Candidate questionnaire – Melanie McMahon

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 Melanie McMahon’s answers.McMahon

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

Education has always been a top priority of this district and continues to be important to all residents. My neighbors believe in a strong education system as a means of providing opportunities for all Minnesotans to succeed. We need to focus on our entire education system – beginning with early childhood education, including our public K-12 system, and culminating in our postsecondary, career, and adult education programs. College and graduate school education are highly valued in our community and residents are concerned as they become increasingly unaffordable. At the capitol I will fight against borrowing from our schools when we have a deficit and will advocate increasing their funds when we have a surplus.

Increases in property taxes are another issue of concern to 64B residents. While the district understands and supports where the money is going, such as education and local police and fire departments, they also recognize that it is a regressive tax that is difficult for those on a fixed income, such as our senior neighbors. At the capitol, I would advocate for increases in Local Government Aid (LGA), the Homeownerʼs Homestead Credit Refund and the Renterʼs Property Tax Refund.

Fundamentally, 64B has always had a strong history of supporting equal opportunities for all Minnesotans and we believe that racial, social, and economic justice are key to ensuring our state continues to grow and succeed. Other important state assets, including protecting our natural resources and environment and developing a comprehensive transit system and investing in our transportation infrastructure, are also important to residents of 64B.

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

The residents of 64B want a state that gives individuals an opportunity to succeed, the very thing that is in the best interests of all Minnesotans.

However, there are aspects of our state budget that residents of a large urban area, such as 64B, would focus on that may differ from other parts of the state. For example, while residents of our district want to invest in our transportation infrastructure because they know it is in desperate need of maintenance and we lack funds to do so, they also want to see an investment in developing a comprehensive transit system. Other parts of the state that do not directly benefit from a metropolitan transit system may not prioritize that investment. Additionally, many in northern Minnesota support sulphide mining, whereas residents of 64B mostly do not support sulphide mining, and believe it is not in the best interests of the state due to the environmental damage it would cause.

Can you describe skills or experiences 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 already successfully worked as a Committee Administrator in the often highly partisan and contentious environment at the state capitol, and I have proven I can build relationships and persuade legislators to pass bills with bipartisan support. Iʼm proud that alongside Rep. Michael Paymar we earned the respect of members of the Public Safety Finance committee and passed major, progressive public safety legislation with both DFL and Republican votes.

Having the DFL in control of both legislative chambers, as well as the Governorʼs office, has only happened in two out of the last twenty years. It is imperative that our Representative be able to work successfully not only within our own DFL caucus, but across the aisle as well. My skills of bringing people from varied political and ideological viewpoints together to form coalitions, my ability to work with people of all backgrounds, and my knowledge of the legislative process are what a legislator needs in order to be effective when in the both majority and the minority – a reality that whoever holds this seat will likely need to navigate during their tenure.

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 a Committee Administrator in the Minnesota House of Representatives we passed the largest public safety bill in the history of Minnesota, increasing funding for domestic abuse services, legal aid and public defenders, as well as creating innovative reentry services for individuals leaving prison. As the lead staff on this bill, as well as other progressive legislation, I worked with both DFL and Republican legislators to pass it, and I worked with Rep. Paymar to successfully negotiate with the Pawlenty administration his signing of the largest progressive public policy omnibus package in Minnesota history.

I led within our 64B community to successfully advocate for early childhood education at the capitol as an ECFE Site Council member at Randolph Heights Elementary. Using the experience I gained at the capitol I was able to train my fellow St. Paul ECFE parents on how to strongly advocate within our political system and how to most effectively talk with and persuade their legislators to support expanded access to prekindergarten programs.

I have been a leader on the Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) Committee for the city of St. Paul, being initially appointed to represent Senate District 64 and becoming Vice-Chair after two years. On the CIB I have advocated for funding for the capital needs of our community and important assets throughout our city, city staff and worked with fellow CIB members to reach consensus on our funding priorities to build and maintain a city Saint Paul can be proud of.

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 stateʼs aging population deserves to live safe, healthy, and meaningful lives. This requires providing service and housing options that are both accessible and affordable, and that support and nurture the individual and promotes keeping seniors connected to their family, friends, and communities for as long as they are able to stay living independently. We need to promote those same values as a personʼs needs increase and their ability to live independently leaves them.

The state has a responsibility to support services such as Meals on Wheels, home care services and other support systems that allow seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible. In 64B specifically, we need to support positive senior communities such as Carodolet Village so our parents and grandparents can stay in the community they love, and transition within the community as their care needs change.

As Hubert Humphrey declared, “The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” It is our moral obligation to care for those at the end of their lives. Services for our seniors needs to be a high priority for the state legislature, and its appropriate funding source isthe state general fund, supported by progressive tax policies.

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 stateʼs 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?

I would first put money into our state reserves to make sure we have a budget that is able to weather future economic downturns.

Second, I would invest in the greatest asset we have as a state – our people. That would begin with education, since it is the driving force of so many other parts of our state budget. Early childhood education specifically makes financial sense due to its proven high return on investment. The legislature and Governor increased funding for early childhood education last year, but fully funding universal access to prekindergarten programs will move us a long way towards improving education outcomes and decreasing our achievement gap.

Finally, I would conform our state tax code to match federal tax changes that occurred in Congress last year, such as increasing the working family credit that helps low-income working families. This simplifies our tax system and focuses on relief for low and middle income Minnesotans.

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 believe in a broad definition of the public good which ensures all citizens are safe and have an opportunity to succeed. While a fair criminal justice system is important so that all individuals are safe from violence in their homes and communities, the public good extends beyond basic public safety and meeting the bare minimum of food and shelter. To truly have an opportunity to succeed all individuals, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, need a high quality public education. Again, this means providing high quality and accessible early childhood education programs, providing safe and stable public schools that allow all students to be met at their level and moved into higher learning, and a postsecondary education system that supports both traditional and nontraditional learners so that all can effectively and appropriately engage in Minnesotaʼs economy.

Candidate questionnaire – Beth Fraser

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 Beth Fraser’s answers.Fraser

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

After spending the last 3 months talking with delegates in the district, there are three issues that come up most frequently:

  1. The need to provide quality, affordable education at all levels–early childhood, K-12, and higher education. I will be a strong advocate for investing in each of these areas to ensure that all Minnesota students have the tools to succeed and no child starts behind in kindergarten.
  2. The need to protect our environment and ensure that the next generation has clean air and water. I will fight against Poly Met and for policies that move us towards a state with good jobs, a clean environment, and a green economy.
  3. The need for someone to continue Rep. Michael Paymar’s legacy as a champion for common sense gun laws, such as closing the gun show loophole and preventing those with orders for protection against them from having firearms. I am the only candidate in the race who is running on continuing Michael’s work in this arena.

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

While there are many similarities and our fates are inked, different places in Minnesota need attention in specific ways. Local issues are part of the mix at the Capitol and I will advocate strongly for 64B on issues of unique importance in this compact urban community and for the priority of those needs, such as cleanup and redevelopment of the Ford Plant. I will also listen and consider carefully issues experienced by other parts of the state such as different land use needs, transportation options, education funding mechanisms and health delivery challenges. This approach builds a sense of trust, understanding and reciprocity with other legislators which improves both the likelihood of success for our local needs and balance for our statewide community. Most importantly, however, I would evaluate all decisions through a prism of progressive values consistent with the strong leaders who have served us in the past.

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?

After 17 years of working at the Capitol, testifying hundreds of times and working with legislators on both sides of the aisle, I have learned how to advocate strongly for progressive goals and yet figure out what is achievable in the moment, and to argue passionately without alienating the other side. I have built strong working relationships with both DFL and Republican legislators, which is the key to establishing the trust necessary to be effective and move past partisanship. For example, even in the middle of leading the fight at the Capitol against the Photo ID constitutional amendment, I worked with Republican legislators who controlled both bodies of the legislature to get other election bills passed, making progress in areas in which we could find agreement. The keys to being an effective legislator are the same regardless of who is in charge. These skills and relationships have allowed me to get legislation passed and signed into law in 13 of the last 17 years and will allow me to be an effective legislator my first year in office.

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.

I won passage of and then designed Minnesota’s Safe at Home program, which is now the strongest program of its kind in the country for survivors of domestic violence and stalking. I have been a dogged advocate for the program and its participants, convincing other state agencies to change their practices to protect participants and going back to the legislature again and again to expand the legal protections for program participants.

I led the fight at the State Capitol against the Photo ID constitutional amendment, testifying in committee on behalf of Secretary of State Ritchie. I laid out the potential consequences of passing the amendment (including the potential impact on nearly 1 million Minnesotans from ending same day registration and absentee balloting by mail) — information the Vote No campaign used to defeat the amendment.

I brokered a compromise between two diametrically opposed groups by bringing together representatives from the disability community and the Minnesota Association of Townships along with legislators from both sides of the aisle, for months of discussion to explore options related to a requirement to use accessible voting equipment in township elections.

I negotiated with Representative Dan McElroy (R-Burnsville) on the last day of the legislative session in 1999 to decide what would be included in the nation’s strongest accountability law for corporate subsidies.

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?

The solutions are multiple; all primarily involve recognizing that there is a need for a variety of care environments to meet a variety of care needs. Community settings cost less than institutions and maintain higher functioning longer.

I support the 5% Campaign Minnesota to increase the funding for direct care professionals as well as home and community based services. The 5% Campaign will increase the availability and consistency of health care workers in the long term care field as well as provide for fair wages.

Fortunately part of the answer has begun to be realized with the Affordable Care Act. A recent GAO report (1/16/14) confirmed other research findings that indicate as people begin to receive benefits from Retirement Social Security, those who have had access to regular affordable health care have lower health costs in the first five years of Social Security than those without prior continuous health care coverage. If our health care needs are met as we age, the costs of the Long Term Care system are reduced.

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?

I think the state should look at splitting the projected surplus three ways. First we should set aside a large portion of the funds for the state’s budget reserve to ensure that the state can weather economic downturns without the need for budget cuts or delaying payments to local governments or schools. To the extent that the projected surplus is anticipated to continue into future years (is not just one-time money), I agree with the House DFL’s proposal to enact federal tax conformity, including items such as adoption assistance, and to eliminate some of the business to business taxes. Finally, remaining funds should be invested in early childhood education, since this has been shown to have the best return on investment and did not receive the funding that it should have during the last legislative session. In addition, the legislature should take this opportunity to insist that the state go back to an honest accounting approach and require that inflation be included on both sides of the ledger — in both projected revenues and expenditures.

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?

Minnesota is one community and what affects one of us affects us all. I define the public good broadly. As Paul Wellstone said, government is about the improvement of people’s lives. Government’s role is to ensure that everyone has access to a decent life — high quality, affordable education at all levels (early-childhood, K-12 and higher ed), living wage jobs with safe workplace conditions, access to health care, including reproductive choices, safe and healthy food, clean air and water, safe communities, infrastructure for transportation and transit, equal protections under the law for all regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age. The public good does not include the imposition of any one group’s moral or religious views onto the population as a whole. I will fight against efforts to limit a woman’s right to choose, limitations on the LGBT community, and for the repeal of old “blue laws,” like prohibitions on Sunday liquor sales.

Candidate questionnaire – Dave Pinto

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.Pinto

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.

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.

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