Kristin Seele- Candidate for PA State Representative 168th
Questionnaire Responses by Kristen Seale — Candidate for State Rep in the 168th.
1. What do you value most about the 168th district and why do you want to represent it in the state legislature?
Our community knows how to come together to take care of each other in ways that are inspiring, but our government doesn’t take care of this community. I want to be able to serve this community so that people are supported in ways that enable them to reach their full potential.
2. How do you plan to incorporate grassroots movements into your campaign, and long-term community organizing and participation into your governance if elected?
I have been an activist and organizer since high school, and multiple grassroots community organizations have been involved in my campaign from the very beginning, and are responsible for my primary win — we built that together. All of my work in the New Mexico legislature and government agencies as well as in Harrisburg has been in coordination with community organizations in coalition with decision makers — that won’t change in my next elected office. Community led movements are a critical part of how we get bipartisan bills created and passed.
3. If you have served as an elected official before, what services have you delivered to residents across your district? If you have never served as an elected official, what services do you want to deliver and how will you do so?
I am a School Director on the Rose Tree Media School Board, and since taking office I led the effort to pass a gun safety resolution with a student and parent led group of over 700 concerned constituents. We also sent a letter of support to the Public Utility Commission and other state decision makers to urge them to continue the stop work order on he Mariner East 2 pipeline, which runs 650 feet from the Glenwood Elementary School playground, where Sunoco/ Energy Transfer Partners have installed a valve station. This year, for the first time in the history of the school district, we early negotiated every single labor contract and each were accepted by their membership, and we were able to expand each union’s medical benefits while also saving the district 1.5 million dollars on the prescription plan. For the first time in 13 years, we stopped the Board from taking any exceptions to the Act 1 index, which allows them to raise taxes without a referendum from taxpayers. I have been an active listener to parents and students in our district and helped them resolve issues with the Board and Administration. We have also just recently hired an interim Superintendent and we are currently in the process of a new Superintendent search.
4. In recent years, Pennsylvania has had enormous trouble passing a budget. What are your budgetary priorities, what revenue sources would you seek, and how will you move these measures through the Republican-dominated legislature?
Healthcare, education, universal care, investing in infrastructure, properly funding emergency services employees like firefighters and EMTS statewide and keeping public utilities public are my budget priorities. I’d seek revenue from cuts to unnecessary spending, tax revenue from the legalization of recreational marijuana, closing our tax borders for commercial business and taxing the wealthiest Pennsylvanians. I am skilled at building relationships and finding common ground with people, and I will apply those skills in my work as a legislator in the same way that I have successfully in the past as an issue advocate, to build political will and votes to move policy.
5. Philadelphia remains the most impoverished major city and about 75% of our residents lack bachelor’s degrees. What policies would you implement to ensure that decent, high-paying jobs created here are accessible to the majority of our population, not just the relatively well-educated and already well off?
Morally, ethically and politically we must work to end poverty, and we have the means. I will fight to make higher education and technical/trades education accessible to and affordable for all students.
Our state underfunds education at every level, and needs to invest in providing the assets that lift citizens on the Commonwealth out of poverty and ensure a strong workforce for 21st Century jobs if our state economy is to grow.
Funding the cost of college education and technical or trades education through Pennsylvania Promise or similar, expanded legislation that creates a revenue stream or expands an existing funding mechanism and finds efficiencies like incorporating state job creation and job placement efforts into education priorities.
I would sponsor and advance legislation to increase the amount of the total cost of education that the state provides to at least 50%. I would fight tirelessly for a fair funding formula that takes into account everything mentioned above and eliminates the current incentive to overtax communities with fewer resources.
6. Pennsylvania has the highest average student loan debt of any state, at $35,185. Would you support legislation to make the PASSHE system and Commonwealth colleges tuition and fee free and provide cost of living stipends to low-income students?
Yes, with pleasure.
7. What policies would you promote to reduce or eliminate Pennsylvania residents’ student loan debt burden?
I would work with subject matter experts on a plan to cancel student debt and paths to public service professions that benefit the state.
8. Approximately 33% of Philadelphia students are enrolled in charter schools. What is your position on the expansion of charter schools? Should they be given public money via vouchers or similar programs (like ESAs)? What role do you think public schools play in our city?
We need to eliminate dysfunctional charters and I’d like to see a moratorium on charter expansion. They should no longer receive public money and are a drain on our public schools’ already limited resources. Public schools are essential to our city and need to be adequately funded, staffed and supported by both state and local government.
9. What policies would you advocate to expand and strengthen the labor movement in Pennsylvania? How would you expand worker representation and power in sectors with low union density?
As former labor in two unions and the child of a working class poor family, as someone that has had to work hard to build the assets that lifted my own family out of poverty, and as someone who has fought for the rights of the most vulnerable people in our communities, I am a champion for labor and have earned the Delaware County and Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorsements.
Our right to strike is paramount, without qualification. Public employee unions and public sector unions should enjoy the same rights and protections as any other union in the Commonwealth.
Those that benefit from the work of labor should contribute to the efforts that protect their interests and safety on the job. I’d work to fight every bit of right to work legislation that comes through the House and to create better conditions for organizing statewide.
10. Will you commit to fighting for funding to expand Medically-Assisted Treatment, mental health, and community-based programs to support people struggling with addictions and their families in Philadelphia? How will you hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for its role in the spread of the opioid crisis?
Yes. In Delaware County, our County government was the first in the state to sue pharmaceutical companies for their responsibility in the crisis. I support this path and other regulatory corrections and penalties for exacerbating this epidemic.
11. Philadelphia’s immigrant and minority communities are threatened by increased ICE deportation efforts, police brutality and misconduct, and discriminatory treatment by our criminal justice system. At the same time, crime has been a significant problem in some parts of the district. What will you do to ensure that Philadelphia is safe and welcoming for all, from all types of violence?
I think that there is an important place for citizen supervision of and input into policing via a citizen and expert review board or some body that will work with communities and law enforcement on just and appropriate policing as well as policies that create real consequences for law enforcement that police in discriminatory ways in vulnerable communities. Providing adequate community social services regardless of citizenship can also eliminate some of the interactions that disadvantage vulnerable people when they come into contact with law enforcement or the justice system.
12. Do you agree or disagree that “tough on crime” policies have overcrowded our prisons, and if so, what steps would you take to reduce our prison population?
Agree. Policies to increase racial justice including ending mass incarceration: I believe in working to identify alternative supervision for non-violent first offenders, and identifying which offenses imprisoned people committed that were created by social support systems failures rather than personal intent to commit crime. I would try to improve prison conditions in ways that would reduce recidivism, and offer an opportunity to obtain the assets that lift people out of poverty and create the support systems that favor being a functioning member of open society. I’d advocate for decriminalizing simple drug possession and fair and consistent sentencing. I’d advocate for adequate mental health care, addiction rehabilitation and treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, remedial education, parenting skills training and job skills training during incarceration. I’d advocate for legislation that provided the opportunity for the formerly incarcerated to regain full citizenship including voting rights, social benefits and student loans that can assist in their reintegration and success after incarceration. I’d also support legislation that helps create a social safety net for people that are released from jails and prisons. I’d work tirelessly to address and correct systemic and institutionalized racism in our justice system.
13. The statewide average annual cost for childcare services is $10,640, while the median assisted living facility and nursing home cost $43,200 and $116,800 per year, respectively. Would you support or oppose legislation to provide universal child and elder care for Pennsylvanians?
Yes. I would like to work to expand state participation in federal programs to include universal care programs in similar ways to the expansion of Medicaid offerings through the Affordable Care Act in states. I would take steps to investigate revenue sources or current program savings that could fund universal care and support analyzing a way to implement new systems that could integrate existing agencies and programs into an expanded care department or systems. I would love to sponsor legislation based on a solid analysis and report that would enable expansion of care. We should also offer refundable tax credits to family caregivers.
14. Would you support legislation for universal single-payer healthcare with no co-pays that covers all individuals regardless of documentation status?
Yes, and Medicare for All is a central message of my canvass and my campaign.
15. Do you support the Keystone Opportunity Zone program? Would you introduce legislation to eliminate it, or to limit the number of times a parcel’s KOZ designation can be renewed or extended? More generally, do you support tax breaks to lure or retain businesses?
I would introduce or support this kind of legislation. An independent, qualified and regular analysis of the costs vs. benefits, including non-economic costs and benefits, of the designation and its use as well as its utility to the community could be part of a review process built into legislation. I would study academic and federal research about the successes and failures of these types of development and opportunity zones in urban and rural areas to inform what limits, if any, should be placed on renewals of a parcel’s designation. I would encourage citizen participation being part of any process, as well.
16. What is your opinion on privatized infrastructure or public-private partnerships for development or maintenance of public infrastructure like roads or water works?
Infrastructure maintenance and improvement presents an opportunity for local, living wage jobs with good benefits through our state and local government, and should not be privatized.
17. What, in your view, are the causes, threats, and opportunities of climate change? How would you address climate change as a Pennsylvania state representative?
I work on climate change every day in my job, in the 3rd largest energy generation state in the US, which represents our 3rd best opportunity to stem climate change, nationally. We must win this fight, and my organization has had impact by creating strategy that builds bipartisan support for climate legislation.
18. The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce advocates converting Philadelphia into an “energy hub” for oil and natural gas, or the “Houston of the East Coast.” Do you agree or disagree with this vision? If you or your employer are a member of the Chamber, have you used your influence to advocate in any way on this proposal?
Disagree. My employer is a clean energy policy shop and we work on energy conservation every day.
19. Do you regard basic needs of Pennsylvanians, including food, housing, healthcare, and education, as human rights or as commodities most efficiently distributed by economic markets?
20. How do you define democracy, and does Pennsylvania meet your definition? Why or why not? What actions if any would you take to alter who makes the most important decisions in our state and society, and whose needs are prioritized?
Democracy functions best when it works for the majority, and right now Pennsylvania government works best for the wealthiest citizens and corporations, oil and gas, and whichever dark money organizations can fund candidates, not the people of the Commonwealth.