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Friday, July 31, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 4:41 PM

"The black curtain drops, white lights floods the stage. J. Cole sits atop a slanted roof-like structure and raises his mic. The July 30 show at the First Niagara Pavilion began, kicking off his epic set with some older selections, and getting the crowd on their feet.

Stepping up to the mic, he said in a calm voice, "Now you all know I just dropped an album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, a few months back." Cheers reverberate from all sides of the large auditorium. "Now, how would ya'll like it, if I played the entire thing tonight?" The crowd roars in approval.

After playing a few more classics like, "Wet Dreamz", Cole stepped up and announced, "Now its time to embark on this journey." Jumping into the album, he spit hits like "No Role Modelz" and "G.O.M.D." with vehemence. The crowd gained more energy with each track, proving they could hold their own, despite the amphitheater only being three quarters full. Cole finally exited the stage after a nearly two hour set, leaving the crowd begging for more, and making this a show for the books."

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Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 1:49 PM

We slog through the twitter streams of the 2016 Presidential candidates, and give you a weekly round-up of the more entertaining ones, every Friday.

The Republican Pre-Debate Frenzy is in full steam, with GOP candidates (presumably) saying anything to get their poll numbers up. The debate is Thu., Aug. 6, at 9 p.m. on Fox News, but only the 10 polling highest make the cut. And debate-watchers, be sure to check out City Paper on Wed., Aug. 5, for a set of play-along bingo cards.

This week on Twitter, Scott Walker has pumped gas, bought a Blizzard at Dairy Queen and worn a cheap tie.

While most candidates play at being "regular joes" (see above), Trump straight up has pressing I-own-a-golf-course duties.

Great consecutive tweets. Spoken like a real American! 

Tough talk from a guy polling at near 1 percent. Also, "bandwidth"?

Apparently, it takes a wall of beer to "wash down" a visit from Marco Rubio.

This week's saddest tweet:

Comparisons were all the rage this week! 

Attention bulk-woolens buyers and people who like to ask questions! Meaningless graphs ahead. (Somebody forgot to buy an apostrophe for "Kohl's".)

Democratic contender Lincoln Chafee rarely tweets, and frankly, he seems to be running in another race in another time. We last featured his thoughts on how Vietnam might have ended differently. This week:

And finally, the man who gave us the go-to conservative phrase "man-on-dog" gets a dog.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 6:21 PM

click to enlarge Patricia Cluss of Standing Firm, which advocates for businesses to understand the workplace cost of partner violence, urged city council to add domestic violence situations to the bill as a valid use of paid sick time. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Patricia Cluss of Standing Firm, which advocates for businesses to understand the workplace cost of partner violence, urged city council to add domestic violence situations to the bill as a valid use of paid sick time.
A large crowd gathered in council chambers today to speak in support of or in opposition to a bill that would require employers to provide workers with mandatory sick time — a measure council wants to pass before it breaks for its summer recess.

"It's the clear intention of council to vote on Monday," Council President Bruce Kraus said after hearing public testimony. "I'm not going to mislead you and say it isn't."

Kraus along with councilors Corey O'Connor, Deb Gross and Darlene Harris were present for the public hearing. 

The paid sick time bill (2015-1825), sponsored by Councilor Corey O'Connor, would require all employers in Pittsburgh to pay workers for accrued sick time. After the first round of changes, the bill now states that workers at businesses with 15 or more employees would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked and, according to the bill, an employee should "at no point ... have access to more than 40 hours of paid sick time, unless the employer designates a higher amount." For places with fewer than 15 employees, paid sick time is capped at 24 hours, or three work days. Workers already employed could begin accruing sick  time as soon as the ordinance would pass; new employees would not be able to use accrued sick time until 90 days after they were hired.  Workers would be allowed to use the time for their own illness or to care for a family member.

Supporters called the bill "moral" and a "no brainer." 

"We are deeply concerned that single mothers and their young children make up 71 percent of households living in poverty in the Pittsburgh metro area," said Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, in her public testimony.  "This ordinance will help ensure that when that single mom gets a phone call at work that says that she is required to pick up her sick child at school immediately because he has a fever ... that mom will know that she can take care of her sick child, speeding up his recovery, and limiting his contact with others, while knowing her job is secure."

According to the bill, 40 percent of private sector workers in the city don't have paid sick time, and 77 percent of food and healthcare industry workers lack such benefits.

click to enlarge Councilor Deb Gross, co-sponsor, and Councilor Corey O'Connor, chief sponsor, speak after listening to public testimony. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Councilor Deb Gross, co-sponsor, and Councilor Corey O'Connor, chief sponsor, speak after listening to public testimony.
O'Connor told City Paper in early July that the bill is written as a public health measure.  "You don't want an employee coming in and infecting others," he said.

"Research from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shows that access to paid sick leave in Pittsburgh can result in decreased transmission rates for influenza," the bill goes on to state.

But some small business owners and service-industry representatives who testified are worried about the cost of paid sick days, whether workers would abuse it and how quickly city council went from inception to a planned vote on the bill.  The legislation was introduced on July 7.

"The first place we heard about [the bill] was in the newspaper," said John Graf, of the North Side Chamber of Commerce. "This was a three, three-and-a-half -week process. Do not try to do it by the end of this session. In many cases, these are businesses that already offer paid sick time."

"I've not heard the justification for the 18-year-old who is in his first job. That makes that employee that much more expensive," Graf said in his testimony, referring to the argument for people to be allowed to stay home and care for their children.

Steve Shivak of the SMC Business Councils, based in Cranberry Township but which represents small businesses in Pittsburgh, told council members during his testimony that the bill lacked statistics and was written "without the city understanding finances of businesses."

"The root cause of an unhealthy workforce is not businesses," he said. "Instead, the bill puts the ownership of health on the businesses ... [and] awards bad behavior."

An employee's smoking, drinking, illegal drug use, and poor nutrition habits are not the problems of the business owner, Shivak said.

"We're not opposed to paid sick days, but this is paid time off, not paid sick time," testified Jeff Cohen, chairman of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. He gave the example of someone abusing the system and taking a paid sick day to go to Kennywood.

Supporters of the bill in the crowd coughed loudly to interrupt and protest his testimony; Kraus called the crowd to order.

"This demonization of the poor has got to stop," Bob Hartley, a city resident and supporter of the bill who testified, told CP after the meeting. "We should be more concerned 
click to enlarge A protester testified as "Sam the Snot" in support of the paid sick days legislation. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
A protester testified as "Sam the Snot" in support of the paid sick days legislation.
about people [in power] because they're the decision-makers.  Are they taking days off to go to Kennywood? Are they taking illegal drugs?"

Along with industry representatives, some small business owners also spoke out against the bill.

"For someone to tell me what I have to do before they know what I can afford scares me," said Heather Nally, owner of the Mt. Washington restaurant Micro Diner. "I would never fire someone for calling off sick." 

Nally, who has gone through 50 employees in three years, says she already offers benefits for her employees, including a retirement fund for which she matches 3 percent. She told CP after the meeting that if the bill passes, she hopes that the 90-day wait period for an employee to use sick time is extended.

At the end of the meeting, O'Connor said that council will "get a good balanced bill by Monday." 

Meanwhile, Harris expressed concern about the timeline of the bill.

"I can understand that if something's going through so fast, you don't even know what it is," Harris said. "If it's too soon and I can't get the answers I need, I will abstain on this bill."

City council will reconvene yesterday's meeting, which is technically in recess, on Monday at 9:30 a.m. to discuss amendments. Their regularly schedule meeting will take place at 10:00 a.m.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 5:05 PM

Despite meeting more than three hours and plowing through about 40 pieces of legislation, Pittsburgh City Council members still decided to postpone a preliminary vote that would require all employers in the city to offer sick days to their workers.

The meeting is technically in recess until Monday. At that time a preliminary vote will be taken and then a final vote will occur at council's regular meeting immediately after.

Under the paid sick days legislation, employees at businesses with 15 or more employees within city limits would accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked with a maximum of 40 hours (five days) per year. At businesses with fewer than 15 employees, the rate of accrual would remain the same, but sick time would be capped at 24 hours (three days). Previous versions of the bill set maximum limits at nine  days per year

The legislation was initially proposed by Councilor Corey O'Connor earlier this month. Some small businesses and organizations representing them took issue with making paid sick days mandatory. Since then councilors have been working on amendments to the measure.

The bill has also been amended to clarify certain definitions and again include language that had been taken out the first time around. One change, for example, now defines big businesses as having 15 or more employees instead of "more than 15." 

Council president Bruce Kraus said that members have "reached concession on just about everything" in the bill.

However, there is a public hearing scheduled for tomorrow in council chambers at 1 p.m.

Before councilor Daniel LaVelle exited the meeting early, he announced that he "wants to exempt small businesses on some level" and would be emailing other councilors about the matter later today.

Among other legislation receiving preliminary approval, council unanimously passed a noise ordinance, which will set consistent allowable daytime and nighttime decibel levels for residential areas.

Kraus said the law "takes orphaned pieces of our noise code and brings them under one umbrella" and that prior to this legislation, "it was very confusing to go through our [noise] ordinances."

While Councilor Dan Gilman said it "was a huge win for residential communities," LaVelle and Councilor Darlene Harris expressed concern regarding the decibel meters and their availability in each police zone.  Kraus said that the city will budget for them in the fall.

Council also preliminarily approved legislation to expand permit parking in the Bluff/Uptown neighborhood and approved revisions for sewer line plans for new construction projects.

A public hearing on the paid sick days legislation will be held in council chambers tomorrow at 1 p.m. The standing committee meeting will reconvene Monday Aug. 3 at 9:30 a.m., followed by council's 10 a.m. final regular council meeting before its one-month summer hiatus. 

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Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 10:19 AM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist of tracks from artists covered in the current music section. This week, we've also included a few extra artists who are featured in our concert listings. Check it aht!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 4:38 PM

There's that point every summer when it just feels like summer: insects chirp, barbecues smoke, the air is a little hazy and sleepy. Iron and Wine's Sam Beam and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell imbue their music - year round - with a touch of these languid days. However, at the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall last night, the duo paid homage to the season with their equally complementary vocal styles and instrumentation, showcasing tracks from their album of covers, Sing Into My Mouth.

Beam's stage presence is something to behold; he converses with his audience, yet somehow seems to soothe them at the same time, via every lyric he croons and every aside he utters. Example: he kicked off this show telling the crowd how happy he was to be back in Pittsburgh, and genuinely shared the love he has for this city. (You almost just wanted to give him a hug.) While he might have said it, both he and Bridwell shone with this sentiment through the entire set. 
click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIRIAM LAMEY
Photo by Miriam Lamey

Such a swelling, sweltering evening was certainly tempered by the melancholy of pedal steel and ringing guitar strumming omnipresent during the set. During "Slow Cruel Hands of Time," Beam's distinctively earnest edge and gently assertive guitar playing softened the music, adding to its summer-perfect vibe. And just the right blend of pedal steel, guitars and drums brought an ache to the throat, and nostalgia to the mind, while helping these artists re-imagine solid tunes from artists as wide-ranging as Sade, Talking Heads and Ronnie Lane. Other neat techniques of note: the organ-like keys and inclusion of reedy, breathy clarinets, as refreshing as that one random breeze which can always cut the humidity.

Bridwell took the lead on more upbeat songs, his strong and deliciously whiny vocals standing up to the full band. Yet he imbued his cover of Beam's "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," with a vocal sensitivity - surprising, given his energy - and further toned down "The General Specific" to match Beam's mellow, melodic subtleties.

Of course, the pair were at their best playing together, riffing off one another, communicating their friendship and collaboration with their own good-natured charm through the sometimes poignant words of others. Another outstanding track, the short, achy Marshall Tucker Band original "Ab's Song" brought the pair together alone onstage. The balance between the light and brief track and its heavier words was personified via the Beam and Brid well's unique voices, sounds and personalities.

As the music and set wove in and out of the audience, the venue's temperature rose, giving it a very South Carolina feel. "It's hot as shit in here," Beam stated, yet chose to keep on his velvet jacket, telling the audience they didn't want to see what was underneath. Both artists, however, stripped down and presented their authentic sound onstage, whether singing their words, or covering others' songs. And that filled up the room with more creativity and loveliness and wonder than the heat on a summer's night ever could. Next time, we just want them to bring a few fireflies, a camp fire and some cold beers to share. 

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Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 3:45 PM

Ready for some fresh concert announcements? Here's a tiny batch for ya ...

Anderson Ponty Band (that's Jon Anderson & Jean-Luc Ponty) comes to the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall on November 1 ($50-90, on sale Saturday).

Hopsin, Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton and DJ Hoppa bring the FV2015 Tour to the Altar Bar on October 12 ($30, on sale now). Red FangWhores and Wild Throne also play Altar Bar on October 9 ($16-18, on sale now).

Toronto's Grounders plays Spirit on October 14 ($8-10, on sale now).

Low Cut Connie makes a stop at the Smiling Moose on September 16 ($10-12, on sale now).

STS9 comes to Stage AE on October 30 ($29.50-30, on sale Friday)

Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band will be at Mr. Small's Theatre on October 25 ($25, on sale Friday)

Choo Jackson plays a late show at Club Cafe on September 11 ($7, on sale now). Also at Club Cafe: The Wind + the Wave on October 25 ($10-12, on sale Friday).


Monday, July 27, 2015

Posted By on Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 5:09 PM

click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Christopher Lopes at Lopes Photographics
Photo courtesy of Christopher Lopes at Lopes Photographics

This week’s MP3 comes from Six Speed Kill; stream and/ or download “Hell in a Handbasket,” from the band’s new self-titled record below. If you dig it, check out the band live when they release the record on Friday, July 31 at the 31st Street Pub. 


This download link has expired. Sorry!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 4:41 PM

click to enlarge Alice Millage speaks to a crowd about her transition in the meeting room of the Persad Center. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
Alice Millage speaks to a crowd about her transition in the meeting room of the Persad Center.
On July 23, Alex Smithson, 42, told the story of his transition from woman to man. He was in a brightly lit room in the back of the Persad Center, an organization that provides counseling and mental-health services to LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities. He told the story of when he was a young woman and was part of a performance where he was set to play a male part.

“I was suppose to be impersonating a guy,” said Smithson to an intimate crowd of  nearly 20 people, “but it felt like I was cheating, like it was too easy. That was when I realized I was trans.”

The talk, titled "TransView," was put together as a joint event of TransPride Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Black Pride. Lyndsey Sickler, of TransPride, says the discussion was to be educational and informal and provide people with first-person stories of transgender Pittsburghers.

“It is so vital that people in our community speak. The voices of trans people can’t just be celebrities,” said Donna Christopher, also of TransPride. “People have different struggles than Caitlyn Jenner.”

Alice Millage, 32, also shared her story of transitioning from a man into a woman. Millage, who served in the Air Force as a man, started her transition about one year ago and says that people are starting to get used to it, but she still receives hateful side comments.

“I have been through so much passive-aggressive verbal abuse, I just laugh it off now,” said Millage.

Both spoke about the specific struggles of being a trans person of color. Like how as black men, people always gave them space, whether it was advantageous, such as at a crowded T stop, or awkward, like when people would avoid sitting next to them on a bus.

Millage added that now, as a woman, she has to be more conscious when going out alone at night than when she was a man.

Christopher, who is trans, added that events like this are really important to TransPride’s mission and that they are helping to change perspectives.

“People used to come up and say to me, ‘Yinz aren’t at all like the people on Jerry Springer.'”

Other Pittsburgh Black Pride events this weekend include The Aggresive-One and Ms. Fem Pageant starting at 6:30 p.m. Fri., July 24, and the Annual Pride Ball, at the American Legion Building in Troy Hill on Hatteras Street, at 7 p.m. on Sun., July 26.

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Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 4:22 PM

Pittsburgh City Council chambers were packed on July 22 when more than 75 attended the Wednesday council meeting to support an ordinance that would require employers to give employees paid sick days. Many, who testified in favor of the legislation, expected council to bring a committee vote on the issue that day.

Instead, amendments were made to the legislation and the vote was placed on hold for one week to give city council time to hold a public hearing. The hearing will occur on July 30, but council is expected to hold a preliminary vote on the legislation at their meeting the day before.

"With any bill there are some technicalities that we have to go through so today we are going to amend this bill and hold it," says District 5 Councilor Corey O'Connor, who sponsored the legislation. "This is something we want to get done, and we know it will get done. "

The amended legislation includes a number of changes. For instance, the number of hours needed to accrue one hour of sick time has been increased from 30 to 35. The changes also reduce the number of hours employees can accrue in a year from 72 to 40 for companies with more than 15 employees, and from 40 to 24 for company's with less than 15 employees. 

At the meeting, District 9 Councilor Ricky Burgess expressed a desire to co-sponsor the legislation. Councilors Natalia Rudiak, District 4, and Deborah Gross, District 7, are also co-sponsors. 

After most of the paid sick days supporters filed out of chambers, council directed their attention to another ordinance to create a board of license and inspection review. The legislation would create a five person board to hear appeals in business licensing and property maintenance cases. Board members would be appointed by the mayor.

While some were ready to vote on the bill, several councilors expressed reservations about empowering a board of appointed citizens to make appeal decisions.

"I don't think they should be appointed without council oversight," said Burgess. "I'm protective of council's authority, and I will probably always side with council's authority."

This ordinance was also held for one week.

"Anytime we're adding another level of bureaucracy, I think we need to have a public hearing," said District 2 Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith.

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