Monday, May 31, 2010

Paddle at the Point: Call for Kayakers

Outdoor adventure group Venture Outdoors is making an attempt to break a Guinness World Record. On June 5, at their Paddle at the Point event, they plan to create a “raft” of canoes and kayaks, called a flotilla.
“You pull up to each other, and you hold each other’s boats,” says Sean Brady, Assistant Executive Director at Venture Outdoors. “What that creates is a very stable raft of boats.”
He says it’s normally used in times of emergency, such as a storm, in order to make a safe environment for boaters. However, their goal is to have 1,500 participants create a raft near Point State Park, breaking the previous record of 1,104 held by Inlet, New York.
It’s free to sign up, but Brady says rental kayaks and canoes are limited. He especially encourages people to participate if they already own a boat to take out. However, inflatable boats are not permitted, and the giant raft must be held together with hands only, no ropes.
“This is not going to be easy,” Brady says, referring to the world record attempt. “We’re going to need everybody in the region to perk up and get involved.”
For more information or to sign up, go to

Bill Seeks to Help Small Business Growth

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would divert $20 million from a brownfield revitalization program to the Small Business Incubator program.
The measure's sponsor, Democratic Representative Rick Mirabito of Williamsport says the state's Tax Increment Financing Loan Guarantee Program to revitalize brownfield and greenfield sites is underused, and the current economic climate requires as many tools as possible to build jobs.

Mirabito says the incubator program was created in 1984 to allow several small start-up companies to pool resources and share resources such as clerical support and equipment like office space, fax machines, copiers, etc. to lower costs.
Mirabito's bill would also increase the subsidy amount and lower the match requirement for small businesses participating in the program and eliminate the seed capital requirement for assistance, which can be difficult to secure.
The Lycoming County lawmaker says many Small Business Incubator Program businesses have lasted for decades, creating jobs and helping to spark entrepreneurship in the Commonwealth.

Gourlay Brings Expertise to River City Brass Band

James Gourlay started playing the tuba when he was ten years old.

“Because the school janitor found a tuba in the attic of the school. I was forced to play it basically because I was really bad at soccer, and nobody would have me on their team.”

Now he’s a world-famous musician and the newly-appointed Music Director of the River City Brass band.

Gourlay says after giving 12 concerts with the band this March, it was an easy choice when he was offered the position.

The Scotland native says the brass band is one of the most flexible ensembles in music.

“The River City Brass Band is capable of playing anything from jazz and pop to much more serious and contemporary music,” says Gourlay. “So I’ll be trying, in my role as Director of Music, to balance the programs so that if you come to one of our concerts, you’ll hear something you really love.”

Gourlay says he’s already made a great relationship with both the band and the city of Pittsburgh.

Members of US Military Can See Art For Free This Summer

A handful of Pittsburgh area museums will be offering free admission this summer to active military personnel and their families. The head of the National Endowment for the Arts, in conjunction with Blue Stars Families asked museums across the country to offer the free admissions. The Frick Art & Historical Center is one of more than 600 museums that said yes. “We are pleased to join museums across the U.S. by participating in Blue Star Museums,” said Frick Director Bill Bodine. “Offering free admission is a way of showing gratitude and support to our country’s military personnel and their families.” Bodine says he knows this will mean a slight hit on the museum’s bottom line this summer but he thinks it is worth it. He also notes that anytime a museum can expand its reach in the community it is a good thing. The museum always offers a discount to members of the military.

Blue Star Museums runs from Memorial Day, May 31 through to Labor Day, September 6, 2010. Members of the military must show their ID to get themselves and up to five family members into the museums.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area and the Andy Warhol Museum are all taking part in the program. A list of all the participating museums can be found online.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ravenstahl's Appointment of Brother Criticized

Pittsburgh Councilmen Doug Shields and Bill Peduto want 2 different ethics panels to review Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's nomination of his brother Adam Ravenstahl to the Allegheny County Sanitary (ALCOSAN) Board. On May 18, Adam Ravenstahl won a special election to the Pennsylvania House to serve out the remaining 7 months of the term of former Representative Don Walko, who resigned the seat after being elected to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
Shields has written to the State Ethics Commission asking them to issue an opinion on the appointment. Peduto has sent a letter to Sister Patrice Hughes who chairs the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board asking for an investigation. In his letter, Peduto cited city code which says the only time a direct family member can be appointed is "through a waiver from the Ethics Hearing Board."
Earlier, City Solicitor Dan Regan said the nomination is proper because council would still have to approve it.
After making the appointment, Mayor Ravenstahl brushed off allegations of nepotism, saying his brother now represents a community (Pittsburgh's North Side) which is most affected by ALCOSAN.

President at CMU Wednesday

President Barack Obama comes to Pittsburgh next week. The White House is not giving any details of the purpose of the visit just yet other than it's for an event at Carnegie Mellon University Wednesday.
The White House did say it's a priority for the President to travel outside Washington which he has been doing on a near weekly basis recently.
The President is in Chicago spending the Memorial Day Weekend with his family.

Saturday is Beyond Bikes Day

The event is meant to familiarize families and individuals with Pittsburgh's bicycling offerings--from the roads that have bike lanes, to easy, kid friendly bike rides and biking safety information. A number of groups are sponsoring Beyond Bikes Day and the activities kick off at the Kingsley Association Community Center at 6435 Frankstown Ave., May 29 from 12 p.m to 3 p.m. Rides of three different lengths, all less than 30 minutes long will leave every 20 minutes from the center, and while riders are asked to bring there own bikes, a number of loaner bikes will also be available. Organizer Von Singletary with Venture Outdoors says this is an opportunity for beginner bikers to get a handle on the biking scene in the East End and perhaps pick up a new hobby or new mode of transportation.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 Farmers Market Guide

A new handout from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will help consumers find local farmers markets.

The 2010 Pennsylvania Farm Market Guide is available by calling the Department of Agriculture at 717-787-6041, or by visiting their website and searching for "farm market."

The guide also discloses which farm markets participate in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. That program helps seniors and low-income families buy fresh produce by supplying them with $20 in vouchers.

Local farming has thrived in recent years. In 2003, there were about 900 farm markets. That number has since grown to more than 1,200.

Trouble Down the Road for PAT

Port Authority of Allegheny County CEO Steve Bland says PAT will likely slash routes, increase fares and cut hundreds of jobs if more state transportation funding isn’t found.

Pennsylvania’s transportation budget is down $472 million after the federal government rejected tolling Interstate 80 last month. That includes $50.6 million for the Port Authority.

Governor Ed Rendell has opened a special legislative session to address the issue.

Bland says the problem is in the legislature’s hands now – but they must act quickly to avoid painful PAT service cuts in the coming months.

“We would probably come out with specifics -- very specific route-by-route, service-by-service fare specifics -- in July,” says Bland. “Those would go out to public hearings through the summer… with the board acting on those likely in September, going into effect in January.”

Bland says service would be cut between 20 and 30 percent, meaning 300 or more employees would lose their jobs.

Offer to Sestak Came from Bill Clinton

White House Counsel Robert Bauer denies that anyone from the White House offered Congressman Joe Sestak last year if he would drop out of the Senate Democratic Primary race in Pennsylvania clearing a path for the renomination for Republcan-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter.
Bauer issued a memorandum saying that allegations of improper conduct "rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law." However, Bauer admitted that the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel enlisted former President Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an option of serving on a presidential advisory board while remaining a member of the U.S. House and avoiding a divisive primary race. Bauer said that the advisory position would have been unpaid and he said Sestak declined.
Sestak mentioned in a television interview that the White House had offered him a job if he would give up his challenge to incumbent Arlen Specter. But then Sestak refused to say who made the offer, or what the job was. Senate Republicans have been asking for a special prosecutor to determine if federal laws were violated.

Commission: No One Spoke Up for Juveniles

The commission created to investigate Luzerne County’s “cash for kids” judicial scandal says the county experienced “a collapse of the rule of law,” and that everyone from judges to lawyers to the general community shares part of the blame.
The Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice’s final report says what happened in Luzerne County, where two judges allegedly shuffled juvenile offenders into privately-held detention centers in exchange for millions of dollars in kickbacks, was an isolated incident.
Chairman John Cleland says no one including defense attorneys, prosecutors, police or probation officers stepped up to challenge or report what Judges Mark Ciavarella or Michael Conahan were doing.

"Now in other counties, there might be a breakdown in one or maybe two aspects of that. And the others would come into play and the system would right and balance itself. But it is astonishing to all of us, I think, the total collapse that we witnessed."

Cleland says some of the details were shocking.

"You have a situation where you have a seven—an 11-year-old little boy who owes 488 dollar in fines and costs. And the judge says, can you pay it? And he says no. and the response is, put handcuffs and shackles on him and get him out of here and put him in detention. And nobody in the courtroom said a word."

The Commission issued 43 recommendations, including making it more difficult for juvenile defendants to waive their right to counsel, and creating a statewide office to help families of defendants appeal sentences.
The report says judges and lawyers should receive more ethics training, and face stiffer penalties for ethical violations.

Rendell: White House, Sestak Need to Explain "Job Offer"

President Barack Obama says the White House will soon explain what, if any, job offer an administration official made to Congressman Joe Sestak in order to get him to drop his primary bid against Senator Arlen Specter.

"I can assure the public that nothing improper took place. But, as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue."

Mr. Obama fielded a question about the issue yesterday during a press conference.
The pressure on Sestak and the White House to come clean on the issue has been growing in recent days.
A group of Senate Republicans has called for a special prosecutor to look into whether any laws were broken when the administration official allegedly offered Sestak a job last year to quit the race.
Sestak’s opponent, Republican Pat Toomey, says the Democrat needs to “be more forthcoming” about the issue, and even Democratic ally Governor Ed Rendell says Sestak or the White House needs to explain what happened.

Science Center to Host Sunday Memorial Service

The submarine U.S.S. Requin will welcome back some of her former sailors Sunday morning, when the Carnegie Science Center hosts a special Memorial Day weekend service on deck.

Science Center Curator of Historic Exhibits Patty Rogers says the service will start at 10:00 a.m. with a pledge to the American flag. Next, veterans of the Cold War-era Requin will toll the sub’s bell once for each American submarine that is now on “Eternal Patrol” under the sea. Rogers says the veterans will then cast flower petals into the water, in hopes that they reach their comrades still at sea.

Rogers says the service will conclude at about 11:00 a.m. with a 21-gun salute from a local Marine Corps League. The event is without charge and the submarine will be available for free tours for the rest of the day.

Also, HBO has set up a kiosk in the Science Center where visitors can record a short thank-you to veterans or active service members. Rogers says if desired, the video can instantly be sent to a specific soldier or sailor.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Audit: Discrepancies with Service Providers

Allegheny County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty says 6 human service agencies that have contracts with the county are out of compliance and owe the county more than a half million dollars.
Flaherty says they regularly audit the contracts "to make sure that the dollars are spent the way they should be and that taxpayers are getting efficient use of their money for these programs"
Flaherty says the audits showed key compliance issues with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Pressley Ridge, Womanspace East, Next Step Foundation, Community Human Services Corporation and Community Empowerment Association (CEA).

"The most significant disparity was found in Community Empowerment Association’s noncompliance with its contract revealing that the agency owes Allegheny County approximately $304,000 for unsupported service hours and operating expenditures."

CEA is an agency that works to empower the African-American community through jobs, economic development, housing, education and family support systems.

Flaherty says Next Step, which provides transitional housing, education and support to individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, owes the county $64,900 due to an erroneous payment by the Department of Human Services.
According to the audit, Goodwill billed the county for salaries and benefits that exceeded the contract’s allowable amounts by $33,636; Pressley Ridge, a foster care provider, received $31,692 more than net eligible costs; Womanspace East owes the County $4,200 due to improper invoicing; and, Community Human Services (CHS)Corporation owes Allegheny County $23,000 billed for indirect, unsupported costs.

However, Adrienne Walnoha, Chief Executive Officer of CHS says her organization has been working with the County for two months to rectify this situation. "CHS did not inappropriately bill the County for any funds. We received an unqualified independent audit for the fiscal year in question and billed costs as outlined in our contracts."

Flaherty says he's recommending full reimbursement by these agencies

“The reviewed agencies should focus on strengthening their program management, documentation and accountability standards to preclude further disallowances from occurring. The Department of Human Services must closely monitor the terms of its contracts, units of service and other regulations to ensure compliance.”

Flaherty says it's hard to say whether these were just honest mistakes or if there were any intentional actions involved.

Call For More "Weekend Backpack" Programs in PA

A State Senator from Philadelphia is calling on more food banks across the state to launch “Weekend Backpack” programs for needy children. The programs pack the knapsacks full of nutritious easy to prepare food and then send them home with students after school Friday and before holidays. The goal is to bridge the kids to Monday morning when they get back to school breakfast and lunch programs. Sen. LeAnna Washington says it is great that the programs can get healthy food to children at risk of hunger in a way that is discreet and easily accessible. Kitchen says fighting hunger also helps to fight school problems, “Studies show that hungry and food-insecure students are 1.4 times more likely to repeat a grade, 1.6 times more likely to miss days of school, and twice as likely to require special education or be suspended from school.” Food Banks in Westmoreland County, Central Pennsylvania, York County and Lehigh Valley currently run Weekend Backpack Programs. Among the items in the backpacks: macaroni and cheese, canned soup, tuna meals, canned fruit, pudding, peanut butter and fruit juice.

The concept of the Weekend Backpack Program originated in Arkansas, when a school nurse noticed a large amount of students with upset stomachs, complaining of dizziness. It was later discovered that those students were not sick but hungry.

College Students Give Politicians a Lesson in Manners

Political opponents should be respectful of each other.

Though that statement seems a bit of a no-brainer, Allegheny College political science professor Dan Shea says the idea escapes many of today’s elected officials.

That’s why this May, Shea helped a national conference of both liberal and conservative college students come up with a list of “Ten Tips to Improve Civility” in the political arena.

“There should be a willingness to listen to opposing views. They should acknowledge the legitimacy of adversaries. They should ask clarifying questions before responding, things like that,” says Shea.

Shea says college is a great place to start teaching young people that politics doesn’t have to be about rudeness.

The Ten Tips to Improve Civility can be found here.

Senate Waters Down Cell Phone Legislation

Pennsylvania House Democrats are vowing to un-do changes the Senate recently made to a bill that would ban teen drivers from talking or texting on cell phones while behind the wheel. The Senate amended the House’s bill, and bumped talking or texting down from a primary to a secondary offense.
That means police could not pull a teen driver over for using a hand-held cell phone.
Instead, they’d only be able to issue citations if the driver is stopped for another offense.
Montgomery County Democrat Josh Shapiro, who helped author the initial House bill, says the Senate’s measure won’t accomplish anything.

"We sent them a tough, strong bill that would stop accidents from occurring. And what they’re seeking to send back to us is a bill that just adds a little bit of a fine to a teen driver after they’ve had the accident."

But Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Chester County Republican, says the shift from primary to secondary offense came after a lot of discussion among Senators and staffers and many Senators felt the House bill was too harsh on teen drivers.

"And it got broad bipartisan support – that position in the Senate. It was not a Democrat issue or Republican issue or rural issue or urban issue. It was just a policy position that the majority of the Senate, by a pretty comfortable margin, felt that argument was a valid argument."

Pileggi says there’s a broad consensus in the upper chamber that the statute should seek to educate - and not punish - teen drivers.

Democrat Josh Shapiro says the bill is now toothless, doesn't represent a common sense approach, and House Democrats will re-insert the primary offense language, and send the measure back to the Senate.

New Medicare Benefits

Medicare beneficiaries will soon be mailed a brochure explaining the effects of the Patient Affordable Care Act.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Regional Director Nancy O’Connor says one of the most noticeable benefits some Medicare recipients will receive is a $250 check. O’Connor says the check is meant to help cover prescription drug costs for people who are in the so-called “donut hole.”

“The donut hole is the period of time in the prescription drug benefit in which a beneficiary has to pay 100% of the cost of drugs out of pocket,” says O’Connor. “The Affordable Care Act begins to close that donut hole and this $250, one-time check is the first step in doing that.”

O’Connor says beginning next year, those within the donut hole will be given a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs. She says the goal is to close the donut hole by 2020.

Other immediate benefits of the Affordable Care Act include colorectal cancer screening and mammograms without cost-sharing, and a free annual “wellness checkup.”

More information can be found at the Medicare website or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Saidel Changes His Mind

Jonathan Saidel has conceded defeat in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, changing his mind from earlier today when he called for a recount.

Saidel's campaign manager, Don Jones, said in a written statement about half of the 4000 uncounted ballots remaining from yesterday have now been counted, with little change in the race's results.

Jones said Saidel determined that the recount would not be worth the estimated cost of $500,000 in taxpayer money, because the result isn't likely to change.

The announcement means that State Representative Scott Conklin wins the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

PA Lt. Governor Race Still Contested

Jonathan Saidel says he supports a recount of Pennsylvania’s Democratic lieutenant governor primary if the race is still close after all votes are counted.

Saidel is currently second, trailing State Representative Scott Conklin by fewer than 4,000 votes, about .4% of the total. Under state law, a race is automatically recounted if the margin separating two candidates is smaller than .5% of the total vote.

Saidel spokesman Marty Marks says about 4,000 absentee and provisional ballots have not been counted yet. Marks says many of those came from the Philadelphia area, where the former Philadelphia Controller did “quite well.”

Marks says a recount would safeguard the democratic process.

Recounts can cost state taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The last one cost $541,000, when front-runner Anne Lazarus retained her lead in a 2009 State Superior Court race.

A recount would have to be finished by June 8.

Rivers Gets Table OK

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has given the green light to Rivers Casino to add 86 table games to their North Shore facility. The application calls for the games to be divided in to a pair of rooms. One will include 24 “non-bank” Poker Games. Those are tables where players compete against each other not the casino. The other 62 tables will host “bank games.” Rivers Casino Manager Todd Moyer says 42 will be Blackjack tables, 6 will be Craps tables, 3 will be Roulette tables, 3 tables will host Three-Card Poker tables, and 3 will be reserved for Texas Hold’em Bonus tables. Rounding out the list will be 2 Pai Gow Poker tables, 2 Mini Baccarat tables and 1 Big 6 wheel.
The application to the state says the addition of the games will create 309 full-time and 149 part-time jobs. Moyer says most of the dealers have already been hired and are in training. He says he expects to be making hires for additional security and food service staff soon. That same application promised the state that revenues from slot machines will not fall with the addition of the table games. Moyer says he thinks the markets for slots players is different than table games players. However, Moyer says they have heard from current customers asking for the addition of table games. Tax revenues from table games is split between the state’s general fund and local taxing bodies. Tax dollars from slots is split among the local municipalities and counties and property tax relief. Rivers Casino currently runs 3,000 slots machines and Moyer says that will not change.
Also yesterday, the state Gaming Control Board approved the table games application for the Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia. That means approvals are in place for all ten slots parlors in the state to add table games to their operations. The state will allow the games to open by region throughout July.

House Transportation Committee Sets Hearings

As the state legislature prepares for the upcoming special session on transportation, the House Transportation Committee is launching a series of seven hearings (see below) on PennDOT revenues and expenditures. Committee Chairman Joseph Markosek says the goal is to ask the question, “What are we going to do about this current funding crisis for transportation infrastructure?” The state is facing an estimated $3.5 billion a year shortfall in transportation funding. Markosek calls the gatherings, “tough love hearings.” Typically Transportation Committee hearing involve individuals and groups coming before the committee to talk about what projects they would like to see funded. Markosek says this round of hearings will focus on committee members telling their constituents what project will not be funded any time soon. PA Governor Ed Rendell called the special session after the federal government rejected plans to toll I-80 in Pennsylvania. That decision put a $450 million dollar hole in the Governor’s proposed budget. The goal of the special session is to not only find a way to keep this year’s budget in balance but to also find long term solutions to what some call the chronic problem of underfunding transportation in the state. Markosek says the committee will be pen to all solutions but he says usually people come to the committee with ways to pick “low hanging fruit.” He says proposals to up vehicle registration fees or legalize video poker will not make up the gap.

The sessions begin Thursday in Hershey and wrap up June 18th in Monroeville.
The schedule is as follows:

10 a.m. Thursday, May 27
Topic: Statewide perspective and issues affecting the South Central Region (PennDOT Districts 8 and 9).
Location: Derry Township Municipal Building's meeting room, 600 Clearwater Road, Hershey. The location of this hearing was moved from the Irvis Office Building in Harrisburg.

2 p.m. Tuesday, June 1
Topic: Issues affecting the North Central Region (PennDOT Districts 2 and 3).
Location: Lock Haven University, Price Performance Center, 20 Glenn Road, Lock Haven.

2 p.m. Thursday, June 3
Topic: Issues affecting the Mid East Region (PennDOT District 5).
Location: DeSales University Center’s Commonwealth Room, 2755 Station Ave, Center Valley.

10 a.m. Friday, June 4
Topic: Issues affecting the South East Region (PennDOT District 6).
Location: St. Joseph’s University, Mandeville Hall, Teletorium, Corner of 54th Street and City Avenue, Philadelphia.

2 p.m. Thursday, June 10
Topic: Issues affecting the North East Region (PennDOT District 4).
Location: Marywood University, Nazareth Hall, The Latour Room, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton. The date of this hearing was moved from June 2.

2:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17
Topic: Issues affecting the North West Region (PennDOT Districts 1 and 10).
Location: Clarion University, Hart Chapel Auditorium, 850 Wood St., Clarion. The starting time was moved back from 2 p.m.

11 a.m. Friday, June 18
Topic: Issues affecting the South West Region (PennDOT Districts 11 and 12).
Location: Gateway High School, 3000 Gateway Campus Boulevard, Monroeville.

Marcellus Shale Tax Vote Postponed

The Pennsylvania House planned to vote last night on a revenue package that included taxes on cigarettes and natural gas drilling. But the vote was held up, and members likely won’t weigh in on the measure for at least another week.
Two separate revenue bills are now in front of the House. Both would impose a severance tax on natural gas drilling.
One bill sets a 5 percent rate. The other taxes eight percent of wellheads’ production.
The House will likely vote on one of the two measures in early June, according to a Democratic spokeswoman. Critics of the tax say it would drive drilling companies out of the state.
Johnna Pro, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans, disagrees.

"If you look at the states where there is drilling for Marcellus Shale, including those that are predominantly controlled by Republicans, everyone sees this wisdom of taxing this drilling. It’s silly for us not to."

Meantime, a new report funded by drilling companies warns against a severance tax.
Penn State professor Robert Watson, who authored the survey, says geographic factors already make drilling more difficult in Pennsylvania, and that a tax would further discourage companies from setting up shop here.

"If you compare the development of the Marcellus Shale to, let’s say, the shales in Texas, the topography in Texas is a lot easier to develop. To do that same well in Pennsylvania costs a lot more money, simply because of the topography."

Environmental advocacy group PennFuture dismisses the report, saying a survey funded by the drilling industry can’t be trusted.

Grand Jury: PA Legislature "Bloated" With Staff

The Grand Jury that spent two years listening to testimony about legislative corruption has issued a scathing report calling for sweeping changes in Harrisburg.
The grand jury’s report charges the “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers with putting personal gains ahead of serving constituents.
The jurors say they’re “appalled” by the amount of staffers assigned to state representatives and senators.
The report quotes testimony from a former House Republican staffer who conducted a study that found only 289 of the caucus’475 staffers were actually needed to conduct legislative work. That passage caught the eye of good-government advocate Tim Potts, who runs Democracy Rising PA.
"That surprised me. I knew there were an awful lot of folks there who didn’t need to be there. But I didn’t know it was that extensive."
As one example, the report points out many legislative staffers spend all their time filling out vehicle and license registration forms for constituents.
The jurors say that’s a waste of tax dollars, and argue it’s only done so lawmakers can win favor with voters.
Potts agrees with the jurors’ conclusion that lawmakers become warped by the system.
"People would come there with the idea that they would serve for a limited period of time, or they were going to accomplish particular things and then leave. And then within about six months you see people change in their attitudes. It’s no longer being there to do the job. It’s simply being there to have the job."
In addition to shrinking staff, the Grand Jury recommends routine independent audits of legislative spending, the elimination of the per diem payments lawmakers receive when they’re in Harrisburg, and legislative term limits. The Grand Jurors also say the General Assembly should shift from full-time to part time.
Many of the suggested changes can only be implemented through a constitutional convention.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

United Way: Despite Economic Challenges...Pleased With Results

Contributions to the United Way of Allegheny County 2009 Campaign were down 2.4% compared to the previous year. Bob Nelkin, president of the organization, says contributions between September and April 30th totaled $30,486,335....about $750,000 less than a year ago..."I'm still very pleased because this was despite challenges local employees had. There were layoffs, there were cutbacks, there was anxiety about whether compensation would be renewed. Despite they were very generous."

Nelkin said significantly 87% of people who contributed in 2008 and again in 2009 gave as much or more in this recent campaign. He says a nationwide survey indicated that 67% of donors to non-profits were contributing the same amount or less this year...."there's something special about Pittsburgh and its generosity."

Despite the overall decline, Nelkin says they added 27 companies, up to 725, who ran employee contribution plans and they will continue to reach out to smaller and medium size companies to join them.

Still, he says the bottom line is the impact on services..."You can raise a lot of money but still not have a great impact on the community. The United Way has been working hard with partner agencies to reshape their efforts so they get the biggest bang for the buck."

Department of Defense Partners with McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine

The organizations are partnering to support treatments for battlefield injuries.

The two-year, $12 million dollar contract will push forward human trials for three research programs that will place healthy tissue in place of damaged tissue.
One program will replace muscle tissue with one’s own stem cells and to evaluate the injection of human connective tissue cells into contracted burn scars to allow greater freedom of movement.

Dr. Bernard J. Costello is Chief of Craniofacial and Cleft Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine. He will be examining the effectiveness of a material to facilitate new bone formation in cranio-facial defects using a calcium phosphate cement. He showed an audience at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall how it would work on Tuesday.

Costello says it’s an upgrade of technology that’s already FDA approved. It will be custom-tailored regenerative material that will turn into the patients own tissue.
"We can then get away from bone and soft tissue substitutes but really turn into designer materials that are regenerative, not replacement so we can get away from the carpentry of surgery and really get into the next stage of designing specific tissues that are for those types of problems," he said.

Eighty patients will be seen during the trials. 40 will be in Pittsburgh, the remaining at other locations. At least half of them will be soldiers.

Ice Cream Business Makes Way For Oil Plant

Pittsburgh’s former Reinhold ice cream factory is officially closed for business.

Moving into the ice cream manufacturer’s North Side plant will be an oil and antifreeze business, says Stanley Lowe of the Manchester Citizens Corporation.

That’s not to say the company, now called LaSalle Pittsburgh, is leaving quietly. From 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 this afternoon, the remaining 9000-or-so gallons of ice cream are being given away to local residents.

If there is any ice cream left, another giveaway will take place tomorrow. But that seems unlikely, given that hundreds of people showed up, creating a traffic jam that mired much of the North Side.
After World War II, the plant started out as Harmony Dairy. The Reinhold name emerged in the early 1980s and was known for years to make whatever flavors of ice cream their customers chose. Reinhold Ice Cream Co. was sold to LaSalle Brands Corp. in 2007, which officially changed the name.

Still No Running Mate for Onorato

The Democratic lieutenant governor’s race may be headed to a recount. On the day before counties were scheduled to submit election results to the Department of State, State Representative Scott Conklin led former Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel by 4,202 votes.
That’s point-46 percent of all the votes cast in the race, which is within the half of a percent threshold for an automatic recount.
Conklin spokesman Tor Michaels says the process would be waived, if Saidel concedes.

"That clearly is up to our honorable opponent, whether or not there will be a recount. I can say on behalf of Representative Conklin, that if there is a recount, it will just reconfirm what we already know."

But Saidel's spokesman, Marty Marks, says it’s too early to make that decision.

"The process right now hasn’t even been completed with the first vote, let alone a recount vote. So we’re waiting to see how the first count ends up. It hasn’t been certified yet. It hasn’t gone through that process. We understand there might be some absentee votes that need to be counted."

The process would begin on Thursday, and would need to be complete by June 8th.
A spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato says either Saidel or Conklin would be a “strong” lieutenant governor candidate, and that Saidel is free to make his own decision on whether or not to keep fighting.

Santorum Will Decide On White House Run After November

Former Republican U.S. Senator Rick Santorum predicts Pat Toomey will have no problem beating Joe Sestak in this year’s Senate race.
Santorum is thinking about a presidential run, and has recently visited early primary states like New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa.
Santorum says President Obama’s agenda – especially health care reform – has the potential to “destroy freedom,” and that the recent health care law will “dumb down and flatten” the United States.
He says Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak is too close to White House policies to win in the fall.

"He’s not only for health care, he’s for more of what Obama wants to do. He’s not only for cap and trade he’s for a tougher cap and trade. He is what Pennsylvania has never elected – an unabashed, enthusiastic, wild-eyed Howard Dean."

Santorum is calling for a repeal of the health care law. He weighed in on other issues during a speech at the Pennsylvania Press Club, saying Mr. Obama is doing “worse than nothing” to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and t
hat same-sex marriage would “devastate” children and go against “natural law.”

He says he’ll make up his mind on whether or not to run for the White House after this fall’s election.

Pittsburgh Crime Down for 3rd Straight Year

A drop in both violent crime and property crime in Pittsburgh mirrors a nationwide trend, according to FBI statistics released Monday.

The FBI report says violent crime in the city fell 8% from 2008 to 2009, while falling about 5% nationwide. There were 271 fewer cases of violent crime in Pittsburgh, including a steep decline in murder rates. 39 people were murdered in the city last year, as opposed to 72 in 2008.

The FBI says Pittsburgh property crime decreased by about 6.7%, a slightly higher rate of decline than the national average of about 5%. 12,625 property crimes were reported in 2008, while 11,775 were booked in 2009.

Crime fell in every category listed by the FBI.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Groups Sue Powerplant

A group of four environmental groups has issued notice that it intends to file suit against RRI Energy for breaking state and federal pollutions laws at its Seward Generating Station in Indiana County. The groups – Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), Defenders of Wildlife, PennEnvironment, and Sierra Club – say the facility has racked up 12,000 violations in the last 5 years. RRI upgraded the power plant to burn waste coal in 2004 and the groups say that since the power plant was dubbed a “clean coal facility” it has never had a month when it is in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The groups say the violations include toxic coal ash leaks and direct discharges into the Conamaugh River. They say the plant has also violated laws that limit changes in river temperatures due to water discharges. Federal law requires that any group or individual looking to file such a suit issue 90 and 60-day warnings. A spokesperson for the company says they have just received the letter and are in the process of reviewing it before making any comment. Neither the federal government nor state regulators have issued fines for the violations that have been documented at both levels. The suit is being filed under a rarely used clause that allows individuals and organizations to act as citizens attorneys general if they feel a law is not being enforced. Lawyers for the groups involved say more of this type of suit may be filed soon. They say studies of other plants have shown similar violations that are not being punished by state and federal agencies.

Miners Families: Safety Concerns "Brushed Off"

The head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration says investigators are looking into allegations that Massey Energy illegally warns workers when safety inspectors arrive.
Relatives and colleagues of 29 miners killed in an explosion last month at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia made those allegations today at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in Beckley, West Virginia.
Such warnings would violate federal mining regulations, and MSHA chief Joe Main says it's being evaluated as a potential crime by the Justice Department.
Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) of McCandless Township is a member of the House committee and told DUQ News that is was difficult to hear the testimony from the families because they were quite emotional in presenting their stories.
"In many cases what was most revealing, there were miners who had multiple times expressed their concerns (about ventilation problems in the mine).....miners who had written notes to their wives saying 'if things don't work out and I don't come back, I want you to take action. '"
Altmire says they heard testimony that safety concerns expressed to the mine's owner, Massey Energy, by veteran and younger miners were "brushed off" and as a result 29 miners lost their lives because nothing was done.
Altmire says the Mine Safety and Health Administration does not have the enforcement mechanisms it needs and the families of the victims want Congress to give the agency the power to shut down mines if they don't take corrective measures. Last year Massey was cited 500 times and this year 120 times before the April explosion.
On Monday, Massey reiterated earlier statements that it doesn't
put profits ahead of safety.

Pennsylvania's Roads Rank Low

According to a report released by The American Society of Civil Engineers Pennsylvania could use some work on its infrastructure.

Of Pennsylvania’s 22,280 bridges, 27% are considered structurally deficient and 17% are deemed functionally obsolete. The state is ahead of others when it comes to dam safety but faces a required investment of $15.5 billion over the next two decades to replace aging facilities and comply with safe drinking water regulations. 38% of Pennsylvania’s roads are rated fair or poor. The group says public transit, the fastest growing mode of transportation needs more investments and that aging waste water management systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated sewage into Pennsylvania’s surface waters each year and need updating.

This is the second report released. The first one was released in 2006 after four Pennsylvania sections of ASCE joined together. Matt Pierce, President of the American Society of Civil Engineers said that in the four years since the last report card things have not gotten better.

This year’s Report Card looked at 12 areas: Bridges, Dams and Levees, Drinking Water, Navigable Waterways, Parks and Recreation, Rail, Roads, Schools, Solid Waste, Stormwater, Transit and Wastewater.

For more information go to

Health Group: Pre-Existing Conditions Rife in PA

Health care advocacy group Families USA has released a report saying more than one in five Pennsylvanians less than 65 years old has a diagnosed pre-existing condition.

Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack says although 2.3 million non-elderly state residents are diagnosed with pre-existing conditions, many more remain undiagnosed. Anyone with a such a health problem can be denied health insurance, including nearly 178,000 children across the state.

The national health care reform bill passed this March will outlaw that practice, but Pollack says Families USA released the report anyway because many people aren’t aware of the contents of the act.

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey says children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage starting September 23 of this year. He says that right will be extended to adults in 2014.

“It’s inexcusable that we allowed this to persist year after year, decade after decade, when we were literally putting families in the path of a system that was harming them, literally,” says Casey.

Pollack says nearly three quarters of Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions have incomes more than double that of the national poverty level – at or above $44,100. Governor Ed Rendell signed an executive order last week to begin implementing the new federal health care law. He says the immediate priority is to apply for $160 million in federal aid to set up an insurance program for those with pre-existing conditions.

Study is Step toward Preventing HIV Transmission to Pregnant Women

Young women of reproductive age are among those at the greatest risk of acquiring HIV. A new study on microbicides--medications that prevent the heterosexual spread of HIV--could help establish a safe way to curb the transmission of HIV to pregnant women. Doctor Richard Beigi at Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and lead researcher on the study says there is a void when it comes to data on the safety of medications taken by pregnant women. This study involved sixteen healthy, HIV-negative women who had a single dose of tenofivir applied to the vagina hours before giving birth by cesarean section. Beigi says for the first trial of the drug it was applied almost immediately before birth to minimize risk to the mothers and infants. Researchers found that only a small amount of the drug was absorbed into the womens' bloodstream, amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord. Now a larger study is in the works that will include more women, begin slightly earlier in the pregnancy and include two doses of the medication. Beigi says the collective trials will hopefully prove that the microbicides are safe for use pregnant women.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Prosecution: Twitter Feed Shows Cott Has No Remorse

An assistant attorney general for Pennsylvania is defending the subpoena his office sent to Twitter, saying the information requested was relevant to Brett Cott’s sentencing.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, the person behind the anti-Tom Corbett blog CasablancaPA isn’t an innocent observer.
A sentencing memorandum claims Brett Cott, who will serve up to five years in prison for his role in the Bonusgate scheme, has used the site “to deflect blame and deny responsibility for his criminal conduct.”
Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo said the subpoena was intended to tie Cott to the website and related Twitter feed.

"The reasons for the subpoena were legal reasons that were allowed by law, and had nothing to do with blogs or tweets that were critical of people. We have no interest in that whatsoever."

Cott’s lawyer, Brian Walk, says there’s no evidence connecting Cott to CasablancaPA.
Walk, says the anti-Tom Corbett blog is irrelevant.

"Did they show any evidence that Brett’s connected to that? Has anybody seen that? Because maybe I missed that. And maybe I missed the repealing of the First Amendment."

Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis said in court that the site wasn’t a factor in his sentencing decision.
The subpoena was made public hours after Corbett won the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
His opponent, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, says Corbett is “trying to bully [critics] into silence.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cott Attorney: Sentence Too Harsh

The first defendant sentenced in the legislative corruption investigation dubbed “Bonusgate” will go to prison for at least 21 months.
Former House Democratic staffer Brett Cott was convicted of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest in March for conducting political work with public resources.
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis has sentenced him to 21 months to five years behind bars.
Cott also has to pay an 11-thousand dollar fine. His lawyer, Brian Walk, says the sentence is unjust.

"We’re disappointed with the whole case. 42 charges and three convictions, and the kid gets 21 months? 21 months? We’ve got drug dealers that the Attorney General’s office prosecutes that don’t get that much time. We’ve got violent offenders that don’t get that much time."

Lewis told Cott that he and the other House Democrats played with tax dollars “like Monopoly money,” and that the “electoral process suffered an incalculable blow” due to the taxpayer-funded bonuses Cott, former House Minority Whip Mike Veon and others handed out for campaign work.

Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo says he’s pleased with the decision.

"I thought the sentencing – sentence – was well within the range that we asked the court to give. And we think the sentence sends a pretty loud and clear message that this kind of activity will not be tolerated, and that you’re going to pay for those crimes."

Veon and former staffer Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink will be sentenced next month.

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Reflects on Achievements

As a prelude to Pittsburgh’s hosting the upcoming World Environment Day and the Water Matters! Global Water Conference, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy this morning highlighted its role in restoring and protecting the region’s waterways in light of past and present degradation from mining, deforestation, agricultural and industrial pollution.

Believing that doing so will protect waterways, the Conservancy has helped protect 78,000 acres of land. But they also get wet doing scientific research like the Allegheny River Mapping Project.

Fellow living things underwater come in for study too. The eastern hellbender salamander can live to be 50 years old and over 2 feet long—the largest in North America. Aquatic Science Director Eric Chapman leads groups into streams like Indiana County’s Little Mahoning Creek, lifting up rocks as big as the hood of a car in search of the rare amphibians that have much to teach. Amphibians are some of the first creatures to disappear when water quality declines because they have permeable skins that allow pollutants to pass directly through. The presence of adult hellbenders means water quality has been stable for quite awhile.

Former DEP Secretary David Hess says the Pittsburgh region went through a time when hot wastewater from steel mills was dumped into rivers at the same time drinking water was being pulled out. Things are much better now: 56 species of fish instead of five or six in the 1960s, but there are challenges as well from things like Marcellus Shale drilling, which he says will change the environmental landscape.

Hess says local watershed groups have accomplished amazing restoration and mine reclamation in Western Pennsylvania—often with state grants through the Growing Greener program, but that ends this year with much left to do, and the state’s partnership in such efforts has decreased substantially over the past seven years after the loss of 600 positions at DEP and a 26% budget cut. Hess says no organization can do what it's done in the face of such downsizing, though people are pretending they can.

The Water Matters! Global Water Conference, open to the public, takes place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from 8 to 4 on June 3rd, and there are many local activities planned for World Environment Day on June 5th.

Rendell: PA Up 54,000 Jobs Since March

Governor Ed Rendell says Pennsylvania's funding efforts and federal stimulus dollars helped create the largest monthly job increase since 1996. He says 34,000 jobs were added in April while 20,000 were created in March.

While most of the job growth came in health care, education, and financial services, Rendell says it's a great sign that the manufacturing sector added 4,400 jobs.

Rendell says the unemployment rate didn't drop, staying put at 9%. That's nearly a point below the national average.

DeMarco Claims Victory

The Democrat who launched a write-in campaign for his party’s nomination to run in the 40th Pennsylvania State Senate district general election says his research shows he has won. Ross Township Commissioner Dan DeMarco says his campaign workers were able to look at results that were posted by poll workers the night of the election and then again Wednesday. He says after looking at half of the precincts, which account for 51% of the write in votes cast, he is leading State Sen. Jane Orie by a 4 to 1 margin. A total of 4,758 write-in votes were cast in the 40th district Democratic Primary. To earn a spot on the November ballot a write-in candidate must get a minimum of 500 votes and have more votes than any other candidate. Any spelling variations can be challenged. Allegheny County Election Division Manager Mark Wolosik says the county will not start counting the write-in ballots until next week. DeMarco says he is confident he will win and is ready to launch his campaign for the general election. He says it is clear that the voters do not want to just let an incumbent walk back into office. DeMarco launched his write-in campaign after Republican Jane Orie was indicted by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office for allegedly misusing state assets for campaign purposes. Orie countered by launching her own write-in campaign. Orie also ran unopposed in the Republican Primary. DeMarco says he looks forward to talking about issues such as controlling spending, limiting taxing and reforming the state legislature.

Researchers Developing Phone Application To Treat Depression

If your phone is indispensible and you use it to check email, take pictures and listen to music then why shouldn’t you use it to treat an illness? Local researchers are testing a phone application they’ve developed that might help people with depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, used to treat depression, often consists of homework – where a therapist and patient come up with unique activities to assist in their treatment. These are supposed to be done independently. Judy Callon, a research assistant professor at The University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing worked to develop the application with researchers at Carnegie Mellon. She says many people often don’t do their independent treatments but with the convenience of them being on one’s cell phone – they might.

"When you do the homework you do get better faster and it really does improve the clinical outcome. So my thought was if we made use of something, an article that was near to us all the time, that might help us do our homework all through the day that it might really help depressed patients get better faster," she said.

The phone will be tested in the next few months. Callan hopes if the application tests successfully, that it would be downloadable. She stresses that it would be used in addition to, not in place of therapy.

Gas Well Water Treatment Facility O.K.'d in Somerset Twp.

State and federal approvals are in place to begin work on a $35 million wastewater treatment plant in Somerset Township. The 150-acre facility will take water that comes out of Marcellus Shale gas wells, treat it, and then ship it back to drilling companies to be used in the hydrological fracturing of another well.
The plant’s Chief Operating officer, Ken Burris, will be moving up from Tennessee in the coming weeks to oversee the plant that he says will open in a year or less. When it is fully operational the facility is expected to employ 65 workers. Burris says they will be looking for people with good mechanical skills to run the state-of-the-art equipment. Administrative and security personnel will also be needed.
Burris says there are other plants in the state that are doing this kind of work but their capacity will be quickly exceeded once drilling in the shale formation begins in earnest. In fact, Burris says this is just the first of several facilities the company hopes to operate. Burris says they are trying to get out in front of the demand for gas well water treatment. Burris says the material pulled from the water will include non-toxic metals and other solids that will be disposed of and salt that can be sold for non-human consumption. That would allow it to be used on roads or other industrial processes.
As the development of the site begins Burris says they are already looking at the long-term impact the facility will have on the transportation infrastructure in the area. He says that is a key part of making the treatment facility work but he says he cannot disclose any details as of yet. He notes that if the level of drilling in the Marcellus Shale hits the levels anticipated there will not be enough water trucks in the state to haul the water to and from treatment facilities. The parcel of land to be used is near routes 281, 31 and 219.

Analyst: Pork Barrrel Spending Saved Some Incumbents

Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Arlen Specter’s primary loss is being portrayed as part of a national anti-incumbency sweep.
But a look at local returns shows incumbents did quite well on Tuesday.
Every member of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation facing a primary challenge won on Tuesday. Every state senator up for reelection was victorious, and only one state representative lost.
Among the winners: Democrat Bill DeWeese of Greene County and Republican John Perzel of Philadelphia, both of whom are facing corruption charges.
Political scientist Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College points out the scoreboard.

"183 state house incumbents sought reelection. 26 of them had opponents. And only one House incumbent lost – that person to a tea party activist up in Lehigh Valley. No other House incumbent lost renomination."

Madonna attributes the strong incumbency showing to the pork barrel spending for which lawmakers were able to take credit.

"The fact of the matter is that when communities get new firehouses, new baseball stadiums, new convention centers, the people immediately turn out for those events. So Pennsylvania is still the home of pork and lawmakers bring home the bacon, and that often works."

Madonna says as much as activists rail on government spending, voters reward state and federal lawmakers for bringing resources back to their districts.
He says Specter’s defeat was much more a result of the longtime Republican’s party switch, as opposed to an anti-incumbent vote.

Senate Campaign: Bailouts Versus Failed Policies

Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey say they’ll present voters with two very different choices for Pennsylvania's next U.S. Senator over the coming months.
Sestak and Toomey insist they like and respect each other, and they’ll run a clean campaign, without personal attacks.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t hammer each other on the issues.
Speaking in Pittsburgh, Toomey said Pennsylvanians will have “as clear a choice as possible” when they vote for a new senator in November.

"If you look at the agenda that they’re pursuing in Washington – serial bailouts of failing companies, nationalizing whole industries, spending on an unprecedented scale. Deficits and debt that was can’t afford, cap and trade, card check, government-run health care. Joe Sestak is 100-percent in favor of all of that. I’m opposed to all of that."

Sestak says a vote for Toomey means reverting back to the “failed policies” of the Bush Administration that sent the country toward a recession. "I really do like Pat Toomey. I think he’s got principle. But I passionately disagree with his ideas. And I think you’re going to see that that’s what the debate is going to be about. It is going to be, what are the best ideas to move our nation forward? I believe Pat Toomey’s ideas will actually be moving us back to where we’ve come from."

Toomey and Sestak held two debates during the primary. Sestak says he expects the two nominees will hold several joint appearances between now and Election Day.

Obama Nominates New U.S. Atty. for Western PA

Pittsburgh attorney David J. Hickton has been tapped by the Obama Administration to serve as the next U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The 54-year-old from Thornburg would not agree to be interviewed but in a brief statement said he was “honored by the nomination” and is “looking forward to working with the senate in the confirmation process.” Hickton is a founding member of Burns, White & Hickton. The law firm was founded in 1987. Before that he was an Associate attorney with Dickie, McCarney and Chilcote and he clerked with Federal Judge Gustave Diamond. He earned his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1981. Pennsylvania’s two sitting senators submitted Hickton’s name to the president. The nomination process is usually an easy process. Former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan left office in November to run for Congress, Robert Cessar replaced her on an interim basis.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Library Input Session Move Online

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh says it is still looking for your input. The library held four meeting over the weekend to take input from residents on their vision of the library’s future and how it can get there. Library Deputy Executive Director Mary Francis Cooper says 115 people came to the events. Several board members and library staff were also on hand. Cooper says the library is still taking input on its website. She says an online survey asks questions such as “Why do you think it is important that the Library is financially and operationally healthy?” and “What are the two or three things you value the MOST about Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh?” Users can also get a survey from any of the Library’s branches. Surveys will be accepted through the end of the month.

Cooper says this is only the first step in the public input process. After the survey results are compiled, the staff will take the results out for another series of public input session in July and then after processing that data, a third round of feedback will be solicited in September.

Preservation Group Measures Impact

A recent study commissioned by the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh found that in the last five years, historic preservation efforts in Southwestern Pennsylvania have had a $475 million dollar positive impact. YPA CEO Dan Holland says that includes $65.6 million in additional tax revenues. He says in total there was 5.2 million square feet renovated more than 3,000 permanent jobs created. Holland notes that these are jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Holland says he believes these numbers are lower than they truly are because it is very hard to count all of the renovations done to individual homes throughout the region. He says in nearly every case, it makes more sense to renovate an old building rather than tear it down and start again. Holland calls it the green decision.

One of the driving forces behind the decision to launch the study was a desire to encourage state lawmakers to pass more preservation friendly laws. Holland says the legislature should pass laws that provide incentives to owners of historic properties to preserve and reuse their old buildings. He says Pennsylvania is one of only a hand full of states that does not have an historic tax credit or grant program. Holland says, “This economic impact report underscores the need for Pennsylvania to adopt this preservation incentive legislation to extend the economic benefits of preservation to all communities across the Commonwealth.”

Harris Expects Smooth Passage of Parking Proposal

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris says she doesn’t expect outcry from the public or her fellow Council members regarding an increase in parking fines.

Harris has proposed raising the fees for various city parking violations from $9 to more than $30, depending on the type of offense.

She says the rates haven’t been raised since 1957, and the proposed fines are still less than what they would be now if the rates had risen with inflation.

Harris says nobody showed up at a public hearing on the measure, so she believes city residents aren’t angry about the proposal.

The revenue from the rate increase would go toward the city's underfunded pension fund.

Pgh Councilman Wants Fiscal Reform

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess wants city government to refine its process of imbursing capital funds.

Councilman Burgess introduced legislation today which would create an interdepartmental committee that would decide where capital is directed over a six-year period. He says that time period would account for about $250 million in city funds.

He says the bill leaves room for flexibility because the six-year plan would be reviewed annually to account for new developments.

Burgess says the bill is necessary because some neighborhoods are short-changed.

“The paving certainly is the one example that we can prove statistically, that over the last five years, those people living in [Community Development Block Grant]-eligible communities have been receiving consistently less than their fair share of paving,” says Burgess.

He noted that this six-year plan is actually required by the city’s charter and Act 47.

The committee charged with overseeing the Capital Improvement Plan would also redefine criteria for grant eligibility. Burgess says all its actions would be public.

The Councilman says he wants the legislation passed by the end of June, in time for the next fiscal year.

Corbett: Can Appeal to Tea Party & Moderate Voters

State Representative Sam Rohrer of Berks County isn’t sure whether he’ll endorse Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett but Corbett says he’s not worried about securing the support of Rohrer’s conservative backers.
Rohrer’s base of supporters ended up being comparatively small – he garnered 31 percent of the Republican primary vote.
But the conservatives, many of them Tea Party and 9-12 Project members, are devoted, and Rohrer say it may take some convincing to get them to vote for Corbett.
Speaking at an Allegheny County polling site on Tuesday, Rohrer said Corbett and the State Republican Party have some fence mending to do.

"They really have alienated a huge number of the people of the state, beginning with the endorsement process, and going all the way through. And I think it’s much more difficult for him to bring together the party."

Corbett insists he reached out to conservative activists and grassroots groups throughout the primary campaign.

"So we’ve already begun that process. So I would disagree with Mr. Rohrer. I think many of his supporters and many of the independents out there will be coming on board with us."

Corbett also says he’s confident he can appeal to the Tea Party voters, while still wooing the state’s moderate independent and Democratic voters.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Summit to Address Green Solutions to Economic Woes

Local and national environmental activists will gather in Pittsburgh tomorrow for the Green Pathways to Prosperity Summit.

The summit is a pre-program of World Environment Day, to be held in Pittsburgh next month.

The meeting will be hosted by the Urban Green Growth Collaborative to showcase ways cities can reduce blight and unemployment through building a green economy.

G-Tech Strategies Director of Green Technology Initiatives Khari Mosley says Pittsburgh can help begin another industrial revolution – this time with the environment in mind.

Mosley says while speakers will talk about challenges to a green economy, the focus of the summit will be discussing green solutions to urban economic problems.

He says the summit aims to reach an audience who wouldn’t normally be concerned with green initiatives – particularly those interested in the economy.

The Green Pathways to Prosperity Summit is free of charge and will run from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, May 20, at the Pittsburgh Project: 2801 North Charles Street.

Rendell: Health Care Reforms Could Save $650M Over 8 Years

Governor Ed Rendell has signed an executive order that begins to implement many of the key elements of the recently signed federal health care overhaul law.
Rendell said it's essential to begin laying the groundwork for implementation of health care reform.

“It’s important that we start working today to apply for the federal health care funds that are available this year, and to craft a strategic plan to ready this state for the enormous expansion in health care access in 2014"

Rendell said the most immediate task is the creation of a new insurance program to cover adults who have been denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions (high risk pool)...“The federal government allocated $160 million for this insurance program in Pennsylvania and we hope to have a federal application in as soon as possible to help several thousand of these Pennsylvanians finally access reliable affordable health care. We hope that if any legislation is needed they (the legislature) will make sure it is passed before summer recess so that access to health care for these Pennsylvanians isn’t delayed.”

The executive order creates 2 bodies: an internal working group and and advisory committee consisting of insurance industry executives, hospital representatives, medical professionals, unions, health and budget policy experts and consumers.
The internal group is assigned several tasks including:
*Designing the optimal programmatic model for the state’s High Risk Pool.
*Designing the optimal organizational model to support a customer-friendly and efficient health benefit exchange.
*Preparing a strategic plan for the implementation of the new law.

Rendell says the new law will benefit the uninsured, parents and children and the state..."We have estimated what the reforms will cost and what we will save from them. Over the next eight years, the Commonwealth will save from a low of $280 million to a high of $650 million in direct general and lottery fund payments for health care expenditures."

Aviary Tops Off

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh put the last beam in place on its $18.5 million dollar expansion. Aviary Executive Director Patrick Mangus says its is actually the third phase of the project that also included the new penguin exhibit and the new grasslands exhibit. The highlight of the final phase is a 125-seat free flight multi-media theater and a 50-seat rooftop outdoor theater. The outdoor theater will feature shows using raptors chasing after lures. The 10,000 square foot addition also includes a permanent classroom, a new entrance and a new café. Mangus says the plan is to have everything open by Labor Day. He says the project is fully funded at this point.

As the aviary grows its footprint it will also expand the number of birds on display. Mangus says the aviary currently has about 600 birds and he has plans to add 50-75 more. The new entrance area will be built using something called fritted glass. The panes are covered with a small dot pattern that allows light to pass through while at the same time appearing opaque enough that birds will not mistake it for a flight path. The goal is to show how a building can have light filled spaces without endangering wild birds.

Onorato Shifts Focus to General Election

Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato says after defeating three contenders in the Democratic primary last night, he’s set to take on Republican nominee Tom Corbett.

“I’m prepared to challenge him toe-to-toe. If he wants to compare his record to my record and we leave out who’s supporting us, I’ll take that debate any day of the week,” says Onorato.

The Allegheny County Executive referred to his time at the helm of Pennsylvania’s second-largest county. Onorato says he has cut costs by consolidating elected offices from 10 to four and merging five 911 centers into one.

He noted six consecutive county budgets passed without raising property taxes, saying that his fiscal responsibility is the remedy for reform in Harrisburg. Onorato is also calling for a 20% cut in legislative costs by reducing the number of state legislators.

Onorato says he doesn’t intend to raise any taxes, with one exception: a Marcellus Shale severance tax.

“I was very clear what I would do with that money. I would fund the Department of Environmental Protection, I would fund an impact fund which would give us money for infrastructure for municipalities, roads waterlines and sewers.”

The Allegheny County Executive says he’d also set aside severance tax revenue to support farms and open space, and to clean up brownfields.

Shale Gas Regulations and Technology Discussed

Engineers, gas company representatives and politicians gathered on the Carnegie Mellon University campus this morning to talk about the place where technology and regulation meet. Much of the talk centered on environmental regulations and water and how technology can make it affordable and safe to meet those regulations and still pull the gas from the Marcellus Shale.
Engineers are always racing to fill voids. In the case of Marcellus Shale gas drilling, they have spent a great deal of time looking for ways to lower the cost of cleaning water coming out of the wells after the hydrologic fracturing process to the standards set by state and federal regulators. Kelvin Gregory is an engineering professor at CMU and moderated the panel. He says one solution is finding ways to reuse the water that comes back out of the well to fracture another well. Typically 30%-40% of the water pumped underground comes back out of the well. When it does so, it is contaminated with salts known as total dissolved solids. Gregory says there are also ways to choose the source of the water wisely to lower the environmental impact. Water that flows out of abandon mines often fouls creeks and streams for miles. He says that water can be used in the fracturing process. Gregory says that will help clean up the impacted waterways and reduce the amount of clean water pulled from other water sources.
Gregory says it is not a question of “if” the salts can be removed but rather a question of “at what cost.” He says the process is very energy intensive but if engineers can find ways to reduce the cost it allows gas companies to operate profitably with tighter environmental regulations in place. Gregory believes that to make the regulatory and entrepreneurial process mesh, all sides need to be as transparent in the effort as possible and the public needs to be informed of all the issues at hand.

Corbett Wins

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett’s quickly began looking at the future last night after accepting victory in the Republican Gubernatorial primary.
Corbett says it was all about “hope and change” two years ago, but as he spoke to the voters this year it was all about “enough.” Enough Washington, enough Harrisburg, enough taxing and spending and enough Ed Rendell. He says the victory was not the end of a campaign but the beginning of an effort to change in the way Harrisburg operates. He says, “We need to force Harrisburg to go back to the drawing board and to enact meaningful reform and not increase the burden on you the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. We need real change and that only comes from real leadership and real action. And that is the kind of governor I am going to be.” Corbett says as governor he will live up to his no new taxes pledge and will fight to end waste, fraud and abuse while creating jobs and helping the state live up to its energy potential. “ Time and again America has turned to Pennsylvania for innovation and entrepreneurship, and now we have the opportunity to be a leader once again through our energy supply, not only to the nation but to the entire world,” says Corbett. Corbett also thanked Sam Rohrer for a “spirited campaign.” He says now is the time to “unify and make Pennsylvania great once again.”

Listen to Tom Corbett's full election night speech.

Jack Wagner Concedes

Jack Wagner didn't win the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but he still has more than two years left as Auditor General, and he pledged to continue finding ways to save taxpayer money. He says it would be wrong to raise taxes with so many people struggling financially.

Supporters were disappointed but clearly thought their candidate was anything but finished as he conceded with kind words for those he ran against and looked back on a campaign that he says inspired him.

Looking Ahead, Onorato says He's Only Half Way Home

In a four-man match up in the democratic primary for governor, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato captured more than 45 percent of the vote and he says that showing gives him the momentum he needs in the race against fellow Allegheny county native, republican Attorney General Tom Corbett. Onorato says while he understands that it’s going to be a real fight and there’s never a sure thing-- on the heels of his victory he believes he has a leg up when it comes to his rival. For one, he says he has a track record of holding the line on property taxes, has successfully run the second largest county in the state where unemployment is 2 percent below the national average. And when it comes to anti-establishment sentiment, Onorato says he is the true outsider in this contest since he functions well outside of the Harrisburg circle. Onorato also shrugged off Pennsylvania’s tradition of alternating between Democratic and Republican governors, saying he prefers the tradition where an Attorney General has never won the governorship.

Listen to Onorato's victory speech.

Rothfus Wins Fourth Congressional District Republican Nomination

Keith Rothfus beat his opponent Mary Beth Buchanan, former US Attorney for the fourth congressional district race for the Republican nomination in Tuesday's primary.

The district includes several suburbs of Pittsburgh such as Plum and Murraysville and parts of Beaver County, Lawrence County, and Mercer County. Rothfus will go up against Jason Altmire.

Keith Rothfus has spent most of his career as an attorney in the private sector, working with businesses. From 2005 to 2007, as a federal employee, he worked with faith-based organizations to provide natural disaster relief.

He credits his win on Tuesday to the grassroots efforts his supporters partook in.

Sestak Upsets Specter

Arlen Specter's bid for a sixth, 6-year term in the U.S. Senate has failed. The 30 year senior Senator from Pennsylvania lost the Democratic Primary to Congressman Joe Sestak of Delaware County. Sestak received 54% of the vote to Specter's 46% capping a big rally by the former Navy admiral who trailed Specter in the polls by 20 percentage points 2 months ago.
It was Specter's first election since he switched from the Republican Party 13 months ago. In his victory speech, Sestak called the vote a win for the people over the establishment, the status quo and even Washington, D.C.

In a brief concession speech, Mr. Specter thanked those who had supported him. "It's been a great privilege to serve the people of Pennsylvania," he said. "And it's been a great privilege to be in the United States Senate, and I'll be working very, very hard for people of the Commonwealth in the coming months."
The vote was also a defeat for President Barack Obama, who supported Specter when he defected from the GOP. Governor Ed Rendell, who also endorsed Specter, said he was disappointed because he thought Specter had the better chance of defeating Republican nominee Pat Toomey in November's general election.

Critz Wins Special Election

The former district director for long-time Congressman John Murtha of Johnstown will succeed his former boss. Democrat Mark Critz of Johnstown defeated Republican Tim Burns of Eighty-Four, Washington County and Libertarian Demo Agoris of Houston, Washington County in the special election in the 12th Congressional District. Critz received 53% of the vote, Burns 45% and Agoris 2%. Critz will serve out the last 7 months of the term of John Murtha who died in February.
Critz said he was humbled and honored by the victory....."But most of all, I am proud to stand before you as the next Representative of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District! The voters of this district won a great victory tonight. But it’s a bittersweet. Because we wouldn’t be here right now if Jack Murtha hadn’t left us too soon.
Throughout this campaign, I’ve thought about the many lessons Congressman Murtha taught me when I served as his director of economic development. He often said to me, “it’s about the work.” It is. And I’m going to work tirelessly every day in Congress for the families of Western Pennsylvania."

However, Critz is not done with Burns. There will be a rematch in the November General Election because Critz won the Democratic Primary and Burns the Republican Primary to seek a full 2-year term.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Key Pennsylvania Primary Contests

Despite a couple of high profile races, voter turnout is expected to be light on this primary election day in Pennsylvania.
The polls will remain open for just about another 4 hours.
There are two nationally-watched races including the Senate Democratic Primary where voter surveys show 5-term incumbent Arlen Specter, Republican turned Democrat, is in a dead heat with Congressman Joe Sestak.
On the Republican side, former Congressman Pat Toomey is expected to be an easy winner over Peg Luksik of Johnstown.
The other contest that's getting national attention is a special election in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional district. The seat that was held by John Murtha for 34 years until, his death in February. Democrat Mark Critz, Murtha's former aide, is running against Republican businessman Tim Burns and Libertarian Demo Agoris to serve out Murtha's term. The district includes all of Greene county, and parts of six other counties. Polls show a tight race between Critz and Burns.

There is also a primary contest in district 12 featuring Democrats Mark Critz, Ron Mackell, Ryan Bucchianeri and Republcisans Tim Burns and William Russell.

After 8 years under Governor Ed Rendell, four democrats are vying for the right to represent the party in November's general election for governor. One of them is Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. Polls indicate he is the front runner in today's Democratic primary that also includes Jack Wagner, Joe Hoeffel and Anthony Williams. On the Republican side, State Attorney General Tom Corbett is the favorite over State Representative Sam Rohrer.

WDUQ News will have election results tonight after the polls close, and we'll hear from winners and losers tomorrow during Morning Edition.

Invasive Beetle in Bedford County

The Emerald Ash Borer, an ash tree-destroying pest, has been found in a twelfth Pennsylvania County. Workers with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spotted an infestation in Graceville, a mile east of Breezewood and less than a mile from the Fulton County line.
Walt Blosser of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture says the DCNR staff were driving through the area and noticed extensive damage due to woodpeckers which is a common sign of insect infestation. Blosser says beetle samples were collected and it was confirmed that they were Emerald Ash Borers.
In response to this discovery, the state-imposed quarantine on hardwoods is being expanded to Bedford County. Blosser says people should use only local hardwoods.

The invasive beetle was first detected in Pennsylvania in the summer of 2007 in Butler County, and subsequently was found in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Indiana, Juniata, Lawrence, Mercer, Mifflin, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
The pest, which is native to China and eastern Asia likely arrived in North America in wooden shipping crates. It was first detected in July 2002 in southeastern Michigan and neighboring Windsor, Ontario, Canada. In addition to Pennsylvania, the beetle is attacking ash trees in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and is responsible for the death and decline of more than 40 million trees. Typically, the beetles will kill an ash tree within three years of the initial infestation.
Blosser says eradication efforts in other states have failed so Pennsylvania officials are trying a containment approach to give researchers some time to develop bio-control options and new pesticides.

Riverlife Presents at International Conference

Riverlife Executive Director Lisa Schroder will be showing off the transformation of Pittsburgh’s waterfronts this week at the Transatlantic Cities Forum on Waterfront Development. The organization was asked to make the presentation in Genoa, Italy after being nominated by the German Marshal Fund. Riverlife Spokesperson Stephan Bontrager says Pittsburgh has become a great surprise story around the world. The city was put into the international spotlight with the G-20 and will stay there in the environmental community through next month when the city hosts World Environment Day. Bontrager says Schroeder will tout the region’s ability to turn the industrial riverfront into a place where the city can connect to the rivers through recreation. He says Schroder will talk about the cooperation that was needed to create the new riverfront landscape and the money that has been invested in the last 15 years including work on the Northshore, Mon Warf and the Southside. Schroeder will also talk about what is left to be done.
Also presenting at the event is Copenhagen, Denmark. Representatives from 20 international cities will be on hand. Riverlife began in 2001 following a public planning process that gathered input from thousands of areas residents. A plan to develop 13 miles interconnected waterfront park is 70% complete. The project has gathered more than $4 billion for the work.

Tax Delinquents Can Still Take Advantage of Pennsylvania Tax Amnesty

Thirty one days remain for those who have have unpaid back taxes in the Commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Tax Amnesty Program received 24,433 completed or somewhat completed applications in the first three weeks. The largest payment so far was $548,284.00 for corporate taxes.

Pennsylvania Department of Revenue spokesperson About two thirds of the payments have been from businesses.

For a short period of time, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is waiving 100 percent of penalties and half the interest for anyone who applies for tax amnesty online. It began on April 26th. By June 18th, it is expected to net $190 million for the current fiscal year.

For more information visit

Artifacts Found Downtown

The New PNC building in downtown Pittsburgh holds bank offices, a bank branch, law offices a coffee house, a hotel and the city’s newest display of artifacts. It all began a few years ago when PNC announced plans to tear down a block full of buildings to make way for its newest skyscraper. Architect and urban archeologist Christine Davis says her interest was piqued because she knew there had to be some interesting artifacts buried under the site. She says it was not difficult to sell PNC on the idea of letting her dig around while construction was underway. Her hunch was right.

In all 25,000 artifacts from the 1840’s - 18 60’s were found and preserved. About 500 objects are now on display in the hotel that is part of the new PNC Building. All ten of the floors hosting hotel rooms have a few items on display, each suit features a select object and several artifacts are on display in the hotel’s lobby and on the second floor in the hallway between the restaurant and the business center. Davis says they found a slew of ties between the old use of the land and the current building. In the 1860’s the street held several banks, which she equates to PNC’s operation, a boarding house which Davis ties to the hotel, a tea room that she compares to the coffee house and a botanical and seed store run by the nephew of the founder of the law firm that now has several floors of offices in the building. Jeremiah Knox owned and operated that seed store. Davis ties many of the artifacts to that store. Including seeds that survived the last 150 years 22 feet below street She also found something called a Lithopnane. At first the tiles look like small white relief carvings with few details but when the light is shined through them they take on a whole new look filled with details like a black and white photograph.
Like many of the objects the lithopanes were found in an old well. Also down the well were a few bottles embossed with the name “Doctor Warner’s, Indian Physician Syrup.” Davis tracked the Indian Physician of the 1860’s to doctor Robert H. Warner who is an ob-gyn in Mt Lebanon. Robert Warner says every generation that came after Elisha has included a doctor. The family still has old journals kept by the so-called “Indian Physician” but Robert Warner says they have never seen any of bottles like the one found during this dig. Davis was able to find an old advertisement for the syrup.
Some of the more fragile objects are being preserved by PNC in their archives. PNC’s Gary Saulson says the hotel has jumped on board beyond designating space for the artifacts and a printed guide to a cell phone tour can be picked up at the front desk.

Pictures of more items on display Facebook page.

Listen to a longer version of this story aired on 90.5FM WDUQ.

Consent Decree for Natrona Steel Plant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Allegheny Health Department and the Department of Justice have reached a settlement with Allegheny Ludlum for alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company's Natrona silicon steel production plant. EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin says the settlement will bring cleaner air to Allegheny County....."“We’re pleased that we could resolve these issues without further litigation, meaning nearby communities will benefit sooner from improved air quality.”

As part of the settlement, Allegheny Ludlum will pay a $1.6 million penalty to be divided equally between the federal government and the Allegheny County Health Department for its Clean Air Fund. The company has agreed to permanently cease steel making operations at its Natrona plant by no later than November 30, 2010. Allegheny Ludlum had already planned to shut down the Natrona facility and consolidate operations at its nearby Brackenridge plant.
Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole says this agreement means a long-term commitment to cleaner air and continuing operations..."the output (from the consolidation) will be about the same and will lead to a dramatic reduction in emissions and result in cleaner air for the residents in the area."

Cole says this case dates back to "a significant number of complaints by residents" in 2007 about particulate pollution from the plant. The settlement is subject to a public comment period and final approval by federal court.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Special Election & Primary Combined

The 12th Congressional race in Pennsylvania is two elections in one. Voters will select a candidate in the special election to serve out the term of the late John Murtha and will also nominate candidates to run for a full term in the fall election.
Listen to the report by WDUQ's Alexandria Chaklos

Corbett, Rohrer Exchange Barbs

The Republican gubernatorial campaign has turned negative in the final days before Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary.
Supporters of State Representative Sam Rohrer of Berks County have hammered Attorney General Tom Corbett for calling the Constitution a “living document” in April.
The phrase is often construed as coded support for judges who impose new laws from the bench.
Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, ripped into Corbett at a Harrisburg Rohrer rally.

"Those kinds of words come from somebody who does not respect for authority. Who thinks that he is the lord over it all. And there’s no way to restrain him. Anyone who believes in that living constitution nonsense is an enemy of freedom."

Corbett responded to Pratt’s attack...
"First off, I ask how many of them have served their country. As far as I know, Mr. Rohrer has never served his country in the military. To say I’m an enemy of freedom is absurd and ridiculous."
Corbett insists he’s a strict constructionist and conservative.
Acting on Corbett’s behalf, the state Republican Party distributed flyers last week attacking Rohrer for supporting the 2005 legislative pay raise and voting to increase lawmakers’ pensions.
Corbett says Rohrer isn’t a leader, arguing the Berks County representative hasn’t authored a single bill during his House tenure.

Onorato Holds Lead Heading To Primary

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato says he’s got the best executive track record of the Democrats running for governor.
He gave a Steelton, Dauphin County crowd a second reason to support him, during a Friday campaign stop.

"There’s only one of us running out of the six who has nothing to do with Harrisburg, and that’s me. I’m an outsider. Every one of those candidates running for governor are part of the problem."

One of Onorato’s opponents, State Senator Anthony Williams of Philadelphia, may have gotten a boost from Governor Rendell in the days leading up to the primary.
Rendell says he’s remaining neutral, but he heaped praise on Williams at a Philadelphia press conference, calling the senator “visionary” and “innovative.”

"He has earned the support of people in Philadelphia, and throughout the entire southeast. And for that matter, throughout the state. Because of the innovative campaign where he’s really talked about issues and change."

According to the final Quinnipiac poll released today, Onorato remains far ahead of the field for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination with 39 percent, more than his three major competitors combined, although 31 percent of voters remains undecided.
Among the likely voters surveyed, Williams received 11% support, Jack Wagner 10% and Joe Hoeffel 9%.

Specter, Sestak Criss-Cross PA on Final Day to Campaign

With the Democratic Senate race in a virtual dead heat up on the eve of Pennsylvania’s primary, the national media is focusing on the race, and waiting to see whether Arlen Specter’s party switching gamble will pay off.
The final Quinnipiac poll today has Joe Sestak leading Specter 42 to41 percent with 16 percent undecided. The final Muhlenberg College tracking poll over the weekend shows Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak tied at 44 percent each.
Specter has the backing of the Democratic establishment, and three decades worth of accomplishments to tout, but Sestak is doing all he can to out-hustle the incumbent.

"Am I working my toes off from now until then? Absolutely. Because until that ball is in the end zone, you just keep on working. But look – I understand and I respect the establishment. I just disagree."

Sestak made his remarks in Philadelphia’s Love Park, where he greeted voters on Friday afternoon.
A few blocks away, Specter held a press conference in a high-rise office tower with Governor Rendell, Mayor Michael Nutter and members of the city’s black clergy.
He says he’s seen his political obituary written before, and he’s confident going into Tuesday.

"I counted them up: I’ve been in 14 contested election. Six have been within three points. I’m still in the lead in key polls, but the poll that counts is next Tuesday."

Specter says he may have switched from Republican to Democrat last year, but he’s always been consistent when it comes to bringing back federal dollars and resources for Pennsylvania.

WDUQ Helps Voters Decide

Voting begins at 7:00am tomorrow and the most recent polls show the race for the Democratic nomination to run for US Senate between incumbent Arlen Specter and challenger Congressman Joe Sestak is too close to call. Six men are running for the Pennsylvania Governor’s office. On the Republican side PA Attorney General Tom Corbett is facing off against State Representative Sam Rohrer. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, PA Auditor General Jack Wagner, former PA State Representative Anthony Williams, and Former Congressman Joe Hoeffel are running on the Democratic side. Recent polls in both gubernatorial primaries show large numbers of undecided voters. In recent weeks WDUQ has intervied all of the candidates running for governor and spent a day with each of the Senate candidates in the legislative offices. Follow the links below to listen to those stories.

Arlen Specter
Joe Sestak
Tom Corbett
Sam Rohrer
Dan Onorato
Jack Wagner
Anthony Williams
Joe Hoeffel
Join WDUQ 90.5 FM election night for the latest numbers, updates from campaign headquarters and interviews with the candidates.