Each Tuesday, we highlight an individual letter-to-the-editor writer. Each writer is asked the same five questions. The aim is to add to the understanding of where we’re all coming from and what we might have in common. Featured this week is Jill Sunday Bartoli of Carlisle, Cumberland County, who taught at Elizabethtown College for 20 years.
1. What Lancaster County issue most concerns you?
I recently attended a rally with Lancaster Stands Up, the House Alliance of Pennsylvania and others in support of a state bill that would create a Whole Home Repairs Fund to pay for housing repairs for low-income people, in order to reduce blight and keep families in homes that are safe and in good repair (state Senate Bill 1135).
So, affordable housing seems to be as big of an issue in Lancaster County as it is in Carlisle, where we began an organization called New Opportunities for Affordable Housing.
Housing should be a human right, and it should be affordable and available for all.
I also recently visited my legislator concerning better funding for our public schools, in collaboration with Education Voters of PA. Education has always been a big issue for me, having taught prospective teachers at Elizabethtown College for 20 years.
2. What solutions to that issue would you suggest?
For education, we just need the state to fund schools at the 50% level that most other states do. We are at a miserly figure of about 38%, which ranks us 45th in the country.
Affordable housing for all the families that need it would be helped by passage of the state bill to create a Whole Home Repairs Fund; by dramatically expanding the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development housing voucher program; and by having more grants that require 75% of new housing to be affordable (30% of the family income).
3. Why do you write letters to the editor?
When I read newspaper letters or columns that seem to be filled with lies and propaganda, I get angry — and then I am motivated to write something truthful. We began a letter-writing club in Carlisle with the goal of truth-telling and defending our democracy, so that has helped to focus my writing.
4. What about you would surprise other people?
I grew up in an Evangelical United Brethren church that was very evangelical, and I was a Republican until the age of 35.
5. What do you think sets Lancaster County apart from other places?
On a personal note, my son and his new bride just bought a house in Lancaster city and are looking forward to making their lives together there. They love everything about the city, including the great farmers market and restaurants.
On a teaching note, I brought my Elizabethtown College students to Lancaster schools and community centers for community service projects. We had a great relationship with Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and its cultural center, as well as with the King Elementary School, where we helped create Christmas celebrations and cultural festivals.
As a county, Lancaster is rich in Amish tradition and beautiful farmland, which many friends have traveled to see.