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Santorum welcomed in Altoona

Pennsylvania’s junior Senator Rick Santorum visited Altoona yesterday to deliver funding for two local organizations. Santorum presented a check for $500,000 to Amtran and a check for $250,000 to the Altoona Blair County Development Corporation.
Santorum said the funding for Amtran is the “first installment” of what will become $3 million in federal, state, and local funding for eight new buses. Amtran General Manager Eric Wolf expects to be able to order the buses in about six months, but because of a waiting list for the manufacture of new buses, there will be an 18 month wait for the new buses to arrive.
Wolf said that Amtran is currently running eight buses that are nearly 12 years old, nearing the end of their useful life. But, Wolf said, extra maintenance costs that may occur over the next two years “will be nothing we can’t live with.”
ABCD will use its funding in conjunction with Penn State Altoona to develop an “Entrepreneurial Institute.”
ABCD Chairman Don Devorris said, “ Our region is changing which requires an emphasis on education. We need new businesses, and they all begin with a new idea.”
Dr. William Cale, the Dean and CEO of Penn State Altoona said the program “continues a tradition of partnership with our community and elected officials.”
“One of the great things about Pennsylvania,” Santorum said, “is that most of the small towns and medium sized towns like Altoona have a college. The project is a great partnership. It’s a great model for other communities.”
Several other citizens were on the scene to greet Santorum and offer support in light of a controversy surrounding the senator over the last several days. Democrats and homosexual organizations have criticized Santorum for comments he made to an Associated Press reporter about a Texas sodomy case currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the AP interview Santorum said, “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, your have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”
Santorum discussed the controversy only briefly with reporters after the presentations yesterday morning, connecting the Texas case to the partial birth abortion issue by citing a Supreme Court decision that struck down a state ban on the late term abortion procedure.
“The state ban had been struck down because it violates the right to privacy. It’s a dangerous precedent the Court has set,” he said.
The Senator has led the effort to pass the partial birth abortion ban. The ban passed twice, but was twice vetoed by former President Bill Clinton. The House is expected to consider and pass the bill in early May. President Bush has promised to sign it, but a court challenge appears certain.
Among those greeting Santorum were those carrying signs saying, “We support Santorum,” and “Thank you for telling the truth.”
Sharon O’Donnell of Altoona said she came to see Santorum “basically to support the Senator and his right to express his opinion freely.”
Tom Forr, president of Citizens Concerned for Human Life of Blair County, said he is “supporting Santorum because he is pro-life, pro-family, and pro-American. He spoke from his heart, his convictions, and his faith.”
Scott Manganella, Director of Precious Life, a crisis pregnancy organization in Altoona, Bedford, and Johnstown, said he was “pleased to be here to demonstrate our support for Senator Santorum and let him know that folks in Central Pennsylvania have the same values that he has.”
Various local officials were also present, such as Blair County Commissioners Donna Gority and John Eichelberger, Altoona Mayor Tom Martin, and Altoona Council Mmembers Wayne Hippo and Brent Fisher, and District Justice Elizabeth Doyle.
Eichelberger said he came “to hear the official comments about economic development and to support Rick Santorum. I’ve always supported his stands on various issues concerning our country such as abortion, fiscal conservatism, and his general stand on social issues.”