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Race for the 24th: Steve Isakson


In anticipation of forums to be broadcast live on-air by KCRW in Santa Barbara, all candidates for the 24th Congressional district were asked to respond to this questionnaire. The responses have been published without editing.

Given how dysfunctional Congress is now, how do you intend to get anything done?

Congress is dysfunctional because the parties as a whole are more interested in serving their selves or special interest than the public that voted for them. However, there are 435 full voting representatives in Congress and six delegates. Many of them do want to work for the people and solve the problems of government.

By seeking out these individuals and working with them, I know common sense solutions that will be beneficial to everyone can be achieved. Those interested in solving the problems of the nation will act on solutions they believe in, even if it goes against the party bosses.

Additionally, I will work to overturn Citizens United and promote campaign finance reform to decrease the influence of the special interests.

Strength in numbers will allow negotiations with the power players to accomplish what is needed to avoid the serious problems that will occur in the next few years.

How would you prevent another oil spill like the Refugio Spill in Santa Barbara?

The problem of the Refugio Spill is one of deferred maintenance – which is a problem with a lot of our infrastructure. While pipeline transport of oil is normally the safest and cheapest method, nothing is safe if proper maintenance is not observed.

The San Francisco gas line explosion in 2010, killing 8, was a line installed in 1956. Besides age, the gas pressure was gradually increased to meet service demands. Obviously more tests were needed to ensure all the seams were good for the job. As a consequence of that tragedy, gas lines all over the state, including here on the central coast, are being inspected or replaced to guarantee safety.

There is no excuse for lack of maintenance when safety for both people and ecology is a concern. Bills are going through Congress today to help provide for safe pipeline operations and more is needed for our entire infrastructure.

After the recent San Bernardino shooting and the shootings in Isla Vista, how would you reshape laws surrounding gun control?

The right to bear arms is a right guaranteed by the second amendment. Though drafted to defend and maintain a free state, the Supreme Court now interprets it to include the individual, particularly for self-defend.

But with rights also comes limitations and responsibilities. No one would defend my “right” to keep nuclear arms (the right is arms, not specifically guns) – it is neither rational nor safe for the general public. Also, when you possess a weapon you are responsible for it and its uses. You cannot give or sell a gun to someone who does not know how to use it properly.

It is the states that must decide what weapons an individual can own. What is appropriate in the Wyoming back country is quite different from walking down Wall Street or boarding an airplane. But broad guidelines and background checks can still be implemented at the federal level.

This March, Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials raided Bonita Packing Company in Santa Maria and forced the company to fire 291 farm workers because of their non-legal immigration status. According to the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, about 72% of the roughly 17,000 farm workers in Santa Barbara County are undocumented. This comes when there is a 25% labor shortage in the county, according to the Agricultural Advisory Committee. How would you handle the issue of undocumented workers and the need for labor across the district?

Most undocumented farm workers have been here for years (or decades) and have now integrated into our communities, making a productive life for themselves and their families. They are part of our economy and they should come out of the shadows and be recognized. Legal status, either with a path to citizenship or a visa program, is long overdue.

Labor shortage is caused by low wages. Raise the wages and more people will apply. Companies want to maximize the profits, but then should not complain about the lack of labor.

For cases like this, one needs more information to determine who is at fault. Did the workers falsify their employment status or did the companies know what was happening. Did the employers pay minimum wage, withhold taxes, and send those funds to the government as required?

Let’s bring everyone out of the shadows and all play by the same rules.

Recent studies have shown that on average students graduate with $30,000 in student debt. What would you do to help make college more affordable?

I am lucky and graduated from college without student debt because college was not as expensive then. It would be nice if college was free, but in today’s economy it is not. Federal backed student loans were created to make college “more affordable” by deferring costs until they are employed, and eventually allowing forgiveness of some of the loans. Student loans have terms that help the students meet their goals and enter the job market with little fear of default on their loans.

It is unfortunate that students now suffer with long term debt. Making it easier to refinance student loans at a lower interest would help. Increasing the ability to get loan forgiveness for public service (as teachers and doctors can) would lessen debt as well.

A college education is a boon to both the individual and the economy. It should be made as affordable as possible.



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