Protesters call for investigation of McKees Rocks police

Protesters marched through the streets of McKees Rocks on Sunday to speak out against systemic racism and demand an investigation of the borough’s police department. 

The almost five-hour event began at the intersection of Linden Street and Chartiers Avenue and continued to Sto-Rox Junior-Senior High School before returning to the starting point. “They’re gonna hear us. Not just in the streets, but when we vote. They’re gonna hear us in the White House,” said Dasia Clemons, founder of grassroots organization Pittsburgh, I Can’t Breathe [PICB]. It was organized by McKees Rocks resident Lorenzo Rulli and Nique (who preferred not to include their last name) with support from PICB.

Pittsburgh motorcycle officers Downtown during a June 4, 2020 rally against racism and police violence. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Activists call for defunding the police. Here are 6 key stats about the $115 million Pittsburgh police budget.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death by a police officer in Minneapolis and other cases of police brutality, activists and Democratic lawmakers across the country are calling for the “defunding” of police departments. The idea raises many questions. What does “defund the police” mean? Is it viable? And what does Pittsburgh’s police budget currently look like?

A sign pointing voters to the mail-in ballot drop-off box in the lobby of the Allegheny County Office Building. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Allegheny County voters identify 5 issues to address before November presidential election

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd, a brand new statewide mail-in voting system and a last-minute deadline extension, the Pennsylvania primary election on June 2 faced unprecedented challenges. Some voters felt confident with their experience voting by mail, while others worried if their vote would be counted. For some in-person voters, the process didn't differ much from normal; others were frustrated over changes in polling locations and worried about a lack of social distancing. Anrica Caldwell of Penn Hills called mail-in voting “easy, safe and a convenient way to continue to exercise your right to vote.”

Ethan Boyle of the Strip District also said he voted by mail without any issues. “I think the process went smoothly,” he said.

(Courtesy photo)

Reports emerge of completed mail-in ballots being returned to voters instead of delivered to Allegheny County elections office

In recent days, some Allegheny County voters have experienced a perplexing problem: their completed mail-in ballots have been returned back to their homes by the postal service instead of being delivered to the county elections division. One voter, Jane Downing, said she dropped off her ballot in a public mailbox in East Liberty last week. Several days later, it was delivered back to her. “I thought, ‘This isn’t right. There’s something wrong with this,’” she said.

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.