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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 10:54 AM

click to enlarge Rudiak kicks off controller campaign
Photo by Alex Zimmerman
Natalia Rudiak at the Polish Falcons Nest
In a linoleum-tiled room nestled behind a smokey bar at the Polish Falcons Nest #8 in South Side last night, City Councilor Natalia Rudiak kicked off her campaign for city controller and made a stab at defining her candidacy.

She'll be squaring off against against seven-year incumbent Michael Lamb, who she tried to define as a product of an old political machine that wouldn't be capable of the data-driven innovation she's championed on city council.

"I’m running for city controller because it is time to lift up our vision for a new Pittsburgh," Rudiak said in front of a crowd of about 50. "And I don’t believe that the vision … will ever be realized without a new controller. We cannot have 21st century executive and legislative bodies with 20th century oversight.”

She touted her role in "guid[ing] a five-year Act 47 plan," her "Open Data" bill that "made all city data public and open by default," and status as chair of council's Finance and Law Committee.

But Rudiak also took direct aim at Lamb: "Less than two years ago, our city was rocked by scandal. Our police chief went to jail, our mayor was under grand jury investigation for possible fiscal related misconduct and our controller said there was nothing he could have done to stop it.”

Rudiak's got the backing of County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (who was in attendance) and Mayor Bill Peduto (according to Rudiak), whose political infrastructure she's trying to capitalize on by billing herself as an extension of Peduto's "new" Pittsburgh. Rudiak acknowledges it's tricky to get people excited about financial oversight, part of the reason she's hoping to make the election about a larger political agenda. "It's hard to make this stuff sexy," she says.

But she's vowing to try: Taking a page out of Peduto's political playbook, each week of her campaign will feature a new policy proposal or reform.

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Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM

click to enlarge Images Bar hosts fundraiser to benefit long-time bartender
Photo courtesy of Images Bar
Rodney Dececchi
Downtown's Images Bar has remained one of Pittsburgh’s most popular gay bars for years. In a drag-show fundraiser tonight, the bar aims to support a staff member who has been serving the LGBT community since long before Images even existed.

Images bartender Rodney Dececchi suffered a stroke on Feb. 11 and remains in the Neurological Trauma Step Down Unit at UPMC Mercy Hospital after two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit.

Tonight, 50 percent of bar sales at Images as well as any donations will go to support Dececchi during his recovery and rehabilitation.

Hosted by local drag queens Lola LeCroix, who was featured on CP's 2015 wedding issue cover, and Marsha Monster Mellow, there will be performances by the queens, whose tips will also go toward helping Dececchi. Other musical entertainment will accompany the queens, who will be on the microphone all night.

“Rodney’s been in the industry for years. He goes back all the way to the old Pegasus and Pittsburgh Eagle days. He’s been everywhere,” says LeCroix. The stroke has left him unable to speak and with no mobility on the right side of his body. “We’re all hopeful he makes a full recovery,” LeCroix added.

The fundraiser takes place tonight from 8 p.m.-midnight. There is a $5 suggested donation.

Images is located at 965 Liberty Ave.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 6:43 PM

Today was the deadline for filing petitions for the 2015 primary election in May. While many candidates had already announced their campaigns, there were some surprises at the Allegheny County Election Division.

Among them was veteran school board member Mark Brentley who filed petitions to run for Pittsburgh City Council District 1. Brentley previously ran for city council in 2009 and lost. This election, he will face incumbent Darlene Harris, along with Randy Zotter, Bobby Wilson and David Schuilenberg. Earlier this year, Brentley announced he would not be running to retain his seat on the Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors.

"I'll be leaving the board in November," says Brentley. "In city council, I would continue my work to change the landscape of the city by advocating for jobs and resources for African Americans in Pittsburgh."

Another highly contested race in city council will be for District 9 where incumbent Rev. Ricky Burgess faces Judith Ginyard, Andre Young and former District 9 Councilor Twanda Carlisle. 

"We have a nice message, and I think our chances are very good," Young said after filing. "The field's a little crowded, but even though it's crowded, I think voters will still be able to hear my voice."

In 2007 Carlisle resigned from council after pleading no contest to charges of corruption and ethics violations. She was convicted of public corruption in 2008 and sentenced to one to two years in prison. As a result some have questioned whether she can legally hold public office.

"I'm going to let the attorneys do the work they need to do and hopefully it will work out in my favor," she said today after filing her petitions.

Unofficial Candidate List for the Municipal Primary:

Allegheny County Controller

Chelsa Wagner
Mark Patrick Flaherty

City of Pittsburgh Controller

Michael Lamb
Natalia Rudiak

City of Pittsburgh Council - District 5

Corey O'Connor
Kimberly Kaplan

City of Pittsburgh Council - District 7

Deb Gross
Latasha Mayes

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Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 4:28 PM

It's Tuesday, which means it must be time for some concert announcements. Here we go!

click to enlarge Concert announcements: Rakim, Twin Peaks, Faster Pussycat, Iron Chic, more
Chris Petty

You may have already heard THIS particular news, but on March 26, Rakim will make a stop at Mr. Smalls with Dead Prez, which sounds pretty sweet. Tickets are $25 and on sale now.

On May 2, at the very same venue, local D&D metalheads Dethlehem (a favorite of our former editor, Chris Potter), will be playing their album "Destroyers of the Realm" in its entirety. They'll be joined by Greywalker, Supervoid and Spike The Tomb ($10-12, on sale now).

Also coming to Mr. Smalls: The Early November, in late May ... the 27th to be exact ($17-20, on sale Friday); and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, May 30 ($16-18, on sale Friday), 

On June 17, the indie band with the indie-est name ever, Twin Peaks, comes to Brillobox ($8-10, on sale now).

At Club Cafe: British alt-rock band World Party on May 20 ($22, on sale Friday); Joe Firstman of The Cordovas with Chris Hannigan and Nameless In August on June 4 ($10-12, on sale now); and Lloyd Cole on June 16 ($20-22, on sale Friday).

Just announced, just now: DJ/producer Filibusta comes to Stage AE on April 15 ($10-12, on sale Friday).

A few tours coming to Altar BarKill Paris on May 13 ($22-25, on sale now); Insomnium and The Catastrophist on August 15 ($18-55, on sale March 24); Pianos Become the Teeth with Lorma Prieta and Gates on May 16 ($12-14, on sale now); Bad Suns on May 4 ($15-18, on sale Friday); Faster Pussycat on May 3 ($25-50, on sale Friday); and Los Lonely Boys on June 21 ($27-30, on sale Saturday) 

On April 24, Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter plays Cattivo ($15, on sale now). Also at Cattivo: Seryn on April 15 ($10, on sale now); TOPS on April 8 ($10, on sale now); Ice Nine Kills on May 3 ($13-15, on sale Friday); A Place to Bury Strangers on June 20 ($27-30, on sale Saturday); and Iron Chic on May 2 ($0...that's right, FREE!)

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Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 2:20 PM

At a meeting March 9 between city police and representatives of local LGBT groups, top police officials said they were looking to expand "cultural competency training" and recruitment of LGBT police officers.

City police have struggled with diversity in recent years, but "it's a clear goal of [Chief Cameron McLay] to look like the community we serve," says commander Eric Holmes, who was at the meeting. "We would love members of the [LGBT] community to sit" for the next civil-service test in June. He also says the police haven't had consistent department-wide cultural-competency training "for a few years now," and that McLay wants it to apply to "the newest officer all the way up the chain of command."

LGBT groups including the Persad Center, Delta Foundation and Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, as well as religious leaders were in attendance, Holmes says — part of an effort to open a dialogue and build trust with the LGBT community, which has sometimes been skeptical of police.

Tensions ran high this past summer, for instance, when Pittsburgh officer Souroth Chatterji arrested a teenage girl at PrideFest after punching her repeatedly. He was cleared of all wrongdoing, but the city didn't offer a detailed explanation of how the evidence led them to that conclusion.

“Obviously, I think there are some concerns in the LGBT community with the Pittsburgh police,” says Delta Foundation president Gary Van Horn, who attended the meeting with McLay and whose organization manages the events associated with Pride. "It would be my hope that the chief is trying to repair some of that and reach out.”

Though it wasn't discussed at the meeting, Van Horn says he's already been in contact with McLay's office in an effort to make sure this year's Pride is well staffed by police. Last year, some officers never made it to their designated posts, something Van Horn says could be fixed by working with a scheduler within the bureau, instead of relying solely on third-party scheduler Cover Your Assets.

Betty Hill, executive director at Persad, and Van Horn agree the meeting was productive. "All in all, I’d say it was a very positive introduction,” says Hill. "I think he’s sincere about wanting the police to be unbiased." Hill says there's also a need for affirmative "competency skills" — to handle issues such as same-sex intimate-partner violence.

But the LGBT community isn't monolithic: Trans people or racial minorities may have dramatically different perceptions of police, Hill says. "There is a lot of work we need to do ... within the community. [...] But also police [need to understand] the different fear that comes from not being a part of a privileged community.”

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 10:13 AM

click to enlarge MP3 Monday: Backyard Kings
Photo courtesy of Brittany Sossong

This week's MP3 Monday offering comes from New Germany indie poppers Backyard Kings. "Teenagers" is the band's first single from its forthcoming album, The Weekend, out May 30. Backyard Kings will play a Club Cafe release show that same night.


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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Posted By on Sun, Mar 8, 2015 at 9:28 PM

click to enlarge Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorses candidates for 2015 election
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Bagpipers, street food vendors, and green shamrock T-shirts. Passers-by might have mistaken today's festivities at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local union headquarters in the South Side for an early St. Patrick's Day celebration. 

But the event was the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's annual election endorsements where committee members cast their votes to decide which candidates the party should endorse in the upcoming May primary election.

The annual event draws some of the region's most powerful committee powerhouses and longest reigning political families. But though the event is steeped in tradition, some have begun to wonder if the endorsement process should be changed.

"The committee loves the process but a lot of the voters think we're out of date," said Nancy Patton Mills, chair of the ACDC. "What we want to do is keep the Democratic party relevant."

Video by Ashley Murray
An estimated 1,700 votes were cast at today's event which saw several new committee members voting for the first time. 

"I think it's important for the voters," says Sierra Parm, a new committee member. "It helps streamline the process for them."

Outside of the endorsements, candidate tables lined the sidewalk to greet each committee member as they walked through. Volunteers also took the opportunity to collect signatures for election petitions and to campaign for their candidates.

"There are people who believe the endorsement has a lot of credibility, and historically that's been the case," said Ola Jackson who was working a table to support judicial candidate Rosemary Crawford.

But times are changing. In recent years, candidates not endorsed by the ACDC have won elections, including now Mayor William Peduto who did not seek the endorsement in 2013.

"I think we should get rid of endorsements," said Sam Hens-Greco, 14th Ward Democratic Committee chair. "We spend a tremendous amount of money and time on them, and there's more the party could be doing."

Attitudes like this are part of the reason the ACDC plans to hold a convention this summer to re-examine the committees bylaws and endorsement process.

"We may make some adjustments, but we won't be eliminating them," said Mills. "You can see the committee people love it. Everyone's having a ball."

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Posted By on Sun, Mar 8, 2015 at 5:07 PM

This film was not screened for critics locally, so we took a look at the trailer.

Film: Chappie
Opening Date: March 6
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley (as robot model)
Necessary Info: Tale of a police robot that get re-programmed to think for itself; directed by Neill Blomkamp, who brought us the penned-up-aliens tale District 9

Sample dialogue:
“I am conscious. I am alive. I am Chappie.”

Trailer Analysis: Has a real E.T. feel, with soaring music, and the robot Chappie doing cute things while learning to be “human.” Feel-goodness reinforced by statements like “Anything you want to do in your life you can do — write poetry” and “You taught us so much more than I could ever have imagined.” Later, Chappie is shot at, but the vibe is still heartwarming because surely THOSE PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NON-HUMAN BEING CHAPPIE IS!

Based on these 2:04 minutes, should you go? I’m a big fan of movies about robots that go bad, so this isn’t a must-see for me. The actual film may not be as schmaltzy as this trailer, but what’s here doesn’t bode well for a thoughtful cautionary tale about artificial intelligence.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 5:57 PM

click to enlarge Q&A with "Orange is The New Black" writer Lauren Morelli, in Pittsburgh March 10 for LGBT fundraiser
Photo courtesy of the Women and Girls Foundation

Lauren Morelli's path to becoming a writer and co-producer on the Netflix hit series Orange is the New Black was hardly linear. The McCandless native didn't start seriously writing fiction until after college — and spent years working as a personal assistant, nervously wondering what her next move would be before landing a gig on Orange. She's in town as the keynote speaker for the Women and Girls Foundation "Crossroads" conference next Tuesday, March 10 and will attend a "Night Out With Orange" benefit for Project Silk and the Delta Foundation that evening, 8 p.m. at Cruze Bar. Tickets for that event are available here. In advance of her appearance, Morelli spoke with City Paper about everything from why she got into TV to how working on the show made her start to question her sexual identity and leave her husband. 

What drew you to writing and how did you make your way to Orange is the New Black?

It was a very long meandering process. [laughs] I was a dance major in college. I'd lived in New York and then moved to LA and been there for about 8 years. I knew I wasn't going to dance but I didn't know what was next, [so] I started taking various assistant jobs. It was just so far from everything that I had imagined my life was going to be. I started writing just for myself — short stories and scripts. That eventually lead to getting a manager and an agent. Orange is my first professional writing job — Jenji Kohan who’s our showrunner and creator, is really one of the only showrunners I know who will hire someone who doesn't have any experience — she really responded to my script. When I met her I think we both felt like we were really kindred spirits.

What's important about Kohan's philosophy?

I think a lot of showrunners care about someone coming in and having a similar voice or being able to mimic their tone, which certainly is important when you’re writing on a show. But Jenji really wants to know that you have your own point-of-view and that you’re going to come in be an individual. I always call our writers room the land of misfit toys. We’re all very unafraid to stand up for our opinions.

I was recently chatting with a TV writer who expressed some concern that new mediums (like Netflix) are creating more fractured and specialized audiences, that we aren't all watching the same shows. What kind of audience do you have in mind when you’re writing an episode?

I actually don’t think about the audience. I think part of what’s made [Orange] so successful is we had no real concept of who the audience was going to be. Netflix was brand new in the original programming space — they hadn’t released House of Cards yet. So it felt like being in the wild west. We weren't writing a network show where we were beholden to advertisers, so it felt very much like we could do whatever we wanted. And I think because of that, I never could have anticipated the audience for Orange would be as broad as it is. I thought it was going to be a very specific group of women who would love it. I kept joking there would be like 10 lesbians in Wisconsin who are going to be really into the show [laughs]. Now that it’s successful, I think it’s really important to not consider the audience. Because when you start writing to the audience, that’s when it can get a little pedantic or expected. Even as an audience member, as someone who watches a lot of TV, I can feel when I’m being pandered to.

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Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 4:10 PM

Today, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Local 400 announced its endorsements for the upcoming May primary school-board election. 

Four seats are up for grabs and three incumbent school directors — Mark Brentley, Sherry Hazuda and Bill Isler — have all announced they will not run for re-election. District 2 Rep. Regina Holley is so far running unopposed. 

In its announcement today, the PFT endorsed Holley, along with District 4 challenger Lynda Wrenn, Moira Kalieda in District 6 and Kevin Carter in District 8.  

“School-board elections are always important for our city, but that is especially true this year. The incoming school board will be responsible for recruiting the next superintendent and planning the direction of the district for the next few years,” PFT 400 President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said in a statement. “We believe Regina Holley, Lynda Wrenn, Moira Kaleida and Kevin Carter are the school-board candidates that understand what our students and our schools need to succeed.”

The union was especially complimentary of Kaleida, a Beechview resident and committee member with the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. 

“PFT 400 has more members that live in District 6 than in any other district in the city of Pittsburgh. As someone who teaches and lives in District 6, I am proud to announce the endorsement of Moira Kaleida for school board,” said PFT 400 Political Action Committee Chair Jeremiah Dugan. “Moira Kaleida understands the issues facing the 10 schools in District 6 and schools across the city of Pittsburgh. Moira Kaleida is a strong supporter of community schools, and as a public-school parent, she has the passion needed to be an effective school-board member.”

Also running are Kirk Burkley for District 4, Tracy Link for District 6 and Patricia Rogers for District 8.

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