The traffic court cashier window at Pittsburgh Municipal Court in Downtown.

Allegheny County selected to participate in national fine and fee reform initiative following PublicSource investigation

Allegheny County is one of 10 locales selected to participate in a national initiative on fine and fee reform. The announcement follows a PublicSource investigation of the impacts of court debt in Allegheny County. There is more than $350 million in unpaid court debt in the county dating back to 1970. For residents who are unable to pay their fines and fees, the implications are severe: nonpayment can result in arrest warrants, driver’s license suspensions and even jail time.  

As an inaugural member of the Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice, the county was awarded $50,000 to put toward reform efforts. It will work with policy experts and other cohort members over 18 months to develop “bold, innovative solutions,” according to a press release.

Tote bags with census resources for residents. (Courtesy photo from Josiah Gilliam/ City of Pittsburgh)

COVID-19 disrupted the census. But accurate counts are needed to guide aid, recovery efforts and maybe even vaccines.

For almost two years, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been working together to intensively prepare for the 2020 census. The hardest-to-count populations were identified for targeted outreach; community leaders were pulled in to champion the cause; “census hubs,” where residents could go to have their questions answered, were planned throughout the county. 

Perhaps the one thing they didn’t plan for was a pandemic. “We had 150 designated locations throughout the county ready to go, and then the pandemic hit,” said Jessica Mooney, the county’s manager of special projects. Now, getting a complete count is not only harder — it’s also more vital. Census data dictates federal funding levels to local and state governments for food access programs, affordable housing, health systems and more.

The sculpture of Seneca leader Guyasuta and George Washington on Pittsburgh's Mt. Washington don masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Kimberly Rowen/PublicSource)

Should all Pennsylvanians start wearing face masks? Four local experts weigh in.

Editor's note: On April 3, Gov. Tom Wolf asked that all Pennsylvanians wear face masks when leaving home. Later on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump shared new CDC guidance recommending cloth masks in public for everyone. The state and CDC says surgical masks and N95 respirator masks should still be reserved for healthcare workers or patients in healthcare settings. Homemade masks, paper masks or even bandanas and scarves can be used by the general public in addition to social distancing. Cloth masks should be washed after each use.

Fracking at Edgar Thomson steel mill among concerns discussed at environmental forum in Forest Hills

Braddock resident Je'Amour Matthew punctuated Tuesday's environmental forum hosted by state Rep. Summer Lee with a passionate speech that resonated with the roughly 50 people who attended. “What have they done for you, my friends?” Matthew said, referring to what she sees as inaction by elected officials. “When you stand up and start asking your representatives, ‘What the hell?’ I am of flesh and blood. I matter. Your pocket shouldn’t be benefitted for my health.”

Matthew said she feels that some officials are neglecting the health concerns of their constituents to support the fracking and petrochemical industries.