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Pittsburgh leaders consider Allegheny County police supplement city patrols

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence: 

City leaders consider using Allegheny County police help staff patrols with Pittsburgh police officers
(0:00 - 5:24)

Pittsburgh has budgeted for 900 police officers in 2023. But, according to city data, 74 officers retired or resigned in 2022, and 17 have left in the first month of this year. The city currently has about 818 officers. A post-agenda session during Tuesday's City Council meeting focused on this officer shortage, and the state of policing in the city.

“Zone two commanders are evaluating how to better serve downtown in light of a string of recent violent incidents,” says Kiley Koscinski, WESA’s city government reporter. “That plan hasn't been publicized yet, necessarily, but taking officers from other zones I'm sure is under consideration.”

Some raised the idea of having Allegheny County police officers help patrol, which Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt says is one idea under consideration. Koscinski reports Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Local 1, says he may file a labor complaint if the union isn’t an active participant in these conversations.

After a National Labor Relations Board ruling, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette owners ordered to resume bargaining with the editorial union
(5:30 - 10:59)

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board ruled the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette owners, Block Communications Inc., violated federal labor law by failing to bargain in good faith with the newsroom’s union, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

According to the ruling, the Post-Gazette must begin bargaining with the union within 15 days of the union’s request. Union president Zach Tanner says bargaining could happen as early as next week.

WESA general assignment reporter Jillian Forstadt reports that Post-Gazette workers have been on strike for more than 100 days, and some striking workers say that’s taking a toll.

“I found at least four people have decided to go back to work from being on strike,” says Forstadt. “That includes one person this week and they say [it’s due to] things like burnout, strain on their mental health and stress of not having financial stability.”

Striking workers receive $400 a week from the union’s parent organization, The NewsGuild-CWA, and can submit receipts for some costs for reimbursement.

Block Communications Inc., which owns the Post-Gazette, says it plans to appeal the NLRB’s decision.

A report on Pennsylvania’s program for Women, Infants and Children finds there are barriers to participation for eligible families
(11:07 - 22:30)

From 2018 to 2022, there was a roughly 25% decline in participation in Pennsylvania’s WIC program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC helps low income pregnant and breastfeeding parents and children under age five afford food.

A report from Thriving PA looked into the barriers that are keeping people from participating and staying in this program. One of the main issues was the requirement that benefits be reloaded in person, rather than through an online system. There were also complaints about the in-store experience for those families using WIC.

“I did it for a few months, but then I stopped doing it because it became inconvenient for me,” says Tayler Clemm, a mother of three, and community wellness advocate who participated in WIC. “I would often take my little children with me [to grocery shop] so it became a lot. And then another thing… is just like the nutritional value of the products, some of the substitutes were not aligned with our lifestyle or culturally relevant.”

Maggie Livelsberger, policy director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children helped create the report. Livelsberger says the first priority for the state is moving to an online system that allows families to reload their benefits remotely.

“Unfortunately, right now we're only reaching about 50% of the eligible population for WIC across Pennsylvania,” says Livelsberger. “We have a considerable amount of people that are still eligible to participate, and we would like to see those [participation] numbers go to 100%.”

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.

Corrected: February 3, 2023 at 12:25 PM EST
This headline was updated to reflect that city leaders are considering supplementing city police patrols with Allegheny County police officers. The original headline read, "Pittsburgh leaders suggest Allegheny County police supplement city patrols."
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