In addition to our candidate forum on March 9 (if you missed it, you can hear a recording on Tim Nelson’s blog), we sent a second round of questions to the 64B candidates. Here are Dave Pinto’s answers.
What do you see as the main issues concerning the residents of House District 64B and how would you address those issues?
The central question facing our district is how to make our community – and our state – vibrant, prosperous, and healthy for everyone. That involves so many components. It means economic opportunity and security – fair work at living wages, safe and affordable housing for families and seniors, a transportation system that works for everyone, and truly universal health care. It means protecting our precious environment, so that we all can have a healthy present and future. It means ending gun violence, with safety at home, at school, at work, and in the community. And it means setting up our kids for success in life – a solid start in the very earliest years, followed by a strong E-‐16 education system, with stable and sufficient funding up the line. These are the issues that our Community Conversations have been built around. I’ll continue to listen to your thoughts about them and seek your involvement to help make them happen.
How do the interests of 64B differ from the interests of Minnesota as a whole, and how would you balance those interests?
Our district does have interests that differ with those of districts in other parts of the state. Our density, for example, can support public transit systems that may be impractical in much of greater Minnesota. And it’s appropriate to recognize that we’re part of a city, a county, and in turn an east metro region. Greater strength in each of these communities – more economic opportunity, closer transportation links, support for parks and open space, and much more – has a particular benefit for the residents of our district. As a longtime resident with long service on local boards and community groups, I’ll gladly champion those benefits. Still, the position is “State” Representative. The person who fills it will be responsible for the state’s interests as a whole. And the residents of this district, in particular, expect no less from their representative. A state that is vibrant, prosperous, and healthy for every Minnesotan will, ultimately, be best for the residents of our district too.
Can you describe skills or experience that you possess that will help you succeed in a highly partisan atmosphere? Would your answer change if the DFL is no longer in the majority?
Success in a partisan atmosphere requires strategic thinking and relentless organizing, both inside and outside of the Capitol. My work for policy change has required that kind of strategic thinking. I’ve long participated in SD 64’s Flying Squads to districts in the suburbs as well as in greater Minnesota, to protect and encourage legislators who are our allies. Success in this work also requires strong listening skills that engender trust. In my role at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, I led a task force of defense attorneys, domestic violence advocates, judges, and others to develop a new policy on a highly-‐contested issue relating to no-‐contact orders. Through patient, collaborative work, I crafted a proposal that earned unanimous support from the group.
The fact is that as a prosecutor of crimes of violence against women and children, I’m well accustomed to working – and persuading – under immense pressure. That background, plus my training and work in business and economics, will give me a particular credibility with those who don’t automatically share our progressive views.
If you win this election, you will be filling a seat that has been occupied by some of the most respected leaders in the Minnesota House. Identify three concrete accomplishments of yours that demonstrate the type of leader and state representative that you will be.
(1) As a prosecutor, I’ve led groundbreaking efforts to change how our state treats sex-‐trafficking victims, and my work fighting violence against women and children resulted in a first-‐ever recognition from the MN Coalition for Battered Women – a “Community Ally” award for inspiring leadership. (2) As a private attorney, I succeeded in forcing a suburban high school to stop discriminating against a GLBT student group – the first time in our region of the country that federal law had been used in that way. (3) Even as a high school student, I founded the school’s first-‐ever recycling program, enlisting students and teachers to live out their environmental values through practical, innovative action. These accomplishments demonstrate initiative, strategic thinking, energy, and most importantly a lifelong commitment to social justice and to social change.
Our state’s population is aging and with those demographic changes come increased costs for long term care. What steps would you take to address those changes, and how should they be paid for?
Managing what state demographers have dubbed a “tsunami” is going to require a multi-‐pronged approach. We’re fortunate that so many of our seniors are entering their retirement years in better health than their predecessors. Preventative care and a greater attention to wellness in our community will help them to stay healthy and independent for as long as possible. Still – as we discussed at our recent Community Conversation on senior issues – with independent living comes the danger of isolation, at great cost to the senior and eventually our community. At the Community Conversation, we discussed a number of ideas to combat this, including boosting door-‐to-‐door transportation options and providing better support from neighborhood groups. When seniors enter long-‐term care, we need to protect them and their families from debilitating costs. We need to support caregivers by making sure state funding streams are sufficient and stable, which may require increasing the progressive state income tax. And we need to work more closely with doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to make sure we’re spending our health care dollars wisely.
After several legislative cycles, Minnesota is forecast to have a budget surplus as a result of increased taxes and an improved economy. Stakeholders are calling for a variety of responses, including increasing the state’s budget reserve, spending the money on a variety of initiatives, and repealing some of the B2B taxes. How do you believe the state should respond?
The first priority is increasing budget reserves. It is a fact of state budgeting that tax revenues dip precisely when the demand for state services increases. Ensuring adequate budget reserves is the responsible way to ensure a strong safety net when the economy changes. Budget reserves can seem dry and academic, but through them we uphold our fundamental obligation to take care of one another when times get tough.
A second significant priority is increasing funding to early childhood education. Even with a significant boost in such funding last session, less than 10 percent of low-‐income children in the state have support for high-‐quality pre-‐K programs. Research shows that the returns on this investment would be staggeringly high, with positive repercussions for our public budget – not to mention the positive impact on the lives of these children and their families – for years to come.
Some people define the public good narrowly to include only public safety and roads. Others define the public good more broadly, to include health care for all, economic security for all, education for everyone at all levels, etc. How do you define the public good? How would you decide what should be included in the public good and what should not?
The public good is about a shared, common good – the knowledge that mutual support will lead to mutual success (“we all do better”). It’s about our vision for creating a healthy, prosperous, just society. That vision requires giving people the tools they need to succeed (a good education, reliable health care, safe housing), laying the infrastructure for growth (efficient transportation, reliable clean energy, a skilled workforce), and being ever-‐vigilant about dismantling unjust structures of privilege that create barriers for members of our community. The public good requires acknowledging our interconnectedness – our mutual dependence – and using it as a source of strength and energy.