Last week’s Pittsburgh news, today #20: stay with these questions

For people who might not read the news every day, but would still like to know what's going on in Pittsburgh.

photo: brian conway

Fitz deflects on ACJ. Rich Fitzgerald, 2022 Pittsburgh Magazine “Pittsburgher of the Year,” is having a rough start to 2023. The Allegheny County Executive deflected questions about the Allegheny County Jail in an interview with WESA’s Kevin Gavin. When pressed, Fitzgerald kvetched: “I didn’t see this, Kevin, in the things that we were, that you had sent to me ahead of time. This was something that, you had said you were going to stay with these questions.” [In response, 90.5 said “WESA does not send guests questions ahead of interviews. If requested, we may provide some discussion topics in advance.“] Listen to the interview and read WESA’s account from Gavin, Marylee Williams, and Laura Tsutsui.

Fitzgerald is a member of the Jail Oversight Board and is statutorily required to attend meetings, but has attended rarely, if ever. Since March 2020, 17 men have died at the facility. RELATED: Last week’s JOB meeting was as contentious as ever, with questions about missing winter clothes, strip-searched juveniles, high school tours and more. Hannah Wyman reports for Pittsburgh Union Progress. MORE: ACJ’s December lockdowns may have violated a ban on solitary confinement. Julia Zenkevich reports for WESA.

Pollution dangers “beyond imminent”. Armed with independent air quality data, Mon Valley residents are asking the EPA “to exercise a clause of the Clean Air Act that mandates the agency investigate sources of air pollution and devise ways to reduce them.” According to one expert, the known carcinogen benzene was at levels “roughly five times higher [in the Mon Valley]… than it is in downtown Pittsburgh,” due to emissions from U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works. Reid Frazier reports for Allegheny Front.

Block’s shock CP purchase. In an audacious move, a subsidiary of Block Communications has purchased the Pittsburgh City Paper from the Butler Eagle. The buy comes at a time when the Blocks are refusing to pay basic health care costs for striking workers at their other publication, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Some worry the purchase of the venerable alt-weekly will effectively end the publication’s critical reporting of PG ownership. Andrew Conte writes for NEXTpittsburgh.

PR 101. Joanna Doven’s campaign to unseat progressive firebrand, Bethany Hallam, is off to a rough start. Within days of declaring for county council, QBurgh called out the former Ravenstahl spokesperson on her past derogatory statements about transgender individuals and her support of Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Doven, a Democrat, defended herself on twitter, which led to a further response from the article’s author, Jim Sheppard, who himself worked in the Ravenstahl administration. Here’s Qburgh’s coverage; and Doven’s response. Chris Potter reports on Doven’s campaign for WESA.

‘QED’s new docs stream. The Hill District’s Freedom House Ambulance Service, the nation’s first EMT service, is the subject of a new WQED documentary. Joshua Axelrod reports for the Union Progress. RELATED: While you’re there, check out Local 1196, a documentary about United Steelworkers who took to picket lines against Allegheny Technologies in March 2021.

Pols join PG boycott. Democratic politicians balance their “need for press with solidarity for Post-Gazette journalists,” as more local elected officials join on to the Newsguild’s petition to boycott the PG as workers remain on strike. Chris Potter reports on this (and more) in his weekly politics newsletter for WESA.

Mosley runs for District 9. Khari Mosley, director of 1Hood Media, declared his candidacy for the District 9 Pittsburgh City Council seat, held by incumbent, Rev. Ricky Burgess. Mosley is married to former Allegheny County Controller and current common pleas court judge, Chelsa Wagner. Jamie Wiggan reports for the City Paper.

Stroll through Homewood Cemetery. Did you know Homewood Cemetery is “one of just 23 cemeteries in the U.S. that’s an accredited arboretum?” Kara Holsopple reports for Allegheny Front.

Joe Hardy dead at 100. 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Woodlands founder Joe Hardy died on his 100th birthday. Hardy was elected a Fayette County commissioner in 2003. Here’s a gonzo, 2009 WTAE report from Andrew Stockey about the then-84-year-old Hardy’s “brief, wild ride” of a marriage to his 22 year-old former secretary, which mentions that the millionaire bought her 2-year-old son a tiger. Richard Cook writes for Pittsburgh Magazine.

Big board seats opening. With a new county executive comes new appointments to the region’s “vast unelected power structure.” Among four to keep an eye on: Jail Oversight Board, ALCOSAN, the Board of Health, and Pittsburgh Regional Transit. City Paper’s Jamie Wiggan teams up with PublicSource’s Charlie Wolfson. RELATED: Mayor Gainey appointed two new members to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board last week, after “rescinding a previous executive order from then Mayor Bill Peduto which created a Board of Nominators to select appointments.”

Curaleaf took Russian’s millions. America’s largest cannabis company, Curaleaf, which operates 18 Pennsylvania locations, including one in Greensburg, took millions from Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich. The Russian billionaire and former owner of Chelsea FC, who it was just revealed owns 16 yachts, “exited long ago,” said Curaleaf Holdings Executive Chairman Boris Jordan. Tiffany Kary reports for Bloomberg. Or, if you prefer, take the news in cartoon form via Brian Box Brown.

Note: In solidarity with striking Newspaper Guild workers, the Pittsburgh Independent will not share news articles from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Follow striking workers’ news coverage at the Pittsburgh Union Progress.

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He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.

He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.

In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.