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Are development subsidies benefiting the region? Allegheny County’s new controller wants to know

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Katie Blackley
/
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

The County controller’s first audit will address private development subsidies
(0:00 - 7:24)

For his first audit, Allegheny County Controller Corey O’Connor plans to look into the effectiveness of subsidy programs Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and Local Economic Development Revitalization Act (LERTA). Both are meant to encourage private development in the county.

According to the controller, TIFs are awarded to divert tax proceeds from the property being developed to pay for on-site infrastructure improvements, while a LERTA forgives taxation on the property for a defined period.

“So these are obviously great programs that at the end of the day can benefit a lot of people. But if you're not keeping checks and balances on them, they might only help a select few,” says O’Connor. “I think with the county growing, especially coming into a new world, living in COVID right now, what does that look like?”

O’Connor says TIFs last audited in 2017 will be reviewed, and added that this may become an annual process.

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The New Pennsylvania Project seeks to register and educate voters year round
(7:29 - 14:24)

The November election is 13 weeks from today, and candidates are doing their best to turn out voters on their behalf.

But groups who are not advocating for particular candidates are also hard at work simply getting people to vote: registering eligible voters, helping them understand the process, and giving them the tools they need to cast a ballot on Nov. 8. The New Pennsylvania Project is taking on this work and modeling its efforts on Stacey Abram’s New Georgia Project.

“[The] statewide average is 1 in 4 high school students are eligible to vote or actually registered. But when you look at Pittsburgh, that number is down to less than 15%,” says Kadida Kenner, chief executive officer of the New Pennsylvania Project. “When you look at areas such as East Allegheny or you look at areas like McKeesport, they're under 5% registration for high school students who are eligible to vote. So, we have work to do.”

Kenner says the organization is looking to engage unregistered eligible voters, and hire people within low-voter-turnout communities to register their neighbors.

The deadline to register to vote this upcoming election is Oct. 24.

If you have a question for candidates to answer ahead of the November election, submit it to WESA here.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.

New sound stage to be built at Carrie Blast Furnace site
(14:28 - 22:30)

The film industry in the Pittsburgh region continues to grow and now is getting a boost from the state: specifically, $7.6 million to help create a state of the art sound stage at the site of the old Carrie Furnaces in Rankin.

Pittsburgh Film Office director Dawn Keezer says although Pittsburgh is a good place for filmmaking, one complaint heard often is there aren’t enough internal spaces to work, like a soundstage. The grant kicks off a larger film development campus.

“We're calling this the Pittsburgh film Furnace,” says Keezer. “The plan is to build six soundstages with production office space, then build what we were calling the village, which was having all the companies that are working in this industry consolidate, coordinate, and all be in the same location.”

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. 

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
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
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