Final Review: | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Final Review:

One last look at our last year on Earth

Circle of Life (clockwise from top left): Ravenstahl pays a wager; City Council honors drag queen Sharon Needles; Rich Fitzgerald has a busy year; Obama cruises back into the White House; Occupy Pittsburgh gets evicted; and right-wing poster boy Rick Santorum gives us all a scare.
Circle of Life (clockwise from top left): Ravenstahl pays a wager; City Council honors drag queen Sharon Needles; Rich Fitzgerald has a busy year; Obama cruises back into the White House; Occupy Pittsburgh gets evicted; and right-wing poster boy Rick Santorum gives us all a scare.


Jan.  1: The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble starts the year off on the right foot by earning a spot on Dance Magazine's annual "25 to Watch" list. 

Jan. 3: Democrat Rich Fitzgerald is sworn in as county executive. 

Jan. 5: Fitzgerald, who campaigned by strongly opposing a court-ordered countywide property reassessment, tosses out court-ordered 2012 assessment values for property owners, sending out 2002 valuations instead. From here, things start getting kind of weird.

Jan. 8: The Pittsburgh Steelers lose to Tim Tebow's Denver Broncos in overtime, dashing their Super Bowl hopes. On Jan. 10, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl dons a Tebow jersey and strikes the famous "Tebow" pose, to honor a bet with Denver's mayor. The Ravenstahl-signed jersey nets $1,400 for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship fund.  


Jan. 18: Faced with a $64 million budget deficit, the Port Authority announces plans for a 35 percent service reduction. Unless funding can be found by September, it warns, it will cut 46 routes, severely reduce the remaining lines, layoff 500 and shut down at least one operating division.

Jan. 19: Pennsylvania's most famous right-wing nut-job, Rick Santorum, emerges from the ashes of his former senatorial career to win the Iowa caucuses. For a brief — though not brief enough — moment, he has to be treated as a serious contender for the GOP's presidential nomination.  

Jan. 21: At the Byham Theater, nationally touring monologist Mike Daisey performs his popular show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, about his love/hate relationship with Apple and its overseas labor practices. Two months later, Daisey apologizes after it's revealed he fabricated parts of the monologue. 

Jan. 24: For-profit education titan Education Management Corp. tells employees that it will be streamlining operations. Two days later, it will lay off 400 employees, beginning a long, difficult year for the company and its workers.


Feb 8: Six days after a court-ordered eviction, members of Occupy Pittsburgh declare a victory and depart the Mellon Green encampment which they had been occupying since Oct. 15, 2011. The site is still fenced off, nearly a year later.

Feb. 9: Pitt's theater department and Pittsburgh Playwrights premiere The Gammage Project, a docudrama by Buck Favorini and Mark Clayton Southers revisiting the infamous 1996 death of motorist Jonny Gammage during a traffic stop by local police.

Feb. 13: The University of Pittsburgh receives a bomb threat — the first in what becomes almost an almost daily disruption for most of the semester. In August, federal authorities charge Scottish man Adam Stuart Busby for making 40 threats.

Feb. 18: The Distinctively Dutch festival brings three months of performances and exhibitions by contemporary Dutch artists. U.S. and world premieres hosted by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust include Diespace and avant-garde composer JakobTV's multimedia opera The News. 

Final Review:
Protesting transit cuts

Feb 29: At the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, more than 375 testify against proposed Port Authority cuts while directing their rage toward Gov. Tom Corbett for failing to produce a statewide transportation funding plan. 


March 2: The Center for PostNatural History opens on Penn Avenue, drawing capacity crowds. 

March 8: Gunman John Shick walks into Western Psychiatric Institute in Oakland and opens fire, killing one and wounding seven others before being fatally wounded by Pitt police. A wide-ranging discussion of gun control and mental-health policies utterly fails to ensue. 

March 13: Officials unveil the relocated and restored "Pittsburgh Recollections," Romare Bearden's large-scale mural, in the Gateway Center light-rail station. 

March 14: A Republican-controlled state legislature passes a bill requiring all voters to show photo identification when voting, starting with the Nov. 6 election. In May the ACLU and other groups sue to overturn the law, arguing that it would disenfranchise nearly 750,000 voters. 

March 15: Gov. Tom Corbett dismisses criticism of the state's proposed mandatory ultrasound bill, which would require a woman seeking an abortion to have an invasive ultrasound — and have the image projected on a screen. Women who don't want to watch, Corbett says, "just have to close [their] eyes."

March 25: Highmark CEO Ken Melani is arrested after barging into the home of his mistress' estranged husband in Oakmont, and starting a physical altercation with him. The event would touch off a long week for the $4 million-a-year CEO, who would be fired from his post on April 1. In June charges against Melani were withdrawn after he completed an anger-management course.

Final Review:
North Shore Connector launches

March 25: The Port Authority of Allegheny County launches the North Shore Connector, a 1.2- mile extension of the light-rail system from Downtown to the North Side. The project started in the mid-1990s.

Final Review:
Demolition of the Civic Arena

March 31: Six months after the Sports & Exhibition Authority voted to demolish the Civic Arena, the iconic Igloo disappears from the city's skyline. 


April 10: Citing his daughter's health, and facing a likely thumping from GOP voters in his home state, Rick Santorum drops his presidential bid.

April 16: Carnegie Mellon's Laptop Orchestra joins six other universities in the U.S. and U.K. for a video-chat concert. 

April 18: At a campaign stop in Bethel Park, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney disses a plate of cookies supplied by Bethel Bakery: "I'm not sure about these cookies," he says. "Did you make those cookies? You didn't, did you? No. No. They came from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever." Some pundits begin to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Romney lacks the "common touch."

April 28: The site of Homestead's old U.S. Steel works hosts Pyrotopia, Pittsburgh's first-ever festival of the fire arts. The event is spearheaded by artist Eric Singer, whose fire-spitting contraptions join fire-dancers, fire-eaters and more. 

April 30: After running their nationally known store for 20 years, Mystery Lovers Bookshop founders Richard Goldman and Mary Alice Gorman introduce new owner Laurie Stephens, a Dallas-based arts manager and former librarian, who formally takes over later in the year.

Final Review:
Sharon Needles Day

April 30: Bloomfield-based drag queen Sharon Needles wins reality television show RuPaul's Drag Race, reviving a local controversy about her acts inclusion of Nazi and racist imagery. Even so, Pittsburgh City Council names June 12 "Sharon Needles Day." 


May 2: Gov. Tom Corbett announces that UPMC and Highmark have agreed to extend a contract giving Highmark customers in-network access to all UPMC hospitals and physicians. For now.

May 5: City Theatre hosts the local premiere of POP!, a carnivalesque new musical about Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol and his legendary Factory, revolving around his near-fatal shooting, in 1968. The show features Broadway star Anthony Rapp as Warhol.

Final Review:
Sen. Jane Orie

May 18: State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is charged with nine criminal counts for allegedly using state resources for campaigning. The Supreme Court suspends her while the case plays out. Her sister, state Sen. Jane Orie (R-McCandless) will receive a 10-year prison sentence on related charges.


June 8: Art-rock band Squonk Opera debuts the GO! Roadshow, its prop-festooned concert mounted on the bed of a fully operational flatbed truck, at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. 

June 19: A tate law goes into effect requiring state abortion providers to comply with new stringent regulations that women's health activists say would force clinics to close. Two clinics do close in the wake of the regulations; other clinics are given an additional six months to meet the code.

June 20: Local officials join members of the clergy and UPMC employees to rally outside of UPMC Shadyside, then crash a UPMC board meeting to discuss unionization efforts, which they say the health-care giant is trying to fight off.

June 24: The Andy Warhol Museum opens Factory Direct, an unusual exhibition displaying the results of residencies by locally and nationally based artists with local businesses ranging from Construction Junction to Bayer and Alcoa. It takes up half a floor at a self-storage facility in the Strip. 

June 29: After 35 years, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh abandons its traditional season format for Summerfest, 18 days of music and more at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel. The result? OTP has its highest-revenue season ever. 

June 30: Gov. Corbett signs a law providing massive tax credits for petrochemical companies willing to take advantage of the state's Marcellus Shale gas boom. The credit was created to entice Shell Oil to build a "cracker" plant in Beaver County. Shell could get a tax break as high as $66 million. Critics note the incentives aren't tied to actual job creation; Shell has still not made a final decision about building the plant.


Final Review:
The Dark Knight Rises

July 20: After filming in the city for a month in 2011, The Dark Knight Rises opens nationwide, giving movie audiences a glimpse of what the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Gotham City looks like.

July 31: Complying with a federal consent decree, ALCOSAN releases a $3.6 billion plan to halt most wet-weather sewer overflows. Critics say the plan ignores cheaper "green" solutions to keep stormwater out of the system in the first place. 


Aug. 1: Bricolage Productions launches STRATA, an immersive, interactive show that's the city's most ambitious local theater production in memory. Participants are guided through a cleverly disguised Downtown office building housing a self-improvement "refitnessing center" — really a series of scripted encounters with performers, by turns semi-surreal, psychologically provocative and somewhat sinister. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in a heated battle for first place in their division, and are 16 games over .500. Fans begin to hope not only that the team's string of 19 losing seasons will come to an end, but that it may even make the playoffs. 

Final Review:
Jordan Miles

Aug. 8: After a civil trial lasting nearly a month, a federal jury finds that city police officers Michael Saldutte, Richard Ewing and David Sisak did not maliciously prosecute Homewood resident Jordan Miles in January 2010 during an altercation in which Miles was severely beaten and arrested. However, the jury deadlocks on other charges of excessive force and false arrest, setting the stage for another trial next year. 

Aug. 19: Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 approves a tentative contract with the Port Authority of Allegheny County, to generate an estimated $60 million in savings through wage freezes and other concessions. The deal will pave the way for state assistance of the cash-strapped transit agency.

Aug. 21: The other shoe drops on the Port Authority rescue: State and local officials announce they have identified $35 million for the Port Authority to help avert service cuts. The county said it would provide $4.5 million for the agency through the drink tax and Allegheny Regional Asset District; while the state said it would contribute $30-35 million. 

Aug. 22: The American Civil Liberties Union sues the city of Pittsburgh, asserting that the Bureau of Police discriminates against black applicants to its ranks. The ACLU suggests bias is at work in almost every stage of the hiring process — from oral exams where white applicants get answers in advance, to a secret "chief's roundtable." The city denies the complaint, which is currently in a court-ordered arbitration process. 

Aug. 23: A woman police say was wearing hospital scrubs and pretending to be a nurse takes a 3-day-old infant from his mother's room at Magee Women's Hospital. After a nearly five-hour search, the baby is found and 19-year-old Breona Moore of the Hill District is charged in the kidnapping.


Sept. 1: Lead artist Tim Kaulen and longstanding collective the Industrial Arts Co-op unveil "The Workers," a large-scale tribute to the city's steelworkers made from scrap metal, at South Side Riverfront Park. The project took 15 years to complete. 

Sept. 10: Citing tight budgets and declining corporate sponsorship, Allegheny County pulls the plug on the 20-year holiday tradition that is the Celebration of Lights, at Hartwood Acres. 

Sept. 12: A baby black rhino is born at the Pittsburgh Zoo, becoming an instant sensation on social media and national news reports. 

Final Review:
A hostage crisis broadcast on Facebook

Sept. 21:  Klein Michael Thaxton updates his Facebook page frequently while holding a hostage in Three Gateway Center. Among his posts: "i cant take it no more im done bro," and: "how this ends is up to yall bro real shyt".  After five hours, Thaxton releases his hostage unharmed and is arrested. 

The city's film renaissance gets another boost with the premiere of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the locally-shot, locally-set adaptation of the young-adult novel by Upper St. Clair native Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky, who also directed, celebrated with a visit to Dormont's Hollywood Theater for a screening of Perks' own touchstone film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Sept. 28: West Penn Allegheny Health System cancels a $475 million deal in which Highmark Inc. would have acquired the network, saying Highmark wanted to force the hospital system into bankruptcy. 


Oct. 1: After winning just 19 of their last 57 games — one of the greatest late-season collapses in sports history — the Pirates rack up their 20th straight losing season. And no playoffs, either.

Oct. 2: In a case that went to the state Supreme Court and back, Commonwealth Court judge Robert Simpson puts the state's voter-ID law on hiatus for this year. Republicans brace for an onslaught of foreign-born ACORN zombies at the polls. The zombies never arrive, but that just shows how sneaky Democrats are.

Oct. 6: Volunteers stage Figment, a local incarnation of an outdoor arts-fest model that eschews corporate sponsorship. 

Oct. 8: Convicted child molester and former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky releases an audio message from jail on the eve of his sentencing, proclaiming his innocence. The next day, he is sentenced to 30-60 years in prison.

Oct. 11: As the NHL season is scheduled to begin, owners and players seem far apart on a labor deal to end the lockout. As of press time, they still are.

Oct. 16: Following an unfavorable performance review, the Carnegie Museums announce the departure of president John Wetenhall. The news, which is accompanied by tattle-tale press accounts of Wetenhall's controversial decision to wear blue jeans to work one day, is the latest in a series of shakeups at the Carnegie.

Oct. 18: About 1,300 delegates under the age of 30 from 180 countries converge on the city for the international One Young World conference. Dignitaries in attendance include former President Bill Clinton, U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.


Nov. 3: After virtually ignoring the state for months, Mitt Romney declares that Pennsylvania is in play. Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan asks a crowd in Harrisburg, "Hey, Pennsylvania, you going to help us win this election?" Apparently not.

Nov. 4: Two-year-old Maddox Derkosh is mauled to death by African painted dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium after falling off a ledge. 

Nov. 6: Election Day: Barack Obama soundly defeats GOP challenger Mitt Romney by capturing 332 electoral votes. In Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kane becomes the first woman and the first Democrat elected attorney general; U.S. Sen. Bob Casey defeats Tea Party Republican Tom Smith; and Republican Keith Rothfus defeats incumbent Mark Critz to represent the 12th Congressional District. 

Nov. 14: During the 2012 election cycle, $6 billion was spent nationwide on political advertisements. A City Paper analysis of ad buys shows at least $34 million was spent on political advertising at local television stations. (City Paper itself earned considerably less.)

Nov. 20: Officials at the Community College of Allegheny County confirm that they will be cutting hours for 400 part-time workers to 29 hours per week. The move means the employees will not be eligible for health care under the Affordable Care Act; covering them would have cost the school $6 million.


Dec. 2: After losing to the lowly Cleveland Browns just a week earlier, Homestead native and Pittsburgh Steelers third-string QB Charlie Batch leads the team to an emotional 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in what many believe will be Batch's final season.

Dec. 8: Gov. Corbett tells reporters covering the annual Pennsylvania Society Events in New York that he has a transportation funding package prepared to announce in 2013. As usual, however, he doesn't discuss details.

Monroeville resident and Navy SEAL Nicholas D. Chesque is shot and killed in Afghanistan while trying to rescue a U.S. doctor held  captive by the Taliban. 

Dec. 11: Pittsburgh City Council passes a law to use billboards to shame the owners of blighted properties across the city to clean them up.

Dec. 12: Gov. Tom Corbett says the state will not establish its own health-insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, instead allowing the federal government to implement the new system.

Pittsburgh City Council declares it "Wiz Khalifa Day" in honor of the rapper, a.k.a. Cameron Jibril Thomaz, a graduate of Allderdice High School. 

Dec. 13: City Councilor Bill Peduto comes clean about the worst-kept secret in city politics — that he will challenge Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in the 2013 mayoral race. 

Dec. 14: In Newtown, Conn., 20-year-old Adam Lanza enters Sandy Hook Elementary School and opens fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 20 students and six adults. The tragedy is felt nationwide with renewed calls for gun control. Locally, schools increase security, including the addition of armed officers in schools. Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods suspends the sale of semi-automatic rifles like the one Lanza used.

Dec. 18: Pittsburgh City Council gives the green light to Riverfront Landing, a retail and residential development the Buncher Company wants to build on 55 acres adjoining the Strip District. The plan is blasted by Pittsburgh City Councilor Patrick Dowd, who faults it for, among other things, partially razing a historic Strip District produce terminal.

Sheena Monnin, a Cranberry Township resident and former Miss Pennsylvania is ordered to pay $5 million to billionaire Donald Trump for saying the Miss Universe pageant — owned by Trump — was "fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent, and in many ways trashy" on her Facebook page. Isn't that part of Trump's charm?

Dec. 19: Actor Tom Cruise comes to town for a relatively low-key screening of his new locally shot film, Jack Reacher. The original, more extravagant Dec. 15 red carpet event was cancelled out of respect for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

The National Labor Relations Board files a complaint against UPMC, alleging the health-care company violated federal law in efforts to squash attempts by non-clinical employees to unionize.

Dec. 21: Pittsburgh somehow avoids the cataclysm predicted by the ancient Mayan cataclysm. Unless, of course, this is just one more trend we're going to catch onto a few months later than everyone else.