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Monday, March 26, 2018

After Pittsburgh’s March for Our Lives, legislators hoping new attention paid to Pennsylvania's gun-reform laws

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 5:09 PM

Rally goer at March for Our Lives in Downtown Pittsburgh on March 24 - CP PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK
  • CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
  • Rally goer at March for Our Lives in Downtown Pittsburgh on March 24
In the month since a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. left 17 students and staff dead and several wounded, a renewed effort to reform gun laws has taken hold across the country, and in Pennsylvania.

This year, nearly a dozen pieces of gun-control legislation have been introduced in the Pa. state legislature. Some bills limit the sale and use of assault weapons, ban high capacity magazines and enact stricter gun-ownership laws. Some Pennsylvania elected officials are hoping young voters start to rally behind some of these bills.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Fans are upset that Pittsburgh Pirates president spoke at a fundraiser for congressional candidate Rick Saccone

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 3:12 PM

The Pirate Parrot at a 2017 Pirates game - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • The Pirate Parrot at a 2017 Pirates game
In the 2017 baseball offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away two star players in Andrew McCutchen and Gerrt Cole. The fans were upset with Pirates management and many Pittsburghers were gearing up for a disappointing season for the Buccos.

Then, for some, there was another reason this week to be upset with the Pirates. According to a tweet from Washington Post reporter James Hohmann, on March 8, Pirates president Frank Coonelly spoke in support of Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth), who is running for U.S. Congress in a special election on March 13 against Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon). According to Hohmann's tweet,  Coonelly spoke at the Republican Party of Allegheny County's "Spirit of Lincoln" dinner in Green Tree on March 8 and he also brought the Pirate Parrot with him. The dinner served as a fundraising event for Saccone and featured President Donald Trump’s counsel Kellyanne Conway.

Regis McDevitt, a Pittsburgh resident and Pirate fan, wrote on Twitter on March 8 “@Pirates this is shameful,” in response to Hohmann’s tweet. McDevitt also tweeted that the Pirates should address Coonelly’s involvement with Saccone and wrote that “inserting the organization into a political argument is true cause for a boycott.”

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Pittsburgh Jewish activists join immigrant groups in calling for path to citizenship for Dreamers

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 5:09 PM

Jewish activists and immigrant-rights advocates march on the South Side on Jan. 30 - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Jewish activists and immigrant-rights advocates march on the South Side on Jan. 30
Ever since President Donald Trump's administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last fall, the future for hundreds of thousands of immigrants has been in limbo. DACA recipients, also called Dreamers, are undocumented immigrants who were brought across the border as young children and have since been given work permits and temporary legal status in the U.S. In March, Dreamers will no longer be able to apply for DACA and could face deportation.

Over the years, DACA recipients have gathered allies amongst many liberal, and even some conservative, groups, because many Dreamers have known no other country than the U.S. And here in Pittsburgh, a group of Jewish activists is providing Dreamers a boost, too.

On Jan. 30, about 50 people gathered to protest in front of Pittsburgh’s U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement office, on the South Side. The group was made up of members of Bend the Arc Pittsburgh, a progressive Jewish organization, as well as local Latino-advocacy groups Casa San José and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

Tammy Hepps, a Squirrel Hill resident and member of Bend the Arc, said during the protest that the action was meant as a reminder to Trump, in advance of his State of the Union address that same evening, to focus on keeping Americans united in their embrace of immigrants.

“Let our people stay,” said Hepps. “A diverse America is a better America.”

Hepps also said that Pittsburgh’s Jewish community stands in solidarity with undocumented immigrants because the Jewish people have been mistreated throughout history. She sees parallels between the Jewish experience and present-day treatment of undocumented immigrants.

“We don’t need a calendar to remind us what can happen when people choose to scapegoat other people and harden their hearts to those seeking refuge,” says Hepps, alluding to how the U.S. and other Western nations initially refused to take in Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

During the rally, local rabbis read letters from local Dreamers, and the group sang Jewish worship songs and other protest songs.

Casa San José’s Monica Ruiz, who works with the undocumented community in Pittsburgh, told the crowd she was grateful for its support. She said many Dreamers she knows are anxious about their future, considering that “everything they know could go away in one tweet,” referencing Trump’s habit of issuing policy guidelines on Twitter.

Ruiz told the crowd that Pittsburgh’s DACA recipients have acted as model residents their whole lives and they deserve full, legal status in the U.S.

“These folks need a pathway to citizenship,” said Ruiz. “If not them, then who?”

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Study shows Pennsylvania's tax structure benefits wealthy rather than lower-income workers

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 5:36 PM

  • Stock image
The Republicans in the U.S. House and Pennsylvania House appear to have a similar goal: Raise taxes on low- and middle-income individuals, so that wealthy people and corporations avoid paying more in taxes.

The U.S. House recently passed a tax-reform plan with only Republican votes, including U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley), U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) and all other Republican representatives from Pennsylvania. The bill would offer a tax reprieve to low- and middle-income individuals initially, but those cuts would expire; by 2027, some low- and middle-income individuals would eventually be paying more in taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The ultra-wealthy (those making $5 million and up) and corporations, however, would be paying significantly less indefinitely. Politicians like Rothfus justify this bill saying expanded economic growth from tax cuts will lead to better wages for workers.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Johnstown progressives are sick of national media painting them solely as Trump Country

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 1:20 PM

View of Downtown Johnstown from across the Stone Bridge. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL BALKO
  • Photo courtesy of Phil Balko
  • View of Downtown Johnstown from across the Stone Bridge.
On Nov. 8, Politico published a story many in the Pittsburgh region have seen too many times. Reporter Michael Kruse traveled to Johnstown, in Cambria County, to talk to the same people he interviewed for a  story published prior to Donald Trump being elected president. The reporting investigated whether Trump voters had soured on the president, and Kruse sought their input on the ongoing political and cultural wars nationwide. Like many dispatches from the Rust Belt by national publications, the story painted Johnstown as a no-hope town, overrun by drugs and blight, and still in love with Trump.

Since its publication, the Politico story has spread widely on social media, thanks to the explosive final quote in which a white, elderly Trump voter says NFL players are “Niggers for life.”

But progressives in Johnstown aren’t happy. Indivisible Johnstown, a progressive group that has held candidate forums for 2018 Democratic congressional candidates, responded on Facebook: “We are OUTRAGED that this POLITICO reporter and EVERY reporter who comes to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is only looking to tell a story of American Carnage. … Many, many citizens here are not misogynistic, racists like the Neanderthals in this article. They are working hard to make a difference.”

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Last day to register to vote in the 2017 general election is Oct. 10

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 3:49 PM

  • Image courtesy of Allegheny County
Pittsburgh's recent election headlines have been swamped by the not-quite-announced, but upcoming special election for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's (R-Upper St. Clair) vacated seat. Murphy, a pro-life champion, was caught having an affair and then allegedly asked his mistress to get an abortion. He will resign Oct. 21, after what has been a controversial and hypocrisy-filled year.

But there are still other important upcoming political races before that special election goes down, and today, Oct. 10, is the last day to register to vote on Nov. 7. Pennsylvania citizens can register online at register.votespa.com.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Allegheny County is increasing its bus riders and cyclists, but five area state reps voted to reduce transit and bike funds

Posted By on Sat, Sep 16, 2017 at 12:48 PM

West Mifflin residents celebrate the 55 bus extension, but proposed cuts could ax the route. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHANDANA CHERUKUPALLI
  • Photo courtesy of Chandana Cherukupalli
  • West Mifflin residents celebrate the 55 bus extension, but proposed cuts could ax the route.
The U.S. Census just released its 2016 estimates for commuters in Allegheny County, and the number of Pittsburghers biking and using public transit is growing. Compared to 2015, people who commute to work via public transit grew 0.8 percent, and by bicycle by 0.2 percent. (In the city of Pittsburgh, bike commuters increased by 0.9 percent).

Allegheny County is actually bucking national and statewide trends, in terms of public-transit use. The U.S. as a whole decreased its share of public-transit users by 0.1 percent from 2015 to 2016, as did the state of Pennsylvania.

But six five state representatives from Allegheny County just voted for a House budget bill that proposes $50 million in cuts to public-transit funds, as well as cutting $50 million in multi-modal funds, which are used to build non-car infrastructure, including bike lanes. The representatives —
John Maher (R-Upper St. Clair), Jason Ortitay (R-South Fayette), Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth), Hal English (R-Allison Park), Mark Mustio (R-North Fayette) and Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall) — all voted for the bill, and were the only Allegheny County representatives to do so. The bill passed by two votes. The only Allegheny County Republican to vote against the proposed budget was Eli Evankovich (R-Murrysville); Hal English (R-Allison Park) was marked "excused" from the vote.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Pittsburgh area white supremacist apparently resurfaces in Mount Lebanon in wake of Charlottesville

Posted By on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 5:51 PM

Pittsburgh-area resident Hardy Lloyd has more than a decade of involvement with white-supremacist organizations and a history of violence. In the past, he has posted online an admiration for Adolf Hitler. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he bragged online about killing a woman, after a jury acquitted him of said murder.

And Lloyd seems to be back in Pittsburgh’s public sphere, apparently prompted by last week’s violence in Charlottesville, Va. On Aug. 14, just two days after the tragic events that unfolded in Charlottesville, a man who appears to be Lloyd was spotted and videotaped walking through the crowd of protesters that meets weekly in front of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-Upper St. Clair) office in Mount Lebanon. A participant in the protest, Mike Weis, sent the video to the Pittsburgh City Paper.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

In response to Trump’s immigration orders, more than 700 Pittsburghers protest between Jan. 28-29

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 6:03 PM

Hundreds of protesters fill Schenley Plaza to protest Trump's immigration and refugee orders - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Hundreds of protesters fill Schenley Plaza to protest Trump's immigration and refugee orders
As quickly as President Donald Trump radically changes U.S. policies through executive orders, Pittsburghers seem to just as quickly organize mass protests in defiance of them.

Just three days after Trump signed executive orders to increase immigration enforcement, propose a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and reintroduce controversial immigration policies, more than 400 Pittsburghers rallied and marched in Oakland to protests the orders.

A day before the Jan. 28 march, Trump also signed an order banning internationals from mostly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and banning Syrians indefinitely. His order also halted all refugee resettlement to the U.S. for 120 days. Protesters in Oakland decried all of the orders and another 300 some protesters filled the Pittsburgh International Airport on Jan. 29 to continue to decry Trump’s travel ban and refugee stay.

“We might have been born somewhere else, but we are Pittsburgh residents,” said Monica Ruiz of Latino and immigrant-rights group Casa San José at the Oakland rally. “We make Pittsburgh great.”

Duquesne University student Aishah Muhammad joined her Muslim family members in attending the protest on Jan. 28. Her parents are from Pakistan, and while that country was not on the list of Trump’s travel ban, she said she wanted to express solidarity and amplify the voices of PIttsburgh’s immigrant Muslims.

“[The orders are] ridiculous,” said Muhammad. “They are not fair. We need to keep protesting. We need Trump to hear us. There are kids in Syria who are going to die because of this Muslim ban.”

Katrina Finn, a Pittsburgh resident and health-care worker, also attended the Oakland rally and said it the constant flow of immigrants is what makes this country what it is. Finn is not an immigrant, nor a Muslim, but said it was important for people like here to also stand up to Trump’s policies.

“Most people may not feel an immediate impact,” said Finn. “But it's important to act before there is a big impact that would severely hurt the country.”

Public officials also reacted quickly to Trump’s executive orders. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and City Councilor Dan Gilman joined the rally of hundreds at the Pittsburgh airport. Gilman has recently introduced a slew of city bills aimed at protecting immigrants’ rights and Peduto has vowed to legally challenge the federal government, if Pittsburgh's immigration policies bring it under attack.

Led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, 17 attorneys general joined together in a statement to denounce the travel ban: “As the chief legal officers for over 131 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump's unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful Executive Order and will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution.” Shapiro and Iowa AG Thomas John Miller were the only attorneys general among the 17 from states where Trump won on Election Day.

But some elected officials were not as critical of the orders. Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey, in typical endorse/not endorse fashion, said Trump’s order was initially flawed, but now is in favor of the travel ban order since Trump’s administration clarified that the ban does not apply to green-card holders.

U.S. Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) also endorsed the order saying in a statement: “President Trump is keeping his campaign promise to keep America safe and secure.” Rothfus also addressed Trump’s naysayers and requested that they read the full orders to be more informed.

This is where City Paper actually agrees with Rothfus. You can read the Border Control order, the Immigration in the Interior order, and the travel ban order at www.whitehouse.gov.

CP recommends the section about how undocumented immigrants can now be detained for merely "committing" a chargeable criminal offense; the part authorizing the “immediate construction” of a wall along U.S. Mexico border without mentioning a funding source; and the section mentioning the four-month suspension of all refugees to determine “additional procedures” to ensure refugees don’t “pose a threat to security,” even though the U.S. already has a very long and thorough refugee-vetting process.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Report reveals Trump’s infrastructure priorities; two Pittsburgh-area projects make list

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 at 2:56 PM

  • Photo courtesy of wikicommons
  • Charleroi Lock and Dam
Okay infrastructure nerds, don’t get too excited. A report obtained by the Kansas City Star and McClatchyDC reveals President Donald Trump’s top 50 infrastructure project priorities, totaling $137.5 billion.

Pittsburgh-area projects are listed at 45 and 46 on the list and come with a $2.6 billion price-tag. But sorry to those North Hills residents, who voted for Trump in troves, you are not getting that light-rail line to Pittsburgh you have always wanted. In fact, the two Pittsburgh projects are more of the necessary, but boring variety.

Priority number 45 is a much-needed upgrade to the locks and dams on the Ohio River in Emsworth, Moon, and Beaver County. According to the report, these facilities are the “oldest and smallest lock chambers” on the Ohio River. And priority number 46, is also a lock and dam upgrade, this one on the Monongahela River in Charleroi. Not the sexiest of projects.

However, combing through the list shows Trump does have an inkling for supporting some pretty exciting infrastructure plans. A proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston is on the list at number 13. Also some green infrastructure plans make the list, including a wind farm in Wyoming and a storm water reduction plan in Cleveland.

And while Pittsburgh's plans are comparatively dull, both of the lock-and-dam projects would surely be a boon to the economies of these river towns (they could provide up to 2,600 jobs,according to the report). But even though Trump campaigned on providing $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, that doesn’t mean any of the projects are close to a reality.

Any large infrastructure bill would need to get U.S. Congressional approval before going through, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) stated after Trump’selection victory that a big infrastructure plan was not a big priority to Congressional Republicans, who control both the House and Senate.

Regardless, Pittsburgh is in need of an infrastructure boost. According to a 2011 Transportation for America report, Pittsburgh has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the country at 30.4 percent. Oddly, number 6 on Trump's priority list is a project to address 15 of Philadelphia's structurally deficient bridges. Classic, Philly, always getting all the Pennsylvania attention.

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