Monday, July 31, 2006

Interview with Rick Taylor (151st State House)

Here is the latest in a series of candidate interviews. Rick Taylor is the Democratic candidate for the 151st state house district.

In the biography on your campaign website you say “Coupled with some solid government programs like the Pell Grant and student loans, I was afforded the mobility to make a better life for my family.” Were you referring to geographic mobility, social mobility or something else?

Social and economic mobility. Some well-thought-out programs made a difference in my life – that and my own sense of self-responsibility. To get through college, I worked 30 hours a week as a cook, and as an usher for Twins and Vikings games. I want to ensure that all children have the same opportunities that I had, and Republicans have been gutting these programs by cutting eligibility and award sizes.

You belong to the Ambler Mennonite church – some people equate that with the Amish -- will be showing up at the state house with a long beard and driving a horse and buggy? Can you explain a little about Mennonite beliefs, especially regarding the separation of church and state and military defense, for those who are not familiar with the denomination?

I don’t know if the State House car-lease program will cover my horse and buggy, so I might just have to use my minivan instead...

The main values of the Mennonite church are peace, kindness and tolerance. These things are what is missing from today’s Republican-led government, and as a result we are seeing them do just the opposite by:

starting a needless war in Iraq in which we are entrenched with no way out.

being unkind to anyone who is not wealthy by transferring the debt burden to the middle class and the working poor; and finally

being intolerant, attacking partnerships calling them 'an unholy abomination.'

Whatever happened to looking out for one another?

I am tired of the Republican right thinking they have a lock on religion. What I do not understand is why some stop reading the Bible at Leviticus. Many social conservatives use religion as a cudgel to beat us with their hatred. The book is filled with taking care of the poor, young, elderly, sick and standing up for those who are on the margins. Progressives must challenge them on their interpretations. I am very comfortable about talking about my beliefs.

While my values inform how I will legislate (I do not know how I can separate them) I am strongly against introducing religion into state matters – this gets back to tolerance. William Penn founded Pennsylvania on religious tolerance and liberty; I see anything that forces the church into our public life as a betrayal of those principles.

Mennonites have historically been pacifists. Under most circumstances I can agree with it, but there are times, especially in our defense, that we must fight. Though this is a federal issue, the war in Iraq is an example where I think it was wrong for us to go in and destroy the lives of so many innocent civilians, and waste our lives, treasure, and prestige.

In the press release announcing your candidacy you talk about the need for property tax relief. What is your opinion of the bill recently passed by the house? What would be your ideal version of property tax, if any?

Our property tax system, although originally designed as a well-intended progressive tax, is now unfair to and inadequate to cope with the massive fluctuations in the real estate market. The recent legislation did help, but they did not go far enough. My worst fear is that Harrisburg will be unable or afraid to address the problem.

The 151st district is made up of parts of five townships, Montgomery, Horsham, Upper Dublin, Abington, and Lower Gwynedd. How can any one representative represent so many local governments and interests?

And it also contains my home Ambler.

You raise a good question. This is the effect of protecting incumbents in the worst way. The 151st used to be more homogenous in makeup but because of some close elections in MontCo, the district boundaries were redrawn by Perzel. The Democratic township of Upper Dublin used to have one representative and now it is divided between four. It makes little sense.

There are more than 60,000 people in the district. Places such as Ambler and Abington are already built up with an older population, while parts of Horsham and Montgomery Township have new developments springing up, and good parts of their population are younger.

It is difficult, if not impossible to satisfy everyone, but I will try my best to listen to all my constituents.

How long have you lived in the 151st district?

I have lived in Ambler for six years and in MontCo for eight years. My family and I have decided to make a home here. I love it so much that I moved my mother from Minnesota two and a half years ago to be closer to her grandchildren.

You won a spot on the Ambler Borough council in November 2005 and were sworn in January 2006 and now, less than a year later, you are running for state representative. Do you have any previous electoral or political experience in Pennsylvania? Are you worried that voters might have concerns about whether or not you will stay in the house for any length of time if elected?

I have been active with my local Democratic party for some time, and I have had the privilege to work in the office of Senator Paul Wellstone in Minnesota. Other than my seat on Ambler Council, I have not had other electoral experience in Pennsylvania.

I am running for the state house because I believe I can make a greater impact on the lives of our children and seniors than I can at the borough level. I also believe that member of the Republican Party in Harrisburg for too long have been representing their own interests rather than ours. The failure of lobbying reform a couple of weeks ago is just another example of business as usual. We can do better and we deserve better. Quite frankly, having talked to over 4,000 voters so far, this is the issue that resonates with them. I believe the Republicans will have a surprising wake up call in November (if they didn’t get it in the primary) and it’s because of their lack of commitment over this issue.

You defeated a sitting borough council president to win the councilman’s spot in Ambler’s Ward 3. What do you attribute that win to?

Two things: 1) I went and talked with the voters and 2) I LISTENED to them.
I am doing the very same thing now. I plan to personally visit 15,000 doors because I can think of no better way to be an effective representative than listening to what they have to say. It seems today that that is a novel idea but it shouldn’t be so in a healthy democracy. Just today I had a few people say to me that I was the first politician to visit their door and they really appreciated it. It’s not rocket science; it’s just the formula to be an effective representative.

If elected would you be a full-time legislator or have a second job also?

It is my plan to be a full-time legislator. I would like to be the most effective legislator I can.

I believe in public service above all else so much so that I will be taking a substantial pay cut to do this job. Why would I do that? Like I said earlier, I have benefited by so many good programs which allowed me to move up economically and socially; from living in trailers and apartments all my life to owning a home and able to save for retirement, that I feel there is debt I must repay to society. It is the idealistic part of me. I read too many political philosophy books while in college : ).

There are at least three locally owned banks around your district, Ambler Savings Bank, Abington Bank, and Willow Grove Bank. What does that say about the area? Is it a plus or a minus?

I bank at Ambler Savings because I like community businesses. I bought my car in Ambler, get my haircut there, get my beer there and see movies there.

It says that small businesses still have a place and they are the backbone to our economy. As soon as we are homogenized through the Walmartification of the US, then we will have lost something special: the local community touch.

What would you like to see happen at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station?

That’s a tough question. There are so many twist and turns in the saga that I don’t know what will happen next. The 111th Fighter Wing will remain there until 2010. And there are many unanswered issues. For example, we do not know which land will be considered surplus by the military. Also what is the condition of the land and what kind of remediation will it need?

I would strongly support keeping the PA National Guard and runway there and continuing Willow Grove’s role in protecting our national security.
In any event, there should be no civilian airport.

If it is opened to development, the process should be transparent, I would like to see smart development, like the walkable town centers in Hatboro and Ambler with a combination of small businesses and residences. Allow for open spaces and trails. And make strong public transportation a key part of the equation. This piece of land can give us something that is disappearing from our landscape: a sense of community and belonging.

In an area with active chambers of commerce, main street organizations, and social capitol as evidenced by the nonprofit Ambler Theater and other community groups, what role can the state representative play in encouraging new business and nourishing those already in existence?

I see three ways:

Make the business climate in Pennsylvania friendlier for small businesses to open up shop.

A legislator tends to be a connector, a person who happens to know many other people. He/she can get parties that have needs connected to those who have the ability to provide solutions.

Additionally a legislator may be aware of funding programs that a business might be eligible for, and make the business aware of such grants.

What question didn't I ask that you would like to answer?

Why would you run for state representative in a time where many citizens are cynical about government?

Citizens are right to be cynical because up until now we have not had much in the way of good solid representation from Harrisburg. I see the potential of Pennsylvania to be more than it is now. I see what government ought to be rather than what it is now. Today, the Republican led legislature in Harrisburg has time and again did a disservice to us by working on serving their own self interests instead of moving PA forward. I am interested in moving past that and getting a truly representative government. As a father of two young kids I want to see the state prosper by setting high standards for our community. We should think long term, about how we:

make sure that good jobs will stay here,

can be competitive against global economic pressures,
protect our environment, and

make sure that our citizens receive the dignity and respect they deserve.

In short, I am running because government is about improving the citizens’ lives and not the representatives.


eRobin said...

I love this guy. Great answer to that last question. People should remember that about government. It's good for something other than bombing countries and funneling money to corporations.

Will you please post the links to all the interviews in this series?

jfoster said...

Rick is a great above average guy, with above average ethics, running an above average campaign, with an above average message, which is; the citizens of Pennsylvania deserve above average representation and he has the skills and committment to provide it.

Amelija said...

Vote for my daddy