Looking back at the second half of 2021
-YEAR IN REVIEW-
In our last edition, we selected the best stories in local news from the first half of 2021 as part of our two-part year-in-review series. This week we’re bringing you the highlights from July through December as we cap off 2021 and look ahead to the new year.
As we reflect on 2021, the Gazette 2.0 team at hyperLOCAL Media LLC is extremely proud of our consistent delivery of honest and thoughtful reporting throughout the communities we serve. We work hard to improve with each subsequent edition, a consistent goal.
As always, we are looking for readers to partner with us as citizen-journalists. If you are invested in your community and have a good eye for a story, you may be able to help us in our mission of delivering high-quality, community-centered journalism throughout our western suburban coverage area. Please call us at (412) 652-5875 if you are interested in joining the team.
Ongoing criminal activities at a motel site in Robinson had by last summer reached a level where a neighboring business owner called on the township to intervene.
Sang Nam, owner of Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse on Steubenville Pike, complained to commissioners about a litany of offenses he’s witnessed at the Pittsburgh Motel in recent years, which he feared was driving away customers. Most recently, Nam said he’d found discarded needles in his parking lot, which he said was just the latest in a long pattern of drug sales and prostitution he regularly observes behind his restaurant. Last year, he said, his security camera even recorded a man shot dead after exiting one of the rooms.
While many of the coronavirus pandemic’s worst effects were felt to be over by last summer, soaring prices in the hospitality industry told of lingering consequences.
Of all menu favorites, local restaurant owners said chicken prices (wings in particular) had soared in response to a supply and demand mismatch. Many said they had to adjust their menu listings accordingly – sometimes raising prices, sometimes adding substitutes, other times removing options altogether.
Responding to an uptick in violent crime seen throughout the Stowe and McKees Rocks communities, local community leaders began meeting last spring to work on solutions.
Lee Davis, Allegheny County’s violence prevention coordinator, told those assembled at Second Baptist Church on June 23 the problem required more programming and resources, in addition to widespread community buy-in.
Out of the meetings, several subcommittees were formed to address the issue from different angles. One of the resultant programming initiatives has been recently boosted by funding from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.
Six small businesses in McKees Rocks and Stowe were boosted by small capital injections in July as part of a “participatory capital” program overseen and distributed by community stakeholders.
Starting with a $10,000 cash pool, a committee of local leaders picked out organizations they felt were contributing positively to the community. The concept was designed by a Carnegie Mellon University graduate looking for a community to test her model in.
Recipients included the BlackTea BrownSuga Network, DaLisha’s Treats, It’s a Pizza Cake Cafe, Lustrous Looks Beauty Care Lounge, La Vostra Pizza and Gazette 2.0.
In response to congestion and safety concerns, Stowe officials created new parking spaces out of three empty lots and restricted parking along sections of a residential street.
The changes enacted July 13 allowed residents to reserve space from among 61 available spots in newly-paved lots on Race Street and Russellwood and Woodward avenues, at a cost of $125 per year.
Parking along the right side of Race Street was prohibited to ensure accessibility for emergency vehicles.
Commissioners lash out
Commissioners turned irate during a July business meeting where a Stowe resident recounted an alleged domestic incident he witnessed involving the son of a township official.
Leading the aggression, President Robin Parrilla cut short the resident’s comments after he reiterated the profanities he said he overheard during the incident.
“You’re done,” Parrilla said. “I call the police, you go to jail.”
Another commissioner, Kelly Cropper-Hall, suggested resident Christopher Allen of Valley Street was pursuing a vendetta against the official whose son he named as the alleged suspect. Allen maintained he was simply there seeking justice because he was with the unsatisfied police’s response.
A Robinson resident filed a lawsuit against the township and several named officials, claiming they conspired to improperly seize his land to help a friend.
In the suit, filed July 15, plaintiff James Esposito of Capital Realty argued he was subjected to a string of harassment starting in 2015 when he turned down a proposal by Michael Dunn, a neighboring property owner who sits on the township planning commission. Esposito claimed his property was on multiple occasions cited for bogus offenses before the township finally began pursuing eminent domain proceedings to obtain the land.