In Salem I plan to advocate for:
K-12 parents, students, and teachers, who are finding their local schools hobbled not only by inadequate and unstable funding, but also by mandates on testing and curriculum that increasingly don’t seem to reflect what we want for our children. As a working teacher, I can make sure legislation on education will actually be applicable in a classroom, not just on a spreadsheet. Moreover, I will make sure our education dollars make it out of Salem and into our schools where they belong. Finally, I plan to get the voices of Oregon’s high school and college students heard by introducing legislation that requires any state board or advisory panel dealing with education to offer at least one seat to a qualified student.
College affordability, for as a high school teacher, I am appalled by the fact that every year I have capable students who have to postpone plans for higher education because of cost concerns. Furthermore, we lose thousands of our best minds every year to out of state universities that can offer an overall cost package that beats the OUS system – this “brain drain” seriously compromises our state’s economic future. Finally, my generation reaped the many rewards made possible by affordable public universities – the Class of 2014 simply wants and deserves the same chance.
Housing affordability, because my wife and I bought our little house with $8000 dollars down in 1999 and today we could not afford to move into our own neighborhood. This trend of increasingly unaffordable housing threatens the very fabric of our community, and it could mean that few of our children will be able to start their own families here on Portland’s Eastside. Oregon is one of only two states in the country that doesn’t have any type of inclusionary zoning law – this kind of legislation would go a long way in making sure future development does not price out working and middle class families from the foundational stability of adequate housing.
Livable wage legislation, for there is no better avenue to shared economic growth and prosperity than by making sure working people can pay for their rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities and overall cost of living with a job that pays an honest wage for honest work. I am encouraged by the recent efforts of workers in Sea-Tac, Washington to get voters to approve a $15 minimum wage and bring the conversation to the front pages. How many jobs should one have to work to support a family? This is the kind of question we need to be asking as Oregon families have seen their incomes drop by 9% in the last 8 years.
Health care reform, for while Cover Oregon and the ACA have been positive steps toward a more humane and universal distribution of care – there is much more work to be done to reach something that at least approximates a single-payer, truly universal, and efficient health care system. One that promotes human health rather than just treat diseases, many of which are preventable, for profit that is disproportionately seen by corporate administrators and actuaries.
Environmental protection and sustainability, because I am a member and agree with the legislative priorities of the Oregon League Conservation Voters (OLCV). I am also a bike commuter and Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) member. I believe we must wean society completely off of coal as a fuel source, and can start by never letting trains full of it run through Portland. Furthermore, the final version of the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) was a massive infrastructure project that would continue the one-car, one-driver paradigm, best left in the 20th century. Of course, we will eventually need a new bridge, for the I-5 transportation corridor is simply too important for the region’s economy. However, we cannot be serious about addressing global warming if we continue to build more new freeways. A possible future span for light-rail, bicycles/pedestrians, and local traffic could certainly be possible (along with keeping and upgrading the current Interstate Bridge) when our neighbors in Vancouver are interested and issues of environmental impact, overall need, and compatibility with a working river are properly addressed. A real 21st century CRC can also be paid for with some kind of carbon tax, which we need to seriously discuss as a part of Oregon’s sustainable future.
Marriage equality now. Oregon must be the next state to realize that only love is needed to make a marriage, and that bigotry does not belong in our constitution. Denying thousands of Oregonians their basic civil rights is something we can no longer tolerate.
Tax reform, because our state cannot grow and prepare for the future with the boom and bust tax system we have now. We need to be bold, and any real reform should include addressing our personal kicker law, our arbitrary property tax system, our high income tax, and our lack of a tax on consumption. We need to make our property taxes fairer without harming those on fixed incomes. We need to provide stability through recessions by including a kind of consumption tax that does not fall disproportionately on our most vulnerable. We need to either put the “kicker” in a rainy-day fund or repeal it all together. Finally, we need to start being real about what we actually want the state to fund and then pay for it. We can’t continue to say we want good schools, smooth roads, state of the art emergency services, clean air & water and overall quality of life, and not expect it to cost anything. We are in this together.
Marijuana legalization and regulation, for prohibition has not worked and state regulation of a legal industry must be seriously considered. Simply ask any high school student if it is easier to buy pot or beer, and most will say the former. I believe legalization can go a long way in decreasing the sale of the drug to adolescents, while freeing up resources for other law enforcement priorities and creating much needed tax revenue. Furthermore, the current reality makes what law enforcement we do see concerning marijuana alarmingly arbitrary and biased.