The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 13, 2012

Evening News Brief | Pittsburgh councilman wants to shame bad landlords


Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto wants to shame problem landlords by putting signs in front of the 10 worst-maintained properties in the city.

Peduto's bill would empower city building inspectors to identify the worst properties based on housing court convictions and citations, though citizens could also nominate troubled properties for the list. Those properties would then get a sign listing the owner's name, address and phone so neighbors could complain directly to the landlords.

Peduto says the city did the same thing in the mid-1990s and it worked on five blighted properties, but the idea was never carried forward and continued.

Peduto says the program is important because one blighted house can affect an entire street and "once we lose the street, we begin to lose the neighborhood."

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Teen fatally struck by pickup truck

POTTSTOWN — Police say a 16-year-old southeastern Pennsylvania boy is dead after being struck by a pickup truck while crossing a street.

Officials haven't released the name of the teen but say he's a junior at Pottsgrove High School.

The Montgomery County district attorney's office and Lower Pottsgrove police say the teen was standing in the middle of a turn lane when he was struck.

Investigators say the driver involved is cooperating with the investigation and voluntarily provided a blood sample to police.

The district said it is providing counseling services to students.

An autopsy is scheduled.

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Defendant in cop killing found 'unresponsive'

PITTSBURGH — A man charged with fatally shooting a Pittsburgh-area police officer has been found unresponsive in his jail cell, indefinitely delaying jury selection in his death penalty trial.

Defense attorney Veronica Brestensky tells The Associated Press that 35-year-old Ronald Robinson is on life support and doctors have been running tests to determine what is wrong with him. She says he was found on the floor of his Allegheny County Jail cell on Tuesday. Brestensky says Robinson was not hanged and that initial tests have found no drugs in his system.

Prosecutors allege Robinson gunned down Penn Hills officer Michael Crawshaw who arrived shortly after Robinson allegedly killed 40-year-old Danyal Morton over a $500 drug debt in December 2009.

Jury selection was to begin Tuesday, with testimony scheduled for Nov. 26.

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2 Fla. men charged in Pa. with snake trafficking

PHILADELPHIA — Prosecutors say two Florida men and their company have been charged in federal court in Philadelphia with trafficking endangered and threatened snakes.

The U.S. attorney's office said Tuesday that 54-year-old Robroy MacInnes of Fort Myers, Fla.; 47-year-old Robert Keszey of Bushnell, Fla.; and Glades Herp Farm Inc. are charged with conspiracy to traffic in the reptiles. MacInnes and the company were charged with trafficking in protected timber rattlesnakes.

Authorities allege that the defendants collected protected snakes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey between 2007 and 2008, bought protected eastern timber rattlesnakes illegally collected in New York and transported threatened eastern indigo snakes from Florida to Pennsylvania.

A message couldn't be left at the company Tuesday and a number listed for MacInnes remained busy; a message left for Keszey wasn't immediately returned.

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Troubled Pa. district faces school closings, cuts

CHESTER — A plan to revitalize the struggling Chester Upland education system would close nearly half its schools, hire new administrators and cut dozens of jobs.

The blueprint was unveiled Tuesday by Joseph Watkins, the district's state-appointed chief recovery officer. He says the changes are needed to restore educational excellence and fiscal health.

Chester Upland threatened to shut its doors in suburban Philadelphia in January due to money problems. A subsequent federal court settlement with the state led to a badly needed cash infusion.

Watkins also proposes a two-year deadline for improving chronically low student achievement. If progress isn't made, the plan calls for outside managers to take over the district.

Acting Superintendent Thomas Persing says it will be nearly impossible to hit the proposed academic targets. State officials declined to comment.

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Environmentalists to appeal ANF drilling ruling

ERIE — The Sierra Club and the Allegheny Defense Project have filed notice that they're appealing a federal judge's September ruling that says the U.S. Forest Service can't regulate gas or oil drilling or other efforts to access mineral rights in the Allegheny National Forest.

U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin's upheld an earlier decision that lifted a de facto ban on drilling in the northwestern Pennsylvania forest.

The judge found that the Forest Service had no more right than any other surface land owner to deny access to underground mineral rights owned by others.

The Forest Service owns the surface of the 513,000-acre forest, but only 7 percent of the mineral rights.

The environmentalists say the ruling ignores the reason the forest was established, which is to conserve land and water in the upper Allegheny River watershed.