Video Production/Editing - Emma Dischner
Description/Story- Jack Pockl, Assistant Editor of Montour Monitor
Senator Fontana engages in a mock town hall meeting with students
Montour hosted a mock town hall meeting with Democratic Pennsylvania Senator Wayne Fontana for high school students on October 24 to discuss political, civil, and national issues that face citizens of the 42nd senatorial district.
Fontana has been a member of the Senate since 2005. Since then, he has made politically-set values on investing in job creation, protecting at-risk children in schools, promoting neighborhood assistance programs, and creating the homestead tax exemption program during all of his terms as Senator.
The introductory question of the town hall meeting was asked by senior student Handuo Chen.
“If you were to support the ratification of the 28th amendment, what would you change?” asked Chen.
Fontana responded by stating that healthcare is a right for citizens, not a privilege.
“I think healthcare is a right and not a privilege in our country,” said Fontana. “We are the richest country in the world and I think it is imperative to make sure that everybody has to access to it for reasons specific to them.”
Fontana then elaborated on the essence of young people being involved with local political systems.
“Email your elected officials and ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask because you have to be able to get more than one opinion to understand issues on both a state and national level.”
Fontana also addressed the government’s plans on how to effectively bring more students into state-run colleges.
“I think we need to promote state-run schools more often because of the lower tuition, while still having good programs and quality teachers. Maybe in Washington, we need to merge one or two state-run schools in order to keep it adequately funded.”
Oil and gas fracking companies are prominent in the western Pennsylvania area; as of now, these companies are not regulated to the standard Fontana believes they should be held to.
“I am a believer in government oversight of fracking companies. I think one of the issues is fracking companies violating laws set in place. They will pay the fine because these companies net income where a government fine is not a big deal.”
Fontana deliberated about the overall debt of young people after attending college and how these debts can be better paid for.
“The FIA Board is trying to keep grants up as high as possible. In Pennsylvania, our tuitions are way too high; FIA just came out with new loan programs that have lower interest rates--again, in an attempt to bring down the cost.”
Fontana also encouraged students to understand the amount of debt they may inherit when choosing specific schooling options.
“You need to know how much the occupation is going to cost you and how long it is going to take you to pay off that debt,” said Fontana. “Everyone should have the same opportunity to be educated, no matter the cost.”
On a more local level, Fontana shared his views about the possibility of Amazon’s second headquarters stationing in Pittsburgh.
“If Amazon’s second headquarters was to come to Pittsburgh, that would mean 50,000 more people would be in the Pittsburgh area. We have to factor in more traffic, more housing, but there will be a great economic boost in the area.”
“Success after graduation from high school is different than in school. We still need to have standardized tests to prove competency, but I think it is problematic that all skills are combined into one test in order to graduate.”
On a final note, Fontana was asked to explain what Pennsylvania can do with the fight against global warming.
“I think the governor wants to see more regulation in pollution and fuels that are used in Pennsylvania. But, it comes down to us leading by example: cars provided by the state for state employees should maybe switch over to being electric rather than gasoline and lawmakers should begin to create subsidies for solar purchases because solar power is perceived to be very expensive.”
Fontana was appreciative to be able to visit Montour as well as to inspire more students to become more involved with national and local politics.