We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Megan Cotter (D), running against incumbent Justin Price (R), for RI Senate District 39.
Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?
- End clear-cutting for solar farms. We can and should transition to 100% renewable energy in Rhode Island by 2030, but can’t destroy our natural environment in the process. We must seek alternative paths to renewables that don’t take out our forests and decrease our property values.
- Fix the broken school funding formula on the state level. School funds should be equitably distributed across districts so that all the children of Rhode Island have access to quality public education. We cannot and should not raise property taxes on everyday working families in our district to make up for the funding deficit left by poorly managed state funds.
- Get big money and corruption out of Rhode Island politics. For too long, our state has been run by the wealthy and well-connected few who can afford to run big reelection campaigns year after year. We should be represented by community members like me, not career politicians more interested in personal gain than standing up for their neighbors.
Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?
MC: There’s a lot about national politics in this moment that is extremely unstable and unreliable. I believe that all Rhode Islanders should have healthcare coverage, and we should not make the mistake of relying on the federal government to guarantee that. I will fight for Rhode Island to implement single-payer healthcare. This has always been an important issue, but has become especially pressing during COVID-19. When the first wave of this virus hit and so many working Rhode Islanders lost their jobs, they lost their health insurance, too. Healthcare should not be tied to employment. It is something that the state can and should provide.
Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?
MC: Right now, the burden of keeping our communities safe is primarily left to the police, and the funding they receive is reflective of that. In my opinion, we need well-trained police to act as law enforcement, and that does require funding. But they shouldn’t also have to be first responders and social workers. No single person can perform all of those jobs. That’s why we need to reallocate resources to other community safety measures, like affordable housing, healthcare and public education. We need to better distribute the work it takes to keep all Rhode Islanders safe, and distribute our funds to reflect that.
Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?
MC: Yes, we must address inequity in schools across the state by pooling funds and intentionally distributing them across districts. Our district already has a number of combined school districts (Chariho and EWG). The intention behind combining multiple districts into a single school was to improve its funding, but instead these schools continue to be funded as if they only serve one district. An equitable distribution of statewide school funds would account for combined school districts.
Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?
MC: As a director of sales in the seafood industry, I know on a personal level how important it is that we protect our restaurants and other local businesses. And to do it, we need to revamp our tax system. It’s time we demand that big corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Rhode Islanders pay their fair share. That would allow us to implement a $15 minimum wage so that no one needs to work more than 40 hours a week to afford their basic needs. We could provide healthcare for all so that every Rhode Islander has access to care, regardless of their employment status or income level (and taking the burden of providing employees with insurance off of small business owners). And we could invest in our small businesses, taxing them at a lower rate than large corporate entities so that they are able to grow and thrive.
Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?
MC: I will support a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. We have to take bold action against climate change, and need to prioritize working people and frontline communities in the process. The climate crisis is more than just an ecological disaster; it’s an existential crisis, and a deeply personal one. It’s also not a problem of the future, but something that is having devastating effects on our state and communities now. We have no more time for elected climate skeptics to pretend otherwise and delay action.