HOUSING: Housing has become a critical infrastructure failure throughout most of the 15th Legislative District. With Yakima having less than 1% vacancy rates at any given time, and rents skyrocketing out of line with increases in wages, families are often forced to double or triple up, or leave the area. There are several ways that the housing crisis could be addressed, from increases in permitting for accessory dwelling units, to mandatory percentages of zoning dedicated to low income housing. One thing is clear; politicians love to talk about the housing crisis, but don’t love doing things about it. As increasing numbers of single family homes are built to be split as rentals, housing values continue to grow at unsustainable rates, and more families are forced out, we need to begin to discuss immediate solutions before we lose more families to states with lower costs of living.

EDUCATION: It is time to have an honest conversation about the problems in education. By this I do not mean that student outcomes have not sufficiently improved. I am talking about the political underpinnings of school districts that are causing good teachers to leave, putting undue stress on students and families, and generally failing to address real problems as they arise. School districts commit incredible amounts of money to curricula that don’t work, while teachers are blamed for failing to teach it well enough. Issues like discipline, attendance, and classroom management get lost in fights between educators, families and administration, while the real needs of students are often lost in the shuffle. Schools are in crisis, and the real talk of how to move things forward gets lost in the daily struggle to simply continue. Is there an easy answer? No. There are many difficult ones, and that is the work we must begin.

IMMIGRATION: Often, the conversation about immigration begins at the border today. But that is, perhaps, the absolute wrong place to begin. The complex situation between Mexico and the United States begins nearly a century ago, with a crisis in the American economy, where workers were brought from Mexico to fill a gap in our own production. It is hard to boil down decades of history into a paragraph, but suffice it to say that the United States plays a defining role in the crisis that exists today, by the strain that the US knowingly put on Mexico in order to import cheap labor. The political structure of the US has a moral and ethical responsibility to treat immigrants fairly now, as we have benefited greatly from a steady influx of inexpensive labor. Immigrants play a vital role in continuing to sustain our economy, but by not treating them humanely and offering a legal route for them to work, we have knowingly created a system in which people are treated inhumanely and not fairly compensated for the role that they play. We cannot address the immigration crisis without addressing why people continue to come, the necessary work that they do while here, and the impacts on families and communities when immigration crackdowns happen. For the children of immigrants who are, themselves, citizens, we also need to address humane reunification of deported family members.