My Political Philosophy
I am an unapologetic progressive. That means strong policies and programs that serve all people, not just a select few. That means preserving civil rights and liberties. That means moving forward, not regressing or maintaining the status quo.
This will be achieved by maintaining an open, respectful dialogue using facts and reason rather than attacks and smears. It means listening to the will of the people. I cannot know everything and experience every walk of life. That's where you come into play. I need to hear your concerns, your knowledge, and your experience. Please join me in this journey and become a part of the political process.
Kalamazoo County has issues with both affordable housing and homelessness. As of 2018, 38% of Kalamazoo County's population was either in poverty or classified as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed (ALICE). With a homeless population of over 3,000 and the average wage of $15.58/hr needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment, there are many obstacles in the way to finding affordable and stable housing. Some "affordable housing" projects in Kalamazoo have rent starting at $900/month, which is almost $100 higher than the fair market rate for housing. New construction meant to bring affordable houses for people to purchase are coming in at a price tag of $150,000 for a 900 square foot house. These are not viable options for many people trying to find housing.
We need to redefine "affordable" and focus resources like the Land Bank on solutions that will actually work for the citizens of Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo County has had many issues with water contamination and receives an "F" grade for its ozone air quality by the American Lung Association. We need to be extremely transparent about our water quality and ensure that every citizen that questions the quality of their water has the ability to test it themselves.
While 100 companies worldwide contribute 70% of all fossil fuel emissions, we as a county need to transition to renewable energy. This will not only reduce our emissions (which will increase our air quality as well as combat climate change), but can ultimately save us money by utilizing natural sources of energy instead of relying on the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels.
I support the use of solar panels on county buildings, using electric vehicles, and other policies to move the county towards net-zero emissions.
Government Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability
Citizens have the right to know what their government is doing. That means no backroom deals and a public process on all government actions.
The public needs a better way of staying in the loop of their county government. I try to stay up-to-date with local politics, but even I find myself asking, "what did they even accomplish today?" The meeting minutes and video aren't available until weeks after the meeting. This is not the case in other counties.
Transparency means knowing any potential conflicts of interest that elected officials may have. It is their job to serve you, not themselves.
Accountability means listening to the will of the people. If they do something that is extremely unpopular in the community, they need to be held accountable for why they did it, why they disregarded the will of the people, and remedy the situation if possible.
I support Sheriff Fuller's policy on not cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As an agency enforcing federal immigration law, the local Sheriff's Department has no obligation to help ICE, who has shown to use questionable and possibly unconstitutional practices to arrest immigrants.
I also agree with the current County Commission's decision to support state driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. Personal passenger vehicle transportation is a necessity for many and the lack of access to a driver's license makes it more likely that undocumented immigrants get in legal trouble and risk deportation. Thirteen other states allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses, and there is no reason why Michigan can't do so as well.
Tax Breaks and Corporate Welfare
On principle, I do not believe in providing tax breaks and subsidies to large businesses and corporations. These programs divert revenue away from municipalities and there effect on the economy is often uncertain.
Projects such as local arenas in particular have shown not to benefit the community relative to the amount of taxpayer money that was invested.
The practice of using tax incentives to bring businesses into the community makes the county a pawn of the business. The business doesn't care about the actual community, just where they can save the most amount of money. This can be seen with Amazon as they were looking for a location for their second headquarters. A multi-billion dollar business is getting offered tax breaks rather than regular citizens.
More locally (and this is still in-process), we can see this with Graphic Packaging as they consider expanding in Kalamazoo. They are being offered a tax break even though they will be creating no new jobs and in fact are likely to shut down and lay off about 160 workers at their Battle Creek facility. That is not good for our community.
Criminal Justice Reform
Even though we cannot change state statues, as a county we have great discretion in how we enforce and adjudicate laws in the county. The sheriff, prosecutor, and district judges are all county elected officials. The County also runs the Office of Community Corrections (OCC).
I support the county's several specialty courts, such as drug court, mental health recovery court, and veteran's court. It is important to recognize that certain communities have different struggles and require different treatment than seen in the traditional Criminal Justice System.
Marijuana- I am an advocate for recreational marijuana and as such support a reduction in enforcement for marijuana-related crimes as well as expungement of marijuana-related offenses.
With the exception of some positions that are regulated by the state and federal government, I support removing marijuana from the list of drugs that County employees are tested for.
Remove The Box- Former criminal offenses can be a huge barrier for people who have served their time and are looking for employment as a part of becoming independent and rejoining society. I support removing the box on County employment applications that require applicants to disclose criminal offenses (with the exception of positions such as law enforcement that are governed by state and federal law).
Minimum Wage and Labor Laws
While the county can't set a minimum wage, it can control how much it pays its own employees and select contractors for public projects that pay a living wage.
Oakland County is considering a proposal to increase their minimum wage for their employees to $15 an hour. This is expected to only cost .06% of their total operating budget. I believe that Kalamazoo can do as well.
Election Security- I believe that Kalamazoo County should continue to use paper ballots. They are able to be counted electronically, but are still available in case of a recount. Electronic voting machines come with serious concerns of software malfunctions and the possibility of hacking.
Ranked Choice Voting- While the dynamics of County elections are not the same as national elections, I find that voters are often presented with choosing the "lesser of two evils". With Ranked Choice Voting, voters can vote for their favorite candidate, and select who they would like their second or third choice is in the event that their first choice does not get a plurality of the vote.