Responses to RepresentMeAZ Questionnaire
These are not comprehensive questions and we realize that we are not giving you a great amount of time to think about these issues, so answer as many as you can. We will upload your answers to our website prior to our event. If you feel you are unable to answer the questions properly, leave it blank and take the time you need. We can upload after the kickoff also.
When answering these questions;
Keep your answers to no more than 150 words for each question.
Please distinguish between the role of Federal and State Government for issues where they apply.
Please indicate how programs can be paid for.
1. Why are you running for Congress and what makes you uniquely qualified to represent CD2?
Given the nature of this district as a swing district (one that is neither liberal nor conservative), my ability to communicate effectively and productively with both sides and, especially, moderates is vital for ensuring that this district is accurately represented. Listening to, negotiating with, and educating constituents about important issues are vital aspects of that job, and you need to do these things with sincerity in order to do them effectively.
My patient, earnest, and calm personality can, I think, bridge the divide in this district and reopen our lines of communication across party and ideological lines. Without someone focused on bringing this district together, I’m afraid this district is doomed to continue to swing.
Between my personality, my professional experience, and my vision for what a representative democracy should be, I believe I am uniquely qualified to represent District 2.
2. What is your biggest platform issue/what is most important to you?
The most important thing to me is to make sure this district gets proper representation. To me, going out and listening to the needs of the constituents and making sure their priorities are met is more important than my personal platforms. A representative should not hold contempt for the people they serve.
That said, education reform is my highest priority as far as platforms go. I would like to shift our education focus away from standardized tests and uniform national guidelines and instead toward incentivizing states to properly fund their education programs. This is a particularly large issue in Arizona, where education funding isn’t a priority.
3. What are the most important things that Congress should do to improve the economy?
A lot of this ties into income inequality. Basically, trickle-down economics doesn’t work, but we’ve never returned our tax rates to their pre-trickle-down levels. With higher tax rates on the rich, we can return to funding programs that encourage the poor to find jobs and help to pull them out of poverty.
Giving poor citizens greater buying power increases demand for goods and services, as the poor have the greatest number of wants and needs. Increased demand spurs innovation and creates jobs in order for supply to meet that demand. When a poor person doesn’t have to worry about paying for food or medical services, they can instead save up to buy a car, a house, etc. Regardless, they are definitely going to spend their money. This is, in effect, the reverse of supply-side economics: demand-side economics.
Basically, whatever keeps money circulating through the economy benefits the economy.
4. What, if anything, should the federal government do about the growing economic disparity between the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy?
As noted above, I think bringing back pre-Reagan tax rates is a good first step. Placing a greater priority on lifting the poor out of poverty and giving them more spending power creates jobs and spurs innovation, which gives people more opportunity, which leads to better jobs, and so on. Rather than a downward spiral, I think we can start focusing on creating an upward spiral so long as our social programs are focused around encouraging people to be productive and then rewarding that productivity.
5. What would you like to see happen with the federal minimum wage?
Rather than having a debate every few years about whether to raise the minimum wage and how much to raise it, we should tie the minimum wage to inflation and let it rise automatically with the cost of living.
6. Do you consider unions to be part of the solution, or part of the problem? What steps should Congress take to strengthen or weaken their role?
The power of collective bargaining has defined what it now means to have a job. It gave us so many of the things we now take for granted: the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, workplace safety regulations, and everything else that ensures that employers care for their employees. Unions didn’t just win a better deal for themselves; they changed our culture.
As a business owner, I can’t imagine not being transparent with my employees or giving them the same benefits I provide for myself. A business simply works better when everyone is committed to its success.
So, yes, I think unions are part of the solution.
That said, I’ve always lived and worked in right-to-work areas, so I admit my first-hand experience with unions is lacking. Most of my appreciation for unions is from a historical perspective.
7. In the realm of foreign policy, what are the issues of greatest concern to you? What should Congress be doing to address them?
Currently, my greatest concern is an unstable Middle East. The conflicts there continue to spill over into other countries and result in deadly attacks that escalate the problem. Sadly, the only solution at the moment seems to be military intervention. The sooner we can end the destructive conflict in Syria and other ISIS-controlled territories, the sooner they can start to rebuild. In the meantime, we should take care of the refugees fleeing that conflict so that, eventually, they can return to their homes and get the region back on the road to peace and prosperity.
But let’s not pretend that will be simple or easy. We should never use force or risk our troops lightly. Tensions are high, and it’s to everyone’s benefit that we do what we can to de-escalate conflicts without interfering too much.
8. How should the U.S. respond to Russian interference in U.S. elections?
Learn and adapt. Putting additional sanctions on Russia for interfering in our elections won’t solve the problem, and may only make it worse. Rather, we’ve got to adapt to this technological world and learn to protect ourselves in it.
However, any U.S. citizens who have cooperated with Russia to interfere in our elections have, frankly, committed treason. People under reasonable suspicion of having colluded with Russia should be investigated and charged appropriately.
9. Should the U.S. be involved in foreign conflicts, and if so, what criteria are needed to engage?
If it’s a contained foreign conflict (either between two countries or within a country), we should probably keep an eye on it but not get involved. Sovereign countries should have the right to sort out their own problems.
If, however, a conflict spills over into other countries and threatens to destabilize a region, we should engage if requested by the affected countries.
If a foreign conflict results in innocent American citizens being directly threatened or killed, we should absolutely engage, with force if necessary. Protecting our citizens should be our highest priority.
Even if we don’t engage directly in a foreign conflict, though, we should always be generous with aid and protection for those affected or displaced by the conflict. Further, we should always be available to mediate conflicts... assuming we have a President capable of mediating a conflict effectively. (Currently, we do not.)
10. What changes would you like to see in the U.S. approach to terrorism?
I would like us to spend more time finding the root causes of terrorist attacks. We’re getting better at preventing attacks, but unless we identify and correct the reason people resort to terrorism in the first place, people will continue to make the attempt.
I would also like us to cease our targeted investigation on the Muslim community. Terrorism takes many forms, and by placing this target on a single community we both blind ourselves to other forms of terrorism and give tacit approval to those who discriminate against and harass members of that community.
11. Do you favor increasing, decreasing, or leaving unchanged Social Security and Medicare benefits? How should Congress ensure that these programs are financially viable going forward?
Social Security should be left unchanged. However, we should eliminate the Social Security Wage Base, which places a cap on the income that can be taxed toward Social Security. This should mitigate the projected depletion of the trust fund. At the very least, this would be a start, and we can reassess the situation after a few years.
For Medicare, I think we should expand it to be available to everyone as a public option. If available to younger people (who, generally, require less medical care than those who currently qualify for it), we could run it so that the premiums people pay for Medicare coverage offset the increased cost. In theory, expanding access to Medicare to everyone could also bring premiums down for everyone without increasing Medicare’s burden on the budget.
This would not be true universal healthcare, but giving people a public option is a good start.
HEALTH CARE & REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE
12. Do you believe the federal government should ensure that all Americans have health insurance coverage? Describe the health care system most likely to be successful in the U.S. (please be specific with regard to single payer, universal, etc.) and how does it get funded?
I would love to rush the United States into true universal healthcare, but as we’ve seen from the backlash to both the ACA in 2010 and the AHCA in 2017, people get defensive on this subject. Regardless, a comprehensive single-payer system should be our goal. And taxes will need to rise to cover it.
That said, we need public support before we move forward with such a drastic change. This is a democracy, after all, and forcing such a plan on an unwilling public is, in my opinion, a breach of trust with the people we serve. It’s our job to make our case and convince the public first before enacting sweeping change.
If the public is not ready for that drastic of a change, then in the meantime we should work toward making Medicare available to everyone as a public option, as noted above.
13. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the unintended pregnancy rate in the U.S. was 45% in 2011, and approximately two thirds of unplanned births are paid for by public insurance programs, primarily Medicaid. What role should the federal government play in reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy?
Education and access to contraception have been repeatedly proven to reduce unintended pregnancy.
Education is historically the province of state governments. That said, though the federal government shouldn’t dictate a curriculum to the states, I believe we can and should provide incentives to states that offer comprehensive sex education in their schools.
Meanwhile, public healthcare programs should absolutely include access to contraception. Preventing pregnancies is cheaper and safer than dealing with unintended pregnancies. An ounce of prevention is worth countless pounds of maternity care.
14. In cases of unintended pregnancy, what role should the federal government play regarding the choices available to women?
As per the ruling in Roe v. Wade and under the authority of the equal protections clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, women should have the right to choose whether or not to terminate their pregnancy.
Further, while the federal government has a right to determine what medical procedures are covered by federal healthcare programs, the federal government should not deny payments for covered services to institutions that also perform legal procedures not covered by those programs; for example, assisting with the termination of a pregnancy.
To put it more plainly: I don’t think we should defund Planned Parenthood.
15. Specifically, what should Congress do to better protect Americans from workplace discrimination?
In my opinion, cultural change is difficult, if not impossible, to legislate. Rather, I believe people are already protected from workplace discrimination by the equal protections clause of the 14th Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that it’s the job of the courts to ensure that those protections are enforced. Beyond that, it’s up to those experiencing workplace discrimination to identify and challenge that discrimination.
That said, if there is some nuance to this problem that I’m missing, I’m open to discussing it. (This is true of all of my responses, but particularly so in this case.)
16. What, if any, protections do you believe are missing for LGBTQ people?
At this point, I’m not sure. I am interested in hearing from the LGBTQ community to see what protections they believe are missing.
17. What more should Congress be doing to end hunger in America, and to ensure the safety of our food and water?
Mostly, Congress needs to provide more funding for our existing hunger relief programs. (When I was a child my family relied on several of these programs at one point or another.) We have lots of programs dedicated to this purpose: SNAP, of course, but also school lunch programs, school breakfast programs, senior assistance, assistance for mothers and children, and so on.
Some of these programs are mandatory entitlement programs (like SNAP), but others are dependent on budgetary funding.
School lunches in particular often suffer from a lack of oversight into their safety and nutritional value, and likely requires additional funding in order to raise those standards.
For water safety, the most important thing we can do is increase the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and enforcement power--especially given the agency’s recent massive budget cut.
18. What responsibility does the federal government have to ensure that students are safe from bullying and/or discrimination in public schools, including charter schools?
Bullying is primarily a cultural issue, and one that I’m not sure we can handle effectively at the federal level. Obviously, violence in schools is strictly prohibited, but how do you legislate a solution to social ostracization? How do you help a bullied child who refuses to out their tormentor? I believe it’s overreach to force a uniform solution to the disparate social dynamics of each school. It’s up to each school district to make the decision to seriously address the bullying situation and, if they won’t, it’s the responsibility of parents to pressure those school boards to make it a priority. This isn’t a fast or satisfying solution, but I don’t think a top-down approach is effective at this sort of social change.
Discrimination is a different story. Public and charter schools, if faced with charges of discrimination, must address those charges or lose federal funding. Period.
19. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only about a third of U.S. high school seniors are ready for college-level coursework. What do you see as the cause(s) of the problem, and what are some possible remedies?
First, some schools are simply better-funded than other schools, which impacts a school’s effectiveness. Poor schools with fewer amenities and a revolving door of teachers simply aren’t as effective as those in wealthier areas with experienced, long-term faculty.
Also, since funding is often tied to standardized tests, courses are often focused on getting good scores rather than ensuring a deep understanding of each subject. Schools that perform poorly on these tests end up with less funding, which only makes the problem worse.
Most school funding comes from state and local governments, so it’s up to them to fund their schools adequately and equitably. Meanwhile, we can use fewer standardized tests, which have not proven to be effective; neither as a test of a student’s knowledge, nor as an incentive for schools to achieve academic excellence.
This only scratches the surface. I’d like to hear from teachers on this subject.
20. What would be the most effective way for Congress to help make college more affordable?
Congress isn’t the answer here. Certainly we can always try to spend more to help students pay
for college, but that doesn’t really solve the root problem of college tuitions rising so rapidly.
As I understand it, the rising costs of universities is tied primarily to rising administrative costs. Since the federal government is generally not involved in the administration of colleges, it’s not really in a position to dictate tuition or administrative pay.
Like public schools, public colleges and universities are largely funded by states. Arizona in particular has steadily reduced higher education funding, so again it’s up to Arizona’s citizens to convince their state legislature to prioritize education.
That’s not a satisfying answer, but understand that while Arizona’s legislature is particularly obstinate regarding funding, a state legislature is always much easier to influence than Congress. State-level activism is important and effective, but often overlooked. Don’t overlook it.
21. What reforms should be implemented in law enforcement?
Police reform is primarily a local issue. If you would like to see reform in your local law enforcement, you should put pressure on your local sheriff or chief of police. Your sheriff is an elected official who answers to you. A chief of police answers to the city council, who in turn answer to you.
I think the police in Pima and Cochise do a pretty great job, given the resources they have. Most complaints seem to be isolated incidents that the higher-ups take seriously. We could always use more community outreach, of course, but that comes down to having more funding, officers, equipment, training, etc.
That said, there are bad police departments out there, and police departments can’t always be trusted to police themselves. When an officer is charged with murder, for instance, we need an independent investigation to ensure an impartial investigation. Officers must be held accountable.
22. What reforms are needed in the criminal justice system?
Currently we’re too focused on the punishment side of criminal justice and not enough on the reformation side.
Prison should always be a punishment. Crime should have a cost. Obviously. However, overly harsh punishment for nonviolent crimes just make our prisons even more crowded. At some point, harsh punishments simply aren’t any more effective; they just cost more. We need to reassess the cost-effectiveness of our sentencing.
We also need to reduce our rate of repeat offenders by focusing more on rehabilitation. Currently, ex-convicts have few prospects: no work, no housing, and, basically, few alternatives to criminal activity. Obviously, not everyone coming out of prison has changed, but the ones that do, the ones that spent their time in prison working for it, deserve the chance to become upstanding citizens.
That’s just scratching the surface. There’s also the private prisons issue, racial bias in conviction and sentencing, and so on.
23. Who should not be allowed to possess firearms? Do you support universal background checks and if so, how should they be implemented?
Generally, the only people who should explicitly be denied access to a gun are people with a history of violence and people with severe mental health issues. Children also shouldn’t be allowed to possess firearms without adult supervision.
That said, firearms are dangerous, and I think it would be wise if people were required to have a license to own them, just as one requires a license to own and operate a car. The process of getting a license to own a gun should involve a background check in addition to requiring the owner to exhibit a basic understanding of gun safety.
At the very least, we should ensure that background checks are used for all gun purchases, including sales by “unlicensed sellers,” who often get around background checks thanks to a loophole.
To me, the most important words in the 2nd Amendment are “well regulated.”
24. What steps should Congress take to address sexual violence?
A good first step would be to mandate that all rape kits must be tracked and tested if connected to a to a reported sexual assault. The evidence provided by these kits can be vital both as evidence in individual cases and for identifying serial rapists.
That said, a large part of the solution is to put pressure on local law enforcement to take cases of sexual violence seriously. And, of course, we have a lot of cultural problems we need to solve, not the least of which being overcoming the stigma of talking about sexual assault. Many cases simply go unreported simply due to people not wanting to talk about what happened to them for one reason or another.
In any case, I’m open to suggestions on other steps we can take to solve this problem.
25. What criteria should we use to determine which people should be allowed to immigrate to the U.S.?
Will they contribute to our economy? Do they have knowledge or skills that add to our collective intelligence and abilities? If so, so long as they’re not criminals or people with a history of violence, I think we should welcome them to our country.
We should also welcome asylum-seekers and refugees, simply for humanitarian reasons.
26. What criteria should be used to decide which people are deported?
Immigrants who engage in criminal activity, especially violent criminal activity and other actions
that threaten the health and safety of American citizens, should absolutely be deported.
I’m not sure many other situations warrant deportation. If you’re here and you’re contributing, then you probably deserve to stay.
27. Do you support a citizenship pathway?
Yes. Let’s get undocumented immigrants out of hiding and let them get real jobs and pay taxes. Forcing immigrants into hiding only increases the likelihood that they’ll resort to criminal activity to get by.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY
28. How should Congress address the threat that climate change poses to U.S. agriculture, coastal property, public health, and national security?
We should absolutely work toward reducing carbon emissions. We need to continue investing in clean energy of all types. We need to work with the auto industry and other manufacturers to reduce emissions from cars and factories. We need to invest in research to discover techniques to reduce emissions.
Most of all, we need to accept that this is a problem we need to work together to solve. If we can’t take that first step of recognizing the problem, then we can’t truly work to fix it.
29. What changes, if any, should be made to the tax code to encourage the growth of renewable energy sources?
A good start might be to raise taxes on fossil fuels. We already have a fuel tax, but we should both raise it and make it a percentage of sales rather than a flat rate. (Currently, the national fuel tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, as it has been since 1993, when gas was, on average, about $1.10 per gallon.) Since fuel taxes are generally dedicated toward road repairs, this would serve a dual purpose of both increasing our infrastructure budget and renewing interest in fuel-efficient vehicles.
30. What is your view of the U. S. pulling out of the Paris climate agreement? As a non-binding agreement, it doesn’t technically affect us in a tangible way.
However, as a major, influential nation, pulling out of the agreement shows a distinct lack of leadership, not to mention making our country look embarrassingly ignorant. Many of us in this country do care about the climate and will continue working toward reducing our impact, with or without the support of the president. That said, I think we could be a much more influential player in the global shift away from fossil fuels if we took this agreement as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and become the go-to provider of clean energy technologies and policies.
You can’t lead the world if you don’t participate in it. By pulling out, we’re giving up our seat at the table.
31. What specific steps should Congress take to address political corruption?
My primary concern right now is the Citizens United case, which determined that money spent by SuperPACs is protected as free speech. The corrupting influence of unlimited donations from a few wealthy donors has already had a dramatic impact on our national politics, particularly in congressional and state races. This reliance on large donors to win elections makes these politicians beholden to those donors more than their constituents; bribery in all but name, as far as I’m concerned. Those who donate most heavily receive more subsidies and tax cuts. Can the connection be any clearer?
32. What should be done to ensure that every citizen has the ability to vote?
Automatic voter registration for American citizens who hit voting age is a good start. Anything that lowers the barriers between voters and the polls is a step in the right direction, in my opinion.
I also support open primaries so that those who are uncertain of their politics or disinclined to join a political party can still vote for the candidate they prefer regardless of party affiliation.
33. What reforms are needed in the VA system?
Good question. I’m not certain what reforms are needed in the VA system, but I would like to hear from veterans so I can find out what needs to be done. Caring for our veterans should always be one of our highest priorities.
34. What do you see is needed to combat the nearly 20 Veteran suicides a day?
We need a more robust mental healthcare system in the country in general, but especially for veterans returning from duty. Perhaps it could help if therapy was compulsory for veterans returning from active duty in which they may have experienced trauma.
Culturally, we need to accept that mental health is important, and that seeking help for mental health is wise, not shameful.
And, as always, I’m certainly interested in hearing from people with more experience in this matter. I’m not an expert on everything, but with the support and advice of the people of this district, I think we can collectively find solutions or, at least, improvements to many of these problems.