1. The Pittsburgh Steelers have re-signed veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery to a 2 year deal. A very smart move by the Steelers as they keep a receiver with experience.
2. Cotchery had often said that he wanted to stay with the Steelers, and the Steelers said that they wanted to keep him. More proof that if the Steelers want you, they will keep you.
3. That would officially make Cotchery the #3 WR, after Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. No way that he sits behind Emmanuel Sanders, who had an injury-filled 2011.
4. So that means the Steelers will probably pick up a WR or two in the draft, especially for the purpose of special teams. (Besides they have four 7th round picks, why not?)
5. Then there’s the issue with Wallace. Actually, there’s no issue. There’s now two weeks until he’s non-negotiable. After April 21, teams cannot offer him a contract. I still believe that they will get a deal done with him after the draft.
6. I have changed my predicted Wallace contract: I say it will now be 6 years $40 million ($17 million signing bonus) before it was 5 years $36 million.
7. So if anybody was thinking about the possibility of Plaxico Burress returning to the Steelers, please don’t waste your time. He won’t be back.
8. The other Steelers free agent signing wasn’t so big, but it was one: They agreed to a 1 year deal with former KC Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope. Other than the fact that the signing reunites him with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, they only thing that stands out about him, is that he’s pretty tall. (Six feet eight)
9. Folks don’t realize that most of these signings are just to add bodies to training camp, noting more (ex: their signing of Troy Smith)
10. Speaking of Haley, there are reports that he is considering using the Wishbone offense, which utilizes 3 running backs in the shape of a wishbone. If it works, why not? (just add a fullback)
11. I was hoping that the Steelers would at least consider adding former Dallas Cowboys CB Terrance Newman but alas, he ends up with the Cincinnati Bengals.
12. So the NFL has refused appeals made by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton to lessen his suspension as a result of knowing of the bounties. No kidding. He got what he deserved.
13. And as for former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, that tape that was exposed about him speaking to his players about hurting certain players, just eliminates any respect that I have for the man. Horrible.
14. Speaking of loss of respect, what about former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino did, not getting into an accident but not reporting that he had an extra passenger, which turned out to be a young lady that he had an affair with. Horrible.
15. And then there’s Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. We all knew that his mouth would get him in trouble, and thanks to him saying that he loves Fidel Castro, it did: Five game suspension. And again I say, horrible.
16. Back to college football. Pitt is getting ready for their annual spring game this Saturday. It’ll be pretty cool to see them in something that resembles a game.
17. Speaking of which, Senior Quarterback Tino Sunseri looks like he has the lead shot as the starting QB. He’s been practicing with the first team offense. You might not like it, but it’s reality.
18. The Duquesne Dukes finally got a coach, former FIU coach Jim Ferry. He is the 16th coach in their 95 year history. Former Dukes guard TJ McConnell has chosen Arizona (coached by Sean Miller) as his next team.
19. Then there’s the Pirates. Very impressive start that ended with 4 games that was decided by one run. That means two things: excellent pitching, and horrible batting.
20. Folks crack me up when they complain about manager Clint Hurdle pinch hitting for third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Matt Hague got the hit which tied the game for the Pirates; Alvarez would’ve probably struck out. It is what it is.
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You would think that the Pittsburgh Pirates would get a break in the 2012 schedule after how well they played for most of 2011. That they would not have to prove that last year was a fluke and that they may have caught some teams off guard and playing with ‘smoke and mirrors’ as they say. Well, that’s what we get for thinking because the ones responsible for the schedule are the primary suspects for giving the Pirates one of the toughest opening schedules in Major League Baseball.
Yes, it’s true that it’s based on the previous season’s record, but who said these teams were going to get worse?? The Pirates opened the season at home vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, who won 102 games last year and they lost the opening game 2-1. (Okay, it was against pitcher Roy Haliaday) but they then beat the Phillies in the next two games to finish the homestand 2-1, and it looked like 2011 did start rubbing off. And then they traveled to the west coast to play the Los Angeles Dodgers, who did not make the playoffs last year, but finished with an 82-79 record and have Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw and MVP candidate Matt Kemp on their team, plus, they were finally rid of the Frank McCourt drama, the owner was in a bitter divorce with his wife, who also served as one of the executives. The team was finally sold to an ownership group led by Hall of Fame NBA man Magic Johnson, and they celebrated by sweeping the Pirates in 3 straight games. The Pirates actually held their own vs. Kershaw in the Dodgers home opener, but they could only get one run. Kevin Correia only surrendered a run, but it was unfortunate that relief pitcher Jason Grilli gave up the other run as the Dodgers won 2-1. In the second game, shortstop Clint Barmes gave the Pirates an early 1-0 lead as he hit his first home run with his new team, but once again they could not score any more runs but the Dodgers scored 2 runs on poor Erik Berdard who had another good start. The Dodgers then scored two more runs of the relief pitchers as they won 4-1. And in game 3, the Dodgers jumped on starter Jeff Karstens for 3 runs, and withheld a Pirates comeback as they completed the sweep 3-2. The problem with the Pirates in this series? Decent pitching, but no hitting. (Oh, the Dodgers are now 9-1)
The Pirates then moved onto San Francisco to face the 2011 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants who finished 86-76 in second place in the National League West Division. Like the Pirates, they specialize in ‘small ball’ not having a true slugger since Barry Bonds left in 2007, but unlike the Pirates, they got the job done the past few years with excellent pitching led by two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who just signed a huge contract before the start of the ’12 season. Cain was the pitcher in the opening game, and he promptly beat pitcher James McDonald and the Pirates 5-0 on a one hitter that saw McDonald get the Pirates only hit. Game two saw pitcher Charlie Morton and the Pirates jump on Barry Zito and the Dodgers early, but like the Penguins has played of late, the Pirates could not hold the lead. The Giants scored 3 runs (all off Morton) for a 3-2 lead. That loss put the Pirates in a place that they (unfortunately) know all too well, last place in the National League Central Division. But on Sunday, the Pirates played like they were tired of losing, and promptly scored runs against former Pirate Ryan Vogelsong and beat the Giants 4-1. Correia led the way for his first win. First baseman Garrett Jones hit his first home run of the season.
Pirates’ player of the week: Pitcher Kevin Correia-With the hitting trying to find themselves, the pitching gets all of the credit for keeping the Pirates in games. Correia, who finished 2011 as the Pirates best pitcher and an All-Star, finished last week giving up only 2 runs in 2 starts and was the only Pirate starting pitcher to get a win. For the season, he’s 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA. "That's how I've got to do it," Correia said as he spoke to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Michael Sanserino. "I have to be ahead and put guys in situations where they need to swing at a pitch rather than just stand up there and take some balls."
This week, Pirates will complete their road trip as they face the Arizona Diamondbacks who are 6-3 and trail the Dodgers in the National League West. Led by first year manager Kirk Gibson, Arizona finished 2011 with a 94-68 record and champs of the National League West. All-Stars outfielder Justin Upton and pitchers Ian Kennedy and J.J Putz make up this great team as they send pitchers Joe Saunders (0-0), Kennedy(2-0) and Daniel Hudson (1-0) vs. Berdard (0-2), Karstens (0-1) and McDonald (0-1) before returning home to face the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The Pirates have to somehow find a way to provide run support for this pitching staff that is currently 5th best in all of baseball with a 2.57 ERA. Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen the $51 dollar million man, is hitting .333, but has only one RBI. It’s obvious that he needs to produce more. Barmes, Jones, third baseman Pedro Alvarez and catcher Mike McKendry have the teams’ only home runs, but the Pirates are hitting an awful .188 which is the lowest in the National League (30th in all of baseball) with all of their struggles, the Pirates are only 3-6, and some good hitting can get them on the right track. Arizona would be a good place to start.
Notes: The Pirates and the Giants did their part by honoring the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier by having all players on both teams wear his #42 for the game.
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Pirate Update:Pirates' struggles accompany them to ArizonaBy Tom Singer / MLB.com PHOENIX -- Neither snow nor rain may stop mailmen, but neither heat nor dry air could move Pirates hitters.
The climate changed, but the Bucs still aren't running a temperature at bat, returning to their shell after scoring a first-inning run and dropping Monday night's series opener to the D-backs, 5-1, before 17,366 in Chase Field.
This one was a little more difficult for Clint Hurdle to explain, or to digest. The Pirates manager wasn't breaking any news in proclaiming Chase Field "one of the greatest places in the big leagues" for hitters. And the Arizona lefty on the mound -- Joe Saunders -- is respected. But he is not Cliff Lee or Clayton Kershaw.http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/mlb/gameday
"I thought we'd be able to throw more at him," Hurdle said after another six-hit slumber -- half of it in the first. "[Saunders] did move the ball around, but we had pitches to hit, and we didn't hit them."
As the economy begins to bounce back, many families who have put vacations on hold are now ready to pack their vacation bags. But can you really save money and have a good time with your kids on vacation? According to national family travel expert and author Eileen Ogintz, you can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to saving money and spending time with your kids.
Recently, UrbanMediaToday's Allegra Johnson spoke with Ogintz about saving money and why it's so important to spend quality time with your kids on vacation.
Allegra Johnson: We know that the economy is not at it's best right now, so how important is it that people feel like they are getting the best deals for their money?
Eileen Ogintz: Well, obviously we all want to get the most bang for our buck. But I think it's really important to remember that we need vacations. We need the time to connect with the kids, get away from all the stresses and strains at home. So we shouldn't feel guilty about taking a vacation.
AJ: What are some tips on saving money on spring vacation?
EO: There are a lot of ways that we can save. Think about when your going (on vacation). For example, if you go to Orlando in May or June, it will be cheaper. During that time you can find lots of hotels rooms for under $100.00 a night and it will be cooler and less crowded. If you go to ski country in Colorado or Park City, Utah, you'll find plenty to do in the spring and summer also, lodging will be two-thirds less then in winter. Another things is, think about places closer to home. You know, maybe you want to go to a national park; you don't have to go to Yellowstone or Yosemite if you don't live near there. You have 397 national parks to choose from, so choose one that's just a couple of hours away from home.
AJ: What about hotel stays? It can be challenging when you are traveling with children.
EO: Well, you can opt for a place to stay, where you can cook some meals; a condo or vacation house. There are also suite hotels that have a kitchen. Another way to save is to share expenses; with the grandparents or good friends. You're not only going to spend less on lodging cost, you'll share on food cost as well.
AJ: And where are some of the best places to go for families with children?
EO: Well, I think it depends on the family. If you have a kid who is obsessed with the theatre; go to New York. If you have a kid who lives for roller coasters or princesses; go to Orlando. But I think it's good to talk to the kids about what they are interested in. Ultimately, they're not going to decide where you are going but they can help out. Also when kids feel like they have input in the decision making, they will be a lot happier and you'll be much happier too.
AJ: And when it comes to saving money during the vacation, is it best to book everything as a package deal or search yourself for the best deals?
EO: If you're planning to fly and you go to a website like South West or Expedia and you book a hotel, a rental car and a flight altogether, you can save 20 percent or more. Basically what's happening is, you're not saving that much on the air fare but the hotel is giving you a bigger break then you can get on your own. It all depends on the kind of traveler you are. I suggest that you do your research before booking altogether. So, say you're going to Washington, DC or New York, you might want to look at the city's official website and see what kind of hotel deals there are. And if you're traveling with kids, you might find an incredibly cheap hotel but it might be inconvenient. If you're going to D.C. and you have kids, you may not want to be too far outside of the city, so it might be worth it to pay a little bit more.
AJ: And when it comes to flying with kids, what are some things parents should know?
EO: Many airports now have what they call a family lane. Always look for that so you don't get stuck behind an impatient businessman. When you have little ones who might have a favorite toy or blanket that they always have with them, It's good to explain to the kids before hand about why they have to go through security so they won't have a meltdown in the line. I think traveling with reusable water bottles is great when you have kids. And make sure you have an extra tee-shirt or change of clothes just in case the kids spill something or have an accident.
AJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?
EO: Just remember, when you are sitting on a plane with your kids, that time can be really special. Maybe have a deck or cards or a book or something that you both can share. And finally remember, when you're traveling with kids, it's just like raising them; it's expensive and messy and wonderful. So just don't expect everything to go totally smoothly because it won't but some of the mis-steps become some of the most memorable moments.
Written by Allegra Johnson for UrbanMediaToday.com
The Pittsburgh Steelers continued their sudden free-agent spending when they retained two critical backup offensive linemen. Doug Legursky and Trai Essex, agreed to one year deals with the team on Thursday. These complete three straight signings that began with the Steelers signing tight end Leonard Pope from the Kansas City Chiefs, a move that reunited him with new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and their biggest signing of the free agent period: wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
Legursky was a restricted free agent who was offered a 1 year tender by the Steelers, made the decision to get it signed. He has been with the Steelers since 2009 when he served as backup center and goal-line fullback. In 2010, he continued in that role, and also filled in at guard when several linemen were hurt, and was the starting center in Super Bowl 45 when pro bowl rookie Maurkise Pouncey was injured. In 2011, he was very busy: Starting at guard, then filling in at center once again when Pouncey was injured. He was the starting center in their wild-card playoff loss vs. Denver. So it’s no question that Legursky plays a critical role on an offensive line that desperately needs help. “I’m excited to announce I will remain a Pittsburgh Steeler next yr!” Legursky wrote on Twitter.
Essex has been with the team since 2005, and has proven to be one of the team’s most trusted and reliable backups. In ’05, he filled in at tackle for an injured Marvell Smith for several games, earned a super bowl ring that year and in 2008, and started 2009 and 2010 before injuries sat him down. He can play all 5 positions on the line (tackle, guard, and center) and had a chance to play center for the first time in his career when (ironically) Legursky went down (filling in for Pouncey) vs. the St. Louis Rams. In their 27-0 thumping of the Rams, Essex filled in admirably at center helping the team rush for 164 yards and 3 touchdowns. For his efforts, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gave Essex the game ball, and spoke about his excellent play in his weekly news conference. Essex was an unrestricted free-agent at the time of his signing. Essex announced on twitter that he is ‘ecstatic’ to be back with the Steelers.
Notes: In preparation for the NFL draft, the Steelers have also entertained several draft prospects. Alabama inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who’s listed in several mock drafts that he will be the Steelers first overall pick met with them on the South Side Thursday along with Oregon running back LaMichael James, Oregon tight end David Paulson and Midwestern State offensive lineman Amini Silatolu. Hightower could fill a huge hole at inside linebacker for the Steelers with their release of James Farrior, and James is a speed back who was a 2011 Heisman Trophy candidate.
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The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will hold primary elections on April 24, 2012.
While most Pennsylvania voters are aware of the opportunity to select a presidential candidate for the party in which they are registered to vote, some remain unaware of exactly what else will appear on the ballot. A reapportionment plan as a result of the 2010 United States Census has been put on hold for state House and Senate districts, but new US Congressional districts have been approved. Some polling places have changed, and a new Voter Identification law could cause confusion at the polls.
In response to potential confusion, Allegheny County has partnered with the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh to launch a voter education initiative using a county website feature.
“We are delighted to partner with the League of Women Voters,” says County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, “We want to make voting as easy as possible, especially with the changes.”
“On the primary ballot, in addition to president, there are candidates for senate, attorney general, auditor general and treasurer, half of the state senate, and all the House of Representatives,” says Fitzgerald. “You can access the site, and know who you can vote for.”
“If you look at the ballot, you can find out what district you’re in now,” says Fitzgerald.
The website, http://www.alleghenycounty.us/elect/index.aspx, has new features including a polling place locator, a sample ballot customized to the voter’s district, and a means of verifying the validity of a voter’s registration status. The site also offers instructions for operating voting machines, important deadlines for registrations, absentee ballot requests and submissions, and contact information and links for answers to further questions.
“It’s part of an effort to boost turnout,” says Arlene Levy, Co-chair of the Greater Pittsburgh League of Women Voters. “People sometimes don’t realize there are elections beyond the presidential race.”
“This new site is also important because of reapportionment, especially to voters north of the city,” Levy says, referring to the most dramatically redistricted area of the county.
“We are also partnering with public, university and high school libraries throughout the county, so we can reach those who don’t have a computer at home, or those who may be voting for the first time,” says Levy. “We have posters and signage provided by the county to show voters where in the library they can access this information.”
Librarians have been trained to help patrons access the elections website, and reminders have been posted on library websites. Bookmarks will also be made available through libraries which have details about election deadline dates, and contact information for both the Allegheny County Elections Division and the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh.
“This is an important education effort,” says Levy. “We want to assist all citizens in getting the essential information they need so they can vote, and have time to think about the candidates they chose to elect to office.”
“Your vote is your voice.”
Fitzgerald agrees. “We want voters to get out and be heard, not just in this, but in every election.”
Voter turnout is generally low for primary elections, and is expected to be even lower now that each party has proven to have only a single viable presidential candidate on the ballot.
The computerized system makes it difficult and inefficient financially to remove those candidates who have recently withdrawn their names, like Rick Santorum, who withdrew on Tuesday, so some others will remain on the roster.
Elections Division Manager Mark Wolosik expects about one of every four voters to place their votes. He estimates that “about 2000” new voter registrations have been filed for the primary, “but that should pick up for the general election in November.”
The voter registration deadline for this year’s primary has already passed. Applications for absentee ballots must be applied for by Tuesday, April 17 at 5 pm, and absentee ballots must be returned by Friday, April 20.
Three district polling places have been determined to be inaccessible to voters with physical restrictions which prohibit them from entering due to architectural barriers. These are in Haysville (Ward 00, District 1) at One Ohio River Boulevard; Pittsburgh (Ward 24, District 01) at Saint Ambrose School, 1011 Haslage Street; and Pittsburgh (Ward 23, District 17), Saint Peter’s United Church of Christ, at 18 Schubert Street.
An alternative voting procedure has been established for these inaccessible polling places who meet the following criteria: They must be registered voters in Allegheny County either 65 years of age or older, who have a temporary or permanent physical disability and vote at one of the three identified locations. These voters may obtain an application for an “alternative ballot” in person at the Allegheny County Elections Division in Room 601 of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue, Downtown, by visiting www.votespa.com, or by calling the Bureau of Elections at 412-350-4520. Applications must be returned no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, 2012.
After an application is received, the applicant will be sent an absentee ballot that must be completed and returned to the Elections Division no later than 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, when the polls close.
For more information about the programs sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh, visit http://www.palwv.org/pittsburgh/index.html.
By Nancy Hart
In 2010, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) decided to close Braddock Hospital, which had been purchased by UPMC in 1996.
The closure was a devastating blow to the struggling community, as the more-than-100-year-old hospital was the borough’s largest employer, and also the site of the town’s only automated teller machine. The cafeteria was, in fact, Braddock’s only remaining restaurant, and the extremely impoverished residents of Braddock were left without easy access to medical care.
Tuesday morning, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that a health-care facility would return to the vacant site of the now-demolished hospital thanks to an agreement between Highmark and MedExpress. Construction on the facility could be completed as soon as the summer of 2013.
Calling the development “exciting news for residents of Braddock and surrounding areas,” Fitzgerald says that, as a result of the partnership and of financial commitments made by the county, “we can assure our residents that care will be there.”
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman says “the way this has been rebounding is exciting.”
MedExpress will serve as “anchor tenant” of a $20.3 million redevelopment of the site, which runs along Braddock Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets, extending back to Corey Avenue. Also planned are additional office or retail space, 11 single-family homes, 24 rental housing units and a large community park.
“We will have a CCAC branch campus for sure,” says Fetterman, “and we’re talking to other prospective retailers.” Another potential tenant for the office space is the Allegheny County Health Department, and, Fetterman hopes, a dentist or dental clinic.
Funding for the development, says Fetterman, “is a mix of public and private dollars, and an extraordinary commitment in our community: New development, and a first-rate care facility the same as a wealthier community like Cranberry or Monroeville.”
“Highmark is proud to be in partnership with the county,” says Deborah L. Rice, the insurer’s Executive Vice-President of Health Services. “We welcome the prospect of serving Braddock with an urgent care center.”
Government funding for the project includes a $3 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A proposal for low-income hosing tax credits will be considered by the state Housing Finance Agency on Thursday, and construction on the units is slated to begin next fall.
“The county took our concerns very seriously, and have fought hard to bring this level of care to our community,” says Fetterman. “We are grateful for their support.”
Fetterman is proud of the advances Braddock has made during his administration. “We fixed the Braddock High Baseball Stadium, and are rolling out security cameras in the last remaining areas. We converted the abandoned First Presbyterian Church on Library Street into a beautiful community center and just booked our first wedding for there.”
“We hope to continue with more housing and other developments along Braddock Avenue,” he says. “Filming is about to begin on ‘Out of this Furnace,’ which will put Braddock out to a national audience and start a conversation about what’s here, and what we’re missing.”
“Everything’s back on the table” because of the new development agreement, says Fetterman. “It’s a game changer for us.”
By Nancy Hart
Archival photos courtesy of Heritage Community Initiatives, Inc.
Ed Gainey is a man of passion.
As Coordinator of Economic Development in the City of Pittsburgh, he worked to bring attention to the needs of minority community members by improving relations with the Mayor’s office.
As Chairman of the City’s Democratic Committee, Gainey tries especially to be sure that members of the community understand how important their vote is in every election.
The election currently foremost on his mind, though, is the primary poll. On January 17, Gainey, who lives in the city’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood with his wife, Michelle Coburn Gainey and their children, announced that he would once again challenge incumbent Joe Preston for his seat in the 24th Legislative District of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The district is comprised of the East Hills, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Highland Park, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington, Belmar and North Point Breeze neighborhoods, and parts of Morningside, Point Breeze, Stanton Heights and Shadyside.
“I don’t have anything against Mr. Preston,” says Gainey as he launches his third campaign for the seat. “I just think he’s been there too long.”
Gainey says he believes Preston has lost touch with the needs of the district he has been representing for three decades. “I believe we need new leadership, new visions, new ideas.”
“East Liberty has had a complete transformation. It would have been easy [for Preston] to put resources into the community, to put state resources where they’ll go to help our seniors and our youth.”
“All Preston did,” says Gainey, “is vote for a violent bill, a utility bill that allows companies to shut off utilities even in winter, when people need them most.”
“I have a track record of fighting for our neighborhoods,” says Gainey, who was born and raised in the district, and graduated from the city’s Peabody High School prior to earning a business degree from Morgan State University in Baltimore. “As community and economic development occur throughout our district, I work day and night to make sure that the people who live here see the benefits. This is the approach that I will bring to Harrisburg.”
Gainey feels that the region’s political leadership needs to be aware of what impacts the region. “Other leaders see something missing, or something needed, they go get it. Preston’s out of touch” with the Pittsburgh-area communities he was elected to represent. “It’s not necessarily negative,” Gainey says, “but whatever you didn’t do in 33 years, you aren’t going to get done in the next two.”
If elected to the House, Gainey plans to address economic development issues and the needs of small businesses, as well as deal with what he calls “major issues” of transportation, property reassessment and the “voter suppression bill.”
This bill, currently making its way through the state Congress, would require voters to present current government-issued photo identification or a photo identification card from a college or university prior to being allowed to vote.
“No one talks about how this bill will impact the residents of this district,” says Gainey. “Residents need to be informed about it, or they will be victims of it,” citing claims which show that minorities and the elderly are among those most likely to be without such photo identification documents. “The vote dictates who we are.”
“Our community doesn’t always vote to capacity as it is,” says Gainey. “They are trying to limit our freedom based on criteria that make no sense.”
Gainey considers the proposed cuts in transportation to be “economic violence,” and thinks the state should take steps to provide funding to help the Port Authority Transit avoid making those cuts. “We need more public transportation, not less.”
“Transportation connects people to employment and economic opportunities,” Gainey says. “The governor put together a panel to study transportation needs. The reality is, how do we make enough noise to make the governor consider the options of his panel?”
“Transportation cuts pollute our highways and create congestion,” he says. “The governor needs to make a decision on how to fund” the public transit authorities currently struggling with deficit as a result of budgetary restrictions and cuts.
Gainey also feels that privatization of the state liquor system is an economic mistake. “I hope they don’t,” he says. “There are a whole lot of people working in the system. We wouldn’t be creating jobs, we’d be having layoffs.”
In a privatized system, Gainey feels employees of stores permitted to sell liquor “wouldn’t make the kind of money or have the benefits they do now, and in this economy, we can’t afford that.”
“I am an advocate for taking those issues to the state level,” says Gainey. “The state legislature is a primary job, but the secondary job is to leverage political capital in our community. That’s why representatives are there.”
“The people of our neighborhoods deserve a strong leader who understands our needs, and who will not be afraid to stand up and fight for us.”
By Nancy Hart
State Representative Joseph Preston, Jr. is unconcerned about criticism aimed at him by his opponent in the primary election for the State House of Representatives in the 24th Legislative District.
“You know, I’ve never seen a statue erected to a critic,” Preston says, “but everyone thinks they can criticize.”
“I have been involved in a myriad of situations,” Preston says, naming an extensive list of projects for which he secured state funding, including the facilitation of building projects for businesses, the re-vamping of senior centers, rebuilding public parks in Aspinwall and the expansion of Stagno’s Bakery in East Liberty. “A lot of things you see now, we started eight to ten years ago.”
The 64-year-old Preston was born in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania. His father was a coal miner from Apollo, and his mother was from New Kensington. They moved their family to the district he still serves while Preston was a young boy so his mother could use her education to get a job, eventually working for the state herself until her retirement “20-some years ago.”
After graduating from Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse High School, Preston put himself through the University of Pittsburgh by working in Pittsburgh’s steel mills, and began his professional career in the personnel department of J & L Steel. “They still use a system I developed” to evaluate employee potential for placement in trades or in management. The East Liberty Development Initiative is one of his favorite achievements, citing his love for his home neighborhoods as a catalyst for his efforts today.
“How a person is before they get elected is how they are after they’re elected,” Preston says. “The first piece of legislation I ever did was the Job Corps,” He is still very involved in the Corps’ operations, and hopes to bring an auto-repair training center there soon.
“A lot of projects [on which he has worked] could have been expanded,” says Preston, “but we can’t get cooperation from the city.” He shares no regret for trying, however. “You only get tackled if you carry the ball.”
Preston’s greatest concern during the current and upcoming sessions of the state’s legislature is the budget. “The cuts in education, transit funding . . .”
The newly instituted “asset test” for state welfare recipients is a major concern. “The assets test actually costs more to implement” than it will eliminate in fraud. Preston feels there is unfairness inherent in the new regulations. “What if you’re just starting out at a job, and need to still driving a ‘hoopty car’ worth $2000?”
Another concern, especially within his district, Preston says, is the lack of a plan to fund transit to avoid fare increases and cuts in service. “24 percent of my district depends on public transportation. Cuts will be devastating.”
Preston, who actively worked to have several state liquor stores relocated or removed from “problem areas” within his district, feels that privatization of the stores is a mistake. “People need to understand the issue is by district. I understand the problem.”
“The last thing I need in Homewood are package stores. I agree with most of the people in my area: It’s about trying to set a positive tone.” Instead of privatizing, Preston feels that the liquor store system’s recent efforts to increase service have made the stores more functional for and accessible to users. “They have specialists in some of the stores who can help you choose” appropriate wines or liquors for consumers’ needs. “And they have to find what you want,” he says of customers who complain the selections available are limited.
Preston is dumbfounded by recent legislation by Daryl Metcalfe, the Republican Representative from Butler County’s 12th Legislative district which changes identification requirements for voters. Referred to by opponents as the Voter Suppression Bill, Metcalfe and his co-sponsors want to amend the state election code to require state- or college/university-issued photo identification to be presented to election officials in order for a voter to be permitted to cast a ballot. The bill is currently under consideration by the state senate, after amendments which will require the state to provide photo identification free of cost to non-drivers who present proper documentation.
Supporters of the bill claim it is a valid measure to stop election fraud, but many admit the rarity of fraud in the state’s elections, and that this bill would do nothing to address the rare instances of fraud which have been proven to occur.
“They almost had to carry me off the floor on that,” says Preston of his reaction to introduction of the bill. “It’s a Republican ploy by ALEC introduced across all states.” ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which, according to its website, is a “non-partisan individual membership organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions.”
“Metcalfe tried to stop me from speaking,” Preston claims. “This [bill] is not to suppress the vote, it’s to stop people from going through the trouble of voting altogether.” “I’ve been a member of Baptist Temple for over 50 years,” Preston says. “I make more than 5000 decisions a year, and I pray that none of them hurt people.”
“The job of an elected official is not to set the tone, but to pick up the tone” of those who elected him, says Preston. “We need to be together more, and not criticize each other.”
Preston spends Sunday through Thursday in Harrisburg while the Legislature is in session, but says he arrives at his North Highland Avenue office in East Liberty on other days between 7 and 8 am. “My door has never been closed to anybody.”
Saying he respects everyone’s right to his or her own opinion, even those who publicly oppose him, Preston says “I am an elected official, and I am elected to serve. I may object, but I will protect their right to protest.”
By Nancy Hart
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Ok, last week we discussed the possible draft needs for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense; now let’s take a look at what may be needed for the defense. Keep in mind that it was a unit that finished #1 overall, and also #1 against the pass (Still surprised aren’t you?) they were also #1 against shutting the WR’s down as well. (They also were #8 against the run) But the problem was that it was the pass defense that suffered at the hands of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos and they returned home from the playoffs sooner than expected. But to be honest, you can’t just point the fingers there, defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau had a horrible defensive plan in that game, daring the Tebow to beat them with his arm, and you know what? He did. Age and defense also affected this group (especially in that awful 35-7 opening loss to Baltimore) but it still proved to be the best the rest of that regular season. With that being said, what do the Steelers need to draft on defense?
1. Defensive Line-This is the oldest group of the defense. For years, defensive ends Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Kiesel anchored this line with stellar play in the 3-4 formation. They stuffed the run, and paved the way for the linebackers to get to the quarterback and as a result, earned 7 pro-bowl appearances (Hampton 5, Smith and Kiesel 1 apiece) now that group has been hit with age and injuries. Smith has had season-ending injuries in 4 of the past 5 years, and Hampton is recovering from an ACL injury in that playoff loss to Denver. Kiesel was also injured a portion of the 2010 and ’11 seasons and Hampton’s loyal backup Chris Hoke announced his retirement in January.
The Steelers began their youth movement with the defensive ends by drafting Ziggy Hood in 2009 and Cameron Heyward in ’11. Hood studied behind Smith, and eventually replaced him as the permanent starter in ’11, and Heyward saw time in certain formations, and recorded a block on an attempted field goal vs. the Bengals and recorded his first NFL sack. Smith was eventually released, and Kiesel will remain the starter. The Steelers may add another end in later rounds to add more depth. But the need is at defensive tackle, where there is little experience. With Hoke’s retirement and with Hampton still recovering, that leaves undrafted rookie Steve McClendon as the only healthy tackle. If the best tackle is not available with the #24th overall pick,(ex: Memphis’ Dontari Poe) then the Steelers need to make it their priority to get one in the next two rounds to play behind Hampton once he’s healthy (or even start if he’s not)
2. Linebackers-This is still the cornerstone of this defense, this unit has produced a total of 8 pro-bowl appearances (James Harrison 5, James Farrior 2 and LaMarr Woodley 1) and have helped the defense lead the NFL in sacks on occasion. But like the defensive line, this unit has also suffered as a result of injuries and age. Harrison missed 4 games due to injury and suspension, Woodley missed several games due to injury and was never the same when he did play, and Farrior suffered decline due to age and was eventually released. Then there’s Lawrence Timmons, who is the youngest of the group, but did not have an impressive 2011 and to be honest, does not always look like a true fit as an inside linebacker in the 3-4. Veteran Larry Foote had a decent 2011 as he split time with Farrior on the inside. One thing is certain: Harrison and Woodley are still the starters on the outside, and Timmons and Foote on the inside, but it is obvious that they do need to draft another inside linebacker who is ready to play if Foote is injured, and if Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower is available when the Steelers draft at #24, they should snatch him up quickly, or even trade up to get him. 2010 draftee Stevenson Sylvester is still a work in progress on the inside, and he was not too impressive when he was a spot starter in 2011.
3. Defensive Backs-Here we go. This unit was easily the most improved of the defense. As was mentioned before, they earned the #1 pass defensive ranking because of the remarkable play of the cornerbacks. Veteran Ike Taylor and William Gay played shutdown defense most of the season and 2009 draftee Keenan Lewis and ’11 draftee Cortez Allen did an excellent job as backups. 2011 rookie Curtis Brown also did an excellent job on special teams until injuries ended his season. Veteran Bryant McFadden (who was released) was the starter until horrible play and injuries opened the door for Gay who used his improved season as a ticket to a new contract with the Arizona Cardinals. It remains a mystery as to why the Steelers did not search for a veteran cornerback in free agency, but they said that Lewis and Allen have the first crack at the vacated starting spot, and that also means that they need more depth at the position. That could mean they will draft a couple in later rounds. As for the Safeties, no complaints with Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, who have a combined 8 pro-bowl appearances between them, and Ryan Mundy is a good backup, but they may need to start a youth movement here because who really knows how long Polamalu has left as injuries has taken a toll on him as well. Drafting another safety for depth/development purposes wouldn’t hurt either.
So that’s it for the defense. Stay tuned for the Special Teams next week.
Pitt draft prospect watch
With the NFL Draft approaching, several Pitt players have a strong chance at getting drafted. Let’s take a look at the top draft prospect from the school offensive lineman Lucas Nix.
In 2011 (6-6, 310) NixPlayed in and started eight contests at right guard...started the season’s first five games before sustaining a left knee injury against USF...missed the subsequent five contests before returning to the starting lineup at West Virginia. He played in all 13 games in 2010, starting 12 and filled dual roles on Pitt’s o-line first at right tackle and then at guard only missed one game. He was the starting right tackle in 2009 and played a huge role in freshman Dion Lewis’s incredible freshman season in which he rushed for 1,799 yards. Nix was invited to the NFL Combine in March, and was rated 9th out of 224 offensive linemen. Lindy’s Sports magazine has him listed as a “High-effort player with a team first attitude and has the mobility to trap. He is projected as a 4th or 5th round draft pick.
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