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?
Like so many Central Coast residents, I’m fed up with Washington’s lack of action on the issues we care most about— especially as it relates to advancing equality issues. For far too long, Congress’ relentless partisan bickering and the ‘politics as usual,’ where the establishment makes the rules and the status quo is the name of the game, has stood in the way of real progress. We’re ready for a transformation from the bottom up— not the top down— and we need leaders who are committed to solving problems and not doing Washington’s bidding. I have experience working with diverse groups of people and I promise to be a strong voice in D.C., not just someone who will do what the party bosses demand.
How would you prevent another oil spill like the Refugio Spill in Santa Barbara?
First of all, we need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling along California’s coast. Then we need to ensure that the safety standards and regulations that are in existing law are enforced in a way that protects our environment. Finally, we need to recognize that ending our reliance on fossil fuels is not just a moral issue, but an economic and national security issue as well. Federal investment in clean and renewable energy sources will benefit the people of the 24th district in a multitude of ways, and as your member of Congress, I will push for those investments.
After the recent San Bernardino shooting and the shootings in Isla Vista, how would you reshape laws surrounding gun control?
Each and every day in America, approximately 289 people are shot, 86 die, 30 are murdered, 53 commit suicide, 2 die accidentally and 1 is shot in a police intervention. These incidents have hit close to home recently in Isla Vista and San Bernardino. As Mayor of Santa Barbara, I have taken a proactive stance by working closely with the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Coalition Against Gun Violence on local gun buyback events. For my campaign for U.S. Congress, I have released a 10-Point Plan to Reduce Gun Violence, which you can find on my website here: http://heleneschneider.org/meet-helene/10-point-plan-to-reduce-gun-violence/. This plan calls for common-sense reforms that will keep our families and our communities safer, including universal background checks (a position even supported by 72% of NRA members), banning assault weapons, and supporting Laura’s Law.
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?
Our immigration system is flat-out broken and needs a major overhaul. While far from perfect, I support the recent bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform plan passed by the United States Senate that includes securing the border, a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring citizens in our country, and allowing the millions of people living in the shadows to formally join our society. Not only is this the just thing to do, but according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, it will help reduce our nation’s deficit and strengthen our economy.
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?
Making college affordable must be a priority for all of our leaders. I believe in a comprehensive approach to ensuring that all people have the opportunity to succeed, and higher education is a critical piece in that effort. I propose a few things to start: We have to lower the interest rates on student loans. Corporations shouldn’t be able to get loans at a lower interest rate than students. I also believe that graduates should have the opportunity to refinance their student loans, in the same way that homeowners can refinance their mortgages. I support President Obama’s plan to make community college free for all students. We need to keep college accessible and safe for all students who wish to pursue an education.