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New Biography Memorializes Mayor Sophie Masloff

Courtesy of Barbara Burstin
Barbara Burstin will speak about her new book, "Sophie," on Cornerstone TV Thursday and at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23 at the Carnegie Library in Oakland.

On today's program: A celebration of the life and big personality of the late Sophie Masloff; how ‘cancel culture’ is affecting two Trump voters in Schuylkill County; what to expect when Pittsburgh police make their 2020 'Cops' debut tonight; and how the Carnegie Science Center adapts its programming for people on the Autism spectrum. 

Credit World Association Publishers
World Association Publishers

 New book “Sophie” remembers the incomparable Mayor Masloff
(00:00 — 15:00) 

A new biography celebrates the life and accomplishments of the late Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff, who served the city as its first and only female mayor from 1988 to 1994. 

Author and historian Barbara Burstin says, in life, Masloff never really got her due.

“She was a dedicated public servant who I believe has gotten very short shrift, and who should be recognized as a woman who had the courage to enter a man’s world and stand up to the men who criticized her,” Burstin says. 

Masloff was born in 1917 in the Hill District to poor Jewish Rumanian immigrants. Her mother was widowed when Sophie was 5 years old. 

“For a poor girl, one of the ways out of the ghetto was through political involvement and hopefully leading to a paid job,” says Burstin.

She worked for years in the county courthouse and eventually won a seat on City Council, where she served for 12 years. As council president, Masloff became mayor upon the death of Richard Caliguiri in 1988.

“It was frightening,” Masloff told WDUQ’s Alexandria Chaklos in a 2008 interview. “I looked around the room and said ‘How am I going to handle this?’ But I did.” 

Masloff won an additional four-year term. Burstin says Masloff was never given the credit she should have received for ending a crippling bus strike and opening doors for what would become the Regional Asset District, which now helps fund arts and cultural institutions, the city’s sports stadiums and more.

Cancel culture in coal country
(16:10 — 23:47)

By now, "cancel culture" comes in a familiar cycle: a public figure says or does something offensive, and a groundswell of people call for them to be reprimanded, boycotted or shunned. Often, it’s liberals calling out supposed bad behavior, and conservatives disparaging those liberals as ultra sensitive. 

For the first in a series of 2020 election reports, Keystone Crossroads’ Jen Kinney spent time with a pair of unlikely champions: two Trump voters on a mission to hold their neighbors accountable for racism.

Pittsburgh police to appear on Cops tonight
(23:50 — 31:42) 

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police will be featured on the reality crime show Cops Monday at 10 p.m. on the Paramount network. Chris Togneri, public information officer for the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety, says it’s officers’ sixth time on the program, and their first since 2007.

“They like Pittsburgh because our geography is interesting—there’s hills, there’s water, there’s a skyline. The neighborhoods are distinct, so it’s visually appealing for them to be here, and since they’ve been here in the past, they have a good feel for the different neighborhoods and where they want to shoot.”

Togneri says producers selected around six incidents from their two-month stay in Pittsburgh last summer, including one in which a kitten was rescued from a car engine. Each scenario will air in upcoming episodes, though administration isn’t sure exactly when. Selections are often edited to appear more dramatic, Togneri says, but still reflect the facts of the incident.

He says all officers who appear on camera volunteered—there was no pressure from top brass—and both alleged perpetrators and victims are usually blurred unless they fill out similar waivers. Togneri says the presence of cameras had no bearing on the types of calls officers responded to, including domestic violence, drug overdoses, child welfare and more.

“Police officers in general … at least appreciate the show, because it is a very accurate depiction of what their jobs are like,” he says. “That’s the type of stuff that police do on a regular basis. Nothing was off limits.”

Science Center offers sensory sensitive hours
(31:47 — 37:22)

The Carnegie Science Center is adjusting lights and sound effects and making space for quiet time during special hours on Sundays through 2020. The programming, geared towards those on the autism spectrum or otherwise affected by sensory sensitivities, will feature modified versions of the center’s existing exhibits. 

Justin Tognarine, who manages sensitivity programming, says he worked with groups like Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, Autism Connection of Pennsylvania and Evolve Coaching to modify existing exhibits. 

“It’s a lot of doing sound adjustments as well as light adjustments,” he says. “We might be turning off exhibits, we might just be turning them down.”

Hours are available on select Sundays in addition to a Summer Camp that will include a lower camper-to-staff ratio and programs about robots, engineering and video game design. 

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.

Kiley covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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