Eponine Garrod – Platform for Congress 2018 MI CD06
Ending Human Propagated Climate Change
Climate change must be treated as a non-partisan emergency. It is the largest threat to our congressional district, our state, our country, and our entire planet. The good news is that we have the passion, resources, international cooperation, and knowledge to end climate change and create a sustainable future for our progeny. Unfortunately, many of our leadership members refuse to even acknowledge the existence of climate change, let alone work to solve the problem. We cannot let our government treat science as an “alternative fact.” Southwestern Michigan is in an ideal position to be a leading champion for ending climate change and I want to help fight for our right to live in, and leave behind, an environmentally stable world.
Southwestern Michigan is a cornucopia of renewable, natural resources. We need to direct money and resources to expand our use of existing alternative energies and developing even better alternatives. A huge part of this initiative is going to include refusing to leave behind our neighbors who work in the energy sector. We need to ensure that creating a sustainable energy future does not take jobs away from trained, hard-working Michiganders. I want to create a program to use the existing knowledge and skill-set of our current workforce and give these workers the transitional training necessary so they can fill these new roles as we create new jobs in the energy sector. We must find ways to use existing companies and infrastructure and bring them into the future rather than leave them behind. I believe we also need to stand up and actively join the fight against Enbridge Pipeline Five. We need to move away from oil pipelines to more environmentally friendly options in general, but, most importantly, we cannot allow our government to further permit big oil to win out over the will of the people, as it did with the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Women currently face a slew of difficulties in the health field. Too many people, especially men, with no background in women’s health and science, are making decisions based on emotion rather than fact. Women need access to birth control. Women need access to safe, regulated, non-judgmental abortions. Women need private access to rape kits, affordable counseling, and support for rape victims. Women need access to sanitary products without having to pay a luxury tax. Women need access to affordable medicine for yeast infections, menopause symptoms, menstrual anomalies, urinary tract infections, STIs and STDs, and pre-natal care. Women need affordable access to ultrasounds, hysterectomies, breast cancer screenings, hormone supplements, and resources for information. Once women finally have access to all these resources, men will also be able to benefit from them as well. Southwestern Michigan can be a catalyst for a better quality of life for women. Together we can put science back into decisions about biology, chemistry, and physics. I am pro-choice, but voting for me does not simply mean you are voting for abortion. It means you are voting to continue to make strides to reduce the number of abortions performed in Southwestern Michigan but keep the option open and available, especially for women with unviable pregnancies, victims of rape, and pregnancies that endanger the life of the woman. Let’s use Southwestern Michigan to show the rest of the state and the country that it’s possible to take care of women and reduce abortions at the same time.
I will fight on behalf of Southwestern Michigan to keep Congress from repealing the Affordable Care Act and push to move the country toward a single-payer system. We do not need to repeal and replace the ACA, rather, we need to keep it until we can use it as a springboard into universal healthcare for Americans. We must support bills such as H.R. 676 “Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act” knowing that we have an urgent need to provide healthcare to everyone. No person should be denied access to affordable healthcare due to a pre-existing condition. People should not be forced to drive themselves to the hospital during a medical emergency simply because they cannot afford the cost of an ambulance. No person should be afraid to get medical help because of the cost and we should not privatize healthcare, especially Medicare. We need to make the programs we already have in place more practical and appealing. This includes increased Medicaid reimbursement rates and transparent pricing across the board. Essential medications need to be made affordable and we must ensure that we have enough physicians available to meet our medical needs. Our doctors and nurses should never be put in compromising positions where they are forced to withhold ideal medical treatment for monetary reasons, especially in critical moments of life and death.
Mental Healthcare Reform
Mental healthcare reform needs to be taken seriously by our government. We must provide proper care for our neighbors with mental disabilities and implement functional screening in our communities to identify the mental needs of Southwest Michigan. It is vital that we ensure children with mental disabilities are getting the help they need to thrive in school. Young and old alike need access to care for emotional disabilities, including depression and anxiety, in addition to mental disabilities. I want to see Southwest Michigan caring for our mentally ill friends and family in ways that resemble assisted living communities, not hospital rooms and incarceration. I want mental healthcare screenings in our community to be readily available so we can ensure the well-being and safety of all. Without accessible screenings and affordable mental health care we cannot begin to keep weapons out of the hands of mentally unstable people. Today, it is easier for a person with a severe mental disability to obtain assault weapons than it is for them to obtain competent mental health care assessments and treatments. Working together, we can lower violence and suicide rates in our district. While most people with mental disabilities are not dangerous, our government has no protocols in place to treat dangerous patients differently than peaceful people who just need some extra help to get through their day. I will work hard to end the stigmas around mental health and ensure we are treating people with mental disabilities as individuals who are more than their disability.
Michigan needs to show that we can do better than Betsy DeVos when it comes to education. We need to grade growth in our younger students and gradually shift to proficiency towards the end of elementary school. We need to treat recess and access to physical activity as a right, not a privilege, for our primary school students. No subject in secondary school should be considered or treated as more important than another. It’s imperative that we offer our students greater access to vocational training, career development skills, and life training from an early age. The goal of public education should be to offer our students choices after graduation, not try to make them all follow the same path. Teaching sexual education needs to be regulated across Southwest Michigan to ensure our students are all learning the same, factually accurate, information. I believe lowering teen pregnancies, abortion rates, and instances of sexually transmitted diseases and infections all starts with increasing our level of education about sex. Parents need access to the same information so they are able to discuss it with their children as they learn about it in school. Our districts need to be held to the highest reasonable standards to provide a safe and effective educational experience for our students. We must also ensure that our children are being treated with dignity and respect by their fellow students, teachers, and staff. Schools must be funded and equipped to handle learning disabilities and mental health struggles. Children should leave the school system set up for success, not prison. Free and reduced meals must be treated with priority and urgency in our school systems so no child goes hungry. On-site abuse counseling needs to be available in our public schools for children that are victim to bullying, whether it be at home or on the playground, and any student caught bullying another child must work with a counselor to understand why this behavior occurred and what can be done to prevent it. Funding for schools should not be dependent on student performance or teacher reviews. Education is a fundamental right and we must ensure our schools are receiving proper funding and work on improvements without threatening the school’s budget. Beyond primary and secondary school, we must have tuition-free public colleges and universities so young adults don’t have to choose between the pursuit of further education or overwhelming debt. We must also work with those who have acquired student debt to find ways to forgive their remaining loans as the right to education applies to all of us at any age.
Equality must exist for all people, including for our friends in the LGBTQ+ community, and this fight goes well beyond marriage equality. People in the LGBTQ+ community must be guaranteed the same rights to housing, employment, public facilities, and hate crime protections. As such, we will also do everything we can to end loopholes that excuse violent attacks on members of this constituency based on fear and misunderstanding. When fighting for these issues, we certainly won’t forget the “T” in LGBT. Our platform includes securing their right to use public facilities that match their gender identity, as well as making it easier to change their name and gender marker on various IDs, including new markers for gender nonconforming people, as has been implemented in Washington D.C. By pushing for a single-payer healthcare system, such as H.R. 676 Medicare for All, we would significantly help our transgender community access their medical needs for a safe transition as well as improve standards of living for people living with HIV or AIDS. Making sure that all Americans are treated equally is not asking for special privileges, nor does it threaten religious freedom, but ensures that we honor our constitutional rights for equality under the law.
Ending the War on Drugs
Addiction and drug use should be treated as a health care issue, not a criminal issue. When Richard Nixon began the War on Drugs it was not for health and safety reasons. One of Nixon’s top aides was quoted explaining that the War on Drugs was about two target groups “the antiwar left and black people.” Today, according to reports from the ACLU, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for having marijuana than white people. We need to legalize marijuana, end mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes, and provide affordable and accessible addiction counseling and rehabilitation with emphasis on continued care outside of these facilities to lower the risk of relapse. This will require us to also lower the cost of pharmaceuticals and ensure people are receiving appropriate healthcare and hold doctors accountable for responsible prescribing so we no longer need to resort to street drugs to treat our medical ailments. We will work to end the War on Drugs and instead focus on treating and caring for addicts in need of help.
Criminal Justice Reform
We must hold our police accountable for the continued killing of civilians, most predominantly black civilians, and require body cameras and serious counseling. We must work to demilitarize our police force and ensure sufficient and thorough training so even new officers are prepared for the toughest situations without feeling the need to jump straight to lethal force. All of us must be willing to rise up and say Black Lives Matter, knowing that we all have different cultures and ancestries, but that we all bleed red when we are on the wrong end of a bullet. For-profit prisons must be eliminated. These prisons profit off of mandatory minimums and racist practices and inmates are treated as a monetary good rather than as a human being. In order to achieve these goals, we must ensure our police force has a large enough budget, distributed properly, to pay for proper training, cameras, counseling, and more, while increasing citizen and government regulations to make certain that there is positive improvement. Housing the homeless and feeding the hungry must never be considered crimes, rather, we must align our laws to protect and help our homeless and hungry.
America needs representatives in congress who will work to de-escalate international tensions and choose diplomacy over a “bomb first, ask questions later” military strategy. America has a right to defend itself from foreign threats, but we must have a foreign policy that works towards minimizing the very violence, death, and destruction that helps recruit terrorists. The last sixteen years of the War on Terror has seen our country embroiled in an expanding conflict with no end in sight, with little to show but the sacrifice of our brave servicemen and women and the countless deaths of innocent civilians from drones and munitions paid for by our own tax dollars. Representatives on both sides of the aisle are failing to present real, peaceful solutions to a war weary public, and America’s reliance on interventionist policies and the tragic collateral damage wrought by it have strengthened groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda with perfect recruitment material. Additionally, we must stop our military and intelligence agencies’ recurring tactic of arming and providing support to violent terrorist groups, including in recent years to al-Qaeda factions fighting in Syria. If elected I would fully support Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” (H.R. 608).
We have been at war for over half of my life, and it is time to turn the page. America must reign in that military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about, and only deploy our forces as a last resort to defend ourselves and our allies. We need to work with the international community on peaceful solutions. Through the expanded war on terror we are currently bombing seven different countries when we should be expanding international aid. We should strengthen our partnerships in the region to truly eliminate groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda by stopping their flow of arms and resources, and by weakening the anti-American resentment in the region they use to recruit terrorists. We also live in a country where over 50% of our budget is allocated towards military spending, and that budget is larger than the next 8 countries combined. Most of that money could be better spent here at home to support our veterans, improve our infrastructure, fund our education, and invest in our economy.
We need to end right to work laws and protect unions’ and workers’ rights to organize. When we take away the voice of the worker when deciding working conditions we take away their human value and replace it with only monetary value. Tax burdens must be shifted away from small businesses and back onto large corporations. We cannot continue to have large monopolies and overarching parent companies manipulating our entire market and economy. All workers deserve a just and livable wage, including benefits and paid time off. Our campaign stands behind the “Fight for $15” movement and we stand behind small businesses and workers.
Southwestern Michigan Infrastructure
Let’s start with the obvious: our roads. We need to reevaluate our system of temporarily patching dangerous and unusable sections of road every year ad nauseam. I want to get to the root of this issue and make sure we are providing MDOT with the budget and resources that they need to provide us with safe roadways so we don’t have to worry about our safety or our insurance rates every time we run over an unexpected pothole. Unfortunately, it’s not just our public roads. Much of our public infrastructure, including schools, bridges, sewers, utilities, public buildings, and mass transit need major renovations. I intend to work with our county commissioners and state elected officials to ensure they are receiving the adequate federal funding to most effectively help our counties.
We need to investigate Trump’s relationship with Russia. We also need to see his tax returns and an appropriate response to the concerns of the Ethics Committee. We need transparency at every level of government and I vow that I will always include my constituents in our decision-making processes, as these decisions are not the decisions of the Congressperson, but of the people they represent. Our representatives need to be holding face-to-face meetings in addition to phone calls, letters, emails, and events to hear all of their constituents – not just the ones that voted for them. I will never be afraid to have a meaningful discussion with someone of an opposing viewpoint as this is the foundation of a functioning democracy. Our government officials must be open and transparent about how they vote, where their campaign money is coming from, where they invest their money, and the true value of their personal worth. We must push further than disclosing a large range of asset values and support disclosure of actual asset values. We deserve to fully know who we are electing to represent our interests to ensure their values align with our own. Constituents must be able to know where in the country their representative is at any given time and how to contact them. We will have to work together to hold our officials accountable and ensure their transparency.
Refugees and Immigration
Southwestern Michigan, and ultimately our country, needs to be a place where immigrants and refugees feel welcome. We need to work with undocumented immigrants to help them achieve documented residency rather than tear families apart and send hard-working people away from their established homes. We must show respect and tolerance towards all people who want to be a member of our society and help them to do so by way of the law. We need an expedited system in place for refugees so we can get them out of dangerous situations and into a safe location where they can be humanely vetted and documented. We must also put an urgency into reforming our immigration process so it is more accessible and available, without compromising security.
No living, breathing, sentient creature should be labeled as property. I am a firm believer that animals deserve rights. I would like to see the pets and wildlife of Southwest Michigan getting the rights and protection they deserve. Currently, our government defines our pets as property and property laws thereby apply to them. We need to create new rules pertaining to animal welfare where the rights and protection for our pets falls somewhere between current ordinances designed to protect our property and that designed to protect our children. No animal should be forced to be chained outside in the elements for the majority of a day. It should not be acceptable for anyone, even a police officer, to fatally shoot a pet on its own property if it is not engaging in dangerous and potentially lethal behavior. Animal shelters need the appropriate funding to turn Congressional District 6 into a no-kill district. We also need to ensure that our wildlife is being properly protected. I will buckle down on anti-cruelty hunting laws and work to provide federal funding for wildlife preservation. Southwest Michigan is home to an incredible assortment of wildlife and we need to acknowledge and respect that this is their home too.