(Brilliant, I certainly couldn’t have said it better myself. Go Janet!!! – promoted by lowkell)
Many long time followers of the Virginia blogosphere know that I left it a couple of years ago. It would take a lot to get me back to blogging – even temporarily – and this post is about the limit of my “coming out of retirement” as it were. Only one thing would bring me back and that is my support for an extraordinarily good Democrat, one who shares my progressive and core Democratic values. I support Janet Oleszek. I am proud to call Janet a friend.
But I am not supporting her because she is my friend. Rather, I am her friend because I support her, and that’s an important distinction. Here’s why.
Before I knew her personally, I knew of her through her hard work and dedication to children and schools. When she served on the Fairfax County School Board, she fought to bring all day kindergarten to Fairfax County schools, an important educational reform that gives children a much-needed strong academic foundation to succeed scholastically and later in life. In my private discussions with Janet, the breadth of her knowledge of early childhood development and her dedication to children impressed me. So did her interest in other issues affecting Fairfax County. She is not, as some of her opponent's supporters suggested, “a one issue candidate” who focuses only on education issues (although I can’t think of much on the local level more important than educating children – that’s our future).
As Lowell noted in his endorsement, Janet is a strong environmentalist who cares about climate change, conservation, and renewable energy – probably among the most important issues going into the 21st Century. Environmental policy is also one of the few areas where reform at the local level can make a huge impact. Local governments can implement LEEDS standards for new government buildings, affect the building code, zoning laws, and land use policy.
Some argue that working at the municipal level is one of the most powerful ways to get the environmental changes we need because that is where we can have the most impact creating needed change. And of course, fixing transportation problems, supporting better public transportation goes a long way to fixing both environmental and quality of life issues. Janet will fight hard for that too.
Beyond the environmental and transportation issues, important as those are, I trust Janet more than I do Chris Wade with the upcoming difficult budget choices that are going to be made by the Board of Supervisors. Here’s the grim situation we face.
Given the current economic situation both internationally and nationally, budget cuts will be cascading down from the federal to the state to the local level (it seems that austerity and misery are the only parts of the trickle down theory that hold up as true), Because of that, Fairfax County also will experience more funding limitations and hard choices. In fact, it will get harder before it gets better.
That means there will be very real pressure to cut public services, jobs, and salaries for county workers. And raising revenue to prevent this will be harder at the local level.
At the federal level, it’s easy for progressives to point out that the rich and corporations need to pay their fair share and that we need reform of the tax code. We also need to repeal the Bush era tax cuts for the top one percent. At the municipal level, however, that’s a harder sell. Raising property and sales taxes actually hurt the middle and working classes more than graduated income taxes do. The sales tax, in particular, is considered a regressive tax for that reason.
And in a slow economy, when middle class and poor people have to pay higher taxes, it really does lead them to spend less. Those are the people we need buying things, which they can’t do if their discretionary income takes a hit.
Likewise, if teachers, police officers, nurses, and firefighters lose their jobs in cutbacks or have to take salary cuts, they too will not be spending in stores. So, finding ways to fund services and keep middle class taxes low will be a real challenge at the county level. And make no mistake, revenue will have to be found somewhere or the cuts to services and education will be draconian.
Facing these challenges, I trust Janet Oleszek much more than I do her opponent. She has a track record supporting schools, students, public workers, and the environment. Hers is the record of a progressive who believes in and cares passionately about the common good. Hers is also the record of a fighter unafraid to take on battles for what she believes in. As both Ben Tribbett and Chap Petersen have pointed out, she gave up a safe seat on the school board to run against Ken Cuccinelli, one of Virginia's toughest pols to beat (nobody has yet). That took extraordinary courage and integrity.
Meanwhile, her opponent cannot even explain why he went from voting in Republican primaries and listing himself as “strongly supporting McCain-Palin” in 2008 to running as a Democrat in 2011. Moreover, business oriented local Democrats plucked him from the Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a labor or environmentally friendly organization. This is the embarrassing elephant in the room – nobody wants to criticize the local Chamber or appear anti-business. Indeed, I’m not anti- business either. Small, local businesses are the backbone of our local economy. And Fairfax needs to attract and keep businesses of all sizes or we won’t have jobs.
That said, we already have enough politicians – both Democrats and Republicans – to look after business interests in Fairfax County and in Virginia as a whole. We need some balance. We need a progressive on the Board of Supervisors who will push back and defend the interests of working people, public employees, school children, the disabled, and environmentalists. In other words, we need an unambiguous progressive who still believes there is a common good that needs to be upheld. That candidate is my friend, Janet Oleszek. And that’s why I proudly support her.
Now, if you excuse me, I’ll go back into retirement.