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County Controller Corey O’Connor wants to bring more transparency to budgets, Jail Oversight Board

Maggie Young
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

Corey O’Connor leaves City Council seat for County Controller post
(0:00 - 8:03 )

Corey O’Connor resigned his seat on Pittsburgh City Council Sunday to be sworn in as Allegheny County Controller. O’Connor was nominated to that post by Gov. Tom Wolf to replace Chelsa Wagner, who was elected to Common Pleas Court in November.

O’Connor hopes the county can follow the lead of the city in adopting line-item budgeting, which he says would allow residents to track the flow of money, and increase transparency for county departments.

“I've been able to work with everyone: In local government and state government and federal government,” says O’Connor. “I think a controller that finds the problem can go to those individuals and fixes the problem.”

With a seat on the Jail Oversight Board, O’Connor says he will prioritize meeting with those involved with the jail, from union to board members, to gauge where they see reforms are needed. He has also hired a criminal justice attorney to advise him on the board.

“This week I'm working out some other meetings with individuals that really have a passion for the jail; looking at contracts that are down there,” says O’Connor. “We're going to take it very seriously”

O’Connor says he plans to run for a full term as controller in 2023.

Pitt researchers are encouraging the reinvention of youth detention centers after the closure of Shuman
(8:09 - 15:07)

The Shuman Juvenile Detention Center closed last September due to unsafe conditions. In the months since, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work have looked for alternatives to the use of detention centers to treat youth with severe or violent behavior.

They presented their findings in a recently published report: “Post-Shuman Visioning: Reimagining Safety for Young People and Communities”.

Sara Goodkind, a professor at the Pitt’s School of Social Work, co-authored the report along with Beth Sondel. In their research, they met with the Youth Justice Coalition, a Los Angeles-based organization which takes a transformative justice approach to the issue of juvenile detention. The group seeks to build relationships with youth to steer them away from violence. Goodkind hopes this system can be replicated in Pittsburgh as an alternative to future detention centers.

“It offers a way to get to the root, both structurally and interpersonally, of what happened and work together to address the causes,” says Goodkind. “Because we know that most young people who are causing harm have themselves been harmed.”

The naming rights to Heinz Field changes hands to Michigan-based insurance company Acrisure

(15:12 - 22:30)

It’s been two days, and while the surprise and shock about the renaming of Heinz Field might have worn off, the witticisms and criticisms of the new name have not. The field will soon assume the name, “Acrisure Stadium.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Acrisure, the financial, insurance, tech company, will pay $150 million over 15 years to the Steelers for naming rights. Heinz’s deal paid $57 million over 20 years for the naming rights.

“What I haven't seen reported or leaked anywhere is how competitive Kraft's offer was to keep the Heinz field name. Clearly, it wasn't enough because the Steelers went in a different direction,” says Brian Batko, Steelers beat reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Batko says the team has said the money will go toward stadium enhancements.

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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