The first question was to inquire about an apparent lack of funding and opportunity for Talent and Gifted (TAG) students in our public schools. Many people pointed out that this was outside the purview of City Council and in some ways the state, as federal funding for education has specific mandates which give the schools little flexibility in how to allocate their spending. However, this is a subject that our school board and state legislators are working on. Most of the candidates, myself included, believe that our schools must provide opportunities for all our students.
The second questions was to ask what Hillsboro will or should do to provide resources for people of color. One of the key strengths of our city is our diversity and our multicultural nature, and I believe that we can do more. The approach of the city toward diversity seems to stem from a top-down approach where the needs of people from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds are praised but not truly represented. Other candidates disagreed, or thought that just going into the community to talk to people was enough. I know, from first hand experience, that getting involved and running for office is a challenge that most people cannot afford the time or financial costs to obtain. I also know that citizens do not need to be elected city servants to bring meaningful ideas to the city. I believe the next step is to create citizen advisory groups. I am inspired by the employee resource groups at my place of work, Oregon Health & Science University, where I serve as part of the leadership of our Veteran Employee Resource Group. These groups do not require formal membership, and offer opportunities for anyone who identifies as a member or ally of that group to participate in a collaborative process to discuss possible actions the university might take to improve conditions to address the diverse needs of our workforce. I see no reason why this approach would not be similarly successful in Hillsboro. This would empower City Council to make informed and impactful decisions based upon the knowledge provided from these advisory groups, without requiring massive sacrifices or challenges to those who want to participate.
The next question was particularly challenging, and hit me hard emotionally. This citizen told us how she had to return to work out of retirement to acquire healthcare coverage, and that healthcare costs were still having disastrous effects on her family, and wanted to know what the local government could do and what candidates' believed about the issue. As pointed out by our state legislative candidates, the problem is a federal level one that we cannot fully handle on the state or local level. However, I stated my strong conviction that we should not and cannot wait for the federal government to fix this problem. People need help now, and we need to do everything we can to find alternatives locally. I shared how the Knight Cancer Institute is creating research opportunities for researchers, providing funding and freedom from the grant process, so our scientists and doctors can focus on finding treatments and seeking a cure, rather than getting bogged down in fiscal concerns. This is being done at no cost to patients nor taxpayers, through the generosity of people like Phil Knight. I think we need to work with our partner and allies in the healthcare community to find ways that we might accomplish similar resources for people with healthcare and mental healthcare needs here in Hillsboro.
The last question was one that I was anticipating, and it involved campaign financing. State candidates had varying views, but every one of them believed that the system needed to be improved. I believe that our governmental system of a two-party system is fundamentally broken and fails to fairly represent the needs of our diverse country. I believe we need to continue our state and federal legislators to find a way to make the system more fair. Here in Hillsboro, I believe that we need to fight against the growing assumption that vast amounts of money should be spent on political campaigns. I have not accepted a single dollar to date, and I don't expect to do so. I believe that the soggy wet pamphlets of my opponent, which litter the ground of my neighborhood, are wasteful. I do not believe that people will vote for candidates because they saw their name on a sign along the road. There is no evidence whatsoever that road signs actually impact voters in any significant amount. I hate that so many signs and non-recyclable glossy cards will end up in our landfills, and I refuse to participate in that sort of disregard for our natural resources. Spending thousands of dollars on campaigns for City Council is absolutely unnecessary and disgusting. I do not believe your vote can be bought, and I have faith in our democratic process and our voters to make their decisions based on facts and candidate stances. I hope that you will vote for me, to prove that your vote cannot be bought. I want to demonstrate the power of our voters, despite the money poured into local politics, and provide encouragement for more people to step up and engage in civic service. Also, I think that the financial costs to publish candidate statements in our voter pamphlet is a deterrent to those who do not have the personal wealth to fund a campaign, and we should find a better way to open participation in our government to all people with a passion for public service.
I very much appreciated the time to speak with these folks last night, and I hope to see you at a future event!