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Filed Under: History, News || By

April 30, 2009 | Link to this story

Dig We Must

Category: History, News || By

Above, in a photo taken during World War II, public works employees fill potholes on West Fifth Avenue near Rebecca Street, present-day location of the Elbow Room bar and restaurant.

The state has pledged $1 million to dig up the trolley tracks --- last used in 1963 --- and rebuild the road, which is owned by the city. State Department of Transportation statistics indicate that between 13,000 and 21,000 cars use West Fifth daily.

Below, the W.D. Mansfield Bridge is shown under construction, probably circa 1950. The 1,931-foot bridge owned by Allegheny County is currently one of 6,000 in Pennsylvania rated "structurally deficient" by state inspectors.

The Mansfield Bridge, which is scheduled for reconstruction later this year, received a score of 35 out of a possible 100, with structural components rated in "fair" or "poor" condition and road widths described as "functionally obsolete."

Allegheny County and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission have requested $38 million in federal stimulus funding to help pay for work on the Mansfield Bridge and another that connects Bellevue with the City of Pittsburgh.

(Both pictures contributed by an Almanac reader. Photographer and copyright status unknown.)

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April 29, 2009 | Link to this story

City Receives $500K Grant from Homelessness Program

Category: News || By

A half-million-dollar grant aimed at keeping families from becoming homeless has been approved for the city.

The money from the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, or HPRP, will be available to people who are in danger of losing their home or apartment, and whose income has unexpectedly fallen below 50 percent of the local average.

The funding and its impact on the city's housing "action plan" will be discussed at a public hearing at 10 a.m. Friday in council chambers at the Public Safety Building (the old municipal building), 201 Lysle Blvd. at Market Street.

"With the economy the way it is, this provides another avenue for people to get help," says Bethany Budd Bauer, city director of community development. "It's something like the Dollar Energy Fund or LIHEAP."

The money will be disbursed in the form of grants for rent, utilities and other necessities, and is designed to prevent families without any other form of assistance from becoming homeless.

According to officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Human Development, grants will be subject to approval by a case manager and will become available only after the applicants have exhausted all other options.

HPRP was created as part of the federal stimulus package approved in February. The city's share --- $500,957 over three years --- was automatic and based on its demographics, Bauer says.

A local social-services provider will have to be selected to administer the funding, and because city council will have to approve their appointment, Bauer says the money will probably not be available until September.

The program is intended to help renters, not homeowners. "It's not a mortgage program," Bauer says.

. . .

In Other Business: Bids for the reconstruction of J. Clarence Kelly Park on Walnut Street will be opened Friday, Bauer says.

City officials will decide how to proceed with renovations based on those bids, she says.

The park is home to Downtown's last remaining railroad crossing tower. When the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's tracks crossed through the city, the towers were manned by watchmen who raised and lowered the crossing gates.

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April 28, 2009 | Link to this story

Meet the New Arlen, Same as the Old Arlen

Category: Politics, Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By

An Alert Reader emailed me this afternoon to say, "I always knew Arlen Specter was a Democrat."

(I think that was meant in the pejorative sense. And I've never even been to Pejoria.)

Y'know, the Republicans keep saying that, but I don't know that it's true.

Everyone in my immediate family is a union member (PSEA, SEIU, FOP and UAW, respectively) and I didn't see any of us turning cartwheels for Arlen Specter after hearing his vocal opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. (Which is another topic, for another time.)

And the mother of me still hasn't forgiven or forgotten the grilling that Specter gave Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. As far as she's concerned, "Arlen" is a four-letter word.

Arlen Specter is a "liberal"? Please. Only by the standards of Torquemada or Rick Santorum (which, come to think of it, is redundant).

. . .

Here's another reason that Democrats shouldn't do backflips: I don't mean to be crude, but Specter is 79 years old and a survivor of cancer and heart problems.

Pennsylvania is due for a Republican governor. If Specter is re-elected in 2010 and unable to complete his term, that governor could appoint Specter's replacement.

Put that in your 60-seat majority and smoke it.

. . .

The fact of the matter is that Specter is a traditional mainstream Republican in the mold of Bill Scranton, Dick Thornburgh, Nelson Rockefeller and Hugh Scott. He's for law and order, low taxes and deregulation.

He had a reputation as a hang 'em high prosecutor when he was the district attorney in Philly, and he was usually a reliable vote for the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

So when Specter says that the party changed, not him --- there's something to that.

. . .

Somewhere along the line, the Republican Party became more concerned with "ideological purity" --- defined as a very narrow set of moral beliefs --- than the rule of law.

Arlen Specter, for all of his faults, has a keen legal mind (even when it requires resorting to Scottish law). Watching the Republican Party's national leaders twist themselves into knots to justify torturing prisoners and granting Dick Cheney unlimited authority must have chafed him raw.

And now Pennsylvania Republicans are rushing headlong into the arms of Gloomy Pat Toomey. Specter didn't leave them. They left him --- loudly and gracelessly.

They can bleat all they want about Specter's vote for the federal stimulus package, but they were unhappy with him long before that, mainly over things like Specter's refusal to support legislation banning abortions and civil unions for gays and lesbians.

(Imagine the nerve of Specter, saying that he's a "conservative," when he thinks that the government should stay out of people's private lives!)

. . .

But Specter also didn't become a liberal. And he never was.

Frankly, many of Pennsylvania's Republicans of the past would be in the same boat with Specter if they were running today:

  • Tom Ridge presided over the creation of the state Department of Environmental Protection --- he's a looney tree-hugger!

  • Dick Thornburgh was the key proponent for the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act --- he hates small businesses!

  • Hugh Scott told Richard Nixon to resign --- he wasn't loyal to the President!

Hell, Barry Goldwater was pro-choice and pro-gay rights.

Fat chance getting the presidential nomination these days, "Comrade" Goldwater! Go back to Canada, you hippie!

. . .

The problem that Republicans now face is the problem Democrats faced in the early 1980s. Back then, the Democrats were beholden to nuts (Jerry Brown), big-mouthed firebrands (Jesse Jackson) and dull, mushy-headed career politicians (Walter Mondale).

Substitute Grover Norquist (nut), Fox News (big mouths) and Mitch McConnell (dull and mushy), and there's your present-day GOP.

. . .

The Republicans also have a bad habit of putting know-nothing dimwits into the spotlight. (Step forward, Gov. Palin and Joe the Plumber.)

Joe Biden is a flake, prone to malaprops and a little bit (OK, a lot) sleazy, but at least no one thought he was a dummy.

It's like advertising Pepsi by using toothless slobs in the commercials. It might taste great, but who wants to be associated with it?

Seriously, who wants to be in a party where people like U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Looney Tunes) are taken seriously?

. . .

In the end, Specter's bolt to the Democrats is all about saving his own hide, and nothing about him being "too liberal."

I expect him to behave true to form, and wind up annoying Democrats just as much as he annoyed Republicans. Probably a lot more.

Specter may be closer to the heart of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, but that's only because Specter stayed where he was, while the Republicans went running way, way the hell off over there, somewhere past Oliver Cromwell and Louis XVI, but without Louis' sense of fashion or Cromwell's military skills.

The sooner the Republicans sober up and back away from the ledge --- back toward Specter and the rest of America --- the better off everyone will be.

. . .

P.S.: And I sure hope Bill Kortz hasn't paid for any campaign buttons yet.

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April 26, 2009 | Link to this story

Two Items

Category: Announcements, Shameless Horn-Tooting || By

First, a clarification ... I am not contacting political candidates to encourage them to submit a biography or campaign information.

This is largely a one-person operation, and I just don't have time.

It's up to the candidates or their friends or family to contact me. Several candidates already have.

If you know of someone running for a municipal office who wants some free publicity, they need to get their information to me no later than Saturday. Information received after Saturday will be included at my discretion.

Complete details are available here.

. . .

Second, if you missed my TV debut on PCN tonight, I understand there wasn't a dry seat in the place. I was played by some balding weirdo with bad teeth.

You can watch the video online; click on the link for "PA Books." (If you have Quicktime installed on your computer, this link should take you directly to the video.)

DVDs of the show are also available for $29.99, but I can do better than that --- for $19.99, I'll come to your house and you can interview me yourself.

Oh, hell, I'll do it for a cheese sandwich and a warm beer; I'm not proud.

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April 24, 2009 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Category: Events || By

(Above photo courtesy Two Rivers Amateur Radio Club)

. . .

Two Rivers Amateur Radio Club holds its 37th annual hamfest and computer show from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Spectrum, 6001 Smithfield St., in the Boston section of Elizabeth Township.

Admission is $5 and children under 12 are admitted free with an adult. Vendors may purchase a table for $10.

Six prizes will be awarded, including three amateur radios, two GPS systems and a weather radio. Breakfast and lunch will be on sale, and coffee and parking are free.

For more information, visit the club's website or call (412) 664-1683.

. . .

The McKeesport Corps of the Salvation Army marks its 125th anniversary with a dinner tonight at the Palisades, 100 Fifth Ave. at Water St.

Hors d'oeuvres will be served at 6:30 with a buffet dinner at 7:30. WTAE-TV (4) anchor Sally Wiggin will serve as mistress of ceremonies, and city native and KDKA-TV (2) reporter Harold Hayes will serve as the speaker. Tickets are $20.

. . .

Saturday, the Palisades hosts a dance with DJ Jerry Kovach. Admission is $5. Single ladies are invited to "roll the dice" for their admission price; women who roll a six get in for free.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Call (412) 672-2001 or visit the website.

. . .

Twin Oaks Lounge, Rainbow Village Shopping Center, White Oak, hosts 8th Street Rox at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Call (412) 678-3321.

. . .

To Do Next Week: Students from Penn State's Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport will raise money for the White Oak Animal Safe Haven from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at The Rose Bar and Grille, Lincoln Way in White Oak.

Guests can dine on pizza and wings for a minimum $5 donation. A raffle and other activities are also planned.

All of the students organizing the fundraiser are from the Comm 471 public relations class at Penn State.

The White Oak Safe Haven, located near the borough building on Lincoln Way, is a volunteer-run, no-kill shelter that has placed 5,000 animals with adoptive homes. Call (412) 672-8901 for information.

. . .

(To list your event on Tube City Almanac, email or write to Tube City Online, P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134. Please send events at least two weeks in advance and provide a contact phone number.)

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April 22, 2009 | Link to this story

That Donkey Will Be No Help at All

Category: Cartoons || By

(c) 2009 Tube City Community Media Inc.

Bill Kortz, the U.S. Steel Irvin Plant manager who rode the PACleanSweep tide into the state House three years ago, is looking at the U.S. Senate.

Kortz, Democratic representative in the 38th Legislative District, said Monday he intends to file the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission for a 2010 run.

--- Patrick Cloonan, McKeesport Daily News

. . .
Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny) says he wants to run for U.S. Senate, which is not exactly the kind of news that makes Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney want to jump for joy.

It's nothing personal, but state party strategists are trying to corral Democrats and keep a low profile during the next 13 months as Arlen Specter, Pat Toomey and Peg Luksik make mincemeat out of each other in the GOP primary.

Rooney's response to free-agent declarations like Kortz? "Lots of luck."

--- Laura Vecsey, Harrisburg Patriot-News

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April 21, 2009 | Link to this story

Take This, Mother Nature

Category: Commentary/Editorial || By

In honor of Earth Day on Wednesday, here are a few reminders of what life was like back in the "good old days."

Look back fondly on rivers that teemed with "Allegheny whitefish" and ran crystal-brown with sewage and mill outflow.

Speaking of brown, do you remember when nothing grew on the hillside facing Clairton Works, or when the smog that was so thick they could slice it for sandwiches down at Isaly's?

On the other hand, pretty much anyone who wanted a job could get one --- one that paid real money and didn't require much of an education.

Along with the industrial jobs we sent to the third world, we also sent the pollution. According to a recent story in The Guardian, much of China is now engulfed in a permanent haze that blots out the sun. Because forests have been clear-cut and vegetation is dying, dust storms now blanket the nation.

The Guardian calls the air "dangerously unhealthy." Around here, we used to call it "Tuesday."

There are other similarities between China and the Mon Valley, you know. Both places consider cabbage a staple food item and both places love Buicks.

Some people also say that both places have one-party governments.

If only the Mon Valley could get favored nation trading status, we'd be sitting pretty. Maybe we need to build our own nuclear weapons.

Richard Florida would note that the quality-of-life has improved in the Pittsburgh area since the downsizing of the steel industry in the 1970s and '80s, and in terms of being able to drink the water and breathe the air, that's true.

Clean air certainly makes working at Wal-Mart or waiting in line for methadone much more pleasant.

(And what about the bio-tech jobs that have "reinvented" the region? As far as I'm concerned, they're nothing but a nuisance. You can barely get through Clairton or Duquesne without having to stop every block and wait for some entrepreneur to form a brand-new bio-tech company.)

(Sarcastic? Me?)

Anyway, kids, think about this every time someone tells you about how wonderful things were when they were young, and how things have gone downhill.

They remember the Memorial Theater, Rainbow Gardens and football games at Tech High. They don't remember water and air that came in regular and chunky style.

So make the Mon Valley what you want to make it. And if that doesn't work, start learning Mandarin. The halushki in Guangzhou is to die for.

(Tip of the Tube City hard-hat to Alert Reader Chris for the photos.)

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April 18, 2009 | Link to this story

Political Candidates: Please Read This

Category: Another Viewpoint, Politics || By

(Political Candidates: Deadline for submissions to Tube City Almanac is May 2. Entries will be published May 5. Details below.)

. . .

A number of candidates in the May 19 primary have asked if I'll mention their campaign on the Almanac. I've been reluctant to write anything about any local races, because I'm busier than a one-armed paper hanger.

And if I cover one candidate, I need to write about all of the other candidates in the same races and communities. I just don't have the time.

. . .

Here's the deal: I'm going to open this website up as a free outlet for candidates, with some pretty strict rules.

If you know any political candidates, please let them know of this opportunity. Deadline is May 2; profiles will be published at Tube City Online on May 5.

Profiles received after the deadline will be published at the editor's option, time permitting.

. . .

Free Space for Candidates

1.) Any candidate for a municipal or school board office in the Duquesne City, McKeesport Area, South Allegheny or West Mifflin Area school districts* may submit a candidate profile for publication at Tube City Online.

2.) "Candidate" includes anyone registered to run in the Republican and/or Democratic primary. Independents, write-ins and third-party candidates will not be considered.**

3.) Candidate profiles may include biographical information, statements on various issues, and website URLs or other public contact information. Personal attacks on other candidates and commercial endorsements or other irrelevant information are not permitted. In case of any dispute over content, the decision of the editor is final.

4.) Candidate profiles must be 400 words or less. Handbills and fliers are acceptable submissions, but may be modified to fit the space or converted to plain text. Tube City Online reserves the right to edit for style with or without notice, at the editor's option.

. . .

Complete rules follow after the "more" link and are subject to change at any time.

Thanks for your cooperation, and for running for local office!


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April 17, 2009 | Link to this story

Places to Go, People to See

Category: Events || By

PSGA Hosts 'Exploration' for Students: Prospective Penn State students are invited to tour the Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow.

During "Lion Pride Exploration Day," prospective students can meet with admissions counselors, explore career possibilities and have lunch with current undergraduates. Call (412) 675-9010.

. . .

Concert, Tribute to Oldies DJs: William Dell and Wee-Jams headline a "tribute to Pittsburgh's disc jockeys" during two shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday at The Palisades, 501 Water St. at Fifth Avenue.

Award presentations will be made to several platter-pushing oldies jocks at 9 p.m.

DJs to be honored include Porky Chedwick, formerly of WAMO (860); Stan Wall and Jerry Braverman of Scottdale's WLSW-FM (103.9); "Big Ray" Edwards and Candy and Mike of McKeesport's WEDO (810); Frankie Day, Caveman Ralph, DJ George and "Suzie Q" of Jeannette's WKFB (770); Pete Povich and "Gee Whiz" George of Washington's WJPA-FM (95.3); and Arnie and Kevin Amber of Uniontown's WMBS (590).

Admission is $25 at the door. Call (412) 678-6979 or visit

. . .

Fashion Show Slated: McKeesport Heritage Center, 1832 Arboretum Drive, will stage a fashion show and luncheon fundraiser at 12 noon Sunday.

Volunteers will model "Fashions from the Victorian Era through the War Years," including a 19th century wedding dress, a World War I-era dress, and a 1920s "flapper" dress.

Lunch will include chicken salad sandwiches on croissants, fruit and cheesecake, and the fashion show will begin at 1 p.m.

Tickets are $12 and proceeds benefit the Heritage Center. For more information, call (412) 678-1832.

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April 16, 2009 | Link to this story

Paging Zeke Jackson

Category: Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By

When I heard all of the talk about "tea parties" yesterday, I thought this is what people meant.

It turns out that it was a bunch of tax protesters, who were only slightly more civilized than the Marquis Chimps.

And hey, how about that "liberal" media, which covered every one of these made-for-TV events, no matter how small they were.

I'm not sure what these people were protesting. They're protesting taxes?

Great! I hate taxes. I also hate cilantro, freezing rain and Rob Schneider movies, but you don't see me marchin'.

Being against "taxes" is easy. Everyone's against taxes.

It's harder to actually figure out which ones you want to eliminate. Federal income, state income, local wage, occupation, sales, property, corporate, carpet, thumb?

Hey --- let's eliminate all of 'em!

Hmm. How should we "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, (and) promote the general Welfare"?

Maybe we could have voluntary contributions, or a bake sale.

Nah, that won't work. We can't even get people at my church to put in more than $1 a week.

OK --- maybe we should only pay taxes for the things we want the government to do!

But wait, keeping track of all of those separate requests is too hard.

Hmm. Here's another idea --- let's use a popular vote to select representatives who will decide how to spend our money. And if we don't like the way they spend the money, we can vote for someone else next time.

Nah, that would require us to think and select candidates and leave the house on Election Day and write letters and stuff. All that gives my brain an ouchy.

Screw it --- let's march! Turn on a talk radio station and get me some poster paint!

Down with taxes! And cilantro!

. . .

P.S.: Daniel P. Evans, a tax attorney from Philadelphia (yep, a Philadelphia lawyer!) maintains an interesting website compiling common arguments of tax protesters, and then thoroughly debunking them.

He's also got a wiki with background information on some of the charlatans who peddle phony tax protest arguments.

Oh, and if that's too serious for you, he also collects lawyer jokes.

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April 15, 2009 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted

Category: Events, News || By

Library Hosts 'Giver' Discussion: Carnegie Library of McKeesport will host discussions tomorrow of Lois Lawry's book The Giver as part of its "One Book/One Community" series.

The gatherings are slated for 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the main library, 1507 Library Ave.

Anyone who has read the book is welcome to participate, and light refreshments will be served.

Call (412) 672-0625 for more information.

. . .

East Fifth Ave. Work Underway: Traffic restrictions are in effect on East Fifth Avenue as the state Department of Transportation replaces a culvert that carries the road over Crooked Run creek.

According to PennDOT District 11 spokesman Jim Struzzi, the deck and walls of the small bridge are being replaced as part of a larger $1.4 million contract awarded to JET Excavating of New Middletown, Ohio.

Traffic is reduced to a single lane in each direction between Pennsylvania Avenue and Auberle Street until the work is completed, likely in July 2009. East Fifth carries part of state Route 148 through the city and connects Lysle Boulevard with U.S. Route 30.

. . .

Port Vue in Print: A former Port Vue fire truck is the subject of a photo feature in the current issue of Collectible Automobile.

The 1953 Reo rescue truck is now owned by a car collector in Southern California, who has preserved the dark blue livery it wore while serving with the borough's Vigilant Hose Co.

The bimonthly magazine, a product of Publications International of Lincolnwood, Ill., is available at Borders, Barnes & Noble and most area supermarkets.

(Tube City hard-hat tip: Officer Jim)

. . .

WM Students Host Cancer Fundraiser: West Mifflin Area High School's student council will hold a Dance-a-Thon on April 24 to raise money for pediatric cancer research and treatment.

The event will include an appearance by comedian, advice columnist and motivational speaker Josh Shipp. Although the Dance-a-Thon is open only to current West Mifflin students, Shipp's talk will be open to the public.

Admission is $5 and all proceeds will benefit the Four Diamonds Fund.

Four Diamonds is the charity that annually receives money from the yearly "THONs" held at Penn State University.

The West Mifflin "mini-THON" is one of 39 such high school events being conducted this year across Pennsylvania, according to a spokesman.

Called the "Dear Abby for teens," Shipp, who will waive his speaking fee, is visiting West Mifflin because the school won a contest on Facebook.

Anyone who wishes to make a monetary donation toward the West Mifflin dance-a-thon can call (412) 466-7220. (Hard hat tip: Sgt. Mike.)

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April 15, 2009 | Link to this story

Glassport Native to Head Michigan Diocese

Category: News || By

Glassport native Paul Bradley has been named Catholic Bishop of Kalamazoo, Mich.

The announcement was made Thursday by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bradley, who currently serves as an auxiliary bishop in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, will be formally installed in his new position June 5.

"We celebrate with the faithful of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, who will be blessed with Bishop Bradley's ministry," said Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who expressed regret in a prepared statement over the local diocese's loss of "an adviser, a leader, a spiritual mentor and a friend."

A former member of St. Cecilia Parish, Bradley, 63, is the son of John and Cecilia Bradley of Glassport and a graduate of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and the University of Pittsburgh.

He was ordained a priest in 1971 by then-Bishop Vincent Leonard of Pittsburgh.

Bradley previously served as a parochial vicar and pastor at several Pittsburgh-area parishes and as general secretary and vicar general for the Pittsburgh diocese.

Following the appointment of former Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington, D.C., Bradley was elected administrator of the Pittsburgh diocese. He served in that position until Zubik's arrival.

In a prepared statement, Bradley thanked his family and friends for their support and asked for their prayers.

"From the day of my birth, to the day of my ordination to the priesthood and then to the episcopate, I have been profoundly inspired and blessed by the depth of your faith," Bradley said.

The Kalamazoo diocese serves 46 parishes, 22 schools, and 102,000 Catholics in nine counties in southwest Michigan.

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April 14, 2009 | Link to this story

'We Don't Need a Car Industry'

Category: Another Viewpoint, Commentary/Editorial || By

I'm a little bit behind in my reading. This interesting rant about the auto industry bailouts was published back in February at

Allpar is a website for Chrysler and Jeep enthusiasts, and asking a motorhead whether we "need" an auto industry is like asking a kid if he "needs" a cookie.

But I thought this was worth reprinting at length, because you're not likely to see it anywhere else, and because it will ring true for people in the Mon Valley.

Remember, we didn't need a steel industry, either. And if you think that the high-tech, medical, educational and financial jobs that are currently underpinning the local economy can't be sent overseas, I have some beachfront property in Wilmerding to sell you.

Incidentally, the writer --- in addition to being a car buff --- is an industrial consultant with a PhD in organizational psychology from Columbia University, according his bio on the Allpar website. To me, that gives him a certain amount of credibility.

. . .

'We Don't Need a Car Industry' by David Zatz
(Excerpted from, copyright 2009 Allpar LLC, all rights reserved. These excerpts have been edited slightly for flow and context. Click the link to see the original piece.)

We don't need a car industry.

That's a direct quote from a letter to the editor of Automotive News, and it should give you pause.

Let's think about the industries this country does not need and, indeed, chose (for the most part) not to have: Radios, televisions, cellular phones, toys, computers (actually making them, not assembling them), bicycles, shoes, watches, clothing.

Now, let's look at some of the industries that are in a transitional state, slowly or rapidly moving offshore: software, lumber (you may not have known that), furniture, tools, plumbing parts, hardware, car batteries, car parts.

Some of you may remember what a colony was defined as ... (A) colony exists to serve the interests of (a) ruling nation. It provides raw materials and consumes finished goods. Like we do. We are rapidly (becoming) a colony, shared by Japan, China, and Germany.


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April 13, 2009 | Link to this story

Have You Seen Hammer Chuck?

Category: Another Viewpoint, Commentary/Editorial || By Windy

Editor's Note: Alert Reader "Windy" posted this story in the comments below. I'm promoting it to the front page so that more people read it. -- Jason

. . .

By "Windy"

Have you seen Hammer Chuck?

We ran into him around four miles outside Boston Sunday afternoon on our way back from a 45-mile ride to Van Meter, scene of the great Darr Mine disaster of 1907. You know the one.

Chuck said he hasn't been out much yet because he's been working the fish fries at, what, St. Stephen's, a couple miles off Walnut Street? I think that's what he said.

His wife prefers the sandwiches at St. Stephen's to the ones at Greenock fire hall, even though Greenock breads all their fish by hand, he said. Chuck lives just a couple miles outside Boston and he's a legend among people who use the Yough Trail.

Did I tell you how I met Hammer Chuck? About five years ago, I was biking along the trail just outside Sutersville. From the corner of my eye, I could see a recumbent pulling around me.

I pedaled harder. The recumbent kept right on coming. I pedaled harder still. Pretty soon, my legs ached and I was breaking a sweat as the other bike slid right past me, like ringing a bell. Just that simple.

"Hiya doin'?" the guy on the banana yellow recumbent smiled as he eased past me. I don't remember answering him.

I was so mad, embarrassed, really. This guy was just walked right around me, even though I was pedaling as hard as I could. Never even got his name.

At Sutersville, I pulled off for ice cream and ran into a woman I'd met a few weeks earlier at a poetry reading. Little could I then imagine she would be my wife four years later.

"This old guy just blew me off the trail," I said. "Banana yellow recumbent --- I'm so pissed!"

Overhearing me, another woman in line at the time said, "Oh yeah. That's Hammer Chuck. He's my neighbor. He's 70 years old."

Well, I felt like crawling under one of those picnic tables right there in the back of the soft-serve.

Chuck laughed when I told him the story Sunday afternoon as we pedaled in the cool sun. He was coming from the old Dravo cemetery where he was helping clear a field for future campers. I sure liked to go fast sometimes, he chuckled.

One morning, Chuck said he left Boston at 6:30 a.m., biked to Confluence where he stayed for half an hour, then biked back to Boston by 7:30 p.m. Connellsville, which is an 80-mile round trip, was a regular ride for him on that signature bike.

And everybody knows Chuck. "When you're at work during the week, Hammer Chuck is out biking on the trail," the owner of one bike shop told me. He was probably right. Nobody could beat the guy.

Just that morning, Chuck said he met seven teachers from Connecticut who were on the trail, headed for Washington D.C. The teachers were amazed by the beauty of the trail and couldn't believe Our Fair City didn't do anything to promote it. Not many locals know about the trail, I told Chuck, not even local bloggers.

My first encounter with Chuck was the same day I met my future wife, I told Chuck, who pulled off with us at Boston.

Chuck told us he'd been married 56 years --- as long as I've been alive, I told him. His wife has heart troubles and takes fish oil tablets. My wife suggested that Chuck try the fish oil for its anti-inflammatory properties. It might help his knees and fingers, she said.

"It's great to see you guys so happy," Chuck said. "That makes me feel good."

We said our good-byes, and Hammer Chuck rode off for home. We stowed our bike on our car and beat it home, too, chilled but thrilled to have spent some time with the great Hammer Chuck.

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April 10, 2009 | Link to this story

Speaker: Need for 'Street Cred' Spawns Most City Violence

Category: Events, News || By

The shocking rate of black-on-black crime in American cities doesn't stem directly from drugs, racism or guns, but from poverty, a leading sociologist said this week while visiting McKeesport.

And suburban whites who think they're immune will soon be feeling the same pressures, predicted Elijah Anderson, William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University.

"It's an experience to be broke and see no way out," Anderson told a standing-room-only crowd in the Ostermayer Room at Penn State's Greater Allegheny Campus. "You scuffle and you hustle to make ends meet, and you can't ... Too many young men --- and young women, too --- are against the wall, trying to make it any way they can."

. . .

The audience's ranks were swelled in part by members of several area youth groups as well as a group of young men who had been directed to hear Anderson's lecture by a juvenile court judge.

To them, Anderson had a simple answer for escaping street life: Earn "human capital," he said.

"If you don't have the education and skills to fit into this new economy, you're in bad shape," Anderson said. "This is not a story you're hearing for the first time. It's a story that all good teachers tell their students. But it's serious."

He also screened clips from a new documentary called "Against the Wall: Poor, Young, Black and Male" that he hopes to get onto PBS or another national TV network.

Based on his new book of the same name, the camera follows Anderson through the streets of Philadelphia as he talks to young men, community activists, police and clergy about the underground economy that has replaced once-plentiful factory jobs.

. . .

Anderson called himself "a street kid" and the product of a working-class family. His parents were sharecroppers who moved North so that his father could take a job in the foundry at the Studebaker Corp.'s auto plant in South Bend, Ind.

With just a grade-school education, Anderson said, his father earned the equivalent of $45,000 annual salary and bought a brand-new car every year.

. . .

Just as basic steel largely deserted the Mon Valley, manufacturing has left South Bend, he said, replaced by a combination of minimum-wage service jobs, public assistance, and bartering and flea markets.

When those three sources aren't enough to pay the bills, Anderson said, communities trade in the only commodity left --- "street cred" --- which he defined as "don't f--k with me, or I'll kick your a--."

His definition got a knowing laugh from many of the teen-agers in the audience.

"Street cred is high maintenance," Anderson said. "It leads to stress, which leads to violence." Young men who have to keep looking tougher and tougher end up defending their street cred with a bullet, he said:
"The 'code of the street' is not just about drug dealing, it's that the community feels like it's on its own. You've got to do it all yourself. All of these exchanges are being done without the benefit of civil law. If someone does you wrong, you don't sue 'em, you get in their face. Pretty soon, there's violence."

That violence is endemic among young black males. The New Pittsburgh Courier, which each month tallies homicides, reported this week that 15 of the 18 murder victims in Allegheny County so far this year were African-American.

Of the dead, two were from Duquesne, one was from McKeesport and two were from Clairton, including Clairton Bears midget football coach DeMonje Rosser.

All of the Mon-Yough area victims were black and age 30 or under. No one has been charged in connection with any of their deaths.*

. . .

Some of the pressures on African-Americans are the historic legacy of slavery and white racism, Anderson said. But many others have been caused by the departure of good-paying jobs to the suburbs.

As China, India and other countries ramp up their manufacturing base, Anderson said, "those jobs are now going out to sea, literally."

White suburbanites and rural residents are soon going to be under the same pressures as black city dwellers have felt for the last 40 years, said Anderson, who fears that the violence will just spread.

. . .

Several people in the audience seemed frustrated that Anderson couldn't offer an easy solution to breaking the cycle of violence. But one way to build "street cred" non-violently, he said, is for young men to channel entrepreneurial energies away from the gray-market or from bartering and into legal stores, restaurants and service providers.

"The impulse to be an entrepreneur is really admirable," Anderson said. "Small business has its place, and it may well be that legitimate small business is a way out."

And people who have escaped the streets have a responsibility to build up the community and give others a chance, he said.

"It gets back to this idea of 'each one, teach one,'" Anderson said. "We need to continue to build trust and respect. Apart from being a racial issue, this is an American issue."


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April 09, 2009 | Link to this story

Mon-Yough Forces Help Pay Tribute to Slain Officers

Category: News || By

Officers from more than a dozen Mon-Yough area police departments joined colleagues from across the United States and Canada today to honor three of Pittsburgh's finest, slain in the line of duty.

Pittsburgh police officers Paul Sciullo II, Eric G. Kelly and Stephen J. Mayhle were gunned down Saturday in the city's Stanton Heights neighborhood after responding to a family dispute.

The unprecedented show of support for the Pittsburgh police and the families of the three patrolmen created a motorcade of more than 1,000 vehicles from Downtown Pittsburgh --- where the officers had lain in state at the City-County Building --- to a memorial service in Oakland at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.

Memorial contributions for the officers' families are being accepted by the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union, 1338 Chartiers Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15220.

Checks or money orders should be made payable to the "Fallen Heroes Fund," and donors may designate how they would like the money to be used. For more information, call the credit union at (412) 922-4800.

(Additional photos after the jump.)


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April 08, 2009 | Link to this story

Council OKs Application for $194K Police Grant

Category: News || By

City council has officially requested $193,871 in police assistance from the federal economic stimulus package.

By unanimous vote, council last week approved an application for funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

In Allegheny County, the grant was the second-largest to any municipality after the city of Pittsburgh, Mayor Jim Brewster said. The money will likely fund the replacement of several police vehicles, body armor for officers and other equipment.

The county is receiving a 10 percent surcharge for administering the grant, Brewster said. The money will be put toward county police operations.

In related business, Police Chief Joe Pero said that 11 people took the department's civil-service test in late March. He told council that the city hopes to have three or four new officers on the streets this summer.

The Byrne Memorial JAG Program is named for New York City Patrolman Edward Byrne, who was shot and killed in 1988 while attempting to protect a witness who had agreed to testify against a suspected drug dealer.

Communities that receive the funding may use it to hire or train personnel, purchase equipment or obtain technical and computer assistance.

Council also approved an application for the similarly named Edward Byrne competitive grant program, which provides funding for supplemental programs such as victim assistance and neighborhood outreach.

Other Mon-Yough area communities receiving funding from the federal stimulus package include Clairton, $36,093; Duquesne, $57,543; Elizabeth Township, $20,831; Homestead, $39,599; Monroeville, $57,955; North Versailles Township, $27,843; Rankin, $11,756; West Homestead, $10,519; and Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County, $11,550.

. . .

In Other Business: An audit of city police payroll records will likely not be complete for several weeks.

Officials asked Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. for assistance after learning that seven police officers had turned in time sheets indicating they had attended court hearings where they were not present.

As a result, the seven were accused of receiving overtime pay to which they were not entitled.

Zappala recommended hiring an independent, outside auditor.

The overtime pay in dispute was less than $1,000 per person, according to a story by Eric Slagle in the Daily News and other published reports, and the amounts were called "minimal" by Brewster.

News of the disciplinary action --- which included suspensions without pay --- was broken by KDKA-TV's Marty Griffin in early March after an internal city investigation.

The Post-Gazette has reported that the officers suspended included the entire narcotics unit; the information has not been confirmed publicly and the officers' names have not been released. All have been reassigned, according to the Post-Gazette.

At a closed-door executive session with Brewster and Pero on March 31, several city councilors reportedly vented their frustration because they were not informed of the disciplinary action before they learned about it from the media.

In addition, City Controller Ray Malinchak, saying the suspensions were not sufficient to make the city whole, has recommended the officers be required to reimburse any pay they received improperly.

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April 07, 2009 | Link to this story

The Mysterious Murphy's Store

Category: History, Mon Valley Miscellany, Obscure Ephemera || By

OK, McKeesporters old, young, past and present: Can you identify the location of this Murphy's store?

This is a screen capture from a 1940s film.

Here's a hint: According to the narration, the film takes place in a steel-making town "somewhere on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border."

The answer is available at the G.C. Murphy Memories website.

A tip o'the Tube City hard hat to the editor's dear, sainted mother, who spotted this on Turner Classic Movies with her eagle-eyes.

(No, not those Eagles ... she was a PV-L Bulldog, which yes, indeed, makes me a son-of-a-you-know-what.)

(And a reminder that opinions expressed at Tube City Almanac and at are not those of the G.C. Murphy Co. Foundation, its directors or their affiliates. Sometimes I'm not sure whose they are, come to think of it.)

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April 06, 2009 | Link to this story

Fifth-Annual Radio Marathon Keeps Polka Fans Hopping

Category: Events, News || By

(If the embedded video does not appear above, visit the DailyMotion website to view this first-ever Tube City Video Almanac.)

Norwin-area resident Frank Powaski is one of Pittsburgh's best-known polka disc jockeys and marked his 40th anniversary in radio during May of last year.

For the past five years, Powaski has broadcast an annual all-night polka marathon over radio station WKHB (620) and its sister station, WKFB (770).

This year's broadcast --- which began at 5 p.m. Friday and ran until sunrise the following morning --- attracted dozens of polka fans and local musicians to the stations' studios, located in North Versailles Township.


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April 03, 2009 | Link to this story

Penn State, Pittsburgh Schools Partner in Promise

Category: Events, News || By

New banners hanging in all of Pittsburgh's public high schools are designed to remind students that they can get tuition assistance to attend Penn State in McKeesport as part of the "Pittsburgh Promise."

The signs were the idea of Glenn Beech, interim director of student affairs at Greater Allegheny Campus. According to Beech, 24 students are currently receiving about $98,000 in benefits to attend the local Penn State campus through the program.

Funded by grants from private donors, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Promise guarantees that students who attend a Pittsburgh public high school for four years and maintain grade and attendance standards can receive grants of up to $5,000 per year to attend one of more than 200 colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. (Promise funding kicks in after students have received any applicable federal and state educational grants.)

The money may be used for tuition, books, mandatory fees, or room and board.

The banners are part of a continuing awareness campaign by the McKeesport-based campus to remind local high school students that Penn State has a presence in the Pittsburgh area.

"We're fortunate to have so many students come to Penn State Greater Allegheny from the Promise," spokeswoman Linda Curinga says.

In all, 79 students are attending Penn State campuses with the help of Promise funding, according to published reports.

. . .

More from PSGA: Michelle Hough, an associate professor of business administration at Penn State Greater Allegheny, has received a Fulbright grant to teach at the University of Malta.

Hough is blogging about her experiences at Penn State's website.

. . .

Professor to Lecture on Urban Violence: Penn State's campus in McKeesport next week will host an internationally known expert on life in American cities.

Yale University sociologist Elijah Anderson will be here Tuesday to talk about the causes of street crime and the high homicide rate among African-American teens and young adults.

Anderson's talk --- "Why Are So Many Young Black Men Killing Each Other?" --- is slated for 7 p.m. in the Robert and Elizabeth Ostermayer Room at the Student Community Center.

The event is free and open to the public.

Anderson joined Yale in 2007 and currently serves as the university's William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Sociology. He earned his Ph.D. from Northwestern in 1976 and previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania.

Considered one of the nation's top scholars of urban society, Anderson's 1978 book A Place on the Corner: A Study of Black Street Corner Men is regarded as a classic in the field.

Tuesday's talk will focus on research Anderson developed while writing his 1999 book Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City.

For more information, call (412) 675-9052.

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April 02, 2009 | Link to this story

State Pledges $1M Toward West 5th

Category: News || By

Call him --- or her --- the "mad paperhanger of the 10th Ward."

Someone has been shinnying up light poles along West Fifth Avenue and hanging cardboard signs that say, "Fix this street!"

Mr. or Ms. Paperhanger can now hang a new piece of paper --- a thank you note to Gov. Ed Rendell.

At the request of three local legislators, the governor and state Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler on Wednesday promised $1 million to reconstruct the busy thoroughfare connecting Downtown with Glassport and the Mansfield Bridge.

. . .

The money, a combination of federal stimulus funds and so-called "spike" or discretionary funding controlled by PennDOT, will probably also be enough to remove the streetcar tracks that have caused many of the potholes that plague the road.

City officials had previously estimated that a complete reconstruction of the four-lane street between the Jerome Avenue Bridge and the Mansfield Bridge would cost $900,000.

"Very, very good news," says Mayor Jim Brewster, who with other city officials learned late Wednesday afternoon that the governor had approved the funding.

Saying the road was in "deplorable condition" and needed "major resurfacing," state Reps. Marc Gergely (D-White Oak) and Bill Kortz (D-Dravosburg) and state Sen. Sean Logan (D-Monroeville) wrote to Rendell at the city's request to ask for $500,000 for the project.

"We could have never paved that street without their help," Brewster says.

. . .

The three legislators had what Gergely calls a "very productive conversation" this week with the governor's office and PennDOT staff to explain the project was "shovel-ready" and didn't require any complicated environmental or legal approvals.

"It's not like we're building a new road," Gergely says. "We're resurfacing an existing road. I think we'll see this thing done this summer."

The project must be competitively bid and a contract let before any work can begin.

According to 2007 PennDOT data, 21,000 cars daily use that stretch of Fifth Avenue.

. . .

The work also will include reconstruction of the ramps that connect Fifth Avenue to lower 10th Ward and comes as local, county and state officials finalize plans to reconstruct the Mansfield Bridge and its approach ramps.

PennDOT data indicates that 13,000 vehicles daily use the county-owned span, which connects the city with Dravosburg and is a major link between McKeesport and the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

Last overhauled in 1983 at a cost of $4.8 million, work on the Mansfield Bridge is expected to begin later this year. The total cost has been estimated at $95 million.

. . .

Gergely says the Fifth Avenue reconstruction may be one of Western Pennsylvania's largest transportation projects this year, outside of those already approved as part of the federally funded infrastructure stimulus plan.

Because the road is so heavily traveled and connects several municipalities, he says it may be time to consider making it a state-maintained highway, though PennDOT would likely want the city to trade responsibility with the state for some other road.

Kortz's district doesn't include 10th Ward, Gergely notes, but his participation helped underscore that West Fifth Avenue was a project important to other communities besides the city.

The combined effort of all three local state legislators and the city was vital to winning the Rendell administration's approval, Gergely says: "It's nice when you can get a cooperative agreement and get everyone on the same page."

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April 02, 2009 | Link to this story

West 5th Slated for Makeover

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The city's answer to the Ho Chi Minh Trail is about to be reconstructed.

More details coming in the Almanac.

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April 01, 2009 | Link to this story

Appalling Failure

Category: Nwes || By

I just found this story, and I'm completely stunned. I'll have more to say later today.

In the meantime, post your thoughts in the comments.

Setting aside whether or not this is a good use of taxpayer money --- is it even feasible?

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