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Monday, February 29, 2016

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 2:45 PM

Frank Udavak

This week’s MP3 comes from MC Moemaw Naedon and producer Billy Hoyle. On March 12 they'll release a new nine-track record called Travel Through on locally-based Surface Level Records. Until then you can check out the title track, which is available to stream or download below.


Download link has expired, sorry!

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 2:20 PM

We slog through the Twitter streams of the 2016 Presidential candidates and give you a weekly roundup of the more entertaining ones.  

Another head-spinning week, as Trump racked up victories in South Carolina and Nevada (and every other time and place ever according to him), and America was treated to another free-for-all "debate." (Best line of the night: Ben Carson pondering the "fruit salad of their lives," when asked about potential Supreme Court picks.)

And we lost Jeb(!). He sent out this sad farewell tweet. Not even a rousing exclamation point see us off.

I know I'll miss his truly terrible Twitter optics, like this one him posing awkwardly and alone in a green screen.

The word-nerd part of me loves this: Used like a GOAT, fired like a DOG.

Kasich gives some answers, including "yes" and "nope."

Clinton shamelessly co-opts this viral moment, and also misses the point of it all.

The Sanders playlist expands: Killer Mike, Red Hot Chili Peppers, now Woody Guthrie.

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney jumped in the fray, using some of that fancy-person talk that helped torpedo his 2012 campaign.

Marco Rubio picked up endorsements, including highly coveted ones from wrestler Kurt Angle, Mr. Proud to Be an American Lee Greenwood and "the other Wahlberg."

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 1:10 PM

Pittsburgh has more than 700 publicly owned steps and if you have been paying attention to them, you know many are in bad shape. But city officials are trying to change that, and it appears they are on their way to receiving some help.

Pittsburgh is a finalist in the third round of the City Accelerator contest run by the foundation coalitions Living Cities and the Citi Foundation. Once the winners are announced, the accelerator will work with three cities over an 18-month period “to advance innovative efforts that improve the lives of low-income people and help cities run more effectively.”

click to enlarge The Louisa Street steps in Oakland has a 'runnel' that allows for cyclists to easily move their bike up and down. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
The Louisa Street steps in Oakland has a 'runnel' that allows for cyclists to easily move their bike up and down.
“The steps are vital assets [and] they're one of Pittsburgh's most unique features,” wrote Alex Pazuchanics, a policy advisor for Mayor Bill Peduto in an email to City Paper. “Steps are essential to creating walkable communities in terrain like ours. They're true intergenerational assets.”

Pazuchanics says the mayor’s office discovered the contest through chief of staff Kevin Acklin’s previous involvement with Living Cities, which brings together chiefs of staff from cities across the country to collaborate. He adds that when the mayor first took office, there was not even a list of all the city-owned assets, like steps.

“We are getting much better about understanding the challenge and identifying and prioritizing the needs,” says Pazuchanics. “Now we need to explore the best option for how to pay for it.”

Winners receive a limited amount of capital for their projects, but gain valuable techniques and training from some of the world’s largest public-private partnerships on how to develop funding mechanisms, according to Pazuchanics.

“I think steps play a huge role in livability for our neighborhoods,” wrote Pazuchanics. “We're experiencing growth in our walkable communities because the world is coming around to a concept many Pittsburghers already knew — it is desirable to live in a dense, walkable neighborhood with transit and vibrant community assets.”

The newly formed group PGH Walks couldn’t agree more. The pedestrian-advocacy group formed last fall in response to the deaths of cyclists Susan Hicks, and pedestrians Henry Walker and his wife, Carol Christine Williamson. All were struck by vehicles, and both incidents occurred within one week in October 2015. (Read City Paper’s coverage about the deaths and Pa.’s lack of enforcement for cyclists and pedestrian fatally struck by vehicles, here.)

Adrienne Jouver of PGH Walks says the group wants to raise awareness of pedestrian issues and pedestrian rights. PGH Walks has given the City Accelerator project five stars, and Jouver says the plan is fantastic.

“Just how the city is built, it is so hilly, the steps are really necessary, and I think that is an awesome project to address that issue,” says Jouver.

Pittsburgh City Accelerator project has garnered the most positive comments of any finalist so far, and Pazuchanics says the decision on who moves on should be made sometime this week. If you want to weigh in on the city’s steps project, click here.

And if you want to take part in PGH Walks, the group is holding a winter walk tomorrow, Sat., Feb.  27. The group will meet at Caffe d’Amore, in Lawrenceville, at 10 a.m. Jouver says people are welcome to join the walk along the way, which will proceed down Butler Street, stop at the Kickback Pinball Cafe and finally end at Espresso a Mano.

Editor's note: a previous version of this blog attributed information from city officials to spokesperson Tim McNulty. The post has been updated to attribute that information to Alex Pazuchanics, a policy advisor for the city.

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 10:58 AM

Activist groups released a report this week, finding that a disproportionate number of low-income minority communities live within one-mile evacuation zones, or "blast zones," of oil-train routes.

The environmental groups ForestEthics and PennEnvironment, along with economic-justice group Action United, studied major urban areas in Pennsylvania through which oil-train routes cross — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Reading.

“We used U.S. EPA’s methodology and US Census data to look at the threat to people living along oil-train routes, [and] our maps show that crude-oil trains add to environmental discrimination,” said Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme-oil campaign director, in a press release. “The danger of an explosion and lung disease from mile-long oil trains falls heaviest on families in environmental-justice communities — families who already live with more air pollution and the highest risk from industrial accidents.”

In the case of Pittsburgh, the report found that 31 percent of those living within blast zones are non-white. Eleven percent of the non-white population lives outside the blast zone, the report says.  When looking at the Environmental Protection Agency's "environmental justice" communities — as defined by both race and income level — the report found that 70 percent of Pittsburgh's "vulnerable" low-income minority communities live within a blast zone. According to the report, blast zones in Pittsburgh make up 18 percent of the land mass.

The report's recommendations include: a moratorium on oil imports into Pennsylvania by train; that the U.S. EPA enforce statues prohibiting racial discrimination; that Gov. Wolf's administration assess risks from oil trains to environmental-justice communities; and that the Office of Emergency management discuss evacuation plans with communities inside of the "blast zones."

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 9:57 AM

A sudden illness has caused the cancellation of what was to be the Pittsburgh premiere for this internationally acclaimed Canadian choreographer and dancer Louise LeCavalier. 

The Pittsburgh Dance Council announced the cancellation this morning of Lecavalier's Fou Glorieux, which was scheduled at the Byham Theater tonight.

 “We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused and thank you for your support of Dance Council events,” said the Dance Council, in a statement.

The release continued: "The event will not be rescheduled at this time and all ticket buyers will receive a full refund.

"For more information, call the Theater Square Box Office at (412) 456-6666."

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 6:07 AM

Here's what's going down in Pittsburgh:

1. (T)ERROR, a documentary about an counterterrorism investigation in Pittsburgh aired Monday night on PBS' Independent Lens.  In (T)ERROR, Saeed “Shariff” Torres becomes an FBI informant and is tasked to ferret out, befriend and aid with the conviction of a "person of interest" in Pittsburgh. The film quickly reveals the inherent risks of using paid informants. It can still be viewed on the Independent Lens website.


click to enlarge PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
2. Uber detailed some of its plans, during a Tuesday night meeting, to lease and develop parts of the Almono site — the former LTV coke-works site — which sits along the Monongahela River in Hazelwood. The site would be used for testing self-driving cars for 3 to 5 years. The project was generally well received by the meeting crowd, but some residents expressed doubt about how the development would benefit the community.


Photo by Ashley Murray
3. Computer Reach, a nonprofit that refurbishes computers for under-served communities, is donating 250 computers to Colombia en Pittsburgh to be distributed to low-income Latino families this Sat., Feb. 27, at the St. Regis Parish in Oakland. City Paper reported the story in English, but Spanish audio is available here: Escuchar articulo en Espanol.


4. Pittsburgh Opera's
27, about Gertrude Stein’s famed Paris artists’ salon, is wrapping up this weekend. The final showings are 7:30 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. Sun., Feb. 28. City Paper arts editor Bill O'Driscoll writes in his review, "With just five performers accompanied by two pianists, the feel of this 100-minute show is intimate."


5. Activist groups released a report this week, finding that a disproportionate number of low-income minority Pennsylvanians live within one-mile evacuation zones, or "blast zones," of oil-train routes. In the case of Pittsburgh, the report's authors found that 70 percent of Pittsburgh's "vulnerable" low-income minority communities — or, "environmental justice" communities — live within a blast zone. According to the report, blast zones in Pittsburgh make up 18 percent of the land mass.


Photo by Aaron Warnick
6. The Pittsburgh Public Market will shut its doors after this weekend. General manager Rich Westerfield told City Paper last month that the building's landlord would not renew the market's lease but that management was looking for a new space. But last week he told WESA-FM that the market in its current form will not exist again in the future. On tap for its last weekend: a forum about shopping locally, live music, a food truck roundup, and the Pittsburgh Fermentation Festival.


7. TEDxPittsburgh
is seeking speaker nominations for its next event. TEDx is a locally organized spinoff of the nonprofit TED, which stands for "Techonology, Education, Design" and holds two annual international conferences that feature various speakers. This year's TEDxPittsburgh's theme is "Activate," and a press release says the organization is seeking speakers "who have taken a spark of inspiration and ignited others to change." The deadline is Monday.


On our podcast:

Photos by Ashley Murray
In this week’s podcast episode, host Alex Gordon talks shop with City Paper’s senior staff in a no-so-conventional place. Producer Ashley Murray rides along with a Pittsburgh Uber driver to find out why he and others are disappointed with the company. (For more on that, check out our in-depth look at Uber in Pittsburgh.) And, columnist and food adventurist Celine Roberts walks along the South Side Soup Contest route. Find out which soup was her favorite.

On our cover: 

Photo courtesy of Pat Lewis
Pat Lewis is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator from the North Side who has worked on Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustrations for the past five years.  This week he created the cover and artwork for our news feature about Uber's two-year anniversary in Pittsburgh and drivers' frustrations with the multibillion-dollar company. In our Q&A, Lewis talks about his most recent City Paper cover and what it's like to be an artist in Pittsburgh.

On our political blogs:

On our PolitiCrap blog this week, we report on nonprofit professional Aerion Abney's withdraw from the Pennsylvania House race for the 19th Legislative District — a seat which Democratic Rep. Jake Wheatley has held since 2003. Rep. Wheatley is left with one challenger, social worker Jessica Wolfe, who this week bought Wheatley's old campaign website domain names and is using them to post not-so-flattering stories about the incumbent. Two of the websites now redirect to Wolfe's campaign website and another redirects to a May 2012 KDKA-TV article about a domestic violence incident involving Wheatley and his then-fiancee.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary race, former U.S. Congressman and Navy Admiral Joe Sestak visited the University of Pittsburgh to discuss how the melting polar ice caps in the Arctic present a potential new battleground in the race for nations to reach natural resources.

From the pages of our print edition:

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates vying for a primary win and a chance to take Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's seat explain their stances on fracking in this week's installment of our Senate-race coverage. Here's where the candidates stand:

Former U.S. Congressman and Navy Admiral Joe Sestak: Says he supports a moratorium until: Protections for the environment and people’s public health are established; oversight agencies are properly staffed; and a severance tax of 4.5 percent to 5 percent is put in place.

Former state DEP secretary Katie McGinty: 
Backs a severance tax, citing the proposal she worked on as chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf, which called for a 5 percent tax and an additional 4.7 cents per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas. She says the money raised from the taxes should go toward funding public education. She is not calling for a fracking moratorium.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman:
Calling for a severance tax of 5 to 7 percent. He believes the revenue generated by this tax should go toward funding public education. The Mon Valley mayor says he also wants to see an increase in the number of state enforcement officers.

Allegheny County small-businessman Joe Vodvarka: Did not specify whether he is in favor of a severance tax, a moratorium or increased enforcement. However, he did mention a “concern for our watershed” should be kept in mind.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 10:22 AM

click to enlarge This week’s cover illustration and its artist Pat Lewis, photographed at the RV Hall of Fame. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT LEWIS
Photo courtesy of Pat Lewis
This week’s cover illustration and its artist Pat Lewis, photographed at the RV Hall of Fame.

Pat Lewis is a local freelance cartoonist and illustrator from the North Side who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustrations for the past five years. He’s one of my favorite artists to work with: He takes direction well, and his cartoons always make readers laugh. (Remember his adorable cartoon pigeon on our cover last year for the arts festival?) The fact that he’s naturally funny doesn’t hurt. A recent tweet of his: “I don’t get sentimental Calvin & Hobbes mashups/tributes. Comic strip Calvin was a sweet kid like 15% of the time, 85% an unrepentant jerk.”

In addition to City Paper, Pat’s art has appeared in children’s books and magazines, and on T-shirts, greeting cards and more. He’s also currently president of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, a cat dad and a soon-to-be husband. We caught up with him over email after he finished this week’s cover illustration.

What’s your favorite thing about being an artist in Pittsburgh?
The people, the size and the cost of living. I always say that Pittsburgh is a great town for young creative people to get started in. Whatever crazy idea you have, you can probably find somebody here to help you make that idea a reality. Or barring that, someone who knows somebody who can help you.

Did you always know you wanted to be a cartoonist when you grew up?
Growing up, I always thought I would draw a syndicated comic strip, so I majored in English to focus on the writing aspect of that. By the time I graduated, print newspapers were dying off at an alarming rate and that career path was looking less and less appealing to me. I never stopped drawing, though, and eventually learned how to make it as a freelance illustrator, which is a good thing, because it’s definitely the right fit for me. 

Sketches from this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration. We picked the one on the left for this week’s cover; the one on the right turned into the main artwork for our news story.
Sketches from this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration. We picked the one on the left for this week’s cover; the one on the right turned into the main artwork for our news story.

You have a very fun, classic style, which I’ve always thought would have fit in well with the great Hanna-Barbera cartoonists. I know you’re also big into flea markets and thrift shops. Have you ever thought you might have been born in the wrong time?
Kind of! On the other hand, I also like Photoshop and email and Twitter and, you know, modern medicine and civil rights and stuff.

One of my favorite things about your artwork is how great you are at capturing people’s facial expressions. Do you constantly make funny faces in the mirror while you work?
I don’t typically need to look in the mirror to know how an expression should look, but I find that I make funny faces anyway, as a natural reflex when I’m drawing them. It’s always a little embarrassing to catch myself doing this while sketching in a coffee shop!

What’s your work space look like?
A bit more cluttered than I’d like, but all the good stuff is there. Besides my tools and art supplies, I like to surround myself with stuff that keeps me inspired. Just looking around, I can see my collection of vintage Little Golden Books, tons of art prints, a Peanuts lunchbox, some toy dinosaurs and, of course, a heated kitty bed with a sleeping cat in it.
click to enlarge Two of Pat Lewis’ previous Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustrations
Two of Pat Lewis’ previous Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustrations

You’ve been illustrating for City Paper since 2011. Do you have a favorite cover you’ve done for us?
I have a soft spot in my heart for the first one I ever did. It was about state prison budgets, I believe, and I got to draw an elephant and a donkey tunneling out of prison. I was a little scared because I was fairly new at this, and it wasn’t exactly what you asked for (you pictured them bursting through a brick wall). Still, I felt pretty strongly about the idea, and I think it turned out well in the end.

You’re big in the children’s literary art scene and have illustrated children’s books and done work for Highlights magazine. Yet, your portfolio also includes a cover illustration for the Sex Issue of Seven Days (Vermont’s version of City Paper) which included a cartoon of furries having sex! Do you feel weird doing adult stuff after all your work with kid-friendly pieces?
A lot of artists who are mainly known for their children’s illustration — from Dr. Seuss to Shel Silverstein — also did great work for adults too. It’s fun to draw a wide variety of stuff, as long as everything is appropriate for the intended audience. There’s a reason I don’t bring that Sex Issue piece along when I give presentations to grade-school kids, but I’m glad I had the chance to do it.

What’s up next for you?

Personally or professionally? I’m getting married in the spring, so that’s taking up a lot of energy right now. Once that’s over, I’ll have more free time to pursue personal things, like doing some more screenprinting and comics and stuff. I’ve also got a few exciting possible projects lined up that may get underway over the summer, but none of that is definite just yet, so I can’t really talk about it.

Is there anything you’re dying to get hired to draw?
Gorillas, maybe? Yeah, let’s say gorillas. Gorillas fighting bug-eyed aliens, maybe. Fingers crossed!

You can see more of Pat Lewis’ work at and can follow him on twitter at @patlewis. Please, someone hire him to draw a gorilla.

Lisa Cunningham is the art director at
City Paper.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:09 PM

There is little question that the U.S.’s and the world’s military attention is currently heavily concentrated in the Middle East. But Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak brought up another area where a chilling hypothesis could play out.

The Arctic could become a new potential battleground, according to the retired Navy Admiral and former U.S. Congressman. He says that with the melting of the polar ice caps, the frozen region could become ripe for countries looking to extract its natural resources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, the Arctic could hold about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and natural gas resources.

click to enlarge Joe Sestak speaks at University of Pittsburgh Law School - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
Joe Sestak speaks at University of Pittsburgh Law School
“We might want to start patrolling the Arctic,” said Sestak to a crowd of about 25 inside a University of Pittsburgh Law School classroom, “or people are going to decide on their own who owns the natural resources there.”

Sestak says that the number one threat from climate change is famine caused by droughts. But he questions if the country is addressing this potential polar conflict. He says, if elected, he would advocate for the U.S. to join the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an agreement that establishes guidelines and responsibilities of nations; roles in the oceans, including rules about marine natural resources.

The former U.S. Rep also talked about how the rising sea levels associated with climate change could have a negative effect on the Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., the world’s largest naval base. Rising sea levels could render the piers in Norfolk unusable, says Sestak. He adds that by focusing on diplomacy, enhancing economic partnership, and making the military run more efficiently, the U.S. can shrink its military budget.

At the event, Sestak also touted his environmental record by explaining to the audience he has been calling for a moratorium on fracking since he last ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. (To read all the Democratic candidates’ views on fracking, see City Paper’s coverage here.) Sestak believes that fracking should be halted until protections for the environment and public health are established; oversight agencies are properly staffed; and a severance tax of approximately 5 percent is put in place.

He explained to the crowd that taxpayers invested in fracking — for example, a military-developed sonar technology now used by the natural-gas industry —  and that citizens, at the least, are entitled to a 5 percent return on their investment.

Polling for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race has been sparse, but a straw poll (which are incredibly small in scope) taken by Keystone Progress, a progressive organizer, of audience members at last Saturday’s Democratic debate show Sestak in the lead with 42 percent. Braddock mayor John Fetterman polled at 31 percent and former gubernatorial chief of staff for Tom Wolf, Katie McGinty, polled at 27 percent.

A survey released by Harper Polling in January had Sestak in the lead with 33 percent, McGinty in second with 28 percent, Fetterman in third with 11 percent, and the rest undecided. These polls didn’t include Findlay Township small business owner Joe Vodvarka, who has run a quieter campaign up to this point.

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Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 4:53 PM

TEDxPittsburgh, a locally organized series meant to spark discussion and change, is seeking nominations for speakers for its next event.

The event will be held Sun., May 22, at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, in Oakland. The theme is Activate: Ideas in Motion.

According to a press release, the event seeks “speakers who have taken a spark of inspiration and ignited others to change. Speakers that take service, innovation and community-building to a higher level. The people that have overcome challenges in their field activating a ripple effect that puts ideas into action, making life better for others.”

You can nominate a speaker here. Nominations are open until Mon., Feb. 29. (And yes, you are allowed to nominate yourself.)

For examples of speakers at last year’s TEDxPittsburgh, see here.

TED (for “Technology, Education, Design”) is a three-decade-old nonprofit group that holds two annual conferences featuring both internationally known and less well-known thinkers, entrepreneurs, authors, activists and scientists; the talks of 18 minutes or less are widely disseminated online. TED's slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

TEDx is a spin-off that press materials define as “a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.” Pittsburgh has already hosted several TEDx events.

TEDx events, according to the press release, “showcase the ideas, individuals and innovations that are redefining the region.” TEDx Pittsburgh promises “an eclectic mix of local talks and videos previously recorded at TED conferences with the community.”

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Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist containing tracks from artists mentioned in the current music section. Listen below!

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