Category: Metro Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
GENERATIONS—Cathy Irvis, center, is joined by, left to right, her son Reggie, Dan Rooney, and granddaughter “number 1” Danae Lee for the ribbon cutting of the K. Leroy Irvis Science Center at CCAC. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
As part of the VIP crowd that took part in the ribbon-cutting for the Community College of Allegheny County’s K. Leroy Irvis Science Center, state Sen. Jay Costa told the audience that as a graduate and now board member of CCAC, he owed a great debt to Irvis, who as speaker of the state house, created the community college system.
And as part of his thanks, Costa read one of Irvis’ poems, “Daisies:”
“Quickly gone, And soon forgotten, So it is with men and daisies.”
As the other dignitaries reminded the audience, there is little chance of that happening with Irvis; the first African-American named Speaker of a state house assembly, civil rights attorney, artist, poet and model airplane enthusiast.
This is truly a great day, “ said state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill. “Because it gives us a chance to lift up a great man.”
Wheatley told the audience how after he’d been elected to represent Irvis’ former district, the retired statesmen asked to see him.
“He told me to never forget the most important thing about being a representative is being a servant,” said Wheatley. “It’s about more than yourself, more than the district. It’s about serving all the people of the commonwealth.”
And while the other dignitaries on stage; Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, CCAC Campus President Donna Imhoff and Board Chair Amy Kuntz, County Councilman Bill Robinson and CCAC President Alex Johnson also expressed thanks for being able to celebrate Irvis, the audience was also filled with those who came to honor the late speaker.
These included CCAC professors Ralph Proctor and Elmer Hamer who first proposed building the center, Highmark VP and former County Executive Dan Onorato, Common Pleas Judge Dwayne Woodruff, Urban Radio Network President Jerry Lopes and former ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney.
The state of the art Irvis Center took just under two years to build, but it got off to a rocky start with independent contractors suing after the university signed an agreement requiring 90 percent union labor. This came after New Pittsburgh Courier columnist Louis “Hop” Kendrick wrote that the construction management team had no Black members.
During the ceremony, though, both Doyle and Costa said that 52 percent of the $21.5 million budget went to Minority- Women- and Disabled-Business Enterprises.
The Irvis Center’s five floors encompass 65,000 square feet of lab, classroom and presentation space, allow for students to use the best equipment and technologies to advance their studies in physics, biology, chemistry and astronomy, and benefit from the region’s technology, medical and energy boom.
Robinson, now a board trustee emeritus, said he promised Irvis’ widow, Cathy Irvis, that he would be brief, so he thanked the alumni and current students for their patience.
“Even with less than the best equipment, CCAC has graduated more nursing students than any college in the country,” he said. “With this wonderful facility now complete, it will be seen as the starting point for greatness at CCAC.”
Cathy Irvis, who was delighted that this day had finally arrived, thanked everyone involved in the project and for the kind words everyone had for her late husband. She also said after watching the parade of blue suits and ties, that she was glad to see two women on the stage.
“But I really want to thank Ralph and Elmer,” she said. “They came to me years ago and said they wanted to erect a building in his name. I told them they were crazy. But they came back. And they came back again. Finally I said if you think you can do it go ahead. So, Ralph, Elmer, sorry I called you crazy.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:09
Category: Metro Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
BILL PEDUTO AND ED GAINEY
State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-East Liberty, has scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference for March 27 to announce he is relinquishing the Democratic city chairmanship he has held for three years to endorse Bill Peduto for mayor of Pittsburgh.
“I have tremendous respect for committee people and the process, but this year I don’t think it was as accurate as it could have been,” he said. “So I am stepping down as chair, so I can vote for the man I believe is the best candidate in the race, Bill Peduto.”
Party committee members are compelled to support their party’s endorsed candidates in primary and general elections. Failure to do so can result in sanctions, including loss of a committee seat.
Though he extended his best wishes to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and his family, Gainey said the mayor’s late decision to not seek another term, coming after the deadline for candidates to apply for the party endorsement, did not allow the committee members a chance to properly vet the other candidates.
“It’s not the committee people who are at fault, it’s the situation,” he said. “And because I respect the committee and the process, I’m stepping down because it’s the right thing to do.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:01
Category: Metro Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer
THREE MORE YEARS—The Pittsburgh School Board extended Superintendent Linda Lane’s contract for three more years.
Last week Pittsburgh Public Schools unveiled a new district website, changing the way parents, teachers, and students access information. But some things in the district won’t be changing in the near future. On March 20, the Board of Education voted to extend PPS Superintendent Linda Lane’s contract for three more years.
“As we continue to evolve into a district of first choice for families, I am privileged to have been leading the Pittsburgh Public Schools in such a time of change,” said Lane in a press release. “I am honored to continue to serve the students and families of Pittsburgh, a place I now call home.”
The board’s 7-1-1 vote will leave Lane in charge of the district until June 2016. According to the release, Lane decided to keep her salary at $200,000, but by 2016, if she chooses to accept yearly increases, her salary could increase to a maximum of $265,000.
“I’m glad the board decided to extend it,” said District 1 Rep. Sharene Shealey, the board’s president. “She has really led us in moving forward with ensuring all our students are getting the same quality education. The equity plan is really key to that and it’s the first time we’ve had that. She’s worked really well with the advocates for African-American students on what the district should be doing with the equity plan.”
While Shealey touted the district’s Equity: Getting to All Plan, designed to increase student achievement among African-Americans, District 2 Rep. Regina Holley, who abstained from voting said the plan doesn’t go far enough. But despite her apprehensions over Lane, Holley said failures in the district are also due to the board not working as a team.
“Even though I did abstain, I will be working with (Lane) to improve achievement,” Holley said. “I’m not going to sit back and not participate; I’m definitely going to do everything I can and I will support her.”
Holley was critical of decreasing student achievement over the past year, but she was also focused on teachers and personnel. She said hiring and firing of teachers in the district isn’t always equitable and has requested evaluation measures for administrative staff in the district’s central office.
“Because of the way we’re moving forward in the district I had requested that we have an accountability system for all personnel, not just school based personnel, because the school based personnel don’t have a lot of control over what happens,” Holley said. “I believe the superintendent is a good person, she wants the best for the children, but I think everyone needs to be held to the same standard.”
Others praised Lane’s efforts to reduce district expenditures in hopes of averting fiscal crisis in 2015. According to District 4 Rep. Bill Isler, the board’s second vice president, the budget for the last fiscal year produced a surplus.
“I’m absolutely delighted. I think Dr. Lane has really tackled the issues the district faces,” Isler said. “Achievement is very paramount to her and with the whole fiscal situation I think her ability to reduce cost is a testament to her ability.”
District 8 Rep. Mark Brentley who was the lone no vote said he would’ve liked the board to extend Lane’s contract for six months and then let the board reconsider extending the contract next January. He reasoned that four board members are not running for reelection this year. A change in four board members could lead to a drastically different board with different views on the direction of the district.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:38
Category: Metro Written by Courier Newsroom
DOUGLAS WILLIAMS AND LEON RAYMOND WALL the alleged stabber.
A 16-year-old teen girl, visiting from Tennessee, is now in critical condition, after she and several others were injured during a stabbing attack early Monday evening at the East Liberty Target store.
Authorities say, 41-year-old Leon Raymond Walls, a homeless man, entered a Target store and proceeded to the restroom. Later two males entered the store searching for Walls, one headed to the bathroom, the other headed into the store. A short time later, the male who went to the bathroom was seen being chased from the bathroom by Walls, who was carrying a knife. Walls then grabbed the teen girl, who was in the checkout line with her family, and stabbed her in the back and arms.
Walls was finally arrested after being tased for resisting.
The two men were reportedly following Walls because of a reported stabbing/knife incident that took place near Highland Avenue and Whitfield Street. Diane Richard, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police public information officer, did not say whether the two incidents were connected or if Walls was responsible, but did confirm that the Highland Avenue incident was reported to authorities.
Douglas Williams, of Baldwin, a witness to the Target store incident and who knew several of the victims, said, “It (the scene) was wild. I prayed when I seen the guy chasing a young kid with a knife. He was swinging the knife, you could see in his eyes that he was angry.”
Six individuals were taken to the hospital with injuries. The 16-year-old, who has not been identified, was treated for a collapsed lung due to her wound; two males were treated for cuts, one to the finger and the other to the face; one male, who was helping victims to subdue the actor, was treated for chest pains; and one officer was treated after he was hit with OC Spray that was splashed off a shelf that was deployed towards the actor.
“Those three men were heroes,” Williams said.
Williams also said, that Monday’s incident will not stop him from visiting the East Liberty store.
Walls is in the Allegheny County Jail and has been charged with criminal attempted homicide, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, possessing instruments of a crime, simple assault and resisting arrest.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:43
Category: Metro Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer
On March 22 after a 36-year career with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, former Police Chief Nathan Harper was indicted by a federal grand jury on five counts for conspiracy, theft of public funds and tax evasion.
“We (PBP) are saddened to learn of the Federal indictments against former Police Chief Nathan E. Harper,” said a statement released by the bureau following the indictment. “The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police wants to reassure the residents of the City of Pittsburgh that our officers and civilian personnel are dedicated hardworking professionals who will continue to protect and serve the City of Pittsburgh to the best of our ability.”
According to the indictment, Harper is being charged with one count of conspiracy for the personal use of nearly $32,000 in public funds and directing unnamed police personnel to deposit approximately $70,000 into unauthorized accounts at the Pittsburgh Federal Credit Union.
“These are serious charges,” said U.S. Attorney David Hickton at a press conference announcing the indictment. “The allegations represent the worst kind of public corruption, the theft of public funds by a person in a position of high public trust, a critical position of public safety, in this case, the police chief of Pittsburgh.”
The funds used by Harper came from the city’s secondary employment program for entities wishing to hire off-duty police officers. These entities must pay a $3.85 administrative fee to the bureau for scheduling of off-duty officers and some of these checks were deposited into the credit union accounts.
The indictment details a list of transactions using the credit union account from March 2010 to December 2012. According to the deposit list, checks began being diverted from the bureau in September 2009 and the last one was deposited in October 2012.
“Some examples (of purchases) were an XM radio for his car, a ladder. Another example was kitchen appliances, and there was plenty examples of food and beverage, alcohol,” Hickton said.
Harper is also charged with failing to file tax returns from 2008 through 2011. Harper’s lawyers say he intends to plead guilty to all charges.
“He is embarrassed and sad and humbled and contrite, and all those emotions that accompany a police chief who for 36 years had a distinguished career and is now tarnished by a federal indictment,” said Robert Del Greco, one of Harper’s attorneys at a press conference following the indictment.
Harper is facing up to nine years in prison and possibly $650,000 in fines. However, his attorneys believe he will receive a lenient 10 to 16 months and possibly be placed on house arrest. It is unclear if Harper will retain his city pension.
There are many unanswered questions following the indictment. The federal documents describe bureau employees who directed the checks from the secondary employment program into the credit union accounts. It is unclear whether these individuals will be charged.
In addition, eight individuals were assigned Visa cards for the credit union account. Bodyguards for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl have been identified as recipients of these cards, but it is unclear if they, or others in possession of the cards will be charged.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:37
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