The Daily Mail is meeting today with Democrats and Republicans running in the state’s House 37th district.
Follow along as we learn more about the candidates and why they’re running for the House of Delegates.
That was fast. Our session is over for the day.
Sheets: “When you cut taxes, you end up cutting the services that help the poor.” State needs earned income tax credit similar to the federal version. It could enable people to get better jobs and get off welfare. “We have to be innovative in what we’re doing in the Legislature.”
Sheets agrees with Chestnut’s idea of auditing each state agency. He thinks $10 million could be found and applied to some of the problems within the education system in particular.
Sheets says he’s mad. Out of 400-plus elementary schools, the bottom are the schools on the West Side and Piedmont, on the East End. “Our people deserve better. We have problems.” He says Piedmont has the highest number of homeless students of any school in the state.
Lindsey says there’s a huge difference in the number of students on the West Side versus the number of slots available in daycares and pre-k in the area.
Lindsey says Mary C. Snow is an example of things that work and things that don’t, but you can look at WESTEST scores from last year and children who went to pre-k scored 20 points higher than those who didn’t.
Lindsey says the state needs to invest in our children. “I don’t believe our greatest resource is coal or natural gas–it’s our children.”
Pushkin: “Schools should be more individualized and not just teach to the test. Each school is its own community with its own set of problems.”
Puskin: “With school consolidation, classrooms are getting bigger. I’d like to see smaller classrooms.” Public education “pays for itself.” Education is “part of improving our quality of life.” It’s something businesses look for before deciding to locate here. “It’s all inter-related.”
Pushkin says he’s the product of public school system and it’s a priority for him to improve the system. “I’m not going to blame the teachers for what’s wrong with the education system.” To keep good teachers, state needs to pay them well. Believes in pre-k education and would like to see smaller classrooms.
Heflin is the first to mention the Future Fund. He would like to see investment sooner, but the state needs to make it a priority to use the money to put teacher pay on par nationally.
Heflin says we need outcome based models for higher ed systems in the state. “We need to re-examine how we’re spending our money as far as higher education spending goes.” He says he was happy to see the compromise bill for teachers, but service personnel also deserves an across the board raise.
Heflin says the state’s constitution mandates a free public education for students. “It’s incumbent on us not only to education children and fulfill their potential, but also to find a job and sustain themselves in the work force.”
Minimah pushed for Mary C. Snow Elementary to be built where it sits on the Kanawha Blvd. and Florida St. “My argument at that time was if we invest the money and build a new school that would encourage the community to push for public safety.”
Minimah says a major problem is the influence of teacher unions. The Legislature needs to stand up, bite the bullet and try something new–merit pay for teachers. “We have good teachers and good teachers need to be awarded.” Would encourage school voucher system to give students and parents a choice in what school they attend.
Chestnut: “We need someone to go in and independently audit wages, material, utilities. We can pay for any education system through waste.”
So where does the state find money for teacher salaries? Chestnut says there is a lot of waste in state government, and each department should be audited to find wasted funds to restore funding to seniors, the poor and the school system.
Chestnut believes good teacher wages, training and evaluation are good places to start. He’d also like to see a focus on vocational education. “We’re going to have to do something about keeping our good teachers with good wages. They’re professionals who go to college and give their lives to the teaching profession. They should be paid accordingly.”
Kelly Merrit asks about schools in the district–two of which are brand new. Education is a big issue, but what is the Legislature’s role?
Sheets: “There hasn’t been a lot of backbone in our legislators to do what’s right.”
Sheets: home rule helps cities allow themselves to become better. “This seat is focused on Charleston. Home rule is not just Charleston. It’s everywhere.”
Sheets says there are more than 100 smaller cities that would like to participate in home rule, but legislators equate home rule with Charleston. “We need to spread it around.”
Lindsey: Home rule should be used to give cities flexibility when it comes to public safety and economic development.
Lindsey says home rule shouldn’t be “hung over the head of local and city officials who are trying to do what’s best for their community.” He says public safety is essential to economic development. Businesses won’t come to the West Side if they fear shootings and drugs.
Pushkin says he’s for strengthening home rule. “I think Charleston has a different set of problems, a different set of circumstances.” He says he’ll work with delegates representing more urban parts of the state “to get things done.” He would like to revisit the idea of small business incubators for minority small business owners.
Heflin says a big problem in the Legislature is the lack of urban policy. “We have done very little to encourage urban growth in this state.” Would like to see home rule strengthened to enable cities and towns to create innovative tax policies. Certain regulations should be loosened as far as how cities can purchase items and build projects.
Minimah says he personally believes in the 2nd amendment. “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” He says he’ll try his best to reach out to the rest of the delegation to find common solutions “where we all can have a good understanding between each other and hopefully pass a bill that makes sense.”
Chestnut: “We’re just one vote for our district.” He says home rule should be set aside for things like public safety–that should be decided at the community level.
Don Surber says one of the problems Charleston has is home rule. Where is the limit on home rule?
Chestnut: communities need to deal with the gun problems they have, it’s not an issue that needs a blanket solution. He says government is an oligarchy ran by a small group of people, not a democracy. “I wish we could do something and I intend on doing something. The drug problem is the main thing. We need to do something with the kids on drugs.”
Chestnut believes elementary students should be taught about the dangers and consequences of drugs. “As far as the communities, I believe the state has overstepped its boundaries in telling Charleston it couldn’t set up gun control ordinances. Charleston was correct in what they were doing.” He believes in background checks and waiting periods.
Minimah says a “very serious crackdown” by police is needed to prosecute criminals and put them in jail. “There are no easy solutions, but that’s where we can start.”
Minimah believes in a zero-tolerance approach to hardened criminals. “Where I live, there was a serious drug problem next door–a rental property.” He and his wife organized the community and engaged local law enforcement and neighborhood watches to solve the problem. “We must do whatever we can as citizens of this district to fight crime and criminals ourselves.”
Minimah says he’s lived in this district for 35 years and raised his kids in the area. “When we talk about public safety, public safety in the 37th district is nothing new. There is a lot of rhetoric about it, but we need solutions.”
Heflin: “If we’re going to get serious about bringing in manufacturing jobs … we need to get serious about getting our folks clean.”
Heflin: “My position is we need to do more to empower citizens to take over property like that. When properties are abandoned, they become nests for meth labs, a nest for gun crime.” Abandoned property puts a sign on the West Side welcoming violence and drug problems.
Heflin says abandoned property and absentee ownership are big problems and affect the appearance of the area. “You go on any street on the West Side and you see vacant houses, homes that aren’t kept well and vacant lots.” In New Orleans, people can take a citizens imminent domain and take that land over to demolish the structure or renovate. “The West Side is ripe for that type of development.”
Pushkin would like to see more money for treatment centers to help slow the demand for drugs in the area. “That’s what the violence is about.” He notes people who live on the West Side have been there for decades and own their own homes. “I’ve seen kids commute from better neighborhoods to our neighborhood to sell drugs.”
Pushkin is a gun owner and says he’s not anti-gun, but there do need to be ordinances in place that protect the public. “As long as there is a huge demand for drugs here, it will be a problem.”
Pushkin said the culture of violence goes back to the ’80s when crack became popular. He disagrees with SB 317 and says Charleston needs its own gun ordinance.
Pushkin said he lives on the West Side and is a nighttime cab driver. “I’ve been fired on at work.” Violence on the West Side affects him personally. “The problems are so deep. It’s an entire culture change. Someone thinks that behavior is acceptable. It runs so deep.”
Lindsey: “I think we do need a prescription requirement for pseudoephedrine in order for people to get those drugs.” Guns are more common on the street and the meth issue wasn’t addressed last session. Looking closely at those issues will help.
Lindsey says people on the West Side are most concerned about public safety. On a state level, the Legislature should restore funding cut to domestic violence and programs for children. Concealed weapons in rec centers (SB 317) should be repealed, he said.
Sheets: “The after school programs we have at Roosevelt are changing the scenery.” Programs for seniors help, too. People on the West Side “are rising up. They want their neighborhood back.” Rehabilitation programs are helping things begin to change.
Sheets says the block he lives on, on Jackson St., was once the worst in the cities. “I have worked with neighbors, with people, to get the child protection act to pass.” It passed unanimously and upheld by state Supreme Court. His area was a test zone for high-intensity street lights, and he’s been pushing for LED lighting to increase safety and efficiency.
Brad McElhinny asks about the recent West Side shootings. He wants to know what constituents are saying about the crime in the area.
Sheets says we need to reinvent the wheel in a sense when it comes to education. He’d like to see youngsters more inspired and seek more from their future.
Sheets is currently on Charleston City Council, representing downtown Charleston. He lives on disability “but I fight for the issues.” He says the state needs to look at raising the level of income for all, not just teachers, but everyone.
Lindsey would like to see a renewed focus on two-year degree programs where students can learn a trade. Public safety is also an issue. He belives the governor’s cuts to domestic violence and child abuse programs have a negative affect on children.
Lindsey grew up on the West Side and now lives on the East End. He’s running to put the interest of working families first. He thinks minimum wage should be $10 an hour. He also believes in universal childcare and Pre-K.
Pushkin says he wants to emulate current Delegate Meshea Poore’s style. She gets into the community and knows her constituents. He says he’d like to be the same. “Real change doesn’t happen (inside the capitol). It happens here.”
Pushkin says he’s an unconventional candidate–he’s a musician and songwriter who drives a cab. He says he knows the district better than most because he lives there.
Chestnut says the Legisalture isn’t doing enough to bring jobs to the area. Minimah agrees, but says he’s concerned about education system too. Heflin says the biggest thing the state needs to do is increase the ability to foster job growth and increase the tax base. He’d also like to see more investment in higher ed.
Getting started with today’s session. We have Democrats Archie Chestnut, Brad Heflin, Mike Pushkin, Richard Lindsey and Robert Sheets. Republican Charles Minimah is the lone Republican running in the district.
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