Tube City Online

Filed Under: Commentary/Editorial || By Jason Togyer

August 31, 2011 | Link to this story

On Campus: Penn State Slates 9/11 Events

Category: News || By Submitted Reports

Penn State's campus in McKeesport will mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States with events designed to turn the date into an educational opportunity for students.

On Sept. 11, students will take a bus trip to the site of the crash of Flight 93 in Somerset County. Then, on Sept. 14, a professor of sociology from the University of Pittsburgh will lecture on the revolutions that erupted in several Middle Eastern dictatorships this year.

The trip to the Shanksville crash memorial will hold special significance, says Glenn Beech, director of student affairs at Penn State's Greater Allegheny Campus in the city, who notes that today's college students were very young when the attacks occurred.

Flight 93 was one of four planes hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, by Muslim extremists linked to the worldwide terror organization Al Qaeda. The Boeing 757 jetliner was 20 minutes from Washington, D.C. --- where it was reportedly going to be used to crash into the U.S. Capitol or White House --- when passengers and crew members overpowered the terrorists.

Forty-four people --- including the four terrorists --- died in the resulting crash outside the small town of Shanksville, about two hours east of McKeesport.

"We think it is important to give our students an opportunity to visit this place and remember these heroes," Beech says.

The lecture by Mohammed Bamyeh, professor of sociology at Pitt, is entitled "Dynamics of Revolt in the Arab Spring." It will be held at 11 a.m. in the Ostermayer Room at the Student Community Center.

Bamyeh is the new editor of the International Sociology Review of Books and earned is doctorate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1990. The author and editor of several books and articles, Bamyeh's areas of interest include Islamic studies, political and cultural globalization, civil society and social movements, and comparative social and political theory.

. . .

Prospective Students Invited to Explore Penn State: Students interested in a Penn State education, and their parents, are invited to several events at the McKeesport campus in September.

At 6 p.m. Sept. 21, members of the Greater Allegheny Campus staff will host an information session "for parents only" in the Student Community Center. The session is designed for parents to learn how Penn State can help their son or daughter through their college years.

On Sept. 22, Oct. 4 and Nov. 10, prospective Penn State students can share in the campus experience as "Penn State Students for a Day." Events start at 9 a.m. each day in the Frable Building.

Students who need financial help going to college, or who are interested in studying aboard, the Penn State honors program and other topics can attend Scholarship Information Day on Sept. 29 in the Ostermayer Room of the Student Community Center.

Registration is required for some events. To register or get more information, visit the Greater Allegheny Campus' admissions website or call (412) 675-9010.

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August 30, 2011 | Link to this story

Tube City Backs FCC Proposal on Low-Power Radio

Category: Announcements, Shameless Horn-Tooting || By Press Release

Click to download (PDF reader required)Tube City Online has added its voice to those of activists around the country calling on the federal government to preserve spaces on the FM radio band for low-power stations.

In a filing Monday with the Federal Communications Commission, Tube City Community Media Inc. said that even in an "Internet age," community radio stations are necessary, especially in lower-income, urban communities such as McKeesport.

Tube City's filing cites a 2009 study that shows that only 50 percent of households with incomes less than $30,000 per year have any Internet access at all, while about 30 percent of households with incomes less than $70,000 per year have no broadband.

. . .

Since streaming audio and video requires broadband access, Tube City's filing says, Internet radio and services such as YouTube are a poor substitute for over-the-air broadcasts.

"In contrast to Internet technology, AM and FM analog radios are cheap," says the filing. "They are so cheap that inexpensive radios are often given away as prizes or premiums ... practically speaking, every American citizen of every income level has access to a radio."

Tube City Community Media was asked to comment on the FCC proceeding by Prometheus Radio Project, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization that has fought a decade-long legal and political battle to open the FM radio band to small, independent, non-commercial radio stations.

. . .

The low-power FM radio service was created in January 2000 to combat the increased consolidation of radio stations under a handful of large corporations. Under FCC rules, low-power FM, or LPFM, stations are not allowed to accept advertising and must be owned and operated by local residents. They are limited to 10- or 100-watts of output power.

The three members of Tube City's board of directors were co-founders of Lightning Community Broadcasting Inc., which applied for a low-power FM radio station to serve the McKeesport area.

That effort --- and hundreds of others around the United States --- was blocked by the U.S. Congress, which overruled the FCC and put strict limits on where LPFM stations could be located.

Congress' restrictions --- created in response to heavy lobbying against the then-new LPFM service by large media corporations, the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio --- were enacted over the objections of the FCC and the Clinton Administration.

. . .

A subsequent independent study found that the evidence cited by Congress in creating the law was fabricated, and that arguments that LPFM stations would interfere with larger stations were meaningless.

The 2000 restrictions were overturned in December 2010 when Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act, championed and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, Democrat of Forest Hills.

The FCC is currently considering a proposal that would set aside a minimum number of LPFM allocations in each of the top 150 largest metropolitan areas. It would block further expansion of FM radio "translators" --- FM radio stations of up to 250 watts that rebroadcast signals from other radio stations --- often radio stations from out-of-town.

According to one estimate, there are currently 16 pending applications for FM translators in the Pittsburgh area.

. . .

"It is Tube City's belief that allowing out-of-town AM and FM stations to rebroadcast their signals into McKeesport via FM translators --- which by design are not permitted to originate local content --- contravenes the Local Community Radio Act," Tube City's filing says.

Doyle's own letter to the FCC was co-signed with U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, and U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and John McCain.

"We support the Commission's proposal because it takes into account the needs of translator applicants and the needs of the many community groups, schools and churches who have waited for over 10 years to start low-power radio stations," the letter says. "We urge the Commission to continue using all of its regulatory and technical resources to authorize as many licenses for LPFM stations as possible."

. . .

Others from Western Pennsylvania filing similar comments with the FCC included Pittsburgh labor activist Charles Showalter, host of "The Union Edge"; Seth Bearden, a producer with "Rustbelt Radio," heard over Pittsburgh's WRCT-FM (88.3); and Pittsburgh Community Television, which operates that city's public-access cable TV channel.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has promised that the agency will respond by Sept. 12 to the comments it has received.

Tube City's filing, along with the others, can be downloaded from the FCC website.

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August 26, 2011 | Link to this story

Cluttered Items from an Empty Mind

Category: Commentary/Editorial || By Jason Togyer

(UPDATED: Edited Aug. 28 to expand section about unemployment ... several paragraphs were missing from the draft that was posted Aug. 26.)

The late Phil Musick called them "things I think I think." The late Bruce Keidan called them "loose items from a tight-leaf notebook." They're thoughts that don't fit anywhere else.

I call them "cluttered items from an empty mind." Because if a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what does an empty desk signify?

. . .

Unemployment Orifice: My grandmother used to talk about the "Good Old Days" of the Great Depression, when families who had to go on what was then called "relief" were humiliated --- you had to line up in person at a relief office, where your neighbors would decide whether or not you deserved a dribble of food and clothing.

If you had lost your job for any reason, you were made to feel inferior and useless. Some days, I think we're headed back to the golden years of the 1930s.

For instance, Gov. Tom Corbett and some others contend that unemployment is only high because unemployment benefits are too good, and people don't want to work. (That's actually a theory that does go back to the Great Depression, at least.) A visitor to the Tube City Almanac booth at International Village suggested much the same thing.

I don't know about that, but I've talked to several people who say that signing up for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania is humiliating, difficult and discouraging, and it can take up to two months just to find out if you're eligible. Whether this is caused by incompetence, inadequate staffing due to state budget cuts, or a calculated effort to discourage filers, I'm not sure.

. . .

Maybe everything you need to know about the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation office can be learned from its website. The first two links in the center of the page are for "employer services" and for "reporting fraud."

What message does this send? To me, it says that in Pennsylvania, Unemployment Compensation doesn't exist, first and foremost, to help unemployed workers find employment or "compensation" --- it's there to serve the companies that laid off those workers! And if you're asking for unemployment compensation, the state is going to start out by assuming you're a fraud.

. . .

Another fun fact: There are no longer walk-in physical unemployment offices in Pennsylvania. Oh, there's an office in Duquesne that's a "claim center," but there's also a big sign on the building that says "NO ADMITTANCE." They should just have a sign that says, "Get lost, deadbeats!"

You are not allowed to talk to an actual human. Instead, all claims must be filed online, by phone or by mail. They discourage paper filings, but if you don't have a reliable Internet connection, you're up the creek. Try calling the state's toll-free number, and you're likely going to be on hold for 60 minutes or more.

If there's a problem in your initial filing, one correspondent informs me, the Department of Labor and Industry doesn't tell you. Instead, the onus is on you to call and find out why your claim isn't being processed. Plan on wasting another hour or two on hold.

It seems to me that if you're unemployed, Pennsylvania's goal isn't helping you --- it's making you go away. I suppose this is Tea Party-style small government in action. Color me unimpressed.

. . .

Are you having problems with the unemployment office? A tip to tubecitytiger at gmail dot com would be appreciated. You can remain anonymous.

. . .

It Takes a Village: Speaking of International Village, I've heard several comments from folks who argue that changes need to be made to the 52-year-old (and counting!) institution. Maybe some changes are necessary, but a few of the suggestions I've heard seem to misunderstand the whole character of the event.

Several people have asked --- on Facebook and in person --- why the Village isn't held for an entire week, or why it doesn't take place over a weekend. The Village is organized by volunteers and the food booths are run largely by church groups, some of whom spend all year preparing.

A week-long event might attract more visitors, but would require that much more effort from the volunteers. At some point, you hit the law of diminishing returns --- you start to burn out the volunteers and don't get enough visitors to justify the extended schedule.

As for stretching it over a weekend --- that presents two problems. First, you're competing with a lot of other summertime weekend activities. One of the reasons that International Village is so successful is that it's one of the few festivals during the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday it's held.

(Hey, Kennywood holds school picnics and heritage days during weekdays, and no one complains about that.)

Second, those church groups that run the booths don't want to run the booths on Saturday nights and Sundays, for reasons that should be obvious. (Where will people be? In the pews or at Renziehausen Park?)

Having observed International Village up-close and personal for three years, I'm simply amazed. Each year, a group of mostly unpaid people pulls off an event for 20,000 or 30,000 people that's safe, fun and family friendly, and which raises lots of money for charitable groups.

Some tinkering is useful --- setting up a Facebook page this year was a great idea --- but any changes need to be considered in context of what makes International Village unique, and not "just another festival." Stretching it out, or wrapping it over a weekend, would be things that might turn it into "just another festival," I'm afraid.

. . .

Tickets, Please: There have been complaints raised by some people, including City Controller Ray Malinchak, that the admission fees for the Village are not carefully audited.

The implications are that lots of Village visitors are sneaking in without paying admission, and that volunteers collecting the $2 charge are pocketing the money. The International Village committee and several city officials, including Councilman Darryl Segina, find those implications insulting --- and I tend to agree with them.

Still, I'm not sure why each gate at the Village can't be issued a roll of tickets, like the kinds used for door prizes and raffles, or the kind used at movie theaters.

Those tickets come on rolls and have serial numbers. Each time a visitor pays $2, a ticket is pulled from the roll. The visitor gets one half, and the other half is dropped into a collection bin. At the end of the night, if 200 tickets have been pulled from a roll, there should be $400 collected at that gate. (Heck, you could also use the tickets to give away a door prize or souvenir each hour.)

A little bit of price checking reveals that a roll of 2,000 tickets costs less than $10. It seems like a quick way to keep track of admission. What am I missing?

. . .

A Trashy Subject: City Councilwoman Loretta Diggs has noted that she's one of the few people on her street who recycles. Many times, Diggs says, she's the only one who's placed a bin for curbside recycling.

The failure of city residents to recycle has been cited as one of the possible reasons for the city's increased trash collections. (Er, I'm not sure I buy that.)

Anyway, I don't live within the city, but I know some of my neighbors hate recycling. They take pride in the fact that they throw bottles and cans into the trash, like they're "sticking it" to someone. In fact, they're only sticking it to themselves --- each ton of garbage you recycle is a ton of garbage your borough, township or city isn't paying to landfill. And the revenues go back to your municipality, which helps keep your taxes low.

Our borough used to recycle only glass and aluminum. Recently, we started recycling everything --- including newspapers, office paper, steel and five different kinds of plastic. It's actually fun to look at a plastic container --- a pill bottle, a take-out box --- and realize it's recyclable.

And it's drastically cut down on our purchase of trash bags --- some weeks we have only one small bag of garbage. A box of trash bags now lasts us most of a year.

Why don't people recycle? It can't be laziness, because believe me, I'm very lazy. It's actually easier to toss recyclables into those bins than it was to stuff all of that trash into Hefty bags and drag it to the curb.

If it's just ignorance, then smarten up, already. Recycling can be fun. Or am I just a weirdo? (Answer: Yes.)

. . .

Got Something to Say? 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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August 24, 2011 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: City Police Seek Road-Rage Driver

Category: News || By Submitted Reports

City police are looking for a suspect involved in a possible road-rage incident last week near Renziehausen Park.

Police say the incident began Thursday in the parking lot of the Giant Eagle on O'Neil Boulevard and carried into the neighboring Puff Tobacco Store. The suspect is described as 40 to 50 years old, approximately 5 feet 6 to 5 feet 8, bald and heavyset. He was driving a white Dodge Caravan.

Anyone with information should call McKeesport police at (412) 675-5015.

. . .

Porky Back on WEDO: Porky Chedwick is returning to local radio with a show on McKeesport-licensed WEDO (810).

The 93-year-old Chedwick, widely regarded as among the first white disc jockeys to feature rhythm and blues music on a mainstream radio station, announced today his new show will begin Sept. 2 at 11 a.m.

A native of Homestead, Chedwick began his radio career as an announcer in 1948 at what was then known as WHOD (860). The 1,000-watt station signed on with a format of mostly ethnic music, but Chedwick gradually began introducing what were then known as "race records" by mostly African-American artists.

When the station in 1956 was sold and changed its call letters to "WAMO" (for "Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio") and became a "country and western" station, Chedwick was one of the only on-air talents retained, and was allowed to continue playing R&B.

In later years, Chedwick became one of the first DJs to feature "oldies" --- records no longer on the charts --- on his show.

Chedwick in 2008 announced his retirement and moved to Florida with his wife, but they returned to Pittsburgh's Brookline neighborhood this year.

This is Chedwick's second tour at WEDO. After being fired by WAMO in 1984, Chedwick hosted a weekend oldies show at WEDO for several years.

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August 22, 2011 | Link to this story

Domo Arigato, Village Listeners

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

Denise L. Ritter photo © 2011

Someone tuned into our International Village broadcast last week from 9,393 miles away.

More than 100 listeners checked in during our broadcast last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and while most were from Western Pennsylvania, at least one was from Okaya, Japan, about three hours west of Tokyo. Domo arigato to you, anonymous listener from the city of 52,000 people.

(If you'd like to visit Okaya, Google's directions helpfully include the information, "kayak across the Pacific Ocean 2,756 miles to Honolulu, Hawaii.")

Besides Our Fair City, the majority of our listeners came from such nearby locations as Pittsburgh, Homestead and Elizabeth. A few came from not-too-distant places like New Kensington, Butler and Baden, Beaver County, or from farther-off Pennsylvania towns such as Newville, Erie and Coudersport.

But we also had listeners from Stamford, Conn.; Jacksonville, Orange Park and Fort Myers, Fla.; Austin, Texas; Cleveland, Barberton, Mansfield and Englewood, Ohio; Wichita, Kan.; Brunswick and St. Louis, Mo.; Norfolk and Reston, Va.; Andover and Peabody, Mass.; Brooklyn and New York City, N.Y.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbia, S.C.; Athens, Ga.; and Livingston, N.J.

One listener even hailed from the picturesquely named town of Queen Creek, Ariz., population 26,361.

Thank you to everyone for tuning in, and to our broadcast volunteers --- Alycia Bencloski, Derrick Brashear, Doug Goffus, Dan Malesky, Eric O'Brien and Denise Ritter --- who made the event so successful, along with Bob Hoffman and Tom Schroll for their technical support. See you in 2012!

. . .

As for our FM radio broadcast over 92.3, it was designed to be heard only in Renziehausen Park.

But we've received unconfirmed reports of people hearing at least snippets as far away as Route 837 in Duquesne and on Foster Road in North Versailles. I was able to pull in the signal (just barely) in the Grandview, Fawcett Plan and Haler Heights sections of the city. If you were able to hear us on FM, please drop me a note and let me know how it sounded.

. . .

Winner of the Tube City Beer clock was Jesse N. of Elizabeth, while the WMCK coffee mug went to Mike M. of Munhall. Thank you to everyone who visited our booth --- many of you had kind words to say about Tube City Almanac, while others were just looking for the portable toilets. We could tell the difference --- the latter were hopping up and down on one foot.

. . .

Meanwhile, our International Village neighbors at Striffler's Family Funeral Homes awarded prizes of their own. According to Sue Striffler Galaski, supervisor, the following were awarded at the village:
  • $100 Get Go Gift Card: Linda James (no address given)

  • $25 Get Go Gift Cards: Kristina Johnson, Duquesne, and Kathy Daerr, West Mifflin

  • $20 Eat 'n Park Gift Card: Armond Lann, McKeesport

  • Kennywood Tickets: Christina Hughes, Elizabeth

  • Striffler T-shirt and NAPA Auto Parts backpack: Laci Steiner (no address given)

. . .

For more photos from International Village, click the link that says (what else?) ... more!

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August 17, 2011 | Link to this story

A Beautiful Day for International Village

Category: Announcements || By Jason Togyer

UPDATE: OK, Shoutcast seems to have found us again. But it thinks we're playing an Alan Hawkshaw song. Ain't technology grand?

. . .

It's a beautiful day for International Village --- let's play two!

For some reason, our webcast is no longer showing up in Shoutcast's directory, but we are online. (The exact link is for you more technically minded folks.)

We may have had a few audio glitches yesterday. Because our booth has been moved (we're now near the Jakomas Blue-Top Pavilion) we have to use a wireless link to the stage, and it's been a little bit temperamental. It seems to be straightened out today, so if it sounded distorted or otherwise weird, try it again.

Of course, we're also on the air in Renziehausen Park at 92.3 FM, so bring a portable radio or listen in your car.

We're raffling off a Tube City Beer clock and a WMCK coffee mug, so stop by our booth and enter for a chance to win. We've also got new, updated maps of McKeesport and vicinity to give away.

Thanks again to our underwriters:

  • Chatham University's Global Focus Program

  • State Rep. Marc Gergely

  • White Oak Florist

  • McKeesport Housing Corp.

Also, thank you to Tube City Almanac readers who contributed to the broadcast using our PayPal link.

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August 16, 2011 | Link to this story

See You At the Village!

Category: Announcements || By Jason Togyer

Stop by our booth at International Village today, Wednesday or Thursday and enter for a chance to win a Tube City Beer clock or a WMCK coffee mug!

(No purchase necessary, and you need not be present to win. We'll draw the winner on Thursday night and announce the names at the Almanac. Employees of Tube City Community Media Inc. are non-existent.)

And hey! Tune in right now to our webcast. We've had some nice comments already!

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August 15, 2011 | Link to this story

Internet Stream Help

Category: Announcements || By Jason Togyer

Some folks are having trouble getting the International Village webcast stream to load. If you can't get it to work, go to and type in "Tube City Online." Then, click the "play" button (the triangle shape).

I've so far tested the stream in Winamp, iTunes, Quicktime and the free "VLC" player, on both Windows and Macs, and all of them played it just fine.

The stream should also work from smart phones (if they can stream Internet radio).

The address is ... type that exactly as it's shown! (And of course, we'll be on 92.3 FM in Renzie.)

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August 10, 2011 | Link to this story

Free Advice Regarding Two Prime Lots

Category: Commentary/Editorial || By Jason Togyer

Nobody asked me, but I would love, love, love to see some residential development on the St. Peter's and Holy Trinity sites. People would pay dearly --- and do --- for homes built along waterfronts. (Take a look at the apartments and townhouses built at The Waterfront in Munhall and Homestead if you don't believe me.)

The Monongahela River waterfront of McKeesport is largely taken over by industrial uses --- the sewage treatment plant, the RIDC Industrial Park, etc. --- but the Youghiogheny is becoming the "recreation" river, with the Palisades, the McKees Point Marina and the two hiking-biking trails.

I mentioned this on Facebook, but I thought it bears repeating here: I suspect that a residential development on the Holy Trinity and St. Peter's sites would go over well, especially for empty-nesters and former McKeesporters who want to move back to the area.

And before you tell me, "No one will buy houses in Downtown McKeesport," everyone thought that the houses on the old Menzie Dairy property wouldn't sell, either, but they did. The housing development on the Union Avenue reservoir site is also a success story.

People also scoffed at the idea of redeveloping Herr's Island in Pittsburgh (now known as Washington's Landing) and at the very idea of the Waterfront in Munhall and Homestead.

Seriously, housing along a river, next to a marina and a bike trail, sounds like an idea that's a complete no-brainer.

The public sector --- agencies like McKeesport Neighborhood Initiative and McKeesport Housing Corp. --- has demonstrated that new housing in McKeesport isn't an oxymoron. And while it would be wonderful if they tackled a project like this, it's about time for the private sector to step up and invest in the city, instead of just plowing up farmland all of the time for new subdivisions.

So, some of you local developers and real-estate agents who keep advertising "prime lots for sale" in Jefferson Hills and North Huntingdon: Why don't you take a chance on McKeesport instead?

. . .

P.S.: Are you on Facebook? The conversation from Tube City Almanac often spills over to our Facebook page. "Like" us at!

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August 09, 2011 | Link to this story

Using Your Noodle

Category: Commentary/Editorial || By Jason Togyer

Longtime readers of Tube City Almanac know that I used to get a lot of requests for information about the Berarducci Brothers Manufacturing Co., a firm once located in the city's East End that produced a variety of kitchen gadgets --- pizzelle irons, strainers, squeezers, etc.

In fact, I got so many requests that I eventually set up a separate webpage just to answer the most common questions.

Not only don't I know anything about Berarducci Brothers Manufacturing, I had never seen a Berarducci Brothers product until last week. Prowling the aisles of a small antique shop in Willoughby, Ohio, just east of Cleveland, I spotted a never-used, new-in-the-box ravioli press, which is now part of the Tube City Online collection (which bears a striking resemblance to a bunch of junk stacked up in the garage).

I haven't made any ravioli with it, and it's not for sale, and I definitely do not plan to start supplying parts for broken Berarducci Brothers products, so please, don't ask! And that includes the lady whose wires came "un-crumpped."

. . .

St. Peter's Question: Speaking of getting my wires uncrumpped, I received a wire --- actually, an email --- from Alert Reader J.S. this week:
I saw the sad, sobering video of St. Peter's demolition on Tube City Almanac. In the accompanying text you wrote, "St. Peter's was founded by German immigrants, who erected the first Roman Catholic church in McKeesport in 1846 at the corner of Seventh and Market streets."

Four generations of my Irish family worshipped there, and I always thought the parish was established by the Irish. My recollection is that St. Peter's spawned St. Pius V, originally on Fifth Avenue, then to Versailles Avenue. I went to St. Pius V through grade school. Are my recollections that far off?

Well, I'm not sure. My source for the information was the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh's archives, which says, "St. Peter was founded in 1846. The origin of the parish can be traced to the arrival of German Catholic immigrants to McKeesport. At first they had to travel to St. Philomena parish in Pittsburgh to attend services.

"Beginning in 1844, the Redemptorist Fathers began visiting McKeesport once a month to celebrate Mass," the website reports. "In 1846, the local Catholics bought a plot of land for a church. Work began on the church and the completed building was dedicated on April 5, 1847."

But according to the history published in A McKeesport Commemorative (1976): "Two cattle dealers donated the land on which the first Roman Catholic Church in McKeesport, St. Peter, now stands on Market Street. That was in 1846 when a small brick structure was built and dedicated ... it became the center from which eleven other Catholic churches ... developed."

The same entry notes that the "first of the Catholic churches to be founded with a strong ethnic background and a language other than English was St. Mary German on Olive Avenue. It was organized by the Rev. Adam Tonner in August of 1887." (Emphasis added by me.)

That strongly implies that St. Peter's wasn't a German church at all. In fact, A McKeesport Commemorative notes that the first pastor of St. Peter's was a Rev. Nicholas Haeres, who was followed by a Rev. James Nolan and a Msgr. Congal A. McDermott --- those are Scots and Irish names if I've ever heard them.

And 1846 would have been somewhat for many German Catholic settlers to have arrived in McKeesport. A Concise Historical Atlas of Pennsylvania (1989) notes that the earliest German settlers in Pennsylvania were predominantly Mennonites, Baptists, Lutherans and Reformed. Allegheny County itself was largely settled by English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Scots-Irish.

Many German immigrants didn't arrive in Pennsylvania until after the industrial era began in the 1840s.

All of this is a long way of saying that I suspect you're correct, and that St. Peter's was founded by Irish, Scottish and Scots-Irish immigrants, but that the Diocese of Pittsburgh's official records say "German."

By the way, an entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia --- and A McKeesport Commemorative --- both note that among the early missionaries to hold Masses in McKeesport was the Rev. John Neumann, who was canonized and made a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1977.

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August 08, 2011 | Link to this story

St. Peter's Demolition Nears Completion

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

(If above video fails to load, please click this link.)

. . .

It's a gloomy Monday morning. And from the front, there's little evidence of anything out of the ordinary at the old St. Peter's Church on Market Street, Downtown.

But the view from the side tells a different story. The former Roman Catholic Church, which closed in 2007, is fast being reduced to a pile of debris.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that Saint Peter's predates the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, which was formed in 1843. That would make it among the first 100 Roman Catholic churches in the United States of America.

St. Peter's is one of two worship sites of the former St. Martin de Porres parish that are disappearing this summer.

Crews recently completed demolition of the former Holy Trinity Church on Seventh Avenue, within sight of St. Peter's.

St. Peter's was founded by German immigrants, who erected the first Roman Catholic church in McKeesport in 1846 at the corner of Seventh and Market streets.

The church currently being torn down dates from 1875. Construction took two years. Demolition is taking a lot less time.

A declining number of worshipers --- and a declining number of Catholic priests --- led to the elimination of St. Peter's as an independent parish. In 1993, it merged with Holy Trinity, St. Mary's German, and Sacred Heart on Shaw Avenue to form St. Martin de Porres parish.

But the population of the Mon Valley and the number of priests have both continued to dwindle. In two-thousand-seven, the Saint Peter's worship site was closed for good.

And in 2010, St. Martin de Porres parish was merged again, this time with St. Pius V parish and St. Mary Czechostowa, both on Versailles Avenue.

At that time, church council and the parish's pastor decided to tear down the vacant Holy Trinity and St. Peter's buildings.

Venerated objects were removed from both buildings prior to demolition. And parts of the pipe organs have been incorporated into a new instrument at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Ross Township, north of Pittsburgh.

No development plans have been announced for either the Holy Trinity or St. Peter's site. Some artifacts from the churches were transferred to the new Corpus Christi parish, which uses the former St. Mary's on Versailles avenue.

Soon, those artifacts --- and many memories --- will be all that remains of St. Peter's, one of the oldest Catholic churches west of the Allegheny mountains.

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August 06, 2011 | Link to this story

Testing, Testing

Category: Announcements || By Jason Togyer

We're getting ready for our live broadcast of the 52nd annual International Village by testing the webstream this weekend. If you want to make sure that you're ready to listen on Aug. 16, 17 and 18, click this link, or open in WinAmp, iTunes, QuickTime, VLC or whatever your favorite audio program is.

If you're feeling technically challenged, just go to our webcast page. You can also bookmark that link for use during International Village.

(P.S.: The stream isn't too exciting right now. It's got some funky Hungarian rock music and a few announcements.)

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August 05, 2011 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Heritage Center Wraps Up Speaker Series

Category: Announcements || By Submitted Reports

McKeesport Heritage Center wraps up its 2011 Summer Speaker Series on Aug. 13 with a program about the city's local amateur sports teams.

Speaker Walter Patton will reminisce about the teams, sports and fields. Photographs and memorabilia from the museum's collection will be on display.

The program begins at 2 p.m. at the center, 1832 Arboretum Drive in Renziehausen Park, and is free and open to the public. For more information, call (412) 678-1832 or visit the center's website.

. . .

Boston Bridge Reopens to Pedestrians: Only days after warning people not to use the sidewalks on the Boston Bridge, state highway officials announced that the span has been reopened to pedestrians.

The sidewalks were removed on July 19 while crews replaced the pins that support the bridge trusses, said Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. The work was completed early and the sidewalks reopened again this week, he said.

The bridge remains closed to vehicles through Sept. 27 as a $17.3 million rehabilitation project continues, Struzzi said.

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August 04, 2011 | Link to this story

Hearing Slated on Water Rate Increase

Category: News || By Submitted Report

Customers of Pennsylvania-American Water Company can voice their opinions on a planned rate hike during a public hearing Wednesday in Dravosburg.

The hearing before the state Public Utility Commission will be held at 6 p.m. in the Dravosburg Municipal Building, 226 Maple Ave., said state Sen. Jim Brewster, who opposes the 13 percent increase.

"This is your opportunity to speak out and let your voice be heard," said the McKeesport Democrat. "I think it is important that the public provide the PUC with a very strong and clear message on this proposed rate hike and how it would impact families."

Under the proposal, the annual water bill for a typical household would go from $581.40 to $658.44.

Under law, water companies must PUC approval to increase water rates.

In a June 2 letter to the PUC, Brewster urged the commissioners to reject the request, saying that many Mon Valley customers of Penn-American are on low or fixed incomes.

The hearing was slated at Brewster's request. Residents who wish to testify should arrive 10 to 15 minutes early, sign in, and if they have a written statement they want to put on the record, should bring an extra copy, Brewster said.

The PUC must issue a final decision on the rate increase by Jan. 28.

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August 04, 2011 | Link to this story

Planned Authority Payoff Would Reduce City's Debt

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

Like a homeowner who uses an unexpected windfall to pay off high-interest credit cards, McKeesport officials plan to take an early payment from the city's sewerage authority and use it to cut the city's debt.

At a special meeting last night, council by 4-2 vote approved a plan to pay off more than $19 million in bonds issued in 2005. The money will come from the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport, which intends to pay off $24 million it owes to the city.

Mayor Regis McLaughlin and City Administrator Dennis Pittman said paying off the bonds early will drastically reduce the amount of money the city pays each year in debt service, and will allow the city to stop paying for insurance on those bonds.

. . .

"It's a good thing for the city, because it's going to keep the city moving forward without struggling or raising taxes," said McLaughlin, who chairs the sewerage authority board. "And it helps the authority because we're paying down our debts early."

If completed, the plan also should improve the city's creditworthiness and enable it to borrow money in the future at a lower rate, said John McShane of Philadelphia-based Boenning and Scattergood Inc., a brokerage and bond counsel for the sewerage authority, and one-time bond counsel for the city itself.

"One of the problems that you've had is that you don't have an investment-grade (credit) rating because your debt is so high," McShane told council. "All of a sudden, you're going to be in a position to start moving forward, and do projects you may not now be able to do."

The city has about $31 million in debt outstanding, Pittman said.

"If we were to use this $24 million to do anything but reduce our bonded debt, we would have literally mortgaged this city's future," he said. "This gives us the opportunity to meet our bonded debt and manage our cash flow."

. . .

But the decision was not without controversy, with Councilmen Darryl Segina and A.J. Tedesco Jr. arguing that the city was moving too quickly and without allowing council to study the proposal more carefully. Both voted against the plan. Councilman Richard Dellapenna Jr. was absent.

"What is the rush?" Segina said.

"There is a rush," McShane said. "The authority is in a great position right now. They have a great cash flow. They have the equivalent of an A-plus rating at Moody's, and they have access to the lowest interest rates we've seen in the capital markets in the past 40 years."

The sewerage authority, which also serves residents in several neighboring boroughs, recently acquired the Duquesne and Dravosburg sewerage systems as well.

Whether or not the city decides to pay off its debts early, McShane said, the authority intends to move forward in paying off its own.

. . .

The meeting also was not without theatrics. City Controller Raymond Malinchak was ejected from council chambers when he ignored Council President Michael Cherepko's repeated requests to stop interrupting McShane with questions.

"Mr. Malinchak, you're out of order," Cherepko said. "This is a council meeting. (You're) not a voting member of council."

As a city police officer removed Malinchak from the room, Malinchak --- who is running for mayor against Cherepko --- protested that his "rights as a citizen" were being violated.

. . .

The sewerage authority in 1997 borrowed $3.5 million from the city. It owes $2.4 million on that loan. In addition, the authority in 2008 agreed to purchase the city's sewer lines and other connections at a cost of $30 million; it owes $21.9 million.

But the authority --- which is in the middle of a major expansion program --- has recently received state loans and grants totalling nearly $37 million, McShane said.

As a result, he said, the authority wants to pay off its debts to the city early, to lower its debt load and improve its own cash flow. "From the authority's standpoint, it's a no-brainer," McShane said.

. . .

Under the plan presented by McShane and endorsed by McLaughlin, the city would use the authority's payment to redeem $19 million in bonds issued in 2005 as part of former Mayor Jim Brewster's McKeesport Renaissance program.

The remaining money --- about $5 million --- would be put into an escrow account for the city.

The authority is paying the city 4 percent interest on its debts to the city, while the city is paying more than 5 percent interest on its own debt, McShane said.

"You'd be reducing debt that has a higher (interest) rate than what you let the authority borrow at," he said.

. . .

Because the authority would pay off its debts early, the city would no longer receive regular payments on the debts. Instead, regular payments from the escrow account would replace the cash flow from the authority's debt payments.

But Segina said the plan is full of "jargon" and "too hard to understand for a layman," and protested that revisions were circulated to council only a few hours before the meeting.

"For us to sit here now and try to make a judgment regarding $24 million is beyond comprehension, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "This is insane for this to be presented to us at this time, without proper representation."

But McLaughlin said that council has known of the sewerage authority's plans to pay off its debts early for "at least five or six months."

Cherepko said last night's meeting --- which included McShane and two other attorneys specializing in municipal bonds --- was designed to answer council's questions.

. . .

Segina expressed concern that the plan was crafted by the sewerage authority and presented to the city as a "done deal."

"It seems like MACM (the sewerage authority) is the tail, and they're wagging the city's dog," he said. "We're an elected body. They're just an appointed body over there ... I resent the fact that we're being dictated to by MACM."

Segina and Malinchak also have complained that several city officials --- including McLaughlin, Councilman Dale McCall and Public Works Director Nick Shermenti --- have conflicts of interest because they sit on the sewerage authority's board of directors.

City Solicitor Bruce Dice has not yet issued a public ruling on whether or not the board positions --- which are uncompensated --- represent a conflict of interest.

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