A Political Knock

A young man rang my doorbell late this morning and identified himself as a member of the Leadership Council.

“We’re taking a survey of the neighborhood. I’d like to ask you a few questions about recent political issues,” he said.

“What’s the Leadership Council?” I asked.

“It’s a fiscally conservative group,” he said. He seemed hesitant to tell me more, but I asked anyway.

“Are you out identifying Republican-leaning households?”

“We’re just taking a survey,” he answered. He held a phone, a tablet computer and a stack of brochures.

“Well…. OK. How long is this going to take?”

“Just a few minutes.”

“Go ahead,” I said. I do consider myself “fiscally conservative,” but I was pretty certain my definition would not match his or his group’s definition.

He had six questions, which I mostly answered with yes or no answers. After we finished and I went back into the house, I thought of all the ways I could have extended and explained my answers. Don’t we always after the fact?

Perhaps if I’d taken the time to flesh out my answers a bit, it would have helped us find some common ground. With the one-word answers I gave, I suspect we had none. And in this political climate, shouldn’t that be what we are doing? Listening to each other and finding common ground? Although he was pretty secretive about what he was up to.

Here’s the questions he asked, the answers I gave and my “do-over” answers.

“Do you support a state income tax to pay for education?”

What I said: I’m not sure. It depends on the details.

What I should have said: Yes, I do lean toward supporting an income tax, especially for education, if it is for high-income earners only. Some of the world’s richest people live in our state (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen…) and they can afford to pay more. An income tax on high earners would be a wise public investment, for them and the rest of us. After all, their companies need innovative and skilled workers.

Providing a top-notch education for up and coming generations saves us taxpayers money in the long run. Education lowers the poverty rate, keeps kids out of taxpayer-funded jails, lowers the drug-use rate and significantly increases the tax base when the education pays off in high-paying jobs.

“Do you support the increase in car tabs to pay for transportation?”

What I said: That’s a tough one, but generally, yes. We have to pay for transportation.

What I should have said: Yes, but the way it was presented to voters, and the way it’s being calculated (on a car’s new value even after you’ve had it for years) is unfair and regressive. It needs some tinkering, but we have to save the region’s mass transit plans. It’s an essential public investment. Have you seen the systems in Europe and Japan? I’m totally jealous and you should be, too. If we had what they have (and there’s no excuse why we don’t), my family could be in Seattle in 10-15 minutes. As it is now, we sit in our cars during prime commuting hours for over an hour. We could be using that the time to have a drink in a Seattle bar before the show, or to shop.

Mass transit helps low-income workers get to their jobs, which some might not otherwise be able to reach. Many people can’t afford to live in the city anymore and have to reach it for work. Mass transit also reduces congestion and pollution, the consequences of which we pay for individually and as a society through our time and health.

“Do you support government funding of Planned Parenthood?”

What I said: “Absolutely.”

What I should have said: Federal funding of abortions is already prohibited so what you are really asking is: Do I support access to health care for women, and those who live in communities where there are few other options? You bet I do. Planned Parenthood saves us taxpayers money. If not for them, more women would end up in our emergency rooms unable to pay, more would end up with preventable diseases that could have been treated early at much less expense, and without access to birth control, more women would have children that they cannot afford. Planned Parenthood is a good public investment.

And then I paused the questioning.

“You’re not keeping track of my answers on your screen,” I said.

“I can remember,” he said.

“How can you remember all this? Aren’t you tabulating your survey?”

“I’ve asked these questions a hundred times. I can remember.”

That’s weird, I thought. This guy is really only trying to identify Republican-leaning households. A “survey” was a good strategy. Some people don’t want to answer outright what their political leanings are, but most people like to express an opinion.

He continued.

“Do you support the safe injection sites for heroin users in King County?”

What I said: “I need to look into it more.”

What I should have said: I’m not entirely sure, but we need to try something. I’ve seen discarded needles on the streets of Seattle, as well as people shooting up in doorways, alleys and on the stairways leading up to the waterfront. For our safety and theirs, and in hopes of getting them the treatment they deserve before it’s too late, this seems like an idea that might be worth trying.

And here’s what I found when I did a little research: The King County Board of Health has endorsed the idea, the King County Prosecutor supports it, and the King County Sheriff is open-minded about it. It sounds like a crazy idea, but nothing else is working and this one is in Vancouver, B.C. That site, and nearly 100 worldwide, have medical personnel  on hand to make sure users are safe.

“Research on these sites — there are nearly 100 around the world — overwhelmingly shows a drop in overdoses and in infections of HIV and Hepatitis C caused by dirty needles. A Canadian cost-benefit analysis showed a 5-to-1 return,” writes Jonathan Martin, a Seattle times editorial columnist who has written about the issue.

“Do you know who you’re supporting in the state senate race?”

Aha, I thought, here’s the real reason for his visit, and the subject of this brochures he’s holding. He was identifying Republican-leaning and uncommitted households for this race specifically. The outcome of this election will determine which party controls the state Legislature and BIG money is pouring in from outside the district.

“I’m voting for Manka Dinghra.”

And that was it.

“Ok, thank you for your time.”

I wasn’t offered one of his brochures.

“Ok, good luck out there.”




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