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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Tina Janoss's voice broke as she explained the implications of cutting bus service in her Homestead neighborhood. Her son has special needs; her husband also suffers from multiple health issues. She says her family of four can't afford a car, and she already walks to work.

If Port Authority officials carry out proposed service cuts, she worried, "They will be leaving us with no options."

Janoss is one of dozens today expected to testify on the implications of a proposed 35 percent service reduction to Port Authority bus and light rail service. Paratransit through ACCESS would also be reduced under the plan, and up to 600 could be laid off. Port Authority has proposed the reductions as a result of a $64 million budget deficit as a result of a lack of adequate state funding.

The hearing goes until 8 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown. More than 345 riders are expected to testify.


Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 9:23 AM

The United States Department of Justice says it has never condoned the incentive-based recruiter compensation plan of Pittsburgh–based for-profit educator Education Management Corporation ... despite the company's claim to the contrary in a federal lawsuit.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 2:35 PM

If you read this blog, chances you are a remarkably informed citizen. (Not to mention your keen taste for luminous prose!) So you've probably heard the furor surrounding House Bill 1077, Harrisburg's charmingly misnamed "Women's Right to Know Act." This is the legislation that requires any woman seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound first, on the apparent theory that she's too stupid to realize that abortions are for women who are pregnant. Or, as the bill touchingly puts it:

A woman considering an abortion has the right to receive complete and accurate information regarding the development and health of her unborn child.

In recognition of the importance of a woman's dignity in making an informed choice, the factual information provided by an ultrasound test should be provided to a woman as an integral part of the informed consent necessary to undergo an abortion.

Unsurprisingly for a Republican-backed bill, this concern for "a woman's dignity" only extends so far. It does not, for example, allow her to opt out of having the ultrasound -- though she may avert her eyes from the screen. As noted in this space before, Republicans' normally boundless faith in the wisdom of consumers doesn't extend to pregnant women.

All this you know. But what you may not realize is that while this is primarily a Republican bill, when it passed the state House committee on Health, local Democrat Dan Deasy sided with the GOP on every substantive vote.

And will Pittsburghers who oppose that position have any recourse at the polls this year? They will not.

Deasy did at least vote with Democrats on a pair of motions to delay the measure. But otherwise, he marched right along.

On an amendment to remove penalties for waiving the "right" to have the ultrasound? Deasy voted with Republicans, and against Democrats, to leave the penalties in.

On an amendment to explicitly state that nothing in the bill "may be constructed to limit a woman's right to refuse medical advice and treatment"? Deasy voted with the GOP, and against his fellow Dems.

On an amendment requiring the "use of ultrasound to rule out natural miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy"? Deasy was the only Dem to support the GOP position.

And finally, on the motion to report this bill out of committee and move it along the legislative process? Deasy was one of two Dems to vote with the GOP majority.

It's not as if Deasy's vote would have changed the outcome here. Republicans have a 14-10 majority on the committee. But Deasy's role -- the only Democrat to vote with Republicans on every change to the bill's language -- is conspicuous. And he'll have a chance to repeat such performances this time next year too.


Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Arriving after deadline for this week's CP was word that National Wildlife Federation  president and CEO Larry Schweiger will be in town Saturday for a talk and book-signing.

Schweiger is a Pittsburgh-area native who now heads one of the country's largest and prominent conservation groups. His new book, Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth, explains the problem of climate change, the threat it poses to nature and to us, and what we can do about it.

The free event coincides with an opening reception for Endangered, a new exhibit of thematically appropriate work by local artists Laura Jean McLaughlin, Christian Kuharik and Carole Stremple

The events take place from 5-8 p.m. Sat., March 3, at the gallery, located at 3583 Butler St., Lawrenceville.

RSVP as soon as possible to 703-438-6231 or


Monday, February 27, 2012

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 9:31 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Chris Hadland
  • Doomtree

It seems as if popular rap music these days has slipped into a serene coma of empty braggadocio and I-smoke-better-weed-than-you bull. There’s an ever-lengthening list of well-paid lyricists who are young and anxious and have access to well-connected producers with fancy studios and promoters with deep pocketbooks. Rapping is not an easy game and though it may not necessarily involve the gun battles of Tupac and Biggie’s day, it’s a landscape where the ones who are saying things of poetic worth fall somewhere far below the music industry’s Star-
Spangled radar.

It’s not likely that you’ll see any of the emcees in the Doomtree Collective making commercials for Bing or gracing the Grammy stage but all of that stuff matters very little because, in true Doomtree style, they delivered an amazing show at the Shadow Lounge on Monday night. It was all about the energy.

The room was packed with hip hop and poetry aficionados staring at the empty stage, tapping their feet and anxiously waiting for anyone to grab a mic. When Lazerbeak finally stepped behind his drum machine and started playing a blend of hip hop and electro-house beats you could feel the crowd force some dance moves. They were clearly there for the words.

The members of Doomtree — P.O.S., Dessa, Sims, Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger — have been performing together for over a decade and the years show in the tightness of their stage presence. They flowed together like a group of siblings, all knowing each other’s words verbatim but always bringing their own charm when leading a song. The performance had the truth-fueled angst of a punk show, beats that begged for dancing and the organic flow of a cypher.

They’re lyrics are always deep and poetic but they remained party-minded, no matter what. With all the call and response, they made it so that whether you were one of the sixty percent of the people there who knew all of their lyrics or not, everyone was a part of the party.

Getting all seven performers together was a recognizably rare occurrence. Chemistry like that doesn’t happen very often and after the experience it might be kinda difficult to tune in to any rap oriented radio programming, but with roots deeply planted in the slam poetry circle, they’d probably be proud of that deterrence.

There are few things more heartwarming to a music fan than a group of musicians who linger after the show signing CD inserts and posing for pictures; it was hard not to be star-struck after that presentation of lyricism over challenging beats. Doomtree promised a rap party and a rap party is what they delivered.

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Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 4:39 PM

These Three Words
  • These Three Words


It's almost the end of Monday, so let's cut to the chase: This week's MP3 comes from our friends in These Three Words. I reviewed their self-titled debut last month -- this week's they're offering up a track from that CD for free download here on FFW>>. The pun-ishingly titled "Cinderblock Ella and the Freudian Slipper" is available below for streaming and download. Enjoy!

Sorry, download link expired!

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Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Pittsburgh City Paper was at Heinz Field for the 12th annual Academy Awards benefits “Highmark Presents Lights! Glamour! Action!”

Attendees had the opportunity to film their versions of favorite movie moments at the pre-party celebration on Friday. The performances premiered on the big screen and awards were presented to the best performances at “Highmark Presents Lights! Glamour! Action!” Guests enjoyed a red carpet entrance, champagne reception, the live telecast of the 2012 Oscars on the BIG SCREEN, gourmet food stations, fashion presentations, a silent auction and MUCH more!  

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 6:50 PM

As regular readers know, this space has nurtured a minor obsession over the doings of Dennis Roddy, late of the Post-Gazette and long one of the city's finest journalists. Roddy left the P-G a year ago, to join Gov. Tom Corbett's communications team. And while evidence of Roddy's handiwork has cropped up once or twice since then, his voice has scarcely been heard in Pittsburgh.

Until this week, when he waded into an online debate at a blog opposed to Corbett's education spending.

The blog, Yinzercation, was recently launched by Dr. Jessie B. Ramey, a college instructor and Pittsburgh Public Schools parent. (In the spirit of full disclosure -- and because this post will concern a debate over the need to disclose things -- I should note that while reporting this story, I discovered that Dr. Ramey's brothers are childhood friends of my brother and I, though none of us have seen each other in decades.) Ramey says the blog, and an associated Facebook page, is "a grassroots place to organize for the fight" for more education funding in the state budget. Ramey says about 300 people follow the site. While its first concern is with Pittsburgh schools, she says, it is attracting supporters -- and linking up with similar efforts -- from around the region.

It has also attracted the attention of Roddy, who has taken issue with its characterization of Corbett's budget priorities ... and with the growth of educators' salaries and benefits.


Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 3:15 PM

The Cultural Trust's big three-month showcase of contemporary art and performance from Holland continued with experimental theater troupe Wunderbaum's take on the differences between Americans and the Dutch. Last night's world premiere at the Trust's Arts Education Center had its moments, but still felt rather like a work-in-progress.

The premise involved a business trip to Detroit taken 50 years ago by Wunderbaum actor/writer Walter Bart's grandfather, who worked for a European GM affiliate. In the engaging short documentary-style film that opened the evening, we're told that part of Grandfather's time in Detroit was spent making a love child with a black woman ... whose granddaughter Bart and theatrical accomplice Maartje Remmers proceed to track down.

I say "documentary-style" because Bart admittedly enjoys blurring the line between fact and fiction. Regardless, whether Detroit singer and performance poet Rosemarie Wilson (pictured here with Bart) is really Bart's cousin is less important than the fact that Detroit Dealers plays out their relationship mainly as a debate between American car culture and Dutch bike culture.

In the evening's live portion, this is first done, rather disarmingly, with an unlikely rap battle between Bart and Wilson. No surprise that the American evinced a better flow — but this naked and theatrically risky ploy paid off, especially after Wilson got the stage to herself to solo with some salty lyrics touching on the sexual possiblities of automobile travel. (Inarguably, they are more varied than those available to cyclists.)

The loosely structured show also included three interludes featuring the statuesque blonde Remmers portraying three different versions of the automobile.

The most successful was the first, a pin-up-girl come-on circa 1962, playing off the power, freedom and sexiness cars promised.

The second incarnation was Remmer's emodiment of the present-day car, gloomily apologizing for the enviromental and social mess it's made of the world. There was an insight or two, like how machines promising limitless mobility trap us inside them during traffic jams, but the tone was off: While Americans don't love cars the same way they used to, we do feel entitled to them, and few of us are actually apologetic about how ruinous that privilege is. This segment might have been funnier and more incisive if the car were, say, a swaggering character whose bragadoccio gave him away.

In the third car sequence, Remmers donned a futuristic coverall to minimalistically tout the anticipated triumph of the electric car. Like a baffling little hop-and-skip movement sequence Bart executed elsewhere in the show, the electric-car scene was everything you hope performance art won't be: repetitive, self-indulgent and unenlightening. (It reminded me of similar, apparently unironic bits in Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson's stage show at the Carnegie last year, leaden clunkers weighing down an otherwise charming evening.)

Detroit Dealers was bolstered by its slick lighting design and an amazing two-man band, drummer Jens Bouttery and saxophonist/guitarist Andrew Claes. The concluding scene, imagining the first meeting between Bart's grandfather and his Detroit lover, was affecting.

Unfortunately, in terms of exploring two cultures, Detroit Dealers seldom got beyond the superficial — cars vs. bikes. There's something besides higher petrol prices that keep an affluent society like the Netherlands from being completely autocentric, and I was hoping to hear a little more about that last night.

Detroit Dealers has two more performances, at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, at 805/807 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 9:50 AM

What's the worst part of flying to Milwaukee? When you get off the plane, you're in Milwaukee.


And what's the best part of flying to Milwaukee? Hopefully for area travelers it's the additional flights to come.

On Friday, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that Frontier Airlines will recommence daily non-stop flights from Pittsburgh International to Frontier's Milwaukee hub. The service — the area's only direct flight to the region — ended unexpectedly in December but will begin again May 17 with two flights a day. (The schedule appears in the full press release, below.)

 "These new flights from Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport will enhance nonstop service at the Pittsburgh International Airport.  This is an important destination for business and we are thrilled with Frontier Airlines' decision," Fitzgerald said in a statement.

While any expansion at the airport is nice, on its face travelers might not be willing to get too excited about a direct flight to Cheese State. Still, aside from the fact that an additional direct flight to a hub airport anywhere opens up choices for travelers, this also marks a very early victory for the Fitzgerald's team.

At a press conference over the summer, during the height of his election campaign, Fitzgerald talked about driving traffic through the airport. It struck me as normal campaign rhetoric; his Republican challenger was saying the same thing, after all.

But when I talked to him afterward, he legitimately seemed to have a plan to get more flights into the airport. That plan involved starting small, bringing back flights and growing new flights using smaller carriers — basically building it back up in pieces, methodically.

It's certainly easy to understand why today's announcement of a non-stop to Milwaukee may initially give one a feeling of "So what?" But Fitzgerald's administration isn't even 60 days old, and it's nice to see that he's already able to make an announcement like this. 

Let's hope it's just the first of many; we've got a million dumb jokes about a lot of other cities all ready to go.

Frontier Airlines to Resume Pittsburgh to Milwaukee Service

PITTSBURGH - Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced today that Frontier Airlines will resume Pittsburgh to Milwaukee service with two flights a day beginning Thursday, May 17, 2012.  The news came as the Executive, the Airport Authority and business leaders work cooperatively to provide more direct flights for the region's businesses and residents.

"Increasing the direct flights for our region is a priority of my administration," said Fitzgerald.  "These new flights from Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport will enhance nonstop service at the Pittsburgh International Airport.  This is an important destination for business and we are thrilled with Frontier Airlines' decision."

Frontier Airlines had ended its direct service to Milwaukee last January, leaving the region without any direct service to the Wisconsin market.  The news was well-received in the region because it means increased access for business and leisure travelers.  

"Frontier Airlines is pleased to bring Pittsburgh travelers their only nonstop access to Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport," Daniel Shurz, Frontier's senior vice president, commercial. "Customers will enjoy Frontier's low fares in Milwaukee and on connections to destinations across the United States and Mexico."

Flights can be booked today at Frontier's website:  The flight schedule for Pittsburgh (PIT) – Milwaukee (MKE) is:

  • First travel date 5/17/12
  • Depart PIT 07:29 – Arrive MKE 08:05
  • Depart PIT 13:19 – Arrive MKE 13:55
  • Depart MKE 10:25 – Arrive PIT 12:53
  • Depart MKE 18:50 – Arrive MKE 21:18