Friday, April 17, 2009

Stimulus Oversight Panel Should Be Diverse

A pair of state legislators from the Pittsburgh area and some community leaders are calling on Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to increase the diversity of the Oversight Commission to monitor stimulus spending in the state. State Representatives Chelsa Wagner and Jake Wheatley of Pittsburgh, along with Heather Arnet of the Women and Girls Foundation and Doris Carson Williams of the African-American Chamber of Commerce, are criticizing the makeup of the panel because there is only one woman, one African-American and no one from Western Pennsylvania on it. Representative Wagner says she started drafting legislation requiring a geographical balance to the commission, but it was never introduced. However, each of the 4 legislative caucuses did get to select one member of the panel. Wagner says there are 2 components to the stimulus money: formula-based funding that goes to all parts of the state and accountability is important in how that is spent; and, competitive funding where projects and groups from different parts of the state are competing. She says that's why it's important to have panel members from Western Pennsylvania. She says they've written to the governor asking that he add 6 members to the commission: 3 women and 3 persons of color, with 3 of those 6 from Allegheny County and at least 1 of those from Pittsburgh. Wagner says they hope the governor will recognize that everyone benefits with a more diverse commission.
On March 31st the governor announced the panel, which is chaired by Ronald Naples of Montgomery County. For the last 13 years, Naples has been CEO of the Quaker Chemical Corporation.

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