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Communities are not Sustainable without Social Equity!

          

     Support for a Living Wage: Wealth inequality is a serious issue and causing unprecedented problems and instability in our world. Working people deserve wages that are fair, dignified and with which they can support their families without having to work more than 40 hours per week. Setting a minimum standard of $15/hour and pegging this to the rate of inflation is not asking too much. The fear-mongering that claims that businesses will move away or won’t be able to stay in business has been shown to be largely unfounded. When companies such as McDonalds report over $9 billion in annual profits, you cannot tell me that they can’t afford to pay their workers $15/hour. Families that make a living wage have more time to contribute to their communities, are more likely to get higher education and have more freedom to lend their creative talents to solving the challenges we face. And since the State Legislature has taken the position that they know what’s best in terms of wages for all communities, I believe Des Moines has to lead the way in challenging this assumption.

     Ban racial profiling: I fully support a ban on racial profiling. I believe it’s important that every member of our community is treated fairly and with dignity by the officers who patrol our streets.  As a white person, when my neighbors who are people of color tell me that racial profiling is happening in our community, I choose to listen and believe them, and what they are telling me is racial profiling is happening within our community. I cannot imagine having to live with the unrelenting stress of knowing that I will be pulled over because of the color of my skin while my Caucasian neighbors don’t have to even think about it. This issue is especially important to me because I have mixed-race children. One of my worst fears is that I may get a call some night saying my 16-year-old son has been accidentally shot by the police. And while I acknowledge that the police have a difficult job to do and are not generally racists, reports of this nature are way too common and there’s no reason to believe this can’t happen in Des Moines.  If my son gets pulled over, the officer can’t see that he’s a straight-A student, talented artist, computer genius, star swimmer and soccer player with a fun sense of humor, they may only see that he’s black and very tall. No parent should have to worry that those meant to protect our streets could actually kill their child. Racial profiling has to be illegal and officers have to know that when they overstep, there will be consequences. To me, this is a no-brainer.

     Decriminalize marijuana: I believe this is a conversation that we as a community need to have. As an attorney, I’ve seen that our courts are clogged with marijuana offenses by people who could otherwise be productive members of society. Research has consistently shown bias in prosecutions whereby community members of color are more likely to be charged, convicted, and receive harsher sentences for marijuana offenses. A charge at a young age (when people are more likely to be experimenting with marijuana) can lead to a life-long disruption of education & employment from which some people never recover. The attitudes and laws on this subject are changing and I believe Des Moines needs to take the initiative to stop wasting resources prosecuting non-violent marijuana offenses and bring our city in-line with the current trend of recognizing that smoking marijuana alone does not make one a criminal. Let’s talk about it.

     Subsidized Universal Pre-K Education: Is there something we as a City can do to improve the educational readiness of our youngest citizens? I believe there is. Each year, Des Moines registers approximately 2,000 children for Kindergarten. Half of them are not ready. This can lead to a situation in which they never fully catch up to their peers.  This causes frustration and resentment, and can lead to educational failure and dropping out. We need the creative talents of all of our citizens to survive, and making sure that our children are ready for school at the right age is critical. Universal Pre-school is also important for families, especially low-income families. The cost of childcare is overwhelming to far too many families. By creating a program that ensures all of our children have access to pre-school, we help those families who need it the most. I’m not sure how we can get this done, but I believe we need to look into it. If other cities can do it, we certainly can find a way for Des Moines to make it possible too.

 

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