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Pennsylvania legislative reapportionment chair says process has been transparent, cites public hearings and comments

Keith Srakocic

On today’s program:  Mark Nordenberg, chair of the legislative reapportionment commission, explains how the group tasked with drawing state House and Senate districts is trying to maintain a transparent process while also operating on a tight deadline; the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is celebrating 25 years in a year when parks and programming have seen a record number of visitors; and a local therapist describes the impact race-based trauma has on their clients.

State legislative reapportionment committee’s work rushed has been by the delay in census data release
(0:00 - 9:27)

When it comes to drawing new district lines every ten years for elections, most of the attention is paid to the Congressional map for Pennsylvania, but a five-member commission has to also draw the lines for the commonwealth’s 203 state House and 50 state Senate seats.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission is composed of the four legislative caucus leaders and an appointed chair. Mark Nordenberg is the latest chair of the commission, and chancellor emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh.

Nordenburg says the commission has held six public hearings and accepted public comments online. Those comments range from thoughts on what policies should be in place for counting incarcerated people, to ideas for how to draw the map itself.

“I think that the activists who have been advocating for transparency have been quite pleased with the process that we have put in place,” says Nordenberg.

Nordenberg is the first commission chair to hire his own demographer.

“I simply did not know how I could discharge my responsibilities in a knowledgeable way without having my own mapmaker,” says Nordenberg.

The commission is currently facing a short timeline as they try to draw maps before primary elections, and are also having to contend with a delay in the release of census data.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy 25th anniversary, looks to future projects under new leader
(9:30 - 17:24)

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will host free events this weekend to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary.

Meg Cheever founded the organization and the newly-named president and CEO, Catherine Qureshi, says Cheever is responsible for some of the iconic Pittsburgh landmarks, such as Schenley Plaza. Qureshi has worked with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for seven years before taking over in the leadership role.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, an organization dedicated to maintaining local parks, currently supports 22 out of 165 parks in the city, along with a number of community and neighborhood parks.

Qureshi says the organization is proud of its history, but it is more excited about what is to come.

“Our goal for the next year, the next decade and perhaps the next 25 years is really a focus on park equity,” she says. “Expanding the work we’ve done in such a way that every child, every citizen, every visitor to the city of Pittsburgh has access to a safe, clean, beautiful green space.”

The pandemic did present challenges for the organization according to Qureshi, particularly with educational programming. But even without as many in-person programs, she says they saw a significant increase in park usage.

“What it really did was show crystal clear how valuable outdoor, well-kept green spaces are and honestly how we can take it for granted,” Qureshi says.

A local therapist says many of his clients have been affected by race-based trauma
(17:27 - 22:30)

Race-based trauma describes the mental and emotional injury caused by racially motivated violence and discrimination. For many Black Americans, the past year and a half was particularly traumatizing. In our series on the mental health of Pittsburghers, 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden speaks with Neal Holmes, a therapist who specializes in treating Black Pennsylvanians. Holmes says much of his work intersects with race and identity.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.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. 

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