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Friday, April 28, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 12:15 PM

Image courtesy of People's Climate March, Pittsburgh
It’s no secret that President Donald Trump and many prominent Republican politicians deny the effects humans have on climate change. Trump has already rolled back many Obama-era environmental regulations, saying they are unnecessary and harm coal and oil businesses, to the applause of many Republican politicians.

But on Sat., April 29, people across the country will stand up for the environment with a series of marches known as the People’s Climate March. And hundreds of Pittsburghers are doing their part too.

Tom Hoffman is a Pittsburgh resident and organizer at Pennsylvania's chapter of the Sierra Club. He says that more than 200 people on four buses will be traveling from the Pittsburgh area to march in the Climate March in Washington, D.C., on April 29.

“This is a good way to get the environmental movement back to its roots,” says Hoffman. “It was a real mass movement for while, we got away from that. … We need to stand up and [defend the environment] in a loud way.”

Hoffman isn’t sure how large the crowds will be in D.C., but he hopes they will come close to the numbers of the Women’s March on Washington. Hoffman says that Pittsburghers, especially, should feel the need to stand up for the environment, given the region's industrial history.

“Having the history of our industrial city, I understand a lot money was made,” says Hoffman. “But it also created a lot of dirty air and dirty water, and when the steel industry died, people left town. We need to ensure green solutions that are sustainable.”

And it’s not just city residents who are fired up about the People’s Climate March. Hoffman says that one of their buses is leaving from Washington, Pa., and that some former coal miners from that area are attending the march in Washington, D.C.

Pittsburgh will also hold a march, and organizers expect hundreds to attend. A press release about the Pittsburgh march says “Western Pennsylvanians are uniquely aware of the ways in which the petrochemical industry is destroying our health, stealing our land, and poisoning our water.” The release also says marchers will demand that government react by protect access to clean water, soil and air. (Pittsburgh still has some of the country’s most polluted air, as City Paper reported this month.)

Hoffman believes that the climate march can pressure climate-change deniers to change their tune.

“I know it's not impossible. [Climate-change measures] need support from the federal government,” says Hoffman. “This march should pressure them.”

The Pittsburgh March for Climate, Jobs, and Justice will be held 10 a.m. Sat., April 29. The march will start at the Cathedral of Learning, in Oakland, and end at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 3:49 PM

Those familiar with U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) know he doesn’t make many substantial efforts to enter the limelight; he’s pretty low-key. (In fact, as City Paper has documented over the years, Rothfus is so low-key that he’s never even held a public town hall and often avoids talking to reporters and to constituents who hold different political viewpoints.)

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Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 2:24 PM

Children spend an estimated 1,000 hours every year in schools, early-education centers and after-school programs. While parents can work to protect their children from environmental hazards like lead and radon at home, they have little control over the facilities where their children spend a large chunk of their day.

"The research is clear that both lead and radon can impact a child's development, growth and learning," Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment, said at a press conference earlier today. "While these hazards are commonly found in schools and other educational buildings, any testing for these hazards is voluntary."

In order to address this issue, WHE, the Green Building Alliance and The Heinz Endowments today launched an initiative to help schools, early-learning centers and after-school programs test for lead and radon and mitigate the environmental risks in their facilities.

"We are here today to ensure increased attention and resources are provided to address these harmful environmental exposures," Naccarati-Chapkis said. "The long-term goal for us is to ensure every school and early-learning center tests for these two environmental hazards, and then takes the necessary steps to remediate those risks which is so important."

The dangers of lead contamination have gained a lot of attention in recent months since the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority found high lead levels in the city's drinking water. But radon in the air is equally harmful to childhood development.

Radon is also estimated to cause approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And they estimate more than 70,000 schoolrooms around the country have elevated radon levels.

School districts in Pennsylvania aren't required to test for radon or lead. But last week, Sen. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery County) reintroduced legislation that would require schools to conduct lead testing before the start of every school year.

Despite the dangers, according to a survey of school districts across southwestern Pennsylvania, conducted by WHE, only 20 percent of respondents had tested for radon and only 11 percent had tested for lead. Among those schools that have tested are the Allegheny Valley School District and Wexford Elementary School.

"In the Allegheny Valley School District, it was extremely important for us to know whether or not our children were in danger of any sources of lead," said Allegheny Valley Superintendent Patrick Graczyk. "No one forced our hand to test the water quality within our schools. We as educators and parents wanted to ensure that the drinking water used by our students, staff and community was safe to drink. Guessing was not an option."

"We expressed to our principal that we wanted to do this in our school and he was in full agreement," said Kristi Wees, a parent at Wexford Elementary. "By partnering with him and our school administrators and facilities staff, Wexford was tested for lead and radon last year, and at that time was in no need of remediation. This gave me and all the other parents great peace of mind."

Thanks to a $400,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments, WHE and GBA hope to help 100 to 200 grantees conduct lead and radon tests and access resources to reduce exposure to these hazards. Each participating organization can receive up to $7,500. Schools in under-served communities will be prioritized.

"We really believe this campaign can have a major impact on these specific issues," said
Andrew Ellsworth, vice president of health and learning for GBA, "and we hope to trigger broader understanding, broader awareness and broader action on this specific issue across the region."

For more information visit

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Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 11:52 AM

CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
CP photos by Luke Thor Travis
CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
Gucci Mane, a.k.a. the East Atlanta Santa, delivered a big old present of a concert last night to fans at Stage AE, and photographer Luke Thor Travis was there. Mane is known for several hits, including the raunchy "I Don't Love Her." If you missed the show, but love that song, you'll have another opportunity to hear it May 6 played by an unlikely duo. Check out next week's CP  to learn more.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 4:18 PM

Yesterday, Pennsylvania's Senate and House passed what opponents are calling "Sue Our Cities" bills (SB 5 and HB 671). This legislation would give the National Rifle Association and other organizations the power to sue cities that have passed gun-control measures they deem unconstitutional.

"The bills will almost certainly result in either the NRA or any member of the gun groups across the state suing our town," says Rob Conroy, director of organizing for CeasFirePA, a nonprofit working to end gun violence. "Obviously, we at CeaseFirePA, and as responsible citizens, view this as a a huge problem."

In 2008, Pittsburgh passed an ordinance requiring gun owners to report if their firearms are lost or stolen. While Mayor Bill Peduto pledged to enforce the legislation if elected, the ordinance has never been enforced. Peduto has said he has not enforced the ordinance because of the threat of a lawsuit, but the so-called "Sue Our Cities" bill would give organizations like the NRA the ability to sue cities even if they haven't enforced legislation. They can face a lawsuit just for having laws like Pittsburgh's lost-and-stolen ordinance on the books.

"While how much this will directly affect Pittsburgh taxpayers is fully hypothetical, it's fair to say if a lawsuit were able to proceed without any successful constitutional challenges, taxpayers in Pittsburgh would be on the hook for not only the city's legal costs, but also on the hook for paying the legal fees of the gun lobby if they were to prevail," Conroy says. "The gun lobby has set this up so that taxpayers will essentially be giving donations to the gun lobby."

The Senate legislation was sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Clearfield) who, in a January 2017 memo, defended it saying:

"Where no uniform state laws are in place, the result can be chaotic, as restrictions change from one local jurisdiction to another. An overabundance of varying ordinances leads to citizens with no criminal intent being placed in danger of breaking restrictions where they don’t know they exist. Furthermore, it is unreasonable to require residents of Pennsylvania and citizens passing through from other states to be aware of every firearm ordinance as they pass through each local jurisdiction.

Specifically, this legislation would prevent local jurisdictions from imposing ordinances more restrictive than laws passed by the General Assembly. This legislation will also enhance and restore the original intent of the Uniform Firearms Act."

(A memo on HB 671 included nearly identical language.)

SB 5 passed by a vote of 34 to 16. Locals Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) and Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) voted against the measure while Guy Reschenthaler (R-Jefferson Hills) and Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Shaler) voted in support.

HB 671 passed by a vote of 134 to 53. Local Rep. Dom Costa (D-Stanton Heights), who has come under fire for votes and positions on legislation in recent months, voted in favor of the legislation. But others like repsresentatives Ed Gainey (D-Lincoln-Lemington) and Adam Ravenstahl (D-Summerhill) voted against it.

"We believe that these bills are once again an illustration of just how far our state legislature is willing to bend, in this case, to the gun lobby at the expense of pretty much every other Pennsylvanian," says Conroy. "We are pledging every day to fight to against this."

While both pieces of legislation passed by a substantial margin, these votes don't signify the end of the fight for activists like CeaseFirePA. Any legislation will still have to be signed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

"We certainly hope that Gov. Wolf will stand up and do the right thing regarding this. We know that in the past he has expressed an intent to do so," Conroy says. "However, there is a substantial risk that this time around, there may be enough of a majority in both parts of our legislature to override the veto. It is on us the citizens to make sure our representatives do the right thing to protect our citizens."

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Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 1:18 PM

We've always wanted to insert little computer chips and speakers into City Paper, so that when you open it, music from artists featured in the paper plays while you read about them (like a big old greeting card). But that's just not realistic. This is the second-best thing: a Spotify playlist featuring music from this week's issue. Listen up.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 11:31 AM

People dancing across the face of Fifth Avenue Place, several stories high: It's sure to be a highlight of this year's Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, June 2-11 in and around Point State Park.

click to enlarge Blue Lapis Light performs on a building side
Blue Lapis Light performs on a building side
Performers from Austin, Texas-based aerial dance company Blue Lapis Light will be the ones rappeling down the Highmark Building in evening performances June 2 and 3.

That show comes courtesy of the Pittsburgh Dance Council, and was announced this past Saturday. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust-organized festival's musical headliners were announced in March; arts-fest executive director Sarah Aziz provided the rest of the programming in a press event Downtown this morning.

Along with the familiar artists' market, the festival features several temporary public artworks. These include Indian artist Shilo Shiv Sulemon's "Tidal," an interactive "geo-feedback" work in which visitors can activate lights that mimic the flow of Pittsburgh's three rivers. There's also the Umbrella Sky Project, from Portugal, an installation of colorful umbrellas near the festival's acoustic stage, and Riverlife's "to be determined: Take a Seat!," for which the local nonprofit provides 25 movable chairs equipped with GPS along the riverfront, to be used simply for sitting — and to help determine where more permanent seating might be located.

click to enlarge A Blue Lapis Light dancer
A Blue Lapis Light dancer
While all the Trust's galleries are showcased during the festival, festival-specific gallery shows include the return of DRAP-Art, the Barcelona-based festival featuring art made from trash (that made a successful visit to Pittsburgh last year) and the annual juried show for regional artists, this year with works chosen by Lee Parker, John Peña and Lenore Thomas.

The festival will also again run in conjunction with the day-long, arts-and-tech-themed CREATE Festival, June 1 at the August Wilson Center.

Other news: There will now be not just one but two Giant Eagle Creative Zones, for kids' activities, in Point State Park and Gateway Center. Likewise, The Anthropology of Motherhood, a quiet space for parents with young children, adds a Gateway Center location to its original Point State Park spot.

The music headliners include the Rebirth Brass Band, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Dawes and Pittsburgh-based acts The Commonheart and Beats + Bars. A multitude of mostly local acts populate other stages and time slots.

All festival events and exhibits remain free to attend.

Complete festival info is here.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 11:32 AM

click to enlarge Sleep Movies - PHOTO COURTESY OF DAKOTAH BRIMMEIER
Photo courtesy of Dakotah Brimmeier
Sleep Movies
Each week, we post a song from a local artist online. This week, it’s “Paper Hat,” a woozy lo-fi guitar track from Sleep Movies’ latest EP, EDG. The song is relatively simple: three chords, bedroom production, ambient vocals. But it’s a complex, gratifying listen (especially listened in order with the EP’s other three tracks). Stream of download “Paper Hat” below.

Sleep Movies: "Paper Hat"

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

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 1:24 PM

Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris (D-North Side) is running for mayor, but her campaign hasn’t produced many detailed plans on how she plans to improve the city. Instead, she’s provided a critical, almost-laser-like focus on one issue: bike lanes.

Harris recently rated Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s mayorship as a “D-minus,” telling WTAE on April 18 because Peduto “put all these bike lanes in.” And, for her closing statement of an April 19 mayoral debate, she said, even though bike lanes weren’t brought up during the debate, “We did not talk about bike lanes at all this evening, and I wonder why? We have nothing with bike lanes, no safety attached to it, no studies, nothing. And someone is going to get seriously hurt. … Public safety is very important to me.”

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:57 PM

We've always wanted to insert little computer chips and speakers into City Paper, so that when you open it, music from artists featured in the paper plays while you read about them (like a big old greeting card). But that's just not realistic. This is the second-best thing: a Spotify playlist featuring music from this week's issue. Listen up.

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