The Town Crier contacted the candidates running for Riverside County Supervisor, State Assembly, State Senate and Congress. Our questions and their responses are below. Not all candidates responded or met the deadline. Responses are printed in the order they were received. The only candidate we were unable to locate contact information for is Mike Juarez (county supervisor).
Voting in Idyllwild will be at the Idyllwild Library, 54401 Village Center Dr., March 3 due to the construction at Town Hall. Pine Cove residents will still vote at the Pine Cove Water District, 24917 Marion Ridge Dr. If you need to see a reference ballot, go to https://sites.omniballot.us/06065/app/cvig/vr.
County Supervisor, 3rd district. Candidates: Chuck Washington (incumbent), Joe Scarafone, Courtney Sheehan, Mike Juarez and Edison Gomez-Krauss.
1. Was it worth spending more than $30 million of taxpayer money on a consulting firm to do something that most people feel department heads should have been able to do?
Joe Scarafone: It does not surprise me that the bureaucrats currently entrenched at every department in the County of Riverside have no idea how to cut waste or make things more efficient. That is one of the main reasons, I, Joe Scarafone, am running for supervisor. When I saw that there was no Republican candidate in this race, I had to throw my hat in the ring. Cutting waste and increasing efficiency aren’t things that a fiscally conservative Republican like myself needs an outside firm for. Those are values I live by every day. I would never spend $30 million of taxpayer money on a consulting firm to so something that most people feel department heads should have been able to do.
Courtney Sheehan: The short answer to, “Was it worth it?” is absolutely not. I don’t see the logic in the decision-making process at all. “Let’s spend a boatload of money to save money” seems off to me. I’ve had an issue with this audit process since I found out about it because it’s an absurd way to run a local government. I’m a certified Lean Six Sigma process improvement analyst and I intend to take the philosophy of “waste less, want less” to the supervisor’s office when I am elected because it’s time someone put some common sense back into our local governments.
Edison Gomez-Krauss: Absolutely not. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors has a history of outsourcing their work to expensive consulting companies. KPMG was certainly the costliest and most widely publicized but not the only one. $150K was recently blown on HdL companies to create a regulatory framework for cannabis cultivation, a framework that has proven to be an absolute failure. To the extent that a supervisor publicly stated at a meeting “maybe we should ask for our money back.” KPMG, HdL and all the others are an absolute disregard for the taxpayers’ dollars. Riverside County government is the largest employer in Riverside County. It can and should use that human resource to tackle whatever challenges it faces.
2. Is the legalization of marijuana a positive or negative for Riverside County?
Joe Scarafone: I think there are positive and negative aspects of the legalization of marijuana. My goal is to make sure these operations are in the appropriate areas and not near homes, schools, or neighborhoods and that the end user product is as safe and free from hazardous chemicals such as fertilizers and herbicides as much as possible. The voters have clearly spoken on this issue and unlike our Sacramento majority party, I respect the will of the voters.
Courtney Sheehan: I have heard many reports from individuals and organizations like local Veterans of Foreign Wars of the US about the issues surrounding marijuana growers, especially in the third district. I have come to understand that water consumption and water rights form a major part of the debate, as well as bad actors and illegal cartels. I intend to use innovative water consumption solutions for legal growers who follow the proper permitting process. I support the individual farmer who wants to freely use his or her land to responsibly grow marijuana for recreational or medicinal consumption in an ecologically friendly manner; they have a right to get a permit and use their land within the letter of the law. I believe that those operating as illegal or foreign cartels in this area must also be addressed, as they do an incredible amount of damage to local ecosystems and contribute to the black-market drug trade. I will work with our local farmers to make sure they are able to realize their goals of sustainably cultivating marijuana while also working with state and federal law enforcement to remove and prosecute any criminal activity from outside actors who seek to exploit our county’s resources, maintaining a balance between a law-abiding citizen’s private interest and public safety.
Edison Gomez-Krauss: It could be a very positive thing. Unfortunately, our supervisors voted to create a pay-to-play exclusionary framework that has yet to permit a single cultivator, three years after Prop. 64 passed. At a starting rate of $60,000 per permit, the small farmers have been excluded from participating in a legal market. On the flipside, millions have been spent on eradication efforts and more than $390 million dollars worth of potentially taxable cannabis products have been destroyed. The Board of Supervisors dropped the ball trying to make their payday upfront and instead went back to prohibition.
3. How does developing and maintaining mountain communities fit into your plan?
Joe Scarafone: As supervisor, I would work tirelessly to protect our neighbors living in mountain communities by widening roads in fire prone areas, eliminating homeless encampments and pushing for the removal of dry brush and other vegetation near power lines running through forests. The Camp Fire that began in Plumas National Forest killed 86 people and destroyed 18,000 buildings. How many people died on the roads stuck in gridlock? How many of these fires are caused by homeless encampments and not wind or power company equipment? As supervisor, I would work tirelessly to protect our neighbors living in the mountain communities.
Courtney Sheehan: I believe that mountain communities know their needs best. I am a Temecula resident, not a resident of Idyllwild. I don’t have a first-hand knowledge base about the needs or the struggles of our rural areas, and I will be heavily leaning on those in our rural and mountain areas to inform me of what is needed. I intend to form cooperative alliances to make sure that public safety and necessary public services are delivered to our mountain communities efficiently and effectively to guarantee that rural schools are being given the priority they deserve and to do my part to be visible and accessible as a public servant. I have planned to hold one town hall meeting per month and I will be rotating throughout all of the rural communities for that monthly appearance so that local residents know and understand the business of the Board of Supervisors directly from me because I care enough to make the effort to act as a real representative of the people. I’m looking forward to supporting our mountain areas!
Edison Gomez-Krauss: Equitable distribution of resources and services to rural communities is one of the top priorities of our campaign. As a resident of Anza, I see firsthand how my property taxes vanish into the depths of the county budget. Police response times are eternal, there are hardly any afterschool programs and public transportation is nonexistent. There is always money to cut down pot plants but somehow never enough to tackle mail theft. The mountain communities have suffered taxation without representation for too long.
4. People feel that a lot of county roads need repair. Do you feel the same, and if so, how do you plan to fund the repairs?
Joe Scarafone: I agree that our roads need repair and I would go a step further and say that we need additional roads and lanes to keep up with our county’s growing population. Unfortunately, most Democrats in this state are trying to restrict new roads and instead divert the large majority of our transportation money into buses and trains. In fact, if you do not think it is important to keep conservative control of our county government, remember that L.A. County is looking at banning gas stations! Funding repairs is easy if you stop diverting transportation money to near-empty buses and trains.
Courtney Sheehan: Road repair is needed in some of our rural areas. I absolutely agree with that, having driven on some of those roads myself. I do not see an issue with allocating money from our $6.1 billion dollar budget for road repair when the next budget is passed in FY 2020/2021 after I am elected. We can budget for all sorts of other absurdities like an ongoing contract with an auditing company, so we can definitely assess where road work is needed and budget for proper repairs within our district, which is what local government should be focusing on.
Edison Gomez-Krauss: The current Board of Supervisors discourages the formation of new municipal advisory councils and community service districts. I want more. Community input on which roads and access routes require immediate attention is essential to prioritize repairs and renovations. Funding exists for these programs. It is a matter of allocating a proportional amount to the mountain communities, which is currently not the case.
5. As supervisor, what will you do to funnel money to mental health treatment for the district?
Joe Scarafone: There is already a dramatic increase in the amount of mental health funding available, but the problem is that with the Democrats misguided, yet successful efforts to weaken law enforcement on property crimes, none of these lower level criminals are being forced into drug rehabilitation. Without any incentive to address their addictions, many homeless refuse services and prefer to live without structure. We need to be tougher on crime and homeless encampments in this county. If as a county, we do everything we can to not tolerate these encampments during daylight hours and to have zero tolerance for those who continually break our laws, I believe many of the “service resistant” low-level criminals will find more criminal-friendly counties and Riverside County will have plenty of funds available for mental health treatment for the district as well as harnessing the existing secular and faith-based nonprofits who are currently involved in housing and treating the mentally ill and homeless. The mentally ill should receive help and we need to identify homeless criminals who should be in jail or prison.
Courtney Sheehan: I will provide research-backed plans to address mental health treatment and make sure that we are voting on these upgrades and plans during the proper budgeting process. Making them part of the budget codifies their funding as a priority. I will also make sure that the county-funded hospitals are utilizing these funds as best as they can and I will remain in frequent contact with clinicians to continue to better asses funding priorities so that positive mental health outcomes are continually and constantly occurring with the least amount of money wasted. Additionally, I will work with the state to make sure that we are getting our “fair share” of state funding set aside for mental health resources. I will actively pursue all state funds set aside for California counties for that purpose.
Edison Gomez-Krauss: There are a multitude of state and federal grants for mental health treatment. One of the most notable would be Mental Health Medi-Cal Administrative Activities. What is important to note is that these programs are often difficult to navigate, and our elected officials would rather not go through the trouble. I will prioritize mental health treatment and support despite any obstacles.
6. How will you provide better services for seniors in rural areas of the district?
Joe Scarafone: We could provide much, much better services for our seniors in the rural areas of the district if we were not wasting our money on empty buses and trains and spending $30 million dollars of taxpayer money on a consulting firm. Current Democrat County Supervisor Chuck Washington’s irresponsible overspending has left little for our county residents who are most in need. By setting priorities and addressing the county’s $3.5 billion unfunded pension liability and the county healthcare agency that was losing $1 million a week, we can get back to helping our seniors and giving them the services they deserve. For more on my campaign, visit Scarafone4Supervisor.com.
Courtney Sheehan: First, I will actually show up for them. I went to a February 2020 Riverside County Office of Aging meeting and there were no representatives there from any of the supervisors’ offices to hear the reports from the Office of Aging. I was appalled at the lack of attention that they seem to give to the senior community in our county. I believe the first step in delivering better services and care to seniors is to make the effort. We currently have a very dedicated corps of advocates and board members who are passionate and driven, but they are also forced to work in a piecemeal and patchwork fashion to deliver services because the county itself does not take an interest in senior care — and they should. I plan to completely overhaul the current efforts in senior services to bring them into a more streamlined and accessible set of deliverables, centering my approach around our hospitals and social services caseworkers, which is where our seniors are frequently the most active. Oversight of nursing homes and advocating for seniors who are in care is a passion of mine. I also intend to adopt many successful programs for seniors that have been implemented in other counties which we lack here, like in-home visiting nurses and special housing programs.
Edison Gomez-Krauss: Increased mobility. As mentioned before, I believe we are overdue for public transport from the mountain communities to our adjacent cities. This would help those who can no longer drive to access resources and services that would otherwise be inaccessible. Another service that can and should be provided are periodical, mobile government assistance modules so residents can conduct business with their local government without having to drive for hours. This is especially important since a large segment of the mountain communities are seniors.
State Assembly, 71st district. Candidates: Randy Voepel (incumbent) and Liz “Elizabeth” Lavertu.
1. Millions of people have left the state because it is too expensive to live here. How can Sacramento fix that?
Elizabeth Lavertu: There are many solutions, but creating affordable housing and better economic opportunities top the list. We need to bring in better paying jobs to the district through renewable energy and biotech, to name a few. It is unacceptable for people to be working 40-plus hours a week and still not be able to afford the basic necessities. We need someone in Sacramento who is willing to fight for the people in this district to live their lives with dignity.
Randy Voepel: Lower housing fees and minimize the red tape involved in home building.
2. Does California have an affordable housing crisis?
Elizabeth Lavertu: Yes, we need to make it more advantageous for developers to build affordable housing. We should be focused on building more inclusionary housing and freeing up land for developments near resources and public transit. The affordable housing gap is a big issue throughout the state and we will need legislatures who are focused on implementing real solutions.
Randy Voepel: California not only has an affordable housing crisis but a housing crisis in general. One way to combat this problem is to lessen the costs involved with building caused by over regulation.
3. Why do a lot of Californian’s feel like they are being taxed to death? How do we stop that?
Elizabeth Lavertu: I feel that we pay enough in taxes, too. I don’t want to raise taxes anymore, but I do want to ensure that we are seeing our tax dollars at work. Our tax dollars should be spent in the manner they were intended for, not for special interest groups. I wouldn’t be running for State Assembly if I felt like we were getting our fair share. We need a representative that has the power to bring our tax dollars back to our district!
Randy Voepel: Because we do have one of the highest tax rates in the nation, other than New York, so they are being taxed to death. Once there is a tax increase, it never goes away. No more increases!
4. Why is the state slow to effectively fix the homeless crisis?
Elizabeth Lavertu: The state has been reactive and not proactive when dealing with the homeless crisis. In order to truly solve California’s homeless crisis, all levels of government need to work together to implement real solutions. You cannot just leave it up to the local government. They need the support from the state and federal leaders, too. Some of the solutions are to build more affordable housing, create better economic opportunities, make behavioral and mental health easier to access, implement short-term housing with services and improve resources for our veterans and seniors.
Randy Voepel: Gov. Newsom has just launched a massive homeless agenda. Hopefully, we will begin to see results in the short-term.
5. How do we demolish the school-to-prison pipeline?
Elizabeth Lavertu: We need to create a school environment that is fair and inclusive for all students, including students of color and low socioeconomic status. We should be lowering the student-to-teacher ratio as well as lowering the student-to-counselor ratio. We should be looking at universal pre-K and expanding the arts and music programs. The fact that black students are more likely to be suspended or even arrested at school for similar infractions as white students is alarming. We need to reform our schools’ disciplinary system and move towards a restorative justice practice. Police should be the last resort, not the first, when it comes to disciplinary actions for our children.
Randy Voepel: There has been recent legislation to limit suspensions on students. Ultimately, we have to engage the students and offer different pathways for them to succeed.
6. Are we traumatizing children with active shooter drills? If so, what can we do to prepare schools in the event of an active shooter?
Elizabeth Lavertu: Yes, according to the National Association of School Psychologists, the active shooter drills cause trauma. The alternative would be to have lockdown drills without implementing an active shooter scenario.
Randy Voepel: Sadly, active shooter drills are necessary so that teachers/students are prepared. There are ways to protect the schools with additional security measures.
7. How does developing and maintaining mountain communities fit into your plan?
Elizabeth Lavertu: I will be visiting all the communities, including our mountain and rural communities, to speak with the residents to ensure that their needs are being met. Our district is very large and needs someone who will listen to the residents and fight to preserve our backcountry.
Randy Voepel: Ultimately, I would love nothing more than to hear from the constituents in the mountain communities about what is important for them and work with them too.
8. Do you feel the state roads are in need of repair, and if so, how do you plan to make that happen?
Elizabeth Lavertu: I have a proven track record of securing funding for road improvement projects and will make it a priority to advocate for our tax dollars to be allocated to projects in our area. Once elected, I will also work with our federal legislature to bring in additional funding to invest in our roads and infrastructure.
Randy Voepel: Absolutely, our roads are in desperate need of repair! In my position as an Assemblyman, I will work hard to make sure that the gas tax monies are being utilized properly and not siphoned off for other uses.
9. What will you do regarding wildfire prevention on state land?
Elizabeth Lavertu: Recently the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection approved a new vegetation management program that will cut the red tape for tree-thinning projects to slow wildfires. This is a step in the right direction and may be enough for the small amount of state-owned forestland. California’s forestland is mostly owned by the federal government (58%) and privately (40%). Only 3% is state-owned. The federal government is attempting to match the state’s goal of 500,000 acres treated annually.
Randy Voepel: I will continue to support forest management measures and will support any legislation that is brought forward that would make that easier.
10. What are your plans to assist and protect home and business owners with property insurance increases in areas impacted by wildfires? It is causing people to move from these areas.
Elizabeth Lavertu: We need to implement a more affordable state insurance option for those impacted by the increase and drop in insurance. The changes to our environment and climate are not the fault of homeowners. People should not be displaced due to the insurance companies. I would also like to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for insurance companies to drop or price gauge policyholders for circumstances out of their control.
Randy Voepel: As an Insurance Committee member, I will, once again, work hard to improve and support any measures that will help with pricing.
11. How do you intend to improve California’s education ranking?
Elizabeth Lavertu: With a complete overhaul of programs and funding. What we are doing now is not working, according to all studies and reports we score the lowest in the country on almost every metric. We need to build an education system focused on teaching the whole student and not just on testing. We need to lower teacher-to-student ratios, counselor-to-student ratios, and bring back the arts, which has been proven to better engage students across other subjects.
Randy Voepel: I believe that Prop 98 funding could be increased. It was intended as a “floor” for spending, not a ceiling.
State Senate, 28th district. Seat vacant. Candidates: Melissa Melendez, John Schwab, Joy Silver, Elizabeth Romero and Anna Nevenic.
1. Millions of people have left the state because it is too expensive to live here. How can Sacramento fix that?
Joy Silver: Public spending needs to be focused on the things ordinary people rely on: education, public safety, health care and core state services. We need to work to refocus the state budget on those priorities and cut unnecessary tax loopholes and subsidies that benefit corporations and the rich at the expense of the broader public.
Anna Nevenic: Because of the low wages and high housing costs, we must turn that around by creating high-wage jobs and build more affordable housing where federal, state, and municipal government must come together to address this crisis.
2. Does California have an affordable housing crisis?
Joy Silver: Yes, there is an affordable housing crisis in California. We need to build more good-quality, lower-cost housing so families and young professionals especially can afford safe homes near where they work. I currently serve as regional director of Southern California for an affordable housing developer that has delivered needed services to thousands of low-income individuals and families. I also founded and managed a senior living community and became a California state licensed senior care administrator and I have a deep commitment to tackling the homeless crisis. Clearly, we need more housing — specifically more affordable housing — and I’m an advocate for that. However, because of my career experience as an affordable housing and senior housing professional, I know firsthand just how complicated and difficult solving this problem will be. We’re going to need solutions that appeal to a wider range of legislators and constituents. We’ll need to work with communities to find solutions so working families can afford to live near where they work. Shorter commutes benefit everyone — rich and poor — by reducing congestion and wear and tear on our roads, lowering emissions and keeping our air cleaner and allowing families to spend more time and money in their own communities. We must develop flexible solutions that allow for the unique needs of our cities. Different populations, geographies and traffic patterns require different solutions. Additionally, building costs in California are high due to our concern for safety and the environment. Simply mandating construction without a way to fund it is not practical and will force cities to fail to meet the state’s goals. I will work at the state level to help find solutions that work for the residents of our district.
Anna Nevenic: Yes. This is especially tragic for the younger generations.
3. Why do a lot of Californian’s feel like they are being taxed to death? How do we stop that?
Joy Silver: Year after year, core services that Californians rely on are stretched thinner and thinner, while wasteful tax loopholes that benefit big corporations are left on the books. That has to change. I’ll support tax incentives that make sense, like those that are directly linked to creating good local jobs and supporting urgent needs in our community like health care, education and public safety. I’ll fight hard to eliminate waste and abuse that benefits the powerful and privileged at the general public’s expense.
Anna Nevenic: We must prioritize our budget by being more fiscally responsible. By auditing every department, we can find waste and use savings for priority programs. We can cut prison population and costs by funding job training and rehabilitation for addicts so that they can reenter society. We pay more into federal government and we should work to return more of our tax base to our state.
4. Why is the state slow to effectively fix the homeless crisis?
Joy Silver: As Governor Newsom said in his State of the State last week, “We turned away when it wasn’t our sister, our brother, our neighbor, our friend ... Most of us experienced homelessness as a pang of guilt, not a call to action.” While he noted that there were actually about 35,000 more people experiencing homelessness in California in 2005 than today, officials from both parties over the years have failed to solve the problem. I agree with his words. For a long time, it was an easier problem for everyone to ignore. And solving it requires long-term plans and plans and spending — longer-term than an election cycle — that aren’t politically popular. Convincing someone to spend his/her hard-won time in the Legislature working towards something that’s unlikely to succeed fully before the next election is difficult. I’m hopeful, however, that both our citizens and our politicians seem ready to move forward to take the difficult steps to solve this crisis.
Anna Nevenic: The state is slow because of bureaucratic red tape. Lack of changes to the zoning system have also contributed. The state was also selling land for luxury housing instead of putting more into affordable housing.
5. Are we traumatizing children with active shooter drills? If so, what can we do to prepare schools in the event of an active shooter?
Joy Silver: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 95% of U.S. schools conduct active shooter drills regularly. But studies are starting to show that these drills are indeed traumatizing children, and they’re not preventing future incidents. So, what should we do instead? We should listen to gun-safety experts and advocates, who recommend focusing our attention on prevention through threat assessment and expanded mental health services, and by educating families about secure gun storage at home, as studies show that most school shooters get their guns from their homes or the homes of family members or friends.
Anna Nevenic: Yes, they are being traumatized. Most of the time in school shootings, the shooter showed signs of violent behavior and the school system and authorities did not pay attention. Professional counseling is one form of early intervention that we must utilize.
6. How does developing and maintaining mountain communities fit into your plan?
Joy Silver: This will likely be one of the legislature’s most complicated challenges from now on. How do we build more affordable housing, while limiting that development to prevent environmental degradation? Where land is affordable and ready for development, how do we connect those communities to the most efficient, sustainable utilities? The answers will not be easy. However, by keeping environmental concerns in mind at every step of development, and by focusing efforts on renewable energy technologies — like locally built solar panels, micro-grids, energy storage options, etc. — we have the best chance for success.
Anna Nevenic: Work with the private sector to promote more business in rural areas. Provide funding for young people who would like to relocate to areas with more jobs.
7. Do you feel the state roads are in need of repair, and if so, how do you plan to make that happen?
Joy Silver: I’ve seen firsthand the results of declining infrastructure investment in Riverside County, and it is a top priority for me. I supported former Governor Brown’s transportation plan, which invests billions in relieving traffic, fixing roads and investing in public transit. It’s an important first step, but more needs to be done. We need to invest in faster, more extensive and more reliable commuter trains to and from job centers in Riverside County and throughout California. Certainly, freeway expansion isn’t a silver bullet to our region’s transportation needs, but there are dozens of local freeways, interchanges and on-off-ramps in need of improvements here. And local road repair is a continuing challenge as cities face tighter and tighter budgets every year. I support ongoing, dedicated funding sources for transportation improvements at the local and state level and believe the jobs created with those transportation funds should go to skilled California workers so our tax dollars can have the biggest, most positive impact on the local economy.
Anna Nevenic: Yes. We must work with federal government to put money into our infrastructure instead of incarceration and the military industrial complex.
8. What are your plans to assist and protect home and business owners with property insurance increases in areas impacted by wildfires? It is causing people to move from these areas.
Joy Silver: I support current Legislative efforts for a comprehensive solution that addresses climate change, wildfire prevention, modern fire-safety features for new and existing structures, upgrades to fire-safety equipment, holding utility companies accountable, as well as addressing insurance issues. If we don’t address the whole problem, insurance companies won’t take on business in these areas, leaving the financial burden to the state. Addressing our affordable housing crisis is also key, as much development in wildfire-prone areas is a direct result of homes elsewhere being too expensive and out of reach for many Californians.
Anna Nevenic: The state should subsidize the rates and there should be a limit on exorbitant yearly increases.
9. What will you do regarding wildfire prevention on state land?
Joy Silver: Due to climate change, and exacerbated by over-development, wildfires are going to present an imminent threat for the foreseeable future. Legislators should be designing incentives to prevent future building in areas prone to wildfires. But for structures that already exist, legislators need to encourage options for preparedness, including retrofitting homes with modern fire-safety features, possibly offering tax-rebates to defray the costs. Actual costs should be as low as possible to encourage widespread compliance, and where necessary, economic aid should be made available to ensure low-income community members are able to comply. California legislators can further ensure that we are taking advantage of all FEMA grants. Additionally, firefighting experts are working towards mitigating the effects of fires with fuel breaks, thinning and pruning vegetation, prescribed burning and encouraging new growth of native vegetation. These efforts require adequate funding and our Legislature needs to ensure these funds are sufficient and available.
Anna Nevenic: We must have a better response plan and provide more resources and education to prevent fires. If they happen, have the resources to fight them.
10. How do we demolish the school-to-prison pipeline?
Joy Silver: The United States has disproportionate incarcerations compared to the rest of the world and for so many, the trouble begins in their teenage years. While there are many contributing factors, mandatory minimum sentences and the use of private prisons and detention centers are major contributors. I want to have a stronger voice, rather than simply a louder voice. Instead of stoking fears and prejudices, we need to turn to research and evidence to guide criminal justice polices. We need to end the school-to-prison pipeline and invest more in jobs and education and less in prisons. My top priority for California’s public schools is to improve funding for our entire public education system. I’ll fight to ensure that teachers have the support and resources they need to help all of our children succeed and guarantee that all Californians, regardless of income or immigration status, have access to a full education, from preschool through college/trade school. By investing more in educational resources to help address behavioral problems and less in punitive measures, we’ll help our most vulnerable children learn, grow and avoid prison.
Anna Nevenic: By providing comprehensive student services, we can detect problems early and intervene before they escalate. Prevention is cost effective and saves lives.
Congress, 36th district. Candidates: Milo Stevanovich, Raul Ruiz (incumbent), Erin Cruz, Patrice Kimbler, write-in candidate Gina Chapa.
1. How is mental health impacting families?
Erin Cruz: There are varying areas where mental health impacts California families. The cost of treatment, varied approaches by medical professionals, these both can leave families with large scale medical bills and in some cases cause loss of functionality and ability to maintain a home life and in some cases, high risk individuals could end up on the streets. We need to do better giving a hand up to those who are high risk to ensure stability through crisis and recovery.
Gina Chapa (running as a write-in candidate): Mental health illness has increasingly been a national epidemic which coincides with the stressful economic, social, environmental and political conditions of this country. We have not addressed the mental health needs of our country and instead have divested from mental health resources and been investing more into policing and prisons. Drug Abuse and mental health illness goes hand-in-hand so much so that we don’t know what came first. However, we do know that trauma is a common factor in both conditions. Families do not have the resources or tools needed to help their own family members that suffer from mental health illness and we have increasingly seen how families have called the police to intervene during a mental health crisis within their home and where that individual in need, unfortunately, becomes a victim since our police are also not trained sufficiently in treating or confronting an individual having a mental crisis. I can personally attest to being adversely affected by mental health illness and the accompanying substance abuse addiction in my own family. This issue is hurting our homes, communities and country as a whole. Families need more support and our government needs to be more proactive and present in addressing this issue head on instead of dismissing it via lack of funding and public awareness.
2. Why do you feel impeachment was necessary or unnecessary?
Erin Cruz: Impeachment was not warranted. If there was a legitimate case against our president, the senate would have acted to ensure impeachment went through. What we witnessed was a partisan effort to undermine the presidency, gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars on a nothing burger.
Gina Chapa: Impeachment was necessary because President Trump has been defying constitutional law and has been threatening our national security by working with foreign nations to affect our sovereignty. Our nation was founded on laws and when our Presidential leader defies them and we as a country allow that — then we are threatening the whole establishment that founded our country in the first place and we are then allowing the growth of chaos and anarchy within our borders.
3. Do we have a middle class and how has the economy impacted this district?
Erin Cruz: We indeed have a middle class, though it is dwindling with high taxes and massive regulations. The middle class, which I call the working poor, need to be able to keep more of their hard earned money — we need to get Congress under control with regard to the budget and this is what I intend to do when elected — fight for the people.
Gina Chapa: We do have a middle class, however this economy has been squeezing the middle class tremendously where many are tethering between staying in the middle class or falling into poverty. Our current economy benefits millionaires and billionaires via our tax system that allows so many tax breaks that we saw how the richest man in the world: Jeff Bezos didn’t pay any federal taxes for his corporation, which is Amazon. Especially here in California, we are overburdened by taxes that do not trickle down and represent us. We are now like a state like Washington D.C. — we suffer from taxation without representation. In our district, we have seen the rapid growth of the homeless population. Just in the last six years the growth has been phenomenal. We need to move into investing in our own resources and have businesses and corporations pay their fair share so we can take care of all residents and citizens within our beautiful district, state, and country.
4. How should the country move forward with gun safety?
Erin Cruz: I am a firm supporter of the Second Amendment as written. We have plenty of gun control laws impacting law abiding citizens, not criminals. Congress would do best to recognize that criminals break laws, not law-abiding citizens. Any regulation made for a law-abiding citizen restricting gun ownership will be broken by criminals.
Gina Chapa: Gun violence in this country is horrific. School shootings is a phenomena that started in the United States and has only grown astronomically where now it no longer shocks most of the American public when it hits the news. I believe we need tighter gun laws and need to move towards regulation where children are protected from accessing guns.
5. Will you push for more wildfire prevention funding and federal land management resources?
Erin Cruz: Absolutely, as well as ensure states like California adhere to and use federal tax dollars proportioned for those programs.
Gina Chapa: I believe that our public utility companies should not be in charge of wildfire prevention and federal land management resources. In our current administration, we are living through a mass deregulation of protected land and resources therefore I do believe we need to fund the protected lands that we have and manage overgrowth and thus wildfire prevention in ecological and environmental protective ways.
6. What are your thoughts on climate change? Do we have a problem?
Erin Cruz: We are the most environmentally conscious state and country. Our current regulations are driving up costs. Congress would serve the people better by supporting the president on strong trade agreements which highlight world conservation and regulation by dirty, largely unregulated nations. Climate change spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Gina Chapa: We do have a problem with climate change. The fossil fuel industry, rapid industrialization of rural areas within our country and in the world, and lax environmental regulation within contaminating industries and mass deforestation has caused mass pollution and degradation of our natural resources to the point where it is affecting the health of our planet as a whole.
7. How will you help seniors and protect social security and Medicare from being cut?
Erin Cruz: Not only does social security and Medicare need protecting, we need to ensure those entitled receive their benefits. Our seniors, many received increases in social security income, but Medicare costs went up, costing them more. It turns out their COLA was not even close to an increase to cover meat, eggs, cheese, and the basics which have bloated in price over the last 10 years. We need to cut abuse of SSI, look at efficient ways to see the rolls grow financially.
Gina Chapa: It is very important to take care of our seniors. I will definitely protect social security and Medicare from being cut and I will work to find ways to further help our seniors.
8. What is your position on Medicare For All?
Erin Cruz: Against it. Free up the market, continue to broaden coverages, across state lines as well.
Gina Chapa: I stand by Medicare For All. Health is a human right and an essential necessity for ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’ which are the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence that founded this great nation in 1776.
9. How can the federal government assist with the homeless crisis and housing affordability?
Erin Cruz: Enforce current laws, continue current funding to states, requiring mental health and drug addiction interventions for funding support.
Gina Chapa: The federal government must create regulation to prevent housing market instabilities which has been a major contributor to the homeless crisis we are currently living through. Many homeless have been forced out of their homes due to the exponentially increasing rents and property taxes. For example, median rent for an apartment in California in 2017 was $1,400, while the median incomes of seniors on social security for that same year was $1,360! We are seeing more and more seniors on the streets. The federal government must work with the federal department of Housing and Urban Development to address the prohibitive rising costs of housing to make sure that we are able to house not only our seniors, but also our veterans, college students and all of the residents and citizens of this country. The worst part of this crisis is that many homes and housing units sit vacant since it has now become an extremely profitable industry to rent homes out to wealthy tourists than to allow it to be affordable housing.