H-CAN Forum, March 3, 2018
2-hour video of forum on YouTube
This forum took place at Ludington Library on Saturday, March 3. There were over 100 people in the audience. The moderator, Anne Wright, explained the format and ground rules at the start. Victoria Brown, team leader of the Haverford Democrats’ Communications Team was present, took notes, and re-watched the forum on YouTube in order to create this summary. The times given at the start of each question allow you to find particular spots on the YouTube video.
At the time of the forum, Julie Eble was a candidate. She has since withdrawn from the race.
@3:00: Question #1: It’s January, 2019. You won the election. What is the first piece of legislation you will work to enact?
Balchunis: Gun safety: ban on assault weapons, universal background checks, no guns to domestic abusers or to those on the No Fly list. Noted that she has been working on this issue since 2000, when she was among the Million Mom Marchers; this was a key issue in her runs for Congress in 2014 and 2016; she is a member of the Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and the Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy.
Chauncey: Repair damage to health care by reinstating rollbacks on ACA such as the individual mandate and protections for pre-existing conditions. Noted that she is a cancer survivor and has a special needs child so has experience with fear of losing health coverage; regards health care as a “human right, not a privilege.” All entitled to health care so U.S. Congress should permanently fund CHIP.
Muroff: Address the opioid crisis by repairing the assault on healthcare and providing additional resources for addiction treatment. Experience with his sister’s heroin addiction. Views the “sabotage” of the ACA as “criminal, immoral, and unethical.”
Sheehan: First bill would seek bipartisan support for reform on the “delivery side” of healthcare, not the divisive “payment side.” Legislate to increase practical efficiencies in current healthcare delivery system before instituting single-payer system. Address outdated practices in record-keeping, provider communications, pharmaceutical pricing so single-payer system doesn’t inherit an outdated, unnecessarily expensive delivery system.
Wertime: Must look beyond Trump and be bold in demanding a universal single-payer system. “Healthcare is the single most important social justice issue of our time.” Personal experience has taught him that Medicare prevents economic disaster in families; all should have access to Medicare.
Julie Eble: Medicare for all, which will achieve cost savings due to lower administrative costs and pharmaceutical negotiations. “Fight opposition with our votes.”
Lindy Li: Campaign finance reform because “big business has hijacked democracy and sold it to the highest bidders.” This reform is the basis of all other reforms, including healthcare, gun control, and climate change; “for everything we care about, someone has bought the politicians.”
Scanlon: Have to consider what is going to happen in 2018 election. Will our election process be hijacked again since the President and Congress doing nothing to prevent that? If we don’t have fair elections, how to we get to any of the other issues? After what happened in 2016 and what may happen in 2018, need to address fair elections. Gun control also at the top of legislative priority list.
@19:33: Question #2: Historically, power and money have had a corrupting influence on politics and public policy. What are your personal and legislative plans for combating this corruption?
Wertime: No corporate or super-PAC money. Has crowd-sourced his campaign. Policy key is transparency; full disclosure of all “dark money,” illegal foreign campaign spending, and social media funding sources. Expand definition of “corruption” beyond simple quid pro quo to include common sense rules against politicians making decisions based on contributors’ selective access and undue influence.
Balchunis: Will accept no PAC $$. “This is government by the rich, for the rich.” Both Senate and House are “millionaires’ clubs”. Need average people in Congress; “I understand the struggles people have with money.”
Sheehan: Will accept no corporate PAC $$. Current system will not reform itself; too many vested interests in our “campaign-industrial complex.” Must overturn Citizens United and institute public financing of campaigns. Voters must reject “the lie that you deserve to get elected only if you have money.” Must source campaigns to make them affordable for people “who deserve to have their voices amplified.”
Chauncey: Disingenuous to say “no” to all corporate PAC money. There are good corporate and non-profit PACS whose funding she would accept. Has contributed just $100 to her campaign; cannot afford to “self-fund.” Believes we should elect those who are struggling financially. “To self-fund is the same as being bought.” Contributing funds to own campaign “alone says you are being bought; you are speaking from your own purse.”
Scanlon: Constant message that you must have lots of money to run is daunting. Lacking “vast sums of money” herself, she is asking friends and family for money, and with own children graduating college, she has more resources on hand. If fundraising is what it takes to win, “okay. I’m not doing this to fail.” But “this is not the way it should be done.” Supports overturning Citizens United and legislation for public campaign financing.
Eble: Declined to say “never this” to PAC contributions but believes all contributions must be publicly disclosed. Citizens United decision was a “rejection of common sense.” Wishes she had a “clear path forward” to policy reform; believes grassroots opposition to politicians who accept super-PAC $$ is one way.
Muroff: Will not take corporate PAC contributions; corporate influence is a corrupter. Will advance mechanisms for public financing from local to federal level. Citizens United “one of the most failed, flawed decisions in modern history.” Need constitutional amendment to end. Applauds “End Citizens United” organization.
Li: Overturn Citizens United via a legislative fix or constitutional amendment because there is a “cottage industry” around business-driven politics. Should be “looking at” public financing. Treasures small donations from supporters like truck driver she spoke about.
@37:59: Question #3: One-minute response: Congressional representatives are assigned to House committees. Which committee assignment would you want?
Li: Foreign Relations Committee. As child of immigrants, has dreamed of “harmony between the U.S. and China.” Problems like North Korea and climate change can “be solved only by working together” diplomatically.
Scanlon: Judiciary. Important beyond the “disciplinary” actions that committee may pursue after 2018. Must put “a check on all the incursions on justice” we currently see in radical and incompetent judicial appointments. Must restore and increase funding to Legal Services because all individuals “must be able to defend themselves” in legal proceedings.
Muroff: Commerce Committee because its reach is broad, from the environment to healthcare. But staff experience teaches him that new reps. don’t get on “exclusive” committees like Commerce. “Staffed” Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is important to our airport and port and is linked to jobs. Education Committee also “critical.”
Eble: Science and Technology because she is “a Ph.D. scientist” and because Trump has made “so many bad decisions” in this area. Reversing those bad decisions goes back to the importance of “citizens standing up.” Tempted by Intelligence Committee so she could “fight alongside Rep. Adam Schiff.”
Chauncey: Intelligence Oversight, which has become “so partisan it no longer works.” Have to work with Foreign Relations Committee and protect “our intelligence community” so that we can cooperate with other countries and make U.S safe.
Wertime: Ways and Means because of its importance to healthcare legislation. Peace Corps and professional experience as analyst of China and U.S.-China relations makes Foreign Relations Committee a natural fit, especially in an era when there are so many troubling developments in China and our relations with China. Few in Congress prepared to address China issues.
Balchunis: Ethics because of her background as a political scientist and national award she received for ethics from American Society for Public Administration. Ethics Committee particularly important in #MeToo moment.
Sheehan: Science, Space, and Technology because information shapes policy and Congress needs members who know what questions to ask. If CDC cannot investigate gun violence, if NIH doesn’t test drugs on females, we lack knowledge for governing. In era when all information can be doctored by audio and visual technology to produce “fake news,” Congress must be “ahead of the curve” on the technology of information distortion and distribution.
@47:00: Question #4: Income inequality gap is wide and worsening. How would you combat it?
Sheehan: End the flow of corporate money to campaigns; “our government is bought. The flow of money to the top 1% is by design.” Solve corporatization of elections so Congress will legislate policies that enable families to pull themselves up. Her own mobility from lower-middle class childhood to Ph.D. with more economic stability is due to “safety” in childhood and strong public education. Corporate agenda means children abandoned in crucial years that set future “trajectory.” Need paid family leave; realistically subsidized, quality childcare; federally-funded, universal pre-Kindergarten to prep all kids for school success and federal investments in communities to foster small businesses and civic centers like public libraries.
Muroff: Stop the assault on New Deal and Great Society achievements; fight for working people by providing more than a “just a safety net.” Stop the 50-year “assault on labor unions” by supporting both public and private unions. Learned about the importance of labor unions growing up in union household. Turn around the “tax scam” just enacted by structuring tax policy to “invest in people” from childhood to retirement and reduce wealth inequality as well as income inequality.
Scanlon: Knowledge of the challenges low-income families face is based on decades-long career in both paid & pro bono legal work representing those struggling families. Must increase funding of federal education programs like Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, reform and increase allocation of Title I funds for low-income students. Fix “broken student loan system” that allows profit-making off students. High interest rates either prevent college attendance or derail advancement after college. Address gender gap in pay and healthcare costs to improve working families’ economic opportunities.
Eble: Very difficult issue because people need to live decent lives but businesses have to be profitable. But the “wealthy better not get used to tax cuts.” Must increase minimum wage, but raising to $12/hour is “too big a jump too quickly.” Will put small businesses out of business. Start with $10/hour. Contingent on review of impact on businesses, jobs, and take-home pay, raise by $1/hour annually up to $12/hour. Reduce burdensome debt of student loans.
Wertime: “Where you sit is where you stand.” Need to elect someone who knows what it is like to be “one illness away from disaster.” Not a wealthy person; has crowdsourced his campaign on the internet. As a Yale student food service worker, was in a union. Served in Americorps. Need “crackdown” on corporate tax practices and a progressive system of tax brackets that takes more from those making over $1 million/year. “Will fight tooth and nail” for $15/hour minimum wage and to restore power imbalance between labor and capital. Supports health care for workers and free community college. Opposes “unacceptable” racial and ethnic aspects of wealth inequality.
Chauncey: Knows what it’s like to grow up poor as a “free lunch kid”; mother is a teacher in rural North Carolina and is still poor. At 38, she just finished paying off $60,000 in undergrad student loans; now faces $160,000 in law school loans, “all to earn less than what it will cost me to pay my mortgage and those loans. So I am in trouble.” Reduce inequality by reducing costs of health, education, and childcare. Quality of public education “should not be dependent on zip code.” Public funding of education should include college. Create jobs by improving infrastructure. Encourage apprenticeships and vocational programs; “don’t need a college education” to be a successful worker.
Balchunis: Wealthy are getter wealthier, middle class is disappearing, poor are getting poorer. “Nightmare” for those with such burdensome student debt they must move home after school. Supports unions and the fight for $15 minimum wage. Has walked a picket line. Has a certificate in mediation. Aligns with Elizabeth Warren and was endorsed in 2016 by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Fulbright in Sweden taught about what generous social supports can mean for families.
Lindy Li: Raise minimum wage to $15/hour. Education is “the golden key” to economic mobility and “should not be dependent on zip code.” Immigrant father’s opportunities came from entry into U.S. medical school. “Wall Street enjoys better interest rates than students.” Need to incentivize education, not mire students in debt; need to provide more vocational training for technical jobs. People preoccupied with money worries cannot be concerned with climate change or campaign finance reform, and that hurts democratic participation.
@1:06 Question #5: (One-minute response): We are not all experts on everything. In what policy area would you seek to learn more and how would you do that?
Muroff: Foreign policy, especially sub-Saharan Africa and Korea. Work as congressional staffer educated him about Israel and the issues in a two-state solution.
Sheehan: Pipeline coming through PA. and how federal government can ensure safety. Agriculture and the need to know more about chemicals and GMO’s. Every farm bill is a chance for congressional representatives to “find out what we are consuming.”
Chauncey: Environmental policy, including the pipeline, and international aspect of that.
Li: Opioid addiction and holding pharmaceutical companies responsible.
Scanlon: Environment and climate change. Horrified by the current “take-down” of the EPA.
Wertime: As a white man, need to know more about effects of racism and sexism by surrounding self with staff that teaches. “Need a woman” in the PA. congressional delegation. Support for a whistle-blower hotline for sexual harassment and family leave discrimination.
Balchunis: Environment. Study up on status of the pipeline and similar issues.
Eble: Education, especially issues of testing, students with disabilities, and how to balance regulations with the need for school safety.
@1:16: “Yes/No Lightning Round”: candidates held signs with Green/Yes on one side and Red/No on the other. They held up the side of the sign that aligned with their views on these issues. (Candidates had the option to not hold up a sign).
Do you live in the district: All “yes,” except Sheehan.
Do you own property in the district: All “yes,” except Balchunis and Wertime.
Have you lived in the district for more than one year (in your whole life)? All “yes.”
Have you held any elective office (including party “committee): All “no,” except Scanlon, Li, and Balchunis.
Should local police cooperate with ICE: All “no,” except Eble, who declined to respond.
Single payer plan is the most cost effective? All “yes.”
Public financing of elections: All “yes.”
Legislation to strengthen labor unions: All “no,” except Eble, who declined to respond.
Carbon tax: All “no,” except Eble, who declined to respond.
Off-shore drilling: All “no.”
Ban assault weapons: All “yes.”
Restrictions on abortion: All “no.”
Questions from the audience:
Do you support ranked-choice voting?
Wertime: Yes, it “incentivizes civil debate.
Sheehan: Yes, but not California system; have instant run-offs: you vote only once.
Scanlon: Yes, worked on Maine’s system; does allow expression of more diverse views.
Muroff: Yes, but it’s a state issue.
Chauncey: Yes; it increases turnout.
Li: Yes, because Lincoln benefited from ranked-choice voting.
Eble: Yes, but need to learn more about it.
Balchunis: Yes, but it is a state issue.
How do you see climate change influencing infrastructure solutions?
Li: “We are a first-class nation with third-class infrastructure.” Trump plan is not viable. Public investment in infrastructure is a “cure for income inequality.”
Eble: Corporations are pushing animal husbandry, which uses water and releases methane; both bad for the climate. Facts about environment are being hidden by corporate interests; “If you give us all the facts, we will come to our own conclusions.”
Chauncey: Need more federal support for infrastructure; SEPTA hurt by unfunded mandates from feds.
Balchunis: Climate change affecting our infrastructure; PA bridges in crisis. It’s bipartisan.
Wertime: Climate change is an opportunity to improve national system with resilient technologies, including rail, and new methods to generate, store, and distribute energy.
Sheehan: Flip our investment model to decrease investment in carbon-based energy, increase investment in sustainable energy. “No silver bullet; we must conserve” with investments in infrastructure projects like smart public transportation technologies.
Scanlon: Reinvigorate the Obama-era Renewable Energy Project to move away from fossil fuels. Improve road and bridge infrastructure so businesses in PA. Not forced to transport goods via costly, inefficient routes.
Muroff: Shift from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources; don’t put tariffs on solar energy. Transit is partisan: constant struggle in Congress for “parity” twixt highways and public transit.
Position on the number of wars we are in and the way our money is spent for those wars?
Muroff: A budget is a moral document; it reflects a society’s values. Much of our global role in military action is currently immoral. We must re-define our priorities.
Balchunis: Opposed the Iraq War; was in D.C. when the war was just starting and signed a petition against the war. Should spend more on social programs and less on military.
Chauncey: Current administration shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how wars start. Cuts to State Dept. prove this. Wars start if we fail to focus on diplomacy and intelligence sharing. Nations’ new unwillingness to share intelligence information with U.S. means we are unsafe and insecure in the world.
Wertime: Experience as senior editor at Foreign Policy magazine and as a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations taught the value of “smart diplomacy.” Need to build up the State Dept. and USAID. Dept. of Defense says it is being asked to do too much.
Scanlon: We should scrutinize the military budget as closely as we scrutinize domestic budget for social programs. Must return funding to State Dept. and spend no money on The Wall.
Sheehan: Experience living in Uganda showed the “perverse incentives” in foreign aid funding: we ignore real needs in nations in order to subsidize U.S. corporate interests. To achieve peace, our funding must be responsive to recipients’ goals and human rights principles, not profits. Must fund veterans’ services.
Eble: “Deeply conflicted” over military spending when we hear Putin discuss Russia’s new weapons systems. Strong military defense is “best deterrent” to others’ use of weapons. Must support veterans.
Li: “All for homebuilding over nation-building.” Profit in weapons leads to wars; if we “hollow out State Dept.” and leave only the military, then war the only option in foreign relations. “If you have only a hammer, then everything is a nail.”