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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dollar Bank presents Food Truck-a-Palooza

Featuring 20+ food trucks

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Food Truck-a-Palooza sponsored by Dollar Bank was held on May 21st at The Pump House at the Waterfront. Over 20 food trucks came out rain or shine for the event. Blue Moon was the beer sponsor and had beer flowing all day!

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Monday, May 30, 2016

MP3 Monday: Brandon Locher

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2016 at 11:02 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF OLIVIA LOCHER
  • Photo courtesy of Olivia Locher
Welcome to a VERY SPECIAL Memorial Day edition of MP3 Monday. This week's track comes from Johnstown-born artist and producer Brandon Locher. In the past, Locher has released music with the ambitious 20-person group The Meets and as part of electro-duo Stage Hands, but these days he's focused on making music solo. Take a moment and space out to his cinematic new single, “Slow Steps,” below. 

This download link has expired, sorry!

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Underwear Bike Ride returns to Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 2:32 PM

A big crowd gathered in Lawrenceville last night for late spring’s most anticipated sport. Wait, if you thought we were going to say the Pens playoff game, you should probably check out this photo essay from earlier today instead. No, we’re talking about the first Pittsburgh Underwear Bike Ride of the year!

Men and women, dressed in bras, boxer shorts and tighty whities, met at the corner of 46th and Butler streets in Lawrenceville and rode their bikes through the city to Penn Brewery on the North Side. The event is about “having fun and promoting a positive self-body image,” according to the Facebook event page. Miss the fun and want to join the next one? A new ride happens on the last Thursday of every month through October, with the next one scheduled for June 30.


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Pittsburgh's Open Streets festival celebrating its third year of taking over the streets

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 12:56 PM

PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTHEW DESANTIS
  • Photo courtesy of Matthew DeSantis
Open Streets is back! Now in its third year of operation, the half-day street festival will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sun., May 29. 

The festival, which closes down a specified route to car traffic, allows people to walk, ride bikes, skateboard, hula-hoop and do whatever their heart desires on asphalt normally choked with automobiles. Six program hubs will be set up along the route where participants can play pick-up basketball, participate in a human stag hunt, workout with friends in free classes, and even take in some yoga. There are many kid-friendly events too.

The route starts in Market Square, Downtown, then goes along Penn Avenue and Butler Street, all the way to Allegheny Cemetery.

The festival is put on to encourage people to think differently about city spaces, maintain a healthy lifestyle, patronize local businesses and consider the benefits that can come to the environment when people walk and bike to get around.

Pittsburgh bike-share system, Healthy Ride, will also be celebrating its one-year anniversary as part of Open Streets and is hosting a program hub outside of its offices on 33rd Street and Penn Avenue. Director David White will announce new Pittsburgh bike share plans at 10:30 a.m.

Also, look forward to a new route for Open Streets come July. Scott Bricker of cycling-advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh tells City Paper that on the festival’s third and final day, July 31, Open Streets will be debuting a new route that starts Downtown, travels through the North Side and finishes in the West End. Details on the exact route are still being finalized.

And if you want to get involved, Bike Pittsburgh has a laundry list of volunteer positions that still need to be filled. Visit bikepgh.org for details.

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Pittsburgh celebrates the Penguins advancing to the Stanley Cup finals

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 12:03 PM

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Eastern Conference finals in Pittsburgh last night, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning with a final score of 2-1 in an action-packed Game 7. During the game, fans cheered on the team on the "Big Screen," a free outdoor viewing of the game set up outside Consol Energy Center during every home game of the playoffs. Only, the Big Screen stopped working during last night's game because of technical difficulties, so fans outside the arena were forced to watch the team win ... on their smart phones.

Photographer Aaron Warnick was there covering the event. Check out his photos below of the excitement.

The Pittsburgh Penguins now advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they'll play the San Jose Sharks in the best-of-seven NHL championship series, starting Monday in Pittsburgh.



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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner presents new online transparency program

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 3:32 PM

CP FILE PHOTO
  • CP File Photo

Continuing in her efforts to make Allegheny County government more transparent, county controller Chelsa Wagner announced two new programs at a press conference Thursday — OpenGov Allegheny and Allegheny County Contracts Online.


“What I’m particularly excited about is I believe these [programs] signify a new day for transparency in county operations,” said Wagner. “As you know, since 2011, I’ve advocated for greater transparency in county government, with the authorities and beyond.”


OpenGov is a service that’s partnered with 700 governmental agencies across the U.S. to make government financial information accessible online. This information can be broken down by yearly budget, vendors' reports, payments, wages and benefits, salaries, and the number of employees.


Within each category is a set of filters that organizes the information. For example, employee data can be broken down by age, ethnicity, pay status, union status, employment status, benefit group and job type. Financial results are depicted in graphs and a search bar is also provided for specific searches.


“The employee count [number of employees] is going to be especially interesting,” Wagner said, "because you’ll really see some of the trends in the different departments; and countywide where there are fewer employees doing a little bit more work, or a lot more work in certain situations.”


Wagner said the department’s working to have data dating back to 2002 on OpenGov by the end of the summer. The program is operated in-house.


“By providing these user-friendly tools to the public, we will now have more eyes on county government operations,” said Wagner. “This alone will make county government more responsive and more efficient. Taxpayers will be able to see and search exactly how their dollars are used with budget reports updated monthly and contracts added upon our office’s receipt of them.”


In addition to OpenGov’s financial information, County Contracts Online grants access to government contracts with the click of a mouse. They can be accessed by department, contract number, vendor name or by searching key terms.


Contracts pass through the county controller’s office for review and are scanned and uploaded to the site, where they are available for download.


“This is a way that we can take action now without waiting for the state legislature, which may take many years to ensure that our authorities are more transparent and responsive,” said Wagner.

  
Both OpenGov and County Contracts are available for use at the county controller's website.


“This offers unprecedented public access to spending and other data from Allegheny County,” said Wagner. “With this we’re able to shine a light on the approximately $1.5 billion county budget. That alone is a major advance”


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Sketch comedy festival returns to Arcade tonight

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 1:17 PM

After the success of last year’s sold-out festival, Arcade Comedy Theater brings Sketchville back Downtown for a three-night, eight show Memorial Day-weekend marathon.

Frankly Scarlett at Arcade Comedy Theater - PHOTO COURTESY OF ARCADE COMEDY THEATER
  • Photo courtesy of Arcade Comedy Theater
  • Frankly Scarlett at Arcade Comedy Theater
The shows begin tonight at 8 and 10 p.m., continue tomorrow at 8 and 10 p.m., and conclude with shows at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Featuring nine troupes, Sketchville showcases original material from local troupes including Secondhand Sketch, The Harvey Wallbangers, female-led group Frankly Scarlett and two writers' groups assembled specifically for the festival: The Cut Scenes and Looking for Parking.

Tickets are $10, with two exceptions. Sketchville: After Dark, a surreal show at midnight Friday, costs only $5. And the 6 p.m. Saturday show, Sketchville: Beta Stage, is also $5 and will skew experimental.

To find out more, call 412-339-0608 or look here.

Arcade Comedy Theater is at 811 Liberty Ave.

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A conversation with comics journalist Em DeMarco on her first-year anniversary at Pittsburgh City Paper

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 12:17 PM

EM DEMARCO
  • Em Demarco
We’re celebrating Em DeMarco’s first anniversary with Pittsburgh City Paper! Her story this week on The Legend of the Puke marks her first full year of contributing comics-journalism pieces for us, where she covered everything from Braddock Mayor John Fetterman’s run for Senate to the rise of sexually transmitted diseases.

Em DeMarco wasn’t always a journalist. Her first jobs out of school included seamstress, model-maker, carpenter and bread-baker. But after working for two years as an investigative-journalism fellow at Pittsburgh’s PublicSource, DeMarco decided to combine reporting with her artistic talent. That end result is what you see each month on City Paper’s “Last Page” — a totally smart approach to storytelling and a kick-ass addition to your favorite alt-weekly.

She was gracious enough to speak to us via email about her first year of contributing to CP.

Happy anniversary! What’s your favorite piece you’ve done for Pittsburgh City Paper so far?
I’m proud of the climate change story. Among other things, that was the first time I pushed past my comfort zone and began drawing the headline panel. And I think it’s an example of how I like to compare comics journalism to feeding spinach to kids. In other words, it’s a strategy of reporting big (and sometimes overwhelming) issues in a way that might be easier for some readers to digest.

Your very first comics-journalism story for us was “An Introduction to Gender Pronouns,” where you reported on the use of “they, them and their” as pronoun suggestions for transgender men and women. Since then, CP editor Charlie Deitch has implemented the use of “they” as an acceptable practice at City Paper, a decision he says was influenced by your reporting. Have you gotten any feedback from others who have been affected by your pieces?

Yes, it’s humbling to hear positive feedback from readers, people I’ve interviewed for stories and editors who I’ve worked with — including you all at the CP.

On the contrary, a reader also told us your comics journalism report “Brain-FeasterSunday,” on the Zombie Jesus Ball at the Blue Moon Bar on Easter Sunday, was “totally offensive” and “reprehensible.” Was that your first official hate mail?
Hm, I’m not sure. Probably like most reporters, I’ve had some not-so-nice things said/emailed to me by a few press officers. To be fair, I wouldn’t call that hate mail, though.

You started out working as an investigative reporter for PublicSource. Where did the interest in graphics come from?
After my two-year fellowship with PublicSource ended, I wanted to try to merge the two things I loved — reporting and drawing. I had gone to art school years earlier, but the idea of being a gallery artist made me queasy. So for years, my drawings were just things that I kept mostly to myself — kooky drawings, illustrations, comics. When I finally found my way to journalism (and was lucky enough to get the opportunity to do the PublicSource fellowship), I had already been admiring the work of other comics journalists. So I decided to give it a shot.

You have to document more than most reporters, keeping notes of both the story and the visuals. How do you keep track of everything as you’re interviewing someone: Tape the interviews, sketch while they speak, take photos?
Fannypack. And a bag with backups. The fannypack is admittedly nerdy, but I’ve found it’s the best thing for my main reporting tools (notebook, audio recorder, camera phone); the larger bag is for backups (another notebook, pens, batteries, DSLR camera and a snack, of course). Although I admire comics journalists who draw while reporting, I learned pretty quickly that I’m unable to draw and interview at the same time. I think because my brain is focused on follow-up questions in the moment, I’m unable to dedicate much attention to cartooning. But I should say that what I do is the same as any reporter. Listening, asking follow-ups, documenting the space and details, researching, fact-checking, editing, and so on. The only difference is the way the final story is told.

Are you finding it easier as you go along?
Sort of. I’ve definitely become more comfortable with the mechanics of this kind of journalism — knowing what kind of photo reference I’ll need later, how to explain my process to the people I’d like to interview, etc. But to answer your question, I often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing when I’m working on a new story. Even after having many stories behind me that I’m incredibly proud of reporting. Call it imposter syndrome or whatever you like, but what I have learned is that pattern of panic is normal for me. And what I’ve gotten better at is just pushing past all of those garbagey thoughts.

I love that you include yourself in your comics. Was that a conscious decision of yours to help document that your pieces are nonfiction?
Absolutely. Part of it is simply the economy of space. In a print story, the reporter can write one or two paragraphs to hold reader’s hands through complicated issues, or transition from one part of the story to the next. But anyone who’s done a word count will know you can blow through a couple hundred words in a snap. Especially for short pieces, like the one-pagers I do for the City Paper, I’ve got to have a story that has a beginning, middle and an end — using only about 400 words. Inserting myself in the story is a strategy to move the narrative along, make transitions, and stand in for the readers’ (and my own) confusion. (My favorite example of this is when I was reporting the story about the chickens, and the person I was interviewing used the word “vent.”)

It’s similar to writing a script for radio, which is where I got my start. With audio storytelling, you try to avoid using flowery words or long sentences. And some of my favorite moments in audio journalism happen when the producer is tapped into their own confusion. You’ll hear the producer pause or ask a short followup question. It’s in those moments, sometimes punctuated by silence, that we get to hear incredible tape from the people they are interviewing. Moments when they share heartfelt thoughts or insightful realizations.

You’ve done some work for Bitch Media, which is super rad for me to see because Bitch magazine was one of the first publications that helped me learn more about the world as a young feminist back in college. It’s very cool to picture young artists seeing such great work coming from a female with a strong voice. Has there been anything like that in your past that inspired you when you were younger?
Again, radio! During my 20s, I had been working in carpentry and other fabrication shops, listening to tons and tons of podcasts, radio journalism, audio documentaries. Studs Turkel, Amy Goodman, public radio and Indymedia. The ways they were reporting, who they were talking to, what subjects they were covering all left an enormous imprint on me.

In addition to writing and drawing, you also dabble in photography. You’re a woman of many talents! Do you get any greater satisfaction from one of those mediums?

[Blushing] Thank you! Drawing is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. But there’s nothing that I love more than going to a show and standing stupidly close to the speakers and shooting photos. It clears my head in a way that’s hard to explain.

You recently launched The CoJo List, an email roundup of recent nonfiction comics with Washington, D.C. journalist Josh Kramer. You were our first introduction to the medium at City Paper. Have you noticed a surge in nonfiction comics journalism elsewhere?

I don’t know about a surge, but it was a welcome surprise to start receiving submissions from nonfiction cartoonists around the world. The CoJo List has been a lot of fun (and a lot of work) to put together, and I’m thankful that Josh asked me to be a part of this project. We both knew that this work existed, but compiling the newsletter has opened my eyes to just how much excellent comics journalism and nonfiction comics are being made these days. We’re hoping subscribers to the newsletter will nerd out on this stuff as much as we do.

On a lighter note, your piece this week’s issue is on Kennywood. What’s your favorite ride?
The Jack Rabbit. Apparently when I was a kid, I was so terrified,that I tried to jump out during one of the dips, my mom says. It’s not the flashiest coaster, but I love it just the same.

Where can our readers connect with you online?
My website is emdemarco.com or @eademarco on Instagram. If nonfiction comics are your thing, you can check out The CoJo List newsletter at tinyletter.com/cojo. (And if you are a nonfiction cartoonist, consider emailing us — there’s more details on The CoJo List landing page or on Twitter @cojolist.)

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Listen Up! May 25

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 4:26 PM

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

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Transportation issues remain uncertain for Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Task Force

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 1:07 PM


Access to good public transportation seems like an obvious component of affordable-housing planning, but history shows that it hasn’t been so far.

Here in the Pittsburgh area, there are many low-income housing projects that sit in isolated sections of the city, in blighted areas with limited bus access. (For example, Bedford Dwellings, in the Hill District, gets a bus only every 35 to 40 minutes, even during rush hour.)

Map showing the disparity between frequent bus service routes and the region's poorest neighborhoods - IMAGE COURTESY OF PCRG
  • Image courtesy of PCRG
  • Map showing the disparity between frequent bus service routes and the region's poorest neighborhoods
In response to this ominous trend, transit advocates posed some public-transportation questions to Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Task Force at a May 24 panel discussion hosted by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. The discussion was centered on funding issues involving the city’s proposed Affordable Housing Trust Fund and how it can raise its goal of $10 million annually.

Molly Nichols, of public-transportation advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit, asked, “How can the trust fund insure that affordable housing will be built near good transit?”

Pittsburgh City Councilor and co-chair of the task force Daniel Lavelle said the yet-to-be-chosen affordable-housing advisory boards will be able to prioritize projects near transit. “We don't have this all figured out yet; all the nuances will have to be worked out down the line,” he said.

Lavelle confirmed that the tasks force’s recommendations don’t include specific language that requires new affordable housing to be near frequent public-transportation service. However, he did say that it might be possible to have a transit advocate on one of the city’s advisory boards.

Chris Sandvig, transit expert and policy director of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, asked whether other cities similar to Pittsburgh have had success creating affordable housing near current light rail and bus lines. (The new housing development above the East Liberty Busway stop has 360 units, but all are at market rate.) Members of the task force didn’t offer any specific examples to Sandvig, but said that it can be difficult to do because real estate near transit is usually in high demand.

Both Sandvig and Nichols said the exclusion of transit requirements from the task force’s recommendations was an oversight. But Sandvig said the oversight was most likely unintentional. He said that many housing and transit advocates have only recently understood that their issues are closely linked, but that they have started to push those combined agendas.

One member of the Affordable Housing Task Force did offer a possible answer to advocates' transit questions. Nikki Lu, the policy director for SEIU Western Pa., said Wisconsin-based think tank Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) recently published a report on Pittsburgh that lays out policies to help working families in the region. According to the report, “affordable housing should take into account the combined costs of the energy use and transportation needs that come with housing.” It also offers a litany of policy recommendations.

Lu applauded the questions from audience members and said that to translate their concerns into results, advocates must continue “to hold [leaders'] feet to the fire.”

According to Lavelle, the task force’s recommendations should be presented to city council sometime next week.   

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