Op-Ed: The Value of Outreach


While the citizens of the 36th Senatorial District elected me to represent their views in Harrisburg, that is only part of my job.  Some of the most important work that I do as a State Senator happens right here in the district.  Outreach events enable me to connect directly with the people that I represent, and the personal conversations that I have with them at these events help to inform my decisions in Harrisburg.

I take the responsibility of communicating with constituents very seriously, which is why I have intentionally planned a robust outreach agenda for 2019.  These events, scattered throughout the district, will allow me the opportunity to share constructive conversations with residents to learn more about our collective priorities.

To ensure that every constituent has the chance to engage in a meaningful way, I have taken great care to plan different types of events in geographically diverse locations throughout the 36th district in hopes of increasing participation from various demographics.

For example, I will host a number of both traditional town hall and telephone town hall events this year to gather feedback from community residents.  Traditional town hall events offer face-to-face interactions where attendees can share their perspectives, hear updates on legislative activity, and ask questions about state and local issues that are important to them.

Conversely, a telephone town hall encourages community residents to participate in a discussion on the issues without the need to travel throughout the region.  This format allows participants to ask questions, share their views, or simply remain on the line to listen to the conversation.

For those interested in a more informal setting, I also plan to host a few “Coffee & Conversation” and “Constituent Walk & Talk” events in the coming months.  Both events allow district residents to engage in casual conversation about what is happening in local communities and in Harrisburg. 

Coffee & Conversations are designed to promote informal discussion in a relaxed, welcoming environment with light refreshments, while Constituent Walk & Talks encourage attendees to participate in casual conversation while enjoying some fresh air.

All of these events have proven to be excellent methods of gathering input and feedback by connecting me directly to constituents.

However, for those looking for a more removed format to share their views in greater detail, I have also created an online legislative survey where participants can provide feedback on specific issues, as well as rank those issues in order of importance and relevance to them. 

While the survey is ongoing and still available on my website, the results as of February 22nd indicate that the top five issues in the 36th Senatorial District are:

  1. Career & Technical Education
  2. Property Tax Elimination
  3. Opioid Crisis
  4. Higher Education Funding
  5. Gun Control

Engaging younger constituents with outreach events tailored especially for them has also been a priority of mine.  In fact, there are two unique events planned specifically for this demographic that will encourage them to provide feedback and express their views through a platform that is conducive to both sharing and learning.

First, the “Talk to Your Senator” video contest is a newer competition designed to get middle school and high school students involved in legislative efforts to tackle the big issues facing Pennsylvania today.  Students from around the state were encouraged to submit video entries addressing this year’s topic of school safety, with winners slated to be announced this spring.

Second, I will also host the annual “Senator for a Day” seminar at the Capitol this April.  High school students from northern Lancaster County are invited to participate in a day of “mock” Senate activities, such as serving on committees, developing positions on legislation, debating issues, and learning how bills progress through the legislative process. 

Both of these events give students a platform to share their views and help shape policies that directly affect them.

Debating issues, attending hearings, and voting on bills are all critical components of being a State Senator – but effectively fulfilling these responsibilities is not possible without the important work of connecting with constituents to hear their perspectives and priorities.  In short, outreach shouldn’t just be part of our job as State Senators, it ought to serve as the foundation for all that we do in Harrisburg.

I have always said that the people of the 36th Senatorial District are my best resource, and I appreciate every chance I get to spend time learning about all of the unique perspectives and challenges that community residents face. 

As such, I encourage all of my constituents to make their voices heard by attending these events, and I look forward to the fruitful discussions we’ll have.

A full schedule of upcoming outreach events is available on my website, www.senatoraument.com.