Just when Virginia Beach Democrat Jody Wagner had endorsements, momentum, and horribly wrong budget projections to think about, along comes another Virginia Beach Democrat to challenge her, and others, to face Bill Bolling for Lieutenant Governor this fall.
We chat about energy, taxes, education and her opponents. Enjoy.
I saw your video where you say you would “stand against cuts in Education.” Currently, the only cuts in Education spending have been proposed by Governor Kaine. So, you disagree with the Governor of your own Party when it comes to cuts in Education?
On that I’d have to say yes. Because I think Education is how we’re going to get out of this economic hole. I think this is how we’re going to create jobs in Hampton Roads, in fact all over Virginia. You really know how I feel about Education, Brian, that is really the key to all of our problems.
Are there specific cuts in Education we should tolerate, say non-instructional staff cuts or construction cuts or delays?
Well, we’ve already delayed the capital improvement plan. That’s already being delayed. So, that’s off the tables. We’re probably going to be closing an Elementary School, so that’s a savings right off the bat. But you really can’t operate a physical plant without the support personnel. You need to have custodians, you have to have food service workers, you have to have bus drivers, so there really aren’t people you can do without.
So what you’re saying is, if a budget came to a 20-20 deadlock, and it contained cuts for Education, you would vote no?
Yeah. Because I believe there are some things that you have to stand on principle.
You are adamant, strong, no Democrat makes as strong a statement as you made against offshore drilling. Absolutely, positively, no, no, no, no, no. Polls show just the opposite. Assuming that a majority of voters have a different view than you on offshore drilling, would you make any effort to change their minds, or just accept that you disagree on that issue and take that risk?
No, I would obviously try to change their minds initially. But I feel very strongly that offshore drilling is not the solution.
Are there any energy solutions that you think are not the solution?
Well, I think corn hasn’t worked out real well. I think that had unforeseen consequences.
As far as environmentally, or as far as being effective, or as far as hiking up the price of food.
Hiking up the price of food, lowering the quality of the corn that people consume, because they can now use it for fuel, and it doesn’t have to be tasty and nutritious. So it has affected actually the world’s food supply. We could just as easily do what Brazil does.
Would nuclear be off the table for you?
Where do you stand on coal, and clean coal technology.
I think clean coal is an oxymoron. I don’t think you can have clean coal.
Being that a giant percentage of our energy are from coal-fired plants, is that a long-term weaning off process?
I think that is something that , A, I wouldn’t want to put people out of work. So I think there could be an industry around attempting to produce cleaner coal. I think at the end of the day, you’re not going to have clean coal. However, while we are developing alternative energy sources, that’s certainly something we could work to improve, so that we don’t put a bunch of people out of work.
But you’d transition to more nuclear?
Yeah. We’ve had nuclear submarines for 50 years.
There were 4 people running for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor before you made your intentions known. What’s missing from that field that made you say ‘there’s room at that podium for my voice’? What did they not bring to the table that you added, that needs to be heard?
The truth. A progressive voice. A voice that looks to the future, as opposed to doing the same-ol’ same ol’, being Republican-lite, which is not an insult. It’s just not the way I expect Democrats to behave.
So, you would consider yourself with an agenda that’s more activist?
With an agenda that’s more progressive. And by that, I guess you would include activist, huh?
What about your agenda would you call progressive?
A, I’m willing to stand on principle. I believe in the inherent worth of every human being. I think we have to take care of those who can not take care of themselves. That’s our responsibility. Being very clear on where I stand on energy, even though I’m going against the grain. And not being afraid to be who I am.
I’m able to negotiate. I’m able to compromise. I play nice. But I think you need to know who I am and what I stand for.
You do have a voting record. Do you think that’s a minus or a plus?
I think that’s a plus. I’m the only one who’s been elected to anything.
I’d like to touch three areas in Education. Tell me what the biggest “missing” is right now, and in your progressive agenda, what do we need to be doing. First area is Pre-K.
I don’t think you can dispute the evidence. Pre-k Is very valuable. It levels the playing field for children who don’t have parents who read to them, etc. However, we’ve made a commitment in Virginia Beach to extended day Kindergarten. We should finish that before we move to Pre-K.
I did like the Governor’s plan of going outside the public school system, and having five points of quality in order for them to be certified Pre-K. I think we’re moving into an area that’s going to require more private-public partnerships.
College Prep. Do you think we’re doing everything we can to make students ready for college.
No. They need to write a sentence. A professor, when I asked him when you look at your incoming freshmen and then four years later look at their graduates have been successful academically, what is the one thing they all have in common. He said people who read for pleasure. As they say, all readers are not leaders, but all leaders are readers.
I think we concentrate way too much on SOLs. We don’t teach critical thinking, problem solving, all those 21st century skills which are really what you need when you walk through those college gates. We have to be more flexible, but we have to go back to a more classic model, which includes the arts. Everybody knows that students who study music do better in reading and math. Kids who are in extra-curricular activities don’t get arrested, don’t do drugs, do better in school. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.
And for those not bound for college, are we doing enough for those students. There are $100,000 careers for people with skills, but not necessarily college skills.
And I happen to think we’re making a big mistake by not paying more attention to those students. I heard the Secretary of Technology and he talked about technology here and the hands-on element here, and really what it’s going to take to make technology a reality is to put those two things together, and that’s not necessarily the college-bound student.
If you look at major inventions, they aren’t exactly Harvard graduates that are coming up with those. So, I don’t think that college is the route for everyone, but we don’t have to write them off either.
Are we doing enough for them?
No, I don’t think we are. I don’t think we put enough emphasis on how good our vocational and technical career center is. We’re not doing a very good PR job there. Last year, we gave out 88 professional certifications. People can walk out and get a job.
Word association test. Mike Signer?
Very nice guy, never been elected to anything, I don’t think he has the perspective I have. I think John is a good Democrat, but I don’t think he’s electable.
Probably a good person, but I don’t think he can win.
A very bright woman. I am very fond of Jody, but I don’t think she can win.
Transportation. Are there any transportation plans over the last 10 years that you thought were a good idea?
I never heard anyone talk about the things I’m talking about. Go west, young man. I think the Third Crossing is “Ok, create another bottleneck.”
Build more roads, create more congestion?
Right. Start paving over more wetlands, and they’ll be more flooding. You’re looking at environmental issues. 460. Go around. You’re not going to have the huge bottleneck that you’ll have with the Third Crossing. So, I don’t think it’s viable.
A certain amount of congestion is the price you pay for living in a metropolitan area. This is not the Long Island Expressway. However, if you look at projections, Virginia Beach being a coastal city is at risk. What are we going to do when everybody decides to get on that one road to get on those three crossings. It’s going to be a mess, when we could just go out west.
You could probably expand the Midtown tunnel, and I think that would be appropriate. I don’t think the Third Crossing is a good idea. Expand and finish 460 and promote that route as opposed to doing anything with crossings.
Last question – bipartisanship. You are a very public, very active member of the Democratic Party. Your School Board Chairman is a Republican, your Vice Chairman is a Republican. Chairman of your legislative committee is a Republican. You’ve endorsed known Republicans for local office, and you voted to appoint a Republican to a vacant School Board seat. Number 1, do you get grief from Democrats for that?
And number two, is this the kind of politics that you’d like to see more of, where Parties work together where they can? How can someone so high up and visible in the Democratic Party play so well with the other kids in the playground.
Because I find the things that we agree on, and I build on that. It’s not really all that tricky. You can drill down and find the things we agree on, and as long as we find that point of agreement, you’re off to the races. You will find a solution.
I work with three questions: Where are we now, where do we want to be, how are we gonna get there? We can agree on where we are now, we can agree on where we want to get to. The rest of it should be done behind closed doors.
Do you think that’s the best record to take to Democratic primary voters?
Absolutely. I think that people are tired of bickering and sniping and digging in our heels and refusing to move because I have this point of view and you have that point of view and never the ‘twain shall meet. I don’t think that makes for good government. I don’t think it makes for civilized discourse. I just don’t think that works. That’s not who I am. If I think a person is going to do a good job, I’m going to support that person.
The floor is yours, if there’s anything I didn’t touch on.
I think we’ve touched on it. I believe in the inherent worth of every human being. I believe that every human being should be given the same opportunities for success. I believe public education is the key to that. It is truly the level playing field. I think that we can do it better. I don’t even know that we need a lot more money to do it better. I think that we can do more with what we have. We can make better choices.
But I do think education is the key to our future, to jobs. If we really do what we say we’re going to do in strategic planning, we’ll be creating entrepreneurs, ergo creating jobs. I want people to know that I understand what it’s like to be a regular person trying to figure out how to pay for your kids’ college, how you’re going to pay your bills, pay your mortgage. Are you going to keep your health care, keep your job.
I see mental health as a huge issue in the budget cuts. I work with at-risk youth. Early intervention is the key there. If we can identify issues that kids have, they can live perfectly normal, prosperous lives. If we ignore it, we’ve got Virginia Tech on our hands.
Cut Medicaid, cut services? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be in mourning one year, and then two years later say ‘well, that’s something we can do without.’ It makes no sense to me.
I’m the only true progressive on the Democratic side. I’m the only person not afraid to use the “P” word. And I’ve won races.
Are you afraid to use the T word?
What’s the T word?
No cuts in Education. No cuts in mental health, Health care, Medicaid. Budget shortfall.
I don’t think you need to raise taxes at least in the first two years. If you take 86 million more from the Revenue stabilization fund, and reduce the proposed cuts to match the established shortfall by 151 million, that leaves you with 282.8 million saved. We don’t have to raise taxes.
Good luck on your efforts, and thank you for visiting Bearing Drift.