Responses to National Organization of Women Questionnaire

contact Brandon Collins (434) 249-3312
brandoncollins@comcast.net    facebook 

 

Here are my responses to the Charlottesville Chapter of the National Organization of Women survey of candidates. Most of the focus is on statewide issues, which makes it harder to articulate a position, but have done my best.

ECONOMIC CONCERNS
Although Virginia ranks high on income, almost one-third of female-headed families with children in Virginia live in poverty – and that was before the current recession. 
What would you do, as an elected official, to help women who are in poverty?

I have made poverty the cornerstone of my campaign, and will do so as a city councilor. I suggest opening a jobs center in downtown Charlottesville where people can access work that pays a living wage, and a wide variety of other services. I would seek to “guarantee employment” for any resident who needs a job, directly through the city if needed. I suggest a doubling of funding and attention to affordable housing, and the creation of a public housing bank to provide low, or no interest loans, and grants to low income people to purchase their own homes, halt gentrification, provide more rental assistance and more. I call for an expansion of utility bills subsidies, and an end to evictions.

Given severe budget cutbacks, what is realistic to do?

Charlottesville will be receiving large grants for public works programs and public housing upgrades, we need to make sure a local workforce is used. We also have a surplus of funds that should be used for immediate relief for the homeless. We have great amounts of wealth in Charlottesville that can be put to work for residents who are most in need. By increasing employment and wages we will increase revenue in the form of sales taxes and real estate taxes.

Do you think employers should be required to pay wages based on comparable worth for jobs that require equivalent skills, effort, and responsibility? 

I believe that employers should pay a living wage of $11.41/hr, or $4.40/hr for tipped wage employees. Further I seek to guarantee a job to anyone who needs one.

VOTING RIGHTS
NOW supports restoring voting rights to non-violent felons who have completed their sentence. Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states that do not automatically restore convicted felons’ civil rights to some extent. We believe this is harsh, racist, and detrimental to family well-being.
Will you vote to restoring voting rights to ex-felons easier?

I would happily add this to the city’s legislative agenda, and consider a legal option to allow ex-offenders to vote in local elections. I have done much work with ex-offenders in Charlottesville and will continue to do so. I fully support the ex-offender “home to work” public works program, now in the pilot stage, and will seek ways to expand it.

Will you vote against voting laws which would restrict voting rights for anyone such as minorities, students, and old people who have no picture IDs.

If the City has any power to influence this, I would fully oppose any law requiring ID to vote. I support same day voter registration, but the City has little say on this issue.

HEALTH CARE
According to the Women’s Health Virginia survey , women in Virginia are more concerned about the cost of health care and health insurance than any other health issue (including cancer, children’s health, and mental health). More than 424,000 Virginia women are uninsured – or 13% of Virginia women ages 19-64,  3.6% of Virginia women received late or no prenatal care , putting the state 22nd in the nation on this measure.  What do you propose to do about this situation?

In Charlottesville we have a huge problem with infant mortality in the African-American community. The highest concentration of this is a few blocks from UVA Hospital. We have two hospitals in Charlottesville, I believe we can do more to partner with these hospitals to include more services for all residents Charlottesville, and with particular attention to women. I would like to see a regional free comprehensive health screening clinic, similar to Wise County, set-up here in town. If UVA can send doctors and med students to Wise County for this, we could certainly do it here. Further, Charlottesville is severely lacking in free live-in substance abuse treatment for women. Ultimately we need to ensure that our residents have access to jobs that pay a living wage, offer flexible hours and real benefits. If we could convince our town to set up a resident health care payment plan, including free healthcare for low income residents I would be very much in favor of that.

PRE-KINDERGARTEN AND KINDERGARTEN EDUCATION
40 states have some level of state-funded pre-kindergarten. Virginia – which is among the top states in income – does not. Given that children learn most of what they will know before they enter school and given that there is a fiscal crisis, what do you propose doing to bring Virginia up to the standard of other states?

I can only speak for Charlottesville here. We have a growing public pre-school program here. However, there is a long waiting list. I would like to see more funds to ensure that expansion of Pre-K continues. I also support a massive expansion of MACAA (Monticello Area Community Action Agency) for a number of reasons including expanding Head Start using local funds.

VIOLENCE
Most victims of sexual violence are women. Of child victims, 69% were girls.. It is difficult to know the full extent of sexual and domestic violence against women – it is one of the most under reported crimes. We do know the need for services continues to increase. What will you do about the escalating violence against women on campus and in the home?

Ultimately a change in our consumer culture and economic system is where real results concerning violence towards women could begin. A city councilor could very effectively play an active role using our bully pulpit to confront our cultural attitudes towards women. We can re-prioritize our police response and attention towards domestic and sexual violence, provide more funding for support services and women’s cultural and resource programs. I would also support educating men about the cause of feminism and women’s issues in the hopes that cultural attitudes might change from their perspective as well. Infrastructure upgrades, late night bus service and better lighting can play a role in improving safety for all in Charlottesville.

Would you support increasing the effectiveness of any domestic violence or stalking laws?

I would seek data on how effective certain changes in the law might be regarding Charlottesville. I do think that both domestic violence and stalking laws could be strengthened and enforced. I would also support other ways in which to approach these issues concerning restorative justice. In many domestic violence instances I have seen a man’s anger and propensity for violence increase because of lack of educational and restorative opportunities available after arrest.

Would you push for better rape laws and for the state to help pay to process rape kits
(there is a back log because of the lack of funding)?

Absolutely yes. Our police department should be able to pay for all processing of rape kits whether the state provides the funds or not.

WOMEN IN ELECTED OFFICES
Virginia ranks 41th in the nation for women in elected office, with women comprising only 17% of members of the General Assembly and no female representatives to Congress at this time. Do you consider these low figures a problem? Why or why not? 

This is a problem. We should have ample representation of all segments of society in politics. My feeling is that both the Republican and Democratic parties do not take this issue seriously enough. I belong to political party (Socialist Party USA) that supports affirmative action both in theory and organizationally. We have gender parity in our organization and I would see this is a way that other parties could increase participation and support women in the political process.

If they are a problem, what will you do about it?

I support affirmative action. Charlottesville will be considering minority representation in city government, particularly in supervisory roles, in the coming months. I would hope to include women as part of this discussion as well, and seek to implement an actual affirmative action policy in City government. Further, I will continue to support, value, and demand that women involved in activism have their voices heard and take leadership positions.

SEX EDUCATION
Will you vote for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education programs in Virginia public schools, which stress abstinence as a healthy choice and have appropriate opt-out provisions? 

Absolutely I am in favor of accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive sex education in our schools. I would include homosexuality in sex education. I would like to see Charlottesville schools support free access to birth control in our schools, such as condom distribution.

Will you oppose abstinence-only programs in our schools?

Absolutely opposed to abstinence only programs.

TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS FOR SEX AND LABOR
The 2009 General Assembly passed legislation to strengthen penalties for human traffic. However, additional steps are needed. Laws dealing with immigrants and prostitution can allow traffickers to escape unpunished while punishing immigrants and prostitutes. Would you vote for further enhanced penalties with the goal of eventually ridding Virginia of these criminal traffickers? 

We need to take the burden off of immigrants and prostitutes. I support an end to slavery in all forms, including in human trafficking. People are not products, they should be treated as human beings both by the law and by those who seek to exploit them. We should end all penalties for immigrants and prostitutes and seek only to end trafficking by targeting those who traffic human beings. Further, I support making Charlottesville a “sanctuary city”, and I support the formation of sex worker unions.

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
Numerous bills are introduced each session to restrict access to abortion services and contraception. If elected, will you vote for or against each of the following:

TRAP bills (Targeted Regulations for Abortion Providers) –
Classifying Women’s Health Center in the same category as hospitals?

I do not support this type of legislation, and would seek to add this issue to the city’s legislative agenda for the General Assembly.

“Trigger” bills that would make abortion illegal in Virginia if Roe v. Wade is overturned –

I oppose such legislation, and again, would seek to add this to our legislative agenda.

The Birth Control Protection Act, which is supported by NOW and other women’s and pro-choice organizations and states that birth control methods approved by the U.S. FDA are contraceptives and not methods of abortion – 

I support access to all forms of birth control, including emergency contraception.

Do you think that insurance companies that cover FDA-approved medications should be required to cover FDA-approved contraceptives (oral contraception, etc) on an equal basis? –.

Absolutely yes.

Further, I am the only candidate in Charlottesville calling for local funding of planned parenthood in my platform. I would also seek to contribute local funding to programs like the reproductive freedom project which provides resources and funds for low income women to receive abortions.

EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
Virginia has not ratified the ERA. The text of the ERA is as follows: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Will you vote for ratification of an Equal Rights Amendment? 

If given a vote I will gladly vote in favor of the ERA, this has been put off for way too long. I was proud to be present when Charlottesville City Council expressed it’s support for the ERA last week.

Will you co sponsor a bill for Virginia to ratify the ERA?

I will seek to add this to Charlotttesville’s legislative agenda for the General Assembly.

LGBT EQUALITY
Do you support full civil rights and equal treatment under the law for lesbians and gays in the following: 

Employment-  Yes
Housing- Yes
Custody decisions- Yes
Adoptions- Yes
Military Service- Yes

URANIUM MINING.
Uranium mining relates to women and their families’ health, as well as economy and jobs.
Would you support  the mining or processing of uranium in Va?

I am opposed to uranium mining in Virginia, and spoke to city council about it’s effects and was happy to speak in favor of council’s resolution opposing uranium mining in Virginia.

What are your top three priorities if you are elected? 

1. Jobs and Wages- we need to change the balance of workers to employers. By guaranteeing employment in a number of ways, we can make wages rise. There are numerous steps to take towards this goal. We should only seek out business, or grant incentives, to business that is friendly to the needs of our community. Public works and Parks and Recreation expansion can employ great numbers in our city and work towards making our town 100% sustainable. All city contracts should pay a living wage. A jobs center to coordinate Section 3 compliance, ex-offender “home to work”, human resources, job training, direct access to employment and temporary employment.

2. Affordable Housing- we need to double our attention, and funding, for affordable housing in Charlottesville. Expansion and upgrades to public housing, expanding vouchers, only giving incentives to housing developments that are at least 50% low income, public bank or corporation to address our housing needs and stop gentrification, and offer low, and no interest loans to low income people seeking to own their own homes, and loans for sustainable upgrades to existing structures. Immediate construction of a homeless shelter, and construction of more SROs.

3. Public Transportation- all city planning should be based on public transportation, expand our bus system into full service on Sundays, late night, and more frequent routes. Implement park and ride, and direct service shuttles. All state transportation funds should go towards public transit. I support a regional transit authority.

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