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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rep. Bill Shuster Holds Congressional Dinner in Somerset, PA, Discusses 219 Construction

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A Picture with Rep. Shuster
On Friday, March 8, I had the honor of representing my school at Congressman Bill Shuster’s Congressional Dinner in Somerset, PA.  Rep. Shuster represents the 9th district of Pennsylvania and is the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman.  The event was held at the Georgian Inn, a beautiful, early 20th century mansion in Somerset, Pennsylvania; it was held as a celebratory event for Rep. Shuster’s election victory and was open to all donors of $500 or more.

I was chosen along with two other students to be a student greeter at the door and helped by taking the jackets of those attending the dinner.  It was an interesting experience, allowing me to see many of the business leaders and government officials of the area.  I already knew quite a few of the business leaders and was glad that I had the opportunity to speak with them again.

The Georgian Inn, via thegeorgianinnofsomerset.com
The atmosphere of the event was great, complete with several violinists, the beautiful architecture of the Georgian Inn, and great hors d’oeuvres (of which my favorite were the miniature crab cakes).  It was also a great opportunity to talk with leaders of my community and become more educated about both the political and business world.

The interior of the Georgian Inn via thegeorgianinnofsomerset.com
After everyone had settled down, Representative Shuster took the floor to present an update on his work in Congress. The largest local issue that he discussed was the construction of 219.  After a 48 year wait, the Department of Transportation began cutting down 270 acres of woods to complete the project and connect Somerset to Meyersdale.

Despite the fact that Rep. Shuster lost much of Somerset County during the recent redrawing of district lines, he still fought hard to ensure that the road project was completed.  Residents of the area were greatly appreciative, presenting him with a thank you present: part of the first tree cut down to make way for the new part of 219.  The tree ring was cut by a community member and then branded with “219” by Somerset vocational students.

An image of the 219 Project via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
In addition to the development of 219, Representative Shuster discussed the need to enhance our transportation, as good transportation systems are one of the most important needs to bring businesses to an area.  Living in Somerset County, I know that many of the roads are in terrible condition, and it makes sense that ensuring their quality will help to keep businesses in the area.  The quality of transportation, through roads, rail, and water, is essentially important to both coal and agricultural companies in our area.

Representative Shuster also discussed the need to create a balanced budget in Washington, supporting what I believe is one of the most respectable bills that he could support: a bill that would take away his pay if Congress did not pass a budget.  He also pointed out some other problems with the budget, such as the fact that even if we cut everything else, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will continue to keep us in a deficit in their current state. Social Security needs greatly reformed, as the funding for it will be running out within the coming decades.

Overall, I enjoyed his speech, as it reflected the fact that he still cares about Somerset County.  Even though he has lost much of the voting base, he continues to work to bring more projects to the area.  As the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he should have no problem setting forth 219, the area’s largest project at hand, and the construction has appeared promising.

I was honored that I had the opportunity to represent my area at Representative Shuster’s Congressional Dinner and hope that I get similar opportunities in the future.  I enjoy learning more about the businesses and political issues in my area and found it very interesting to have the chance to attend this.  I would personally like to thank Mrs. Michelle Beener, one of the main coordinators of this event, for allowing me to come and Representative Shuster for continuing to represent Somerset County, even after he lost much of it during the state government’s gerrymandering.
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