4 GA State House District 129
My campaign is entirely self-funded. I will not be asking for or accepting monetary or in-kind donations. I will be driving, walking and cycling the streets of District 129 for the next year in an attempt to meet voters, find out what you think and offer my own ideas for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you, meeting you and representing you in a responsible and independent way.
I am married to Sara Reed. Together we have five children and five grandchildren living in Tampa, Roswell, Asheville, Boston and Germany. Sara and I have lived happily in Monroe County since we retired from our jobs in Atlanta in 2013.
I am a retired educator with 35 years experience in the DeKalb County School System as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
Since coming to Monroe County, I worked nearly four years as a teacher at Burruss Correctional Training Center helping boot campers and other inmates earn their GED. I am currently employed by Central Georgia Technical College in Monroe County working to help students earn a GED as a stepping stone to furthering their education.
Since moving to Monroe County, I have been active in a variety of volunteer activities including: Friends of High Falls State Park, Ferst Readers of Monroe County, Brushy Creek Estates Homeowners Association and The Backlot Players at the Rose Theater in Forsyth, Georgia. I also work to stay healthy by running 10-20 miles a week, bicycling 30-50 miles a week and paddling in one fashion or another on High Falls State Park Lake.
I never vote strictly by party. I always research the candidates and vote based on the stated positions and belief statements of each candidate. So, over time, I have voted for Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans. Most recently I have voted in Republican primaries because, based on where I live now, that is where elections have been most often decided. But, as I watch both major parties pull away from the center of American political thought, I realize that the best ideas do not come from any one political party. For that reason, I am running as an Independent. I realize that will make it more difficult to get elected in a predominantly Republican section of the state. But I believe that, like me, there are many other citizens who are tired of the unproductive arguing and hateful dialogue that has put political party over country and between neighbors. I hope you will review my platform, communicate with me by email, by phone or in person, and consider me as you vote in the 2020 state election.
An Independent Like You
Platform and Beliefs
Fiscal Responsibility and Taxes
Our state has effectively done what so many other states and cities and certainly our federal government have been unable to do. We have lived within our means while providing essential services for our citizens. We have done this through an assortment of taxes, fees and the lottery. I am concerned that there seems to be a disconnect at times between the calls to cut taxes without the understanding that this must bring with it a cut somewhere to services. The backlog of infrastructure repairs and transportation improvements are examples of things that we will wish tomorrow that our state’s leaders had had the foresight to fund yesterday.
Another area of concern is the challenge of paying teachers and other government employees today while at the same time making sure that retirement funds promised them remain solvent for those employees who served us well in the past. We need to look at those funds carefully and make adjustments where needed in as fair and painless a manner as possible in order to prevent the much deeper costs that will appear down the road if we don’t act soon.
Law Enforcement and Corrections
The last eight years have been a very positive, productive and financially responsible time for law enforcement and corrections in our state. Recognizing that almost every incarcerated person will be returning to society, Governor Deal provided excellent leadership in maximizing education and training for our inmates. As a GED teacher in the prison system for nearly four years I was able to witness the changes and efforts firsthand. Continuing in this direction to provide opportunities that will be fiscally responsible in reducing recidivism while continuing to protect law-abiding citizens is a process that all of us should support.
Drug addiction and the impact of mental health on those incarcerated are two areas that do need our focus. Prisons are not designed to remediate these issues in an effective way for the imprisoned individual or for our society. We need to find and fund other ways of addressing these needs to reduce the cost to individuals, society and taxpayers.
Rural and Urban
More than ever people choose where they want to live. They do so knowing the positive and negative impacts of those decisions. You don’t choose to live in the metro area of Atlanta expecting to find a 5-acre lot on which to raise goats. Likewise, you don’t choose to live in rural Georgia expecting transit services and specialists in every form of medical care you might one day need just down the road.
Recognizing the consequences of our lifestyle choices, both positive and negative, is essential. It’s also important that our state do what it can to provide as much equity of service as possible for those who don’t make the choice of where to live – our children. Continuing the initial effort to promote internet access for every part of the state will provide educational and other opportunities for our children and all of our citizens. It will also increase access to medical care and the types of jobs that allow many to work from home.
By installing a framework of Internet support for our rural areas we will be supporting those who continue to provide the goods and services without which our urban areas cannot continue to flourish.
One of the key responsibilities of any government is doing for its citizens what they truly need but cannot individually do for themselves. A fully developed, integrated and well-maintained network of transportation is a mandate for local and state governments. While our society certainly revolves around the automobile, we must work to create and expand other forms of transit as the size and density of population and citizen interest create the demand. Where possible, private enterprise should be encouraged to function in creative ways. Private buses, shuttles, Uber and Lyft are just some examples. Where the cost is prohibitive, taxpayers must pool their resources. Mass transit, bike lanes, and safer and more readily available sidewalks are all important transportation features. New roads and bridges are certainly important, but they are not the best way to encourage economic development with the hope that “if we build it, they (jobs and industry) will come.” The desire for a politician to reward his or her home district with a new road project should never supersede the best use of our tax dollars.
Beyond a strong public education system that includes post secondary options in trades, technical industries and a full slate of college options, job development is not necessarily the primary role of state government. It is important to provide all of our citizens with information as to projections of career openings in various fields and the types of education that will serve them well.
Providing the infrastructure, an educated workforce and a fair tax structure should be enough to assure that well-paying and meaningful jobs will continue to be created in our state. It is not the role of government to pick winners and losers with a tax system that rewards certain new businesses, the film industry being the latest example. Giving any business a discount to come to our state necessarily means that businesses already here must pick up that slack. A fair tax system will promote the continued growth of our state and the predictability that businesses need to prosper for their consumers, employees and stockholders.
In the strictest sense of the word healthcare is not a right. No medical professional or medical facility should be required to provide services without reasonable compensation. But because we recognize the importance of good individual health for the overall health of our communities and state, we must find a way to support one another in that regard.
Healthcare, if it is a right, is even more so a responsibility. No one can expect their community to pay for their repeated poor health choices. We know what we should do. We should avoid eating what we know is not good for us. We should not smoke or use drugs. We should limit alcohol. We should exercise every day. We should live in a safe way when it comes to our vehicles, our weapons and our habits. In so doing we will reduce the costs of medical care and extend the length and meaningfulness of our lives.
Medical insurance is unique in that it is the only insurance that we expect and even want to use. No one wants to make a claim on a life insurance policy, a homeowner’s policy or their car insurance. Also, medical insurance is the only insurance frequently tied to our employment. (This is a relatively new phenomenon dating back to World War II.) We may be better served by a simpler system that is separate from employment, affordable for all and structured in a way that reimburses medical providers for indigent care, protects rural hospitals and rewards all of us for good health choices.
Finally, we must make medical costs as understandable and transparent as the price of a gallon of gasoline. It is understandable that the price for a medical procedure or a prescription might differ over time and depending on the location and availability of the service or product. But it is blatantly discriminatory when those least able to pay, who don’t have the negotiated backing of powerful insurance companies, are assessed the highest fees for the same products and services.
I hold a reverence for life and all of its infinite potential from conception to birth, from infancy through adolescence, from adulthood to a natural death. While abortion is legal in this country, I want to create a state and a society in which each of us is willing to support and contribute to the well-being of one another in such a way that even the consideration of an abortion is extremely rare. I want all children to be born into families who love and cherish them and will raise them to be strong, independent and contributing adults. I want adoption to be available, supported and encouraged in a way that truly reduces the number of children who are aborted or permanently housed in our foster care system.
Having said that, I also believe that women, who most often have the primary, if not sole, responsibility for raising children, do have the right to an abortion as early in the pregnancy as is possible. We will not end abortion with laws and legal battles, but by changing the hearts and circumstances of those who are faced with that crucial decision, and in so doing, our own hearts and lives as well.
I want us to make sure that children are loved and cared for as much after they are born as before their birth. I want the medical care of our sickest and most fragile citizens supported by all of us for their lifetime. It is not right to demand that a woman, married or not, financially able or not, must carry to full term a baby who may have serious medical conditions and then walk away from sharing her burden after the child is born.
I also want the final years of each member of our society to be valued and respected. Our elderly should be cared for by family where possible and by all of us when it’s not. Because each life has such tremendous value, I believe that even the frailest of those among us give of themselves by providing each of us an opportunity to be of service to them.
Education for a Lifetime
Public and Private Pre-K through 12
I want our education system to be one that nurtures and brings out the best in every child with meaningful, challenging, achievable and memorable learning opportunities from Pre-K through high school. I want every child to see and be able to responsibly evaluate post-secondary opportunities and make decisions that are affordable for them and their families.
I was a public school teacher for sixteen years before I decided to become a school administrator. While I value public education, I do see the place and the need for private schools. If our students are going to solve the problems they will face as adults we need to produce students with as large a variety of backgrounds, learning styles and knowledge bases as possible. Public schools, private schools and home-schooling are all part of producing a citizenry with a variety of ideas, strengths and the ability to seek and find answers to the problems we have now and may have in the future.
In my career I enjoyed seeing my students compete and succeed against students from private schools. Still I do recognize that there are different ground rules for each type of institution. Every year I hear how people are concerned about how much money it costs to educate a child in a public school. What I don’t hear is how much parents are willing to pay to educate their children in many private schools. In many cases the cost of tuition, books and fees for a student to attend a private school is more than twice what it costs to educate a child in a public school. In addition, private school cost is that high even though private schools can exclude the severely handicapped and most challenging students who are the most expensive to educate. If all of our children are equally valued, we must acknowledge what a good education for each child might reasonably cost.
I marvel at the impact of technology in our lives and in the education of children. In many fields technology has improved productivity many times over. This has not been the case in education. In fifth grade I attended a class of more than 35 students with one teacher and a chalkboard. Today we have exceptional technology but require smaller average class sizes. The needs of our children and families have increased, especially in public schools, requiring teachers and schools to provide a vast variety of services. Whenever a new concern arises, it is common to expect our public schools to fill the need. These expectations should be acknowledged and fully funded.
Finally, we must do more to provide every child with a trained and certified teacher in every subject area. We can do this as individuals by respecting the profession and encouraging our brightest and most industrious students to explore teaching as a career. As a state we can respect the profession by not allowing teachers to teach until they have actually earned a degree in the field. I have often made the analogy that if I were on the operating table when the surgeon walked in and announced “I just got my state certificate to do surgery and begin medical school next week!”, I would hop off the table and dash out of the operating room. Yet in many teaching fields including math, science, world languages and special education, we allow people who have passed a two-hour test in their field but not earned a teaching degree to teach while attending class at night. Those “certified” teachers often don’t last a year.
In addition, a final certificate should be issued only after a teacher has experienced a year of mentorship and reduced classroom duties supported by a proven and exemplary teacher. As this will further exacerbate a shortage of qualified teachers, we should reinstitute the policy of allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom full-time while still receiving the retirement benefit they have already earned.
If our state wants to grow economically and continue to develop the skills of our citizens, we must continue to evaluate and expand our post-secondary options in a fiscally responsible way. Just as I cannot expect others to subsidize my choice of a luxury car, students cannot expect their fellow citizens to pay their college loans for extravagant or poorly considered educational choices. We are already supporting good students with HOPE scholarships, an unintended consequence of which has been the inflation of college costs in our state.
We can and should make more financial advisement opportunities available to discourage students from opting for the Lexus of universities when a Chevy will get them just as far and for far less. We should also look at our state’s needs and structure tuition forgiveness incentives in exchange for service in hard to fill jobs and locations. A pediatrician, who works in a rural community for a few years in exchange for our state’s taxpayers paying a portion of medical school loans, may decide to stay where he or she has built up a practice. The same could be true of some of our best math, science and special education teachers.
Approximately 40,000 people died from guns in the United States in 2017. Annually there are approximately six fatal shark attacks each year worldwide. Yet somehow shark attacks garner as much time on the news as hundreds of gun deaths combined.
I believe in the 2nd Amendment. And even if I didn’t, it’s not going to change. What concerns me is the availability of guns for people who shouldn’t have them. I want everyone who buys or receives a gun to undergo a background check and be required to pass a firearms safety course on a regular basis. I want the federal government to continue to ban automatic weapons and reduce access to over-sized magazines. I want video game makers to use a significant portion of the revenue from violent games to target our most violent communities with programs that truly reduce gun violence.
I realize that determined criminals will always find a way around these gun laws just as white collar criminals find ways around insider trading laws. That doesn’t mean that we should just accept the status quo of mass shootings. I want us to be a society that truly values our own life and every life from conception to a natural death so that violence is never seen as a first choice or a last resort.
I have never smoked a cigarette, either tobacco or marijuana, or vaped. Being a distance runner from the age of eight, I guess I have always been health conscious. I do believe that the health of each of us would be better and the costs in healthcare would be billions less if no one smoked. Having said that I believe we would be better off as a state to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. If and when the federal government legalizes marijuana, I would support the state following suit. I definitely don’t believe that anyone should be imprisoned for personal marijuana use.
I do see the irony in the state supervising the distribution of tobacco, alcohol and gambling, which all cause people harm, only to then tax each vice in order to secure additional revenue. Should marijuana become legal and taxed in our state, I believe all tax revenue from its sale should be designated for programs that help people with drug and alcohol addictions in the most effective ways possible.
Prejudice is a learned behavior. As a teacher and parent, I have observed the kindness, love and acceptance small children show to anyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any other characteristic. I want to behave in the same way and believe our state and our society should have the same goal. I do recognize that our problems as a state and country are so many, so diverse and so overwhelming that we need to ask for, prepare for and gratefully accept the best efforts of every individual in our society.
Immigration is largely a federal matter. But we need to remember that most of us are descended from immigrants. My grandmother came to the United States in the early 1920s from Ireland with an elementary school education. She may have been treated as badly by some Americans then as some are treating our current immigrants. The truth is that we need hardworking immigrants especially as our country’s birthrate continues to decline. I encourage the federal government to allocate the funds to process those immigrants currently at the border and to implement a fast and efficient process in our embassies throughout the world. Without a quick legal way to come to the United States, illegal entry appears to many to be the only solution. Once they are here legally, I encourage all of us to live the values of our country and welcome our new neighbors and help them to make the most successful transition possible.
Climate and Environmental Safety
I want to pass on a clean, safe and healthy environment to my children. I recognize that the cleanliness of our land, air and water is crucial for all of us. I also recognize that in many places temperatures are rising and glaciers are receding. However, I don’t know the ideal temperature for our planet. I do know that our environment, atmosphere, land forms and coastline have changed repeatedly and significantly over the millions of years Earth has existed. The temperature of our atmosphere is controlled by many factors and billions of people. As an individual I want to do all in my power to reduce my carbon footprint, to pick up litter, to recycle, to make energy efficient purchases including using solar power and electric cars as they become available and I can afford them. I don’t believe that other taxpayers, using the federal or state government as a mediator, should have to subsidize my positive choices or purchases. I believe a market economy and the inventiveness of our fellow citizens will provide all of us with even more ways to leave a better world for our children.
Redistricting Following the 2020 Census
I want the redistricting that will follow the 2020 census to be done in a way that keeps counties, towns and neighborhoods within the same district and in the simplest form whenever possible from the U. S. House Districts, State Senate and Representatives down to County Commission, Board of Education and the most local of elected offices. I want the priority to be geographical proximity and common goals and needs and not an effort to gerrymander by political party to create safe and reliable elected offices. I want politicians to have to appeal to all voters in order to get elected, not just those of their own party, and to join with citizens to relearn the art of compromise so that we can all work together to get truly meaningful things done for our communities and our state.