Jeffery Fraser

Jeffery is Pittsburgh Today's senior editor, a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Pittsburgh Quarterly. In his past life, he was a reporter and editor for newspapers large and small, only one of which is still in business. His magazine and newspaper reporting has won numerous awards.

How Allegheny County Spends its $212 Million CARES Package

Allegheny County unveiled a new COVID-19 testing center in McKeesport last week as health officials braced for the confluence of the coronavirus outbreak and the approaching flu season. The center, which can perform 200 tests a day, didn’t cost county taxpayers one dime. It is the highest profile example to date of how the county …

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Light the Bridges for a Gleaming Downtown

Dressing the Rachel Carson Bridge with 27,000 color-changing LED lights got the public’s attention in 2016. And the popularity of the temporary installation, done as part of the City of Pittsburgh’s bicentennial celebration, bought it an extended 18-month run. If that’s the case, says former Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey, why not artistically illuminate …

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Venting off Steam… and Turning It Into a Musical Downtown Clock

Lynn Dunbar is well acquainted with the vertical steam pipe that juts from the pavement at Penn Avenue and Seventh Street in Downtown Pittsburgh for patrons of the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts and the rest of the Cultural District to see. Her husband is in the Pittsburgh Symphony, she once worked for the …

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‘It’s Been Crazy’: Gun Sales Break Records

Gooch Ionadi has seen spikes in gun sales before. He’s come to expect a surge of buyers at his Smoke ‘N Guns shop when a mass shooting rekindles debate over gun control laws. And presidential elections are busy years, as a rule. But nothing compares to the last four months. “I’m seeing little old women, …

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Voter Registration High Despite Pandemic

Voter registration in southwestern Pennsylvania and across the state could surpass totals seen in the last presidential election year even as the coronavirus disrupts tried-and-true tactics for reaching and registering new voters. With three months left to register, Pennsylvania is 80,000 voters shy of surpassing the total number of registered voters who were eligible to …

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Could the Coronavirus Kill the Gasoline Tax?

A crisis in how to pay for roads and bridges with a gasoline tax had been worsening for decades. With Americans traveling less, the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating it. Fifty years ago, when the miles Americans traveled in their cars were soaring, a tax on every gallon of gasoline sold worked as a way pay …

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Breathing Bad Air

Air pollution from traffic and industrial stacks finds its way to most places in Allegheny County. But minority and low-income neighborhoods are more likely to endure the highest levels and the health risks that come with not being able to find respite from bad air, a University of Pittsburgh study reports. Researchers mapped black carbon …

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Billions Ride on Pandemic-Hampered Census

COVID-19 is quietly threatening southwestern Pennsylvania’s share of billions of federal dollars that will be critical if the region is to recover from the pandemic with hopes for a future of growth and vitality intact. For months, the pandemic has disrupted the decennial census, putting at risk efforts to get a complete count of the …

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Who’s Less Likely to Stay in Pittsburgh?

In southwestern Pennsylvania, where population has steadily been shrinking, the people least likely to see a future in the region include those under the age of 30, African Americans and residents with higher levels of education, a regional survey suggests. More than 8 in 10 Allegheny County residents overall plan on being in the region …

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Pitt Study: Soaring Municipal Failures Loom

More than 100 southwestern Pennsylvania municipalities will be in financial distress next year if the economy can’t shake free from the grip of the coronavirus and prevent budget reserves from being drained and tax revenues from drying up, a new study suggests. Municipal officials, uncertain of the duration of the outbreak and severity of the …

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“Historic Low Levels of Pollution”

Pittsburgh and surrounding neighborhoods received a respite from air pollution in the weeks after nonessential businesses were closed and residents were urged to stay at home and off the streets to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Fine particulate pollution and smog-making gases fell to levels rarely seen in Allegheny County from March 15 to …

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Now That the Money’s Gone

As regional banks brace for another wave of small business loan applications, questions surrounding the emergency federal program are front and center after the first $349 billion quickly ran out. Congress and the White House were reportedly near a deal late Monday that would add more than $300 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, which …

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Shale Gas Was in Trouble, Then Came the Coronavirus

Shale gas produced by Appalachian region wells slipped 1.8 percent during the last three months. But what seems like a slight decline warns of a coming storm for an industry that has seen production rise consistently—and sometimes dramatically—every year since the gas-rich Marcellus play drew companies to southwestern Pennsylvania in droves more than a decade …

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Coronavirus May Strengthen Pittsburgh’s Ties to Wuhan

Jim Wolf set about retooling Pittsburgh’s flagging Sisters Cities program two years ago at the request of city Mayor Bill Peduto. He guided its reorganization. He watched it secure non-profit status, raise enough money to hire an executive director and begin to restore relationships with several international cities that had gone fallow. To signal its …

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Cleveland 11,000 – Pittsburgh 1

The housing bubble had burst and the nation was reeling from recession. The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were feeling the pain more than most places in 2009. Foreclosures were mounting by the thousands, and Fannie Mae and other lenders were desperate for a way to off-load the abandoned properties filling their books. They …

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Gauging K–12 Education Quality

Allegheny County residents are tough graders when assessing the performance of the public schools that educate 115,000 county children in grades kindergarten through 12, a far-ranging survey of their views on education suggests. Fewer than half give schools a better-than-fair rating for their class size, funding, student preparedness, parental involvement and diversity of the student …

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An Answer from Abroad

If southwestern Pennsylvania is going to pull out of its long population slump, it’s likely going to happen with people like Khara Timsina. He arrived in Pittsburgh 10 years ago, one of fewer than 300 Bhutanese refugees resettled from camps in Nepal, where they had lived after being driven from their homeland during a period …

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The Economics of Population

Last spring, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County once again lost population. In what has become a ritual, public officials were pressed by reporters to respond. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald suggested not reading too much into the latest of a long string of down years. Pittsburgh …

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Wolf Wants Pot Legalized, Most Local Residents Agree

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced his support for legalizing recreational use of marijuana among adults, he echoed the sentiments of the majority of people living in the most populous county in southwestern Pennsylvania. Medical marijuana dispensaries began opening across southwestern Pennsylvania last year after Pennsylvania joined nearly two thirds of U.S. states by …

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How Age Colors Views About the Environment

The air seems cleaner and the water fresher to middle-aged residents and seniors in Allegheny County, the urban center of southwestern Pennsylvania that has had its share of environmental struggles. A pronounced age gap separates the perspectives of residents across a spectrum of environmental issues ranging from air and water quality and the impact of …

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A Slow But Continuing Decline

Gavriel Popper-Keizer was living in sun-swept Santa Barbara when he decided to leave coastal California, where he’d spent most of his life. His girlfriend, Alison, also a lifelong Californian, was on board. The sense of adventure was appealing. Neither had a dream job they would regret leaving. And they had come to grips with the …

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Pittsburgh Air Pollution Report: Particulates Drop, Ozone Rises

Levels of fine particulate air pollution, long an issue in southwestern Pennsylvania, fell in 2018, while ground-level ozone, whose concentrations had been waning in recent years, ticked upward amid concerns that natural gas drilling may be contributing to the rise. Fine particulates, also know as PM2.5, are microscopic airborne particles that can penetrate deep into …

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