J. Dale Shoemaker is a reporter for PublicSource concentrating on city government and data analysis. He is a 2016 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a former PublicSource intern.
Prior to joining the team here, he covered local and breaking news in Bethlehem and Allentown, Pa., as an intern for The Morning Call.
Originally from Duncansville, Pa., he also covered environmental news as an intern for The Allegheny Front and was the managing editor of The Pitt News, Pitt’s daily and independent student newspaper. While writing for The Pitt News, he earned a Student Keystone Press Award for his profile of Ophelia Ferguson, a popular cashier on campus. And in May 2015, he was awarded a Heinz Endowment Grant to pursue his internship at The Allegheny Front.
The City of Pittsburgh and most of its city departments don’t have record retention policies. In fact, Pittsburgh is the only city in Pennsylvania without a record retention policy, though it’s working to change that.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority [PWSA], plagued with an ongoing lead crisis, may finally have lead levels under control. New data, independently analyzed by PublicSource and verified by the state Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] on Wednesday, show that lead levels in Pittsburgh’s drinking water are going down, a sign that the authority’s efforts could be paying off. Lead test data collected from Pittsburgh homes between January and June show lead levels have fallen to 10 parts per billion [ppb], a significant drop from the last round of testing. Between July and December last year, the same tests produced lead levels of 21 ppb. While it’s not safe to consume any amount of lead, a known neurotoxin, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets an “action limit” of 15 ppb, which the state DEP follows.
Amazon has an unprecedented amount of data about Pittsburgh and 237 other cities and metro areas. What will it do with it? While Amazon is not transparent about its intentions, some experts are wondering how the retail giant is going to leverage the information it obtained.
Who owns Pittsburgh’s bid to host Amazon HQ2? The answer to this question appears to be a critical point in determining if the public has the right to see what the city and Allegheny County have offered to Amazon to lure its second headquarters to Pittsburgh. On the stand in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development Stefani Pashman testified that PGHQ2, a private subsidiary of the conference, owns the bid and merely shared copies of it with the city and county. City and county lawyers argued before Judge Terrence W. O’Brien that the city and county do not own the bid, which means the governments can’t be compelled to release it and that they don’t have the right to anyway. “They own the proposal, it’s their proposal,” said George Janocsko, a solicitor with the county law department, during arguments on behalf of the government Thursday.
PublicSource spoke to more than a dozen local and national experts and public officials to gauge what kind of impact Amazon might have on Pittsburgh’s housing, job market, tech sector, education system and local governments. Here are six things that are likely to happen were Pittsburgh to become the HQ2 city.
President and CEO of Peoples Natural Gas Morgan O’Brien has a grand plan for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. And, in spite of skepticism from some officials and recent opposition from local activists, he wants you to trust him.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration carefully orchestrated how the state would maintain a competitive edge as it helped Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other entities vie to be the home for Amazon’s second headquarters. Keeping the details of the incentive package close to the vest was chief among the priorities to ensure bids coming out of Pennsylvania had an advantage. Non-disclosure agreements were signed in early to mid-October, before a bid was ever submitted to Amazon. And Wolf’s officers wrote in a clause, reserving the right to keep information about the state’s quest for HQ2 under wraps for up to five years. The governor’s office is fighting in court to not release information about incentives the state offered to Amazon.
A community activist group announced Thursday that it filed an amicus brief on behalf of several news organizations, including PublicSource, that are fighting in court to make Pittsburgh’s Amazon HQ2 bid and related documents public. The American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania, among other groups, has signed onto the amicus brief. ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak said on Thursday to about a dozen people gathered in front of the City-County Building Downtown that Amazon would cause “an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude for this region.” He said everything from housing to the local economy to local politics would be affected. “No person will be unaffected, and you're going to have issues of fairness and justice abound everywhere,” he said. “Under those circumstances, it’s absolutely essential that the government activity that can lead to this earthquake must be made public.”
The protesters in attendance called on Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to release details of what the city offered the online retail giant to lure it to Pittsburgh.