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.
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