INSURGENT IN THE 24th LD: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID FABER
David Faber is a 24-year-old graduate of The Evergreen State College who recently filed to challenge Senator James Hargrove in a Democratic Primary in the 24th Legislative District. The Melon recently became the first web-blog to interview Faber, to gather some insights into his character, conduct and convictions, and to ask him some tough questions.
Question #1: Senator Hargrove has been a staple of the State Democratic Caucus since 1993, why do you feel the need to challenging his seat?
There are quite a few reasons why I feel the need to challenge James Hargrove for the 24th Legislative District Senate Seat. Among them is that a healthy and thriving democracy requires fresh ideas and a vibrant debate about the function and role of the government. But I’m not running for the seat simply to engage Mr. Hargrove in a debate about how best to lead the Olympic Peninsula. I’m running to win the senate seat because I believe that I can better represent the people of the 24th district. I don’t mean to downplay all of the good things that Mr. Hargrove has done for the 24th district but his voting record is clear: he has lost touch with the priorities of the Olympic Peninsula and the Democratic Party. Now is the time to build a truly progressive coalition statewide. I intend to bring strong, responsive leadership back to the 24th district seat in the Washington State Senate.
Question #2: What qualifies you to represent the 24th LD? You’re only 24 years old and you just graduated from college?
Why am I qualified to represent the 24th legislative district? Simple: I have not been bought and sold by special interests. I am not a member of the good ol’ boys club. I am not part of the status quo. I am not corrupt and I am not disconnected from the needs of the 24th district. Instead I will provide open and honest leadership in Olympia. I will do my best to involve all of the residents of the 24th district in the decision making process. From Port Townsend to Hoquiam, from Neah Bay to Ocean Shores, from Forks to Quilcene and everywhere in between everyone, and not just a select few, will find the door to my office open and will find me always willing to hear what they have to say. I will listen to their concerns and legislate not based upon a rusted and old ideology but rather upon the demands of today and upon the actual needs of my community.
I have new ideas and a fresh perspective on the role of the Washington State legislature. I want to be proactive in solving problems before they become too big to deal with. I will not shy away from a fight over what I think is morally correct but I am not too stubborn to realize when I am wrong. To some my age may be a concern. To them I would say that I have the energy that it takes to fully represent the interests of the 24th district. This year young people have become more engaged in the political process than they have been in years. We need to act quickly to show young people that the Democratic party cares about what they have to say. The Democratic party is a party for all ages and should represent people young and old. If we do not seize on this opportunity it may be many years and another generation before we get the chance to again prove that young people have a reason to care about politics.
While my resume may not be the longest or most impressive I believe that it says quite clearly that I am a civically engaged and committed person. I played an instrumental role in developing the first functional student government, called the “Geoduck Union” at the Evergreen State college and was the first member elected to a seat on the Geoduck Union. I worked as a public policy intern with the Washington State House of Representatives during the 2007 session where I developed strong relationships with members of the both the House and Senate. Then during the 2008 legislative session I worked as the assistant to the Washington State Senate intern program and with the Washington State Senate Civic Education program. I have been a member of the Washington State Civics Consortium and helped establish “Civic Education Day” here in Washington State. I have volunteered with political campaigns. I have volunteered in community projects including a community farming project in Port Townsend and Jefferson County. I am a long-time volunteer and regular at the Boiler Room in Port Townsend, WA which provides a drug-and-alcohol free environment for young people to pursue community art, music and friendship. I am a major proponent of sustainable development and civic education, virtue and duty.
Question #3: Why are you a Democrat?
I am a Democrat because the Democratic Party represents our best hope at forging a positive path into the future here in Washington State. Despite the fact that many Democrats have been pandering to the right-wing in recent years I believe that the Democratic Party is still the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bobby Kennedy. For better or worse in the American political system we have only two viable political parties. The Democratic Party is the only major party in Washington that stands for sustainable environmental practices; social justice; a well educated and healthy populace; responsive and transparent government; fiscal responsibility; small and local business development; reasonable solutions to our transportation problems; and clear and strong ethical and moral standards. There are independents and other political parties trying to do great things and I have nothing but respect for the Green Party and the Libertarian Party but to be truly effective one has to be a member of the Democratic Party.
There are some members of the Washington State Legislature with a “D” next to their name who do not represent the best of the Democratic Party but the only way that we are ever going to be able to get the Democratic Party all the way back on track is by working to build the Progressive majority and diminishing the influence of special interests in Washington State. The status quo has to go. After all the laws that are passed can only be as progressive as the individuals that we send to Olympia to create them.
Question #4: What would be your top three legislative priorities upon assuming office in Olympia?
This is a hard question to answer because I have strong feelings about so many issues. I will focus the majority of my energies on battles that can be won and therefore my priorities in Olympia will have to be determined, to some point, by what I can practically accomplish. Below is a list of my thoughts of some of the more important issues to me.
Economic Development and the Tax Structure – The 24th district is, on average, a fairly economically depressed region of Washington State. Deindustrialization, while good for the environment in many ways, has turned many population centers into ghost towns. These days much of the revenue of the northern half of the 24th district is derived from tourism and shipping. We need to diversify the economy by providing incentives to small business start-ups. This includes rolling back regressive taxes such as the B&O tax and levying them against larger businesses exclusively.
Healthcare – It is inexcusable that there are 700,000 people living in Washington without health insurance. If the federal government won’t come up with a reasonable solution to our healthcare crisis then Washington State is going to have to. I will work to introduce a single-payer healthcare system in Washington State which will be vastly more efficient than the system we currently have in place. By removing the private insurance middle-men from the equation the cost to the consumer will decrease. I will also try and focus the energies of our medical system toward more preventative care.
Education – I come from a long line of teachers so I take the opening of the Washington State Constitution very seriously: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” Our teachers are overworked, our classrooms are overflowing and our children our benefiting from neither. I want to create a unified school district which follows the Hawaiian model. Money will be apportioned based upon need and not based upon the property values in the area that those schools are in. Why should it be that rural communities have education of a lower quality than those living in urban areas? A unified school district will be more fair and efficient. Property taxes, which are used to fund a great deal of our education system, have run amok. I want to see education paid for not by regressive property taxes but from the general fund as made up by a fair and progressive tax structure.
Environment – Issues pertaining to the environment might be the most urgent of the issues here in the 24th district. We are facing steadily declining public health and broken ecosystems. Strip-mining operations such as the Fred Hill Materials pit-to-pier project near Shine on the Hood Canal are costing our natural environment dearly. Future industrial and economic development needs to be taken on with a full and complete understanding of the ecological impact. I will work with industrial organizations to come up with a method by which they can continue to develop in a sustainable way. I will work on implementing a carbon tax and developing strategies to offset the human contribution to global climate change.
Affordable Housing – Housing is a serious problem in some parts of the 24th district. In my home town of Port Townsend I know from personal experience that it can be hard to both work a job in Port Townsend and afford to live there. Property values are through the roof but wages are low. Condo conversions have been detrimental to low income families and individuals trying to find a place to live. We need to provide tax incentives for low income development.
Civil rights – I think that it is high time that the Democratic party takes a firm stance on civil rights. No person should be able to represent the Democrats so long as their ideology is informed by arbitrary hatred. James Hargrove has actively worked to ensure that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community are treated as second class citizens. I am a heterosexual man but I am deeply hurt and disturbed by the fact that I am supposedly represented by a known bigot in the Washington State Senate. With that said I don’t want to be paternalistic. I will not be the prime sponsor of legislation that changes the legal definition of the term “marriage” nor will I be the prime sponsor of any other piece of legislation that alters the civil rights currently available to the LGBT community. That role is better left up to Ed Murray, Dave Upthegrove, Jamie Pederson or another openly gay members of the Washington State legislature. I will stand proudly by their side as they work to make positive strides for their community but it is not my place to take their victories from them.
Question #5: Would you support legislation to redefine the legal definition of “marriage” to include same sex couples?
There has to be a reasonable compromise that we can come to in Washington State with regard to the very sensitive debate over LGBT civil rights and marriage equality. I’m not going to skirt your question though. My short answer is yes, I would support legislation to redefine the legal definition of “marriage” to include same sex couples. If the state is to recognize “marriage” as a civil institution then we have to apply the rule fairly to all people regardless of sexual orientation. However, that answer does not fully explain my position. If the term “marriage” is religious in connotation then the state should not be using the term. Instead “domestic partnership” or “civil union” should be applied across the board to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. The religious organizations can then carry out wedding ceremonies and refer to it as “marriage” as they see fit.
Question #6: Would you support legislation to control tuition costs at public colleges and universities? If not, how would you propose making a college education more accessible to low-income Washingtonians?
I would support legislation whole heartedly that controls the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities. Education is the cornerstone of our society and our economy depends upon an educated populace. I would like to see tuition costs frozen for a few years and then thereafter tied to the inflation rate, rises in the cost of living, and the value of real wages.
Question #7: Washington has one of the most regressive tax structures in the nation. What changes would you propose to relieve pressure on low-income residents and middle-class homeowners?
You left one very important group out of your question, Chris: small business owners. The regressive tax structure of Washington State needs to be a top priority for all law-makers in Olympia. This is one area where I differ strongly with Governor Gregoire. She has resisted efforts to re-examine the possibility of an income tax for Washington State. As our tax structure stands now the poorest 20% of Washingtonians pay 17.5% of the income to taxes whereas the wealthiest 1% pays just 3.3% according to the organization “Citizens For Tax Justice”. I propose a significant overhaul of the tax structure here in Washington State. One in which sales taxes are decreased along with the B&O tax and property taxes. In place I would like to see a bracketed income tax system created in which the wealthy pay their proper share and the poor aren’t taxed to the point that they are barely able to scrape by.
Question #8: Do you support the WASL and why?
The WASL has been a failure. It wastes the talent of teachers by forcing them to teach to the test and wastes vast amounts of tax-payer dollars in administration costs. The WASL costs about $5.6 million per year to administer with a per-student cost of about $29. If we are to have a standardized achievement test for students, which I generally disagree with, there are much less expensive options and we should pursue those avenues. It’s time we cut our loses and abandon the WASL for something more effective and cost-efficient.
Question #9: Do you support toll-roads in Washington?
In general I do not support tolls because use taxes tend to fall more heavily upon the poor. Much like I believe we should not have local property taxes determining the revenue for school districts we should not have local tolls determining whether or not the infrastructure is up to par with the needs of the community. It is an unfortunate fact that certain parts of Washington, including much of the Olympic Peninsula, is economically depressed. We live in a civil society that works to bring each and every one of us up. Part of that means that we need to be responsive to the needs of people state-wide.
Question #10: Many of our border communities like Vancouver, Washington, are becoming interstate havens for tax fugitives who are costing both the States of Oregon and Washington precious tax revenue through the absence of a sales tax in Oregon and an income tax in Washington. As the population on the border continues to build, is this going to be an issue the Legislature should concern itself with?
The Legislature does indeed need to concern itself with the rapid growth of Vancouver, WA. Vancouver has become the fourth largest city in Washington State. It is also the largest suburb of Portland, Oregon. Vancouver’s status as a tax-haven is one of the reasons why I am a major proponent of reassessing Washington State’s tax structure. However, my biggest concerns involve the 24th District and the Olympic Peninsula. The 24th District will be better served by a decrease in property tax, sales tax and the B&O tax and the creation of an income tax. Vancouver-as-a-tax-haven is tertiary, though still important, as a reason for my support of an income tax in Washington State.
Question #11: What is your biggest weakness and is Jesus Christ your personal savior…also, have you ever done pot?
I have spent a great deal of time examining my personal spirituality in recent years. I grew up in a mixed Seventh Day Adventist and Catholic home and developed reservations about the way both churches treated certain issues. Science and conventional religious thinking both fail to answer many fundamental questions about our origins and the meaning of life. I do my best to lead my life with positive moral convictions and to treat others with dignity.
I have smoked pot a couple of times and I found it generally unpalatable. My personal dislike for marijuana is independent of my thoughts on what its legal status should be. We waste far too much money trying to convict people for non-violent offenses. We should be spending that money trying to bolster public health and education. I identify the fact that marijuana can cause problems in certain situations but it’s all about priorities: do we want to take aim at a drug that causes people to sit around and eat junk food or would our resources be better spent figuring out how to get the 700,000 Washingtonians without health insurance access to affordable health care?
My biggest weakness? That I care too much! Though in all seriousness my biggest weakness is that sometimes I can find it hard to juggle my responsibilities to my family, work and friends. I usually try to be all things to all people and it has been known to happen that I end up letting one group down. This is a struggle that I have been conscious about and have been working to overcome with good results. If I am elected it will be no different. Dealing with important pieces of legislation every day while also trying to remind the people who were important to me and who I am important to independent of my political position that I love them will be the most difficult task. I recognize the importance of the job and my loved ones and I fully intend to fulfill my promises to both.