May 2010

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club May 16th, 2010

Once again we had a rather small group for our meeting but all who were present enjoyed the opportunity to dialogue with Krystal Ball, Democratic candidate for Congress in the 1st CD.  Thank you to Krystal, her husband Jonathan, and adorable daughter Ella for making the trip up from Fredericksburg to speak with us.

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report- As our trusty treasurer Lisa Richard was unable to join us tonight, David Roos filled in for her; after donations totaling $17.00 from our April meeting, our balance is now at $669.34.

Legal Problem?  “No bills night” is coming- Marie Washington let us know about this event, sponsored by the Young Lawyers Conference of the State Bar in cooperation with the Fauquier Bar Association.  On Monday, May 24th from 5-8 pm only, you may call (540)347-6595 for a free, 10 minute conversation with a lawyer.  Describe your legal question and/or problem and although you will not receive specific legal advice, a volunteer attorney will assist you in locating the resources needed to resolve the situation.  Open to all area residents- Fauquier residency not required.

Democracy Restoration Act- Linda Swanson reported on the April 28th Lobby Day for supporters of the Democracy Restoration Act (co-sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold and Rep. John Conyers).  Linda attended this event along with approximately 30 Virginians representing 8 of our 11 congressional districts.  The group lobbied the Virginia delegation and others in support of the Democracy Restoration Act.  There is a link on our web page (www.sundaysupperclub.org) for people who want a quick and easy way to ask our elected officials to support it.

This bill will:
Restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4 million Americans who have been released from prison after serving their sentences.
Ensure that people on probation never lose their right to vote.
Notify people about their right to vote in federal elections when they are leaving prison, sentenced to probation or convicted of a misdemeanor.

Guest Speaker

We were pleased to welcome Krystal Ball, newly elected Democratic candidate for the 1st CD, as our guest speaker.  Krystal began by sharing with us a little of her biography and her reasons for making the decision to run for Congress and then moved on to her positions on the issues.  After her presentation she gamely engaged in a free for all of questions and concerns.   Thank you very much to Krystal for listening so patiently and being so open to our concerns and opinions.

Biography
Krystal was born and raised in King George County VA.  Her grandfather was a coal miner, her father earned his PhD in physics and did research for Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center, and her mother is an educator and the first woman appointed to the county school board.
Krystal attended UVA where, in addition to receiving a degree in economics, she was a swimmer and water polo player.  She also is a CPA.
Krystal worked for the Federal Government designing and implementing accounting software for the US Federal Courts.  As part of this work she collected statistics on the cost of crime and decided that she wanted to work to improve educational opportunities for youth so they would have a chance to pursue a different path.
Three years ago she and her husband, Jonathan, founded a small business which develops educational software for clients in the United States and around the world.
Krystal has also worked on literacy issues in the developing world.  She has worked with education partners in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jordan and South Korea.

Reasons for Running
Krystal had never planned on running for Congress but after her daughter Ella was born, she became very focused on the need to create a better future for her and for the millions of children in the US.
She believes that too few public servants put the interest of their constituents ahead of their own interests and that we need to stop “short term thinking” and plan for our future.
The small government/big government argument is the wrong argument- we need to be talking about better government instead.

Priorities

Education
Every child must have access to a world class education.

Environmental Protection
Our current Congressman, Rep. Wittman’s rhetoric on environmental issues does not match his record.  As the only environmental scientist in Congress he could take the lead on this issue (he had a good record in the Virginia General Assembly on environmental issues) but instead has voted against Cap and Trade and Against the Clean Estuaries Act.
In 2007, the group “Republicans for Environmental Protection” (which compares Republican congressman to other Republican congressman) gave Wittman a “0” rating. This score improved to “30” in 2008; Frank Wolf scored a “40” and Tom Davis a “50”.  The League of Conservation Voters gave Wittman a 21% rating in 2009; the average for the Virginia delegation is 53%.
The organization Vote Vets is running radio ads against Rep. Wittman because of his lack of support for renewable energy.  They believe that promoting renewable energy is not just an energy issue but also one of national security.

Job Creation
We need to create jobs in new areas, not just those that were thriving pre-recession.  We need to look at expanding job growth in high tech industries, including green energy.
Access to capital and credit still seems to be the biggest hurdle to small business job growth and we need to address this as small business are responsible for a majority of jobs created.

* Scribes Note- for a detailed (and very informative) interview with Krystal visit:

http://www.bluevirginia.us/diary/43/exclusive-blue-virginia-interview-krystal-ball-d1st-cd

Questions and Answers (This part of the meeting was rather hard to take notes on as the discussion went in my different directions but I’ll try to capture the general gist of what was said.)

What are your feelings about our current debt/deficit situation?  Short term spending is necessary as we try to climb out of this recession, but long term, this amount of debt is not sustainable.  We must return to the “pay as you go” policy of the past.  Additionally, we have to stop treating every bill as an “emergency” that must be dealt with immediately.  We must also look at the long term return on spending: for example, investing wisely in education more than pays off the initial expenditure through the lifetime productivity of our citizens.

Obama’s policies on education are headed in the right direction.  He has stated that he wants all high school graduates to be not only college ready but career ready.  His “Race to the Top” program encourages states to compete for funds by creating plans for compelling and comprehensive education reform.

What are your feelings about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  I support the timetables for withdrawal laid out by the president.  We must be respectful of our responsibilities over there while also being respectful of our responsibilities here at home.  A large part of the problem in Afghanistan is that there has never been a clearly defined mission.  Since the surge, we have seen some positive results as far as territory gained and terrorists captured.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have greatly added to our debt problem.  We began two wars we could not pay for at the same time we gave tax cuts and enacted the new Medicare drug benefit.

Will you pledge to vote “no” on future funding for the wars, except for money necessary to bring our troops safely home?  I don’t feel I can make this pledge as I would need to evaluate the situation at the time and the legislation before me.

What would you propose to do about Metro and other transportation issues?  Should there be a federal fix for Metro’s problems?  If DC’s metro is the right solution, then there should be a federal fix.  We must consider all transportation solutions including metro, bus, and the VRE.  We need to be investing in our infrastructure; transportation issues are a critical piece of energy policy and also national security.

In my travels through the 1st CD I have found that everyone is concerned about transportation.  King George County is one of the fastest growing counties in the country and increasingly more people are commuting from there to DC.

How should we address the immigration issue?    We need to secure our boarders rather than sealing them.  We also need an earned path to citizenship for those that are already here.  In the past, we’ve focused all our attention on the workers rather than the employers that hire them.  I’m leery of “guest worker” programs which treat people as commodities.

Often it seems that we elect candidates expecting them to follow through on positions they had taken during the campaign, and yet once in Congress, many seem to be corrupted by the institution.  How do you plan to avoid succumbing to this influence?  I am more interested in doing things that are right than in keeping a seat in Congress.  There are many things I can do in the world.   I admire Al Franken for the job he has done since being elected.  He does not “need” to be in Congress and therefore can focus on doing what is right on the issues rather than on “the politics of re-election.”

I fully support Campaign Finance Reform.  I also support the Schumer/Van Hollen legislation which would force CEO’s sponsoring commercials to appear in the commercials stating “My name is (fill in the name) and I represent (fill in the corporation), and I sponsored this message.”  Additionally, companies with federal contracts and foreign corporations should be prohibited from paying for political commercials.

Right now, the incentives in place encourage Congress to pander to special interests groups.

One of the biggest corrupting influences lies in what you can get after leaving Congress.  I believe that once you leave office there should be a 10 yr. ban on working for anyone from whom you received contributions.

Does Rep. Wittman have a primary?  Yes, Catherine Crabill has decided to challenge him for the seat.  Crabill ran against Albert Pollard for a seat in the VA General Assembly and came surprisingly close to defeating him.  She is a tea party candidate who stated during that campaign: “We have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box.”

I find that people are often more inclined to vote against something than for something.  Would you give me three “water cooler” talking points I can use to encourage colleagues to vote against Rob Wittman?  Wittman says he is concerned about cleaning up the Bay yet voted against the Clean Estuaries Act and Climate Change legislation.  He claims to support veterans yet voted against Senator Webb’s 21st century GI Bill.  He voted against equal pay for equal work, against SCHIP, and against basic consumer protections.

How do you plan to go about showing the difference between Wittman’s rhetoric on the issues and his voting record?  We are working hard to have the resources to connect to people in the way in which they like to be reached, whether that is by phone, door knocking, television, radio, mailers or social media.  We need money to get our message to the voters.  The 1st District encompasses three media markets; 40% of the 1st is in the extremely expensive DC media market.

What is your strategy for getting people to the polls on Nov. 2nd?  Many voters who got engaged in the 2008 elections are disappointed and disillusioned.  We need to give people a reason to get out and vote.  We have already begun an aggressive outreach campaign to young voters; we’re focused on meeting them where they are, in person and online.

For more information on Krystal and her campaign please visit: www.krystalballforcongress.com.

We’ve had rather small turnouts for our April and May meetings and we’re wondering if there is a reason for this other than the fact that we had beautiful weather for both these meetings.  If anyone has any suggestions for topics, speakers, format etc. that would draw more people to our meetings please feel free to contact me.

Thank you and take care.

Andrea

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

June 13th- “An Evening with the Arts”, speakers to include Raven Yates of the Culpeper State Theater Foundation, Kelly Rozwadowski of  the Windmore Foundation, and Christie Clark of the Fauquier Community Theater.

July 11- Chris Miller of the Piedmont Environmental Council