Will try again tonight

Article posted on March 31, 2011

I had another busy day in the district with meetings, time with staff and trying to catch up on a few odds and ends. I spoke with several people about the news conference yesterday on Senate Bill 1 held in Altoona. Most of the comments were good. I got my usual anti-freedom emails from public school employees, but I get those anyway. Tonight I’m headed to Fulton County for our first Local Economic Activity Discussion or LEAD meeting. I have been helping to host these meetings for four years in the district and am not sure they are achieving what was intended. I wanted to see an open dialogue about the problems and activities in that county associated with economic development and get together all of the government interests to share information. Will try again tonight to achieve the goal and address issues specific to helping the people of Fulton County.

-John

It is a sign of things to come

Article posted on March 30, 2011

I traveled to Harrisburg this morning to do a podcast about Senate Bill 1 then attended a luncheon with former Majority Leader of the U.S. Congress, Dick Army. He talked to us about school choice and how important this issue is to our economy, our state budget and our ability as a legislature to accomplish goals with public sector unions in the future. As an economist and someone who has worked on this problem for decades, he had a unique perspective about the history of the issue and how we can pass this legislation. I left that luncheon to return to Altoona for a news conference on that same subject with leaders of area private schools. There is a lot of support for this bill and the concept of school choice. However, at this point the public school system is better organized in getting out their message of opposition. That advantage will soon change as grass roots organizations, parents and private schools are getting ramped up. I was pleased to see the support today at the newser. It is a sign of things to come.

-John

It was a productive day

Article posted on March 29, 2011

I spoke at the Huntingdon Rotary at lunchtime. They had a big attendance and a lot of questions. I enjoyed the company and specifically the interaction with people that were engaged in issues important to their businesses and their community. Tonight, the Three Springs Fire Company rolled out the red carpet for our Town Hall Meeting. We had a big crowd and went a little long because of the amount of questions. It was a nice group of people. Despite some disagreement about the new school budget and Senate Bill 1 between me and a few school employees, everyone was polite. Charlie and I stayed afterwards and talked to the fire company officers about their concerns. It was a productive day.

-John

I appreciate everyone who contributed today

Article posted on March 28, 2011

I spent the day with mostly social services folks. I went to the Needs Assessment Community Plan Kickoff this morning in Altoona. This was a presentation of months of collecting opinions and data from across Blair County in order to identify and develop plans for the needs Blair Countians consider a priority. The most identified issues include access to health care, crime, jobs and drug and alcohol abuse. It was an interesting session. This afternoon, I attended part of a program sponsored by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation or OVR at the Labor & Industry Office in Altoona. They had a fairly large representation of offices that deal with various facets of vocational rehabilitation including Amtran, the Center for Independent Living, CareerLink, Blair Senior Services and others. I pick up a lot of information at programs like these, and I need this information to develop policy and make funding decisions. I appreciate everyone who contributed today.

-John

I rely on the news service for a broader sampling

Article posted on March 27, 2011

Today was another Sunday where the news service reports we got were next to nothing. I don’t know if they changed their reporting schedule or they had people off or what. I usually look at two Sunday papers so I get a flavor of what is being said, but I rely on the news service for a broader sampling. I didn’t have any events today, so after church I hit the office then came home to get some work done around the house. I’m cooking burgers on the grill tonight, a favorite of Charlotte’s and mine.

-John

We’re lucky to have them in our region

Article posted on March 26, 2011

After attending an Eagle Scout ceremony this afternoon in Huntingdon, I went to the opening ceremony of the 72nd Pennsylvania State Bowling Association Championship in Altoona. This state tournament is held each weekend from now until mid-June. Bowlers compete from across the state. They bring their families and friends, visit our shops and restaurants and stay in our hotels. In other words, they spend money. About 10,000 people in total will travel to the Altoona area over this time period impacting our economy significantly. At the kick-off, Altoona’s Mayor Bill Schirf, the President of PSBA and I rolled ceremonial first balls, a new twist on an old theme. I should of practiced a little first. Seven pins were still standing after my best effort. But I’m sure I would have picked them up if I could have had my second ball, at least that’s what I told the local guys at the ally. Tonight was the Precious Life Banquet in Altoona. This annual event is always encouraging. We learn about the successes of the organization in our battle against abortion. Their support continues to grow as their mission expands. We’re lucky to have them in our region.

-John

I just can’t get used to that

Article posted on March 25, 2011

If it’s Friday night, it’s fish for supper. I met some friends for dinner in Altoona at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. They have fresh cut fries, it was a good meal. I met with a group of constituents this afternoon who were not happy with my position on a bill in the Senate. I knew that when they made the appointment, but, as I usually do, I agreed to talk with them. Given my space concerns, they were told that we only had room for four people, they brought six. Given my schedule, they were told that they had 30 minutes, they took an hour. Although I appreciated some of their concerns, they mostly recited the same talking points they had made previously. No one’s mind was changed. I often get the impression after meeting with a special interest group that they really don’t hear what I have to say, or really don’t care. I just can’t get used to that, even after four years in this job.

-John

They’ll be just fine

Article posted on March 24, 2011

I was up at 4:45 this morning, got in a run and was at a tourism event in Huntingdon by 8:00. It’s been one of those weeks where I’m running from appointment to appointment, and it’s not over yet. The Tourism Summit was enjoyable for me. I spent a lot of years working with this industry and miss regularly seeing the people I got to know through that association. Their marketing and administrative funding was cut significantly in the budget proposal. They are rightfully looking at re-structuring their marketing plan and partnering more with the private sector to achieve their goals. This is a resilient and innovative industry. They’ll be just fine.

-John

Maybe with changes, the public system will get stronger and more efficient

Article posted on March 23, 2011

In talking with or reading about public school teachers and how they view their current situation, I have noticed two separate sentiments. I spoke with several teachers over the past few days that expressed concerns that there may be a public perception that our local districts are considered to be failing because of all of the discussion about failing schools in Pennsylvania. Likewise, they didn’t want all teachers to be viewed as substandard due to the attention payed to the poorer performing schools. I think that these are legitimate points. I do try to carefully and fairly explain differences within the system when I speak of public schools and will try even harder in the future. I posted a few days ago about the next issue, the phrase, anti public education” that I keep hearing from teachers. In reading a local newspaper story this morning and putting together other remarks I’ve heard, I came to realize that anyone who questions anything about the current public ed system or proposes funding cuts is labeled “anti public education”. I never heard the library people say that someone was “anti library” when they received funding cuts or county commissioners proclaim that state officials were “anti county government” when they received cuts. This is a dishonest attack on people who dare ask questions about a public agency. Maybe with changes, the public system will get stronger and more efficient. I wonder how these people did in civics class…

-John

This is pretty much what I see everywhere

Article posted on March 22, 2011

I came back from Harrisburg to our Town Hall meeting tonight in New Paris. We had a bigger than usual crowd with a lot of discussion. We had a group of school teachers and two school nurses in attendance. We hit several topics, but primarily talked about education. Without repeating the usual issues about funding, not allowing students to have a choice of where they go to school and how Registered Nurses can’t do the job of a school nurse, the interesting thing about the evening was how the group’s opinions broke down, at least from what I could tell. The school folks wanted what they want, and essentially everyone else appeared interested in containing cost and not paying more of their tax dollars toward education. This is pretty much what I see everywhere.

-John