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Friday, January 31, 2014

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Congressman Mike Doyle and local labor leaders will sponsor a food bank Monday afternoon for UPMC employees “who are otherwise unable to afford groceries,” according to a press release.

“In the wake of President Obama’s call on business leaders to raise wages and improve living standards for all American workers, Rep. Mike Doyle and community and labor leaders will be standing up with UPMC workers on Monday to call on the healthcare giant to raise wages and help grow the middle class,” the release reads.

The event -- set for moon Monday outside the Federal building, 1000 Liberty Avenue -- touches on a bone of contention involving UPMC and its workers. In December 2012, City Paper reported on food pantries started at UPMC facilities "to pick up items [workers] and their families can use to make their holidays brighter." Earlier that month, employees testified at a public hearing before Allegheny County Council that they had to rely on food banks to make ends meet. UPMC maintained that the effort had nothing to do with wages, saying the food bank was initiated by employees to benefit co-workers.

Service employees have been trying to unionize at UPMC since 2012. According to the press release, which is available after the jump, the workers which include patient aides, custodians, transporters and food technicians earn "an estimated median wage of $12.18 an hour."

UPMC has been a target of several complaints of alleged union-busting behavior in the last two years and has faced two complaints from the National Labor Relations Board. The most recent charges, filed in October by the NLRB, will be the subject of a hearing slated for Feb. 10. The charges were originally set for a hearing Monday; however, an NLRB official told CP the hearing was postponed one week to deal with "administrative matters."

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 9:00 AM

An interactive, projection-based video and sound installation will brighten Market Square for three weeks starting Feb. 21, it was announced yesterday.


“Congregation” will be the North American debut of work by the internationally famed British artists known as KMA. KMA principals Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler will shortly be in town to set up the extensive rigging.

The exhibit is the first project of the Market Square Public Art Program, a three-year initiative of the City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning’s Public Art Division and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

“Congregation” was announced yesterday at a press conference at swank Market Square watering hole Perle, by PDP president Jeremy Waldrup, and Renee Piechocki, of the Office of Public Art.

Also at the press conference was freshly minted Mayor Bill Peduto, who had inadvertently stolen a bit of the event’s thunder by tweeting some video of “Congregation” Piechocki sent him earlier.

Peduto also said he tweeted the words “funky Downtown lighting,” but there’s a bit more to “Congregation” than that. Piechocki said that among the more than 130 submissions the project’s committee fielded, “Congregation” stood out for its “combination of artistic excellence and interaction” plus “a certain wow factor.”


The installation consists of a 50-foot-wide screen and a video projection on a 25-minute loop. The twist is that the projected loop changes based on how audiences react to forms projected on the ground. The images start with a silhouette-like human figure but also include spotlights connected by strips of light, and other abstract shapes.
“Congregation” premiered in Shanghai, China, in 2008 and went on to exhibitions in several sites in the U.K. Included here are images from other installations.

Michael Mitcham, operations director for in-city Primanti Brothers locations including the one in Market Square, said at the press conference that “Congregation” continues the site’s revitalization. Peduto connected “Congregation” to a city’s need for a central gathering place.

“Congregation” will be switched on for the public on Feb. 21, and will run from dusk to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and dusk to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Market Square Public Art Program is backed by funders including The Heinz Endowments, an anonymous donor, the Colcom Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Courtney Noelle
  • Courtney Noelle

Pittsburgh's own Courtney Noelle is the first lady of the independent label Taylor Gang, founded by local rap star Wiz Khalifa. Noelle, who has been singing since she was 6, has finally found her home with the label. Noelle has been on tour with fellow Taylor Gang artists Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J on Khalifa's Under the Influence tour, which stopped in Pittsburgh this past summer.

The singer/songwriter is having a party to celebrate the release of her latest mixtape, Love On The Run. The party will be held this Fri., Jan. 31, at the Enigma Lounge, at 130 7th Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The doors will open at 9:00 p.m. Proceeds for the party will go to the Young Women's Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation and the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.

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Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Members of One Pittsburgh question staff members of state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe about his whereabouts.
  • Charlie Deitch
  • Members of One Pittsburgh question staff members of state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe about his whereabouts.

Angry about legislation aimed at stopping the state from deducting union dues from most public employees, about 20 protesters -- led by One Pittsburgh -- rallied outside the Cranberry Township office of state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R).

Fresh off a loss over state Voter ID MetCalfe, and his House State Government Committee are charged with moving the "paycheck protection" bill through the legislature and into the hands of Gov. Tom Corbett who has promised to sign it. Those in attendance this morning — along with this excellent piece on the subject from the Patriot-News' John L. Micek — say the legislation is yet another attack on workers and unions.

"Extremist Metcalfe represent no one apart from the handful of millionaires who fund his campaigns," said John Lacny of SEIU. "Metcalfe's unconstitutional attempt to take away people's right to vote failed earlier this month when a judge ruled that the unconstitutional voter harassment bill couldn't stand.

"Metcalfe is angry about this, so now he's trying to take away working families' freedom of association."

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Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 2:33 PM

In an effort to draw contrasts against one of the most politically vulnerable governors in the country, state Democrats outlined their budget priorities in simultaneous press conferences around the state earlier today.

State sens. Jay Costa, Matt Smith and Wayne Fontana, speaking to a room of beneficiaries of various social services at Mercy Behavioral Health in South Side, proposed funding increases to everything from education to mental health programs.

"Pennsylvania badly needs an investment plan," Fontana said, "Getting people back to work remains the biggest issue we face." Fontana followed on president Barack Obama's coattails, who stumped in West Mifflin yesterday for an increase to the minimum wage.

The state "has not passed wage legislation since 2007," Fontana said, adding that the wage rate needs to be pegged to inflation.

They criticized Gov. Tom Corbett for refusing to opt-in to the Medicaid expansion available to states under the Affordable Care Act and argued that among the largest 10 states, Pennsylvania is at the bottom of the pack in terms of job growth. "It's a dismal number," Costa said.

Smith spoke mostly on education, arguing for a $300 million increase focused on early education programs. "The costs in education today are not related to the loss in stimulus funds," Smith said, responding to Gov. Tom Corbett's insistence that he has not reduced education funding.

To fund these proposals, Costa called for a range of changes including charter school funding reform, a tax on smokeless tobacco and wine and spirits "modernization," including variable pricing around the state.

And while their proposals and complaints have been aired throughout much of Corbett's tenure, these issues will likely frame Democrats' attempts to unseat him.

Corbett is scheduled to deliver his budget address next Tuesday, February 4.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 8:02 PM

The morning after President Barack Obama delivered his state of the union address, he made a stop near Pittsburgh at the U.S. Steel Irwin Plant in West Mifflin. Reiterating much of what he said the night before, Obama focused on his plans to help the working class in 2014.

"Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by," Obama said.

A majority of Obama's remarks centered around his newly announced "myRA" plan that would help Americans save for retirement. Obama signed a memorandum to launch "myRA" in front of the crowd of steel workers. Guidelines for the program will be created by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew who was also in attendance.

"I'm no going to wait for Congress," Obama said. "I could do more with Congress, but I'm not going to not do anything without Congress, not when it's about the basic security and dignity of American workers."

Obama also discussed raising the minimum wage, saying he would require federal contractors to pay their employees $10.10 per hour. He also talked about the wage gap between men and women.

"In 2014, it's and embarrassment," Obama said. "Women deserve equal pay for equal work."

Those in the crowd seemed receptive to Obama's plans for the the "myRA" program and for the other programs he touted in his speech, including the Affordable Care Act.

"I'm in support of what he's trying to do," said U.S. Steelworker Eric Lautner, who had the chance to meet Obama when he toured the plant prior to his remarks. "I have three kids of my own and I think the healthcare law and this new retirement plan will be a great benefit to them."

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 5:15 PM

The Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society named a new executive director today. Kristen Linfante comes to PCMS from Apollo Fire - The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, but is already a Pittsburgh-area resident, and serves on the board of commissioners in Mount Lebanon. She is a violist herself in addition to having arts-management experience.

The PCMS, which has been around for over 50 years, has its next concert Mon., Feb. 3, which is also the day Linfante takes the help of the group. The concert features pianist Peter Serkin, and takes place at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland.

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Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 5:01 PM

Outreach organizations and volunteers will try to get a handle on how many homeless people there are in Allegheny County tonight by doing something simple: walking the streets and counting them.

"We're never sure what we’re going to find on a typical day," says Jim Withers, founder of Operation Safety Net, an organization that provides health care to the homeless through the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. "It's like a random biopsy."

Known as the "Point-In-Time" survey, the counts are happening nationwide this week. Each state determines the day on which its count will happen.

While tonight's count will attempt to survey those people actually out on the street, the final total will include those who are receiving services, including permanent housing. The count will involve roughly 100 organizations, from soup kitchens to emergency shelters, who will catalog how many people they served over the past few days.

"We try to get a count of the sheltered population and the unsheltered population," says Charles Keenan, administrator for the Bureau of Homeless Services, part of the county's Department of Human Services.

Last January, 3,120 people were served -- up from 2,497 the year before, and 1,903 in 2001. The number of un-sheltered homeless varies widely from one survey to the next. In 2009, for instance, 282 homeless people were counted on the streets. Last year, there were 91.

Keenan says the numbers are increasing because "our system is growing; we have the capacity to serve more people." Aid programs will likely not be able to expand further without renewed federal support, he adds.

The reports also include a range of demographic data including the incidence of mental illness, substance abuse, disability and domestic violence.

It might seem counter-intuitive to search city streets in January, when people are more likely to seek shelter. But winter is also a time when services are in demand.

"We're likely to have people coming in for service, coming in to the day drop-in centers, into the hospitals to access those services -- rather than the summer where they might not go anywhere," Keenan says.

And even though the homeless population is likely under-counted, Keenan says the numbers have crucial political implications.

"Congress needs to know this when they allocate resources," he says. "It helps to drive policy."

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Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 12:04 PM

When Mayor Bill Peduto announced his executive team shortly after the November election, he boasted about its diversity -- and about the fact that he had reached beyond city limits to attract top-tier talent. He even joked that the hires would help him fulfill a goal of attracting 20,000 new residents to the city. But thanks to an increasingly contentious residency requirement and Peduto's foes on council, a few chickens may have came home to roost this morning as well. Questions about residency arose when two of Peduto's appointees, innovation/performance officer Debra Lam and city solicitor Lourdes Sanchez Ridge, came before Pittsburgh City Council seeking confirmation.

Both women moved in from outside the city -- Lam from Ross Township, and Sanchez Ridge from Upper St. Clair. But while Lam told council that she and her husband had both moved Downtown, Sanchez Ridge's circumstances were more complicated.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 11:07 AM

This week's paper (hitting stands today) contains my feature on R.A.R.E. Nation teaming up with Jasiri X and 1Hood to bring a series of shows and talks by hip-hop figures to town. On Feb. 6, the collaborative's first event will be a talk with hip-hop producer and artist 9th Wonder and Jasiri X. Just the other day, Jasiri dropped a new video, based on his recent trip to Israel/Palestine. Here's what Jasiri has to say about "Checkpoint," below:

I was recently blessed to be a part of a delegation of artists and activists, including Dream Hampton, Ferrari Sheppard, Remi Kanazi, Professor Robyn Spencer, and Bill Fletcher Jr., that traveled to Palestine and Israel. I honestly was not prepared for the level of oppression, discrimination, and racism I witnessed against Palestinians and African refugees.

My new video "Checkpoint" is based on the occupation and colonialism I saw firsthand. "Checkpoint" is produced by Agent of Change, and directed by Haute Muslim.

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