It ranks third globally among the International Living Future Institute’s 115 certified projects for using the smallest amount of energy and is part of Millersville’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Brazilian musician turns her home into a club
— 30:01)

Brazilian musician Kenia has been providing a space for other Brazilian musicians to perform in Pittsburgh at “Club Catupiry,” which happens to be located in her Carnegie home. 90.5 WESA's Bob Studebaker talked to Kenia ahead of an upcoming house concert featuring jazz musician Marcos Ariel

“All the artists that I have hosted so far, they all have a great deal of passion for their music and they absolutely love sharing with the audience,” Kenia says. “It’s always a great meet-and-greet event. We usually have a little bit of Brazilian food and some appetizers just to give it some Brazilian flair.”

A look at new PA policies to fight campus sexual assault
— 38:30)

Two measures aimed at reducing sexual assault and rape on campus were signed Monday, and funded as part of the recent Pennsylvania budget. One requires colleges and universities provide anonymous online platforms for reporting assault and another prevents colleges from punishing students who report assault for drinking or drug use.

Tracy Vitchers, executive director of the national advocacy nonprofit It’s On Us, says that measures to increase reporting will help colleges deal with the larger issue of sexual assault.

“We can’t solve a problem if we don’t know the scope of it,” Vitchers says. “The more reports that come forward, the better equipped colleges are to actually tackle this problem.”

According to Vitchers, only 10% of college students report their sexual assaults when they happen. Pennsylvania is the first state to make anonymous online reporting tools mandatory

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.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
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