Point Park Globe

Governor Wolf Pays visit to CMI

Photo by Emily Bennett
In an effort to hear concerns from citizens, Governor Tom Wolf visited the CMI as part of his redistricting speaking tour last Thursday afternoon.

Written By Emily Bennett, Editor-in-Chief

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In an effort to hear from constituents and directly address gerrymandering and redistricting issues, Gov. Tom Wolf brought his non-partisan listening session to the Center for Media Innovation (CMI) last Thursday at 2 p.m.

“I’m actually here at Point Park because the president and the folks at Point Park were gracious enough to allow me to make this a venue,” Wolf said during the event. “I don’t have a lot of time to gather information, and I’m trying to do it as fast as I can.”

The panel was mediated by Regional Director of Community Affairs at Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, Johnna Pro, and featured only one Point Park staffer among the three professionals in addition to Wolf.

History professor Nathan Firestone sat alongside Commissioner for the Bureau of Commissions Jonathan Marks, Executive Director of Common Cause Micah Sims, Wolf, and former president of the League of Women Voters Suzanne Broughten, and delivered opening and closing statements, as well as responses directed towards the audience’s questions.

The current Pennsylvania map of districts was developed by legislature that is chiefly Republican. Pennsylvania has 13 Republican congressmen and five Democrats.

The fight against the partisan division of the Congressional map went all the way to the Supreme Court, and just four days after the panel, the U.S. Supreme Court reached a decision to deny all applications to stay the order that deemed Pennsylvania’s congressional maps unconstitutional – emphasizing Wolf’s stance that the map is too partisan.

Wolf released the following statement on his website following the Supreme Court’s Feb. 5 decision:

“The U.S. Supreme Court correctly recognized that there is no reason to delay implementing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order. Now, all parties must focus on getting a fair map in place. Gerrymandering is wrong and we must correct errors of the past with the existing map. My team is ready, willing and able to work with the General Assembly to ensure a new map is fair and within the clear orders given by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court has given Wolf until Feb. 15 to get back to them with a revitalized map.

“As quickly as I can, I’m trying to assemble talented people who care about this issue,” Wolf said. “This is the third one I’ve done in three days.”

Wolf was in State College two days before, and Philadelphia only one day preceding his stop at the CMI – making Pittsburgh his third and latest city to have visited in three days’ time.

Seating was prepared for 85 at the town hall style meeting, where local voters, who were brought in by a list from the governor’s office according to CMI Director Andy Conte, asked questions concerning the validity of the new proposed redistricting.

Alongside Conte, Mariann Geyer, vice president for external affairs, helped pull the governor in for the event at Point Park.

“When they had this listening series, they reached out to us,” Conte said in his office Monday. “I think it was the Friday before the event, and they reached out to Mariann and asked if we could support this. I thought it would be a great event.”

Conte said the CMI had reached out to the governor’s office in the fall to inquire about attendance for two events, both of which did not fit Wolf’s schedule.

“It’s a good venue, and he’s had events going on in the city, so we put out a request and we gave them a couple of ideas for events,” Conte said.

Notable political-centric events that have taken place since the CMI’s origination include a visit from Mayor Bill Peduto and a debate leading up to the attorney general’s race.

Conte regrets not instituting student involvement during the panel event.

“It was good exposure for the university, but I wish we could have alerted students to it earlier,” Conte said. “We had some classes that we had reached out to, but they ended up not going because they had conflicts.”

As part of Wolf’s effort to hear from Pennsylvanians on this subject, a comment-style web forum has been established for the public to supply the governor’s office with feedback and responses related to the issue. This forum can be found at governor.pa.glov/fair-maps, and requires that you list a first and last name, zip code and email.

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