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Assessing the Rural-Urban Divide and Infrastructure

June 23, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT

While many metropolitan cities surge forward, rural areas and many low-income urban areas continue to be hurt by demographic decline, loss of manufacturing jobs, rising poverty and lack of investment, and poor infrastructure – both in terms of traditional infrastructure related to buildings, water systems and transportation as well as broadband internet connectivity. Failing to address these issues will deepen the chasm between rural and urban areas, with negative implications for national cohesion. Urgent infrastructure needs are deepening the rural-urban divide and also the gap in urban centers themselves. These communities need school renovations, investments in health care, upgrades to water and sewage treatment systems, improved transportation, and greater access to broadband. Such investments can help to reduce out-migration of younger people and the loss of business opportunities, to increase job growth and economic productivity, and to enable these regions to better face the forces of globalization, digitization, and automation.

To discuss these issues and to explore collaboration at the state-level, the Aspen Institute Germany and the American Council on Germany invite you to the next discussion in our virtual event series State-to-State: German-American State Legislator Dialogue with German and American state legislators including Ellen Demuth (CDU), Member of the State Parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate, Philipp da Cunha (SPD), Member of State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D), New Jersey State Senate (invited), and Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R), Colorado Senate.

Philipp da Cunha has been a member of the State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania since 2016, representing the legislative districts of Bützow-Land, Güstrow-Land, and the town of Güstrow. He serves as the spokesperson for energy and consumer protection policy as well as for digitization and network policy for the SPD parliamentary group. He also currently serves as the Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee and is a member of the Energy Committee. Born in Hamburg in 1987, he studied electrical engineering at the University of Rostock, specializing in microelectronics and data technology. He graduated with a Master of Engineering (Diplom-Ingenieur) in 2014.

Ellen Demuth was first elected to the State Parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate in 2011 and is serving her third term representing the legislative district of Linz am Rhein-Rengsdorf. After her re-election in 2021, she was elected deputy leader of the CDU parliamentary group and currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Committee for Digital Affairs, Digital Infrastructure, and Media. In her previous term, she served as Chair of the Enquete Commission for Tourism Development and was a member of the Committee for Media, Digital Infrastructure and Network Policy and the Committee for Society, Integration, and Consumer Protection. When she was first elected in the 2011 state election, she was one of the youngest members of parliament and the youngest member of her parliamentary group. She is also an elected member of the city council of her hometown Linz and the district council of her region Neuwied.

M. Teresa Ruiz was elected to the New Jersey State Senate in 2007 to represent the 29th Legislative District, which includes Belleville Township and parts of the City of Newark in Essex County. A first-generation Puerto Rican American, she is the first Latina to serve in the State Senate. Senator Ruiz serves as Senate President Pro Tempore. She is Chair of the Senate Education Committee and is a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and Senate Higher Education Committee. She recently sponsored a bill to address the digital divide which would create the “Broadband Assistance Office” in the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. A lifelong resident of Newark’s North Ward, Senator Ruiz is an advocate for the people and issues in which she believes to promote the ideas of justice, inclusion, and equality.

Jerry Sonnenberg is a Colorado native who has been farming and ranching in northeastern Colorado his entire life. He continues to live and work on the same family farm that both his father and he were raised. He grew up in Sterling, Colorado, graduated from Sterling High School, and attended Northeastern Junior College. Senator Sonnenberg was first elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2006 and immediately became a strong voice for agriculture and rural Colorado. After serving 8 years he was elected to serve from District 1 in the Colorado Senate where he represents the counties of Cheyenne, Elbert, Lincoln, Logan, Kit Carson, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Yuma, Washington, and Weld.


June 23, 2021
11:00 am - 12:00 pm