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Friday, January 30, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 10:38 PM

District 9 Councilman Ricky Burgess is set to face at least one challenger in the primary election in May. Tomorrow, Stanton Heights entrepreneur Andre Young plans to officially announce his candidacy for the District 9 seat at Westinghouse Academy, his alma mater.

“I chose Westinghouse because education is the foundation,” says Young. “We need to be more inclusive of young people in the 9th council district so we can bring the community together.”

Still in the early stages of his campaign Young says he plans to focus on the “plight” of young adults and teens if elected to city council. As the father of two young adult males, Young says he see the struggles they face first hand.

“We need more sustainable jobs and sustainable wages,” Young says. “When you see young people with college degrees and the only job they can get is at GetGo, that’s a problem.”

For his part Young has worked to increase opportunities in the nonprofit sector through his work with the now defunct Community Action of Pittsburgh and through his own entrepreneurial endeavors as a member of the Homewood-Brushton Business Association and owner of a chain of stationary stores and gift shops.

“My work with various community organizations has prepared me to understand the issues in the community,” says Young. “The 9th council district is in need of leadership.”

Young received a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State University and later went on to study finance and accounting at Duquesne University. He is a member of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church.

District 9 includes includes Homewood-Brushton, Garfield, Lincoln, Lemington, Belmar, North Point Breeze, East Hills, Friendship, East Liberty and Stanton Heights.

Young's announcement will be on Jan. 31 at 12p.m.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 10:56 AM

Living up to one of his campaign promises, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order today that will prevent the state from signing new oil and gas leases in state parks and forests.

“Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests,” Wolf said during a signing event at Benjamin Rush State Park in Philadelphia. “This is about striking the right balance. Our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes.”

According to a release: “Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has concluded that additional leasing jeopardizes the agency’s ability to sustain the commonwealth’s gold-standard forest certification, which is vital the economic and environmental well-being of the state’s parks and forests.”

The complete release is below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2015
Governor Wolf Signs Executive Order Reinstating Moratorium On New Leases For Oil and Gas Development In State Parks and Forests

Philadelphia, PA — Governor Tom Wolf today signed an executive order reinstating a moratorium on new leases for oil and gas development in state parks and forests. At an event in Benjamin Rush State Park, Governor Wolf signed the executive order with members of the General Assembly in attendance.

“Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests,” said Governor Wolf. “This is about striking the right balance. Our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes.”

“Our parks host 38 million visitors annually, support over 13,000 jobs, and provide $1.2 billion to the state’s economy,” Governor Wolf continued. “We should be looking for opportunities to grow our recreational and tourism economy through a revitalized parks and forest system that ensures we are preserving our natural resources and protecting our people and the environment.”

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has concluded that additional leasing jeopardizes the agency’s ability to sustain the commonwealth’s gold-standard forest certification, which is vital the economic and environmental well-being of the state’s parks and forests. The executive order states that effective immediately, DCNR is directed to protect the lands of the Commonwealth that are held in trust for its citizens and for future generations, and subject to future advice and recommendations made by DCNR, no State Park and State Forest lands owned and/or managed by DCNR shall be leased for oil and gas development.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 5:02 PM

Carpenter and community organizer Randy Zotter officially announced his candidacy for Pittsburgh city council this afternoon, the second candidate to announce a challenge against sitting councilor Darlene Harris.

Zotter, who lives in the Mexican War Streets, has served "for the past 30 years" in positions including director of the Northside Community Development Fund, President of the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance, President of the Central Northside Council and board president of the Manchester Academic Charter School, according to a press release.

“I have tremendous support [...] on the North Side, and I look forward to working with all of you to become our next representative on City Council. I will be a candidate for positive change."

An alumnus of Point Park and Carnegie Mellon universities, Zotter will face Spring Hill resident Bobby Wilson in the May Democratic primary. Both men will square off against Harris, one of council's most consistently vocal critics of mayor Bill Peduto.

The full release after the jump.



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Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 1:36 PM

A new arts festival focusing on conversations with writers, artists and other thinkers will premiere here in late March.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Humanities Center of Carnegie Mellon University announced the festival today at a Downtown event. The festival is the brainchild of CMU English professor David Shumway, who was inspired by the long-running Chicago Humanities Festival and brought the idea to the Trust.

Trust officials, who said the four-day festival will “explore and evaluate the current condition of human life,” say it is the first of its kind in town.

Guests will include Azar Nafisi, author of the best-selling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran.

The festival will include a couple of major events, but will be largely structured as a series of 18 hour-long moderated talks with the guests, plus an audience Q&A. “Nobody’s going to read a talk,” said Shumway, who directs CMU's Humanities Center.

Organizers, including the Trust’s Paul Organisak, emphasize that while the fest’s content might be intellectual, the format will be entertaining. Referring to intellectual subject matter, Shumway said, “We shouldn’t think of it as spinach. We should think of it as cake.”

Besides Nafisi, the festival will welcome such nationally known guests as filmmakers John Sayles and Maggie Renzi (Matewan, Eight Men Out) and Rolling Stone senior editor Anthony DeCurtis, who’ll discuss Lou Reed as well as his own life in rock ’n’ roll. And well-known composer Cynthia Hopkins will perform A Living Documentary, about her struggles as a theater artist in New York City.

But the festival draws heavily on local talent, including such CMU colleagues of Shumway’s as Kiron Skinner, an expert on Ronald Reagan; Tim Dawson, known for his “deliberative theater” technique of addressing social issues; CMU professors Jennifer Keaning Miller and John Carson’s project “Art Walls in Belfast”; and Christopher Warren’s “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon” project, which uses computers to analyze Renaissance writings to figure out who knew whom in that “early social network.”

Other local artists on the program, include Vanessa German, who’ll discuss how her art and her activism inform one another; National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes; filmmaker Tony Buba and historian Marcus Rediker on their film Ghosts of Amistad.

Most of the events will take place in the Trust Arts Education Center, on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, or in Space gallery, across the street. Hopkins’ piece will be performed at The Andy Warhol Museum. Nafisi and the closing-night event (still TBA) will be at the Byham Theater.

The festival will run March 26-29. Tickets go on sale Feb. 16. A festival pass, covering all 18 events, will cost $20 ($10 for students). Tickets for Nafisi and the closing-night event will be $15. That means, says Organisak, you could do the whole festival for about $50.


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Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 11:27 AM

Taylor Gang rapper Chevy Woods, who hails from Hazelwood, yesterday released the third installment of his Gangland mixtapes, in advance of a new release slated for spring. It includes features by Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla Sign and a few tracks produced by Pittsburgh's ID Labs. Check it out below, via DatPiff: 


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Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 10:51 AM

Each week, I put together a playlist of music we've written about in the music section of that week's paper, plus artists playing in town within the week, who we didn't get to feature in print. We call this feature Listen Up!, and it's your chance to listen to the music section while you read it. Check out this week's playlist — with Antibalas, Zap Mama, Donora and Pig Destroyer, among others, below!



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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 4:58 PM

A new analysis of violations of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas laws over a four-year period concludes that such violations are commonplace among fracking companies of all sizes, from multi-national corporations to locally based firms.

Fracking Failures: Oil and Gas Industry Environmental Violations in Pennsylvania and What They Mean for the U.S. was released by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, an environmental group. (The complete report is here.)

The report looked at violations by companies that use hydraulic fracturing, a process for extracting natural gas and oil that involves pumping large volumes of chemical-laced water underground at high volumes to crack rock, releasing the fossil fuel contained there. The state is home to more than 7,000 such active wells, overseen by 60-some operators.

PennEnvironment emphasized that the violations it noted “are not paperwork violations. Rather, the study tracks lapses such as allowing toxic chemicals to leach into the air and water, endangering drinking water through improper well construction, and dumping industrial waste into waterways.”

The company with the most violations was found to be Houston-based Cabot Oil, with 265 violations over the four years. Atlas Energy, based in Pittsburgh, had the most violations per well drilled, averaging 1.18.

PennEnvironment also noted that four of the largest drillers, all of whom had pledged to adhere to higher environmental standards as part of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, had “at least 100 infractions” between them. They include EQT, Chevron Appalachia, Consol and Shell.

The report cites the potential long-term health risks of emissions of toxic chemicals.

In the wake of yesterday's news that drilling-friendly former Gov. Corbett’s top energy adviser has – surprise! – taken a job with trade group the Marcellus Shale Coalition, PennEnvironment used the report’s release to urge newly sworn-in Gov. Tom Wolf to: increases funding for enforcement of laws regulating frackers; increase the number of inspections and ease of public access to information about violations; increase penalties to violations; and withhold permits from “companies that have ongoing and chronic records of putting the health of the public and our environment at risk.”

JAN. 28, 2015, UPDATE: The Marcellus Shale Coalition has issued a response to yesterday’s PennEnvironment report.

The statement reads, in part: “Pennsylvania has a world-class regulatory framework and enforcement programs that are enabling the safe development of clean-burning natural gas. It’s unfortunate that some fringe groups, who cannot accept these clear facts, have once again manipulated data in attempt to advance an out of the mainstream agenda.”

The Coalition’s key factual objection appears to be that the report reclassifies some violations that DEP considers “administrative” as “environmental and health,” and vice versa.

The Coalition charges that “[a]mong the activist group’s so-called, re-categorized ‘health’ violations are things like ‘E&S Plan not adequate’ (which doesn’t indicate any sort of actual environmental/health harm), ‘Plan not on site’ (paperwork), and many others cite paperwork-related ‘potentials’ for impact, which, of course does not mean — by any measure — that such purely administrative actions led to any impacts.”

CP asked PennEnvironment to respond to that criticism. One of the report’s authors, Jeff Inglis, of the Frontier Group, replied that the authors recategorized some violations because “there is no clear consistency with how the PA DEP makes these designations. There are some that are pretty clearly risking damage to the environment but are nevertheless called ‘Administrative,’ and others that are pretty clearly paperwork-related but are called ‘Environmental Health & Safety’ violations by the PA DEP. And there are at least two types of violations that are sometimes designated as ‘Administrative’ and sometimes as ‘EH&S.’”

For example, wrote Inglis in an email, DEP classifies as “administrative” violations such acts as drilling within 100 feet of surface water or wetland without a variance, and having “pit and tanks not constructed with sufficient capacity to contain pollutional substances.” And the department classifies as “environmental health & safety violations” things like the failure to have a permit on site during drilling, and if a “pollution incident was not reported to DEP.”

“Relying on the PA DEP designation risked excusing those companies who committed actual damage and improperly penalizing those companies who committed paperwork violations,” Inglis writes.

Asked to address the specific examples cited by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Inglis acknowledges that some were classified by DEP as administrative violations. But he writes that the report’s stated criteria is not that a violation caused actual harm, but “that it posed a serious risk of doing so. And we report that these risks are not theoretical, because at least some of those violations — as we document in the report — did cause actual harm, including killing and injuring people, contaminating drinking water supplies, and polluting the environment.”

For instance, in the case of “E&S [erosion & sedimentation] Plan not adequate,” Inglis explains: “This is classified by the PA DEP as ‘Administrative.’ Failure to have an adequate plan for handling erosion and sedimentation creates clear risk to the health of the surrounding environment.” On “[erosion & sedimentation] plan not on site,” Inglis notes that the violation referenced also includes the phrase “No E&S plan developed,” and he adds, “failure to have a plan for handling erosion and sedimentation creates clear risk to the health of the surrounding environment.”

Inglis also commented on several instances of what the MSC calls “paperwork-related ‘potentials’” that the report cited as “environmental and health.” For example, one of these, which DEP in fact classifies as an environmental safety and health violation, is “potential for polluting substance(s) reaching Waters of the Commonwealth.” Inglis argues that this is “synonymous with our standard of things that ‘pose serious risks to … the environment.’”



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Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 4:12 PM

click to enlarge Toro y Moi, playing Mr. Small's May 7
Toro y Moi, playing Mr. Small's May 7
Tycho — the ambient-electronic project of designer and producer Scott Hansen — was announced today as an opener on what was already shaping up to be one of the big shows of the spring, alt-J's appearance at the Benedum Center on April 2. 

In other new-shows news:

Foxygen plays Mr. Small's Mon., April 13; that show is $15-17 and on sale Friday. Also at Small's: The Mountain Goats, Thu., April 23 ($20-22, on sale now); Circa Survive appears Tue., April 28 ($18.50-22, on sale now); Toro y Moi plays Thu., May 7 ($18-20, on sale Friday); and Primal Scream appears Thu., May 14 ($29.50, on sale Friday).

Pete Rock and Slum Village come to the Rex Theater Wed., March 11 ($20, 18 and over, on sale now). Also at the Rex: Pokey LaFarge, on Thu., April 30 ($15, on sale now). 

Alien Ant Farm and (Hed) PE headline Altar Bar Tue., April 21 ($18-20, on sale Saturday); also at Altar: Doyle, March 16 ($14-15, on sale Saturday); Yellowcard and Finch March 17 ($29-30, on sale Friday).

At Brillobox, CRUISR appears with locals BADBOXES Tue., March 10 ($8-10, on sale now); Screaming Females come back to town with Shellshag Sun., March 29 ($10-12, on sale now). 

Ever-evolving locals Mariage Blanc appear for a rare show at Cattivo, Feb. 7 ($5-7, on sale now).

Of interest to local-music folks and Lou Reed fans: Newly announced at Club Cafe is A Pittsburgh Tribute to Lou Reed, Sun., March 22 ($5, on sale now). And Polar Scout releases a new album with a release show there Sat., April 18 ($7, on sale Friday). 

And for fans of classic rock and planning ahead, Mark Knopfler will be appearing at Heinz Hall Tue., Oct. 13, assuming the world hasn't been hit by an asteroid or something by then. That show's $76-156 and goes on sale Friday.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 4:07 PM

click to enlarge Toby Lightman
Toby Lightman


There was a stretch when the term “VH1 You Oughta Know artist” carried some considerable weight. In the early to mid-2000s, inoffensive singer-songwriters like James Blunt, Natashia Bedingfield and Corrine Bailey Rae took the network’s tag and ran with it, charting a few major hits along the way. Most of the “You Oughta Know” alums from this time pumped a little soul into the late-‘90s alt-pop model. They were a strange commodity — artists usually caught in major label-purgatory who needed an extra boost to their five minutes of fame.

Toby Lightman was a “You Oughta Know” artist in 2005, just after the release of her first album, Little Things, but it never quite took her to Blunt or Bedingfield-levels of stardom. Her singles “Devils and Angels” and “Real Love” (a Mary J. Blige cover) were minor hits on the U.S. Adult Top 40 charts, but since then, her career’s been more of a consistent tinkering with the era’s sound than repeated pop success.

Lightman’s latest album, Every Kind of People, is a change of pace on several accounts — it’s her first effort crowdfunded through PledgeMusic, but Every Kind of People also represents the first time Lightman really sets her sights on the ‘60s soul revival. The songs are still decidedly personal — many are simple piano ballads — but, by looking far into the past, Lightman has kept up with the times.

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 12:39 PM

click to enlarge Douglas Lowell Blevins - PHOTO COURTESY OF MASHA VERESHCHENKO
Photo courtesy of Masha Vereshchenko
Douglas Lowell Blevins


Douglas Lowell Blevins is a local singer-songwriter who recently released a new EP, Cruel Variations. He next plays live on Thu., Feb. 12 at Club Cafe with Miss Tess and the Talkbacks; today, he's our MP3 Monday. Listen to his track "Hit the Lights," and if you like, check him out on Bandcamp.

Douglas Lowell Blevins: Hit the Lights


To download, right-click here and choose "save link as"

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