City will woo Democrats for 2004
Pittsburgh and 34 other cities are vying to host the 2004 Democratic National Convention, according to a spokesman for Mayor Tom Murphy.
But with limited hotel space and amenities for the event's estimated 50,000 visitors, Pittsburgh is admittedly a long shot, Murphy spokesman Craig Kwiecinski said.
"At best, we would meet the minimum requirements to be invited to submit an application," Kwiecinski said.
The weeklong convention draws party leaders and 15,000 journalists. Party officials estimate the convention generates $200 million in economic benefits for the host city, which pays $35 million in cash subsidies to the party.
Pittsburgh's biggest selling point would be the $332 million expansion of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which will be completed in 2003. But convention organizers generally look for exhibit halls with 340,000 square feet of space. The new convention center will have 330,000 square feet of space, which could prompt city officials to suggest using Mellon Arena instead.
In addition, Downtown hotel space is tight. Plans to build a 750-room hotel adjacent to the new convention center remain on the drawing board.
In any case, the city faces some tough competition: Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, New York Democratic Party leaders have been making a strong push to have the convention in New York City. Other heavyweight contenders include Denver and Philadelphia, the site of the 2000 Republican National Convention.
Participants in the state's Tuition Account Program may be able to defer spring tuition payments until January to take advantage of new federal tax benefits.
Starting Jan. 1, TAP and other Section 529 college saving plans become tax-free if they are used for higher education. Normally, spring tuition payments would have been due in November or December, before the federal law takes effect.
State Treasurer Barbara Hafer wrote all affected colleges asking them to accept deferred payments and guaranteeing that payments would be made Jan. 2. Among the schools accepting deferred payment are the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and the 14 state-owned universities.
"This is great news for TAP families," Hafer said in a prepared statement. "It means they'll pay less in federal income tax and have more money to go directly toward college expenses."
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania collected more than $57 million in criminal and civil debts owed to the federal government for the 2001 fiscal year.
U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said the office surpassed its goal of $5.5 million by more than $51.5 million.
"Our debt collection division was even more effective than we anticipated," she said. "Whether it's fines imposed by the court or civil judgments, people try to avoid their responsibilities. The money exists to recover, and our staff has just been very diligent."
The increase in recoveries resulted from enforcement of civil and criminal debt collection, environmental enforcement and concentrated efforts in the U.S. Attorney's Office of Affirmative Civil Enforcement and the civil and criminal health care fraud programs to recover damages and civil penalties.
The office's collections far exceeded its operating budget of $7.4 million, Buchanan said.
"To the extent we were as effective as we were, the U.S. Attorney's Office is not costing the taxpayer anything. We are contributing to the national budget," Buchanan said.
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh has announced it could get an estimated $10 million next year from the federal government to help train pediatric interns and residents.
The money, a substantial boost over prior years, is part of the fiscal year 2002 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently approved by the U.S. Senate. The plan, which now goes to President Bush for his signature, calls for about $285 million to train children's doctors across the nation.
"Congress has clearly demonstrated its support for children's hospitals and for the future of children's health care," said Children's Hospital President Ronald L. Violi. "This funding will assist Children's in our commitment to ensure first-rate medical care for all children throughout the region."
Children's officials have fiercely lobbied in recent years for money to support graduate medical education. The Oakland hospital, which trains about 140 residents every year, in the past received only about $50,000 from the government.
Children's officials argued the figure was well below funding given to teaching hospitals that treat elderly patients. Nearly 30 percent of the nation's pediatricians and 50 percent of all pediatric specialists are trained at independent children's teaching hospitals.
In September, Children's received $7 million as part of a plan approved by the Health Resources and Services Administration that gave $235 million to 57 children's teaching hospitals.
A husband and wife died in an accident Monday in Somerset Township, Somerset County.
State police at Somerset on Tuesday identified the people killed as Curtis O'Neal, 30, and Cristy O'Neal, 26, both of Boswell, Somerset County. They were pronounced dead at the scene by county Coroner Wallace Miller.
Authorities said the O'Neals were traveling north on Waterlevel Road when Curtis O'Neal lost control of the vehicle at 10:48 a.m. on a curve on the snow-dusted road. The Honda crossed into the southbound lane and collided with a vehicle driven by Robert L. Peterson, 28, of Somerset.
Peterson, who was wearing a seat belt, was treated at Somerset Community Hospital and released. A front-seat passenger, Rachel Robertson, 21, also of Somerset, was discharged yesterday from Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Rear-seat passenger Tommy R. Moore, 24, of Somerset, was treated at Somerset Hospital and released. Joshua R. Moore, 18 months, was not injured. He was riding in a child safety seat in the rear of the Peterson vehicle.