Notes on a Meeting with Donna Oberlander

Indivisible We Rise has introduced itself to our local representative, Donna Oberlander, and looks forward to further interactions. Last Friday, five of us met for an hour at her office. Betty Griffith represented Conservation, Nancy DiStefano represented Education, Janice Horn represented Healthcare, and Kay Luthin went as a Political committee substitute and steering committee member. Kathy Krouse served as our coordinator and spokeswoman, presenting Donna with an agenda to keep the meeting on track. Kathy presented a brief summary of who we are and what we represent, and spoke of our upcoming Earth Day event. Donna seemed quite cautious at first, but relaxed as the meeting progressed.

Janice asked about the long-term birth control that is so successfully offered in Colorado as a means to prevent abortion and lower societal costs; she seemed interested and took a handout about it. Janice also talked about a single payer option for healthcare in the Commonwealth; Donna knows the Democratic representative introducing a bill on this (HB 1688) and said she would talk to her about it.

Nancy asked about voucher and cyberschool issues. Donna was silent on our criticism of DeVos, but was vocal on how cyberschools and charter schools hurt our rural district. She has been promoting the formation of a commission on the topic, similar to the one that exists for Special Ed. We should encourage her on this.

Betty eloquently spoke about our natural world here in PA and about how the poisoned rivers have been cleared thanks to regulations. This brought on a slightly testy conversation among all of us about regulations, Pruitt, the EPA, the DEP, and dirty industries coming down the pike. Donna clearly holds the position that the DEP is a pain, preventing industries and projects from progressing, and the EPA is not her business. We expressed the other point of view.

Kay spoke on the topics of increasing division in the American citizenry and the tools of ‘fake news’ and propaganda further dividing us. Donna grew quite animated on the subject of civility and the division, stating that the pendulum used to settle in the middle, and now gets stuck to the right or the left. She said the women of the House are much better at working across the aisle than men and gave us several examples. When questioned, she said they discuss issues across the party divide. She does share our concern about the splintering of the country. Finally, we briefly discussed gerrymandering reform, which she had heard of but not with the same information our group has.

Thanks to Kathy, we presented Donna with a packet of OUR information: our structure chart, our brochure, a letter from our group asking for more environmental protection, and facts about the horror of cracker plants. Also included was a letter from the Post Gazette about weighing jobs versus health and environmental concerns. In the end, we felt that we had introduced our group to her in a firm and friendly manner. She had actually read a postcard Nancy had sent her, without knowing Nancy would be coming to the meeting, so keep your cards and letters going to her! She will now recognize our group when we call, send her fact sheets, or make requests. Let’s do just that!