Thursday, April 17, 2014

Notes from Willow Grove NAACP 13th Congressional Debate (3/17)

It has taken quite awhile to get these debate notes written up.  Some weeks ago I attended a 13th congressional district debate featuring 3 Democratic and 1 Republican candidates.  Initially questions were aimed at one candidate but later questions were opened up to all the candidates.  There was not a moderator per se, and many questions came from the audience.

As always, this is not intended to be a transcript but are merely notes I took during the debate.  I have made an effort to capture the gist of questions and answers but interested voters are encouraged to contact individual campaigns with questions.  My apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Willow Grove NAACP 13th Congressional Debate

March 17, 2014
First Baptist Church of Crestmont


Opening Statement [arrived late and missed some of these]

Q1:  to BB, about legislation on protection from abuse orders

BB:  I introduced a 5 bill package changing responses to domestic violence (92% of domestic violence victims are female).  Good friend of mine and my chief of staff victimized.  Today we make a victim render service to her attacker with protection from abuse order.  The bottom line – make it easier for victims to come forward.  Among women aged 15-44 domestic violence is a leading cause of death.  Every other day in PA a woman died because of domestic violence.  The bill is moving forward.  Majority of homeless are women, women with children are often homeless because of domestic violence.

Q2: to DL, people who live around here more often unemployed, between 1940 and 1980 5K in prison, 1990 [missed these stats]

DL:  Sen. Greenleaf and I passed Justice Reinvestment Act, stop putting people in prison for marijuana arrests.  Decimating minority employment.  American used to think big.   The governor negotiated with Grover Norquist over what would be acceptable transportation funding.  New economy is green technology.

Q3 to VA, public education

VA:  Education is the most important thing we can do.  Distressed by education cuts.  DC should not do unfunded mandates.  NCLB does nothing.  Teachers need flexibility.  Raising a generation that can take tests but can’t learn.  Respect teachers.  Be careful of new common core.  Money going to private testing companies, get that money back to the classroom.  Make sure kids don’t come to school hungry.  Mandatory pre-K.

Q4 to BB, education, early education, achievement gap

BB:  I introduced legislation for free pre-K programs and make kindergarten mandatory.  Only 5% of 3 year olds have access to pre-K.  The return on investment on public dollars is best for early education.  The federal government has not made proper investment in education.  Why can’t we have more leadership in DC.  Falling behind other countries.

Q5 for DA:  voter id, what should federal role be

DA:  Important that every voter be able to vote.  Determined by states.  Cautious of feds determining state rules.  There should be some level of id.  18 year olds need id to buy cigarettes.  Doing something as important as voting, we should be able to prove who is voting.

DL:  Fed has huge role in fighting voter suppression.  They voted against the Voting Rights Act.  No evidence that people impersonate others at the voting booth.  ID is usually driver’s license.  Easily identifiable demographic groups don’t have a driver’s license – poor, elderly, students, who usually vote Democratic.

BB:  People have shed blood for the right to vote.  Major problem in PA is too few people are voting.  In minority with no form of early voting or same day registration.  States that have done this sine the 1970’s have no evidence of voter fraud.

VA:  Voting is most fundamental activity we can do as Americans.  Move election day to weekends.

Q6:  support US Postal Service and 6 day delivery?

DA:  as described would support USPS

VA:  Support USPS and 6 day / week delivery

DL:  Support USPS, up until 1967 the post office did simple banking.  Poor people use check cashing agencies, payday loans.  Let USPS do what they used to do.

BB:  The 2006 law has manufactured this crisis; without that law the USPS produces a profit.

Q7:  US lead in reducing greenhouse gases?

All:  yes

Q8:  Support or oppose Keystone XL:

DA:  support

VA:  oppose

DL:  oppose

BB:  oppose

Q9:  1 year universal military service

DL:  oppose, but support universal public service

VA:  oppose, but do think we need to address that most in the military do so for economic reasons, children of Congress not serving.  Make sure vets can get jobs.

DA:  could support universal service not military, concerns of infringing on individual liberties and freedoms.

BB:  could support universal service, liked Americorp.  Imagine public as part of free college education.

Q10:  partisanship, compromise

BB:  It is a serious and distressing problem.  First Democrat elected in my district.  Formed, with some GOP (Tom Murt and others), a legislative group for Eastern Montco and NE Philly.  Let’s pick out a few areas where we do agree and work together, such as transportation.

DL:  I too have tried to find opportunities to work together, for example medical marijuana for kids (epilepsy) with a Republican.  Passed B-corp bill with Senator White.  Difficult, moreso, in Congress.  Here’s why – gerrymandering.  Only person who matters is the person who draws the map.

VA:  Gerrymandering is a state problem not in Congress.  Congress partisan gridlock.  I was there recently working on the Affordable Care Act.  Women in House get together in bipartisan fashion to work on women’s issues.  Also, there are 17 doctors in the House but they do not gather in a bipartisan group. 

DA:  Gerrymandering – I agree.  Look for mutual goals.  Only restriction – can’t conflict with fundamental beliefs or principles.  Social security / medicare not properly funded.

Q11:  alcohol privatization in PA

VA:  current state liquor store system provides living wage jobs.  Keep current system.

DL:  Voted against liquor privatization.  $500 million comes to the state, where would we get that money from?  Corbett won’t let sick kids have medical marijuana but wants it to be easier to get alcohol.  Don’t believe in privatization.

BB:  On House liquor control committee.  I was against the plan to privatize.  It makes no sense economically.  It brings in $522 million in revenue.   Tom Corbett wants to sell them off for $1 billion.  It didn’t make sense from a public health perspective.  MADD and the police chiefs organization are against it.  PA has the fewest alcohol related deaths in the nation.  Part of an effort to demonize the public sector.  Before social security 46% of seniors lives in poverty, now [missed this] %.

DA:  Social Security enacted in the Depression.  I do believe in the private sector.  Like to have a government run at the local level as much as possible.  Liquor is still a state issue.  Let the state decide.  Government is an expense.  It consumes wealth. 

Q12: diversity

BB:  This is enormously important.  I grew up in a diverse neighborhood, and I’ve always had a diverse staff.  In my office we’ve helped 12,000 people.

DL:  I grew up Jewish but  don’t have a Jewish last name or Jewish appearance.  I could health things, discrimination is still a huge problem.  I watched the civil rights movement on tv.  It is still a battle, for LGBT equality.

VA:  I grew up in a community almost entirely white.  I wanted to be a doctor even though my mom asked who would marry me if I became  a doctor.  I worked in inner city hospitals and universities.  Data is staggering between care for people fo color and mor affluent areas.  People just want a fair shot at the American dream.

DA:  All men are created equal.

Q13:  term limits

DA:  I’m with ya!  Already had my career so can’t be a career politician.  Terms between 12 and 18 years.

VA:  yes, in current gerrymandered system.  If open elections we won’t need them.

DL:  Against.  In states with them there is a disaster.  You end up with a Speaker of the House who has been in office just 4 years.  I shouldn’t tell people they can’t have the representative they want. 

BB:  I ran against a 20 year incumbent.  I’m opposed to term limits.  Artificial limit on democracy.  Right cause wrong cure.  Need campaign finance reform.  For public finance system and clean money.  The Citizens United destructive effect.

Closing Statements

BB:  Thanks.  All believe in American dream.  Work hard, play by the rules, opportunity to do better than our parents.  In past 10 years the average middle class family is worse off.   The gap between 1% and 99% greater than at any point in the nation’s history.  Making less than 10 years ago with $60K in student debt.  Elect people of integrity and intelligence who have studied the issues.

DL:  Thanks.  If I were voting I’d want a Congressional representative who was progressive, have a record to evaluate them on.  I’d want someone willing to fight for lost causes, someone with vision and creativity.  I’ve demonstrated that over 12 years in office and before than an activist.  Threat to democracy in Citizens United and voter id, tipping point of climate change, your zip code determines your life, gun violence

VA:  Thanks.  I took an oath to always put patients first.  I was an economics major in college.  In the late 1990’s I took over chairmanship of department, just as Allegheny Bank went under.  The department was in debt, and I turned it around.  17% of GNP spent on health care.  I am the only candidates with recent experience in Washington DC.  I will draw on that experience to be effective in Congress.  No Congressperson does it by themselves.  It takes all of us.

DA:  Thanks.  I’m the one person here who is a businessman.  I looked at the national debt.  Afraid for the future of the U.S.  In favor of term limits, can run again after out of office for a few years.  I’m a job creator.  Fiscal policy that makes sense.  All about the American dream.

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