Governor Rendell speaks at Pitt

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell knows he can relax when he speaks in front of a group of Democrats.
Speaking last Friday at the Pitt Law Democrats’ “Meet the Candidates” series, which featured candidates who will be in November’s gubernatorial elections, the governor took the microphone in hand and leaned against the podium like he was talking to an old friend.

As he spoke on the University of Pittsburgh campus, the governor focused on his plans and accomplishments in education, health care, the economy, energy, religious and moral values, and voter turnout.

In his speech, Rendell noted his hope to see more young voters going to the polls this November. Voters in the 18–24 range have the lowest turnout rate, he said.

“Younger voters, I think, have the biggest stake in what’s going on,” Rendell said. “If they were [more involved], things would be very different.”

Rendell also spoke about his successes in improving state education. Pennsylvania is one of seven states to show substantial improvement in reading and math scores in recent years, and the state now provides funding for pre-kindergarten education.

The governor expressed hope that the investments in education he has spearheaded will help attract economic investment from the private sector.

Matt Winterhalter, a Pitt law student and registered Democrat, disagreed with the governor’s plan.
“I don’t like the government pumping money into public schools,” he said. “I’d like to see more competition [with private schools].”

But the governor says his investments are paying off for Pennsylvanians. The state now has the highest number of jobs in its history. Further, unemployment is the lowest it has been since 2001, and it is lower than the national unemployment rate, Rendell said.

Rendell gave credit to his $2.3 billion economic stimulus plan, which has helped to stabilize manufacturing in the state.

Investing in alternative sources of energy, he said, will also help boost the economy. Research in clean coal gasification will reduce the amount of coal waste and produce an energy source within the state.
Pennsylvania currently spends about $30 billion each year to import energy.

Governor Rendell recognized the importance of religious and moral values to his campaign and to his party. The governor hopes voters will focus less on issues such as gay marriage and more on the basic shared principles of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. He claimed the Democratic Party has led efforts to “feed the hungry, heal the sick, [and] house the homeless.”

Rendell also outlined his plans for health care. One of his goals is a plan called “Cover All Kids,” which will provide full medical care for all of Pennsylvania’s children by 2009. If successful, Pennsylvania will be the first state to do this.

Samantha Grenell-Zaidman, a senior voice major, asked the governor how he plans to protect the woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. Rendell stuttered a little in his response, saying he would wait to see what the courts would do about the issue.

Having never heard Rendell speak before Friday, Grenell-Zaidman said she was happy with the governor’s plans for the state and for the Democratic Party.

“Love thy neighbor,” she said in response to the governor’s moral platform. “I think it’s true.”