Governing in Crisis is intended to help both policymakers and interested citizens, whatever their positions or political leanings, to better understand the important governance issues that seem to be arising all too frequently. It is offered in the hope that we will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis not only with our economy restored and with our basic values intact, but on a committed journey to an even better America.
Bridging the Divide Between Rural and Urban America - Benedum Foundation President Jen Giovannitti
One of our polarized country’s most pronounced challenges is the growing divide between rural and urban America. It is a gap that includes significant variations in economic opportunities and what can be debilitating disparities in critical modern infrastructure, such as access to high-speed internet. It is a gap that also includes sometimes stark social and political differences. Understanding and effectively addressing this divide is essential for the wellbeing of our democracy.
Jen Giovannitti is the President of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, a place-based funder dedicated to rural communities. It generally invests two-thirds of its grant dollars in West Virginia and one-third in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Prior to joining the Benedum Foundation, Ms. Giovannitti led community-based initiatives for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, working both regionally and nationally on issues facing low-income communities and advancing strategies for community investment. Earlier in her career, she lived in West Virginia for 11 years and led a succession of important economic development initiatives.
Time for Truth about Pennsylvania’s 2020 Presidential Election - Committee of Seventy Pres. & CEO David Thornburgh
Pennsylvania’s historic election-reform law, which took effect on October 31, 2019, authorized no-excuse, mail-in voting and passed both houses of the legislature with strong bipartisan support. After the presidential election in 2020, then-President Trump and his allies, including some elected officials from Pennsylvania, unsuccessfully sought to overturn the results of our election in every available forum, including the courts and the Congressional session that was interrupted for several hours by the January 6 riot in the Capitol. David Thornburgh is the President and CEO of The Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan organization that was founded in Philadelphia in 1904 and is one of the country’s oldest good government groups. Its mission emphasizes strengthening democracy and protecting and improving the voting process in Pennsylvania. Mr. Thornburgh is considered by many to be Pennsylvania’s leading expert on elections. He will discuss the issues surrounding an election that has been relentlessly attacked as fraudulent by some but that most have concluded was free and fair.
Battling Hunger in our Home Region - Greater Pgh. Community Food Bank Pres. & CEO Lisa Scales
Among the most troubling images of COVID-19’s impact are those capturing long lines of people, sometimes in cars and sometimes on foot, waiting for the food they need, for themselves and their families, to be provided by their local food bank. As a result of the pandemic, more than 50 million Americans, including one in every four children, are battling hunger. Food banks across the country have faced daunting challenges as demand has grown, food supplies have diminished, and social distancing has reduced volunteers. Lisa Scales, President and CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, which serves eleven counties and is one of the largest in the country, discusses how the Food Bank and its community partners have adapted to meet the needs of the Pittsburgh region though expanded service, innovative programming, and more holistic services. She also offers perspectives on the evolving mission of food banks and policy changes that will be required if current and anticipated challenges to our country’s food safety net are to be effectively met.
Helping our Neighbors in Need - United Way of SWPA Pres. and CEO Bobbi Watt Geer
Since last spring, the United States has faced a series of cascading crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. An ongoing health crisis resulting in over 240,000 American deaths has quickly expanded into an economic downturn resulting in food and housing insecurity for millions of Americans. Throughout our communities our neighbors are suffering and organizations like the United Way have stepped up to help meet basic needs during these uniquely challenging times. Bobbi Watt Geer, President and CEO of the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, describes how the United Way has worked to address the problems arising from the pandemic within urban, suburban, and rural communities. She explains the importance of early planning and strong regional partnerships between governments, businesses, and nonprofits to overcome crises when they arise.
The Role of Oversight in our Democracy - Deputy Staff Dir. & Chief Counsel Susanne Sachsman Grooms
The checks and balances built into our federal system of government deliberately create a level of ongoing tension between its three branches. Among the main checks on executive power are congressional investigations and oversight, designed to ensure that our government is operating effectively and efficiently and in ways that meet the needs of the American people. In recent years, tensions related to congressional oversight have become more pronounced and more public, as investigations have been resisted, subpoenas have been ignored, inspectors general have been removed from office, and the President has been impeached. Susan Sachsman Grooms, Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives, discusses the authority of Congress to investigate and the need for oversight of the executive branch. She also discusses how higher levels of partisanship have impacted oversight and the relationship between Congress and the Presidency.
Maintaining Law and Order While Preserving our Democracy - Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman
In the wake of nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd, armed right-wing extremist groups have responded with counter demonstrations, resulting most recently in the deaths of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Harry Litman, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and national syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times, critiques the president’s refusal to condemn right-wing violence and discusses actions taken by the administration that have eroded the rule of law. He also examines the tradition of peaceful transitions of power and the likelihood of election litigation during the 2020 general election.