Andrew McGill
Your friendly neighborhood journalist

03/16/2014

The Case of the Fallen Cloud

Not about journalism or coding, but something fun.

Last month, someone dropped a crumpled Kleenex in the stairwell of my girlfriend’s apartment building.  No one — myself included — wanted to pick it up. It sat there for weeks, a miniature rebuke to all of us.

Yes, I could have just cleaned it up. But what happened next was more fun — and gave me a new respect for my neighbors. Read more »

03/10/2014

How we found out some Pittsburgh neighborhoods get potholes filled faster than others

Remember this meme from last year about potholes in Pittsburgh?

Better to laugh than to cry, I suppose. While every city struggles with potholes, Pittsburghers take a particular joy in lamenting our losing battle.

In that spirit, I wrote a story this Sunday analyzing how long it takes to fill a pothole in Pittsburgh. As it turns out, residents living in certain neighborhoods get their potholes filled much faster than others.

The reason why? Well, not obvious. Read more »

02/27/2014

#steelcitycodefest: We’re No. 3!

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining a team of five coders and journalists on the winners’ podium after a third place victory at 2014 Steel City Codefest, a 24-hour civic hackathon in Pittsburgh.

Together, we (developer Ryan Pfister, web editor Megan Barrow, videographer Andrew Rush and social media editor Ethan Magoc) went up against 24 teams, tackling one of six challenges submitted by area non-profits. We picked Pittsburgh Cares, a local volunteering agency, who wanted a mobile app to help connect community-minded people to suitable volunteer activities.

It was something I never thought I’d do. Read more »

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Stories

09/23/2013 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh’s parking authority photographs millions of drivers a year

Donna Sciulli is one of the most photographed women in Pittsburgh.

On Aug. 30, they snapped shots of her picking up groceries at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in the Strip District. Two days earlier, shutters flew as she drove past the U.S. Steel Tower.

And outside her Beechview home, she’s been pictured nearly a dozen times.

Ms. Sciulli is not a celebrity. She is, however, one of the 80,000 Pittsburgh drivers whose license plates had been scanned multiple times in August by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, which is using cameras mounted on cruisers to record a massive database of where and when everyday people go about their business. Read more »

Background: Through an open records request, I received and analyzed a massive database of license plates scanned by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. After the story ran, the authority beefed up its privacy policies. This interactive was included with the story.

06/11/2013 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Data shows double-dipping on tax breaks

Richard Harshman heads a company that makes $5 billion a year. He has two homes in Upper St. Clair. He pulled in $12 million in 2011, according to Forbes Magazine.

So it came as a surprise to the Allegheny Technologies Inc. CEO when he got a letter from Allegheny County officials explaining that he was shorting them $85 a year in property tax revenue, thanks to an easy-to-miss — and improper — double deduction.

Mr. Harshman, like hundreds of other property owners in the county, has two homes with homestead exemptions, a tax break that’s supposed to reward homeownership but can be used only once. Read more »

Background: Using Microsoft Access (and a bit of MySQL), I searched Pittsburgh's property rolls for homeowners taking duplicate tax exemptions. No small task, given the number of properties in the city — and the ways to hide ownership.

03/28/2013 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When top official demanded undated resignation letters, few resisted

Rex Crawley is not a politician. As a member of the Community College of Allegheny County’s board of trustees, he doesn’t get paid, doesn’t get much prestige.

He joined the board for many reasons, but one stands out: because too many young people — especially black men, like himself — can’t get the education they need to succeed.

So it surprised him when Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who sponsored his nomination to the CCAC board, asked him to sign an undated resignation letter.

“I did not respond immediately,” said Mr. Crawley, who is an assistant dean at Robert Morris University. “I had to really think about the implications. I’m nervous about if I’m ever in conflict with Rich’s perspective or his desires, that’s going to be kind of a problem.” Read more »

Background: Allegheny County's top official had a policy of requiring undated resignation letters from his independent political appointees. After this story ran, he dropped the practice.
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I'm Andrew, a Philadelphian in Pittsburgh who plans to die happy.

Right now, I write and make things for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Read my resume, follow me on Twitter, shoot me an email, give me a call or send me a text.
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