Archive for November, 2010

Taking Action For You: Fire Sprinklers
November 30, 2010

Get ready would-be home builders.

Come the first of the year, along with all the other costs associated with building a home, you are going to have to install a sprinkler system inside your home. Its becoming the law because Pennsylvania has adopted all addition to the Uniform Construction Code. In 2009, that included making fire sprinklers mandatory.

It will finally become the law of the Commonwealth in 2011.

As you might imagine, it’s the result of a battle between two opposing forces, There’s the building industry which does not want this to be mandated, lest the industry slows down as it tries to recover from a crippling recession. Then, there are the fire safety experts, like Pittsburgh Deputy Chief Colleen Walz, who believes you cannot put a price on safety and saving the lives of  residents and firefighters.

Well, actually you can put a price on it. The Pittsburgh Home Builders association estimates these things can run around $8000. The Fire Sprinkler industry says the builders could do it for a whole lot less, like $3000 for a 2000 square-foot home. Regardless of who’s right or who’s wrong, you have to foot the bill.

That’s the dilemma facing Steven Frye and Rebecca Nicol of Blairsville. They were in my story about this issue. They are about to be married and plan to build a modest home on the family farm. The house is under $100K but since they live in a rural area, the additional equipment to make this work would cost them, by the estimates they have received, close to $30K.

I doubt anybody would argue fire sprinklers do make a difference and make a home not only safer, but give you a better chance of escaping in the event of a fire. The issue here is whether they should be mandated. Deputy chief Walz says yes, like a beam that’s used to give support to the roof. The builders say consumers should not have to pay for anything they don’t want.

The issue will likely be brought up again in the legislature next year when two state senators propose a bill to either delay and outright drop the provision. House majority leader Mike Turzai assures me the matter will also be brought up next year. As for Rebecca and Steve, we have put them in touch with a regional building contractor who plans to help them construct their sprinkler system …. for less than the $30K they have been quoted. We’ll keep you posted.

We invite you to contact us if there are stories, issues that in which we can take action for you, let us know. E-mail me at astockey@ hearst.com. You will also find me on twitter at astockey.

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Braving Black Friday
November 29, 2010

If you haven’;t guesses from my banter with Wendy and Michelle, I’m not much of a shopper. In fact, Wendy referred to me as “full price”. Funny, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am very much cost-conscious shopper,. From the clothes I wear to the food I eat, I have begun trying to save and earn discounts when and where I can. That includes braving the greatest saving experience in the world of shopping: Black Friday.

However, instead of going to the local mall to see what the experience was like, I journeyed into my parents home of Chicago and brave the greatest single shopping stretch in the midwest: Michigan Avenue. Better known as the “Miracle Mile”. On this strip of ten blocks is every store known to man, H&M, Hugo Boss, Disney, Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom. You name it. It’s there.

The unique view of downtown Chicago from the “big egg” in Grant Park.  A peaceful place in a chaotic Black Friday in the Windy City.

I got there late in the shopping day, noon, but noticed the see of people crowding the sidewalks. There was virtually no store that wasn’t filled with long lines waiting for the cash register. There were people not only shopping, but more important to the economy they were spending. I keep hearing about difficult economic times but I couldn’t tell judging by the way people were whipping out the plastic … and carrying bags of goodies out of stores.

As for me, what began as a gung-ho trip in search of bargains turned into being overwhelmed by all the choices. I bought a couple of clothing items but truthfully, between all the “sale” signs and the massive amounts of people, it turned into shopping overload. The biggest savings I enjoyed all weekend I did while I was on the train headed into the city. I bought three dress shirts on-line from an English company. They usually go for $100 each. I got all three for $100.

Who says I don’t look for bargains? Take that Wendy and Michelle.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors
November 23, 2010

Quick! How many of us really know our neighbors. If we are honest about it, few of us really get to know our neighbors intimately. Sure, say hello and have friendly conversations. Maybe our kids play together. Perhaps we share yard work along the borders of our properties.

However, I have never seen neighbors like the ones  I met today. Sarah Phillips and Richard McCord have lived next door to each other in Penn Hills for five years. It began with Richard, in addition to being married and raising a budding football player, taking time to do small things around Sarah’s house. Small things like cutting the grass and doing things for Sarah without her asking. Perhaps nothing was more generous that shoveling her out from “snowmageddon” last February.

Sarah,w ho deals with physical issues, is not without the ability to give back. Sometimes its as simple as offering Richard a cup of coffee or lunch, Together, they watch out for each other and they have become fats friends. So much so, Sarah wrote Oprah about her friend that made a difference in her life. Little did she realize what that small letter would bring.

Neighbors Sarah Phillips and Richard McCord showing off the kets to their new 2012 VW cars,  a very generous gift from “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.

“Oprah” invited Sarah and Richard to Chicago for a taping of the show. They thought it would be a discussion of people who made a difference. Instead, it was a front row seat to the final installment ever of “Oprah’s Favorite Things”. That’s when Oprah basically gives the audience everything she loves. In this case, it was iPads, jewelry, cookware, luggage.

Even a new 2012 Volkswagon bug!

Yes, Sarah and Richard went through the experience of  a lifetime: meeting Oprah and enjoying enough gifts for the next ten Christmases. They say while they are richer materially for the experience, they are also richer in spirit and in friendship. They know now their friendship has reached a new level, but they also know that what makes this friendship so special will never change: the ability to be kind, concerned and friendly neighbors. We could also use neighbors like that.

If you haven’t, pop over and get to know your neighbor.

Shhhh! Max Is Making A Difference
November 20, 2010

Before I start blogging, let me  tell you this will be my 666th post. But the subject is nothing but heavenly.

Shhhh! Max Talbot is making a difference,.

The popular Penguin who has a habit of quieting the opposing crowd, had everyone cheering Thursday night at Bossa Nova nightclub in the Cultural District. Talbot hosted the inaugural fundraiser for his non-profit, the Max Talbot foundation.

The goal is simply to raise funds for children in orphanages in Haiti. Max, Mike Rupp and former Pirate Sean Casey made the trek to Haiti to see the poverty and devastation first-hand. For Max, this was more than just an appearance for appearance sake, it was a mission with meaning.

Max Talbot bringing his love of hockey to the children of Haiti this summer.

I sat down with Max for an interview during the benefit. Still sporting stitches above his eye from an on-ice incident, the sharply dressed skater talked passionately about wanting to give back to the city he believes has given him so much. Talbot truly believes that athletes have a responsibility to give back. That means doing more than just showing up and signing a few autographs.

For Max, that meant working with people to start a foundation and working with people to raise money. That means asking people directly for funds. It also means supporting fellow athletes in their charitable endeavors. For Max, that means a working relationship with Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch. When Charlie needs auction items for his events,  he contacts Max and when Max needs stuff, he calls Charlie.

What struck me in talking with Max is his passion for Pittsburgh and its people. Sure, he has the means to do it but very few people are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Max has.

That’s something worth shouting about.

Jackie’s New Adventure
November 16, 2010

Jackie Evancho has become a star in a very short period of time. Today, she and the rest of the nation will find out if that star power can turn into money. The 10-year-old’s newest CD “O Holy Night” hits stores across the country. According to her father mIke, pre-sales have already exceeded expectations. Even Jackie, who I spoke with by phone last night in New York, says she is extremely excited to see how many CDs are sold on this first day.

I’ve been on the “Jackie Evancho” beat since I first met this young girl as a 9-year-old performing at the Variety Childrens Charity gala at the William Penn Hotel ballroom last November. A little more than a year ago, I introduced this singer to a crowd of about 250 in the ballroom. Like everyone in that room, my jaw hit the floor when I heard her sing. I was dumbfounded. How in the world could such a mature voice come from a such a young person?

Jackie Evancho’s newest CD – “O Holy Night” hits stores nationwide Tuesday.

She has been turning heads and shocking doubters ever since. Last night, she told me there were people in the audience for her performance on ABC’s “The View” that doubted she could sing. They were quickly reformed when she broke out in song.

Now she tells me she is excited about her next big public appearances. At the end of this month, she will be part of an all-star cast that will take part in the lighting of the tree in Rockerfeller Center. Jackie will join Susan Boyle, Sheryl Crow and Josh Groban for the event. Then, on December 9th, she will experience the highlight for any performer. As the President and the first family lights the national tree in DC, Jackie will provide the music.

Its heady stuff for someone so young, but when I speak with her she strikes the perfect tone of excitement and cautious maturity. She is truly an amazing young individual and I’m sure she will be doing even greater things in the years to come. I know I will be following her progress …. as both a fan and as a friend.

Sad Ending and Happy Birthday
November 15, 2010

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.

The Steelers were decisively beaten by the Patriots. I went to the game and I can tell you it look as bad in person as it did on TV. However, before we run Jeff Reed out of town or, as some of my friends on Twitter suggested, pass on the playoffs let’s remember there is a reason the Steelers have beaten Tom Brady only once in seven tries. New England is a better team and knows how to play the Steelers. There is a reason they throw the ball 75% of the time against Pittsburgh and 60% against everyone else.

Now Sunday wasn’t a total loss. Before the game, I was able to spend time with good friends at the pre-game tailgate. That’s really what football is all about for me: Spending time with friends and enjoying good times and good food. Winning what you want the Steelers to do, but I will have fun win, lose or draw.

Now, my Monday was probably more upbeat than most of yours … because today is my father’s birthday. Wilson Stockey turned 73. It’s easy for me to say that my dad is the best … because every child feels that way about his/her father. However, my dad is more than that. He is my inspiration. He is what I strive to be everyday.

My dad went to school and earned a degree at a time when it was still a challenge for African-Americans to do so. He went onto a very successful career with the Internal Revenue Service. He always put his family first in his career … and his travels.

My father has always been curious. When he wanted to learn how suspension bridges work, he didn’t hop onto the internet. There was no internet back then. He simply read a lot of books. That natural curiosity to learn how things work brought him to read books and build his own model train set in the basement.

My father has always been a great public speaker. He could walk up to a podium and knock out a 20-minute speech about anything. It was a gift that my father left me and while I do communicate for a living, I still have miles to go before I’m as natural and talented at the microphone as he was.

With my mom and dad during the 2008 Race for the Cure in Schenley Park

Now, my dad is turning 73. Gone are the days when he would take my brother and I to the park to play ball. However, the lessons from playing catch and spending time stay with me. The desire to give back to my community, like he did, is part of me. My natural curiosity comes from him.

Happy birthday Dad!

Best Bets for the Weekend
November 13, 2010

Before I offer my weekend list of places to go and things to do, a big shout out to the students and staff at the Ellis School in Shadyside. The all-girls school hosted a “Cultural Jam” including students from several other schools. The message today was celebrate diversity. I was one of the speakers today and stressed diversity is not only about how we look, but also what we think and learning to co-exist despite diversity of opinion will be the key in the new millennium to maintaining social harmony among people of different races, creeds and genders.

With Rebecca Atkinson and diversity coordinator Madeleine Homayoonfar at the Ellis School.

 Now to the weekend best ….

The Tin Cafe, Homestead: The emergence of a revitalized Homestead continues along 8th avenue at the Tin Front Cafe. Inside, the cozy cafe offers a smoothie bar, a delicious vegetarian menu and a bar which has incorporated the  old back bar at famed Chiodo’s. I tried the butterscotch squash lasagna … and loved it!!! It’s still nice outside so please get out and enjoy the finished courtyard outback. It’s just across the tracks from the Waterfront … and well worth it.

Ti Kanaval: We have followed the McMutrie sisters as they brought 54 orphans from earthquake-ravaged Haiti in January. Ali and Jamie decided to go back and start another orphanage to help. Now, they have come home asking for your help. They are holding a fund-raiser/thank you party at Whim nightclub at Station Square Saturday night from 6-9pm. Live music, silent auction and a chance to meet the sisters and learn about the amazing things they are doing far from their Ben Avon routes.

“Unstoppable”: Are we really “Hollywood East” here in Pittsburgh. We will be for the next couple of weeks as three big budget films shot here hit the screen nationwide. First up, “Unstoppable“. Denzel Washington stars in this hit about a runaway train … and our own Mike Clark has a cameo that has this whole town talking. Might be a little too nice outside to sit in a theatre, so make it an evening trip.

 

Heroic Sisters … Back Home From Haiti
November 11, 2010

I just spent a great afternoon interviewing Ali McMutrie and spending time with her little brother Fredo. Its an interview you will see only on 4. If the names sound familiar, it’s because Ali is one of the two famed McMutrie sisters from Ben Avon who saved 54 orphans in January’s post-earthquake Haiti. Their story became a source of national attention … and local pride. They were hailed as heroes.

But instead of resting on the laurels of their accomplishments, they returned to Haiti. Ali tells me they felt there was so much they could do. The focal point of their efforts: a new orphanage and school. But those efforts take money, so these young women started a non-profit – the Haitian Orphan Rescue.

At the McMutrie home with Ali and her adopted brother Fredo. Fredo is now 4, starting pre-school and has become a Steeler fan. He says his favorite player in “Polimoli”.

They also have a local fund-raiser plan for Saturday night from 6-9pm at Whim nightclub in Station Square. A silent auction, food and live music … all to raise money to help build that orphanage  as well as thank the people here who helped them during their time of need and there were many folks. Everyday citizens to elected officials went the extra mile to bring the woman and ALL the orphans home.

As for the sisters, they will once again head back to Haiti after their short stay back here in the ‘burgh. As Ali told me today, while Pittsburgh is their home their passion and their mission is with the children of Haiti.

Stolen Wheelchair Update
November 11, 2010

Author’s note: The wheelchair was returned to police tonight and is on its way towards what is sure to be a happy reunion with the family … and Gabriel. I like to think all the positive energy from all of you … and the guilt that person must have felt … led to its safe return. Look for the latest on the reunion on Channel 4 Action News.

You may have seen the story about two-year-old Gabriel Carter-Olson. He has the smile and a natural curiosity of any two-year-old. You notice immediately he has a twin brother every bit as active and exciting. You notice he is like any other child until you look down at his legs … and notice the walker he uses to move those legs.

Gabriel lives with cerebral palsy. I know a few things about this because I have worked for the national organization called United Cerebral Palsy for some 20 years in one form or another. I know it’s a disease that physically disables. I know you can still live a full life … just with some help from devices such as special wheelchairs.

Gabriel had his special wheelchair. It was 50 pounds and costs over $5000 and his mother Candy was finally able to get insurance to pay for it … and it arrives two weeks ago. Last week, it was stolen right out of her van at the family home in Glenview. Now, the mom does admit she may have left the van unlocked coming back from the circus with the kids the night before. That being said, it’s still beyond the fray for someone to reach into a car and take a wheelchair.

It’s hard to see anyone victimized by crime … but a two-year-old with special needs? Even his twin brother Christopher, who loved to push his brother in his new chair, senses something is wrong. His mom tells us he tells strangers in the store “wheelchair gone”. For now, Gabriel is resigned to using a walker. It gets him around but the device does not support his legs as well and he can only go so far before his legs tire out.

Police are still investigating.

Just a thought here. It was amazing the outpouring of support for James Harrison when he was fined by the NFL. People sending a dollar to the league offices to help pay Harrison’s fine. If we could only fine the same sense of  outrage and contribute a dollar to get Gabriel a new wheelchair.

Just a thought.

Getting Involved
November 8, 2010

Its easily the best part of my job … and often, the most interesting. That’s making appearance at public events and getting involved. Volunteerism is something we all should do, but in this job it becomes even more important.

From serving as emcee, to signing autographs, to volunteering your time, anything that you can do gives you a chance to interract with viewers and potential viewers as well. Its a chance to find out what is important to them. What they enjoy about our newscast and what they don’t.

This particular weekend was a busy one for me personally. It began at the Healthy 4 Life Expo at the convention center downtown. Iw as there from 9-10:30am and had a chance to talk to all sorts of people. Families and couples from around the region to as far away as Akron, Ohio. Once of the nice things about such an event is that it’s a chance for them to talk to you and carry on a conversation instead of the usually one-way discussion that happens when people often watch TV.

That night, Animal Friends held its annual black tie & tails event at the Circuit Center on the city’s Southside. What makes this event so special is that even the dogs and bunnies up for adoption are dressed to impress. I served as auction emcee and was truly moved by how generous the patrons in attendance are. These are people who truly care about the animals and are willing to spend money to make sure Animal Friends remains a place where abandoned and abused animals can find love and find homes.

A group photo with my new friends: The first graders a Greenock Elementary School

Sunday night, I was asked to once again take part in the Shop to Stop Domestic Violence. This annual event at the Galleria in Mount Lebanon raises funds for the Womens Center and Shelter as well as awareness of domestic violence. It’s easy for people in attendance to raise funds. All they do is shop and all the stores offer discounts on their merchandise with the money going to WC&S. Turned out I was the only male model in the group … as this event tends to bring in a mostly female audience. Then again, maybe seeing me in some of the finest mens’ threads might have inspired some wives to get something for their husbands sitting at home.

Finally, my weekend ended Monday morning at Greenock Elementary in the Elizabeth Forward school district. It was celebrity reader day and I had the honor of reading to about 25 6-and-7 year olds this morning. The book: “Harry th Dirty Dog”. The group: All sporting their black and gold in advance of tonight’s game although the kids were stumped when I asked them who the Steelers were playing. Then again, one young girl left me search for words when she whispered in my ear: ” I thought you were the President”.

Kids say the craziest things.

Suffice to say, it’s a lot of fun for me to get involved in my community. Frankly, it’s a selfish feeling. You always feel great once your done doing anything whether its speaking, serving as emcee or volunteering in away way. It’s OK to have that selfish feeling as long as it gets you involved.

My Best Bets for the Weekend
November 5, 2010

If you are a regular viewer of Channel 4 Action News at 11, you know I’ve been doing this segment for three years now called “Check It Out”. The premise is simple: There is plenty happening in and around Pittsburgh every weekend — from shows to restaurants. So each week, I try to cast a spotlight on what’s hot and happening around town so you can plan your weekend.

Now, on my blog, I’ll be giving you some of the places and things you may want to check out for entertainment and fun this weekend.

GoodTaste! Pittsburgh: Did you know there is a “bacon” subculture? Everything from bacon vodka to bacon brittle. Yes there is and that’s just one of the interesting and tasty things you will find at Go0dTaste! Pittsburgh. It’s about cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs and lots and lots of food. If you are a “foodie”, as food lovers are called, then you will want to head to the Monroeville Convention Center Saturday.

South Pacific: We are lucky in Pittsburgh to have such a rich and diverse group of performers come through the Cultural District. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Benedum theatre welcomes the traveling Broadway production of “South Pacific”. The romance set in World War II is the latest incarnation of the Tony-award winning Rogers & Hammerstein creation. This time, featuring the largest orchestra for any traveling tour.

Three Rivers Film Festival: Get your popcorn ready! 50 films from independent film makers regionally, nationally and internationally. The Three Rivers Film Fest has become the showcase for new and creative cinema. This is the 29th year that Pittsburgh Filmmakers has hosted this two-week event. The movies are shown at the Harris Theatre downtown, the Melwood Screening Room in Oakland and the Regent Square theatre.

Healthy 4 Life Expo: Living the good life means living a healthy life. Once again, WTAE is proud to put on the Healthy 4 Life Expo at the David L Lawrence Convention Center. Exhibits, demonstrations and information about better health. WTAE personalities will be there too. Learn more about this year’s show, Saturday from 9am to 4pm, by clicking this link.

We have more information and links to all these events on our wonderful website, thepittsburghchannel.com Have a great weekend … and enjoy the first snowflakes of the year … from inside!

Light Up The Night … and the City
November 4, 2010

I had the distinct pleasure Thursday morning to emcee the kick-off press conference for this year’s Light Up Night downtown. This year, the Pittsburgh tradition turns 50 and will, once again, bring thousands downtown to start the holiday season. It really should be called “Light Up Weekend” because its two days of holiday fun and festivities …. and one spectacular night of fireworks.

November 19th and 20th, the city will light up with all the downtown buildings turning on their lights … and it will also play out at two different venues. The Warhol Bridge which will be the site of the stage on Friday night … and the newly renovated  Market Square which will host all sorts of activities and musical performances.

This morning’s press event at the Fairmont  Hotel, just a block from Market Square, also gave the city first word of a holiday wedding that will take place. A couple from Mount Pleasant plans to get married as part of the festivities and they will be taken to the downtown wedding site via pumpkin-shaped horse-drawn carriage a la “Cinderella”.

Lynn Smith and James ( Fred ) Bell will exchange vows in a winter wedding as part of  Light Up Night.

This winter wonderland and festive fantasy does have some real world applications organizers hope will last long beyond the holidays. Pittsburgh businesses and Downtown Partnership want you to experience the city and see what it has to offer. Other than Steeler games, parades and events like this, there are few event that bring masses from outside the city to downtown. Thus, when you have the opportunities, you have to do your best to bring out the city’s best.

I don’t work for the Chamber of Commerce or the Downtown partnership, but I can tell you downtown Pittsburgh has all you could possibly want in a city. Live theatre, restaurants, night life … and a growing downtown residential choices. I have traveled to many cities and I know few that offer all the different aspects of city life so affordably and so close. You can park downtown and walk five blocks in any direction and find a myriad of entertainment, shopping and food options. Its one big reason I have made this my home since 1995.

Don’t take my word for it. Experience the city for yourself  … either during Light Up Night weekend or any weekend. I’m sure you will pleasantly surprised.

Commitment 2010 … An Election Night Insider’s View
November 4, 2010

Election day has come and gone … and most of what  I hear from viewers either on the street or on our WTAE Facebook page … is that they are glad the political ads are done running. Most found them insulting and not very  helpful when making a decision on a candidate. However, there is so much more to ponder in the results from Tuesday night both locally and nationally. Changes that will affect us in the days and years to come.

I had the unique opportunity on election night to spend time watching the proceedings with Jerry Shuster, WTAE political analyst. This is a man who follows politics and trends and pretty much predicted weeks ago what would happen in the races. I thought it would be a good idea to hear what he has to say about the future.

Governor-elect Tom Corbett celebrates his election night win. ( AP Photo )

Probably the insight that stayed with me with was how things would change in the state with a Republican sweep of the house, senate and governor’s mansion. This is the year in which congressional voting districts are re-drawn. What does that mean? Well, if you are in power, you can re-draw the districts so that they fall into your party’s favor in future elections. The practice has been known in the past by the unflattering term  “gerrymandering”. Today, it’s just the spoils which go to the victors.

Shuster also sees the Republican control in Harrisburg being an asset in Governor-elect Tom Corbett getting his agenda passed. Let’s face it, if you have both houses on your side, you should be able to pass whatever you want — quickly. Thus Shuster says Corbett will waste little time reigning in spending.

However, if you are looking for immediate reform in Harrisburg, that could take a little bit longer … if ever. After all, its the new legislature policing and penalizing themselves. That’s something that doesn’t happen quickly with either a Republican or Democratic administration.

As for what will happen on the national scene, Shuster says it all depends on President Obama. He’s now facing a house that clearly is opposed to his agenda and his programs, such as health care reform. If Obama is willing to work with this new congress, as he alluded to in Wednesday’s press conference, he may survive into a second term. If not, Shuster says Obama could face a challenge for re-election .. from his own party. 

It’s nice to get an “inside'” view on election night.

Confession Session
November 4, 2010

 I remember when I was a kid and I did wrong. Whether it be break a window, getting into a fight at school or get bad grades, there was nothing worse than having to explain to mom and dad. Sometimes that was worse than the misdeed itself.

That brings me to the case of Colts punter Pat McAfee.  If you remember a few weeks ago, McAfee was arrested in Indianapolis for public intoxication. Wednesday, McAfee apologized to the media for his drunken episode …. for three minutes. In his first public comments, he called the episode embarrassing  and promised he would never do it again. He used that term “embarrassing” nine times in the three minute span.

The reason the episode drew my attention is because McAfee played his high school ball at Plum and college football at West Virginia. I remember him from my sports reporter days. While I didn’t know him personally, I got the idea he is still close to his family and friends here. He was suspended by the Colts for one game for his actions. So where did McAfee show up during his suspension week? He was on the sidelines at Plum High School.

Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee ( AP Photo )

He also discussed the most embarrassing part of the whole fiasco. McAfee said it was humiliating having to explain what happened to his mom who he says raised him to be an “outstanding citizen”. Just imagine the conversation as this NFL player had to explain to his mother what he was doing in the middle of the night drunk and wading inside the Indianapolis city canal.

Parents have a way of turning us into our own worst critics when we make mistake. Its never the punishment for the mistake upsets us as much as what our mom and dad will think. I’m still that way. I’m sure time back home in western Pennsylvania has made him see the errors of  his ways. He sounded truly sorry for what he had done, knowing he had embarrassed not only himself but also his family. Hopefully, the memory of his mother’s reaction to the news will serve as  punishment enough.

Laughing Towards Election Day
November 1, 2010

It’s the one day Americans get to speak their mind and tell our leaders exactly what we think and what we want. Its Tuesday. Election Day in this country. For those of us in the world of broadcast news, its our big day too. Some call it the “Super Bowl” because it’s a story that has so many layers and so many twists and turns and it unfolds live before us over the course of election night.

However, along with the importance and excitement of this day, there is that general sense of cynicism. We have been barraged by negative ads and mudslinging. Voter participation in mid-term elections tends to be on the lower side anyway. The latest back-and-forth between candidates, in my opinion, will not drive people to the polls. However, I still look forward to see what those brave souls who still want to take part in the process have to say.

I decided to get in the right frame of mind for Tuesday by going to the Byham Theatre in the Cultural District and catch the “Capitol Steps“. If you haven’t seen or heard of them before, you really have missed something. Before “The Daily Show” and the “Colbert Report”, there were the “Steps”. The group started in 1980 with a group of legislative staffers and aides in D.C. who moonlight with a comedy review of the workings in Washington.

What began as a part-time job, became a full-time show that appeared on NPR, various network TV shows and they have produced over 30 comedy albums. While the cast has changed over three decades, the stinging commentary continues. This Sunday, they took shots at the President, Congress, Republicans, Democrats, etc. Its done through music and comedy bites and done without the foul language you might find elsewhere.

The full house in attendance laughed and laughed. It was genuinely funny and creative, skewering everything from healthcare reform to the environmental movement. Perhaps it was so funny because, as with all jokes, there is a bit of truth …. enough truth to make voters angry with the process and those in power.

In a year where there is no doubt tension and voter anger, it was nice to spend a few hours laughing at the absurdities of our political process before America gets serious on Election Day Tuesday.