By Samantha Werkheiser
Members of Governor Tom Wolf’s cabinet hosted the eighth Cabinet in the Community event on Feb. 27 in ESU’s Innovation Center.
The event gives members of the community and college students the opportunity to ask members of the cabinet questions that concern them.
At this particular event, Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne, Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell, Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, and Department of General Services Secretary Curt Topper were present to answer questions.
“In November, the Governor officially launched this initiative to create a platform of engagement between cabinet secretaries and local communities throughout the commonwealth. The Governor believes it’s vital for the state to hear from communities and folks like all of you,” said Cassandra Coleman, the director of Wolf’s northeast regional office.
Coleman introduced each of the cabinet members present, naming their qualifications and accolades.
Coleman also moderated the event.
Each cabinet member then gave a brief overview of what their individual department does, to give the audience a better idea of what they do and what questions they can ask.
The members of the audience were given six colored notecards that represented the different departments present.
Audience members were given the opportunity to raise the different colored notecards to ask that specific department secretary a question.
The first question asked by an audience member was about the potential changes that the Department of Aging could see under the Trump administration.
“There are some recommendations in the current Trump administration upcoming budget that have the potential to negatively affect older Americans,” said Osborne.
She further explained that programs like Meals on Wheels could see hits, and that the Department of Aging is keeping a close eye on any new regulations that could have a trickle down effect on senior citizens in Pennsylvania.
A representative from Senator Mario Scavello’s office asked McDonnell about clean fill in Pennsylvania, and how it can be better evaluated or if it requires more legislation. The representative also questioned why New Jersey and New York have tighter regulations on clean fill than Pennsylvania does.
McDonnell clarified that the Department of Environmental Protection is increasing the amount of testing on work sites to verify that trucks coming in and out of the area are carrying clean fill.
He also told Scavello’s representative that they are open to having more legislative discussions on the issue to better regulate it.
Another audience member, a social worker, questioned Carrelli about the difficulty that veterans have in accessing help from the state.
Carelli sympathized with the veterans and said that Pennsylvania does everything they can to help their veterans, but that it can be difficult because they often have to go to many different departments to get help.
He said that many veterans have to go to Department of Human Services, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Department of Aging, in addition to already going to the Department of Military and Veteran’s affairs.
Carelli said that they are trying to make this a more seamless process for veterans, so they don’t have to go to each different department for assistance.
Coleman tried to call on as many people possible, but audience members could also write their questions on the notecards and hand them in at the end of the event if they were not called on. Coleman said that they would try to get back to those people as soon as possible with the answers to their questions.
To contact Governor Wolf’s office visit https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/ or call his office at 717-787-2500.
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