Local Penn State Historian Discusses MLK's Work and Ongoing Legacy

January 18, 2016 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, Podcast

Many universities --- including Penn State's Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport --- were closed today for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

But instead of taking the holiday as a day off, about 90 students from the McKeesport campus and six other Penn State campuses in Beaver, Altoona, Behrend, DuBois, Fayette and New Kensington gathered in McKeesport, and then fanned out through the Pittsburgh area to volunteer at charities such as McKeesport Little Theatre, Auberle,  Braddock Carnegie Library and Braddock Free Store, and for public spaces such as White Oak Park.

The event is a tradition that began eight years ago, in an effort to use Penn State Pride to give back to the community, a campus spokeswoman said.

To kick off the event, history instructor Johnathan White gave a keynote address to students before they headed out to their volunteer sites.

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Braddock Radio Station Purchased By Local Public Media Group

January 14, 2016 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

The Pittsburgh area will soon have a jazz radio station again after nearly five years without one.

Pittsburgh Public Media announced today the acquisition of WZUM (1550), an AM station licensed to Braddock, for $75,000. (WZUM airs Tube City Community Media's weekly talk show, "Two Rivers, 30 Minutes.")

A letter of intent and asset purchase agreement was signed by WZUM’s owners, AM Guys LLC, and by Chuck Leavens, president of Pittsburgh Public Media.

The sale is pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission, a process that could take several months, Leavens said. When the sale is complete, PPM intends to add jazz programming to WZUM along with other public-interest features, Leavens said.

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January 08, 2016 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, Podcast

As many of you know, I do a weekly talk show --- "Two Rivers, 30 Minutes" --- that's heard on McKeesport's WEDO (810) and Braddock's WZUM (1550), as well as on our Internet radio station, www.WMCK.FM.

You can also get it as a podcast on your smartphone, computer or iPod --- or, at least you can, when I remember to upload the files. With the holidays, I did a poor job of that! Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Well, I've rectified that. There are three (count 'em! three!) new episodes of "Two Rivers" available for download from Stitcher and iTunes.

For our most recent episode, airing this weekend, I talked to Carol Frazier, news editor of the Daily News, and Terri Pollock, an ad sales rep and page designer for the paper, about the paper's closing on Dec. 31.

How did the newspaper bind together more than two dozen Mon-Yough communities? What impact will the loss of the newspaper have on the McKeesport and Steel Valley areas? What are the problems the loss of a local newspaper poses for democracy?

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Braddock Mayor Calls on Governor to Pardon Councilman-Elect

January 06, 2016 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Braddock mayor and Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman is the latest person to call on Gov. Tom Wolf to pardon McKeesport business owner Corry Sanders.

Sanders was elected to McKeesport city council in November, but the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office this week warned city officials that Sanders was ineligible to serve because he pleaded guilty in 1993 to two felony drug offenses.

"The voters of McKeesport have democratically chosen (Corry) Sanders to serve as their representative, and we should not let a drug conviction from a quarter-century ago block the will of the people," Fetterman said yesterday. "I call on Governor Wolf to issue a pardon for Mr. Sanders to give the people of McKeesport the democratic representative they voted for."

Fetterman said Sanders' inability to take his council seat --- despite a long track record of clean behavior, which includes service as a church deacon and in numerous responsible positions --- "represents so much about what is wrong with our broken system."

Fetterman is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in the May primary.

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Judge Expected to Rule on Whether City Councilor Must Be Removed

January 04, 2016 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Corry Sanders has led "an exemplary life" since a 1993 felony conviction, an assistant district attorney told McKeesport officials earlier today, but he will be ineligible to serve on city council unless he is pardoned by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

Angry residents on Monday night crowded McKeesport City Council chambers, many of them demanding that Sanders be allowed to take the seat to which he was elected in November.

But city council President Rich J. Dellapenna adjourned council's reorganization meeting, and two additional council meetings scheduled for this week have reportedly been cancelled, as McKeesport officials await the outcome of a likely hearing before an Allegheny County judge.

Sanders, a local businessman, was one of four people elected in 2015 to four vacant seats on city council, along with Tim Brown and incumbent council members Dellapenna and Keith A. Soles. But in January 1993, Sanders pleaded "no contest" to two felony drug charges, and according to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., that makes him ineligible to hold elected office in Pennsylvania.

Article II, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania constitition says that "no person hereafter convicted of embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury or other infamous crime" is eligible to hold any "office of trust or profit" in the state.

"It is unfortunate that this situation has arisen, given the fact that Mr. Sanders has put his past indiscretions behind him and, by all accounts, lived an exemplary life since then," assistant Allegheny County district attorney Kevin F. McCarthy wrote Monday in a letter to McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko.

Sanders, who has served on unelected boards such as the McKeesport Downtown Business Authority, frequently speaks to school and church groups about how he has turned his life around.

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Union, U.S. Steel Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

December 20, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(The editor of Tube City Almanac has a conflict of interest. Please see the editor's notes at the end of this article.)

Unionized employees at U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works have an early Christmas present.

The company and the United Steelworkers yesterday reached a tentative three-year contract agreement covering 18,000 employees in 26 local unions at a dozen U.S. Steel facilities. The union has been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired Sept. 1.

The agreement covers employees of U.S. Steel's domestic flat-rolled facilities, which include the Clairton, Edgar Thomson and Irvin plants of the Mon Valley Works, as well as pipe-making and iron-ore mining operations. The tentative agreement remains subject to ratification, a process that the union said could take several weeks to complete.

"We are pleased that we have reached a tentative agreement in the best interest of our company, our stakeholders and our employees," U.S. Steel President and CEO Mario Longhi said.

The agreement, he said, "further supports the mutual success we have had with the USW" in restructuring U.S. Steel in the face of what he called "unfair trade that is significantly impacting our industry."

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'Crossing Fences' Radio Project Unites Young Men With Mentors

December 03, 2015 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, Podcast

Many people in the Pittsburgh area have probably heard "The Saturday Light Brigade," the long-running public radio program that airs on six FM radio stations and three Internet stations, including Tube City Online's WMCK.FM in McKeesport.

But they may not be aware that SLB's parent organization also engages in mentoring and training programs in local schools, including the Propel charter schools in the Mon Valley as well as public schools through the McKeesport-based Consortium for Public Education.

This week, SLB debuted the latest three CDs in its "Crossing Fences" series. In "Crossing Fences," groups of African-American teen-agers interview local men from the community, and then edit the interviews into four to six minute radio documentaries.

The latest series includes interviews collected in Braddock and Homestead; a previous series included oral histories collected in McKeesport and Hazelwood. Twelve communities have been covered so far; all of the documentaries are available as free downloads at NeighborhoodVoices.org.

On the next episode of our weekly radio show, "Two Rivers, 30 Minutes," we talk with Sarah Siplak and Chanessa Schuler of SLB Radio Productions about "Crossing Fences," and we also listen to one of the oral histories.

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Daily News Will Close if No Buyer is Found by Dec. 31

November 10, 2015 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Happier times: Former Daily News publisher and philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife, shown here with now-state Sen. James Brewster, served as grand marshal of McKeesport's "Salute to Santa" parade in 2008. With Scaife's 2014 death, his newspaper empire is being sold off. Tube City Almanac photo by John Barna.

. . .

The McKeesport Daily News and Monessen Valley Independent will be closed if they're not sold by Dec. 31, says their owner, the parent company of the Tribune-Review, which is also planning widespread layoffs.

In a press release this morning, Trib Total Media said that 91 employees in McKeesport and Monessen will lose their jobs if the newspapers are closed.

"The end of any of our nameplates, all of them longtime fixtures in their communities, is regrettable and painful for everyone," Trib Total Media President Jennifer Bertetto said in a statement.

"But we are not immune to the financial pressures that have forced even more drastic cutbacks by all of our competitors and by nearly every newspaper in the country," she said.

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Police Seek Suspect in Bystander's Death

November 07, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Police are looking for an 18-year-old suspect in the shooting death of a man who was apparently struck by a stray bullet while driving in the city's East End.

Rashawn Walker (shown) is wanted for questioning in the death of James A. Ponzo, 73, of Glassport.

Ponzo was driving on East Fifth Avenue near the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge just before 3 p.m. Wednesday when two other cars entered the street, police said. The occupants of the two cars were shooting at each other.

Police believe Ponzo was struck by a stray bullet. His car then went out of control and struck another vehicle, injuring two people.

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Local Prof's Work Featured in Wired Magazine

October 21, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Above: Lori Hepner's photographs are produced by programming spinning LEDs to flash based on the binary code of each character in a tweet. This photo used a tweet from pop star Miley Cyrus. (Courtesy Lori Hepner)

A professor at Penn State Greater Allegheny in McKeesport has had her work profiled recently in Wired magazine ... and it may soon be sent to the moon.

The article describes how Lori Hepner, associate professor of integrative arts, photographs images produced by programming "eight spinning LEDs [to] flash based on the binary code of each character in a tweet."

These ‘Twitter portraits’ are part of a series Hepner calls "Status Symbols."

According to the article, one of Hepner's photographs will be included in an art collection to be sent to the moon as part of Carnegie Mellon University's entry in the Google Lunar X competition.

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