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Filed Under: News || By Staff and Wire Reports

September 29, 2009 | Link to this story

Regional Roundup: Lincoln Way Hearings, VFW Honors

Category: News || By Staff and Wire Reports

Hearing on Lincoln Way Expansion: State transportation officials will hold two public meetings next week to discuss the widening of Lincoln Way in White Oak.

PennDOT District 11 spokesman Jim Struzzi said the meetings are slated for 12 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the White Oak Athletic Association, Lower Heckman Road. An overview of the project is scheduled for noon sharp.

The state is considering plans to widen more than a mile of the congested two-lane road between Route 48 and State Street --- the red-light controlled intersection near the borough's ambulance station.

Work would include:

  • Addition of a turning lane between Route 48 and Auld Street (near the former Feig's Bakery and the Market Village shopping center)

  • Realigning the intersections of Lincoln Way with Henderson Road and Guise Street to create a single intersection

  • Upgrading traffic signals and widening intersections; and

  • Restricting access to parking lots.

Portions of many parking lots, driveways and front yards will be taken for the project.

Originally a quiet rural road and later a suburban residential street, beginning in the 1970s Lincoln Way became the home of many medical and professional offices formerly located in the city.

The additional demands on the two-lane road have created frequent traffic jams.

Construction would likely begin in the summer of 2011 and take several years to complete.

. . .

Vets Greet Returning Guardsmen: Members of a West Mifflin veterans' post traveled to Westmoreland County this month to welcome home Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers returning from a nine-month tour of duty in Iraq.

The 656th Signal Company, based at Torrance Armory outside Blairsville, was adopted in May by members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Intrepid Post 914, says Mike Mauer, the post's quartermaster.

Returning guardsmen were greeted Sept. 19 with bagpipers, refreshments and a $100 donation to the unit's morale fund.

For Jake Bradich, senior vice commander of Post 914, the scene was familiar. Bradich --- himself a former member of the 656th --- remembers being greeted by the VFW in Bangor, Maine, upon his return to the United States from a tour in Iraq.

"The halls of the airport were lined with Veterans of Foreign War members, eager to congratulate us and shake our hands," he says. "Now here I am as a member of West Mifflin's VFW Post 914, doing the same thing. I'm glad I'm able to be here to thank the members of the 656th Signal for a job well done."

Based at Camp Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, the 656th was tasked with maintaining phone, Internet and radio communications for the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Above, Mauer and Bradich prepare to welcome the returning soldiers. (Submitted photo courtesy VFW Post 914.)

. . .

Greenhouse Blooms in Turtle Creek: A Canadian natural gas and electricity retailer helped students at a charter school in Turtle Creek erect a greenhouse earlier this month.

Workers from Direct Energy helped install the greenhouse in a "surprise" visit Sept. 18 to about 400 students at Propel East.

Students will use the greenhouse to study plants, grow vegetables, house a butterfly garden and conduct solar energy experiments, a spokeswoman said.

Propel serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade in the Woodland Hills and Penn Hills school districts.

At right, Direct Energy employee Chelsea Sobek speaks to two Propel East students during the greenhouse build. (Submitted photo)

. . .

Food Drive This Month: Duquesne-based Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is looking for volunteers to man collection points at local Giant Eagle stores.

Spokeswoman Iris Valanti says the 10th annual Fall FoodShare begins Oct. 31 and runs through Nov. 8. Shoppers at Giant Eagle will be asked to purchase a few extra items for the hungry, or make a cash donation at the register, she says.

Volunteers are required to hand out lists of the "most-needed" food items and collect donations in about 100 stores, Valanti says. All donations and funds donated remain in the county where they were given.

Visit the food bank's website for details and to register to volunteer.

. . .

News Website Gets New Look: The Daily News unveiled its newly redesigned website this week.

The redesign brings the city-based paper, currently celebrating its 125th anniversary, into the Tribune-Review family of websites, collectively known as "PittsburghLIVE."

Based in Greensburg and Pittsburgh, the Tribune-Review's parent company purchased the Daily News in April 2007. The Trib's other Mon-Yough area newspapers include the Monessen Valley Independent and the weekly Norwin Star.

The website can be reached via the old URL, The newspaper launched its online presence in 1997, though many locally written articles are available only to paid subscribers.

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September 28, 2009 | Link to this story

Fast-Breaking News from Saturday

Category: So-Called Radio Humor || By

Although there was a protest march in Oakland on Saturday night, it was actually against alleged police brutality, not against the G-20 summit of world leaders.

The so-called "mainstream media" didn't report on the last demonstration against the G-20 summit, which occurred a few hours earlier on Saturday afternoon.

I was lucky enough to be on the air when the protest broke out, and WRCT's mobile news reporter, Roy Molehill, was on the scene with this live report:

Roy Molehill Reporting: Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009 (MP3, 1.3MB)

(The song at the beginning --- appropriately enough for this website --- is "I'm a Tiger" by Lulu.)

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September 26, 2009 | Link to this story

To Do Sunday

Category: Events || By

Symphony Pops Concert: The newly renamed McKeesport Symphony Pops debuts this weekend and in a new Sunday afternoon matinee timeslot.

Concerts have moved from Saturday night to Sunday afternoons to accommodate families and working couples who might have other activities on Saturdays, the symphony says. The new "pops" moniker reflects the orchestra's focus on lighter classical music and standards.

The first concert of the 51st season features vocalist Donna Grooms of The Skyliners, along with baritone Jason Michael Swauger and flautist Martha Long and will spotlight the music of Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and the American songwriting duo Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

Swauger will perform music made famous by Frank Sinatra, while Long, winner of the Pittsburgh Flute Club Competition, will perform Charles Griffes' "Poem for Flute and Orchestra."

The concert begins promptly tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in the auditorium of McKeesport Area High School, 1960 Eden Park Blvd. Tickets are $8 for students, $15 for adults and $12 for senior citizens. Details at the symphony's website or call (412) 664-2854.

. . .

'Wizard' Closes at MLT: McKeesport Little Theater closes its present production of "The Wizard of Oz" with a 2 p.m. matinee. The musical by Frank Gabrielson is based on the books by L. Frank Baum and the MGM motion picture score by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.

McKeesport Little Theater is located at 1614 Coursin St., near the Carnegie Library. Call (412) 673-1100 or visit the MLT website.

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September 25, 2009 | Link to this story

New Trail Sections Expected to Boost Biking, Hiking Traffic

Category: News || By

Organizers hope that a parade of bicycles from Downtown will help celebrate the official opening of a flyover ramp connecting Route 837 to Duquesne's RIDC industrial park.

The event, slated for 10 a.m. Oct. 2, will mark an important milestone in the life of the former U.S. Steel Duquesne Works.

But the flyover ramp's construction also removes another obstacle to completion of the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md., said members of the McKeesport Trail Commission and the Allegheny Trail Alliance.

ATA President Linda McKenna Boxx said that by this time next year the trail will be "knocking on Sandcastle's door" in West Homestead.

. . .

Other improvements will soon be evident to cyclists, including a new trail alignment between the 15th Avenue Bridge and Downtown.

Construction work currently underway will move the trail to Market Street and away from the site of a planned regional courthouse and public-safety building along Walnut Street, said Bob MacGregor, treasurer of the city Trail Commission.

Paving the new alignment is to be complete by Oct. 31, with signs and bike racks to be installed by Dec. 7, he said.

In addition, the city is constructing a new trail from the McKees Point Marina to the edge of the Monongahela River.

. . .

The new "McKees Point Trail," which will connect with the Great Allegheny Passage near the Jerome Avenue Bridge, will provide McKeesporters with access to an area of shoreline that's been off-limits to the public since the early 1960s.

That work is also to be completed by Dec. 7, MacGregor said.

At a meeting Wednesday night, Boxx cautioned the Trail Commission to get ready for an influx of bicyclists eager to try out the new sections of trail.

"Even if it's only a mile or two, it's so important that the signs are up and the trail-blazing markers are in place," she said. "There will be a crush of people (starting) in October, and we need to make sure the connection is smart and safe."

. . .

Several gaps between the city and Pittsburgh have been a source of frustration for bicyclists trying to make a complete trip on the Great Allegheny Passage.

Completing the journey through the Mon Valley to the Golden Triangle requires using congested and busy surface roads or loading the bike onto a Port Authority bus.

Two bridges must be constructed across Norfolk Southern's railroad tracks on the west shore of the Monongahela, Boxx says, but money has been allocated for those projects.

Along with the county's acquisition last year of the former Pennsylvania Railroad bridge at Riverton, the Duquesne section of the trail will move the Passage's final leg one step closer to reality.

"To have found this route from McKeesport to Sandcastle is nothing short of a miracle," Boxx says.

. . .

However, the route through Downtown between Water and Locust streets remains a bit of a kludge.

The trail was originally going to traverse Fifth Avenue until concerns were raised about making cyclists cross Lysle Boulevard.

Another proposal would have taken the trail up Fourth Avenue, behind the public-safety building.

But according to commission members, city officials were worried about mixing out-of-town bicyclists with police and fire activity.

For now, cyclists will be directed to walk their bikes on the sidewalk along Lysle Boulevard between Gibson Way and Locust Street.

City public works crews have already painted bike markings on the sidewalk.

. . .

Also yet to be determined is the mix of facilities at the trail head on Water Street.

There is no public restroom or information kiosk, and although the marina operates the McKees Cafe restaurant on the first floor of the Palisades ballroom, it closes at 4 p.m. on weekdays.

"The success of McKees Cafe is critical," MacGregor said. "If McKees Cafe is not open, there will be no services directly along the trail" in the city.

The Trail Commission holds its final meeting of the year Oct. 28.

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September 24, 2009 | Link to this story

A Few Cheap Shots from the Old Coot

Category: Rants a.k.a. Commentary, Sarcastic? Moi? || By

Several people have sent me links to a website called, "Don't Be a G-20 Jackass."

Indeed, many Pittsburghers are wondering: Why are self-proclaimed champions of the working-class breaking the windows of working-class people in Lawrenceville?

Others have called talk radio stations wondering why the protesters --- who are overwhelmingly leftists, some of them self-identified Marxists or socialists --- aren't happy now that Barack Obama is in the White House.

After all, he's a liberal and a Democrat. Shouldn't the leftists like him?

I'll answer the second question first. I've known socialists. Barack Obama is no socialist. As far as your hard-core leftist is concerned, Obama is just a younger Dick Cheney with more hair and a deep tan.

Now, you may not like the fact that Obama bailed out the auto industry, but I heard a socialist arguing the other day on Pacifica Radio that if Obama really cared about the working class, he would have nationalized all of the auto plants, stopped manufacturing cars (because they pollute), and guaranteed employment for anyone who wanted it.

That's a socialist.

As for the first question, many people are mistakenly assuming that all of the G-20 protesters have a common agenda. They don't.

Some of the people in town are legitimate anti-war or anti-nuke or anti-globalization demonstrators. Those people are largely peaceful and cooperative.

But the ones who get the most attention --- a minority, but very vocal and very visible --- are basically nihilists, not pacifists.

They are immature, self-centered and like to destroy things. Their agenda is to create havoc.

They are to liberals what the Klan is to conservatives --- the crazy cousin who nobody talks about. If they didn't have a G-20 summit, they'd find some other reason to go break windows, paint graffiti and set fires.

In short --- they are here specifically to be jackasses.

So asking a group of nihilists "not to be jackasses" is like asking frogs not to croak, or Glenn Beck not to say insanely idiotic things. To quote Barney Frank, you might as well go argue with your dining-room table.

I don't have a dining room table, but if I feel like engaging an "anarchist" in a debate, I'll just go bang my head on the front porch until I pass out.

Which, coincidentally, is also what I do instead of watching Glenn Beck.

. . .

As a brief sidebar, I have long been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and I am proud to say so.

I don't always agree with the people whom they defend --- but that's the whole purpose of the Bill of Rights, to protect people who do and say things that are unpopular.

Still, here's a question I always wonder about. Leftists constantly complain about police oppression and harassment.

So when leftists get mugged or burglarized, why do they call the police instead of the ACLU?

. . .

Finally, a tip of the Tube City hard-hat to "O," also known as The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat.

As one of his many public services, he's compiled a map of G-20 related road closings for Pittsburgh.

Personally, I didn't have any problems getting to work on Thursday, and I expect very few on Friday. That's because I'm working from home, and demonstrations on Dravosburg Hill have been mercifully light. (However, the constant military helicopter traffic into Allegheny County Airport on Wednesday was a little bit creepy.)

Hooray for capitalist technologies like call forwarding and high-speed Internet!

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September 23, 2009 | Link to this story

Speakers: New Blueroof Cottage Shows Benefits of Globalization

Category: News || By

(c) 2009 Tube City Community Media Inc.

While protesters are taking to the streets of Pittsburgh during the G-20 summit to decry the evils of globalization, a Penn State professor says that McKeesport's newest home is demonstrating the benefits of international partnerships.

"We can't go back --- globalization is here --- but we can make sure that it's more humane," says James Stewart, professor of labor studies and employment relations at the university's Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport.

Stewart was one of the speakers at Wednesday's dedication of the first Blueroof Research Cottage, located at the corner of Jenny Lind and Ninth avenues, Downtown.

"I really wish the leaders of the G-20 countries could come here, along with the protesters," he says. "I believe this project can help bridge the gap between rich and poor, disabled and (able-bodied), and really make it possible for all of humanity to benefit from globalization."

. . .

The research cottage --- designed to allow the elderly or handicapped to live on their own --- was developed by city-based Blueroof Technologies in cooperation with German industrial giant Robert Bosch GmbH and Pittsburgh's Quality of Life Technology Center, a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon* and the University of Pittsburgh.

The local, regional and international mix is a symbol of the "finest that globalization has to offer," says Stewart, chairman of Blueroof's board of directors.

An unidentified married couple in their 70s has agreed to rent the home from Blueroof through McKeesport Housing Authority.

The trim, one-story house with light-blue siding is located in what Blueroof hopes will some day be an entire neighborhood of similar residences.

. . .

Sensors throughout the home will monitor conditions such as water flow, kitchen use, lighting conditions and movement to ensure that the residents are taking care of themselves, says Robert Walters, director of technology for Blueroof.

If not, social-service providers will intervene.

Meanwhile, both Bosch and the Quality of Life center will use the same sensors to collect data on the couple's habits with the hopes of understanding how to make it easier for older citizens to live on their own.

"What you see here represents part of the new economy of western Pennsylvania," says Jim Osborn, executive director of the Quality of Life center. "This is the beginning of the convergence of health care and computer technology to serve a real need that we have here.

"This is kind of the flagship of many good things to come," he says.

. . .

The surrounding blocks --- a mix of newer homes constructed by McKeesport Housing Authority amid vacant lots and decaying older buildings --- could use more good things to come.

In cooperation with the city's Redevelopment Authority, Blueroof wants to build more than a dozen "research cottages" in a so-called "McKeesport Independence Zone."

However, without finding a new source of revenue, it will be difficult to make that happen, says John Bertoty, executive director of Blueroof.

With all of the embedded technology, the actual cost of the home was about $150,000, Bertoty says. Blueroof hoped to obtain a $75,000 mortgage and make the payments by collecting rent.

. . .

Unfortunately, bank appraisers assessed the house at only $45,000, citing low property values elsewhere in the city.

"We thought we had a business model," Bertoty says. "We got killed on the mortgage. So until we find a better way to fund these, we have to step back and decide what we're going to do."

Blueroof hopes to start work on the second research cottage in a few months, Bertoty says, but the status of the third, fourth and beyond are still up in the air.

. . .

There are hopes that the house's energy efficiency could attract funding designed to boost "green" technologies. Three geothermal wells drilled more than 200 feet below the front yard will work with a Bosch-designed heat pump to cool the house in the summer and warm it in the winter.

Assuming the wells do their job, the average winter heating bill for the house will be under $50 per month, Walters says.

"We've got to prove that this technology will save money," he says, both through energy efficiency and by keeping people out of hospitals and nursing homes.

. . .

And Blueroof continues to install monitoring devices and accessible technology in other structures.

Later this year, for instance, four apartments in the McKeesport Towers high-rise will receive a scaled-down version of the research cottage's technology, says Diane Raible, Housing Authority administrator.

Blueroof also was intended to spark economic development in the Mon-Yough area. All of the 15 structures built by Blueroof so far have employed recent graduates of the information sciences and technology program at Penn State's McKeesport campus, Walters says.

"We want to keep our best and brightest and youngest people in this area by giving them meaningful jobs," he says.

. . .

Osborn, of the Quality of Life center, thinks Blueroof and its partners will be able to attract the funding to continue developing the "independence zone."

The participation of Bosch is a strong vote of confidence, he says. "They're not a small company, and they did this for a reason --- because they see many commercial opportunities ahead for this kind of technology," Osborn says. "We're frankly proud to be a part of it."


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September 21, 2009 | Link to this story

Free Lead Tests Still Available, But Interest is Lacking

Category: News || By

Here's a situation you don't often encounter: Homeowners and landlords are entitled to free money to help correct a persistent and dangerous problem.

So why aren't they signing up in droves?

That's what McKeesport Housing Corp. wants to know about its free lead inspection program, which is also open to property owners in Clairton and Duquesne.

. . .

Back in January, MHC offered to do free lead-safety inspections --- and pay up to $6,000 for lead-hazard cleanups --- in homes and rental properties.

Jim Haughey, MHC deputy director, says the non-profit corporation went through a lot of effort to arrange funding through a Youngstown agency that has no connection to the Mon Valley. It planned to work on up to 20 homes.

"They're sending the money down here from Ohio, and they're willing to send more if we can spend it," he says.

. . .

But as of this month, only four people had signed up --- three in the city, one in Clairton and none in Duquesne.

Angelia Christina, lead inspector at MHC, thinks she knows why.

"The problem is that people --- landlords especially --- are not interested because they think it's going to be a liability," Christina says. "But if (one of their tenants) has a lead-poisoned child, it is definitely a liability for them."

In other words, what they don't know could hurt them and their tenants.

. . .

Children exposed to even low levels of lead can suffer from serious learning disorders, low IQ scores and problems with hand-eye coordination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exposure often comes from old house paint, where lead was once used as a pigment. Dust from paint settles on floors, window sills and stairs, and other places where kids are likely to play.

The U.S. Census reports that more than 90 percent of McKeesport's houses were built before 1970 --- eight years before lead was finally removed from house paint sold in the United States --- meaning that most city homes likely have some lead risk.

. . .

The program being funded at MHC will pay for Christina to test occupants for lead exposure, inspect the house for lead problems, and train landlords or tenants how to mitigate any hazards. (Thorough, regular cleaning of dusty areas is often enough, she says.)

An inspection doesn't necessarily mean that problems will be found, Haughey says. "You may just get a clearance --- if your house is already safe, you don't have to spend any more money," he says.

But if a lead problem is present, the program will fund up to 60 percent of the work required to make the home safe, plus $2,500 in temporary relocation costs for tenants, if necessary.

. . .

Both rental properties and owner-occupied homes are eligible, as long as at least one resident is a child under age six or a pregnant woman, Haughey says.

Testing is easy, Christina says, and MHC is not coming into homes to "spy" on residents, or looking for other building-code problems. (That's not its job, anyway.)

"My primary concern is trying to make these houses safe for children," she says.

. . .

For more information on free lead testing in McKeesport, Clairton and Duquesne, call McKeesport Housing Corp. at (412) 664-7003 or email mckhousing at gmail dot com.

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September 17, 2009 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Marshall Drive, Teaching International

Category: News || By

Marshall Drive Work Underway: Above, workers from the Blairsville-based 12th Congressional Regional Equipment Company are shown grading the new extension of Marshall Drive from Old Long Run Road to state Route 48.

City officials say the stream has temporarily been rerouted and a permanent culvert will be installed within the next two weeks. Paving could begin in mid-October.

The $750,000 project is being funded primarily by state grants arranged through the offices of Gov. Ed Rendell and state Sen. Sean Logan (D-Monroeville).

Bids on a traffic light for the new intersection of Route 48 and Marshall Drive are expected to be opened at city council's Oct. 7 meeting. (Tube City Almanac photo)

. . .

Noted and Quoted: "We seem to be spending all of our time talking about the negatives and not about the event. I'm absolutely astounded that the protesters are getting more coverage than the fact that 20 countries will be visiting the city for a historic event." --- McKeesport Mayor James Brewster on next week's "Group of 20" summit in Pittsburgh

. . .

Wittpenn Mourned: Longtime Mon Valley newspaper editor Earle Wittpenn died last Friday after battling cancer. He was 84.

Wittpenn was the former editor of the Homestead Daily Messenger and founding publisher of The Valley Mirror, the weekly newspaper covering the West Mifflin, Steel Valley and Woodland Hills school districts.

A native of Steubenville, Ohio, he began working across the river at the Weirton Daily Times when he was only 13 years old.

Though he would eventually become an editor at the Times, his newspaper career was interrupted for a stint in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. Wittpenn moved to Homestead to work at the Messenger in 1966.

In addition to his wife, Michele, Wittpenn is survived by a son, Devon, of Munhall.

Read more in the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review. Wittpenn also was the subject of an appreciation by Pittsburgh sports journalist Jim O'Brien that was reprinted earlier this month in the Almanac.

. . .

Teaching Asia at Penn State: The international emphasis this year at Penn State's campus in McKeesport is on East Asia --- specifically on the natural environment of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea and South Korea.

Events began last week with a free screening of the film "The Wedding Banquet," and continued Tuesday with a hands-on demonstration of the style of watercolor painting known in Japanese as "sumi-e" by North Hills-based artist and teacher Elaine Bergstrom.

The next event is a screening of an episode of the PBS series "Art:21" slated for 12:15 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Ostermayer Room of the Student Community Center. The episode, "Fantasy," covers four artists whose works explore imaginary worlds.

This year marks the fifth for Penn State Greater Allegheny's "Teaching International" program. A spokeswoman said the curriculum is designed to encourage students to explore global trends and deepen their understanding of other cultures and international issues and events.

Upcoming lectures and events focus on globalization, student research, music and culture. All events are free and open to the public.

For a complete schedule, visit Penn State's website.

. . .

Rusty Website: RustWire, a relatively new website, focuses on post-industrial news and culture in so-called "Rust Belt" regions like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland and Dayton. The founders are Angie Schmitt and Kate Giammarise.

In June, they interviewed city native John Hoerr about his new novel, Monongahela Dusk (Almanac, Aug. 24). (The Almanac was mentioned by RustWire Aug. 16.)

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September 16, 2009 | Link to this story

City Will Put on Dog for Interstate Bus Travelers

Category: News || By

City officials hope that rolling out the welcome mat for Greyhound passengers next week could lead to a future relationship with the interstate bus line.

Though both sides --- in response to questions from Tube City Almanac --- acknowledge that's a long shot, City Administrator Dennis Pittman says McKeesport will do whatever it can to make the temporary terminal run smoothly. (* Ed.: See note at end of story.)

"They use Monroeville as a stop --- we've got a Penn State campus here," he says. "It would make sense to me that we could provide this kind of stop, not for all of the Pittsburgh-bound buses, but for some buses. And we would be thrilled to demonstrate that once this takes place."

The city and a Greyhound spokesman were asked by Tube City Almanac about the viability of connecting the region to the national bus line's system.*

. . .

Federal security personnel are taking over Pittsburgh's Greyhound station on Liberty Avenue during the G-20 summit of world leaders, to be held at the nearby David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

That forced Greyhound to find a temporary terminal for passengers arriving, departing or changing buses in Pittsburgh, says Tim Stokes, the line's manager of media relations.

"We've had situations before where we've had to accommodate our passengers throughout a week or a day," he says, including special events like the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Greyhound will provide connecting transportation for passengers who need to get to downtown Pittsburgh, Stokes says.

According to the company's current timetables, about two dozen Greyhound routes serve Pittsburgh daily, connecting to Erie, Harrisburg, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis and intermediate points such as State College, Pa., and Dayton, Ohio.

. . .

The bus terminal on Lysle Boulevard opened in the early 1980s as a multi-modal center for Port Authority buses and commuter trains as well as Amtrak's Washington-Chicago Capitol Limited.

With the elimination of the PATrain in 1989 and the subsequent deletion of the city stop by the Capitol, the terminal has been steadily downgraded. The waiting room and restrooms are now closed most of the time and the benches have been removed.

That's requiring Greyhound to bring a modular waiting room, snack bar and restrooms to the terminal.

. . .

The arrangement will continue from late Tuesday night until early Saturday morning.

Buses waiting on layovers will park on a city-owned lot in the 500 block of Fifth Avenue, Pittman says, while McKeesport police will patrol the terminal to provide security and traffic control.

Greyhound will reimburse the city for police time, he says.

"To the extent that folks might want to grab a sandwich, breakfast or lunch, Uncle Bub's and Coney Island are right across the street, and Eat 'n Park is nearby," Pittman says. "We would hope that they might try to utilize some of the restaurants in town."

. . .

The temporary arrangement represents an opportunity to put the city on Greyhound's radar screen, he says.

FirstGroup, a publicly traded company based in Scotland, has owned Greyhound Lines since 2007, after purchasing Laidlaw International. The bus line serves 3,700 communities --- but none at all anywhere in the Mon Valley.

Passengers here who want to ride Greyhound must catch their buses in Monroeville, Pittsburgh or Greensburg.

"If this is successful as 'the' Greyhound stop for the region, then I think it may behoove us to (lobby) for this to be an intermediate stop on the Greyhound schedule," Pittman says.

. . .

The decision to add a new stop or move a bus route isn't taken lightly, Stokes says. Demographics, community interest and demand play a role, he says.

"We also look through the data to see if it would be feasible to provide service for that area," Stokes says. "It's a combination of things."

There are no present plans to connect the city to the national Greyhound map, he says, but the system is open to the discussion.

. . .

Pittman says the Lysle Boulevard terminal --- if upgraded --- would be an ideal location for a stop.

"We wouldn't want to reinvent the wheel," he says. "We'd want to coordinate it with PAT. If Greyhound came here, the express buses to Pittsburgh and the feeder buses to the other surrounding communities are already there."

In the meantime, Pittman says, the city just plans to make next week "as uneventful as possible."

"But if they think there's any future possibility of using McKeesport as a partner, I think that would be great," he says.


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September 15, 2009 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Tunie Headlines Penn State Benefit

Category: News || By Staff and Wire Reports

City native and Law and Order: SVU star Tamara Tunie will headline the annual "All That's Jazz" student scholarship benefit for Penn State's campus in McKeesport.

The sixth-annual fundraiser for the Greater Allegheny Campus Scholarship Fund is slated for 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, a campus spokeswoman said.

At "All That's Jazz," Tunie will sing along with her husband, vocalist Gregory Generet, as guests dine and dance.

The setting will be an Irish pub, created inside the campus' Student Community Center, complete with cocktails, desserts and imported beers.

A graduate of Steel Valley High School and Carnegie Mellon University, Tunie plays medical examiner Melinda Warner on the NBC-TV drama and previously had a recurring role on NYPD Blue as Lt. Arthur Fancy's wife.

The Tony Award-winning actress and producer is currently directing the film The Science of Cool, slated for 2010 release.

Since 2004, "All That's Jazz" has raised $214,000 for the scholarship fund at the McKeesport campus.

"Scholarship funds have become increasingly important to our students and their families," Greater Allegheny Chancellor Curtiss E. Porter said in a prepared statement. "These funds can make the difference between students staying in college or having to make some hard decisions about their futures."

Tickets are $75 each or 10 for $600. To make a reservation or get more information, call (412) 675-9048.

. . .

Training for Care Home Staff: Penn State's Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport is one of three system-wide now offering professional training for nursing home administrators.

The 100-hour Personal Care Home Administrator Training program had been offered at Penn State's Beaver Campus since 2006 and was expanded to DuBois and McKeesport this year.

Coursework covers 19 topics from resident rights to fire prevention and budgeting issues and includes a certification test prepared under the guidance of the state Department of Public Welfare.

For more information, call the continuing education office at (412) 675-9058 or email JeanMarie Jacob.

. . .

Classic Trains magazine/J. David Ingles

Local Train Buffs Rejoice: The Fall 2009 issue of Classic Trains magazine features several pages of photos taken in the 1960s around the Mon Valley, and an informative map of local railroad lines.

Taken during a March 1962 visit to the Pittsburgh area, the images by J. David Ingles, Jerry Pinkepank and Hank Goerke include images from Westinghouse Electric's East Pittsburgh Works, West Mifflin and the old Baltimore & Ohio station on Grant Street in Pittsburgh, where Mon Valley commuter trains once called.

The above image by Ingles, reproduced from page 70 of the Fall 2009 issue, shows the old Pittsburgh & Lake Erie trackage that once ran down the middle of Fourth Avenue, Downtown.

At left is the former U.S. Steel National Works machine shop, while The Daily News Building can be seen at right.

Although the tracks (now owned by CSX Transportation) remain in place, the pavement of Fourth Avenue was torn up in the 1960s.

A Kalmbach publication, Classic Trains is available at most area newsstands and bookstores. Back issues can be purchased from Kalmbach's website.

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September 14, 2009 | Link to this story

Federal, State Officials Praise Maglev Grant

Category: News || By Staff and Wire Reports

The city-based company designing a magnetic-levitation train system between Pittsburgh International Airport and Westmoreland County has received its biggest federal grant ever, officials announced Friday.

The $28 million in funding to Maglev Inc. comes from the Federal Railroad Administration's Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act --- or "SAFETEA" --- program.

It will allow Maglev Inc. to complete several "pre-engineering" studies, conduct an independent cost-anaylsis, update its financial plan and complete other work, said a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, Democrat of Pennsylvania.

The funding, however, does not include the actual construction of any magnetic-levitation infrastructure, trains or tracks.

A 2003 estimate put the cost of a Pittsburgh-area maglev system at $3.7 billion.

Based in the RIDC industrial park on the former U.S. Steel National Works site, Maglev Inc. is a partnership between Michael Baker Corp., Bombardier, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne Light, U.S. Steel, the United Steelworkers union, Severstal North America, and the Pittsburgh Building and Construction Trades Council.

Local state Reps. Marc Gergely and Bill Kortz praised the grant, which will be administered by the state Department of Transportation.

"This is an outstanding development for the future of the maglev train system and for the economy of McKeesport and Allegheny County," Gergely, a White Oak Democrat, said in a prepared statement. "The $28 million in funding greatly increases the potential that high-speed rail will be coming to western Pennsylvania, generating thousands of jobs, improving our transportation system and providing a faster and cleaner way to travel."

First proposed almost 20 years ago, the Pennsylvania High-Speed Maglev Project envisions a 54-mile-long route built in three sections connecting western Allegheny County with Greensburg, via downtown Pittsburgh.

In a prepared statement, Specter said the system --- if built --- would be a "tremendous economic boon" to the region, creating "thousands of new jobs" in steelmaking and construction while reducing highway congestion and improving Pennsylvania's air quality.

Besides providing transportation, planners expect a Pittsburgh-area system to serve as a demonstration lab to prove that maglev can successfully provide short trips between urban and suburban areas.

If built, maglev's proponents say the Pennsylvania line could then be extended to Philadelphia, with stops in Johnstown, Altoona, State College, Harrisburg and Lancaster.

The grant represents more than half of the $45 million allocated last year by the U.S. Congress to study maglev systems east of the Mississippi River, officials said.

Unlike conventional railroads, magnetic-levitation trains don't use wheels riding on tracks. Instead, they "float" on an air cushion created by electromagnets, propelling them almost silently. Pollution is largely confined to the power plants generating the electricity for the magnets.

However, after more than 40 years of development, only one commercial maglev system has been opened to the public.

That 19-mile system in Shanghai, China, cost $1.3 billion and runs empty most of the time; a planned system in Munich, Germany, was scrapped last year.

In 2008, the two German companies that developed the Shanghai system closed the offices of their maglev partnership, citing a "reduction in sales and planning activities."

Gergely cautioned that maglev is a long away from completion. "It will require the continued cooperation of state government, as well as additional funding," he said.

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September 12, 2009 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Category: Events || By

Editor's Note: Yes, we're running a little late ... but there's still half a weekend left. Besides, if you aren't completely satisfied with Tube City Almanac, feel free to return the unused portion, and we will return the unused portion of your money.

. . .

McKeesport Little Theater presents "The Wizard of Oz," a musical by Frank Gabrielson based on the books by L. Frank Baum and the MGM motion picture score by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, now through Sept. 27.

Sunday's matinee begins at 2 p.m. McKeesport Little Theater is located at 1614 Coursin St., near the Carnegie Library. Call (412) 673-1100 or visit the MLT website.

. . .

The Well Ministries presents an all-day gospel sing at Renziehausen Park on Sunday at the bandshell, beginning at 12 noon.

Artists include Renegades 4 God, Pareese Smith, Debby and Jessica Lloyd, Gail Perney, Pastor Bob Fagin and GodÂ’s Grace (from McKeesport Open Bible Church), Ed Lutheran, Suzy and Byron, Chalice, Abraham's Promise, Thy Will Be Done (the McKeesport Presbyterian Church Praise Team), HIS (Praise Team from Praise Assembly), and Heart Beat.

Activities for kids include face painting, balloon animals, a puppet show, "gospel illusionist" Faron Buskol, and the Praise Assembly of God children's choir.

Visit the Well Ministries website for more information.

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September 10, 2009 | Link to this story

Rendell's Wife Visits Students as Districts Long for Budget Deal

Category: News || By

More than a thousand high school students from throughout the area will get to ask questions of Pennsylvania's first lady on Monday morning at Carnegie Library of Homestead.

The meeting between local students and First Lady Marjorie Rendell was organized by McKeesport's Consortium for Public Education.

Besides being the wife of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Marjorie Rendell is a judge in the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Philadelphia. She is a graduate of Penn and Villanova's law school.

Because of seating limitations in the library's music hall, the event is not open to the general public.

. . .

About 30 high schools will be represented, said Linda Croushore, executive director of the consortium.

"They will have discussed questions in their civics classes, and they'll be prepared to ask Mrs. Rendell about their role in the community," Croushore said.

The meeting is designed to get students thinking about their possible futures as "the next leaders governing the municipalities in Western Pennsylvania," she said, "and I'm very excited about the visit and honored that Mrs. Rendell has trusted us to organize it."

. . .

Meanwhile, Croushore and others interested in public education have some questions of their own for Judge Rendell's husband.

They'd like to know when the Democratic governor will settle his spat with Senate Republicans and finally pass a budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Pennsylvania is the last state in the nation without a spending plan in place. The previous budget expired June 30 --- more than two months ago.

Croushore said the consortium, which represents 45 school districts in seven counties, has been lobbying legislators to find a compromise as quickly as possible.

. . .

The state has already missed two of the payments it owes to public school districts for educational support services, she said. That's forced some districts to borrow money to pay expenses.

"And that means they are going to have to pay interest on the money, which is going to cut into the very little bit of unrestricted money they have," Croushore said. "As a result, schools are suffering."

(Jason Davidek, spokesman for the McKeesport Area School District, said the system has been able to draw money out of its fund balance, or budget surplus, to avoid canceling programs or borrowing money.

("But obviously, we're hoping for a swift consensus and a resolution to the funding situation," he told the Almanac.)

. . .

The consortium is urging taxpayers to contact Rendell and local legislators, including state Sen. Sean Logan of Monroeville and state Reps. Jim Casorio of Irwin, Marc Gergely of White Oak and Bill Kortz of Dravosburg, and press them to settle their differences.

"There's not much else to say, except that it's very important that everyone else contact their legislators and urge them to act in the best interests of the future of this commonwealth," Croushore said.

"We're trying to be a state that truly loves its children, and you don't love your children by constantly cutting things," she said.

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September 08, 2009 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Former Detective Questions Treatment

Category: News || By

A former college football All-American claims that police harassed him when they questioned him for parking under the Jerome Avenue Bridge on Aug. 30.

Bob Mulgado's accusation carries a particular sting because the Riverview Street man is also a retired city police detective with 29 years' service.

Mulgado, who is African-American, complained last week to council that a police officer targeted him solely because of his race.

"I know why he questioned me --- because I was sitting in a pretty nice car, a Cadillac, and because I'm black," he said.

Police Chief Joe Pero told the Almanac that the officer, who was not identified, was actually concerned that Mulgado, who is in his early 70s, was ill or in need of medical assistance.

The incident happened at around 8:30 p.m., just after sunset. When the police officer on a routine patrol shined his spotlight on Mulgado's car, Pero said, Mulgado didn't move.

"Initially, he didn't know if the driver might have passed out," Pero said.

Mulgado, a graduate of McKeesport High School and Arizona State University and a member of both schools' halls of fame, played three seasons for the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Rough Riders.

Following service in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s, he became a McKeesport police officer.

The area where Mulgado was parked adjoins the McKees Point Marina and the Palisades. Mulgado said he was relaxing in his car, listening to the radio, when the police wagon stopped.

The officer "said I was sitting in my car under the bridge and it looked suspicious," he said. "I told him, 'What was I going to do, steal the bridge?'"

A police supervisor and another patrolman responded to the scene, and Mulgado --- who admitted that he became upset with the officers --- was searched and frisked.

Although Mulgado was not charged, the incident left a sour taste in his mouth. He was particularly offended that he was asked if there were "drugs or weapons" in the car.

But Pero said the question is typically one of the first made by any police officer who makes a traffic stop. "If you're checking out a vehicle, you always ask (the driver) if there are any drugs or weapons in the vehicle," he said.

Pero said last week that he was questioning the other officers involved --- one of whom was also African-American --- and would be in touch with Mulgado to resolve the disagreement.

. . .

In Other Business: Council last week by 5-0 vote rejected an agreement with Allegheny County regarding the city's share of the repairs to the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge. Councilors Richard Dellapenna and Loretta Diggs were absent.

The Monongahela River span connecting 10th Ward and Glassport with Dravosburg is slated for complete rehabilitation next year.

Glassport and the city are responsible for a portion of the cost of rebuilding the ramps on the southern shore. Mayor James Brewster recommended that council turn down the agreement because the municipalities' share is still being negotiated.

The county had originally requested $50,000, Brewster said, but has now asked for $150,000.

. . .

Also by 5-0 votes, city council:

  • Accepted the terms of an agreement with the state Department of Transportation to repave West Fifth Avenue between the Jerome Avenue Bridge and Ramp Two;

  • Approved a five-year agreement with PennDOT over salting and plowing state-owned roads during the winter;

  • Named V. Fawn Walker and Corey Sanders to the board of directors of the Downtown Business Authority; and

  • Named A.J. Tedesco to the board of the McKeesport Industrial Development Authority.

Walker, a family therapist, and Tedesco, an employee of the Allegheny County Department of Court Records, won Democratic nominations for two of three city council seats open at the end of this year. Barring successful write-in opposition, they are expected to win election in November. Sanders is owner of Kool Kutz barber shop, Downtown.

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September 07, 2009 | Link to this story

Richey's Legacy Inspires Model Plane Fly-In

Category: News || By

Tube City Video Almanac for Sept. 7, 2009
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. . .

Although it's named for one of the 20th century's greatest female pilots, everyone knows that McKeesport's Helen Richey Field isn't an airport ... it's a softball and baseball diamond.

But on Sunday, the outfield was indeed full of airplanes, not fly balls. The Keystone Clippers, a model airplane club from Rillton, Westmoreland County, conducted a fly-in in honor of the field's namesake.

It's part of a year-long celebration of Richey, a pioneering commercial and military pilot whose legacy is finally being re-examined more than 60 years after her death.

The fly-in, like the rest of the events, was organized by McKeesport Heritage Center.

Some of the planes --- like the model fighter jets --- weren't around when Richey was at the peak of her career in the 1930s and 1940s.

But other planes that the 15 members of the Clippers brought to McKeesport were indeed models of those that Richey flew all of those years ago.

Those warbirds were pretty hot planes and needed a skilled pilot at the controls, even when they weren't in combat situations. That explains why Richey's peers --- men and women alike --- considered her a top-notch aviator.

At least one of the model aviation enthusiasts at Renzie Park on Sunday had experience with both the miniature planes and the real McCoys. In civilian life, John A. Aranyos of Liberty Borough was a welder at U-S Steel's National Works in McKeesport.

But during World War Two, Aranyos was a pilot in the air corps, escorting bombers from England to Germany and back. He completed 82 combat missions, including three on D-Day, in a P-47, also called a "thunderbolt."

Sure, it wasn't quite the same as watching a full-size air show at a real airport.

But for more than 100 people at Renzie, the soaring models did demonstrate the wonder of flight --- and gave a little taste of the reason why 20-year-old McKeesporter Helen Richey dedicated her life to the fascinating field of aviation at a time when few other women pursued a job outside the home.

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September 06, 2009 | Link to this story

O'Brien Misses Earle's 'Witt and Penn'

Category: Another Viewpoint || By

Editor's Note: Earle Wittpenn, founder of the Valley Mirror, the weekly newspaper serving the West Mifflin, Steel Valley and Woodland Hills school districts, announced last week that he is giving up his "Earle's Pearls" column due to illness.

Wittpenn, former editor of the
Homestead Daily Messenger, sold the Mirror to fellow publisher Tony Munson in the 1990s, but continued to contribute the column and news coverage.

Author Jim O'Brien, a Hazelwood native who writes a weekly column for the
Mirror, wrote this appreciation for Thursday's edition of the newspaper. It is reprinted with kind permission of Jim O'Brien.

. . .

We Will Miss Earle's Witt and Penn

By Jim O'Brien
(Originally appeared in the Valley Mirror, Sept. 3, 2009. Reprinted with permission of Jim O'Brien.)

I am going to miss reading Earle Wittpenn's column in the Valley Mirror. I spoke on the telephone with Earle last week to see how he was doing. I had heard he was up against it health-wise and not feeling as feisty and chipper as his column always suggests.

Now I am told he has decided he better take a break from writing his column until he is more up to the task.

Whenever I get my copy of the Valley Mirror in the mail each week, I must admit that the first column I read is my own. I want to see if it comes off the way I intended.

Then I read the columns of Earle Wittpenn and Darrell Hess, the editorial, the man-in-the-street or women-in-the-street questions and answers, and the stories by Jack Ruskin and Herky Cush. I love community newspapers, and believe they are the lifeblood of any neighborhood.

. . .

I go back a long way with Earle Wittpenn. I first met him when he was running The Homestead Messenger. I read his columns later in the Valley Mirror, and liked the paper so much, distributed not that far from my boyhood neighborhood of Glenwood and Hazelwood, that I thought it would be a good fit.

Earle Wittpenn invited me to write a column for the Valley Mirror. Then Tony Munson bought the paper and merged it with the Braddock Free Press, and continued to carry my columns.

I liked working with Wittpenn and I like working with Munson. Now Munson is preparing to retire to a home in Sarasota, Fla., and is trying to find a buyer to carry on the great tradition of turning out a wonderful weekly newspaper in the Mon Valley.

. . .

The newspaper business in America is hard-pressed these days to do what it does best. Many newspapers are disappearing. I don't want to see that happen with the Valley Mirror. A town without a newspaper is a town without a voice.

Earle Wittpenn's voice is strained these days, and it's difficult for him to do anything, try as he might, and with the help of his wife, Michelle.

I'm missing his column already. To me, he's the Andy Rooney of the Valley Mirror, crochety as can be at times, a genuine curmudgeon, upset as all hell about one thing or another.

. . .

I like to think that I write clearly, and that I am easy to read, but I take a back seat to Earle Wittpenn when it comes to expressing myself clearly, distinctly and with some punch. No one is ever confused about where Earle Wittpenn is coming from. He speaks his mind.

I do not always agree with Earle Wittpenn's point of view. Earle is ultra-conservative. He makes the late William F. Buckley look like a liberal.

I have some liberal leanings, but I'm not always sure my opinion is the right one; it's simply my opinion. You may be right and I may be wrong.

I'm not sure Earle ever thinks that way, but I like to read people's opinions that are contrary to mine. Some people only read the opinions they already agree with. I have friends who do that. They would rather have Wittpenn in the White House than Barack Obama.

. . .

I get a kick out of Earle Wittpenn's columns, and call him from time to time to tell him how much I enjoy the columns, or ask him how he could support such and such an opinion, or praise such a person. Mark Madden, the sports talk show host, comes to mind. Wittpenn likes his stand-up style. I don't listen to him and can't understand why anyone would give him the time of day.

I feel badly that Earle Wittpenn feels so badly. I know (from reading his columns, of course) that he is a man of faith, a proud member of the Free Hungarian Reformed Church of Homestead, and says his prayers and tries to live his life by Bible teachings. I think he has done a noble job in that respect. I am hoping his faith is a source of strength and spirit for him now as he battles cancer.

From reading his columns, I can see that he has been hearing from his many friends. It is important to be there when friends get ill, or run into difficult times. If you are a regular reader of Earle Wittpenn, this is a good time to do some writing of your own and send him an encouraging card or letter. You can send it in care of the newspaper, at 3910 Main St., Munhall, PA 15120.

Earle Wittpenn and Tony Munson and Darrell Hess have all served this community well. They genuinely care about the community. They have been catalysts through the years for positive activity in your favorite town.

. . .

I want to see Earle Wittpenn bounce back, and do his best to turn out a column whenever he feels up to it. The Valley Mirror isn't the same without Wittpenn's personal words and rants. He always had that fire in his belly.

I also love his stories on school board and township meetings in the area. He captures the spirit of the goings on with great gusto, and a recognition that our communities need good leaders to survive.

Wittpenn has seen a lot of changes in his lifetime in the Homestead, Munhall, Rankin and Braddock areas. He has seen it all and written about it with passion and compassion.

Get well, Earle Wittpenn. There's still some ink in that pen of yours. Take care, my friend, and know that one fellow journalist has always admired you greatly and gotten a genuine kick out of your acerbic and honest offerings.

Earle Wittpenn is, above all else, a newspaper man. It takes one to know one.

. . .

Writer and publisher Jim O'Brien is the author of many books about Pittsburgh, athletics and local and national sports figures and teams, including The Chief: Art Rooney and His Pittsburgh Steelers; Glory Years: A Century of Excellence; With Love and Pride: Portraits of a Pittsburgh Family; and Pittsburgh Proud: Celebrating the City's Rich Sports History.

O'Brien's wife of 42 years is the former Kathleen Churchman of McKeesport, a graduate of McKeesport High School, Grove City College and the University of Pittsburgh.

You may reach O'Brien or purchase his books through his website, Jim O'Brien: Sports Author.

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September 04, 2009 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend: Marina Fest!

Category: Events || By

Update: Alert Reader Jeff writes: "Hey don't forget the model plane demonstration at Helen Richey Field Sunday at 2:30 sponsored by the heritage center! All part of celebrating the legacy of Helen Richey!"

Egad! I completely forgot! Shame on me, and thank you, Jeff, for the timely reminder!

. . .

Stay safe and enjoy a Labor Day weekend of free, local, live entertainment at "Marina Fest," today through Monday at McKees Point Marina, Water Street at Fifth Avenue.

Tonight's entertainment includes Lee Alverson's salute to Elton John and Billy Joel from 7 to 10 p.m.

Saturday: It's the Real Deal Band from 2 to 5 p.m., followed by Six on the Beach from 7 to 10 p.m.

Sunday: Rock 'n roll with The Badheadz from 2 to 5 p.m.

Labor Day: It's a blast from the past with Dean Martin impersonator Coz Serrapere and Frank Sinatra impersonator Guy Matone from 1 to 4 p.m. Oh, yeah!

Food and refreshments will be on sale and parking is free. Call (412) 678-6979.

. . .

Are You Ready for ... Well, You Know: Your McKeesport Tigers travel to Wheeling, W.Va., tomorrow to take on Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep in the second-annual "Rally in the Valley" at Wheeling Island Stadium.

Kickoff is 12:30 p.m. (Some sources say 12. Your mileage may vary. And if there's radio or TV coverage available in the Mon-Yough area, we can't find it.)

Then, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, it's the Woodland Hills Wolverines vs. the Big Red machine of Steubenville High.

Meanwhile, Tonight: Up on Pill Hill, Serra Catholic hosts North Catholic at 7:30 for a non-conference tilt. (You can hear that game on the Internet, courtesy of the MSA Sports Network.)

Elizabeth Forward's at Yough at 7:30, Steel Valley travels to Keystone Oaks tonight (7 p.m. kickoff), East Allegheny hosts Jeannette (7:30), and Taylor Allderdice visits West Mifflin (7) for a non-conference game.

On the road, Clairton's at Laurel, Norwin's at Seneca Valley, Ringgold's in Peters Township, and the South Allegheny Gladiators are at Brownsville. The Clairton game starts at 7 p.m., the others at 7:30.

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September 03, 2009 | Link to this story

Segina: Nameless Critics 'Cruds'

Category: News || By

Nameless critics in Web chat rooms are "cruds" who hide behind the "black curtain" of Internet anonymity because they're too cowardly to make their attacks public, Councilman Darryl Segina said Wednesday night.

The broadside at council's September business meeting seemed to be not-too-subtly aimed at Councilman Paul Shelly Jr., a frequent critic of other city officials on his own website and on the Internet message forum.

Shelly has also been accused by readers of posting some of the comments himself using several different names --- a charge he has publicly denied.

. . . is a so-called "news aggregator" that generates no original coverage of its own, but scoops headlines from other websites and sorts them according to zip codes.

Although Topix originally started out as an independent, "open source" project, since 2005 it has been 75 percent owned by three of the nation's largest newspaper publishing companies: The McClatchy Company, Tribune Company and Gannett.

Each zip code also includes an unmoderated message forum where posters may make anonymous comments.

. . .

In a May 2009 article, Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that is now the third most popular "news" website in the U.S.

But Steinberg pointed out that on, unsourced rumors and press releases are mingled together with real news stories.

Topix's CEO, Chris Tolles, told Steinberg that the website has "no credibility, prima facie" on any story.

"Rumor and unsubstantiated information is interesting," Tolles said. "I want to know lies, I want to know rumors and innuendo. Just because it's written down doesn't make it true."

. . .

Tolles told Steinberg, "gossip is definitely the engine and the driver of what people are talking about" on Topix.

But four weeks ago, that unfiltered gossip landed Topix in court in Texas, where the subjects of a series of anonymous attacks sued the website, demanding the identities of people writing libelous comments.

. . .

Others have criticized Topix for burying legitimate news under anonymous comments and irrelevant stories from other communities.

"If you like high school sports and things that don't relate to Edinboro at all, then maybe (Topix) is the site for you," wrote a contributor to the YourBoro website, based in Edinboro, Pa., under the headline " --- Useless or completely useless?"

(Ironically, YourBoro's editors are --- like most of the posters on Topix --- anonymous.)

. . .

A columnist at a West Virginia newspaper, the Williamson Daily News, in April editorialized that although comments on Topix are protected free speech, they also enable "monstrous smear campaigns ... hurting not only the victims but also destroying our sense of trust."

"What happens when rumors about you or someone you love are posted on the Internet by an anonymous source for the whole world to see?" she wrote.

"Behind the screen of anonymity, some cowards are using Topix and other such sites, to selfishly satisfy personal vendettas with no fear of consequences."

. . .

The McKeesport Topix forum has been a churning series of attacks and counter-attacks --- some of them laced with racial slurs --- against both individual residents and elected officials.

Segina found a series of anonymous posts accusing city employees and officials of skimming money from International Village particularly obnoxious.

He said he was accosted during the three-day event in Renzie Park by a friend who was angry over what he had read.

"I don't think they understand what they're doing when they make these remarks --- always anonymously, never signing their names," Segina said. "They are tarnishing people's reputations with these slanders and innuendos."

. . .

He compared the attacks to those in an anonymous newspaper --- The Mon Valley Voice --- that circulated briefly more than a decade ago.

"I'm going to say this to every one of them --- they are cruds," Segina said.

The online slime-fest over International Village provided a small, bitter footnote to Segina's last year overseeing the folk music and ethnic food festival, which marked its 50th year in August.

Segina is retiring as chairman after 16 years.

. . .

That prompted one of the few lighthearted moments in an otherwise tense meeting, as Council President Regis McLaughlin asked Segina if he'd reconsider.

"Take a year to sit down and think about it," McLaughlin said to Segina, "and then maybe come back. After all, if Brett Favre can do it, maybe (you) can do it."

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September 03, 2009 | Link to this story

Council Rejects Shelly's Claim for Legal Aid

Category: News || By

At a heated meeting Wednesday night, City Council rejected a request from Councilman Paul Shelly Jr. to see if McKeesport's insurance carrier will pay his legal bills.

The 4-0 vote --- with Shelly abstaining and Councilors Loretta Diggs and Richard Dellapenna absent --- marked the first time council has discussed the case in a public meeting since Shelly's arrest in June on charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, terroristic threats and defiant trespass.

Two of those charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi Jr.

. . .

Shelly has maintained that the charges stem from his attempt to mediate a dispute over a rental property, and therefore was constituent service performed in his role as a city councilman.

"I find a lot of things wrong with the assertions you made," Councilman Darryl Segina said.

"Whether you are innocent or guilty, Paul, that's not the point," he said. "I don't think it's within the scope of services of a councilman to mediate a dispute between a landlord and a tenant."

. . .

The city's home rule charter spells out the duties of a councilman, Segina said, and conflict resolution is not among them.

Shelly said a city resident specifically asked for his help as a city councilman. "I'm of the legal opinion that 90 percent of the duties we perform --- whether they're in the home rule charter or not --- are considered constituent service," he said.

But City Solicitor J. Jason Elash said it was unlikely that the city's insurance carrier would pay for Shelly's defense in a criminal case.

. . .

"This isn't someone suing him for liability for something he did in an official capacity," Elash said. "This is the state prosecuting him for a crime ... I don't think there's any way that an insurance carrier would pay this claim."

Following the meeting, Shelly issued a statement to reporters accusing Mayor Jim Brewster of "passing the buck" on the decision to city council.

"The message I take from their decision is that it is not, in their collective opinion, the job of a McKeesport councilor to provide constituent service, but they consider acting as insurance adjusters appropriate," Shelly said.

Shelly faces formal arraignment in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on Oct. 19 on a misdemeanor charge of terroristic threats and a summary count of defiant trespass.

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September 02, 2009 | Link to this story

Seven Tapped for High School's Hall of Fame

Category: Events, News || By

Seven alumni --- including a marine biologist, a former pro football player and several educators --- are the newest inductees to the McKeesport High School Hall of Fame.

The 22nd group of honorees will be feted at a dinner Sept. 26 at Stratigos Banquet Center, North Huntingdon Township, says Karen Kost, spokeswoman for The Consortium for Public Education, based in the city, which maintains the hall of fame.

Members of the "Class of 2009" include:

  • Robert J. Hofman ('55), who retired in 2000 after 25 years as scientific program director of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. A charter member of the Society of Marine Mammalogy, Hofman is a U.S. Navy vet. While at the MMC, Hofman helped negotiate several international treaties protecting dolphins, whales and other marine life, including the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection.

  • Phyllis R. Gerber ('59), a longtime volunteer who helped establish several community theater companies in the Mon Valley, including ones in Clairton and Elizabeth. A graduate of Westmoreland County Community College and Seton Hill University, she currently teaches theater to teen-agers in Westmoreland County and continues to assist others with amateur dramatic productions.

  • James (Jim) P. Beirne ('64), a standout football player for McKeesport who became an Academic All-American at Purdue University, where he received a medal of honor and a varsity award. After graduation, Beirne played for the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers, then Beirne founded his own company, Jim Beirne Custom Homes, which marks its 25th anniversary this year.

  • James R. Brewster ('66), mayor of McKeesport since 2004 and former vice president of operations for Mellon Bank. A graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Brewster's other community service has included stints on the city Recreation Board and as a city councilman. He also has been chairman of the McKeesport Housing Authority board of directors for more than 20 years.

  • W. Lee (Win) MacKewiz ('76), founder of Bear Eye Center in Bear, Del., and former director of Omni Eye Services in Rhode Island. MacKewiz overcame childhood adversities to graduate from Ohio State and the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, where he received the E.F. Wildermuth Award as the in-state student with the highest grade point average. MacKewiz's practice includes a focus on glaucoma, eye trauma and pediatric care.

  • Lisa M. Burns ('89), associate professor of media studies at Quinnipiac University whose research focuses on media history and political communications, with special attention to TV, radio and press coverage of presidents, first ladies, sports and media criticism. A "die-hard hockey fan," Burns also counsels professional athletes who are transitioning into successful careers after their sports days are over.

  • Karrie A. Kalich ('90), associate professor of health sciences at Keene State College in New Hampshire. A graduate of Penn State, Keene State and Tufts University, Kalich has researched ways that processed foods lead to problems such as obesity and diabetes. A 2003 recipient of an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, Kalich has also conducted health seminars in the Keene, N.H., area to teach residents how to eat healthier.

The banquet begins with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and the induction ceremony.

Tickets are $40 and must be reserved by Sept. 18, Kost says. Call (412) 678-9215 or visit the consortium's website and download the order form.*

Full biographies of all inductees are also available online, Kost says.


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September 01, 2009 | Link to this story

Eyesore Hotel Was Work of Celebrated Architect

Category: History, News || By

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A building long regarded as one of Downtown's leading eyesores was the product of one of Pittsburgh's most celebrated architects.

The Penn-McKee Hotel --- largely vacant since 1985 and slated for demolition at taxpayer expense --- was designed by Benno Janssen, better known as the architect of Pittsburgh's Mellon Institute, William Penn Hotel and Washington Crossing Bridge, and Ligonier's Rolling Rock Farms.

That Janssen's firm designed the Penn-McKee was all but forgotten until this reporter stumbled across a Daily News clipping from 1925 in the archives of the McKeesport Heritage Center.

. . .

A visit to Carnegie Mellon University's architecture archives, which holds Janssen's original drawings and blueprints, confirmed that the Penn-McKee was the work of the 1922 partnership between Missouri-born, Paris-trained Janssen and William York Cocken.

Together, Janssen and Cocken were commissioned in 1925 by McKeesport's Community Hotel Corp. to design what the Daily News called "a community giant ... a peaceful shrine of domesticity combined with the gay and restful recreational delights of a social center."

Born in St. Louis, Janssen studied architecture at the University of Kansas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France. In 1905, he returned to the United States to work for a Pittsburgh architect, setting up his own firm a year later.

. . .

His most famous work might be Mellon Institute, the monolithic research laboratory on Forbes Avenue in Oakland. Constructed during the depths of the Great Depression, that building's design was inspired by classic Greek architecture. Its four sides are lined with 62 four-story columns, each hewn from a single piece of stone.

Other buildings designed by Janssen include the Longue Vue Club in Verona, the Keystone Athletic Club (now part of Point Park University) and several homes for prominent Pittsburghers, including department store mogul Edgar Kaufmann.

Upon Janssen's death in 1964, Pittsburgh historian Jamie Van Trump --- one of the founders of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation --- called Janssen an artist "of considerable talent if not of genius" and "the most facile and talented of Pittsburgh's eclectic architects" of the early 20th century.

. . .

Unmentioned in Van Trump's review of Janssen's works was McKeesport's Penn-McKee, possibly because of its modest scale, possibly because its distance from Pittsburgh's more fashionable neighborhoods left it "out of sight, out of mind."

But the Penn-McKee --- though fading in the 1960s --- remained a point of pride for McKeesporters, who boasted of the prominent guests that had visited, including former President Harry Truman.

Famously, in April 1947, freshmen congressmen John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon debated the Taft-Hartley Act in the Penn-McKee ballroom, in the first-known public appearance together by the future political rivals.

. . .

McKeesport also gave generously to fund the Penn-McKee's construction. It was built by the Community Hotel Corp., which was chartered in 1924 with the help of the McKeesport Chamber of Commerce.

The corporation sold 5,000 shares of stock at $100 each to local residents and business owners to raise money for the hotel's construction.

. . .

Major contributors to the hotel's construction included banker R.F. Dulany, real-estate developer Gilbert F. Myer, and furniture-store owner R.E. Stone.

Stone's firm supplied furniture and carpets for the hotel's 99 rooms, while Helmstadter's Department Store supplied dishes, glassware and bedding, and K.J. Stickrath plumbing installed the boiler, kitchen and laundry equipment.

The general contractors were McKeesport's Blair & Mack Co., while the name "Penn-McKee" was chosen in a contest. More than 1,500 people entered.

Although many people suggested "Penn-McKee," the winner was the first one to submit the name. Callie M. Frye of Grant Street won the grand prize of $25.

. . .

"The Penn-McKee means that McKeesport will leap from a backward community ... and take its place with other progressive cities whose attractiveness has never failed to be enhanced by the erection of a modern hotel," editorialized the Daily News on March 20, 1926 under the headline "Penn-McKee Hotel Will Be Credit to City and Owners."

"Only geological changes of the years can destroy it," the newspaper said. "The destructive force of fire cannot make any in-roads, for it is fire-proof throughout."

But more destructive than geology were changing times and a series of changing owners.

. . .

By the 1970s, guests found the hotel's rooms too small and too old fashioned, and the Penn-McKee's distance from the Pennsylvania Turnpike or other major highways left it hard pressed for business.

Community College of Allegheny County rented many of the rooms, then vacated the hotel when South Campus in West Mifflin was completed.

The money-losing Community Hotel Corp. sold the Penn-McKee to former city councilman Michael Newman, who had been embroiled in several scandals, including a federal wiretapping investigation.

. . .

At one time, Newman planned to turn the Penn-McKee into part of an outdoor shopping plaza by demolishing the neighboring Famous Department Store, which he also owned.

That proposal went up in smoke in 1976, along with the Famous, in the multi-million dollar fire that devastated the city's business district.

The once-grand Penn-McKee became a flophouse patronized by alcoholics, the elderly and prostitutes, whose activities led to a raid by city and county police in the fall of 1980.

. . .

In 1981, Newman sold the hotel to the non-profit Winter's Haven Inc., which envisioned turning the Penn-McKee into an assisted living facility. Unable to afford renovations and unwilling to seek public help, Winter's Haven closed the doors in 1985.

Storefronts used by AMVETS Post 8 and former state Rep. Emil Mrkonic remained occupied for a few more years, until a series of deliberately set fires forced the complete closure of the building.

The Penn-McKee is currently owned by a defunct corporation called See Bee Inc., which purchased the property in 1987. The firm's registered address is a Pittsburgh law office, but tax bills are sent to Edward L. Kemp Co. of 10th Ward.

. . .

According to court records, thousands of dollars in unpaid school, city and county property taxes are owed by See Bee on the Penn-McKee.

In June 2008, White Oak evangelist Jim Armstrong told the Almanac that his ministry, Voice of the Bride, had purchased the hotel. But no deed transfer was ever recorded, according to county officials, and the liens remain unsatisfied.

In the meantime, the elements have taken their toll on the Penn-McKee, which has numerous broken or open windows. Part of a decorative brick wall has collapsed into Haber Alley, behind the building.

. . .

Declaring the Penn-McKee a health and safety hazard, officials last year condemned the property for at least the second time and put it onto the city's demolition list.

Mayor Jim Brewster has estimated that demolishing the hotel will cost in excess of $150,000.

. . .

Full Disclosure: The author is a member of the board of directors of McKeesport Heritage Center, which is exploring the possibility of trying to preserve commercial buildings in the city for re-use. Articles at do not reflect the views of McKeesport Heritage Center, its directors, staff or volunteers.

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