A few weeks ago, I sent identical questionnaires to both Democratic candidates in the 44th House of Delegates district. Below are the answers from Paul Krizek, who I am strongly endorsing this morning (joining other Krizek endorsers — Congressman Gerry Connolly; Former Congressman Jim Moran; Senators Toddy Puller, Adam Ebbin and George Barker; Delegates Scott Surovell, Alfonso Lopez, Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, Kaye Kory, Marcus Simon, David Bulova, and Eileen Filler-Corn; Supervisor Gerry Hyland and Supervisor Jeff McKay). If I receive responses from the other candidate, Justin Brown, I will print them, but I have repeatedly followed up with his campaign and, despite being told on May 12 that they would have responses back to me “asap,” I haven’t heard back since then. Whatever. Anyway, with that, here are Paul Krizek’s answers, which I’d give an “A+” grade to — thorough, thoughtful, strongly progressive, excellent no matter how you look at them!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 44th House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I love Mount Vernon, and I am deeply committed to my community. I grew up in the 44th House District in Mount Vernon, went to the local public schools, and have a daughter at Carl Sandburg Middle School.
I want to go to Richmond to help those that are struggling in our community just as I have done as a charity executive and before that, as a legislative staffer for Congressman Jim Moran, where I worked for eight years on legislation and constituent service for the people of the 8th Congressional District. I find helping people immensely gratifying and rewarding.
After leaving the Hill, I joined my father’s “labor of love,”- Christian Relief Services Charities (CRSC)-the charity he founded after he retired from the State Department (and later the Pentagon as he went back on active duty to the Air Force retiring as a Colonel) My dad was a long-time Democratic campaigner, having run President Kennedy’s Presidential campaign in Washington state. Working with my dad , who at 87, still comes to work at the office and helps with my campaign, is a highlight of my career. He has a heart of gold and, together with my mother, an immigrant from England, instilled in me at a young age those all important values that we share as Democrats, especially that public service is not just a good thing but a high calling. Today, I run Christian Relief Services, which is the largest of the 15 charities under the CRSC umbrella, and I also serve as the General Counsel for the entire the organization.
Now that you have heard about my dad, you know that it is in my DNA. It is why I am a Democrat and have worked so long and hard to get good Democrats elected. I am a 30-year member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) and have held many different offices from Chair of the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee, Vice Chair and Chair of FCDC, and Bylaws Committee member, Outreach Committee member. I also served as a member of the 8th Congressional District Committee for almost 12 years. A highlight was my election as a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago during President Clinton’s reelection. But I am most proud of my work as a campaign volunteer going door to door canvassing for votes or calling voters on the phones. I remember fondly my first big role when I got my driver’s license, at age 16 years old, was driving folks to a fundraiser in Mount Vernon for my good friend, David Temple, when he ran for Delegate many years ago. I was hooked for life, and can think of no better calling than being a life-long Democrat!
2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
Transportation, Workers Rights, and Affordable Housing/Healthcare (I will expand as to why I group these together below)
What specifically have you done to further those issues?
Transportation: I have followed closely the successful efforts of Senator Toddy Puller and Delegate Scott Surovell to secure funding for widening Route 1, installing a bus rapid transit system as well as bike, and pedestrian paths, and extending the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley and the Blue Line to Fort Belvoir. I attended last year’s presentation of the multimodal study, a result of their efforts. I recognize that what Route 1 needs is to become a revitalized transportation corridor that will be a catalyst for our entire community — for good jobs, quality housing, better stormwater management, a reduction of traffic and pollution by including Metro stops at Beacon Mall and Hybla Valley, and one day to Ft. Belvoir. That is why, together with Scott Surovell, I gathered nearly 500 petition signatures from Mount Vernon and Lee citizens districts and packed the hearing with 130 people all clamoring for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to fund the project that would bring Bus Rapid Transit from Huntington to Woodbridge. Earlier this month, the the NVTA announced a further $1 million dollars in addition to the $12 million it has already allocated for the project. The public pressure, which demonstrated a real consensus in our community to make Route 1 a priority, succeeded in that the NVTA secured more funding to to show the Federal Government that we are serious about this project when it begins allocating Federal Highway Funds. This is just the first step toward revitalizing the Route 1 corridor to be a clean, eco-friendly and vibrant community. Our high quality of life in Mount Vernon depends upon it.
Raise the Minimum Wage: It is impossible to live and raise a family in Northern Virginia on the current minimum wage. The 44th District has one of the most economically diverse populations in Virginia, with both extreme wealth and extreme poverty. At the very LEAST, we need to give Virginians a raise to $10.10, and as soon as possible. I use this figure because that is where we start all of the employees at my non-profit. If an employer values their employees, they should show it by paying them accordingly.
Affordable Housing and Health Care: I lump these two issues because they are the main issues for many people in my district who live near the poverty line. Christian Relief Services operates a large number of affordable housing units in Fairfax County because providing affordable housing to mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, and moderate and low-income residents is an economic necessity in high priced Northern Virginia. When implementing the vision of the Route 1 multimodal study, it is important we make affordable housing a priority. I served as Mount Vernon Housing Commissioner to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority and worked to increase affordable housing on the Route 1 corridor, especially for our seniors. Safe, decent housing that is affordable is the foundation upon which stable families and vibrant, diverse communities are built. Our economy can grow when workers of all incomes have opportunities to live near their jobs, and businesses can recruit and retain employees. Affordable housing is also the key to preventing and ending homelessness. The legislature’s continuing refusal to pass Medicaid expansion has tragic consequences. People without insurance cannot get treated in a timely way to prevent the progression of diseases to the point where they cannot be cured. Thousands of families in Virginia need increased access to quality, affordable health care. My zip code, 22306, leads the county in non-serious emergency visits, which is an expensive way to provide health care and drives up all of our premiums. In the 44th District almost 13,000 residents, most of whom are children, receive health care through Medicaid, which means that their parents are likely not getting any healthcare. It is a travesty that our neighbors are not covered by health care and are leaving untreated serious health issues that without timely intervention can result in expensive and devastating consequences. As a liberal Democrat, that is something that I cannot accept. Everyone deserves quality healthcare. It is a core value of mine. I will vote for Medicaid expansion and work with other Democrats to find alternative proposals that may be acceptable to our Republican colleagues.
What would be the first bill you’d introduce in the House of Delegates?
A bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
3. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, employment, and other activities reflect your political ideology?
I am a liberal and a die-hard Democrat. I just received endorsements from both The Washington Post and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.
I have been endorsed by key electeds in the district including Delegate Scott Surovell, Senator Toddy Puller, Senator Adam Ebbin, Mt. Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland, and Lee Supervisor Jeff McKay. This is in addition to Congressman Gerry Connolly, Congressman Jim Moran, Senator George Barker, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, Delegate Mark Sickles, Delegate Patrick Hope, Delegate Kaye Kory, Delegate Marcus Simon, Delegate David Bulova, and Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, among others.
I will always support legislation that reflects my values about enabling people to have safe affordable housing, healthcare, education, and a living wage; to build a sustainable community in my district; and to protect and enhance the natural environment and shift to renewable energy. You can see these values reflected in my past work with Congressmen Jim Moran, the Mt. Vernon and Fairfax Democratic Committees, as Housing Commissioner to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and with Christian Relief Services Charities.
4. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite current Virginia politician and why?
My favorite current Virginia politician is Senator Tim Kaine. I first met Tim when he visited the 8th District Democratic Committee to run for Lieutenant Governor and I supported him right away. I loved that he approached the statewide race from a local government angle having been the Mayor of Richmond. Tim has excellent constituent service and works hard every day with the goal of improving Virginians’ lives.
It is tough to choose my least favorite Virginia politician. I am disturbed by the seemingly endless stream of ethics scandals coming from Richmond. Joe Morrissey and Phil Puckett come to mind most immediately as candidates for my least favorite politician.
5. If you had been in the House of Delegates at the time, would you have voted for a) HB 2313, the comprehensive transportation package passed in 2013; b) repeal of Virginia’s estate tax, which is costing our state around $130 million a year in order to benefit a few hundred of the wealthiest Virginians; c) the 2011 redistricting bill HB 5001, which gerrymandered the state and helped to lock in a Republican majority in the House of Delegates for the rest of the decade; or d) the 2014 and 2015 ethics reform packages, which many (myself included) have criticized as extremely weak, possibly even a step backwards in the case of the most recent “reforms.”
1. Yes, I would have voted for HB 2313, even though I was disappointed that it lowered the tax on gas while raising sales tax. But, the $350 million for Northern Virginia alone was badly needed revenue, and to have a dedicated transit fund for the first time (if you discount NoVa’s add on to the gas tax for Metro) is a godsend to the critical infrastructure needs of our transportation system, such as our effort in Mount Vernon to extend Metro down the Route 1 corridor.
2. No, I would not have voted to repeal the estate tax, which is tax relief for the wealthiest Virginians at the expense of the rest of us. $130 million a year could allow us to begin to address the chronic underfunding of K-12 costs.
3. No, I support any effort to draw up districts that stick to real communities of interest, in a nonpartisan, objective, and transparent way, and not for helping incumbents to get reelected. I served on the Fairfax County Advisory Task Force on District Reapportionment, for each of the last two redistricting cycles, in 2001 and 2011, and I know it can be done fairly and openly.
4. No. I don’t think compromising on ethics is ethical. You can’t be 50% ethical, can you? I don’t understand why Virginia allows any gifts at all. The simplest and most effective legislation would just be to ban all gifts (and paid travel) or to give them to Virginia charities chosen randomly.
6. What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future? Do you support any of the following: offshore oil drilling, natural gas “fracking,” new natural gas pipelines (e.g., Mountain Valley Pipeline, Atlantic Coast Pipeline) uranium mining, new coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal coal mining? If not, what will you do to fight against these things, and to fight for a healthy environment, energy efficiency, and renewable power?
To be a 21st century economic leader, and do something about the most serious issue facing our planet-climate change- Virginia needs to invest in its solar and offshore wind energy sources, and reduce greenhouse emissions through efficiency, education and conservation. Our dependency on coal and oil is a major contributor to global climate change. Personally, I do everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint, by working very close to home (indeed my office is located in the 44th and we are adding showers to encourage staff to cycle to work), composting, reusing and recycling. My family spends time doing volunteer clean ups in the community and we contribute to environmental organizations. A clean, safe environment is the least we can leave to the next generation.
Offshore oil drilling: No
New natural gas pipelines: No
Uranium mining: No
New coal-fired power plants: No
Mountaintop removal coal mining: No
If not, what will you do to fight against these things, and to fight for a healthy environment, energy efficiency, and renewable power?
I support increasing our Renewable Portfolio Standards and will advocate for policies like cap-and-trade and a carbon tax, which will allow us to start reducing the impact we have on our climate and put financial teeth into our energy policy. I support President Obama’s (the EPA) very effective regulations on carbon dioxide that are being challenged at the State level. I will offer legislation to restore tax credits for solar panels and energy efficient home improvements.
7. Yes or no answers. Do you support: a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy; b) a “Dream Act” for Virginia; c) allowing gay couples to adopt; d) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other common sense gun measures; e) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise)?
a. Yes, and the estate tax is also beneficial to the philanthropic sector as it encourages the wealthy to bequeath some of their wealth to charity as their legacy.
b. Yes, children should not be pawns of politics. Every child should share an equal opportunity to higher education. It is the right thing to do.
c. Yes, as an adoptive parent I encourage everyone to consider adopting. There are ten million orphans in the world and gay couples and single parents should have the same right to be parents as anyone else. Marriage equality is a core value of mine.
d. Yes, I support the efforts of the Governor in this regard.
e. Yes, and the extra revenue could go toward diversifying our modes of transportation to include Metro expansion, more bicycle lanes and paths, rapid and dedicated bus lanes, and even telecommuting centers.
8. Given that the 44th House of Delegates district is a solid “blue” district, and thus “safe seat,” it is crucial that whoever is elected has a plan to help elect Democrats – preferably progressives – across Virginia. That includes fundraising, organizing volunteers, and maximizing turnout in the 44th district for statewide and Congressional elections. Do you agree with this vision for the Delegate from the 44th district, and if so, what exactly is your plan to accomplish it?
Undoubtedly, yes. Strong Democratic seats are obligated to help out our fellow Dems in competitive districts. I have spent my career helping Democrats and furthering our causes. I was chair of the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee and have been a member of and served in various leadership positions in the Fairfax County Democratic Committee for 30 years. We absolutely have to win back the General Assembly if we want to enact progressive policies. If elected, I will work with the Democratic Caucus to identify good candidates around the Commonwealth and help prepare them for their campaigns, offer funds and volunteers to help them win.
9. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken – for instance, the tremendous influence of money, lobbyists and corporations (e.g., Dominion Virginia Power, car title/payday lenders) on legislation – and needs major ethics reform? More broadly, if elected to the House of Delegates, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” with this system or to “shake things up?” Please be as specific as possible in your answer. For instance, would you support campaign finance reform that sharply curtails the power of corporations, lobbyists, and special interests?
Richmond is broken; it is an archaic system that is two centuries behind the times. It is working exactly as it was designed back when we were an agricultural economy and our citizen legislature consisted of wealthy farmers. It’s a short session of long hours with lots of bills introduced. Our 21st-century legislature is forced to rely on lobbyists for much of its information and fundraising, which fosters a culture of political dependency. We desperately need two things to start reforming: non-partisan redistricting and campaign finance reform that includes publically funded elections. Until we have these two changes, it doesn’t matter what ethics reform packages we pass, someone will find a way to get around them because of the great expense of running a campaign. It is far easier to get a few big checks from corporate lobbyists in Richmond, than to spend hours on the phone calling small-dollar donors inside the district. I am proud of the fact that virtually all of my campaign donations came from individuals, nearly all of whom are residents or grew up in the 44th district.
10. Please tell us how you would stand up to party leadership, and even to a Democratic governor, if you believed that they were wrong about an issue and/or that it would hurt the 44th district.
My primary responsibility is to represent the people of the 44th district. I will try to find areas of commonality and agreement, not to engage in demagoguery. But if the party leadership or the Governor wants to push a policy that will hurt this district, I will be on the phone with the Governor ASAP to explain the problem. I will push back and fight for my constituency. If the leadership or the Governor push a policy that I know is not good for my district, for example, I will first try to explain my position to them privately, in an effort to encourage them to have a change of heart. Then, if I have to, I will vote against the measure, even if it’s 99-1.
11. What is your vision for the Route 1 corridor, in terms of transportation, economic development, environmental sustainability, etc..?
The Route 1 corridor is in need of big transit improvements, redevelopment, revitalization and environmental upgrades. Extending Metro will do all of this and provide a serious investment in this part of the county. From stormwater upgrades and new high-quality businesses to traffic relief, the 44th District is in significant need of investment. Mixed-use redevelopment with high quality jobs, retail and new parks and green spaces will all happen once we have Metro stops at Beacon Mall and Hybla Valley. And, redevelopment must be done in conjunction with good stewardship of the land, adding and protecting existing green space, like the Fairchild property in the Spring Bank community. And finally, we must not lose sight of the need to keep and guarantee affordable housing for the young millennials and those working lower wage jobs, the low and moderate income who will want to be near their jobs and mass transit. This is a prerequisite to turning the corridor into an economic powerhouse that is prepared for future military base realignments and population increase.
As previously mentioned, I worked with Delegate Surovell to petition the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, the NVTA, to fund the widening of Route 1 from Napper Road to Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway. We received over 500 petition signatures and organized a grassroots effort that brought out more people to the NVTA Route 1 hearing than any other NVTA hearing. Due to our efforts, the NVTA prioritized funding for a road widening that will increase Route 1 to six lanes through a significant bottleneck on the corridor, provide a multi-use path and sidewalk on a currently dangerous stretch of the road. Recently, another pedestrian was killed trying to cross the highway. Widening it will ease traffic congestion, also preserve space for Bus Rapid Transit and further implement the vision of the Route 1 multimodal study.