The Issues

Why I Am Running

All people have equal worth and dignity. Over my years as a teacher, I saw the spark children brought to their learning. But, as students progressed through our system, that spark slowly faded. This doesn’t have to happen.

All children have the right to learn to their potential, and as Congresswoman I will make that right a reality! In Congress I will affect change at a national level: appropriating funds and passing laws to ensure equitable policies.

We know children cannot learn to their potential if they have toxins in their environment. They cannot learn to their potential with poor quality health care, nutrition, and housing. Addressing these factors can set a child on the path to success.

Our Education

I am passionate about education. I spent seven years as an elementary classroom teacher and thirteen years working side by side with teachers all over the country. I’ve taught in a coal mining town in Virginia, a segregated school in Mississippi, several first nation schools in the southwest, and even close by, in Flint.

I also taught for four years in East Grand Rapids. I saw the stark contrast between well-off schools and families and those that endured the hardships of generational poverty and income inequality.

I often felt frustrated that the families who needed educational support the most were the ones who put up with broken-down buildings, large class sizes, fewer support services, and often less experienced teachers. I worked with teachers to develop methods that would increase learner engagement. But they often didn’t have the funds to purchase the needed materials or to take field trips. Many times, the teachers used their own money to support their students, even buying food for hungry children.

Support for Teachers

Our teachers have one of the most important jobs of all. Our future is literally in their hands. We need to treat them well, or we will continue to lose them. It is a crisis in some states, where class size is growing and temporary substitutes are hired with no background in education. In Michigan, teachers have had pay reductions every year for the last five years. Is this what we want for our country?

When I’m in Congress, I will push for a Department of Education that is responsible for ensuring equity in education; holding states accountable for the support of all students and providing the necessary resources for success.

Promoting Early Childhood Education

The first five years of a child’s life are the most critical for healthy emotional development and a solid foundation for success in school. If we want children to grow up and be productive, contributing adults, we must invest in high-quality early childhood education. Research shows that for every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education, there is an $8.60-$12.90 return on investment. This means higher graduation rates, more careers, better health, less incarceration, and less government support. This is what I want for our children.

I founded The Creative Learning Center, an early childhood center in Grand Rapids, because I knew how important a high-quality early childhood program would be for the community. We served over a thousand Grand Rapids families over fifteen years. Yes, high quality early childhood education is expensive. It requires small child-to-teacher ratios, small group sizes, clean and safe environments, well-compensated staff, nutritious food, access to nature, a variety of learning materials and books, and family support. We have a choice….we either pay now or we pay a whole lot more later. I say we invest now for our future!

Investing in early childhood education would not only set our young children up for success, it would give families the peace of mind and opportunity to get an education and join the workforce.

Expanding Career Education

The young adult years should focus on preparing students for the responsibilities life. There are unlimited paths students may take, and a variety of educational options must be available to support them. The federal government must assist states with adequate funding as they develop affordable educational choices, including public-private partnerships, and ensure a qualified workforce for current and future needs.

The knowledge and skills needed for tomorrow’s West Michigan jobs will be ever-changing, and workers will need to update their education to stay current. We must be ready!

By investing in high-quality public education, no family should go into debt. We cannot leave our country’s future in the hands of the free market, where the motivation to make a profit supersedes the quality education of our children.

Our Healthcare

Healthcare is a fundamental right of all people. In the Constitution, Congress is responsible for the well-being of the American people. We need universal healthcare.

When you pit profit against people, profit always wins. How many dollars of value do we place on added productivity? On quality of life?

My oldest daughter Tiffany was born with a pre-existing condition which made it financially impossible to buy her own health insurance. So when she got sick, she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. She missed work. She lost clients. She lost income.

The Affordable Care Act provided Tiffany an insurance plan with a focus on prevention and wellness. She no longer suffers from illness and does not need extended time off work.

Children cannot learn to their potential without quality health care. Adults will have more success without reliance on employer-provided health care.

Healthcare is not a privilege. Private industry puts the monetary wants of executives and shareholders above the well-being of the American people. These are people’s lives; our parents and children, friends and relatives, almost everyone has a horror story about navigating the US healthcare system. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that when profit is the motivation, people lose.

Universal healthcare—ensuring everyone in the U.S. has access to affordable healthcare coverage—is a complex challenge. Any effective solution must be thoroughly planned. We cannot continue the inefficient cycles of “repeal and replace.”

We must support and modify the existing Affordable Health Care Act or Obamacare, continuously working towards a solid Universal Health Care plan for the future. We need a systems level change. It’s not just about cutting the costs through a government single-payer approach, it’s about negotiating down prices from for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies, it’s about using more nurse practitioners and physician assistants, it’s about savings through preventing illness and a focus on wellness.

An Inclusive Economy

In just the last several years we’ve seen a massive shift of wealth from the middle to the top. This latest Republican tax bill is even a larger giveaway to the 1%. The failed ideas of “trickle-down economics” are over 100 years old. Money given to the richest does not benefit the 99%.

Long-term public investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure benefit everyone. We cannot sacrifice these at the expense of tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. We need a vibrant, inclusive economy in our country—energized and dynamic.

What we are experiencing is no inclusive economy. The stock market soars, unemployment is low, but half of the U.S. cannot afford to invest in the stock market. Many in the U.S. struggle to make ends meet with their paychecks and are not saving for retirement.

In an inclusive economy, everyone has the opportunity to succeed. In an inclusive economy, a 40 hour a week job pays a living wage. With self-sufficiency comes dignity. And dignity leads to success.

Universal healthcare and high-quality public education, two positions I’m passionate to enact, will greatly contribute to a vibrant, inclusive economy. Universal healthcare will release the burden of a broken system that could render a family homeless or deeply in debt. A public education system that creates a passion and engagement for learning and a community hub of support will set us on the right path to an inclusive economy.

There is no reason why 15% of our population should have to live in poverty and even more struggle on the edge, just a few paychecks away from poverty. We know how to solve the challenges of income inequality, but so far, we have lacked the will.

Our Congress is currently deciding on how to spend limited infrastructure funds. Yes, we need new roads and bridges. But we also should be investing in infrastructure that will lift those living in poverty and near poverty. As a representative of the 3rd District, I would work for an infrastructure budget that includes affordable housing (especially ownership), efficient and reliable mass transportation, broadband Internet for all, environmentally sound practices, natural areas in communities and new schools and other public buildings where needed. People who are affected must have a voice and make decisions for their own communities.

There has been a push for privatizing and charging tolls to travel on our roads and bridges. We must stop this plan, as it would unfairly discriminate against the poor.

When I was beginning and growing my small businesses, I had difficulty obtaining loans. I recall sitting across from a panel of men from the bank, pitching my idea of a child care center. Too risky (and the unsaid-you’re a woman) I was told. Luckily, I had a father and an uncle who came through at the beginning to help fund and co-sign a small starter loan. Three years later, I worked with United Bank in Grand Rapids to obtain a Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loan to greatly expand the child care center and toy store. For the next 25 years, United Bank and SBA worked with me to purchase real estate and continue to grow. The federally funded SBA made it possible for my businesses to provide an important service to the community and the employment of several hundred people over my 30 years in business. The federal government plays an important role in strengthening an inclusive economy; this is one example. We need to invest more.

There are many non-profit groups operating to boost economic development and well-being in communities. They do great work! Many are funded with federal dollars and I will work to raise the level of funding allocated to these groups. Currently, many are reporting that the funds they rely on are dwindling or fear they may disappear altogether.

The unions have played a significant role in raising the bar on compensation, working conditions and worker quality of life issues. We need to work to restore their place in raising that bar once again as they advocate for employee rights.

The ideas and solutions for a vibrant, inclusive economy are limitless. Let’s put our heads together and make it happen!

Our Environment

Climate change is real and we must work diligently to bring our carbon emissions under control. We are experiencing the effects of severe weather events which include drought, flooding, hurricanes, wild fires, and extreme heat and cold. People with the fewest resources are already paying a higher cost of the burden. This will only get worse.

The era of clean, renewable energy is upon us. Toxic fossil fuel energy must be phased out as we build a new infrastructure to support renewables. Let’s provide similar robust incentives now going to fossil fuel providers to renewable providers instead, speeding up research and development, creating jobs and a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Instead of making the critical progress needed to sustain a livable world, many of our current decision-makers in the federal government are slowing down the switch to clean energy or reversing the progress already made. We can’t let this happen. That’s why I support the work of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby and their plan for a Carbon Fee and Dividend. This bi-partisan plan is a revenue-neutral carbon tax with 100% of the net revenue returned directly to households. It is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52% below 1990 levels within 20 years while growing the economy and saving lives. It’s long past time to recognize the hidden costs of pollution and hold the responsible accountable for their actions.

Science must be supported. Scientists who work with integrity and transparency should be taken seriously.

Another critical issue concerning our environment are the toxins that are put into our environment under the guise of economic growth. Michigan has been experiencing the results of lax protections from many years back. We can’t go back in time to reverse that damage, but we can learn from our mistakes. The costs in money, health and quality of life down the road are far greater than the up-front savings. We need to keep and enact sensible protections for the well-being of the people.

Gun Violence Prevention

When I was a young girl, two accidental shootings shook my family. My cousin shot his brother, my uncle shot his cousin. Both died. Back then we didn’t talk about it a lot. But it really tore the family apart.

Since then senseless gun violence has continued. The recent Parkland, Florida shooting is part of a long line of tragedy. Enough is enough. We have a gun problem.

Since Sandy Hook, 430 children have been killed in schools. I wonder how those parents feel knowing their children might still be alive today if Congress had the courage to act. We cannot sit back and let the NRA make decisions for us. Students are leading the movement against gun violence and it’s time for us to support and listen. I vow to fight for the safety of our children and all of us who are potential victims of senseless gun violence.

The United States is the only developed country on earth where citizens have easy access to high powered weapons. State-by-state patchwork approaches to confront this serious public safety issue are not good enough. Many killers pass current background checks in their states or fall through the cracks completely.

We must demand reasonable gun restrictions. Restrictions on freedoms granted by the Constitution have been implemented throughout our history for the safety of society. I respect the Constitutional right to have a weapon. We must also meet our Constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense and general welfare of our people. In Congress, I promise to stand up to the NRA and pass commonsense gun laws. I will work to find compassionate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand with me. In Congress I will defend your rights: your rights to the 2nd Amendment AND your rights for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Weapons designed for military use should only be in the hands of those well qualified to use them.

We must study gun violence. And the dialogue cannot end there.

We need to invest in our teachers, support staff, and specialized services. They truly hold an important key to the life-long mental health of all in the U.S. Our children need support in finding constructive outlets for their anger. They need educators trained in de-escalation. Educators should not carry guns in their classrooms.

Other Important Issues

Agriculture/Farming

We must support our farmers, including growers owning small and medium-sized farms. There are many successful local initiatives supporting farms and local farm-to-table businesses. We need to expand this business sector to create jobs and build access to nutritious food and local markets. We must protect our environment by instituting environmentally sound farming practice policies.

Civil Rights

Every person has equal worth and dignity. We must ensure that our policies are free from institutional racism, intentional and unintentional bias, and provide everyone with what they need for success. Our country is stronger through its diversity.

Democratic Party

Our Democratic party is the party that “serves the people”. We stand behind a united Democratic party, realizing differences of opinion are a strength.

Defense/Military

The safety of our people at home and abroad is of critical importance. We must support a solid plan to keep our country safe that is both efficient and financially accountable.

Disaster Support

Weather and other related disasters are occurring at a higher rate and intensity. We should appropriate a realistic fund in advance rather than looking for dollars after the fact. I also support investing in new infrastructure to help mitigate anticipated problems and assist municipalities in planning for disasters.

Election Integrity

Voting strengthens our democracy and voting should be easy. I support the two Michigan referendums scheduled for next November’s election: Voters Not Politicians (anti-gerrymandering) and Promote the Vote.

Foreign Policy

The United States must work with other countries sharing goals of diplomacy and promoting human rights. War must be a last resort, used only when we are attacked and have no other recourse. Normalization of nuclear weapons must end and we must work toward non-proliferation.

Israel

The recent violence in Gaza should remind us all how urgently we need to find a way for both Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side – both secure in their right to exist and prosper in the region. This won’t happen by increasing the violent rhetoric. It will take hard work by professional diplomats with experience in statecraft rather than amateurs like Jared Kushner. I am disturbed to see Israel’s leadership forming such a fawning bond with Donald Trump. But just as Trump doesn’t represent the views of all Americans, I know there’s a wide range of opinion among Israelis. And the Israeli government doesn’t represent all Jewish people.

Beyond the situation in the Middle East – and closer to the purview of the U.S. Congress — I am disturbed by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech here in the United States. The white supremacist language we have been seeing in Charlottesville and elsewhere in our own country is perhaps even more anti-Semitic than racist. We have to stop the mainstreaming of hate speech (of all kinds) that normalizes violent, hateful behavior.

Great Lakes

Our Great Lakes, rivers, and other watersheds are some of our most precious resources and we must protect them. In Congress, I would vote to continue needed funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Gun Safety

We can protect 2nd Amendment rights and pass gun safety laws to diminish senseless gun violence. I support universal background checks, passing a mandatory gun safety class, red flag restraining orders, minimum buying age raised to 21, and banning of military or assault-style weapons.

Housing

Homelessness, affordable housing, and home ownership are all real challenges that must be addressed with action. People need a home to be the most productive students and workers. Housing solutions must be on our national infrastructure plan.

Immigration

Our undocumented immigrant population has been waiting far too long for Congress to vote on a solution. I support a bill that would keep families together with legalized status in the U.S. Our Dreamers should have a quick path to citizenship.

Incarceration

The “war on drugs” was not successful. Too many low-level offenders, disproportionally people of color, are serving more time than they deserve compared to similar offenses by whites. Our judicial system must be fair. In addition, when our educational system becomes equitable, our school-to-prison pipeline will end.

Infrastructure

Our country is suffering through an infrastructure crisis. Our water, sewer, and drainage systems, roads and bridges, and a new energy grid must all be priorities with most of the funding provided federally. Investment in infrastructure will be a boost for good jobs and our economy.

LGBTQ Rights

Our country took a major step to legalize marriage equality. We need to continue to provide equal protection for all people across the nation with federal anti-discrimination laws.

Living Wage

All working people must be paid a living wage, including equal pay for women, mandatory paid overtime, and paid family leave. The living wage should be tied to localized rent costs, food, and other necessities.

Marijuana

I support states rights to legalize recreational marijuana, providing there are laws regulating purchasing, driving while impaired, etc., just as we have for alcohol.

Money in Politics

We must get big money out of politics, with its influence on “pay for play”. I support campaign finance reform with most support coming from taxpayer designated funds and all other funds are transparent and limited.

Net Neutrality

We must continue net neutrality. Private corporations must not be allowed to gain huge profits on the free flow of ideas. Our democracy is at stake if we lose net neutrality.

Social Security

Social Security is the only source of income for more than a third of our seniors. We must strengthen and expand this necessary program.

Women’s Issues

Reproductive rights must be upheld, including the woman’s right to choose, the availability of contraception, comprehensive sex education, and easy access to health care. Women must be protected from sexual abuse, domestic violence, and unequal pay in the workforce.