Katie Dunne, Passionate believer in democracy and member of UHM's Digital Media Content Crew.
Sonia Aery on Living wages; Healthcare; Local natural resources; the Climate crisis; Infrastructure and investment; a Green energy initiative; Education; Improving the Affordable housing situation; Conversion therapy; Turning out new voters and Election funding.
Sonia Aery is the Democratic candidate for California State Assembly – District 3. She was interviewed by #WeThePeople on August 20th, 2018. She is up against James Gallagher (R) in the General election. He is loaded. She is progressive and backed by the California Democratic Party proper … we wondered whether they looked at her website closely enough – John says! She comes across as a friendly person. Laura tells people how to engage and adds that some people from Sonia’s campaign are in chat to help out too.
Sonia is the daughter of Indian immigrants who worked hard to see that she and her brother had a better life, than they would have otherwise had in India. She is a small business owner with an undergraduate degree in Community and Regional Development(s) and a graduate degree in City and Regional Planning. She talks to people daily about their struggles and gets to help them through that. So - says John, you’ll do that better than James Gallagher, who seems to be doing what he does for a lot of Corporations. We’ll look at his money trail later. She is running for office because she feels the need to give back and help others. Yes, it’s a huge endeavor given the Incumbent – she says!
I believe that people should be paid living wages, and have access to free healthcare regardless of their income. We have to take care of our local natural resources to make sure we have a safer, healthier, cleaner community for future generations. We’ve not had a voice in Sacramento (in the North State) for a long time, as we have been represented by a Republican. 43% of the families in my district are making less than $20,000 annually. My opponent has over $673,000 in his campaign account (08/20/18) and is continuing to have fundraisers. A theme of my campaign is that everything impacts everything else. What really gets me riled up is living wages. That 43% of families (are earning so little) up here - while costs are increasing, really is shameful! As for Single-Payer healthcare … we are already paying for it (one way or the other). Everything is indeed tied together – comments John. Climate change though we are limited time-wise on … the death of the human species is probably a priority we need to address. Sonia agrees.
Progressives need to talk more to the general public (rather than preaching to the choir) about the climate crisis – she says. With all of our natural resources up here in the North State especially, we need brave leadership who understand that these multiple climate disasters that we have been experiencing from the fires to the flooding, to the horrible dam crisis last year, are a serious threat to our way of life, to our environment and to our economy. Nearly 200,000 people had about an hour to evacuate (dam crisis) and the financial impact was devastating. In 2005 it would have cost about a hundred million dollars to fully repair both the main spillway and the emergency one. This past year, it cost almost $5 million a day just in emergency repairs. So now it is going to cost close to 2 billion dollars to get it to normal safe levels! Do you think that part of being a responsible Representative (and taking care of citizens) in your State is looking at infrastructure - with climate change in mind, and seeing where things are headed – John asks? Absolutely – Sonia replies. Infrastructure is important to public safety and to boosting our economy. Investments there are essential. The climate crisis that we are living through is also a threat to national security. James disagrees though – says John. He says that California is already a leader on climate change – at great cost to jobs and the economy. He argues that other States need to catch up before California pushes on with anything else. Since about 2010 the U.S. Forest Service up here has been defunded by the Republican-led Congress - Sonia mentions in reply. Looking at your site – John continues, you seem to feel (contrary to your opponent) that a lot more jobs and opportunities can be created through a green energy initiative. Yes – Sonia responds. There are great jobs in the solar industry that we should capitalize on and up here we can definitely lead on that. She refers to the recently passed law that says that every home in California must have solar panels in the near future. But didn’t the current administration just drop the nice subsidies and benefits to the solar industry – John asks? Yes – she replies, which is why it is so important to flip the house this year. John agrees. This – Sonia continues, is something we need bi-partisan support on. There are a few very brave Republican leaders who are championing the issue and trying to explain to their fellow Republicans that it is for real and that the energy - the heat that we are trapping is the energy equivalent of 450,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs going off in the atmosphere every day!! In very simple terms if you heat the earth you will melt the ice, and you will swamp the cities and destroy agriculture. MSM has been denying this and that hasn’t helped us to inform the electorate - John says. We were saying in the green room that until rich folk are directly affected by climate (change) we are not going to see change. It seems as though that is starting to be the case. It’s impacting the economy – Sonia says.
How come you are supported by the California Democratic Party, yet you support a Single-Payer Medicare for All system - John asks? I don’t think they checked my website - Sonia says. I was the only Democrat in the race, so I had the good fortune (cough) of getting their endorsement. James is claiming Single-Payer will cost too much, but even the Koch brothers’ funded study says otherwise. Sonia is embarrassed that the wealthiest nation in the world can’t provide healthcare for all its citizens. John speaks of India. They are going to implement some kind of healthcare plan … for the poorest 500 million people - Sonia adds. John wonders if Sonia and parents are considering going back. She laughs and acknowledges that the country has changed a lot since they left. Please stay though - says John. We need women of color in office. It does seem – he says, that climate change has affected India an awful lot more and that they are making changes a lot faster. Yes – Sonia replies and goes into more detail on the subject. Healthcare (in California) - this is getting stuck at the top with Rendon, but that’s something you can help with – John says. Sonia tells us that California is a 2/3 Democratic State – and that the North State with Republican leadership hasn’t had its voice heard in a while because the two-party system is such that apparently now neither side listens to anyone who disagrees with “them” (anymore). As a Democratic Assemblywoman from here I’ll be more listened to – she says.
John shows a slide with information taken from Sonia’s website. There is mention of recycling. There is also mention of expanding broadband efficiency in the interests of the education, business and personal management needs of all Californians. Sonia discusses investing in education … tuition-free college education, community-college education, and career-technical education for anyone who wants it. We need to be competitive. John teases – but how will we pay for it? We just will John - she replies, with a grin. My friend in Holland pays 51% tax – she continues. Socialist – John fires back! Yes - she laughs ... and she gets a free education, free healthcare and decent roads and stuff like that. Laura laughs at the mention of all that “free stuff”.
They move on to the subject of affordable housing. California has some serious issues here - John says. Sonia used to work in this area. Her job was to help people through financial education. One of main programs up here is called CHIP (Community Housing Program) and it’s incredible. Basically this neighborhood gets together, and builds their houses together. Nobody can move in until all the houses are complete. It takes 6 months to a year to build each neighborhood. During that time Sonia provided financial education, on how home ownership works - for example. The first time she did that was right after the 2008 financial crisis. She learned a lot at that point about the devastating effects of deregulation particularly in the financial industry. We are dangerously close to those levels of deregulation again - she says. This will slowly start to impact our home ownership rates in California in particular. During the 2008 financial crisis there was a mass exodus of workers from the building trades and they never came back. To solve this housing crisis that we have here, there are a few things we need to do. Short term, we have to implement rent-control. (Prop 10 in CA). Our medium-term strategy would be to speak with local governments about reducing regulations on a local level, such as the obligation to only build single-family homes. No – she says! We don’t have the time nor the space for that. We need to invest in a greater diversity of housing options. Long term we need (career technical education) to get people back into the building trades. When you increase the supply of employees, you help to decrease the costs of all these projects. We can hopefully incentivize developers to start building affordable homes and make them not as difficult to build. We have ridiculous vacancy rates in Butte County (1%). Laura points out that in San Francisco large numbers of empty buildings are kept for investment purposes etc. Where Sonia is though, the problem is more that there are not enough homes. We would need - she says, 1200 units just to meet the demand - yesterday. They talk about the affordable aspect of all of this. According to the federal government – Sonia tells us, affordable means no more than 30% of your income, which - John says, brings us back to a living wage.
Elena in YouTube chat asks what people are most concerned about in Sonia’s district. Healthcare – she replies. It’s the same as elsewhere in the country. How do you speak to Republicans in the district about the subject – John asks? I just bring it back to human dignity – Sonia answers. Are we going to let people die because they didn’t have the extra $50 they needed for their insulin medication? One in 3 GoFundMe accounts is specifically for medical bills! You realize – says John, we just created Single-Payer on our own? Exactly - says Sonia. Affordable housing is the number 2 issue.
La Donna (Lokey) in YouTube chat says that Gallagher voted against prohibiting conversion therapy. Where do you stand on this? Sonia says that this is a practice of torture. It is meant to try to convince people in the LGBTQ community that they can be changed. Here Sonia adds that she is gay. The proposal had been to label the sale of conversion therapy as a fraudulent business practice – which it absolutely is.
John shows a slide with some of Gallagher’s votes over the last year. He voted Nay on so much. Sad – Sonia says.
Someone in YouTube chat asks what Sonia’s pathway to victory is. The Assembly District has a slight lean for Republicans, but not enough to win just by partisan voting. 20% decline to state or are No Party Preference. Those are the people that we are really targeting and we will be talking to them about the issues.
John shows another slide … Gallagher won 2/3 to 1/3 against a Democrat in 2016.
I also have a personal mission to turn out new voters – Sonia says. Lots of young people have lost all faith in our election process - particularly after 2016, and I can’t blame them. We want to show them that the Presidential election is probably the last thing that will impact them. These local and State elections will have a significant impact on their lives. We want them to know that they can really make a difference when they actually come out and vote. Well said - says John! Sonia feels that there has been tremendous energy around changing things at all levels of government, around first-time candidates too, and she points out most especially that people don’t want business as usual. They do not want corporate money in politics - which is why I pledged to run a completely corporate-free campaign. People are now seeing that it’s not Republican versus Democrat, but the Money Party versus the People Party.
Slide: John shows information from the Map-the-Money Project he is busy with. Individual contributions make up most of Sonia’s funding so far. It is all in-State. He then shows us the funding information for Gallagher. There is a massive chunk of the pie which is made up of un-coded people (where the category of donor is unknown or not yet assigned. In this case – that is because they are very rich and powerful). His top industries are all corporate. His top contributors are Alcohol, AT&T, Tobacco … They are still fundraising, which John suggests means that Gallagher is afraid. Sonia is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, Butte County Democratic Party, the California Democratic Party, (dual endorsement) from the California Labor Federation and they are working on more (08/20/2018). She reminds people that as she is corporate–free, she does need some help from people to get her into Office.
Fluffy Bunny in YouTube chat wants to know whether if you don’t win this time around, you will run again. It’s hard to say - Sonia replies. I’m not a career politician. It’s hard to say where I will be in 2 years. Laura and YouTube chat remind Sonia that no matter what happens there are no losing progressive campaigns … and that her starting momentum in 2020 could be a whole different ball game.
John and Laura thank Sonia for running and repeat that they have learned that actually running for office is the most difficult thing to do. Sonia is also still running a business. She is an insurance agent. They talk about the difficulties involved in the job - given climate change. Sonia’s uncle lost his home to the fires last year. One of the things she learned along the way was that if a fire crew approaches two houses - one being clear of brush and the other not, they will first try to save the one that is clear, because there is a higher chance of saving it. She tries to advise people about this – given obviously that she is insuring them.
Sonia’s song pick is The Best of Me by The Sounds. She tells us that it is a balm for her soul these days.
The links are in the video description – to donate and volunteer. Good luck on November 6th, 2018 Sonia Aery!