WESA Local News

Governor To Seek School Construction Aid Amid Health Issues

Jan 24, 2020
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

With budget season approaching, Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is developing a plan to help deal with aging school buildings plagued by environmental problems, including lead paint and asbestos insulation, his office said.

Rob Mercuri Campaign

Rob Mercuri is a relative newcomer to politics, but he can already claim a leg up on many more seasoned politicos: While insiders and journalists spent much of their week trying to figure out what state House Speaker Mike Turzai was planning to announce this Thursday, Mercuri already knew Turzai would not run for office again.

A day after Turzai said he was stepping down, in fact, Mercuri announced his campaign for Turzai’s House seat – with Turzai’s endorsement.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate rose in December for the fourth straight month, as payrolls shrank and the labor force hit another record high. 

Trump Administration Rescinds Protections For Streams And Wetlands

Jan 24, 2020

The Trump administration announced it’s finalizing a rollback of a major Obama Era rule that clarified which waterways can be regulated by the Clean Water Act.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled to uphold a legal principle that allows drillers to drain oil and natural gas from outside their property lines.

The court overturned a 2018 decision by the lower Superior Court on Wednesday that said the “rule of capture" does not cover hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a method of extracting natural gas from underground rock.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

These days artists have plenty of ways to put their work out there. Some, for instance, do pretty well with online sales.

Still, there’s nothing like exhibiting work in real life.

Tori Hirsch found that out a year ago, when a few of her oil paintings were exhibited as part of “Owning,” a three-person show staged as part of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s, or GPAC’s, Art on the Walls series.

Paul Sancya / AP

The steel industry has largely applauded a forthcoming trade pact between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, but it remains to be seen how the deal will shake out for domestic steelmakers.

Andrew Harnik / AP


On today's program: A White House correspondent shares tales from the road; what we’ve learned from five years of local coal mining data; a sportsbook expert estimates just how involved Pennsylvanians will be ahead of Super Bowl LIV; and how Pittsburgh plans to celebrate the Chinese New Year as the threat of disease plagues provinces abroad.

Matt Rourke / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday that he will ask lawmakers for an extra $40 million-plus to help improve services for the vulnerable, including children and the elderly, and expand direct care services to more disabled people who are on a waiting list.

Courtesy of Guillermo Velazquez

A new $660,000 business incubator that opened in a new second-floor space in Pittsburgh's Beechview neighborhood last fall is up and running, executive director Guillermo Velazquez said.

In the last three years, the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation has helped more than 70 small business owners get their ideas off the ground, offering help with business and marketing plans, licensing, permitting, payroll and taxes. Velazquez said the new office inside the Beechview Healthy Active Living Center on Broadway Avenue gives people a safe space to meet with experienced staff.

Matt Rourke / AP

State House Speaker Mike Tuzai has scheduled a press conference for Thursday morning, amid rumors that he plans to resign.

Turzai’s office did not provide details on what the top House Republican will discuss Thursday, and the speaker declined repeated requests for comments about his plans. But lawmakers, lobbyists and staffers in the state Capitol say they’ve heard credible rumors he is stepping down.

Films from the “silent” era were not usually viewed soundlessly; most were accompanied live by a pianist or organist. And it's that sound of a solo keyboardist – playing up-tempo runs for a chase scene, or minor chords for a tragic one – that many people still think of when they imagine music for films from before talkies.

Tony Dejak / AP

A bill that could radically reshape Pennsylvania’s cyber education landscape received a public hearing Tuesday in the House Education Committee, inspiring strong reactions from advocates and lawmakers.

Reid Frazier / StateImpact PA

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection is forecasting Thursday to be a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for the Liberty-Clairton area. A higher than normal level of fine particulate matter is expected.

"Young children, the elderly, those with respiratory problems will be especially vulnerable," said DEP spokesperson Beth Rementer.

Matt Rourke / AP


On today's program: Efforts to crack down on sexual harassment in state government have stalled; a local incubator is supporting Hispanic businesses; student reporters investigate barriers to unionization at Pitt; rural hospitals are at risk of closing; and with the rules finalized, the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is set to begin. 

Ariel Worthy / WESA

City councilors decided on Wednesday to hold off on voting for a new bill that would add "hateful activities" to the city's code of conduct, and to see what the city's law department has to say about it. Councilor Ricky Burgess introduced the bill earlier this month, but colleagues on council said they need to know whether the bill, which could arguably limit speech rights, is constitutional.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House on Tuesday voted for a proposal to let governments charge additional fees when they get Right-to-Know Law requests for records intended to be used for commercial purposes.

State representatives voted 177 to 15 to send the Senate a bill that outlines how the additional search, review and duplication fees would be established.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

As promised, Allegheny County Councilor DeWitt Walton re-introduced a measure Tuesday to create a countywide police review board. The legislation was among the first proposals council took up this year.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County, the city of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security are teaming up to address bias in the region's automated decision making tools. The 22-person Pittsburgh Task Force on Public Algorithms was announced Wednesday, and is charged with forming guidelines and best practices for municipal algorithms.

Closed hospital and empty parking lot.
Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

The door to the emergency room at the Ellwood City Medical Center is locked. 

Study: Replacing Coal Plants With Natural Gas Cut Pollution, Saved Lives

Jan 21, 2020

A new study found closing hundreds of coal fired power plants and replacing them with natural gas plants saved thousands of lives around the country.

Ariel Worthy / WESA

Pittsburgh City Council resumed discussion of the city's parks tax on Tuesday, with the introduction of legislation to collect and spend the proceeds. And some council members want strict rules about who oversees spending, and guidelines for contractors paid for by it.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Twenty-four hours over three days - that's how long each side gets to make its case in the Senate impeachment trial.


Nonprofit Funds Lawyers To Defend News Media In Pennsylvania, Other States

Jan 21, 2020
Marc Levy / AP

A nonprofit press freedom group announced on Tuesday that it would provide pro bono legal services in five states to help local news organizations defend their right to gather and report the news.

The Local Legal Initiative of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will fund attorneys in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, the group said in a news release.

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences / Carnegie Mellon University

On today's program: Students share how poetry gives voice to their experiences; PA voters get introspective about their media diets; what it takes to cut energy use in state-owned buildings; and a new memoir explores the taboo subject of abuse in queer relationships.

PA Provides Some Of The Worst Opportunities For Students Of Color, Report Says

Jan 21, 2020
Emma Lee / WHYY

Students of color in Pennsylvania are far less likely than their white peers to have access to small classes, certified teachers and advanced coursework, according to a pair of new studies.

The so-called “access” gap in Pennsylvania is among the nation’s largest, both studies claim, distinguishing the Keystone state as one of the America’s worst when it comes to educational equity for poor and non-white students.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A college senior who aspired to be a research psychologist was struck and killed by a bus in Pittsburgh over the weekend, authorities said.

Barbara Como, 20, of Chester Springs was struck by the Port Authority bus in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh shortly after noon Saturday, the Allegheny County medical examiner's office said. She was taken to UPMC Presbyterian, where she was pronounced dead.


Pittsburgh-based PPG says it has made good on its 2016 pledge to eliminate lead from all products by 2020.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

The path to presidential victory runs directly through Pennsylvania. The state holds 20 electoral votes and Donald Trump’s 2016 win was decided by less than 50,000 votes, or less than one percentage point. 

Patrick Doyle / 90.5 WESA

Some of the last big changes Pennsylvania made to its juvenile justice system came almost a decade ago, after the “kids for cash” scandal in which judges in Luzerne County took bribes for keeping minors in private detention facilities.