Candidate questionnaire – Matt Freeman

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 Matt Freeman’s answers.Freeman

What do you see as the main issues concerning the residents of House District 64B and how would you address those issues?

In making over 3,000 calls and knocking on the doors of almost 2,000 people in HD 64B since the campaign began, I have consistently heard how much we value quality education. We need to address the opportunity or achievement gap that persists in our schools, reduce class sizes, and invest further in early childhood education across our state. Access to Pre-K programing provides great return on investment and is an essential tool in addressing educational disparities. I have heard concerns about the rising cost of higher education and that is why we must increase funding for the Minnesota State Grant program and recognize our fundamental right to education extends to higher education.

Our district speaks out for economic and social justice and I am proud to stand with our neighbors in the fight to raise the minimum wage, index that wage to inflation, and offer greater economic opportunity to working families. We carry deep passion regarding preserving our environment and protecting our natural resources and I will partner with you to ensure your voice is heard and we leave our state better off than how we found it. Our district understands the dangers of gun violence and that we must carry forward the work of Rep. Paymar and pass common sense gun laws. I know you want a champion who will fight alongside you and across our state to get legislation passed and to promote the progressive values we share. I have the energy, experience, and leadership to work in partnership with you and to serve our district and state.

How do the interests of 64B differ from the interests of Minnesota as a whole, and how would you balance those interests?

I am proud to be from a district that is civically engaged and tuned in politically, and I will look for insight and guidance from our district when making tough decisions at the Capitol. Every district has unique interests and concerns specific to their area. One of the issues and interests specific to our district is the redevelopment of the Ford Plant site. It is essential that we make the most of that unique site, while having the redevelopment fit within the character of our community. Maximizing a project like this will require partnerships with the community and collaboration across multiple levels of government – and success means starting with proper environmental cleanup and incorporating the necessary transportation and infrastructure investments.

Projects like the Ford Plant require elected officials who will be an advocate for our area and our interest. In this case, I believe the interests of 64B coincide with promoting a stronger Saint Paul, a vibrant region, and a stronger Minnesota.

There inevitably will be times when our district’s interests and the state’s interests will not align. In those ases it is important to listen to views of people in your district, but to also evaluate issues through city, regional and statewide lenses. Ultimately, as an elected representative your role is to make decisions based on the best information available and your best judgment. In instances where our viewpoint or the state’s interest differ from those of the district, it is especially important for you clearly and effectively communicate your decision and rationale to the people you represent.

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?

Uniquely amongst candidates in this race, I have had the opportunity to work all across our state. As the State Field and Political Director for Amy Klobuchar, and having campaigned across our state, and having worked in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), I was able to meet with leaders and community members statewide and see how local elected officials and community members make decisions based on their district’s need and values. Because I have spent time in their communities, I have and can build strong working relationships and find commonality across party lines.

I have also learned from leaders like Senator Amy Klobuchar, Tarryl Clark, Commissioner Dave Frederickson and Mayor Chris Coleman who have put partisanship aside to work for what is best for our community. That does not mean compromising our values, it means finding where we have commonality and bringing people together in those areas for progress. It means putting aside rhetoric and not letting “perfect” be the enemy of “good.” I have done that working in the Legislature, in my work at MDA, and working in municipal government.

If the DFL is no longer in the majority, strong relationships become doubly important to ensuring our government meets the needs of our community. Working in the minority requires an additional willingness to compromise to find a solution that best serves our state, but also an understanding of what issues and values you must stand your ground and unwaveringly fight for what you believe in and what is right.

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.

In 2009, I traveled to Maine to campaign for marriage equality. Our grassroots campaigning helped set high-water marks for voter participation at the University of Maine and the surrounding communities. I am dedicated to grassroots engagement and its role in promoting the values we espouse as DFLers. And I am willing to go to great lengths and work tirelessly to promote and advocate for what I believe in.

While working as a consumer services coordinator in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, a small business owner in greater Minnesota called with questions about regulations for meat processing facilities in our state. I connected them with the proper state rules and regulations, as well the relevant federal regulations. I brought to their attention new innovations in the field and directed them to economic development programs offered that could assist them in expanding their business. I was able to provide quality customers service to meet the needs of an individual and their business, by working collaboratively with members of multiple divisions of MDA and DEED. Leadership is not merely knowing the answer, it requires bringing together those with the necessary experience, knowledge and expertise to solve a problem.

As Outreach Director in Mayor Coleman’s office, I organized a series of discussions on college campuses following the Mayor’s State of the City address. The Mayor met directly with students, faculty and community members across the city to hear first-hand what needs to be done to attract and retain talented members of the next generation of Saint Paulites. It is essential for our State Representative to be proactive in engaging and connecting with our community. A monopoly on good ideas does not exist in the heads of elected officials and it is important to listen and be responsive to needs of our community and state.

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?

Our nation has almost 10 million seniors today needing some type of long-term care and that number is growing. We must focus on providing quality, patient-centered preventative and supportive care for seniors which promotes high quality of life and minimizes catastrophic costs. We need to meet seniors where they are at, meaning improved coverage and access to home care – nursing, therapy, and PCA services to support families and keep our elders safe at home. This involves improving options for day services- adult daycare, nutrition, exercise and social supports, along with respite care for families.

It is more cost effective to provide services to seniors in their homes and community-based services provide greater opportunity to maintain strong connections with neighbors, family and the community. These services often provide for a higher quality of life so our seniors can age comfortably and with dignity. It also is only right that we value and compensate our professional caregivers fairly to ensure patients enjoy stability and high quality of care.

However, investments in infrastructure and facilities are also necessary to accommodate our aging population. This involves increased access to senior living outside of the traditional home: senior apartments, assisted living, and nursing home care, which allows freedoms for patients within a safe and supportive environment. A facility like Episcopal Homes on University Avenue offers the opportunity for Saint Paul seniors to age in a safe and supportive community, complimented by infrastructure like the Green Line that may allow them to remain independent longer.

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?

Governor Dayton and the DFL legislature spent last session passing progressive state fiscal policy, producing a surplus for the first time in a decade. I support the continuation of that progressive fiscal policy, which will allow us to make critical investments in our state’s workforce and rebuild government services and programs that have faced repeated and difficult cuts in recent years.

With many programs and initiatives having faced years of disinvestment, it is important that we target the surplus in our areas of greatest need. Education is my top priority and an area where I would promote additional investment. Funding for pre-K programing and the necessary resources for smaller class sizes are a priority. I also support an increase in the rate for home and community based services, to support stability and quality in the care provided.

However, after decades of boom/bust budgeting, we also need to stabilize our budget. I support increasing state budget reserves so we can don’t find ourselves so often facing budget shortfalls that have resulted in painful cuts to necessary services. Sound budgeting is also why I support increasing Local Government Aid and indexing that funding to inflation. This would to help our local governments stabilize their budgets after a decade of cuts and prevent the cost of core services from being passed down to property taxpayers.

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?

I have a broad interpretation of public good. I see government as an important tool to improve the lives of its residents. Public good is a collective ethical notion that includes to provide education, safety, health care, housing, parks, libraries, hospitals, transportation, and access to arts and culture for all of society. Because public institutions are supported by all taxpayers, they should thrive and be available to all. Education, in particular, should not merely be a privatized personal investment but a public good available to all – where children have access to excellent Pre-K programing and K-12 schools and where all high school graduates who seek higher education find access. In fact, I believe the commitment by our legislature to a fundamental right to education must extend to higher education. We must understand that commitment to the public good to be from Pre-K through 14 or 16, and not just K-12

Candidate questionnaire – Greta Bergstrom

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 Greta Bergstrom’s answers.Bergstrom

What do you see as the main issues concerning the residents of House District 64B and how would you address those issues?

As a lifelong resident of 64B, I am deeply committed to ensuring we continue to provide and strengthen the conditions necessary for everyone to thrive at every life stage.

For our youngest community members, one of the most important ways we can ensure they live enriching lives means reversing the trend of diverting resources from our public schools as a means to balance the budget. We took major steps towards reversing this during the 2013 Legislative Session, but we must continue to raise fair revenue to invest in the schools St. Paul and Minnesota students deserve.

For our working-age community members, we must strive to build an economy where no one is left behind or just barely making ends meet, but one where everyone has access to a living wage job. Important ways to do that are by raising the minimum wage indexed for inflation, ensuring public dollars go to projects and businesses paying a living wage, and making smart investments in transit, transportation and infrastructure.

And, for our aging community members, we face a lack of resources such as housing and support services. We must invest in these neighbors after they’ve done so much to invest in us. I believe an important way to honor our oldest neighbors and hold on to some of our greatest assets is to develop access to senior housing from active senior living in co-ops to independent living and long-term care facilities right here in our district.

How do the interests of 64B differ from the interests of Minnesota as a whole, and how would you balance those interests?

Overall, House District 64B is a highly educated, financially more secure and politically-engaged district than most others around the state. While a lot of other areas of the state (and St. Paul) have seen their property values decline and/or go underwater, 64B has maintained stable and/or rising property values. Yet – we do face a disproportionate rise in property taxes. As a district in the urban core, 64B residents don’t have the same level of career and job limitations as many districts in greater Minnesota, given our residents aren’t dependent upon a single industry. We have a much larger student population as well, given several colleges and universities located within and adjacent to 64B, but here we face barriers to transit that other districts with significant student populations have (like at the U of M). And as an east-metro district, we do not see the return on investment for the tax dollars we pay into the state. 64B also needs to fight for increased levels of local government aid to offset a large percentage of non-taxable public parcels. 64B doesn’t have land that can be developed (save the Ford Plant) which poses great limitations on economic development, both in Ramsey County and St. Paul.

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?

I have over two decades of experience working in DFL and progressive politics. During that time I have advanced some of the strongest communications strategies in the state, informed the strategic direction of transformative electoral and issue campaigns, and have helped build diverse statewide coalitions to advance our DFL and progressive agenda.

Throughout all that, I’ve developed strong negotiation skills that allow me to stay true to my values, find common ground with unlikely allies, and push colleagues and long-standing partners to be more progressive. I also have deep relationships with many of the most effective organizers and organizing institutions in the state. Partnering with them, as appropriate, to advance complementary inside/outside strategies will be critical in overcoming partisan gridlock.

Whether or not the DFL is in the majority, my strong negotiating skills will be very important in continuing to advance a progressive agenda; although, the scale would change depending on the partisan make-up. Convincing other legislators of their own self-interest will remain a crucial skill no matter the balance of electoral power.

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.

As the elected representative of 64B, I would work every day to live up to the legacies of those who filled this seat before me. Three concrete accomplishments include:

  1. I was in the center of the organizing to expand health care access in Minnesota. Due in part of my work, Minnesota has one of the strongest state insurance exchanges in the nation and we are the only state to establish a basic health plan (BHP) under the Affordable Care Act. By taking advantage of the BHP option, we were able to preserve and expand MinnesotaCare. I will continue working for a truly universal healthcare system.
  2. When voting rights in Minnesota came under attack in 2012, I was unwilling to stand on the sidelines while our nationally-recognized elections system was dismantled. Although many believed (based on polling) that attempting to beat the voter restriction amendment was a waste of time, I helped to build a statewide coalition and led the effort to reframe the debate over photo ID – ultimately defeating this amendment by 8 points. I led this campaign’s winning communications strategy and believe this body of work shows that I will not shrink from a tough fight that needs to be fought.
  3. Since the beginning of what became nearly a decade of all-cuts budgets, I have worked to protect vital programs and increase fair revenue. Although the work to fully restore and make-current funding to important programs, the historic structural tax reforms and increases passed during the 2013 Legislative Session have set Minnesota in a positive direction. I am especially proud of my work to advance the campaign to close unfair corporate tax loopholes and increase taxes on the richest Minnesotans who haven’t been paying their fair share.

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?

We need more independent senior housing in the district and in Saint Paul – both for active seniors and co-ops. Right now, too many of our seniors are forced to move out to the suburbs to find access to senior living options. I want to make sure that people who have grown up in a community can stay in that community as they age.

We also know that one of the most effective ways for our seniors to continue to thrive as they age is to make sure they can safely remain in their homes. This approach not only better supports the mental and physical health of our seniors, but is also the most cost- effective approach to long-term care. Additionally, the other major demographic change Minnesota will experience is a growing young population of people of color. Investing in in-home, long-term is not only a win for seniors, but also for creating good paying jobs in our local economy.

I would partner closely with the MN Leadership Council on Aging, labor organizations and other leaders in the field to identify the strongest and most viable policy options to support aging Minnesotans to remain in their homes and communities. Supporting a universal health care system that ensures that everyone is included and nobody is left out is also paramount as our population ages.

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?

Due to strong leadership from elected officials and community organizations, Minnesota’s economy is continuing to improve. Last week, the state announced a $1.23 billion budget surplus. However, even with improvements and growth, we are not fully recovered and far too many families are still being harmed by the past decade of budget cuts to vital programs. I believe the state should be cautious in its response by keeping the current fair revenue streams in place and invest the surplus in Minnesota’s future. I believe we should continue to invest in pre-K through post-secondary education as we have seen far too much disinvestment in education over the past decade. I want to see our reserves bolstered while investing responsibly in the people of our state to avoid future government shutdowns or cuts to vital services as we have seen in past years. I believe big corporations and the richest individuals have received far more in tax breaks than middle-class and lower-income families and this trend must continue to be reversed through fair tax policy in the coming years.

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?

I define the public good broadly and believe we must invest wisely in the people of this state and our public institutions including universal health care access, world-class public schools from early childhood education through post-secondary, public roads and transportation, public libraries and on. I believe it is society’s responsibility, through a democratically-elected government, to make sure people can live dignified lives, from being paid fair wages to having safe and affordable housing. I believe in a progressive tax system that allows everyone to benefit, rather than just a few at the top and believe we must protect our public resources for future generations, most especially our environment and natural resources.

Candidate forum – 3/9

There will be a candidate forum for the 64B candidates at the Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel on the Macalester campus on March 9. The forum will go from 1:00pm to 2:30pm, but there will be an informal meet and greet with the candidates beforehand, beginning at 12:15pm. The Weyerhaeuser chapel is located on Grand avenue between Snelling and Macalester street. We hope you can make it!

Thank you for supporting the SD64 DFL!

Our January Fundraiser was a smashing success! We had great food from Mancini’s, great speeches from too many people to name*, and great turnout from all of you!

Thank you to everyone who came out in the snow, but a special thank you to our co-hosts:

Platinum Co-Hosts
Cristine Almeida & Brian Gorecki
Rolf Westgard
Paul Cassidy
Grania McKiernan
Carole Faricy

Co-Hosts
Sharon Sudman
Dough Carnival
Eric & Greta Bergstrom
Gloria Zaiger
Dave Pinto
Matt Freeman
Beth Fraser
Melanie McMahon
Matt Bergeron
Philip Stoyke
Eric Celeste
Tim Flaherty
Marcia Avner & Wy Spano
Beth & Jon Commers
Rich Ginsberg
Lyn Burton
Bill Struszinski
Thomas & Marlene Kayser
Ken Iosso
Rafael E. Ortega
Kevin Walli
Kelsey Johnson
John Kavanaugh
Barbara Frey & Howard Orenstein
Brian Bergson
Elizabeth Emerson
John Knapp
Patti Cullen
John Curry
Bill Black
Toby Pearson
Ted Davis

*Just kidding! We heard from Mayor Chris Coleman, all the 64B candidates (Matthew Bergeron, Beth Fraser, Gloria Zaiger, Matt Freeman, Melanie McMahon, Greta Bergstrom, and Dave Pinto), Secretary of State candidate Steve Simon, Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, and the always inspring Erin Murphy, Dick Cohen, and Michael Paymar.

64B Pre-Caucus Candidate Forum (1/29)

If you’re interested in meeting the candidates for the 64B endorsement, you’ll want to check out our candidate forum at 7pm, Wednesday, January 29. It will be held at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center.

This forum will be a great opportunity to learn more about the candidates, especially given that precinct caucuses are the following week. We hope you can join us.

Here are the details:

7pm-8:30pm
Wednesday, January 29
St. Paul JCC (map)
1375 St Paul Ave
St Paul, MN 55116

Seven 64B Candidates Visit SD64 DFL Central Committee

We had a packed Central Committee meeting which included introductions by seven candidates of their campaigns for the 64B House seat. Tim Nelson wrote a great summary of the event at The Race for 64B.

We also reminded everyone that the caucuses will be the evening of Tuesday, February 4. The 64B caucuses will be at Highland Junior High School, the 64A caucuses will be at Central High School, and the caucus for Ward 3 Precinct 7 will be at Macalester. We will have many more details on our website soon.

We expect that the SD64 DFL convention will be on Sunday, March 23, but we are awaiting the final permits for Central High School, so there is still a small chance that date could change.

Since we have a contested race in the district, we are anticipating that our caucus and convention costs may be a bit higher than usual, so donations are welcome to help us do the best job possible.

Finally, the Central Committee also approved a resolution calling for an increase in the minimum wage for Minnesota.

(Photo: Tim Nelson, theracefor64b.com)