1. Over the past 40 years African Americans have supported democratic candidates with approximately 88% of our votes. How will electing/re-electing you benefit African Americans in Texas?
A Democrat that listens to and supports the concerns of the African American community would be a good start. Far too often our minority communities (particularly our rural minority communities) aren’t heard and their concerns are ignored. Every official should be asking communities and their residents for their input and their ideas about issues that matter to them.
2. In the 2016 election, 94% of African American women voted for the democratic nominee for President. How will you work to help this key constituency close the gender pay gap? Reduce skyrocketing maternal deaths in Texas? Provide equal opportunity to access capital to start a business?
Women’s health care is one of my priorities. Women need access to quality, affordable, fact-based healthcare. The extreme Republican agenda in Texas has led to policies that are detrimental to women’s healthcare. Mandating that women’s health centers accommodate for unreasonable and, ultimately, unconstitutional requirements caused clinics to close. While some have reopened, many have not, and that has left a gap in accessible health care. In many areas, those clinics were the only option for specialized care for women.
I support expanding Medicaid. Our Governor did a vast disservice to Texans by not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This neglect, combined with other factors, has caused rural hospitals to close at an alarming rate creating a crisis in many areas of Texas. Eighteen rural hospitals have closed since 2013, and I doubt those will be the last. Without community hospitals, patients are required to travel much further to access care – if they can travel at all – and delay complicates care.
Half of all births in Texas are covered by Medicaid and coverage for new mothers only lasts until two months after childbirth. But it’s been found that the majority of maternal deaths occur after 60 days so we should increase Medicaid for new mothers to cover much more than two months.
Reproductive health is an economic issue. When women have access to family planning, they can make choices about their education and their careers that work best for them.
Addressing the gender pay gap can start in our state agencies. I support a Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, but we need to have a governor in office that will sign it, not veto it.
3. Education is the key to help individuals lift themselves from poverty into prosperity, however African American students exceed the national average in Texas, with 60% living in poverty. What will you do to strengthen our public education system?
I will work to ensure that the state fully funds its responsibility to public schools. Over the last several years the state has failed to maintain its percentage of public school finance, and the burden has fallen on the local districts to make up the difference. Texas must do better. The reduction in state funds forces the local districts to raise more money and has led to rising property taxes that place additional and often disproportionate burden on local residents. We need to get everything on the table so that we can find funds within the existing budget and find new sources of funding to solve this. We can start by closing tax loopholes and tax subsidies and property tax abatements that give billions of tax dollars to corporations.
We need to increase early childhood education because it is one of the most effective ways for children to escape poverty.
We also have to expand rural internet access. Students in our rural areas need the same educational opportunities as those in areas with reliable high-speed internet, and we need to fund the infrastructure projects necessary to make it as accessible and affordable in our rural areas as it is in our larger cities. Even in areas where broadband internet is available we need to make sure that every student has access. Students without the benefit of internet access fall behind.
4. African American entrepreneurs have long struggled to secure capital to start businesses in our community. What economic development initiatives will you champion that will have a direct and positive impact African Americans businesses, employment and entrepreneurship?
I support unraveling health insurance from employment and implementing a universal healthcare system. Being covered by a universal healthcare system allows folks to change jobs, start their own business, and take risks that they currently can’t because they and their families would lose health insurance.
We need to improve affordable child care services that include evenings and weekends.
Texas needs to expand reliable, affordable high-speed internet into our rural areas for educational opportunities in new technologies and small business development and entrepreneurship.
I encourage communities to offer technology courses so that our residents can prepare for jobs in an increasingly innovative, technology-based global economy.
5. Gentrification is a major issue affecting residents throughout Texas. What will you do to support preserving African American culture and history across Texas, particularly in neighborhoods where gentrification is occurring revitalizing neighborhoods, but pushing our people out?
While progress is good for our state and communities, we should do a better job of listening to the concerns of residents and encouraging responsible development that benefits both the established neighborhood and newcomers. We cannot allow unfettered growth without controls and limits.
Perhaps most effectively, we should encourage more African Americans to run for office so that they can be directly involved in setting the policies and direction of their communities, cities, and Texas.
6. Please explain your belief about the importance of diversity in Texas and in our nation. What portion of your senior campaign staff is African American? Do you have any African American consultants? Have you purchased advertising at any African American owned media companies?
We are Americans, and we are Texans, and diversity is our strength. Each of our different races, religions, and cultures, and experiences make us a stronger community.
So far, I don’t have any campaign staff. This campaign is a small, grassroots effort. I will gladly purchase from African American owned companies in my area as my needs and campaign funds allow.
7. Criminal justice reform is a high priority for our community. The negative impact of laws currently on the book affect all communities of color and all people who live in poverty. What do see as the biggest challenges facing repairing the criminal justice system? Please provide your stance on bail reform, sentencing on non-violent drug offenses, ending pre-investigatory traffic stops? What initiatives would you lead the way on in your position as an elected official?
Non-violent drug offenders should be allowed rehabilitation. We should offer treatment, job training, and education to low-level offenders, not jail time.
Courts should consider risk-assessment for poor, non-violent and low-level offenders. Offenders should not be held in jail simply because they can’t afford bail.
Texas must do a better job of addressing and allocating resources for mental health issues. When the state defunds mental health programs, our jails become where we hold our mentally ill. Far too many inmates are serving jail time when they would be better served in a mental healthcare facility.
Ban civil asset forfeiture.
8. Quality affordable healthcare, which includes mental health care is a vital need for the African American community. Too many in our community have died from and lack treatment for treatable illnesses because the lacked the means to seek treatment. Do you believe healthcare is a right that all Americans should have access to? How do we repair our defective healthcare system? Is single payer the answer? Do we just tweak the Affordable Healthcare Act? Do you have a fresh idea to make healthcare a reality for all Texans?
Healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. Whether you live or die should not depend on how much money you have in your bank account. I will continue to fight for and support a universal, single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare system in the US, but until that happens, we need to strengthen and expand the services we do have available. Texas should have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and I will support any measures to get healthcare access to our underserved communities.
9. African American communities lack healthy eating options. We lack grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables, students who cannot afford to pay for lunch at school are shamed in front of their peers. What actions would you take to help spur business investment to get grocery stores within our communities to fill this void? How do we ensure our students in school get a healthy meal without being traumatized because they lack the funds because they are living in poverty?
No child should go hungry. Period. Our public school breakfast and lunch programs should be expanded to every child regardless of income level. Over 60% of students already qualify for these programs, and I support extending these programs and making free breakfast and lunch available for all of our public school students.
I want to encourage and support funding and grant programs for community gardens, school gardens, and urban gardens. We’ve seen the benefits of these gardens – not only their bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables, but kids learn and perform better in school, communities gather and socialize, and the gardens become a source of beauty and pride in the neighborhood. We also need to make sure that there aren’t unnecessarily restrictive regulations hindering the development of community gardens.
We can also use tax abatements, tax credits, and grants to help local establishments open and operate in these food desert areas.