Everything's better when it's set to music. At least that was our premise while putting together this year's list of noteworthy events from 2014. The following list, sung to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas if you so desire, is a quick look back at some of the stories that we reported on and that our readers talked about.
A single term for Gov. Corbett
Unless you were actually named Tom Corbett, you probably saw this coming for at least two years. Since the midway point in his term, the Governor's budget-slashing, inability to work with his own party and failure to deliver on his most ambitious campaign promises (including state liquor-store reform) pretty much sealed his fate as the state's first one-term governor in more than 40 years. Corbett was walloped in November by York millionaire Tom Wolf who opened up an early lead in the polls and never looked back.
Two (hundred thirty-six) judicial porn emails
There were actually several hundred sexually-explicit emails traded among men in power in state government. But 236 is the number apparently sent and received by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey. McCaffrey resigned over the scandal, as did six members of Gov. Corbett's staff and cabinet. An additional 31 employees in the attorney general's office were reprimanded. It was during Attorney General Kathleen Kane's investigation into the handling of the Jerry Sandusky case that she unearthed the plethora of material that had been swapped between state employees and officials over the years.
Three All-Star Buccos
The Pirates thrilled fans again in 2014, making the postseason and winning 88 games. In addition, three Pittsburgh Pirates were chosen for the 2014 MLB All-Star game in July. Perennial All-Star and last year's MVP Andrew McCutchen was voted in by the fans, while reliever Tony Watson and super-utility player Josh Harrison were chosen by National League manager Mike Matheny. But the big surprise and breakout star of last season was Harrison. Going into the All-Star break, in limited action, he was hitting .297 with 15 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 28 RBIs. He also played five different positions, making highlight-reel-defensive plays at all of them. Harrison only got better in the second half, landing himself in a heated battle for the NL batting title by the end of the season.
Four years of sewage rate hikes
In January, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority hiked rates by 17 percent — and will raise rates 11 percent annually until 2017 — to fund a federally mandated fix to reduce the sewage that overflows into our waterways during heavy rain and snowmelt. The ALCOSAN/EPA consent decree has shined a spotlight on the often invisible topic of water management...and, gross, sewage. Economic justice seekers and environmentalists joined forces on the issue in 2014 — raising awareness about household income disparities and rising utility bills as well as a debate on green vs. gray infrastructure.
Five miles of bike lanes
If anyone was concerned Mayor Bill Peduto's bike-friendly campaign stance was just for show, his first year in office has pretty much dispelled that thought. He's checked out Copenhagen's bike infrastructure, taken a bike tour of nearby Malmö and brought in grant funding that will support five miles of protected bike lanes around the city. The lanes have already gone up Downtown along Penn Avenue, in Schenley Park and in Greenfield. And these aren't just for the 1 to 2 percent who bike to work — they're "a viable part of our economic-development strategy," says Peduto.
Six million dollars in rideshare fines
The past year has been kind of a joyride for Lyft and Uber, rideshare titans trying to leverage public rage against the current taxi establishment to get a foothold in Pittsburgh. They swooped in without permits, ignored cease-and-desist orders and scoffed at fines imposed by the PUC. But they actually show up when you need a ride, a bar low enough to largely win the public's approval and that of local and state legislators who vowed to update state regulations to accommodate them. They've managed to fight these battles like scrappy, independent entrepreneurs despite being billion-dollar companies backed by Goldman Sachs (Uber) and hedge fund Third Point Capital (Lyft).
Seven million-dollar August Wilson Center buyout
After a year-long battle over the future of the August Wilson Center, a group of three foundations purchased the center for $7.9 million in November. The Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation and Pittsburgh Foundation plan to maintain the center's mission as an African-American culture center. Troubles began in September 2013, when Dollar Bank moved to foreclose on the center. Originally, the favored bid was an offer by New York developers who wanted to build a hotel on top of the current structure. But the foundations — with the lobbying efforts of city and county officials — managed to secure it.
Eight(een) months in prison for Chief Harper
On Feb. 25, former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nathan Harper was sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiracy, theft of public funds and tax evasion. He began serving his sentence at the Federal Corrections Institute Peoria, in Illinois, on April 1. In 2013, Harper pled guilty to charges that he directed more than $70,000 in public funds to an unauthorized credit-union account and spent roughly $32,000 personally.
Nine(teen) same-sex weddings
After a federal judge struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto presided over a ceremony marrying 19 same-sex couples in June. The path to legalized gay marriage depended on unlikely ally Gov. Tom Corbett, who chose not to appeal the decision of U.S. District Judge John Jones (a George W. Bush appointee). And while Jones' ruling reflected nationwide progress — "We are a better people than what these laws represent ... and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history" — the fight will continue. Pennsylvania is still one of a handful of states where it is completely legal to fire someone on the basis of sexual orientation.
10 clergy arrested protesting UPMC
Protests against UPMC outside of its Grant Street headquarters have been ongoing since a unionization effort began in 2012 to secure higher wages for the hospital chain's non-medical employees. But there was something different about this cold February morning. Ten members of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network tried to enter the U.S. Steel building in an effort to visit UPMC's offices. They were refused entry and then refused to leave. They were handcuffed and led away by police. However, they were released at the scene and sent citations through the mail. But that protest was the catalyst for a new level of engagement between the community, labor and UPMC. A protest a few days later shut down the city during rush hour when more than 1,000 people spilled into the streets in front of UPMC headquarters. Judging from the way this fight has unfolded and continues to evolve, look for it on this list next year as well.
11 pissy politicians
This list is probably not inclusive, but here are 11 quick instances of politicians blocking progress, proposing harmful legislation or just plain behaving badly (allegedly, of course): Republican state house majority leader Mike Turzai blocked a crucial medical-marijuana bill from receiving a vote on the house floor. Republican Congressman Keith Rothfus ran from a City Paper reporter instead of answering questions about his record in October. Democratic City Councilor Darlene Harris was fined $20 for her "arrogant disregard" of council procedures which included grabbing, banging and then throwing the gavel of Council President Bruce Kraus. On the environment, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is still denying climate change exists at all and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, normally pretty good on green issues, wavered in support the President's climate plan in favor of backing coal companies. Democratic state Sen. LeAnna Washington allegedly spent between $30,000 and $100,000 in taxpayer funds planning her annual birthday gala fundraiser. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe could be on this list 11 different times for 11 separate stupid things he's done throughout the year, but we'll go with this: When his colleague, openly gay state Rep. Bryan Sims tried to speak in support of same-sex marriage, Metcalfe used procedure to keep Sims from talking, saying his stance on the topic was: "in open rebellion against God's law." Gov. Tom Corbett is on his way out the door, and new Gov. Tom Wolf is likely to expand Medicaid with federal dollars, but Corbett insisted on pushing his own "Healthy Pennsylvania" plan that got a federal green light a few months ago, although it leaves out thousands of low-income residents. State Rep. Mark Keller, out of Central Pa., was the prime sponsor of a bill that gave gun-rights groups (like the NRA) the right to sue local municipalities over gun-control measures (like Pittsburgh's lost-and-stolen gun ordinance). Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum announced he will run for president in 2016, and given his history, that's enough to qualify as bad behavior. And although he's already made one appearance on this list, Daryl Metcalfe's proposed legislation to strip the license of any in-state facility that takes in refugee immigrant children warrants a second mention, and probably the middle finger.
12 bullshit city rankings
We're the first to admit that the first time that Pittsburgh was named the country's Most Livable City, it was kind of a big deal. We were shedding the "dirty steel-town image" and that ranking meant a lot to the people who had stuck it out and worked hard to move the city into the future. Nowadays, however, there seems to a new ranking every week that lists Pittsburgh as the best something, and people tout them as major accomplishments. But it's almost becoming too much, and rankings that might mean something get lost in an avalanche of nonsense. There were way more than 12 in 2014, but here's a quick dozen: Fifth best place to retire; most livable city based on a survey that looked at infrastructure, education, health care, stability, culture and environment; city with the 15th highest average credit score; 15th best city for millennials; top-10 destination for the Best All-American Vacation; second safest city for walking; 14th best city for recreation; most affordable city; fifth most resilient city in the world; top-10 list of cities for pursuing the American Dream; the ninth best city for telecommuters. And finally, Pittsburgh was included in the top-10 list of America's most stunning views. OK, we actually can't argue much with that one.
List written and compiled by Charlie Deitch, Ashley Murray, Rebecca Nuttall and Alex Zimmerman