These are just a few of the issues I plan to gain bipartisan support for, take on, and win in the General Assembly. With your support, we can and will bring positive, progressive change to the District and the Commonwealth.
“Together We Can” … and WE WILL!
As a product of public schools and two public universities (The Norfolk State University and The University of Virginia), I understand the importance of funding for our public schools and universities. As the father of public school students, one with ADHD, I have a strong vested interest in seeing our public schools succeed and be the best in the country. We deserve the best teachers in the classrooms for our students and those teachers deserve the best pay, facilities and resources. Teachers should be allowed the freedom to teach for learning and understanding and not to teach strictly based on meeting testing standards. I have worked as a substitute teacher in Henrico County and understand the struggles teachers are dealing with from first-hand experience. I have been a substitute bus driver and have seen the overcrowding on buses and the pressure on drivers to have to take on additional routes due to the shortage of drivers.
So, when I say I understand the struggles of our public school system, I am speaking from experience from all ends of the spectrum. Children are our future and when elected, I will ensure that public schools are my top priority. I will work to ensure that Chesterfield County, Henrico County, Prince George County, and the City of Hopewell schools are all equally funded with the resources to recruit and keep the best teachers the country has to offer. I will also work to increase pay for our bus drivers who take on the important task of getting our students to and from school and activities every day. I will work with the House and Senate to craft a state budget that assists in raising salaries for teachers and increases funding for the assistance in the renovation and up keep of our schools. I will advocate for statewide incentives to assist in the hiring of more qualified bus drivers to ensure the safe transportation of our most precious possessions… our children. There is no compromise when it comes to our children and public education. Let’s stand together on this issue and show the career politicians that we will no longer sit back and allow our children and schools to fail.
Women’s Rights & Equal Rights
No one should be able to have the authority to tell any woman what she can and cannot due with her body…. period. This decision should be left to her and her health care provider. Nor should the legislative body prevent her from obtaining the support, assistance, and resources that she rightfully deserves. I will always stand to protect women’s rights and will ensure that women’s care and needs are known and supported in the General Assembly.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) should have been ratified here in Virginia decades ago. The idea that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”, is not only fair but a God given right that should not have been denied for this long in Virginia. That has to change in order for our society to move forward and not remain stuck in the past. When elected, I will support the ratification of the ERA in Virginia and persuade others to follow my lead. Women shall not come second to men and it has by far taken too long for Virginia to stand up and prove that by ratifying the ERA. Equality shall not have clauses and women shall and will be equal in all rights here in Virginia to include equal opportunities and equal pay for equal work. EQUALITY FOR ALL! Let’s work to ensure this is accomplished in the 2019 General Assembly Legislative Session!
Raising the Minimum Wage
The average household income in the 62nd District is disproportionate with a difference of approximately $35,000, with the City of Hopewell on the lower end and Chesterfield County and Prince George County on the higher end. Raising the minimum wage will begin the process to close that gap and reduce poverty, which in return reduces the need of dependency of public assistance for our families living below the poverty line and reduce the need for some families working two and three jobs. I grew up poor with my mother working three and sometimes four jobs to make ends meet. I understand how hard it is for some families to be just that… “families” because mommy, daddy, or both are out working 16 – 18 hours a day to keep the family afloat.
I have felt that pain in my stomach of having just enough to eat to make it to the next day and I have had to depend on food stamps. This is why I support gradually raising the minimum wage in Virginia to $15 an hour over the next three years in increments of about $2 per year. With an immediate increase to $10 an hour. I will work with the House and Senate to formulate a plan to achieve this for our families. It will also be my duty to assist small business owners during these increases, as I understand that the minimum wage increase will affect them a lot more than big business. By doing the increase in increments and providing small business tax incentives, I look to decrease the burden of increasing minimum wages on the small business owner.
Criminal Justice Reform
The incarceration rate in our country and state is staggering. The relationships between communities and law enforcement are being strained. Families are being torn apart by addiction and many African American families are experiencing fatherless homes. As a former Public Safety professional, I totally understand the need for community policing, as well as communities and law enforcement agencies working together. There is work to be done on both sides of this issue. It can and will be done. When elected, I will assist in bridging that gap. I will support law enforcement agencies 100 percent in ensuring the safety of our communities while aiding the community to be the best it can be. But I will also advocate for communities by assisting law enforcement and our criminal justice system in recognizing biases and disparities. I will advocate for and support universal statewide standards and policies for the use of body cameras, the review and release of body camera footage, and additional training for law enforcement officers to aid in the reduction of use of force. This measure not only comforts the community, but also aids officers when needed and supports our main street heroes.
I will advocate and support the introduction of legislation to reduce, and over time, eliminate mandatory sentencing guidelines for personal drug use and possession. Addiction in our communities should not be treated as a public safety issue, but as a health issue and remedied with treatment as opposed to incarceration. I will work to aid our returning citizens during re-entry by supporting funding for work force development, small business development for former offenders and encouraging businesses with incentives, to give our returning nonviolent neighbors a second chance. I will support “Ban the Box”. Our nonviolent returning citizens also deserve the automatic restoration of their rights upon the completion of their sentence. I have always supported this initiative and I will continue to work to achieve this. By ensuring that our returning citizens are prepared to reenter society to become productive, contributing citizens, we can and will effectively decrease the recidivism rate. Lastly, I will work to end the school to prison pipeline. I will look to adopt legislation that limits law enforcement powers within schools when interacting with students and will look to keep them from being involved in minor school disciplinary issues.
Mental Health & Healthcare
Too many citizens are suffering from mental health conditions and not receiving the essential services and support that they need. Although steps have been made in the Commonwealth to begin reform, we must do more and continue to push forward; we still have a long way to go. I will work to continue that push. Having witnessed the effects of mental illness, I understand the importance of good, adequate, and timely care. I will work to protect Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, to provide additional funding to increase mental health care and services. I will work towards bipartisan support to produce funding for new mental health facilities in order to provide more immediate beds for citizens during times of crisis. Too many citizens in a crisis end up in our local jails to handle this issue. This must end.
I will work to support the promotion of early intervention, strengthen our community crisis systems, combat suicide, and support studies to bring evidence-based practices to our mental health care system in the Commonwealth. My goal will be to ensure that every citizen, not only in my district, but the entire Commonwealth, obtains the care and assistance they need before crisis strikes. All Virginians deserve affordable health care and prescriptions. I will work hard to protect the Affordable Care Act and to ensure that prescriptions are affordable.
I am a responsible gun owner and grew up in a family of sportsmen and hunters as an adolescent in rural Brunswick County, Virginia. Often during that time in my high school parking lot, you would see pickup trucks with shotguns in the rear window. It was a way of life in the country. As a young man and a soldier in the United States Army, I was once a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), during a time in which I felt that they were promoting the safe use of weapons, weapon safety, responsible gun ownership and education. After the Virginia Tech Massacre and the many mass shootings that have followed here in America, it has become apparent that that is no longer the NRA’s mission nor those who accept campaign funds from the organization.
When elected, I will work to enact common sense gun reform while responsibly protecting gun rights here in the Commonwealth. I will work to close the gun show loop hole and enact tougher laws that punish illegal gun transactions. I will ensure that high capacity magazines and assault rifles do not find their way into the hands of the mentally ill and citizens who should not possess them. I know and have seen the damage these weapons can do. Therefore, they have no place or purpose for service other than by military personnel and law enforcement. I refuse for the Commonwealth to lose another child, parent, sibling, relative, friend, neighbor or citizen to senseless gun violence.
In June 2017, President Trump removed the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, it’s now more important than ever for the Commonwealth of Virginia to be the leader on fighting climate change. In the United States, everything about climate change is politically divisive. There appears to be little common ground on what causes it, what to do about it or even, in the case of some Republicans, whether the problem exists at all. We must enact legislation to protect our environment, oceans, bays, rivers and springs. From the James, to the Chesapeake to the Atlantic Ocean. It is our duty in the Commonwealth to ensure our future generations can enjoy clean air, water, and are protected against sea level rise.
Public Transportation & Roadways
I reside in Chesterfield County where the communities are increasingly growing as well as the businesses. This is a great problem to have, but the effects are congested roadways that are forever in need of repair, extended drives to get home and to work, and unsafe streets for children to play in. This is a problem throughout the district and the Commonwealth. I have heard from so many citizens of the need for some form of public transit, especially in Chesterfield County. I will support and work towards funding for the introduction and expansion of clean energy public transportation in the district, as well as improvements and maintenance of all of our roads, highways and byways.