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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Where Southwestern Pennsylvania's U.S. congressmen stand on DACA

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 5:30 PM

Young Pittsburgh immigrants and Dreamers march in a protest in February - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Young Pittsburgh immigrants and Dreamers march in a protest in February
President Donald Trump has already rolled back several Obama-era rules in his short term, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program seems to be next on the chopping block. Several large media organizations have reported Trump will likely end the program that provides work visas and safety from deportation to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as young children. Several Republican lawmakers have been requesting it for years. In fact, 10 Republican state attorneys general sent a letter to Trump requesting that he rescind DACA by Sept. 5, or they will challenge the order in court. (It should be noted that 20 Democrats and state attorneys general, including Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro, signed a letter to Trump in support of maintaining DACA.)

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

2017 Pittsburgh New Works Festival starts tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 3:59 PM

The festival returns for its 27th season of new one-act plays, written by playwrights from around the U.S. and produced by local theater troupes. As in recent years, all shows will be staged at Carnegie Stages.

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The festival is divided into four programs of three plays each, labeled A, B, C and D. Programs A and B run in repertory from opening night through next weekend, and C and D run the following two weeks.

Program A, running tomorrow through Sept. 9, includes: “Roosevelt’s Ghosts,” about early personal tragedy in the life of Teddy Roosevelt, by Warrensburg, Mo., playwright Aaron Scully (produced by CCAC South Campus Theatre); “The Pivot,” a genre-bending piece by California-based Seth Freeman, a veteran, Emmy-winning writer for screen and television (Lincoln Heights) (Summer Company); and “Doing Time,” East Aurora, N.Y.-based playwright Mary Poindexter McLaughlin’s play about an old man and a young man discussing the meaning of life (Theatre Factory). The first performance of Program A is at 8 p.m. tomorrow.

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After decades without one, Pittsburgh sees second flush-and-boil water advisory in seven months

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 1:14 PM

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According to Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority spokesperson Will Pickering, to the best of the authority's knowledge, prior to this year, PWSA has never issued a flush-and-boil advisory.

But this week, the authority issued its second flush-and-boil advisory in just seven months. At a press conference yesterday, PWSA Interim Executive Director Robert Weimar said the latest advisory was issued after an inspection of the cover over one of the system's reservoir raised concerns.

"Our efforts have been first and foremost to stabilize the system," Weimar said. "We've begun the process of developing a repair strategy."

The reservoir was taken offline at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 28, and water from it will not flow into the water system until it is repaired. To fill the gap, PWSA has expedited repairs to other pumping stations, and these repairs will be done this weekend.

"We're confident that we will provide as confident a water system as we had previously," Weimar said. "We're confident that we can make our way through this and provide the water supply and the water quality that the public demands."

Repairs will begin next week to the east cell of the reservoir, and the west cell will be taken down and rebuilt. The entire facility was up for reconstruction in 2018, so funds for the project were already included in the capital budget. All of the work is anticipated to take nine months.

"We want to apologize for the problem that this may have caused for some of our customers," Weimar said. "It's clear that we're dealing with a system that is like a very old car, and at any particular point in time, a part might fail."

This week's development is just the latest in a slew of troubles PWSA has experienced in recent years as a result of the system's ailing infrastructure.

"This is a situation we're going to face time and time again," Mayor Bill Peduto at yesterday's press conference. "We have an antiquated system that in certain areas is beyond the failure point. We lack duplicity in backup systems because we never invested in them, and when we see a problem area occur, it will come with an impact."

Chief among PWSA's problems has been the high lead levels detected in city water. Some believe a 2014 change in PWSA's corrosion-control chemicals contributed to the city's high lead levels. And this month Pittsburgh City Paper reported on an email wherein PWSA appears to take responsibility for that  switch.

Now experts say eliminating the city's high lead levels means eliminating the city's lead service lines. Estimates indicate replacing the city's  lines could cost anywhere between $50 million and $410 million.

"What's taken decades to get to isn't going to be solved overnight. It's going to take at least a decade to solve the problems within PWSA, and it is going to cost billions of dollars. This is just the reality of what we face," Peduto said. "What we will do is we will take ownership. We will take on the responsibility to fix this problem so that  a generation past the next generation won't have to deal with this situation. We'll leave as a legacy  that we'll have clean water from 2030 to 2080."

There are 10 water distribution centers throughout northern parts of the city, as well as in Millvale and Reserve Township, to serve the 18,000 homes impacted by the precautionary advisory. Those unable to boil water or access a distribution center can call the city's 311 line to have water delivered to them. Public-safety officers have delivered water to more than a dozen residents and area schools.

The advisory is expected to be lifted as early as Thu., Aug. 31 or Fri., Sept. 1.

Water Distribution Locations

Millvale
Millvale Community Center, 416 Lincoln Ave., Millvale, PA 15209

Reserve Twp.
Reserve VFD, 33 Lonsdale St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212

City of Pittsburgh
Pressley High Rise, 601 Pressley St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Pennsylvania Bidwell, 1014 Sheffield St., Pittsburgh, PA 15214
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 32, 900 Spring Garden Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15212
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 33, 3284 Central Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 34, 3914 Perrysville Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15214
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 35, 1519 Orchlee St., Pittsburgh PA
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 37, 1124 W. North Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15233
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 38, 198 Essen St., Pittsburgh, PA



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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Listen Up! Aug. 30 Issue

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 6:23 PM

Murder For Girls - PHOTO COURTESY OF CASEY MARZELL
  • Photo courtesy of Casey Marzell
  • Murder For Girls
Here it is: a playlist featuring all of the artists in the music section of tomorrow's issue. In it, we're covering new music from Hoops, Protomartyr, Laetitia Sadler, Murder for Girls and more. Enjoy!

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Squonk Opera in China: The Final Week

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 5:02 PM

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS COURTESY OF SQUONK OPERA
  • Photos and videos courtesy of Squonk Opera
Pittsburgh-based Squonk Opera is spending August performing its show Pneumatica at the Qingdao International Beer Festival, in China's Shandong province. Throughout the month, Squonk members will be sending City Paper updates about their experiences week-to-week. For more info, go here.
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Free Wi-Fi now available at several Port Authority light-rail stations in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 4:55 PM

Rich Fitzgerald at Steel Plaza station in Downtown Pittsburgh - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Rich Fitzgerald at Steel Plaza station in Downtown Pittsburgh
Light-rail riders rejoice. Waiting underground for the T will no longer include the frustration of no signal, and being unable to check your smartphone or mobile device every two minutes to see if your Facebook feed has changed.

Starting Aug. 28, seven Port Authority of Allegheny County light-rail stations will provide complimentary Wi-Fi, thanks to a partnership with internet-provider Comcast Xfinity. The stations to offer Wi-Fi are: Station Square, on the South Side; Allegheny and North Shore, on the North Side; and First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street and Gateway, all Downtown.

“This is part of continuous efforts improve our transit system,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at an Aug. 28 press conference. “[The Port Authority] continues to be connected and not be out of touch with what riders want.”

Port Authority Interim CEO David Donahoe said this technological improvement is necessary, in order to keep up with public-transit competitors. “Today we are in competition with driving, ride-hailing, and biking,” said Donahoe. “No longer do we just say, 'We are here and you have to ride us.’”

The Wi-Fi is public and open to everyone. Users just need to connect to the Xfinity Wi-Fi on their device, and then they will be prompted to register an account with Xfinity. (Current Comcast Xfinity customers can use their username and password to login.)

Comcast Xfinity spokesperson Bob Grove said Pittsburgh joins Boston, New York City and southern New Jersey as the only regions to offer free, public Wi-Fi at transit stops. Grove noted that Comcast Xfinity is considering expanding the service.

The Wi-Fi comes at no cost to Port Authority.

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MP3 Monday: Gravelarks

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 1:24 PM

PHOTO COURTESY OF CANDICE MCDERMOTT
  • Photo courtesy of Candice McDermott
Each week, we post a song from a local artist online for free. This week, we’re hearing from an inventive and melancholic indie-rock three-piece called Gravelarks. Its debut Sublimation, released earlier this month, tips its hat to a handful of styles and influences, but smart harmonies and pleasantly unusual riff work run throughout the nine tracks.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Pops and Botches Aug. 24: The Best and Worst from WWE TV this week

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 2:44 PM

PHOTOS COURTESY OF WWE.COM
  • Photos Courtesy of WWE.com
Pops and Botches is a weekly roundup of the WWE happenings on Monday Night RAW, Smackdown Live, 205 Live and NXT as told by me, Meg. I’ll break it down by pops (good things) and botches (clear misses) for each show. These are obviously my opinions, most of which I log live while watching these shows.

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Penn Plaza residents and advocates pressure Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to enact broad affordable-housing legislation

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 2:06 PM

Affordable-housing advocates protesting in Riverview Park on Aug. 24 - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Affordable-housing advocates protesting in Riverview Park on Aug. 24
When longtime Penn Plaza residents Myrtle Stern and Maybel Duffy were forced to vacate their East Liberty homes earlier this year, their options for replacement housing were limited. They need elevator access, as they are in their 70s and have trouble navigating stairs. “I have arthritis and a metal knee,” said Duffy at an Aug. 24 protest in Riverview Park. “I can’t do steps.”

The best option for them was Auburn Towers apartments, in Verona, Pa., which is more than an hour away from Penn Plaza via public transit. And Stern says this move has lowered her quality of life.

“When I lived in East Liberty, I used to walk a block or two to visit with my daughter," said Stern in a press release. “When I got to feeling bad, I used to babysit my grandkids, and then I would feel better. But I had to move out to Verona, where there are so few buses that I feel trapped out here, especially on the weekends when there are no buses at all. I want to be able to return to my home in East Liberty.”

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Point Park faculty give university President Paul Hennigan a no-confidence vote as union contract is finally reached

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 12:19 PM

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About 89 full-time faculty members at Point Park University voted Wednesday to issue a vote of no confidence for President Paul Hennigan. The vote passed by a narrow margin, with 53 percent in favor, 44 percent opposed and 3 percent abstaining.

Faculty who supported the vote say that under Hennigan’s leadership, "The university has neglected to create a culture of diversity and equality for all members of the campus community." They also claim that the president has refused  "to retain an acceptable proportion of full-time to part-time faculty, as well as [refused] to pay full-time faculty a salary competitive with their peers."

The vote comes as Point Park faculty are finally taking steps forward with union negotiations after several years of struggle.

Point Park faculty began trying to unionize more than 10 years ago, officially electing to do so in June 2004 along with The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh. The university appealed the election with the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals, but eventually it decided to drop its challenge after several years of inactivity.

Then this week, just hours after the vote of no confidence, it was announced that a tentative contract between the representatives of the faculty union and Point Park had been reached.

However, according to John Shepard, a theater professor at Point Park, a union contract won’t solve all of the problems that the no-confidence vote addressed. “Even if we’d had the contract we were thrilled about at the beginning of the summer, I still would’ve wanted this vote to happen,” Shepard says.

The seven grievances listed in the “Rational for No Confidence” were discussed and updated with input from faculty at the meeting on Wednesday. They include points such as: “under Paul Hennigan's leadership, the University has failed to create, foster, and maintain a consistent structure and management format to support the university's academic mission”; and “under President Hennigan's leadership, the University has erected a top-heavy administrative and hierarchical structure that devalues transparency and diminishes faculty and student input, fostering an environment of distrust.”

Shepard says a lot of the concerns centered around lack of communication and transparency between administration, faculty and students. For example, he cites an instance two years ago when 34 staff members were unexpectedly let go from Point Park over the summer, which he believes negatively impacted student services.

“As far as I’m concerned, and I think as far as the entire faculty is concerned, it’s all about the students,” Shepard says.  "They’re the ones paying the tuition, they’re the consumer."

Shepard, who chaired the committee that constructed the list of grievances for the no-confidence vote, says that he doesn’t know what will happen next, as the results of the vote are in the hands of Point Park’s Board of Trustees. He also says he and many faculty aren’t out to get Hennigan fired.

“I think the whole purpose behind this vote was to bring light to these issues,” Shepard says. “It puts the people in power on notice that we’re watching them, and that if they don’t change their ways, we’re not going to back down. I’m just glad that we’ve gotten this information out there, and I really hope that things will be different, and that people will take our sentiment to heart, and that they will possibly make some changes.”

The unionizing process has proven to be more difficult for Point Park faculty than it was for the university’s adjunct professors, who elected to unionize with the United Steelworkers in June 2014 after about two years of organizing. Unchallenged by the university, bargaining between administration and the adjunct union took 10 months to reach a first contract.

UPDATE

The Board of Trustees at Point Park University released the following statement in response to the vote of no confidence.

“We recognize this vote comes in the midst of the final stages of contract negotiations,” said Joseph R. Greco Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to acknowledge receipt of the vote taken by the full-time faculty. During the 12 years of Dr. Hennigan’s presidency, the Board has heard high praise and positive feedback regarding Dr. Hennigan’s leadership from students, parents, donors, alumni and community leaders. The board has received two professionally administered faculty evaluations of Dr. Hennigan that were positive.

“We recognize the need for continuous improvement and trust in building effective relationships between faculty and administration. We are committed to our goal of being one of the most dynamic, private urban universities with an intense focus on student success through distinctive, innovative and experiential learning.

“The Trustees, nevertheless, understand and accept its responsibility for the governance and leadership at Point Park University, and will appoint an independent expert to thoroughly review this matter and report back to the Board. Until that review is complete, President Hennigan and the administration have the full support of the Board of Trustees."

Additionally, Lou Corsaro, managing director of university marketing and public relations, sent the following statement regarding negotiations with faculty:

“Point Park University has reached a memorandum of agreement with the Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America on a contract subject to ratification by the full-time faculty. The University believes it is a fair agreement for all parties.”

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