Issues

The short version (and, yes, I get a lot of kidding about that phrase, at my height) is that, if you like President Obama’s agenda and you voted for Terry McAuliffe, you will probably like my agenda and, I hope, you’ll want to vote for me. But, you have the right to know where I stand on specific issues, and in my own words. Here’s a summary of what I have to offer. If I’ve left out something that matters to you, please send me a note and let me know. I’ll be glad to answer you.

Choice

I am pro-choice. The decision to continue, or to end, a pregnancy belongs to the woman whose body hosts that pregnancy. It does not belong to the state. I know this issue affects many people at the deepest level. Some favor giving the decision to the woman involved, while others feel it is their right to force their decision upon her. To me, the question for government is not whether abortion is right or wrong: the question is whether or not government should let a pregnant woman decide for herself if she wishes to continue her pregnancy or not. With our society as deeply divided as it is on this question, I believe the morally correct policy is to trust each individual woman and leave the decision to her best judgment. For young women and girls, loving parents can be the best source of support and guidance in making hard choices. But, not every girl has loving parents. Some pregnant girls are victims of incest, or are subject to other forms of physical abuse. For those girls, a safe way to seek help without risking the anger and violence that a few parents will use must be available. That’s why I do not support universal parental notification when a young girl seeks help in dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Caring parents won’t need a law to have their daughters talk to them. Daughters of those parents who might be dangerous, however, do need legal protections. In the end, I trust women to make good choices. I hope you do too, and agree with me that government shouldn’t make their choices for them.

Equality

Any two loving adults should be allowed to marry each other. The Marshall-Newman amendment to the Virginia constitution was the work of a mean, misguided group that used it mostly as a one-time trick to motivate certain voters to come to the polls, in the hope they’d also vote for certain candidates while they were there. I think it’s a sad thing for a state’s constitution to be amended in a way that takes liberty away from that state’s people. The federal Bill of Rights is solely devoted to ensuring freedom. Virginia’s constitution should do the same. I will personally draft legislation to seek the repeal of the anti-marriage amendment passed in 2006. Further, equality means more than just gay marriage. It means recognizing that every human being is precious. People with differing levels of physical ability are entitled to equal treatment under the law. That includes making every place of work and public accommodation that can reasonably do so provide access for those unable to walk, or see, or hear as well as some of the rest of us. We are the most advanced society in the world, with the greatest resources and, I believe, the greatest compassion. It’s not too much to ask that we blend those things into policies that make sure everyone is a full participant in Virginia’s culture and economy.

Medicaid Expansion

Every American is far more at risk of dying from cancer or other illness than they are of being killed by foreign soldiers. I believe in paying for a strong defense, but it makes no sense to me that we spend as much tax money as we do on our military, yet as little as we do on preventive medicine, especially for our youngest citizens. It is unacceptable that in Virginia, there are people who work full-time who can’t afford to see a doctor when they or their children need to. Tag Greason and the other Republicans in the House of Delegates have consistently opposed bringing our own federal tax dollars back home to Virginia to bring care to our state. That’s absurd and I will fight for Medicaid Expansion. Our national policy is moving in the same direction as every other industrialized nation’s, towards seeing universal health care as something no less essential than universal national defense. Virginia shouldn’t be fighting to be left behind. I’ll support policies that make us part of the betterment of our nation, so that all of us can be healthy and live long, productive lives.

Greenway Tolls (more here)

The Greenway’s toll structure is “regulated” by the State Corporation Commission. I put the quotes around that word because the SCC must abide by a statute written by the legislature when it considers the Greenway’s periodic requests to increase tolls, and that statute virtually guarantees approval every time they ask. What it does not do is authorize the SCC to impose any conditions on its approval. Conditions such as, for example, using pro-rated tolls.

Our current legislators claim they cannot require the Greenway to take the loan it needs to install the new equipment and write the new programs needed to start using a pro-rated system. I think that’s naïve. Firstly, VDOT should not have the authority to tell any advisory body created by elected officials what it can and cannot do. Secondly, a simple analysis, based on usage models and public input, will show whether or not the Greenway can expect additional revenue from new riders who would start using the road if they could pay a pro-rated toll. Most of my neighbors tell me they would use the road if they were billed for the distance they travel (instead of as though they all got on at Leesburg). From that increased revenue, a loan could be paid off and, when it was, the Greenway’s profits would increase.

Loans are paid back with interest, though, so there’s some small risk that the new revenue wouldn’t keep up with the debt-service costs. The solution, given that the Greenway is already a public/private partnership, is for Virginia itself to make the loan and adjust the rate to be appropriate to the revenue it makes possible. A low and/or adjustable rate loan would pay for the upgrades needed, the Greenway would enjoy more income (and a better reputation with its customers), Loudoun would receive additional tax revenues from the Greenway, and we’d all get to work and home again a little faster (instead of coping with the daily snarl on Waxpool as people use it and Route 28 to avoid an overpriced stretch of the Greenway).

How do we do it? Simple: the next legislature can amend the statute that governs the SCC’s regulation of Greenway prices to say that the SCC has the power to condition new increases on distance-based tolling, while including funds for the necessary loan in that year’s budget. I’ll put that bill in personally, if I get the chance.

Workers’ Rights

Strong unions gave America two days off in every week, instead of only one (or none). They are why our factories, dockyards, and offices are the least hazardous places to work in the world. I believe in the value and success of the American free market, with organized labor playing an indispensable role in making that market work. That’s why I oppose government intrusions on the negotiations between employers and employees. Virginia’s so-called “right to work” laws, that prohibit an employer from calling upon all employees to be members of a union, are an artificial and antiquated violation of the basic notion that capitalism works best without excessive regulation. If a business and its workers can come to terms on their own about membership in unions, then the state should leave those terms alone. In my view, any other policy contradicts the meaning of the word “free” in the phrase “free market.”

Full-Day Kindergarten

I am entirely in favor of universal full-day kindergarten. Every kindergarten and first grade teacher I’ve spoken to says that the need for full-day kindergarten is acute, and that the benefits of it are exceedingly apparent.

The kindergarten teachers say that half a day is not enough to get through the curriculum and to introduce all the concepts the students should be learning.  The first grade teachers I’ve spoken to say that they can tell immediately which students did not have full-day kindergarten, they are less prepared than their peers and are less likely to be reading and printing.
If I am elected to the house of delegates, I will definitely push for funds for full-day kindergarten for Loudoun and will work with local Loudoun officials to come up with solutions for their space constraints.

Environment

Virginia has some of the most beautiful land, mountains, lakes, and rivers in the country. Sadly, some of those have become polluted, like the Chesapeake Bay. The damage done to the bay has cost thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to our economy. After much long work, the bay is finally being healed and, with more effort, will be able once again to sustain its own ecosystem, returning to the list of Virginia’s best natural resources, both in terms of beauty and productivity. The history of the bay should be the lesson that teaches all of us how easy it can be to lose a precious resource, how costly that loss can be, and how difficult it can be to recover from that loss. Sound protections delivered via reasonable laws are the best way to preserve our land and water so that generations of Virginians can enjoy and benefit from them. I’ll support legislation that does a fair job of making sure no one gets to take our land and water away.

Here are more issues of importance to me and the people of Eastern Loudoun:

Transportation

We need more mass transit in northern Virginia. We also need more policy-making tools for local governments to take better control over growth and the traffic-jams that, under current law, are the inevitable side-effect of growth. Recent history in our area makes it very clear that more big roads don’t solve our commuting problems for us. Instead, what we need are a combination of better design and planning, more multi-modal transportation options, and ordinances available to local governments that will let them control growth so our roads, buses, and trains will be there when we need them. I will oppose the so-called “outer beltway” that some big developers say they want in Loudoun county. Instead, I’ll support investing in commuter-oriented options that will get us all to work, and home again, faster and safer. That’s an investment that will pay for itself as the economy of our region, the most profitable in the state, continues to grow and draw employers to our area.

Taxes

We are a “donor” region to the rest of Virginia. Most of our tax money never comes back here. That’s foolish, because, as a prosperous area, we need investment from the state to cope with issues created by our own prosperity. We need money to build the schools, roads, firehouses and other services that are essential to our region. I’ll make it a priority to fight for a bigger share of our money to come back here, so we can remain the biggest engine in the economy of Virginia. At the same time, I’ll watch every expense the state incurs, to look for every possible way to hold the line on taxes. Some members of the legislature think it’s good policy to make their decisions in advance, before they know the facts. I won’t be one of them. That’s why I will never take any kind of “no tax” pledge, or make any other silly claim designed to win some easy votes. My policy will always be to consider each question on its own, to look at every option on the table, and do what’s best for the people I serve. In those cases where some additional investment will pay for itself in the long run, I simply will not rule that out. I don’t believe the people of our region expect to get something for nothing. But I also know we all expect to get what we’ve paid for. Basic tax fairness will be my goal, with all of us knowing we are paying what we should, to receive what we need.

Gun Rights

I am a shooter and gun-owner. The Second Amendment, in my view, guarantees more than the right to go hunting. Personal ownership of a pistol for self-defense is something law-abiding Virginians are entitled to under the constitution. But I believe in the entirety of the Second Amendment, and that includes the words “well regulated.” I do not believe our guns are regulated as well as they should be, with the “gun show loophole” being a proven source of guns to people who should never have had them, and no display of competency required from anyone who would carry a deadly weapon. I believe anyone who can pass a fair and reasonable background check, and can show their ability to handle a pistol safely, should be allowed to carry one on their person, concealed or in the open. But I don’t believe we’re as safe as we should be so long as almost anyone can buy a gun without a simple check in advance. I know there are people who believe that background checks are a first step to more restrictive regulations, but I see that as a false logic. Background checks are a good idea and we shouldn’t oppose them in the name of preventing some other, not so good, idea. That’s a sky-is-falling mentality that’s preventing us from having the full benefit or what the Second Amendment was intended to do. I’ll protect the rights of responsible gun owners while calling for restrictions on people who shouldn’t have guns at all. Both are possible, and both make sense.

Seniors

We owe a lot to our oldest generation. Paying back on that debt is the right thing to do. Much of what our senior citizens would like to have wouldn’t be costly or difficult to provide. It starts, first and foremost, with listening. I’ve met with leaders in our senior community and heard what’s on their minds and those of their friends and families. Simple things like road signs made with larger letters, more online access to government and charity services, and just a few more visits from their elected leaders would go a long way towards delivering the respect and assistance our older citizens deserve. Further, in addition to the specific concerns that go with aging, I know that our seniors have the life experience and wisdom to offer some of the best advice any of us can hope to get. It’s a wasted resource whenever we neglect to solicit their thoughts on policies of every kind. I won’t make that mistake. Regular contact with my senior constituents, to hear their thoughts about all of the issues facing Virginia, will be a big part of how I do my job.

Undocumented Residents

Anyone who thinks we can solve our economic problems, end crime, or eliminate gangs by dropping everything else and devoting all of our money and time to deporting people without green cards is just wrong. My approach to crime and other issues will be to focus on the issues themselves, not some imaginary connection between a class of people and a problem in our region. If anyone, legally in the United States or not, is causing problems in my district, I’ll do all I can to find them, deal with them, and stop them from causing harm. But those few people who seem to think harmless undocumented residents should consume more government resources at taxpayer expense than issues of real significance are simply wrong about that. I will support legislation that does the most good at the least cost. I support a fair, sensible path to citizenship for those who truly want it and are willing to earn it, provided that their only offense against our laws is that they entered our country without permission. We are mostly the children of immigrants. Locking the door behind us is neither rational nor fair.

Education

Virginia, like the rest of America, is facing a crisis as our students emerge from school without the technical skills our country will need to remain at the top of the world’s economy. We need a complete reconsideration of our priorities and programs to put Virginia’s students on track to meeting the demands of the 21st century. I’ll support legislation that matches the wishes of teachers who want to replace the obsolete “standards of learning” tests with lesson plans and curricula that are for the students’ benefit. We’ve gone too long with a system that isn’t teaching our children what they need to know. The specifics of teaching should be managed by the experts, who are the principals and teachers in our schools. But the state needs to be a cooperative partner in that process, starting by making policy out of the widespread opinions those experts have to share. Based on what they’re telling us, we should discard the SOL tests, focus on putting money into classrooms, and make sure our teachers are paid and trained in the ways our children really need. I strongly believe that Virginia’s constitutional guarantee, that every child receive a meaningful education in our public schools, can be made real at a cost we can afford.

Public Safety

Virginia has some of the best law enforcement professionals in the country, but we lack uniform standards that would benefit our area. In particular, I believe it is time for Loudoun county to convert its sheriff’s office to a police department. No police officer should be concerned that his or her job is subject to political forces, with each of them essentially fired and asked to re-apply for their position every four years. Following the model of other expanding jurisdictions with successful police departments, we will be able to combine training and area-wide efforts for more consistent, more cost-effective law enforcement. I also know that public safety means more than just well-trained police. It includes public services that offer meaningful help to victims of domestic violence, opportunities for reformed offenders to re-enter productive roles in society, and reconsideration of our “free pass” policies for violent juvenile offenders. That’s why I favor programs like Drug Court, that are proven to turn past offenders into trustworthy workers and taxpayers. I’ll look for every chance to solve our safety problems with solutions that go beyond incarceration. At the same time, those criminals who have shown us they are beyond reform must be kept where they can’t hurt us. No one policy is right for everyone who breaks the law. I’ll support legislation that deals with the whole problem, not just one side or the other. Nothing else will keep us safe.

Capital Punishment

Our most vicious criminals deserve harsh punishment. But I don’t support extreme government action when there is, at best, little reason to believe it does us any good. As loathsome as our worst convicts sometimes are, I don’t support killing them in the name of some kind of “justice,” mostly because the facts available today teach us that it costs more money than life incarceration, and does not deter the next murderer, rapist, or child-molester at all. I agree with those people who believe state action in the name of public safety should actually work, rather than serve some need for vengeance. Are there people who deserve to die? I would say there are. Are there people the state should kill? I would say there’s nothing to be gained by it.