When Gov. Corbett entered office more than a year ago, he dissolved the former administration’s Commission for African-Americans Affairs, consolidating it under the banner of the Office of Public Liaison, along with the former commissions for Asian affairs, Hispanic affairs, and women and girls.
But on May 7, the governor announced he was recreating the Commission on African American Affairs and had appointed advisory members. He also announced the recreation of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.
“The history of African-Americans in Pennsylvania reflects a diverse and unique blend of cultural, social and economic influences which have had and continue to have a beneficial impact on life in the commonwealth,” Gov. Corbett said.
The role of the commission is to advise the governor and make recommendations on policies, procedures, legislation and regulations that affect the African-American community. Its mission is to communicate and address the needs and issues of concern to the African-American community.
“Ultimately the governor is responsible for selecting them and he pulls names from all across the state,” said Karen Stokes, deputy director of the governor’s southeast regional office, who will chair the commission. “In essence the governor has put together what I like to call a geographically diverse group of African-American folks whose mission is to bring to his attention issues, ideas and ways his administration can be more responsible for African-American folks.”
The advisory commission will have their first meeting on June 12.
“At that meeting what we’re going to do is whittle down what issues are important to the members. What I really, really hope we can do is come up with manageable finite tasks and goals. I think sometimes with commissions, you can lose sight of what you can accomplish,” Stokes said. “There are issues that are very pertinent here that might not be pertinent in Erie, so it was very important to have equal representation.”
The commission’s Allegheny County members are Elizabeth Dennis, president of the Workforce Development Global Alliance; Evan Frazier, Highmark’s senior vice president of community affairs; Kiron Skinner, associate professor of international relations and politics at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the university’s Center for International Relations and Politics; and Floyd Titus, former commissioner on the City of Pittsburgh’s Human Relations Commission.
“I think that the formation of the Governor’s Commission on African American Affairs is a step in the right direction to help insure that the African- American community has a voice in state government at the highest of levels. It appears that this is an inclusive effort that goes beyond party lines and seeks to strengthen government and community,” said Frazier.
The mission of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women will be to serve and represent the interests of women and girls. Among those appointed was local leader Valerie McDonald Roberts, Allegheny County recorder of deeds.
“Senator Jay Costa has indicated that he recommended me as an ally of the Democratic Caucus as well as a person who has the experience of governmental and political dynamics, to be a spokesperson and a representative for issues that impact the constituents that are typically represented by the caucus,” said Roberts, who was selected for the commission by Senator Jay Costa, the senate minority leader. “He also indicated that he wanted to see diversity and he wanted someone who would speak up with a strong democratic voice representing all women and minorities, but ultimately someone who knows how to work across the aisles in a bipartisan, nonpartisan manner.”