2012 top local stories

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Judge halts Voter ID law
After several days of testimony and strong direction from the State Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson reversed himself and approved an injunction of the state’s Voter ID law. It will not be in effect for the November General Election, though it may after January. A month earlier Simpson had denied the injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO and others that challenged the law as unduly burdensome, particularly for African-Americans, the elderly and young voters.
Gainey looks forward
In a Primary Election that saw low voter turnout generally, two putative underdogs managed to get their troops to the polls and score solid victories. The most impressive of these was Pittsburgh Democratic Party Chair Ed Gainey’s trouncing of his one-time boss state Rep. Joseph Preston Jr., D-East Liberty. Overcoming Preston’s message of the need for seniority and experience with calls for change and promises of energetic and responsive representation, Gainey bested the 15-term veteran legislator by a nearly 2-1 margin.
First Black Public Defender
When introduced by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald as the new head of the public defender’s office for the county, Elliot Howsie, the first African-American to hold the office, said he is “passionate about criminal defense,” and will make the choices needed to turn the office around.
Walker twins rule Aliquippa
Two African-American brothers, who’d never run for office before, ousting a veteran incumbent mayor and councilwoman? Many said it was impossible. But thankfully for the Walker brothers, many more believed. And last month, Donald Walker and his younger brother Dwan—by 10 minutes, were sworn in as councilman and mayor of Aliquippa.
Imani Academy taken from church
In 1993, Bishop Donald Clay, senior pastor of Petra International Ministries, founded Imani Christian Academy, a Christian-centered school serving at-risk African-American students. Since its humble start with 30 students in the home of Bishop Clay’s sister, the academy has grown to a K-12 with more than 200 students. Now, 19 years after Bishop Clay’s vision for the school was first inspired, he finds himself on the outside looking in. Last month, after a hard fought battle for control of the school he gave birth to, Imani’s board of directors ousted Bishop Clay along with the other members of his church.
PPS decline in student performance
For the first time in five years, the Pittsburgh Public School District saw a decrease in overall student performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. This decrease marks the greatest year-to-year decline in PSSA performance in the past ten years.     According to preliminary results from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the percentage of proficient PPS students dropped by 2 percentage points in reading and by 3.8 percentage points in math.
Larimer development presentation
Complete with PowerPoint presentations from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh and developer Keith B. Keys, Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess asked for community input and support for a plan to begin rebuilding Larimer.
Burgess continued to stress that point as 200 or so residents watched the presentations.
Rev. Winsett’s last sermon after 39 years
For more than 55 years, and nearly 40 in Pittsburgh, Rev. Dr. J. Van Alfred Winsett has been preaching the Word. His powerful messages from on high have reached many locally, nationally and even internationally, making him a pillar of the Pittsburgh community. His local ministry has survived two church fires, the rebuild of a community after the Pittsburgh riots and much more. He continues to aide and minister to the Lord’s people. But now, after 39 years, Rev. Winsett has said goodbye to the congregation of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in the Hill District, a church where he served as pastor and witnessed the church grow structurally, but most importantly, spiritually.

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