Interview With Karen Adams

After a long day of campaigning door to door, Karen Adams, running for State Representative in Ohio, and Rick Smith, running for State Senate, agreed to meet up with jk and myself for drinks and discussion. The following is an excerpt of the conversation we had with Karen Adams.

Karen Adams, is the Democratic candidate running for State Representative in Ohio’s 35th district. Karen will be facing incumbent Republican Michelle Schneider in the Fall.

DL: What would make you a better state representative that Michelle Schneider?
KA: “I think it’s tied to the whole culture of corruption. She’s really a rubber stamp. If you want any change in Ohio, we need to do a lot of things differently. If we keep electing these people over again, that’s not going to happen. I am a Democrat. I follow Democratic principles and I think it will be better for the citizens of Ohio. You see what we have now and it’s just not good.”

DL: You were on a planning commission?
KA: “I was on a planning commission for about 9 years. It was in Pennsylvania in New Britain Township in Bucks County, suburban Philadelphia, and we experienced this rapid growth in the mid to late 80’s and 90’s similar to Warren County but on a larger scale. At one point we doubled our population in 2 years. We were getting 700 to 1,000 new students every year. We had a regional district that was made up of 9 municipalities and it was extremely difficult to keep up with that kind of growth. We would remodel and expand a new elementary school a year. We came up with a plan to kind of help with growth and conserve open space. We came up with this idea and went and basically presented the idea to taxpayers of Bucks County and put it on the ballot as a referendum and it passed. We bought development rights instead of buying the land itself. It was a win/win for everybody and it was cheaper than having houses built and your taxes skyrocketing. The beauty of this plan was if they held a note for the county or the township whoever was going to buy the development rights, it was triple tax free. It was like a late retirement plan for these guys because if they held the note, they got paid so much every month, every year, whatever it was and it was triple tax free. It was a beautiful plan and I was really proud of working on that and getting it passed.”

DL: Do you see that helping with education or something like that working here in Ohio?
KA: “That helped with the growth in the school district. We have to come in compliance with the court order. I’m adamant that our leaders should obey the law and you can’t expect others to do it if you aren’t willing to do it. They’re in contempt of court - this is ridiculous. We are going to have to bite the bullet and come up with a plan that complies with the law. I have always had ideas about fair funding for schools. I would like to take most of the burden off of property taxes. I don’t think that’s an equitable and fair way to fund schools. I was talking to one person who said that it’s one of the most stable ways. Yes, but it’s a tremendous burden to the people on a fixed income. One of the things that we were able to do in Pennsylvania is freeze school property taxes on those with qualifying low fixed income. There was an amount of income that could not be exceeded to qualify for freezing property taxes. I think we need to come up with several taxing sources and I really feel strongly that education is something that we really need to invest in. It’s a good investment, it’s cheaper up front than it is at the end. Nobody blinks an eye building a prison. It’s $35,000 - $40,000 a year per prisoner and nobody complains about that. They sure complain about kids and funding education. I don’t get it. The best thing that ever happened in this country was the G.I. Bill and funding public education. We took this mass of immigrants who were illiterate at the turn of the century and educated them and it gave us the 50’s and 60’s and prosperity. I think that we can come up with several funding sources but I think that we need to do it more from the state other than local control. I think some property tax, maybe a flat property tax or something like that so people are invested in their local system and that’s important. I believe in impact fees and high growth theories. I don’t think that you should burden existing taxpayers for that kind of growth. So, I believe in impact fees for high growth areas. I would want to work with the legislature on that, but we are going to have to face facts and obey the law.”

DL: How are impact fees figured out?
KA: “Usually per dwelling unit.”

DL: So it’s factored in the cost of the dwelling unit?
KA: “Right, a lot of times they’ll do it, say $5,000 per unit or whatever a dollar amount per unit and yes, it does add to the cost but who do you want to burden with the infrastructure growth – schools, sewer, water – all those kind of things.”

DL: So the impact fees would be spread among all those infrastructure things?
KA: “Personally I believe in that.”

DL: What about predatory lenders and payday loans?
KA: We need to do something about this. They do these kinds of things to make it worse and make them poorer, you know to get them into debt even further. What these guys charge to cash checks, and how hard it is for them to set up bank accounts – it’s next to impossible. This predatory lending is taking stable neighborhoods and decimating them. We should be helping people, not making it even harder.”

DL: What is your view on natural family planning, birth control, and abortion?
KA: “You can rate natural family planning on how many pregnancies per year per what woman and in theory it sounds great, but it works until it doesn’t work anymore. Like abstinence, it works until it doesn’t work anymore. I think we need to take back the language and have rational, scientific discussions and not what the Republican’s views are: myths, falsehoods, and the wrong terms for things. I don’t let my kids use the wrong terms for things. There is no such thing as partial birth abortion. But, it sounds hideous so they named it that and it is not that at all. And, abortions went down under Clinton. If women have access to good health care and good reproductive care, you can reduce the number of abortions. With the Republicans to deny that human beings are going to act like human beings is ridiculous. If their position is so fabulous, why do they have to make up lies and falsehoods and rig their data? Then their position must not be solvent and good because they’re lying about it. I think we should just cut it out, back it up with data, and get what works. We have to reduce teen pregnancies and personally I would like to reduce the pregnancies with kids. I think it’s a health issue, let’s treat it like a public health issue. We can do this. Like the kids signing abstinence pledges and what their idea of abstinence is. How’s that working? Not well. We need to get serious and be adults about it and we need to stop lying and work on this in a rational way."

DL: People vote for Republicans for pro-life issues…
KA: “What is pro-life?” [On abortion] “Do you want to reduce them or do you want to make them illegal? If you just want to make it illegal, you are not going to reduce abortions. I’m old enough to remember when it was illegal. That didn’t mean that women didn’t have abortions, they did, but they were just a lot more dangerous and we’re going back to that. Wealthy women have always had access to safe abortions, it’s the other women and is that what we want as a society? I think what we really need to do is to reduce unintended pregnancies to negligible. I went to a Catholic school, we have a very comprehensive sex education with the truth. They talked about how birth control worked, they didn’t tell you how to use it, but at least we had the facts. I just think that you are doing a real disservice to anybody, especially young people by not giving them the truth and the facts and not backing it up. It’s much more effective to deal with the facts and I think you can reduce the incidents of children at a younger age having sex if you can empower, girls especially, to be in control of their lives and give them that strength and supported back up to be able to control their own lives. And we need to have access to good, safe, birth control practices and good health care for everybody and this is part of it – reproductive health care as well as general health care.”

DL: The next question is about health care. What can we do, as a statewide effort, to get affordable health care?
KA: “There is a plan now that a group is trying to get on the ballot called, SPAN Ohio which is a single payer system. I think that we are going to have to go to that and I think that it will be a great relief for industry and it would help our economy in Ohio and absolutely help our economy nationally, but the short-term, Ohio. In the long run it would be cheaper, we have a tremendous amount of health care dollars and we don’t use it efficiently. We could spend a lot less with better health care and cover everyone.” DL: How would that affect the large number of auto worker retirees in Ohio? Would they be covered by this single payer system? KA: “They could be, and you know, if they don’t go bankrupt, they could keep their plans great, but I’m watching what these companies are trying to do and I really think that we need to go to a system that is just more efficient.”

DL: How is it feasible for Ohio to do this in isolation?
KA: “It’s ridiculous what we pay for insurance and if we covered everybody, the rates would go down and it’s not efficient to go to the emergency room or waiting until you’re so sick that we have to spend so much more money when we could have taken care of the problem a lot earlier, and it’s costing us a tremendous amount. Preventative health care is so much cheaper than emergency health care. Especially with kids – their health affects their ability to learn, their long-term productivity in life. It’s ridiculous in this wealthy nation that we have We have 46 million uninsured people in the country and the number is going to rise, and more and more companies are going to cut out their health care benefits. We have to cover people, it will be cheaper in the long run.”

DL: What’s your favorite drink?
KA: “I’m addicted to coffee and I love my coffee. I drink wine and I love wine, but I like dry sherry which I can’t find, but I finally found a restaurant that has dry sherry.”

DL: In your campaign, you mentioned sprawl as an issue. What can the states do about that? KA: “You can allow the townships and counties to address that and not hinder them. Builder and developers have political PACs and lobbyists. Municipalities, counties, and residents don’t. So they get their laws passed and they prevent other laws from being passed. That would hinder them. I think you need to empower counties and municipalities and help them with the development. You’re not going to stop development. What you need to do is a good way to manage it, control it, and get a good development plan going. Also we need to preserve our existing cities. Europe does a good job of preserving their cities and making it more desirable to live in the city. They’re usable. We throw away our cities and I think in the long term we will not be able to do that much longer. It’s not cost effective, it’s expensive in fact. And, if you talk to counties and municipalities they would like the tools to control it. I’m talking about impact fees, it’s hard to keep going back to the residents and saying I raised your taxes to build all of this stuff. The townships and the counties have to keep their ordinances up and you always have to be in compliance with state supreme court and federal court because there’s always a ton of land issues in those decisions and it’s difficult.”

Many thanks to Karen Adams, Rick Smith, and jk for an enjoyable discussion on the future of Ohio.

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