My Vision for Progress: Workers First

As I reflect back on the Labor Day holiday, I remembered what great strides our labor movement has achieved, such as the 40-hour work week, paid leave, and safe working conditions.  But, I also remembered how far we still have to go. I’ve grown up in a world where each year, wealth inequality grows and grows due to tax breaks given to the wealthiest among us. The minimum wage in the 1970’s used to allow a person to afford a home and transportation - the basic necessities to thrive - but now, it barely covers anything. 

When I first moved to Waldo, I recognized that many Kansas Citians struggle every day because the cost of living has outpaced our wages.  And the student debt crisis has only aggravated the problem. I, like so many of my classmates, am strapped with six-figure student debt. My generation is the first generation that has to choose between owning a home and receiving quality education.  All because our government chooses to work for corporations instead of actual people.

So, in Jeff City, I’ll fight to raise the minimum wage to be a liveable wage.  I’ll also support union jobs by supporting tax incentives that use union labor.  Likewise, we all need to make sure we are fighting Republican efforts to revive right to work.  The people clearly spoke, and I will protect their voice in the General Assembly. We also need to make sure we provide proper benefits to government workers.  So many states, including Arkansas, have passed presumptive cancer bills to protect first responders who fall ill due to occupational toxins. Surely, if Arkansas can do it, so can we.  

Overall, we need to protect regular people, rather than pampering the prosperous. 

My Vision for Progress: Championing Our Universities

Recently, the Sunderland Foundation donated a whopping $15 million to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  These funds were desperately needed, as the General Assembly continues to under-prioritize our state universities.  In the last session, the Republican majority approved the same amount of funding for state universities as was provided 20 years ago in 1999.  In turn, the cost of higher education is passed onto students, who are forced to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to pursue their career ambitions.  I, myself, carry six figures of student debt. If we allow this to continue, we are facing yet another financial crisis.

While at UMKC, I served as the Student Body President.  In that role, I advocated on behalf of 14,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.  I strived to ensure students’ voices were heard during tough budget cut discussions, and I also zealously participated in the Chancellor Search Committee, so as to select the most qualified, promising leader for the university.  I also fought for and secured scholarships for students displaced by dangerous housing conditions.  

These experiences clearly show that I am ready to fight for students in the General Assembly.  I know what students experience when they are on campus, and I know their needs. So, as your State Representative, I will fight to return funding to adequate levels in order to allow our colleges and universities to thrive.  Education is directly correlated to economic development, and we must invest in it accordingly.

My Vision for Progress: Battling the Opioid Crisis

In 2017, opioids killed over 950 Missourians, according to the National Institutes of Health, which is higher than the national average.  Likewise, Missourians were prescribed powerful, dangerous opioids at a rate of 71.8 per 100 persons, compared to the national average of 58.7 per 100 persons.  These stats demonstrate Missouri has an opioid problem. Yet, our lawmakers have done little to address it.

Missouri is the only state (including U.S. territories) without a prescription drug monitoring program (also known as a “PDMP”), despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control credit PDMPs as among “the most promising state-level interventions” in the opioid epidemic. And while the Missouri House of Representatives passed a PDMP last session, a handful of Senators ensured its failure.  Conservatives in the General Assembly have long lamented that a PDMP will raise privacy concerns, and they tied such concerns to crackpot conspiracy theories. Conservatives held up the REAL ID law for years over similar privacy concerns, but ultimately buckled to pressure from airport travelers. Not having a REAL ID compliant drivers’ license would have caused airport travelers a headache, not having a PDMP kills Missourians. 

As an attorney, I devote my days to holding Big Pharma accountable for their deceptive and coercive actions that resulted in the opioid epidemic.  I have seen time and time again how prioritizing profit over people has destroyed lives and communities. From this experience, I have the drive and passion to fight for the safety and betterment of Missourians.  As your state representative, I will co-sponsor a new effort to bring a PDMP to Missouri, and I will reach across the aisle and across legislative chambers to ensure its passage. Beyond the PDMP, I will fight for increased healthcare benefits for Missourians, such as expanding Medicaid, to improve treatment and preventative health options.  

It’s time to stop focusing on Big Pharma money and start focusing on our residents’ health and welfare.

My Vision for Progress: Gun Safety

It was a horrific weekend across the country and in our backyard.  In two mass shootings in less than 24 hours, twenty-nine civilians were massacred.  During First Fridays, a revered KC event, an innocent bystander was murdered by a stray bullet.  And as of August 4, Kansas City has suffered 121 homicides in 2019.  

As a gun owner, I recognize and respect the need for safety and regulation.  And as a lawyer, I have studied Second Amendment precedent. Justice Scalia - a celebrated conservative jurist - once opined that the Second Amendment did not “protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as . . . the First Amendment to [does not] protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.”  Conservatives’ push for complete de-regulation of guns and weapons on Second Amendment grounds is, therefore, simply a fallacy. I witnessed how the General Assembly expanded gun rights to include concealed carry for universities, bars, and even preschools. Meanwhile, the Republicans blocked basic background checks. These legislators are beholden not to the will of the people, but to the NRA’s money.  

As your State Representative, I will fight against the NRA’s influence and support common-sense and widely-popular gun reform.  So, I’ll advocate for background checks for all gun transactions, as well as implementing gun safety training for all concealed carry permits.  I will also support heightened sanctions for failing to report gun thefts. But, all of this is an uphill battle with the current composition of the House of Representatives.  So, I am going to work tirelessly to flip seats. It’s time for action and policy, rather than thoughts and prayers.

My Vision For Progress: Affordable Housing

In recent years, Kansas City has experienced a boom in economic development.  But, with prosperity comes unique challenges, including maintaining quality, affordable housing.  We, as a community, need to ensure that everyone who wishes to live here and share in the prosperity can access quality, affordable housing. 

According to the City of Kansas City’s CHAS Data Analysis, 34.4% of those making between $40,001 and $64,000 are cost-burdened or extremely cost-burdened when it comes to housing.  In other words, these residents spend at least 30% (and sometimes more than half) of their income on housing costs. Indeed, utility burden is also impacting families. The Spring 2018 KCMO Housing Survey showed that the average Kansas Citian’s utilities constitute 23% of their housing costs, which is the 7th worst in the nation in terms of utility cost burden.  We need to provide more resources - both at the municipal and state level - to alleviate these issues. 

While in law school, I worked with Legal Aid of Western Missouri to help with an affordable housing program on the City’s eastside.  Additionally, I worked double time to not only earn a law degree, but also earn an MBA with an emphasis in real estate. So, I understand the distinct and complex facets of housing to effectuate positive change.  

These experiences inspired me to draft a bill enabling the establishment of Community Land Trusts (“CLTs”), which is a mechanism that locks in affordability subsidies in housing stock for generations.  Modeling the bill on other successful CLT programs across the United States, I am committed to working with the General Assembly’s leadership to create more cost-effective housing solutions. Likewise, I support measures that ensure tax incentives are used to help the community, not corporations.  I am ready to hit the ground running in Jeff City to ensure that economic development benefits all, rather than just wealthy out-of-state corporations.