Every individual and every family should be able to keep a roof over their heads, have access to essential utilities, get the medical care they need, and be paid a livable wage for their labor. This is certainly possible in a state like Colorado, where we have one of the strongest economies in the country.

 

We can, and should, build a solid foundation in life for every Coloradan.

 

Here are a some of the things I believe we should prioritize:

 

Environment and Energy

I believe we should do everything in our power to protect our air, water, and soil from polluters, put human health and well-being first, and safeguard our habitat for future generations. The overwhelming consensus of climate scientists is that climate change is real and man-made, and so I support a just and equitable transition to all-renewable energy as quickly as possible.

 

Colorado voters are clear on this issue, and getting louder about it every day -- climate change is a catastrophic threat to human life and bold action is justified and necessary. Keeping global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels is absolutely critical if we are to carry on as a species. This is just one reason to keep fossil fuels in the ground and employ clean and renewable energy sources. It will also reduce pollution and improve air quality, and generate employment and economic growth at a much more reliable rate than fossil fuel extraction or processing. And even if none of these things were reason enough, fossil based fuel sources are not replenishing themselves. We can only continue like this for so long before they are all exhausted.

 

Nearly two-thirds of Colorado’s 60,000 oil and gas wells are fracking sites, in which we are quite literally blowing up the ground beneath us in a desperate attempt to get at the last dredges of natural gas deposits. This practice is extremely wasteful, damaging to our environment, and leads to toxic byproducts that risk the health and safety of the communities they drill near. We’re fortunate in HD-16 to not have these risks, but my heart breaks for rural Coloradans who have these monstrosities right in their own backyard. The sooner we can shut down these wells and get all households and businesses on safe and renewable energy sources, the better.

Transportation

Transit infrastructure should be multi-modal, fully integrated, and allow Coloradans enough choices that everyone can get where they need to go. As the population grows, our state will not support a one-to-one ratio of adults to automobiles without sacrificing other things that we value, such as nature and wildlife preservation, cost of living, and a tranquil quality of life.

 

I support an accelerated plan to establish Front Range passenger rail and connect Colorado’s biggest urban centers. For one, the people want it. No single transportation project polls higher than developing passenger rail, and it’s closely followed by a wish for greater and more equitable bus service. Public transit studies indicate that the general public will begin to use public transportation voluntarily when run times are about fifteen minutes apart, and full service is available throughout nights and weekends. This is the kind of robust investment in transit infrastructure that needs to be made to serve a growing population while balancing our immediate needs against long term sustainability and our responsibility to protect wildlife and the natural environment. There’s also a return on our investment to be considered: every dollar invested in public transportation generates up to $4 in economic return.

Healthcare

Healthcare is a basic human need that should be covered for absolutely everyone, with an emphasis on quality and preventative care. I support a well planned Colorado public option as a stepping stone to single-payer coverage, as well as full reproductive freedom, including free birth control, comprehensive sex education, and the right to a safe and legal abortion.

 

The time to free people from the restraints of our exploitative and ineffective system while securing the health of everyone is long past due. Healthcare funding simply does not function well in the context of a market economy, and honestly, one needn't be anti-capitalist in order to see why.

 

The demand for healthcare goods and services is not like other kinds of demand in a market setting. It is non-negotiable and often extremely time-sensitive. You need what you need, when you need it, in order to carry on living. We can all budget for cheaper versions of most other essentials, like food and clothing. But we can't decide which diseases or injuries we'll need to have treated, or when that need will arise, and budget accordingly. Anything less than universal healthcare coverage fails to secure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Racial Justice

Black Lives Matter. This phrase has caught on because it needs to be said.

 

After decades of failing to establish justice for communities of color after officer-involved shootings, law enforcement agencies around the country are now coming under well-deserved scrutiny. Black Lives Matter demonstrations did not come out of nowhere. When you don’t know who’s going to be abused or killed by law enforcement next, with no accountability and no justice served for these abuses of power, it is only natural that Black people around this country are boiling with righteous anger. They should be. I am continually amazed, as a white person, at how well Black America keeps it together, all things considered. Just being Black in this country is a recipe for post-traumatic stress disorder. This is all wrong. 

 

Our founding generation went to war with their governing authorities over a fraction of the human rights abuses being carried out against Black people right now, in the 21st Century. They destroyed property. They broke laws. They went toe-to-toe with the world’s greatest military power at the time. We revere them for it to this day, because a temporary disruption in order and tranquility is worth it for the sake of liberty and justice for the long haul. And for future generations.

 

To quote journalist Adam Serwer: “The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises." No one understands this better than Black Americans, and I believe it’s the solemn duty of all real patriots, of all skin colors, creeds, and walks of life, to stand in solidarity with that struggle for justice and equality.

Criminal Justice Reform

The justice system should be restorative and rehabilitative. The recidivism rate alone should tell us that we’re getting this wrong. A public safety quarantine model would serve us better than the punitive approach we’ve been taking for so many generations.

 

There are evidence-based practices that can be implemented at every level of law enforcement to reduce the need for use of force altogether, while increasing trust between under-served communities and law enforcement officers, bringing down the crime rate, and promoting peace. But it all starts with taking a long and broader view on this issue: what are we even going for here? What is the goal of all the policing, prosecuting, and incarceration that we do? Is it promoting peaceful coexistence among varied members of our society? Is it keeping people safe and secure? If it isn’t accomplishing those things, then what is it for?

 

I subscribe to the public safety quarantine model of law enforcement, with an emphasis on restorative justice for wrongdoing when it is committed. Here’s what that means:

 

Government intervention into ordinary people’s private lives and behavior should be strictly limited to that which is necessary to protect other ordinary people from being harmed. When someone is taken into police custody, and certainly when they are incarcerated or otherwise placed under systems of control (probation, parole, house arrest, etc.), they are without a doubt being deprived of personal liberty. Because of this fact, every pain should be taken to ensure that this system is employed only when absolutely necessary for public health and safety. The fact that it has been used for trivial, victimless, and non-violent offenses has produced predictable results: mass incarceration, excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, and above all, an open-ended venue for racial profiling to run rampant and control Black lives and communities with state sanctioned violence and oppression.

Education

Education is an essential public good, and should be fully funded for all Coloradans. Public dollars should go to public schools, and no charter should be able to skirt the standards that we require of our neighborhood schools.

 

Colorado’s kids and young adults deserve a path to success and fulfillment, which is why I view P-20 education as an essential public good. It's in our best interest, as a people, to fully fund the education of every member of our society. This is certainly one role that our state legislature can, and should, fulfill: setting a budget that wisely invests public dollars in our long-term well-being and prosperity. In Colorado we have some obstacles to this funding, such as the Gallagher Amendment, which leaves too many of our schools scrambling for funding that should be guaranteed. I absolutely support a repeal of this amendment for this, and other, reasons. Due to the very populist nature of our state Constitution (a double-edged sword), tax reform will require citizen action beyond simply voting for those who fill the seats of our legislature.

 

Public school teachers in Colorado are underpaid by a good $6k a year. A statewide educator pay raise fund, as well as a higher first year wage for new teachers, would be good measures to address this. Attracting and retaining dedicated teachers is well worth the investment.

Housing

It’s no secret that housing costs have skyrocketed in Colorado, and as we grow, we need to take action to ensure good stock of affordable units, both apartments and single-family homes, and renters’ rights that protect those of little means.

 

County and municipal governments have the biggest say in zoning and land use, and what sort of housing is developed in areas where the population is growing. So it’s really important that when we get our ballots, we vote on what we value from the top of the ticket to the bottom. And that we also vote in municipal elections (which operate on a different schedule)!

 

COVID-19 has certainly opened a lot of people’s eyes to a scary reality than many were already keenly aware of -- housing insecurity is not a fringe struggle. Far too many Coloradans are one bad month away from becoming unhoused, and we’re all working and doing our best. And of course once someone becomes homeless, other problems begin to pile on that can’t practically be solved until they are housed once again. At a legislative level, there is much more that we can do to level the power imbalance between property owners and the tenants who rent from them to keep a roof over their heads. It’s not enough to recite the nice sounding phrase “We’re all in this together” during the worst of the pandemic if we’re not going to put it into practice when we make laws and set our state budget.

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Colorado Springs, CO 80933

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