Issues

Garret shares his vision for ways we can tackle the challenges of our community by increasing democracy, ecology, social justice, and peace.

Issues

Below is a summary of our top priorities, in no particular order. Please consider this list a starting point, not an end point -- we intend to update this page regularly with more detailed proposals that combine further research with community feedback. We'd love your feedback, please contact us!

General Principles and Goals

This campaign has a very simple goal: NO ONE in our district goes hungry, homeless, or without life-saving medication or healthcare ever again. Poverty and healthcare rationing are signs that today's government and businesses are failing the people. And we've got to stop pollution and climate change before all of these problems get much worse. Corporations haven't saved us, politicians haven't saved us. We clearly have to save ourselves -- we can, and we will.

I believe the common thread of all these issues -- poverty, pollution, climate change -- is a lack of real democracy and freedom in this state. The people deserve a direct say in how their government and their economy works, to create a new economy that works for everyone and not just a few, to create a government that is actually rooted in real democracy instead of an easily-corruptible representative system. This campaign is about taking the steps necessary to reclaim a government of the people, for the people, by the people, that puts people and planet over profits.

Specific Policy Proposals

Protect Our Air and Water

The Pennsylvania Constitution is supposed to guarantee our right to clean air and water in Article 1 Section 27, however our local and state officials have been placing corporate profits over our Constitutional rights. It is long past time to enforce our rights to clean air and water by implementing the following:

  • Ban Fracking. Many other states and countries have already banned fracking for its health and environmental damage, Pennsylvania needs to do the same immediately. I agree with the Green Party of Pennsylvania's statement on fracking.
  • Oppose "Cracker Plants" and Petrochemical Industry. Louisiana has a petrochemical industry region -- it is now known as "cancer alley". The "cracker plant" is about making more disposable plastic products that we don't need, it isn't about energy independence. Let's not put our children or our planet at risk. We can have much better jobs in green infrastructure.
  • Implement and Enforce Stronger Pollution Regulations. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must be given a clear mandate to protect our environment and our health first, rather than rubber-stamp fossil fuel projects. The DEP must be given an appropriate budget to properly inspect and enforce as well -- DEP's budget has been slashed and must be restored and increased.

A Green New Deal

We don't have to sacrifice our health and environment for jobs if we invest in renewable energy and important green infrastructure upgrades. A Green New Deal for Pennsylvania will ensure good green infrastructure jobs for anyone that wants one. We won't leave anyone behind -- anyone currently working in fossil fuel jobs will receive any needed help during the transition, including job training if needed.

  • Renewable Energy -- Solar, Wind, Geothermal. By utilizing a mix of renewable energy sources, Pennsylvania can quickly transition away from fossil fuels to a fully renewable energy economy. We must do this by 2030 to address the impacts of climate change, and even sooner to clean our air and water and improve our health. The state should provide funding and subsidies for residential and commercial buildings to switch to renewable energy, instead of the billions spent every year subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. There will be decades of work switching our infrastructure to renewable energy and modernizing it.
  • Clean Water Infrastructure. Much of the water infrastructure in our district, and across the state, is decades if not over a century old. We must replace our failing water infrastructure -- the pipes, as well as the treatment plants. We must ensure toxic pollutants such as lead are completely removed from our drinking water, no more children should be exposed. Overhauling our water system will create many good jobs.
  • Walkable Cities and Public Transit. State funding should help all of our communities become walkable, including more sidewalks and bike lanes. Improved public transit will be necessary in many communities. Electrified public buses cut emissions and energy usage much more than even using electric cars. Walkable cities will create many good jobs in construction projects, and encourage more local small businesses.

Worker Rights and an Economic Bill of Rights

Every resident in Pennsylvania deserves to have a decent life, free from stress of worrying about basic needs. No one should ever become homeless or hungry, or be forced to go without life-saving medication, ever again. I therefore propose the following items, to be introduced as Constitutional Amendments to allow the people of Pennsylvania to vote and declare loudly: we shall never allow poverty in our state again.

  • A Right to Food and Water. Everyone deserves to have basic food and water. In the short term, this means establishing state programs to compensate for reduced federal funding to SNAP and related programs; we should also enact free school meals to all students at all public schools. In the long term, communities should become self-sufficient and grow their own healthy food -- state funding can help every community create their own food co-ops, community gardens, and more.
  • A Right to Housing. Everyone deserves to have basic housing. We can implement rent controls, but I also favor developing more public housing.
  • A Right to Healthcare - Single Payer Healthcare For All. Everyone deserves to have life-saving medicine and treatment. An Improved and Expanded "Medicare for All" is a good way to create a guaranteed, comprehensive single payer healthcare system to ensure everyone gets the care they need and to lower costs in the process. Healthcare should be free at the point of service, without any co-pays, premiums, or deductibles, to ensure everyone gets the care they need immediately without worrying about medical debt. Until this is implemented at the national level, Pennsylvania should create a statewide version. I support Healthcare for All PA's bill HB1688 to implement a statewide single payer healthcare plan.
  • A Right to a Living Wage - At Least $20/hr. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of living in Allegheny County for a single adult is more than $30,000 per year -- and going on $80,000 per year for a family of two adults and two children. Dividing this value by a typical full-time work schedule comes out to about $20 per hour. Pennsylvania should set the legal minimum wages to at least this $20/hr living wage to ensure no one is left in poverty, and ensure that the minimum remains in line with the cost of living automatically. The currently proposed plans to raise the wage to $9.25 (slowly, over a few years) are completely unacceptable for the families struggling today.

Education To Support Democracy and Life-Long Learning

Education is vital not only for jobs, but for democracy itself -- after all, how can citizens and legislators make good decisions and votes without thorough knowledge of the issues at stake? We should take steps to establish life-long learning as a human right.

  • Equitable and Expanded K-12 Funding. We must ensure our public schools receive fair and equitable funding so that every child has an opportunity to excel. Teachers deserve a raise.
  • Tuition-Free Pre-K and College, with Student Debt Forgiveness. Public education should include pre-K up through college. We must also end student loan debt by providing tuition-free public college and job training programs, and forgive current student debt holders; I support plans such as the Pennsylvania Promise as a starting point toward tuition-free college.
  • Expanded Job Training. Public college and job training should be available to all adults, not just ones right out of high school. Public education should also encourage more than just job training -- schools need to be places of civic education where students can learn about democracy and freedom; this means changing the attitudes of our schools toward freedom and choice, rather than authoritarian classrooms and curricula.

Restorative Justice, Not Incarceration

I support efforts to create a restorative justice system rather than a punitive one. Let's end cash bail and stop jailing people for non-violent crimes. We best combat crime with more jobs and more schools, not with more jails. We also must enact more public oversight over police departments and ensure officers are held accountable for misbehavior and abuse of authority.

  • End Cash Bail. People facing charges as simple as not paying a parking ticket can face high cash requirements for bail, otherwise they will sit in jail for days, weeks, even months awaiting trial. This is unacceptable, especially for non-violent crimes; it is effectively punishment before even having a trial and day in court, and can ruin people's lives over nothing. Let's completely end cash bail.
  • Cannabis and Drug Decriminalization. Cannabis should not only be decriminalized, but also legalized for any use. Everyone currently in jail or serving a sentence for charges related to cannabis use should be released from jail and have the record expunged. Furthermore, drug use in general should be decriminalized; addiction should be considered a public health issue rather than a criminal issue.
  • Sex Work Decriminalization. Consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in private, end of story. I support decriminalizing sex work. Everyone currently in jail or serving a sentence for charges related to sex work should be released from jail and have the record expunged. I must note that there is a huge difference between _consensual_ sex work, which should be decriminalized, and _human trafficking_, which is a very serious crime and should remain so.
  • Prison and Jail Moratorium. I will oppose any new prison construction projects. We must decarcerate, not look for more ways to lock people up in cages.
  • Shut down Berks Detention Center. I oppose the Berks Detention Center in Berks County, Pennsylvania, that is currently holding immigrant families and children against international laws on refugees and asylum in what can only be described as a jail or concentration camp. Berks should be shut down and families and children released.
  • Demilitarize Local Police and Change Training. Current police academy curriculum heavily emphasizes weapons training (including pistols, rifles, and shotguns) and spends comparatively little time on constitutional rights; the curriculum must be changed to emphasize human and civil rights. Police should be expected to focus on de-escalation, particularly when responding to calls that do not pose any immediate risk to public safety.
  • State Funding for Civilian Review Boards. In a democracy, the people should have the right to review the service of any public official, including police officers; county-level civilian police review boards with sufficient investigatory and subpoena powers can go a long way to providing accountability and creating trust. State legislation may be required to fully empower these review boards.
  • State Funding for Public Defenders. Public defender offices in Pennsylvania are currently paid for by county governments. The state should supplement funding and ensure that public defenders get at least as many resources as district attorneys and prosecutors. Defendants should actually be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

Defend Women's Rights, Including Reproductive Rights

Women's rights, especially the right to abortion, have been under increasing attack from Republicans and even some Democrats. Let me make it clear: women's reproductive rights, including the right to safe and legal abortions, are non-negotiable and must be protected. Reproductive health must also be part of the universal right to healthcare. I agree with the Women's March Unity Principles, which include the following:

  • End Police Brutality and Racial Profiling. Gender and racial inequalities in the criminal justice system must be addressed.
  • Reproductive Freedom, including the Right to Abortion. Sexual education, birth control, HIV/AIDS treatment, and abortion must be available to all. A single payer healthcare system should include all of these aspects of reproductive healthcare.
  • LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights. It is important our laws be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.
  • Workers' Rights are Human Rights. As stated above, all deserve a right to healthcare, housing, and a healthy work environment. Paid family and sick leave, and a living wage, are required.
  • Civil Rights are Human Rights. We must protect the rights to free speech, free religion, and voting rights for all.
  • Disability Rights are Human Rights. We must break barriers to access, inclusion, and independence.
  • Immigrant Rights are Human Rights. No human should be kept in a cage for migrating to seek a better life, away from poverty, violence, and war.
  • Environmental Justice. We must actually enforce and protect our rights to pure water, clean air, and enjoyment of parks and outdoor spaces. We must protect the planet from climate change.

A Fair Tax System

A proper tax policy emphasizes good jobs and public investments, not bailouts and handouts for billionaires and huge corporations. We need to create a fair tax system that has more direct input from the people.

  • Establish Progressive Income Taxes. Pennsylvania income taxes should be set in a progressive way; if the current Constitution does not allow progressive income taxation, as some believe, we support amending the Constitution to make it clear.
  • Stop Regressive Sales and Property Taxes. Instead of high sales taxes and property taxes that hit the poor and those on fixed income like Social Security the hardest, it is time for the wealthy individuals and corporations to pay taxes.

Further Reading

Garret will use the 4 Pillars of the Green Party -- Grassroots Democracy, Ecological Wisdom, Social Justice, and Peace Through Non-Violence -- and the 10 Key Values of the Green Party as general guides when considering or developing policy.

Much of Garret's thinking on specific policy comes from Howie Hawkins's Green New Deal and the Hawkins Healthcare Plan, along with the many good positions advocated by the We The People movement.

Garret also supports the Green Party of the United States' Green New Deal (which is based on Hawkins' past Green New Deal proposals), as well as the platforms of both the Green Party of Pennsylvania and the Green Party of Allegheny County.

"Socialism is the people. If you are afraid of socialism, you are afraid of yourself." -- Fred Hampton