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April 19th Ups & Downs

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a new caucus is formed in Harrisburg, the state now has an official amphibian, while there’s news in Philadelphia about a proposed safe injection site. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Their staff won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for its coverage of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue that resulted in 11 deaths and wounding of seven others on Oct. 27. The judges who called the work of the Post-Gazette, “immersive, compassionate coverage… that captured the anguish and resilience of a community thrust into grief,” cited 10 pieces of work published between Oct 27 and Nov. 10. These published pieces included stories, photos, videos, a timeline of events, and biographies of the 11 victims killed at the synagogue, according to the Post-Gazette. The story from the Post-Gazette breaking the news stated, “Editors at the Post-Gazette said the horrendous events of that day made it difficult to fully savor one of the country’s highest honors for journalistic achievement.” Executive editor Keith Burris said receiving the award is “not a moment of celebration, it cannot be,” while David Shribman, emeritus executive editor who led the staff during the tragedy, asked the newsroom to take a moment of silence for the victims. The last Pulitzer the Post-Gazette won was in 1998.

Pitt Staff Union Effort. Despite recently receiving endorsements from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the effort to unionize 3,500 faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh appears to have been unsuccessful. The Post-Gazette reports that the state found “too few employees signed cards of support” to hold a hearing on a proposed election. Pitt and the United Steelworkers are at odds for why the union’s election petition was rejected. A spokesman from Pitt said they didn’t meet the 30% threshold of potential bargaining unit sign cards, while the United Steelworkers, who the faculty organizers wanted to unionize with, accused Pitt of attempting to derail their efforts by exaggerating its number of employees. They indicated plans to appeal the decision.

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. The Philadelphia City Councilwoman who has been a vocal opponent of proposed safe injection facilities in her district can claim a victory for the time being at least. Mayor Jim Kenney, an advocate for opening a safe injection site, is pleading with the nonprofit Safehouse to consider other potential locations for its supervised safe injection sites, outside of the building the nonprofit was closing in on in Kensington. The news of the potential site incited opposition from neighbors at a community forum. Kenney says he still supports opening a supervised safe injection site, but said a single facility in Kensington will not properly address the citywide issue.

Kristin Phillips-Hill and Pam Snyder. Forming a new caucus. The GOP state Senator from York Township and the Democratic state Representative from Washington County are the co-chairs of the newly formed Broadband Caucus. The York Dispatch reports that the new caucus won’t be able to vote on any legislation, but it can provide awareness, research, and provide the groundwork for future legislation addressing their goal of extending broadband service to those in Pennsylvania living without it.

Kevin Gross. The Mayor of Derry Borough in Westmoreland County resigned after recent allegations that he pointed a gun at four children in a park on Sunday. Gross was arrested on Sunday after he allegedly got involved during a playground argument over a marked that involved in son and took a loaded revolver to the park, the Tribune Review reports. He is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, harassment and reckless endangerment. His defense attorney said that it is their “contention that the allegations have factual inaccuracies in many ways.”

WHYY. Philadelphia’s leading public radio and television outlet, is purchasing Billy Penn, a local online news outlet. Billy Penn, launched in 2014, was put up for sale last month by its owners for not raising enough money from investors. WHYY said they will maintain its brand and staff.

David Ridge and Ed Smith. These two lawyers running to be a judge in Erie County were the only candidates in a field of five that were “highly recommended” by the Erie County Bar Association. Ridge received 82% by the bar association, while Smith carried 58%. The three candidates who were not recommended by the Erie County Bar Association were former Mayor Joe Sinnott, Pete Sala, chief deputy district attorney for Erie County, Erin Connelly.

Eastern Hellbender. Also known as a “snot otter, lasagna lizard, or mud devil,” this salamander has the honor of being Pennsylvania’s official amphibian. The House voted 191-6 on Tuesday in favor of making the hellbender the state’s amphibian.


This post was updated to correct the details in the University of Pittsburgh arrow. 

2 Responses

  1. Although delighted by the new caucus begun by Senator Phillips-Hill and Rep Pam Snyder, the article would have been more complete if it had recognized that the new caucus was based on last session’s Broadband Caucus in the House which then Representative Phillips-Hill and Rep. Snyder organized. The article also failed to note that the House Broadband Caucus is alive and well, having held its organizational meeting for the 2019-20 legislative session on April 16.

  2. Well, you don’t know what you’re talking about regarding the Pitt unionization effort. How about reading the article you linked to prior to posting? The article has to do with Pitt FACULTY …not grad students. Two separate bargaining units.

    The grad students voted this week. Election results next week. It was the FACULTY that didn’t have enough signatures.


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