Hello everybody, today my blog will be about my visit with Representative Mark Rozzi. Last Thursday, Scott, myself, Paul Stengle, the CEO of The Arc Alliance and Carol Lawrence went to visit Representative Mark Rozzi to talk about many issues as well as the budget. I went with my grandfather which if you watched Channel 6 Action News when the crew came to the legislative roundtable discussion on November 12, my grandfather was the grandparent that spoke on the news.
It took about 20 minutes to get to the Representative’s office. While waiting for Scott, I had opportunity to talk to the representative’s assistant. I asked her about her job responsibilities. She jokingly said that she was the one who gets all the complaints when the representative is not in his office. When everyone arrived, we immediately went back to the representative’s office. I said, “Hello, we are with The Arc Alliance and I brought my whole entourage.” The representative laughed. Paul started off by giving a brief two-minute summary of The Arc. After that, Paul started to talk about many different things. He talked about the problems with employment. I touched on this too. Paul stated, “Our children want to be productive members of society, they want to pay taxes, they want to party, and they want to have fun.” I agree with that, I want to be a productive member of society. I want to be a taxpayer just like everyone else. Representative Rozzi agreed with Paul and me, in fact, he’s a little frustrated that his colleagues and he can’t come to an agreement on the budget.
Scott and Paul also talked about institutions and how The Arc Alliance was influential in closing Penn Hearst. They talked about the Arc’s involvement with parents of children who reside in the institutions. Paul stated that when asked, do you want these institutions to be liquidated, 90% of the parents said no before they were closed and only 10% of the parents said yes we want them to be closed. After they were liquidated these parents were asked what do you want now, those numbers were reversed. I can tell you, I don’t want to be stuck in the institutions like Hamburg or Penn Hearst. Paul believes for a lot of reasons that the bigger the institution, the harder it will be to close, but if they are able to close a larger center it may be easier to transition the other state centers. Although I know how complicated this issue is, the reality is that individuals deserve to live in the community and not institutionalized.
As we talked about many concerns and issues it came back to employment and what kids like me will be able to do when we leave high school at the age of 21. I just basically said what I always say, that I need the budget passed, and adequate support so I’m able to live a productive life. Carol also spoke as well. She talked about her son Tim and how they have run into issues getting him a job. He has interviewed and held six jobs in the past 5 years and all of them, Carol says are not a perfect fit for Tim. She says his hours are sporadic and by that I mean that he will get 10 hours here and 15 there. She said he would like a job where he can consistently get up and go to the same place each day. Carol also states that transportation for her son is sometimes really hard, with multiple jobs for few hours a week she has to schedule transportation for him from place to place. Scheduling transportation became a full-time job with no compensation! The multitude of part-time jobs does not really reflect what one would consider a “real” job. What Tim and I are seeking is simply some help, so we can be active participants in the community.
As many of the issues tended to come back to funding issues, I asked Representative Rozzi several questions about the budget and the current process. He provided some very interesting answers. I asked him, “Why do you think your colleagues are not doing their job? His answer was they are not doing their job because we all want different aspects out of the budget and we can’t come to an agreement on what exactly we all can agree on. When I started to mention the fact that without a budget I cannot live a productive life and that I am almost 21 and hopefully going to have children someday, I started to cry, but I think the crying shows the representative how passionate I really am. I would not get emotional if I wasn’t passionate. Although the budget is not about me, it’s about thousands of “me’s” in Pennsylvania and we all need to let our legislators know that their actions impact each of us individually.
Scott said that because of the budget impasse, an individual who graduate last May was sitting at home because there was not funding or options until the budget was passed. This person is not alone and represent part of the near 14,000+ who are on the “Waiting list” (those who are minimally supported or do not receive any assistance). This recent graduate’s mother called The Arc Alliance to simply see if there was something he could volunteer to do, because he has nowhere else to go. It is pretty sad that if it wasn’t for The Arc Alliance this young man would not have a place to turn. I count my lucky stars that I have a job there and I hope I will be able to keep it after I graduate or use my experience to find something similar.
After the meeting was over, my grandfather and I went out for lunch at McDonald’s. I had a big Mac for the second time in my life and it was delicious! I also had a chocolate milkshake which was very good. All in all, it was a really good day. What do you think of the representative’s response when I asked him why aren’t your colleagues doing their job? Also, he seemed a little frustrated with the fact that the budget hasn’t been passed yet. We are in the same boat, we are all frustrated and believe that there should be something done. I am with him one hundred percent, what do you think? Does he have the right to be frustrated? I’d also like to give a shout out to Mary Kate an intern from Ursinus College. She was only in her second day with The Arc Alliance and she already was being thrown into politics. Scott said I might get to work with her. I hope I do, she sounds like a sweet lady. I love going to these legislative meetings, they are a lot of fun and educational. I never knew I would get to this point. This is an interesting and unexpected surprise in my life. Could you do my job? That’s about it for the day, be kind to one another and remember it only takes one person to change the world. Chandler 🙂