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Filed Under: Cartoons, Wild World of Sports || By

July 31, 2009 | Link to this story

Nutting Ventured, Nothing Gained

Category: Cartoons, Wild World of Sports || By

(Bob Nutting, PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates, explosion)

Possible reasons why Pirates owner Bob Nutting keeps sabotaging his own club:
  • Worried that successful season will push him into higher tax bracket

  • Doesn't want Washington Nationals to feel lonely at bottom of standings

  • Has instilled same "quality control" in baseball team as in his newspapers

  • Thinks it's like golf and has been trying for low scores

  • Strategy to keep Pirates unique? Leave "winning" to Steelers and Penguins

  • His giant piles of money make it hard to see good talent

  • At heart, he's more of a Phillies fan

  • Needs smaller crowds for planned move to Helen Richey Field

  • Hoping for federal government bailout

  • Just three more lousy seasons makes it an even 20!

Do you have an excuse for Bob Nutting? Post it in the comments.

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July 30, 2009 | Link to this story

City Receives $642K in Police Funding

Category: News || By

McKeesport pulled off a trick that neither New York City nor Pittsburgh could --- it scored a COPS grant from the federal stimulus package.

The city's force is one of 1,046 law enforcement agencies sharing $1 billion set aside for hiring police officers under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, U.S. Justice Department officials announced this week.

In a separate announcement, city officials confirmed that up to 20 McKeesport police officers will be on special assignment to the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County during the G-20 summit of world leaders Sept. 24 and 25.

"i think it's really important that this region --- including the Mon Valley --- put its best foot forward," Mayor James Brewster says. "This is a historic event and to be a participant in that is a real tribute to the city."

. . .

For McKeesport, the $642,000 grant from the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (or "COPS") will fund hiring three full-time police officers for three years. The city must commit to retaining the positions at its own expense for a fourth year.

Police Chief Joe Pero says the full-time hires will be chosen from the city's pool of part-time officers.

City officials hoped COPS would fund 10 full-time positions, he says, but that wasn't in the offing.

"That would have been a substantial boost, but we weren't sure we could get that," Pero says. "We're happy that we got three."

. . .

The new full-timers will be added to the city's motor patrol unit, to be deployed where needed, he says. Besides police officers in squad cars, the city also has foot patrol officers as-needed Downtown and other neighborhoods.*

In addition to McKeesport, the city's 60-person force also protects Dravosburg under contract.

Law enforcement needs were on many minds last Friday afternoon, when a gunman fired into a crowd of people on Sinclair Street --- within sight of city hall --- seriously injuring a pregnant 30-year-old woman.

One man has been charged in connection with the shooting.

. . .

A strong police department is an "essential ingredient" for a city to come back, Brewster says.

Last year, McKeesport also received a COPS grant to hire three officers, Pero says, but unlike this year's award, that three-year allocation required the city to match 25, 50 and 75 percent of the funding in each year, respectively.

While McKeesport, Homestead and Wilkinsburg are among the Mon Valley area municipalities awarded COPS funding from the stimulus, communities like Seattle, Houston and New York City were passed over.

. . .

That's sparked angry reactions from leaders in those cities --- often from Republicans opposed to the Obama administration, including U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York. King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, called the allocations "disgraceful."

Federal officials weighed communities that applied for funding based on crime statistics and financial need. (PDF report, Adobe Reader required.)

Of several hundred communities in Pennsylvania that applied for COPS funding, only 10 were ranked higher than McKeesport, including Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Erie, McKees Rocks and Reading.

. . .

Separately, McKeesport officials confirmed that the city's force will participate in security preparations for the G-20 summit, to be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

Perhaps the most prestigious event ever hosted by the Pittsburgh region, the G-20 summit is a meeting between the finance ministers and central bank officials of 19 of the world's most prosperous nations and the European Union.

. . .

Besides the obvious security problems presented by the concentration of so many international diplomats, similar gatherings in other cities have attracted violent demonstrations by leftist groups opposed to what they regard as unfair monetary and trade policies.

During the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, 50,000 protesters descended on the city, overwhelming a police contingent that numbered less than 2,000, according to an Associated Press report.

The Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia, reported that 10,000 people demonstrated against "corporate globalization" during the 2006 G-20 summit in that city. (With 3.8 million residents, Melbourne is about twice as populous as Allegheny County, and almost five times larger by area.)

. . .

Federal officials have estimated that up to 4,000 police officers will be needed to secure the convention center, major hotels, transportation routes, the Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.

The Pittsburgh police bureau has only 900 officers, while the Allegheny County police department has about 230.

McKeesport's participation was first reported in Wednesday's Daily News. Pero says city officers assigned to the G-20 will be drawn from desk or detective duties and not pulled from street patrols.

. . .

"We're taking some detectives and some administrators," the chief says. "We'll still have full coverage and won't limit our services in the city of McKeesport."

Still to be determined is how McKeesport and other municipalities will be reimbursed for loaning their police officers.

"We don't know the answer yet," Brewster says, "but we still have some time, and we've thrown out a number (of officers) that we think we can make available."


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July 28, 2009 | Link to this story

Follow-Up: Eastland Site Was War Scene Stand-In

Category: News || By

The former site of Eastland Mall in North Versailles Township was a movie stand-in for a war-torn scene apparently set in Vietnam.

"They were able to film the portion of the property they were using so that you couldn't see the hills of Pennsylvania," Township Manager Chastity Booker says.

On Monday, the Almanac reported that "Warrior," an upcoming film starring Nick Nolte, had filmed some scenes at Eastland.

According to the Hollywood trade paper Variety, Nolte plays a Vietnam vet and retired steelworker training his sons to compete in a mixed-martial arts tournament.

The Lionsgate production is slated for 2010 release.

Film crews had to receive appropriate permits from the township and its engineer, Don Glenn, Booker says, to erect the temporary set along East Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard for the movie shoot, which took place over the weekend of July 18.

The mall, which opened in 1963 and closed in 2005, was demolished during the winter of 2006-07.

One of the nation's largest shopping center operators, Benderson Development Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y., purchased the property in 1988 from the now-defunct Gimbels Department Store chain.

Located between the residential sections of the township known as Crestas Terrace and Green Valley, the 58-acre site is valued by Allegheny County tax assessors at nearly $860,000 (1, 2).

Benderson once proposed constructing a 200,000-square-foot office-retail complex called "Eastland Centre" on the property, but the company has pulled the plans from its website.

Booker, who became township manager in April, says North Versailles officials continue to hear "various rumors" about the Eastland property, but have yet to receive any concrete development proposals.

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July 27, 2009 | Link to this story

News and Notes

Category: News || By

Lights, Camera, Eastland: Alert Reader A.M. noticed a movie set springing up on the former site of Eastland Mall in North Versailles Township last week and tipped the Almanac.

Alas, it wasn't the Denzel Washington runaway train flick "Unstoppable," which begins shooting in central and western Pennsylvania in late August.

Instead, the Pittsburgh Film Office confirms that "Warrior," a film starring Nick Nolte, shot a few scenes on the property along Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard. ("But it wasn't that interesting, frankly," a source tells us.)

Shooting was done over the weekend of July 18-20. The movie, slated for 2010 release, stars Nolte as a retired steelworker training his sons to compete in a mixed-martial arts tournament.

. . .

Auld Lang Syne: Former WMCK, WIXZ and WESA radio personality Terry Lee is selling DVDs of his New Year's Eve television show from 1977.

The DVDs, available at TL's website, feature Boz Scaggs, Sweet Breeze, Rhythm Kings, Sonny DiNunzio and other artists and list for $19.99. The special originally aired at 11:30 p.m. Dec. 31, 1977 on WPGH-TV (53).

. . .

Bridge Bill Heads to Senate: A bill to name a bridge over Jack's Run after former White Oak Mayor Milt Lebowitz is before the state Senate Transportation Committee.

The legislation introduced by state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, would christen the new bridge connecting Route 48 with McClintock Road and serves as one of the entrances to White Oak Park.

Lebowitz was a Korean War veteran, owner of a commercial dry-cleaning business and a borough councilman before being elected mayor in 1998. He served as mayor until his death in 2003 at 71.

As a member of the borough's recreation board in the early 1970s, Lebowitz helped develop the White Oak Heritage Hill recreation complex, including the public swimming pool, Gergely says.

Naming the bridge after Lebowitz is a "lasting memorial" to one of the borough's "most influential" residents, he says.

Co-sponsors included state Reps. Bill Kortz of Dravosburg, David Levdansky of Elizabeth, Jim Casorio of Irwin and Paul Costa of Wilkins Township.

The bill passed the state House 195 to 0 and was referred to the state Senate.

No hearings have been scheduled on the legislation, however, as the General Assembly wrestles with the lack of a state budget. The state has been without a spending plan since the 2008-09 budget expired June 30.*

. . .

Tuition Boost at PSU Campus: Students at Penn State's Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport are seeing about a four-percent increase in their tuition bills for the fall semester.

Invoices sent out last week include the tuition schedule recommended by Penn State administrators and approved July 17 by an executive committee of the board of trustees. The increase must be ratified by the full board in September, the university says.

It was necessary in part because Gov. Ed Rendell has recommended a $61 million cut in Penn State's funding, university officials say.

And they still don't know how bad the final cut in the university's funding will be because the state still hasn't approved a budget.

"We are making this leap of faith on behalf of our students and we hope that the proposed 18 percent cut from the state is off the table," Penn State President Graham Spanier said in a prepared statement.

Tuition for in-state students at the McKeesport campus will rise $217, or 3.9 percent, according to figures provided by the university.

About 800 students attend the campus near Renzie Park, which offers four-year degrees in business; communications; applied psychology; letters, arts and sciences; information sciences; and organizational leadership; two-year associate degrees in those and related fields; and the first two years of other Penn State degrees.


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July 24, 2009 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Category: Events || By

There's always something to do in the Mon-Yough area. To submit your event, email jtogyer -at - gmail -dot- com or write to Tube City Online, P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134. Please send information at least two weeks in advance, and provide contact information in case we have a question.

. . .

International Village Pre-Launch Party: The International Village committee hosts a "launch party" on Saturday, July 25 at the McKees Point Marina and the Palisades, Fifth Avenue at Water Street.

Events begin with music by the Mikey Dee Band at 3 p.m., and continue with Dean Martin tribute artist Coz Serrapere at 4:30 p.m.

At 6 p.m., a picnic buffet opens at the Palisades and ethnic dancers will take the stage. The dance floor will be open as well.

At 9:30, a "boat parade" will take place on the Youghiogheny River, with watercraft decked out in "international" motifs and prizes awarded to the best-decorated boats.

Tickets are $20.

. . .

Speaking of Boats: Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, based in Homestead, presents "Lords of the Mon," a two-hour historic boat cruise, departing Station Square at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Hands-on activities and historical narration will tell the stories of Pittsburgh's hardest-working river during the glory days of big steel, coal and coke in the Mon Valley.

The event is presented in partnership with the Gateway Clipper Fleet. Another cruise is set for Aug. 15.

Call (412) 355-7980 or visit the Rivers of Steel website.

. . .

Get Your Geek On: New Dimension Comics is hosting a "Star Wars" party at its Century III Mall store, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday. Bring your own camera to get your picture taken with your favorite characters (in costume).

The event is organized by Garrison Carida, a group of "Star Wars" buffs from Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia who do events for charities and public services, including the American Cancer Society and children's hospitals.

Group members are asking everyone who attends to bring a new or unused "Star Wars" toy. For more information, call the store at (412) 965-1487.

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July 24, 2009 | Link to this story

Conscience of a Mushy-Headed Liberal

Category: Commentary/Editorial || By

One of the things that bugged me during my relatively short, undistinguished newspaper career (I've now been full-time in PR longer than I was full-time in newspapers, which is scary) was the lack of transparency.

Oh, newspapers demand transparency from government agencies --- often filing expensive lawsuits to score minor legal points --- but news organizations are among the most paranoid corporations you'll ever encounter when it comes to secrecy.

(Didja ever notice that when a newspaper changes hands, the price is almost never disclosed? Or that rank-and-file employees are rarely quoted about the newspaper's operations?)

At every newspaper where I worked, there were certain subjects that we either didn't write about, or which were covered in the most generic terms.

It usually had nothing to do with politics. It was often as simple as "the publisher sits on their board of directors" or "the managing editor volunteers there."

As a reporter, that always chapped me.

All this is a long way of saying that I have a major conflict of interest right now in covering city government. It involves my role as a director of the McKeesport Heritage Center. I can't say too much more than that.

It's nothing bad --- in fact, it will be a good thing, if it happens.

I don't think it's influenced my writing, but my conscience forces me to admit that I'm not sure about that, and the readers of The Almanac should be aware. Caveat emptor, in other words.

(P.S.: It's worth noting here that opinions expressed on are not those of any other group of which I may be a part.)

. . .

Writers, Photographers Wanted: On a related note, one way that we can ensure that we're delivering a more balanced picture is by adding more independent voices.

We have occasionally run contributions from other writers, and photographer John Barna has lent his talents several times as well.

My short-term goal is to build a stable of reliable writers who can review entertainment (McKeesport Little Theater, McKeesport Symphony Orchestra, etc.), profile student athletes and provide regular coverage of organizations such as the school board, for instance.

We will be paying (modestly) people who take and complete story assignments, assuming we can continue to build a reliable revenue stream.

There are some details and standards to work out, and our board has to give its approval.

But if you're interested, please contact me; or if you know someone who's interested, send them a link to this entry. I'm hopeful that we'll have this up and running in a few months.

And thanks for your continued patronage. It's both flattering and weird when I'm writing a check somewhere (yes, I'm that guy) and someone says, "Oh, you're the one with the McKeesport website."

I suppose it could be worse. I could be known for something like Angus was known for.

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July 23, 2009 | Link to this story

On a Lighter Note

Category: General Nonsense || By

I felt like we needed a quick break after discussing all of the heavy topics of the past few days.

Here's a 1953 animated version of James Thurber's short story, "The Unicorn in the Garden."

Those of you who know me personally (you poor fools) know that I'm a bit of a nut on James Thurber, and have been since high school.

Incidentally, if you visit The Thurber House (which I have several times) in the writer's boyhood home in Columbus, Ohio, you'll find a garden with a little statue of a unicorn just across the street.

. . .

Now: To tie this back to our discussions of the past few weeks, the neighborhoods of Thurber's various addresses in Columbus represent some pretty rough territory, or at least they did eight or 10 years ago.

(I was warned by one local not to visit one of the neighborhoods even during the daylight, but I went anyway, because I'm a daredevil ... or stupid, take your pick.)

Decaying neighborhoods really aren't a McKeesport problem, or a Mon Valley problem or even a Pennsylvania problem --- most of the cities in the northern half of the United States are afflicted with abandoned houses, poverty and all of the consequences.

On the one hand, I don't blame anyone who wearies of the fight, and says "enough"!

On the other hand, maybe I love lost causes, and maybe I'm ready for the booby hatch myself.

In fact, maybe I'll go visit the booby hatch tonight.

It's out on West Fifth Avenue, near the Mansfield Bridge. (Rimshot.)

. . .

P.S.: Tip o'the Tube City hard hat to Roger Ebert.

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July 22, 2009 | Link to this story

Guest Commentary: State of Affairs

Category: Commentary/Editorial || By

The following is a reader's commentary. It does not reflect the views of the board of directors of Tube City Community Media Inc. or contributors to Tube City Almanac.

The writer has asked that his name be withheld; with his permission, we are calling him "Joe Lysle."

He is a resident of the Grandview section of the city.

. . .

State of Affairs

or, Are We Living in 1980s Colombia?

By "Joe Lysle"

My wife and I are beginning to move forward with our plans to move out and live someplace else. We've both had our fill with this city.

We're essentially giving up on McKeesport as a viable place to live and raise a family.

If you're surprised, you either don't actually live here (White Oak, I'm looking at you) or you've never been someplace else and realized that what passes for "normal" here is disgraceful.

. . .

The original footprint of my house was built in 1870, and various additions over the years have brought it up to circa-1930 standards. I do have a breaker box instead of fuses, but I don't have insulation in my walls or attic.

There is literally nothing between my family and the inevitable street shootout than a piece of vinyl siding, about three inches of plaster and some "lumber" that was likely stripped from orange crates. That's not enough for me.

You could say "oh, our city isn't as bad as Duquesne, or Homewood, or Wilkinsburg or Carrick" and "there are good places to live here, and good people, too."

You'd also be wrong.

. . .

Remember that shooting on Easter morning? I heard it happen from my home office window. I heard some small explosions, and I thought "great, the idiot neighbors are launching fireworks again." When I didn't hear the enormous boom that always follows, and instead heard screaming in the street, I knew it wasn't fireworks.

The next morning, the neighbors and I had a quick chat over the fence, and it was generally agreed upon that it was just a matter of time before something like that happened over there. It had been common knowledge for years that either the guy or his wife were dealing drugs from the house.

They didn't make any attempt to hide the fact. They always had nice electronics delivered to the home, and a steady stream of cars that would sit idling in the street for a few minutes while someone ran in and out. Everyone (including the police) knew what was happening.

. . .

In the other direction, three houses away, there's another dealer. He does his trade on my sidewalk while he's taking his dog for a stroll, usually in the middle of the afternoon. Sometimes he waves to me when I come home for lunch.

He looks like a decent enough guy, so I've considered telling him that I know what he's doing, and in the larger scheme of things, I don't really care --- I just want him to do it someplace other than my sidewalk, right next to the backyard where my toddler plays.

Two houses down another street, there's a family operation that's been dealing ever since we moved here, about nine years ago. We call the police each summer, usually because their arguments spill out into the street at 3 a.m., and they escalate into 12-person brawls.

Their business is by far the most well-established, because there has been a 24-seven steady stream of traffic back and forth to their house the entire time we've lived here. There is always (literally) a car idling beside their house, only to be replaced by another after it leaves.

. . .

Four years ago, a large, mentally handicapped man was stripped naked and beaten by a group of teenagers outside our window. When the group heard me say I was calling the police, they said "go ahead" and then ambled away.

Last summer, a four-inch slab of concrete was thrown through my kitchen window, causing it to explode inwards, tiny shards of glass everywhere. I was standing next to it.

As I ran outside (barefoot) to give chase, I passed a group of teenagers who were standing near my porch. They hadn't "seen anything" even though I heard one of the girls yell "Don't! There's a baby who lives there!" a split second before the rock came through the window.

. . .

Why am I sharing these anecdotes? Why do I think this information matters?

Because it's the only way to save this city.

I used to be one of the people who thought that an influx of money from state or federal government, along with some wise planning, and perhaps some social re-engineering was the prescription to cure the disease.

Now I know it isn't. The only way to save this city is to leave it behind. Move out, if you can. If you don't have the means, struggle to get your affairs in order, and then run away, as far as you can.

If enough of the "good" people leave, then perhaps some entity besides our ineffectual local government will finally take notice.

. . .

Maybe we'll become the next great success story, and we'll get a reality series on HGTV, and we'll finally get to see the Penn-McKee restored to former glory, and the eyes of the country will shift this direction.

Or maybe the military will step in and build a wall around us, to keep the disease from spreading.

Neither outcome matters to me, because we're leaving. I'm not going to put any theoretical "renaissance" above the importance of my family's safety.

. . .

The preceding was a guest commentary. Responsible replies are welcome.

Tube City Community Media is committed to printing viewpoints from residents of the McKeesport area and surrounding municipalities. Commentaries are accepted at the discretion of the editor and may be edited for content or length.

To submit a commentary for consideration, please write to P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134, or email jtogyer -at - gmail -dot- com. Include contact information and your real name. A pen name may be substituted with approval of the editor.

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July 21, 2009 | Link to this story

Memorial Service Slated for Harrigan

Category: News || By Editor

A memorial service has been set for 7 p.m. Wednesday for retired city Police Capt. Roberta "Robbie" Harrigan, who died Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 59.

Harrigan, a 31-year veteran of the McKeesport Police, was the city's first female officer when she was hired in 1974 and as a result became one of the department's most familiar faces.

She remained the only woman on the force until 1989, telling the Post-Gazette that year that she had been the victim of some "vicious" harassment and name-calling in her early days.

"I'm the type of person, the more you try to make me quit, the more I'm going to stay," Harrigan said. "I traded insult for insult and never let them see me upset."

Women police officers, she said in 1989, have "to work 10 times harder than a man."

Following a nine-year stint as a dog handler in the city's K-9 unit, partnered with Corporal, a shepherd, and Damien, a rottweiler, Harrigan rose to captain of the detective bureau before her retirement.

She also helped her husband, the late Jack Harrigan, train police dogs.

Harrigan was born Oct. 14, 1949, daughter of Edward Raletich and the late Ann Raletich, and is survived by her father; her sister, Pamela A. Milton of White Oak; and a nephew, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Friends will be received from 12 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at William H. Craig Funeral Home, 3000 Versailles Ave., where the memorial service will be conducted at 7 p.m. by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91.

Services are scheduled at 11 a.m. Thursday at Craig Funeral Home with the Rev. Kathleen Barnhart of Beulah Park United Methodist Church officiating.

Interment will follow at McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery.

More details are available in the Tribune-Review and Daily News.

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July 21, 2009 | Link to this story

From the Archives: 'Moon Day' in McKeesport

Category: History || By

From the tattered, dusty archives of the editor of Tube City Almanac, here's what the front page of the Daily News looked like 40 years ago this afternoon. (Click to see a larger version.)

According to the News, a ceremony was held the previous night at Kennedy Memorial Park on Lysle Boulevard to mark the moon landing.

Speakers included the Rev. David Blattner of McKeesport Assembly of God Church, Mayor Albert Elko, Msgr. Michael Dravecky of Holy Trinity Church, Rev. Stephen Wood of Central Presbyterian Church, Rabbi Milton Turner of Tree of Life Synagogue and Rev. Frank Waters of Christ A.M.E. Church, who delivered the invocation.

. . .

At least a few of the local dignitaries quoted by the paper were expressing what would become a common theme in the coming years: "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we do x?"

George Zdrale, acting mayor of Clairton, told the News: "Now that we know this can be achieved, I would hope more of our time and resources will be confined to the immediate and pressing problems at home."

His comments were echoed by Allegheny County Commission Chairman Leonard Staisey of Duquesne, who said, "we should now move to use our space experience and technology to meet the problems that face the people in our country --- housing, education, transit, the aged. We have the know-how --- all we need is the will to use it."

(With due respect to Commissioner Staisey, it's hard to see what space technology was going to do to solve the problems of transit, the homeless and elderly, unless he was thinking we could put the latter two groups onto a bus and shoot it into orbit.)

. . .

This full-color illustration was on the front page of the second section. It's by the late, great John "Dink" Ulm, longtime illustrator and art editor of the Daily News, who died in July 1981.

(One of the great pleasures of growing up in the McKeesport area and getting the Daily News was getting to see Ulm's illustrations during holidays and special events. Click the page to see a larger version.)

. . .

In other news as reported by the News, city police charged a 39-year-old man in connection with a stabbing on Beech Street, Duquesne Mayor James Pucci was feuding with that city's police department, an 18-year-old from Elizabeth Township died in a car crash on Eden Park Boulevard, and North Huntingdon Township residents were holding a meeting to protest a proposed new Route 30 Bypass.

In national news, the "youthful new head" of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, Donald Rumsfeld, was denying reports that the Nixon administration intended to dismantle the agency's programs, which were part of President Johnson's "War on Poverty." (Rumsfeld, you'll be surprised to learn, was lying, and the Nixon White House did close the OEO.)

. . .

In business news, G.C. Murphy Co. reported that net earnings for the first six months of 1969 were up 11.5 percent. Expansion plans for the coming year, reported the Daily News, "include the first of a series of free-standing Murphy's Marts" on a 12-acre tract of land in Harmar Township.

U.S. Steel Corp. named Paul J. Wilhelm general foreman of the seamless hot mill at National Works. (Wilhelm eventually became president of U.S. Steel, serving until his death in 2001.)

. . .

There were bargains galore for people who had "Moon Day" off. Immel's Downtown and Eastland stores had Shaker Square dresses on sale for $5.50 (marked down from $8) while on the second floor of Cox's store at Walnut and Fifth, all women's bathing suits (regularly $13 to $35) were marked down to $8.90 to $19.90.

Bartolotta's Red and White Markets (Route 51 at Southland, 937 Ohio Ave. in Glassport, Olympia Shopping Center and Duquesne Plaza) had ground chuck on sale for 69 cents per pound, and Galen & Jones Plymouth at 325 Ninth Ave. had a brand new Plymouth Satellite sedan "fully equipped" with 318 cubic inch V-8, AM radio, TorqueFlite automatic transmission and vinyl top, for $2,930.

. . .

And in sports, "rookie Steeler coach" Chuck Noll was opening his first training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

"The road ahead appears to be a rocky one for the personable first-year Steeler coach, who came to Rooney U. from the NFL champions Baltimore Colts with a reputation as a defensive expert," the News reported. "Noll will need all the defensive knowledge he has with the Steelers, who allowed the most points last season, 397."

. . .

Finally, to repeat something I wrote more than four years ago --- for those of you who read "Nancy" in the Daily News and say, "Gee, this has really gone downhill," it wasn't funny in 1938, it isn't funny now, and it wasn't funny in 1969:

P.S.: All trademarks and copyrights remain property of their respective owners.

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July 20, 2009 | Link to this story

Photographer Offers In-Depth Look at Local 'Sights'

Category: History, Mon Valley Miscellany, News || By

Click to visit P-G website; Steve Mellon photo

For more than a year, photographer Steve Mellon of the Post-Gazette has been making a series of 360-degree "panoramic" images of unique Pittsburgh locations, including several in the Mon-Yough area.

His most recent image captures the midway at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, but others have included more obscure locations, including the former holding cells at the old Homestead Borough police station and the decaying remains of Fort Pitt Steel Casting Co. in Christy Park, shown above.

Click to visit P-G website; Steve Mellon photoFor a May entry in the series, called "Pittsburgh Revolution," Mellon created two panoramas at Fort Pitt --- one inside what appears to be the casting house, and another inside an office.

Fort Pitt --- renamed McKeesport Steel Castings Co. --- closed in 1985 after a failed attempt at an employee stock-ownership program.

The abandoned site, located along the Youghiogheny River trail and visible throughout Christy Park, is unsecured and has become a frequent haunt of so-called "urban explorers." (Tube City Online has further information about the history of Fort Pitt Steel Casting Co. in the "Steel Heritage" section.)

Mellon creates his panoramas by taking a quick series of high-resolution still photos and stitching them together digitally.

Viewers who have the latest version of Adobe's Flash software installed on their browser can then explore the images at the Post-Gazette's website, zooming into examine specific details more closely. (The Tribune-Review is doing something similar using Carnegie Mellon's patented GigaPan technology, a high-tech, more automated version of Mellon's work.)

Click to visit P-G websiteSome of Mellon's images have been taken in unexpected places, including a "behind the scenes" look last month at Gallagher's Pharmacy in Duquesne.

Mellon is no stranger to the Mon Valley. Named Pennsylvania Press Photographer of the Year in 2001 and a runner-up in a national news photography contest, Mellon is also the author of After the Smoke Clears: Struggling to Get By in Rustbelt America, a exploration of the aftermath of the steel industry's collapse in five communities, including Braddock and Homestead.

According to the P-G website, Mellon is taking suggestions from the paper's readers for other locations that can be captured as panoramas. Email him at for details.

(Steve Mellon photos in this entry are copyright © 1997-2009 PG Publishing Co., Inc., all rights reserved.)

. . .

In Other News: Also today, Pittsburgh Radio & TV Online's Monday Morning Nostalgia Fix takes a look at your career in radio ... circa 1934.

Mr. Monday Morning Nostalgia Fix even worked in a reference to Johnny Puleo, a frequent 1950s headliner at Mon-Yough area night clubs, including the Twin Coaches in Rostraver Township and Bill Green's Supper Club in Pleasant Hills.

Puleo was a harmonica player and actor --- noted for his short stature --- who also made regular appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other variety programs.

Check out the entire entry at PBRTV.

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July 16, 2009 | Link to this story

Green Addition to 'New' City Hall Sought

Category: News || By

Architect's rendering of city hall addition

McKeesport's city hall is finally McKeesport's city hall.

County officials on Tuesday morning transferred the deed for the historic structure from Columbus, Ohio, based Huntington Bank to the city.

The next phase of the building's life could include a new public assembly room that would also serve as one of the Mon-Yough area's first "green" public buildings.

The deed transfer --- for the nominal price of "$1" --- comes three years after the city moved most of its offices into the former bank building and out of the 1959 municipal building on Lysle Boulevard.

"We are now the proud owners, which I'm sure will be an enormous relief to the grounds manager for Huntington Bank," City Administrator Dennis Pittman says.

. . .

Huntington is successor through a series of mergers to McKeesport National Bank, which constructed the building at 500 Fifth Ave. between 1889 and 1891. Although banking functions were relocated in 2006 to a new building at the corner of Evans and Fifth avenues, Huntington remained legal owner of the old MNB.

That has led to several confusing episodes --- including the time when the city hall elevator got stuck and a 911 operator reported the incident to the Jefferson Hills branch of Huntington, where mystified employees had no idea what they were talking about.

(The Jefferson Hills branch was the one-time main office of Three Rivers Bank & Trust, which merged with McKeesport National in the 1980s. The elevator snafu was quickly sorted out.)

Officials want to move on with construction of an assembly room adjacent to city hall that would accommodate council meetings, training sessions for police, firefighters and other staffers, and other community events.

. . .

The old bank building lacks a large public space, which means meetings and hearings are still held on the second floor of the 1959 municipal building, now used as the public safety building.

Council chambers in the 201 Lysle Blvd. building are "too small to be adequate, and it's not fully accessible," which can discourage people from attending meetings, says Bethany Budd Bauer, community development director.

"We envisioned a room that would be suitable for the general public to reserve and utilize," she says. "We want to make it more public-friendly."

The 4,000-square-foot addition, designed by architect and Carnegie Mellon University adjunct professor Walter Boykowycz along with city engineers Senate Engineering Inc., would incorporate a planted "green" roof, a heating and cooling system using geothermal wells, and a system for collecting and reusing rainwater.

. . .

If built to Boykowycz's specifications, the addition should qualify for a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification from the U.S. Green Buildings Council, he says.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the city realizes this would make an important overall statement of their programs and policies," Boykowycz says.

Maintenance of a planted roof will be no more complicated than a conventional flat roof, he says. "In fact, the plantings protect the (roof) membrane and reduce water runoff," Boykowycz says.

. . .

The roof garden also would be available for public use and a small breezeway would connect the addition with city hall.

The bank building, credited to Pittsburgh architects Longfellow, Alden and Harlow, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.

Boykowycz also studied the feasibility of bringing the historic structure up to modern standards internally, by adding a new elevator tower and handicapped accessible washrooms.

When designing the addition, he says, he tried to draw a "gentle contrast" that doesn't compete with or imitate the old building. And some details are adaptable to different materials, depending on what the budget permits --- the exterior, for instance, could be faced of conventional brick or a lighter ceramic material.

. . .

There's the rub: Constructing the addition would cost about a half-million dollars --- money that isn't in the city's coffers, especially not after it was forced to let go 10 employees last year.

Bauer and Pittman say the city was told that the state would fund half the project, but the remaining gap still has to be filled.

But the project is too important to the Downtown area to ignore, Pittman suggests. Combined with the construction of a new Social Security office next door --- another building that will likely get LEED certification --- the addition to city hall could brighten an otherwise blighted block.

"If you begin to see whole new buildings, and new vistas, and more public involvement, it might make it very attractive to the private sector," Pittman says.

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July 15, 2009 | Link to this story

Things to Do, People to See

Category: Events, News || By Staff Reports

"Announcements, announcements, announcements ... what a terrible way to die, what a terrible way to die, what a terrible way --- to be talked to death! --- what a terrible way to die!"
--- Anon.

. . .

Library Benefit at PNC Park: Carnegie Library of McKeesport joins other county library organizations in celebrating "Public Library Night" at PNC Park on Tuesday, July 21, when the Pirates host the Milwaukee Brewers.

Seats are $6 and sold on a "first-come, first-served" basis at the circulation desk of the main library, 1507 Library Ave. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. and bus transportation is available from the city for $1 per person.

Children must be accompanied by an adult. Call (412) 672-0625 or visit the library website.

. . .

PSUGA Programs at Waterfront: Penn State's Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport is offering summer classes in professional development for counselors, social workers, psychologists, teachers and others at the Waterfront in Homestead.

Classes will be held in a convenient two-day format, a spokeswoman says, and will include units on developmental stages and accompanying transitions.

The next courses are "Group Work for Practitioners" and "Using Meditation and Mindfulness for Counseling across the Life Span," July 27 and 28.

Call (412) 675-9049 or visit the continuing education office's website.

. . .

Author Remembers '30s in City: Author Lois Allen is the next guest in the summer speaker series at McKeesport Heritage Center, 1832 Arboretum Drive, Renzie Park.

Allen will read excerpts from her new memoir and sign copies of the book, called All We Really Needed: Growing Up in a Pennsylvania Steel Town (Rosedog Books, $13).

Allen grew up in McKeesport during the Great Depression and graduated from Slippery Rock State Teachers College with degrees in mathematics and English. She later earned a master's from Duke University.

A teacher for 40 years at Community College of Allegheny County, Allegheny Campus in Pittsburgh, Allen is presently retired and writing another book about her experiences working at a Boardwalk hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., after World War II.

The program begins at 2 p.m. in the Boycott Room at the Heritage Center. Admission is free and light refreshments will be served. Call (412) 678-1832 or visit the Heritage Center's website.

. . .

International Village Pre-Launch Party: The International Village committee hosts a "launch party" on Saturday, July 25 at the McKees Point Marina and the Palisades, Fifth Avenue at Water Street.

Events begin with music by the Mikey Dee Band at 3 p.m., and continue with Dean Martin tribute artist Coz Serrapere at 4:30 p.m.

At 6 p.m., a picnic buffet opens at the Palisades and ethnic dancers will take the stage. The dance floor will be open as well.

At 9:30, a "boat parade" will take place on the Youghiogheny River, with watercraft decked out in "international" motifs and prizes awarded to the best-decorated boats.

Tickets cost $20 and are on sale at Wilson Baum Agency, 314 Long Run Road, 11th Ward; City Hall, 500 Fifth Ave., Downtown; McKees Point Marina Cafe, first floor, Palisades; or from any committee member.

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July 13, 2009 | Link to this story

These are the Jokes, Folks

Category: Satire, So-Called Radio Humor || By

"The pun is the lowest form of humour."
--- Samuel Johnson, 18th century British editorialist, lexicographer, biographer and poet

"Samuel Johnson hadn't seen anything yet."
--- Jason Togyer, 21st century Mon Valley editorialist, journalist and malcontent

. . .

You can blame Chris Potter, managing editor of City Paper, for inspiring today's first piece of alleged "comedy."

The only problem I had with Chris' commentary was that I'm not sure what a syrupy bromide is.

It sounds like something they used to make at soda fountains. "Gimme a cherry phosphate, and my girlfriend wants a syrupy bromide."

Heck, James Lileks probably has a whole section of his website devoted to nostalgia about syrupy bromides.

Anyway, "enjoy," if that's the world, and a note to UPMC's kind-hearted lawyers: We don't have any money, so don't bother suing.

The UMPC Minute: Acute Hypo-Liquidity Syndrome (MP3, 1.8 MB)

. . .

As for our second piece of alleged comedy, during the discussion of the Lake Emilie fish kill, Alert Reader John made the following comments:
Lake Emilie is not a lake with a natural ecosystem to keep itself clean, and a constant supply of fresh water provided by natural runoff or other streams.

It's a container to hold municipal runoff, which could possibly contain sewage, road tar, pesticides, and other nastiness. Essentially, a large dirty puddle --- which, depending on migratory season, could also be constructed entirely of goose feces.

If you would eat something you found in a large dirty puddle (made of goose feces), that's fine, but please do so with the understanding that your meal
came from a large dirty puddle (made of goose feces).

Catch and release is the only way to go here. And wash up afterwards.

This was such a good description, in the editor's opinion, that with John's permission we have created the Lake Emilie Hunt and Fish Club for anyone who wants to eat meals from a large dirty puddle made of goose feces.

There are no meetings or dues required, but there is one rule: "Tersus vestri manuum."

(I didn't take Latin at Serra, so maybe you other Catholics out there can tell me if my translation is accurate.)

We now have T-shirts and bumper stickers for Lake Emilie Hunt and Fish Club members, available in the Tube City Store.

I don't suppose Samuel Johnson approved of T-shirts, either.

(Any profits from souvenir sales support the Almanac and other parts of Tube City Community Media Inc.)

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July 11, 2009 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Category: Events || By

Canonsburg's famous Four Townsmen play the bandshell at Renzie Park on Sunday as part of the city's summer concert series.

The Townsmen blend rock, soul, pop and doo-wop from the '50s, '60s and '70s in what they describe as "family oriented entertainment ... preserving the songs and sounds of yesterday."

The show starts at 7 p.m. and it's free. Bring a blanket or a lawns chair to sit on. In case of rain, the event will be moved to the Palisades.

(And if you go, ask 'em why there are seven people in the Four Townsmen. I know I was an English major, but I can count to seven.)

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July 09, 2009 | Link to this story

Contract Let for Marshall Drive Extension

Category: News || By

After a decade of delays, the long-awaited extension of Marshall Drive to Route 48 may finally be nearing construction.

City council last week awarded a $349,000 contract to the 12th Congressional Regional Equipment Company for grading, filling and site preparation of the Marshall Drive Extension between Route 48 and Old Long Run Road.

The so-called "12th REC," based in Blairsville, Indiana County, is a non-profit corporation created by U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, to do low-cost earthmoving and general construction work for municipalities using surplus military equipment.

Most of its projects have been done within Murtha's congressional district. This is 12th REC's first foray into the city.

. . .

Marshall Drive provides access to the Haler Heights section of the city and Serra Catholic High School. Motorists must currently turn off of Route 48 --- a banked, four-lane highway --- onto narrow Old Long Run to reach Marshall Drive.

"It's something that our people are very, very concerned about every day, because the traffic is fast through there," says Tom Clark Sr., owner of Tom Clark Chevrolet, which has been located near the intersection of Old Long Run and Route 48 since 1991.

The Marshall Drive extension will take part of Clark's dealership property; in exchange for that land, the city has agreed to vacate part of Old Long Run Road and trade it to Clark.

"It'll make for a much, much safer environment for the residents of Haler Heights, and for Serra, which has buses going in and out of there all the time," Clark says.

. . .

Plans to extend Marshall Drive were approved by state environmental and transportation officials years ago.

The state committed $500,000 in the mid-1990s to extend Marshall Drive, and state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, told the Almanac recently that the money has been waiting for the city to make the next move.

Although the city obtained another $100,000 in community development money to complete the project, bids have consistently come in at $1 million to $1.2 million, leaving the funding roughly a half-million dollars short.

. . .

Using 12th REC should keep the costs within the city's budget, Mayor Jim Brewster says.

"As soon as we get the check from the state, we can proceed," he says. "The target is to get the road done before the asphalt plants close."

Paving will be handled by city public works crews, Brewster says, and will likely cost about $250,000. Another estimated $100,000 will be needed to install traffic lights on Route 48.

. . .

Clark says of 12th REC, "they were all out here a few weeks ago. They're a great organization and the mayor and (city Administrator) Dennis Pittman have worked tirelessly to get this done."

City Public Works Director Nick Shermenti has also "been a big help," Clark says. "These three guys have done a great, great job to get the whole thing put together."

When the intersection is complete, Clark says, all northbound motorists entering his dealership will need to use Marshall Drive, avoiding the dangerous left-hand turn across oncoming traffic that's now necessarily.

Southbound motorists will be able to continue entering the dealership from the current driveway, he says.

. . .

A big question, however, is whether the Marshall Drive extension --- and creation of a new traffic-signal-controlled intersection --- will spur additional development on the acreage between Old Long Run and Route 48.

Clark, whose dealership owns the property and currently uses part of it as a used-car area, says several companies have approached him about relocating to the site.

"We've got people who are lined up waiting to get a spot at the traffic light," he says, including another automobile dealership, "so it should create some jobs and development on that part of the highway."

. . .

For Clark, it's the second bit of good news in a month. A few weeks ago, General Motors reassured him that Tom Clark Chevrolet's franchise with the company is secure, and that it is not one of the 1,900 dealerships that the bankrupt auto giant intends to shed.

"We got a full-blown green light," Clark says.

Soon, it appears, Route 48 motorists and Haler Heights residents will be getting one, too.

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July 07, 2009 | Link to this story

Council OK's Contract for Clerical, DPW Workers

Category: News || By

Clerical and public-works employees will see 50 cent per hour wage increases for the next five years under the terms of a contract approved last week by city council.

Employees also will contribute 1 percent of their salaries to cover their health insurance premiums, City Solicitor J. Jason Elash said. Although that deduction will be phased in over five years for existing employees, any new hires will have to contribute the 1 percent as soon as they begin.

Approximately 70 employees represented by Teamsters Local 205 of White Oak have been working without a contract since Dec. 31.

"They've taken wage freezes in the past, which is what made this so difficult," Elash said.

The agreement, retroactive to Jan. 1, was approved by 7-0 vote at Wednesday's meeting. Union members had previously ratified the agreement.

Mayor Jim Brewster said the pay raise was justified both in light of the past wage freezes and the layoffs last year, which eliminated 10 positions.

"You have to consider the needs of the workforce that remains, and their morale," he said, adding that the public works department remains shorthanded.

City officials must now negotiate new contracts with police, firefighters and crossing guards, whose wage pacts expire this Dec. 31. Police and crossing guards are represented by Local 205, while firefighters are represented by International Association of Fire Fighters Local 10.

. . .

In Other Business: Council unanimously approved the site plan for a new 8,400-square-foot office building to be constructed in the 500 block of Fifth Avenue.

To be constructed between Sheridan and Huey streets, opposite the former G.C. Murphy Co. headquarters, the structure will house local offices for the Social Security Administration and will return two vacant lots to city tax rolls.

The developer is Lawrenceville-based JRA Development Inc. James Aiello, president of JRA, told council last week the new building will be valued at $2.5 million.

"We're excited about coming to McKeesport, and we're excited about the new building," he said. "It also will be a LEED-certified building, which will mean it's energy efficient."

When the new building opens, Social Security will relocate from its existing offices, located in the same block.

The fate of the current building, owned by a trust, is unknown. Built in 1996, the one-story structure is valued at $558,300, according to county tax records.

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July 04, 2009 | Link to this story

Thanks to Clinic, Patients Without Insurance Still Get Care

Category: News || By

© 2009 Jason Togyer/Tube City Almanac

The patients that Dr. Bill Markle and his colleagues see on Thursday nights at the Ninth Street Clinic are a lot like the patients at any other family practice.

They need vaccinations or physicals. They have colds that won't go away or rashes that won't heal. A few have chronic long-term conditions, like diabetes, or drug or alcohol problems.

But unlike most physicians, who want their practices to thrive, Markle wants patients to stop coming to see him.

"I'm hoping there will be some government program that will come along and make us unnecessary," says Markle, medical director and co-founder of the Ninth Street Clinic.

. . .

© 2009 Jason Togyer/Tube City AlmanacThe clinic, located in the basement of the former YWCA on Ninth Avenue, Downtown, treats patients who don't have health insurance and don't qualify for public assistance.

Open from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday nights and staffed entirely by volunteers --- many of them from UPMC McKeesport hospital --- Ninth Street Clinic asks patients to contribute whatever they can. Most donate $5 or $10.

Their donations help defray the cost of blood and urine tests, says Nina Tomaino, behavioral counselor and a clinic volunteer.

. . .

According to Tomaino, Ninth Street Clinic sees about 30 to 40 patients each week.

Not all of the patients come from the city. A spot-check of addresses on one recent Thursday found patients from Liberty Borough, White Oak, Elizabeth Township, North Versailles Township and Duquesne, along with one person who came all the way from Uniontown.

While some of the clinic's patients are homeless, Tomaino says many are employed, but in jobs that offer no medical coverage --- driving buses, working at child-care centers or waiting tables.

. . .

"We have a lot of middle-aged women who maybe have gotten divorced or been widowed, and found they have to re-enter the workforce," says Mary Markle, a registered nurse and William Markle's wife. "They're working in personal care homes or other jobs where they need medical care, but can't get it."

The clinic also sees several people each week who need a physical for a driver's license, she says.

Tomaino, who recently retired from UPMC, says about one-third of the patients return for follow-up visits, but Ninth Street Clinic isn't really designed for ongoing treatment.

"We're not here to create dependency --- we're here to stabilize people and get them healthy," she says. For people who need continuing care, Tomaino says, the clinic tries to match them with appropriate resources.

That sometimes includes filling out the paperwork to put them on public assistance programs, if they qualify, she says.

. . .

© 2009 Jason Togyer/Tube City AlmanacA native of West Newton who's been practicing medicine since 1973, Markle put himself through Washington & Jefferson College and Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey by working at U.S. Steel's Christy Park Works.

Currently program director of UPMC McKeesport's family medicine residency program, Markle is also a clinical associate professor of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Ninth Street Clinic is an outgrowth of the needs he observed at the hospital, he says.

"We saw so many patients there who were coming in who needed basic things done, but had no insurance," Markle says, "or who had neglected their needs, and I just got tired of it."

. . .

Asked if UPMC McKeesport's emergency room is a substitute for primary care, Markle just scoffs.

"Look, we've seen people with cancers that have been neglected," he says. "We see people with high-blood pressure and diabetes that have gone untreated."

Hospital emergency rooms can't provide everyday screenings that spot those kinds of conditions, Markle says. Nor can they provide routine care.

"We see a lot of folks for job physicals --- if they can get a job, they can get insurance, but they don't have $150 or $200 for the physical," he says. "We can do it here for practically nothing."

. . .

After studying two existing free clinics in Allegheny County --- the Birmingham Free Clinic on Pittsburgh's South Side and another run by Catholic Charities in downtown Pittsburgh --- the Markles and several other health professionals created the Ninth Street Clinic.

Volunteers from Walnut Grove Assembly of God in West Mifflin remodeled the basement of the old YWCA at no cost to the clinic, which is registered as a tax-deductible charity.

McKeesport Hospital Foundation has been one of the clinic's biggest financial supporters, Markle says. The clinic's budget "isn't huge, really," he says. "To do what we do is certainly less than $20,000 per year."

. . .

On any given Thursday, the full complement of volunteers at Ninth Street Clinic includes two doctors, two medical students, one resident and one pharmacist.

In another part of the building, Barb Williams, a teacher at Founder's Hall Middle School and a volunteer with the Partnership for Minority HIV/AIDS Prevention, offers confidential screenings.

The clinic would eventually like to add a dental clinic, Markle says. (Patients who need dentistry are currently referred to Catholic Charities or UPMC Braddock hospital.)

And Markle says he could use some more volunteers --- namely, nurses and physicians. "At first, we put out the word, and a lot of people wanted to come," he says. "The attending doctors, for the most part, have stayed, and the residents like to come down."

Additional volunteers would give the regulars a break, when necessary, Markle says.

. . .

Still, with a core group of volunteers and financial backers, Markle says, Ninth Street Clinic's business model is sustainable for the foreseeable future.

But he hopes that it won't have to be. Markle sincerely wants the clinic to become obsolete because of some sort of universal health care plan.

"I don't want to be in business forever," he says.

. . .

Ninth Street Clinic is open from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and is located in The Common Ground Building (formerly the YWCA) at 410 Ninth Ave., Downtown.

Individual, corporate and foundation donations are welcome. Call (412) 664-4304 for more information.

© 2009 Jason Togyer/Tube City Almanac

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July 03, 2009 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Category: Cartoons, Commentary/Editorial || By

© 2007 Jason Togyer

Bring a lawn chair or a blanket to Renzie Park this Saturday evening, and enjoy the Mon Valley's best, free fireworks display.

Before the fireworks and after the hot dogs, you may want to read the story behind John Trumbull's 1817 painting "The Declaration of Independence," which someone has crudely vandalized in the above image.

Or, you can read a meditation on the meaning of the Declaration of Independence by E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post.

And keep an eye out for tigers wearing powdered wigs.

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July 02, 2009 | Link to this story

Bracketed by Vacant Houses, Resident Pleads for City Help

Category: News || By

For an example of the problems created by the city's abandoned houses, it's hard to top Jo Ann Slater's story.

Slater says her two-story frame home in the 1300 block of Locust Street needs $10,000 in repairs because of damage caused by the vacant houses on both sides.

"I've lived there for 20 years, and I'm in danger of losing my home," says Slater, who confronted city officials following Wednesday's council meeting. "I'm 62 years old. I have nowhere else to go, and I don't think I should have to lose my home because of two condemned houses."

. . .

The houses, built in the early 1900s, are one block off of Walnut Street in the city's Third Ward. Zion Baptist Church is a few doors away.

Slater, who works in a beauty salon, says the roof, porch and foundation of her home has been damaged by falling debris and other problems caused by the empty houses.

"The house at 1316 is a burned-out shell, and it's dangerous," Slater says. "I have great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews come to my home, and I'm afraid they're going to get hurt."

Slater, who says she has complained to the city on at least eight separate occasions, was told by a contractor that because the houses on Locust are so close together, repairs to her house would be more difficult and costly than usual.

. . .

County tax records indicate that 1316 Locust is owned by Eugene Williams of "no known address."

The home at 1312 is owned by one of Slater's neighbors.

Court records indicate that thousands of dollars in delinquent taxes --- some dating back to the mid-1980s --- are due to the city, McKeesport Area School District, Allegheny County and GLS Capital, which in 2000 purchased many older tax liens.

Both houses have been condemned by the city.

. . .

Mayor Jim Brewster says the city hasn't been ignoring Slater's pleas for help, but it has taken time to move the houses through the legal process required to demolish them --- and to find the money to pay for the work.

The city has spent $3 million in the last five years demolishing more than 400 vacant houses, Brewster says. Another 400 are slated for demolition.

On July 15, city officials will hold condemnation proceedings on an additional 65 houses.

. . .

The city has been trying to attack groups of abandoned houses simultaneously, Brewster says, but may be able to attack the two buildings on Locust Street because they're posing a danger to Slater's home.

The mayor says he spoke to Building Inspector Chris House on Wednesday morning to discuss Slater's case.

In addition, the mayor says, residents who want to have a house torn down at their own expense may borrow the money from the city, and make monthly payments on the balance.

City Solicitor J. Jason Elash told Slater Wednesday night he would contact local agencies, including McKeesport Housing Corp., that might be able to offer assistance to pay for the repairs her home needs.

. . .

Meanwhile, a request by Allegheny County for $22 million in federal money (including $800,000 for the city) to demolish abandoned houses was turned down, Brewster says.

However, the city and county plan to revise the proposal and ask again, the mayor says.

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Posted at 07:23 am by | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
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July 01, 2009 | Link to this story

No Negativity Zone

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

Above: Linda Rowe, medical assistant, and Mary Markle, R.N., review patient files at the Ninth Street Clinic, Downtown. The two-year-old clinic in the former YWCA building treats about 30 people each week. All of the staff members are volunteers. (Jason Togyer/Tube City Almanac)

. . .

I've been working for two weeks on a story about the Ninth Street Clinic that will hopefully be published this Saturday. The folks at the clinic are doing God's work.

The story would have appeared sooner, but other events kept pushing it aside.

I'm only one man, and dammit, Jim, I'm a writer, not a moon-shuttle conductor.

Your patience is appreciated. I hope the story will be worth the wait.

. . .

Meanwhile, for the past 48 hours at work, I've been hearing over and over why various things can't be done.

Back here at the website, I'm becoming convinced we should just burn down the whole Mon Valley and collect the insurance.

I've got a relative in the hospital, my car's due for inspection and I just noticed that water is running down the outside of my house, not the drainpipes, which means the gutters are clogged.

. . .

I can't take any more. Any more of this crap and I'm moving to Yellowstone National Park to live in a tree and play the flute.

In other words, to quote a great philosopher, Eric Cartman: "I'm trying to make the best out of a bad situation ... screw you guys, I'm going home."

So, by the power invested in me by the bylaws of Tube City Community Media Inc. (which I wrote), I am declaring a temporary moratorium on negativity. If you want to post something negative, go somewhere else for a while.

. . .

And if you don't like that, hard cheese.

Here's a picture of my mom's dog. She's a cute dog.

You wouldn't say something negative to a cute dog, would you?

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Posted at 08:00 am by | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: Rants a.k.a. Commentary | seven comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites


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