Less than five weeks until the election. It is pretty clear that everyone will be happy when the campaigns are over. The presidential campaign has been particularly toxic with two candidates that are highly unpopular. So for me, it has been an interesting foray into politics. The other candidate in my race, Jim Hughes, and I have kept it civil and respectful in our election, mostly emphasizing our records, backgrounds, and plans for what we will do when elected. It is at this point in the election where things have a chance of getting a little “chippy”. From this point on we will need to differentiate our views so that the voters have a clear understanding of the choice that they will make on November 8th. But when you start differentiating, there is a real risk of slipping into criticizing and condemning the stances of the other candidate and it is a short trip to criticizing and questioning the motives of the individual. That is where I want to draw the line. I want to talk about issues but I also want to think that people who disagree with me on policy issues still have the best intentions and that we hold the same values. I think that we all want good schools and good jobs, safe streets, and a fair legal system among other things. We just have different ideas about how to achieve those things.
After almost a year of campaigning and studying the issues here are some of the primary points where I think that I differ from Jim Hughes.
Women’s choice: Jim has voted five times to restrict access to safe and legal abortions and co-sponsored a bill that attempted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. While I am not a fan of abortion, I think that it is imperative that it remains a woman’s choice to make that decision. Otherwise, we are creating a two-tiered society where one-half controls what the other half can do with their bodies. In other parts of the world that is called Sharia Law. I also see Planned Parenthood, with the health care and family planning services, as one of the greatest tools in the effort to reduce abortions. There could be more collaboration with adoption services but access to birth control for low-income families is primary to helping them climb out of poverty and needs to be protected.
Crime: Jim has introduced or supported numerous laws that create mandatory prison sentences for various crimes. The motto I often hear related to this approach to law enforcement is “Commit the crime, do the time.” But the judges that I have spoken to don’t like mandatory prison sentence because it ties their hands to decide the appropriate response to the individual circumstances of the case. That is why we elect judges. Mandatory jail time creates a one-size-fits-all approach and puts some people behind bars that don’t belong there. These laws have led to overcrowded prisons, ruined lives, weakened families, and damaged communities by putting sons, fathers and breadwinners in prison when other options would have been preferable. I agree that some people need to be in prison to protect the public, but that choice should be in the hands of the judges who know the facts of each individual case. Finally, this whole discussion ignores the role of poverty in crime which I discuss a little bit later on.
Education: Jim has supported expanded funding of charter schools. Unfortunately, the law was written without requiring adequate accountability on the part of the charters for actually educating students, and in some cases, the schools have rejected responsibility for even keeping track that the students were there. I am not against the idea of charter schools. My daughter graduated High School from a very fine charter school. I am against diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools to poorly monitored, for-profit charters. The accountability issue is primary but there are also problems with the law that most people don’t realize. Among those problems is that the local school district is responsible and uncompensated for transporting the charter students to their school. The local district is responsible for educating the student and penalized for the poor performance of the student if they leave the charter and come back to the public school, yet the charter gets to keep the money for that student. I would support efforts to correct the funding errors, make the charters more accountable to providing an education and restore the funds to the local district for the students they end up educating when the charters fail.
Poverty: Jim doesn’t say much about poverty although he does support the notion of bringing good jobs into the area. Hard to argue with that, but good jobs don’t do an individual any good if they don’t have transportation to get to work or the education to qualify for the job. I want to see a broader discussion about how to help people lift themselves out of poverty that takes all of these factors into account. I use the analogy of a ladder to describe the problems and the solutions. If you are poor you are at the bottom of the ladder. Prosperity is at the top. The rungs of the ladder are things like access to pre-natal care for your mother, access to healthy food, access to affordable health care, early childhood education, good public K-12, livable wages, affordable college or trade schools, affordable housing, and public transportation. Climbing the ladder requires using each rung to lift yourself a little higher. If a rung or two is missing it is a little harder to rise to the top. If more rungs are missing it is impossible. In the last 30 years, we have seen almost all of the rungs of the ladder fall out through poor policy decisions in government. If we want to change the cycle of poverty we have to restore those rungs. That is what I want to work for when elected.
Five weeks. We have five weeks until election day. If what I have written above strikes a chord for you I could use your help. Make sure that you are registered. Go vote and take like-minded friends with you. Thanks for reading.