Why do you think an organization like the League of Minority Voters (LMV) is important?
Historically, under-represented communities have often lacked access to information and the ability to engage directly with their elected officials. This leads these communities to feel overlooked and left behind. An organization like League of Minority Voters has the ability to bridge those information gaps, increase engagement with elected officials, and directly influence the educational process. This leads to more diversity and a better outcome in our electoral politics.
If elected Secretary of State, I want to make sure people are treated well, regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, what they believe, or how they dress. Everyone should be treated with respect.
Racism and bigotry still lives on globally. How would you approach dealing with this ongoing issue if elected?
I look to the example set by Secretary Richardson. One of the things he did in setting a new bar of leadership for this office was to look at specific audits through an equity lens, when that lens was applicable. For example, using an equity lens, the audit process was important in identifying issues of institutional racism at Portland Public Schools. If I’m elected, I want to continue having our auditors use those filters so that we can shine a light on where disparate impacts are being driven by our tax dollars.
I would also bring back other reforms former Secretary Richardson brought forward. One, is the creation of a coordinator tasked with citizen engagement and inclusion to ensure that marginalized communities are engaged and that we have a key staff person with an eye on diversity. The current position for Director of Civics Education could have their role redefined with more of a focus on minority outreach so that all Oregonians, no matter their race, culture, or political affiliation, will have access to the services offered by our office. Whether they need to register to vote or register a new business, they should not feel like a language barrier or other similar problem is preventing them from accessing their government.
Finally, as the leader of this agency, the buck would start
and stop with me. The government should go to the people instead of expecting
people to go to the government. I would plan to do town halls and meetings with
groups like the League of Minority Voters, the Urban League, and many others
across Oregon throughout the year.
Our criminal justice system disproportionately affects communities of color. What kind of reforms would you advocate for?
As SOS, my job wouldn’t be to make reforms – that’s for the legislature and other government entities – but to use information gathered from audits to inform the decision-making process of the legislature and other government entities.
For instance, it would be insightful to explore some of the state systems where children of underrepresented groups are disproportionately involved, such as the Oregon Youth Authority and foster care programs. Through a broad performance audit, we could look for weaknesses and strengths, areas where these youth could be better served, and success stories.
In the adult area, over the past decade, the state has adopted the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to move more offenders from state prisons toward community corrections. It would be useful to explore both positive and negative impacts on minority offenders, victims, and the community. Auditors could consider changes to enhance the system or recommend replicating services at the local government level.
Again, looking to the equity lens, I think the best thing we can do is collect data that can then drive reforms at the level of government where reforms can be instituted.
Similarly, environmental injustice impacts low-income communities and communities of color. What are some examples you have come across in Oregon? How would you address these negative impacts?
A potential environmental justice issue that could be brewing, involves the Rose Quarter freeway project. ODOT has decided to go ahead without a full Environmental Impact Statement, but nearby residents are concerned about increased lane capacity causing more traffic, more congestion, and consequently more air pollution to the historically black neighborhoods surrounding the project. An audit of outside experts might shed some light on whether this project will or won’t result in negative environmental impacts. Secretary Richardson suggested something called “real-time audits”, which would follow in tandem anytime a major project was underway to ensure taxpayer dollars were being spent wisely and add an element of equity when that was called for. Perhaps that is called for in this Rose Quarter situation.
During his Secretary of State race, Secretary Richardson addressed, head-on, an environmental air quality matter that was impacting lower-income neighborhoods in Portland. He promised to do an audit of DEQ and then followed up with that audit and made recommendations to the Legislature. In 2018, when we came back into session after that audit, I was proud to support SB 1541 which specifically appropriated funds to deal with those types of air quality issues.
We know that, for those living in and around those kinds of facilities with high concentrations of air quality issues, residents tend to be lower-income or in communities of color. I feel like that effort – from campaign promise, to audit, to recommendations, to legislative action – is how the process is supposed to work. We can and should do more like that and I’ll continue in that spirit if given the opportunity.
What are you already doing and what will you do for undocumented immigrants and families who are torn apart in our community/nation if you are elected?
Within the confines of the role of Secretary of State, immigration issues do not intersect with the office as they are federal and legislative matters. As the Secretary of State, I would look into what public health experts have pointed out: this pandemic is disproportionately affecting Oregon’s minority populations, specifically Hispanic farmworker communities. If elected, some of the first audits we need to initiate are reviewing how state agencies responded to the pandemic; what they did right and what may need improvement. In general, the Secretary of State’s office is there to be responsive to the needs of all Oregon residents, especially when auditing state programs, to ensure they are getting efficient government services.
Ultimately, though, my goal as Secretary of State is to operate within the statutory and constitutional authority which the office is granted in a nonpartisan manner. That means, on any social issue that can be construed as partisan, if there is no direct nexus to the role of SOS, I’m going to abstain from weighing in on those matters. That’s especially important as it relates to the citizen’s initiative rights. My personal opinions on any matter unrelated to the office could cast a perception that the rights of people to petition their government through the SOS are being dealt with unfairly. This office demands neutrality, which is what I intend to bring as SOS.
Civil Rights are the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. However, access to these rights are not always equitable. What do you think of Affirmative Action policies and protections? If you’re a supporter, please explain why.
Again, this issue doesn’t have a nexus to the role of SOS with the exception of hiring in the 200+ person agency. As a business owner, my goal has always been to hire the most qualified person for the position while still being mindful of creating as diverse a work environment as possible. As a woman in a male-dominated construction industry, I have tried to make sure our industry works for all who want to try their hand at this kind of work. I would run the SOS office in the same manner, and I would seek to hire back the position of a “Citizen Engagement and Inclusion Coordinator,” created by Secretary Richardson which was subsequently disbanded. As I have done in my private businesses, I would seek to cast a wide net when looking for candidates to join the Secretary of State’s office. This would include conducting better outreach to minority and underrepresented communities to try and identify the best candidates to help my office improve the quality of life in Oregon for all citizens.
Moreover, there are opportunities for the Corporations Division and Office of Small Business to coordinate with the Governor’s office of Women and Minority Owned Businesses so that we can reduce redundancies in helping people get their businesses off the ground.
If elected, what would you advocate for to increase access to education in our communities?
A couple of years ago Secretary Richardson asked the Audits Division to conduct a review of the Portland School District’s spending and academic performance and found significant issues. One that stood out was the achievement gap between white and black students was more than 50% along with similar discrepancies for Hispanic, Native American, and low-income children. The auditors also examined oversight by the Oregon Department of Education and found limited enforcement of district standards and other issues were increasing the risk that achievement would continue to lag for minority students.
One way to increase access to education for our children is to ensure the public school system we have in place is using the tools provided by taxpayers. In that light, it would be prudent to ask auditors to complete an additional follow up audit dealing with Portland Schools. This would go back to see if the district has implemented the recommendations suggested by auditors, as well as revisiting policies at ODE to see if further action needs to be taken there. My hope is good progress is being made and issues are being resolved so there are practices that can be modeled in other schools.
As part of that effort, I would want to expand the accountability sought in Portland Schools to other districts across the state. It’s not surprising that a 50% graduation rate for African American students in Oregon corresponds to a 39% African American homeownership rate in Portland. Education is a key to improving socio-economic status, but if the institutions entrusted with that task are failing half a larger percentage of our students, it’s no wonder that there is a correlation with underrepresented communities making up a disproportionate number of those involved in foster care and the justice system. When inequality and discriminatory policies are identified, those should be dealt with.
Similarly, if elected, what would you advocate for to increase access to workforce training in our communities?
Workforce training is more aligned with the position of BOLI as an elected duty task. But where the SOS can play a role is in creating partnerships with BOLI to take people who’ve gone through apprenticeships and help them navigate whether being self-employed or creating a small business with their skills is a good fit. There are over 400,000 small businesses in Oregon, and many (over 60,000), are small employers with one-to-four employees. Many businesses struggle to get their start, but a coordinated effort between BOLI and the SOS to identify workers ready for the next step of business ownership would go a long way toward creating new jobs in our state.
Another role for the SOS would be to audit minority engagement and participation in Career and Technical Education (CTE) opportunities. Research shows students who have participated in CTE are more likely to graduate but are minority children encouraged and motivated to participate? Do they have access? If not, why not? Are some CTE programs more successful than others and what can we learn from them? Are others too loaded with administrative costs and should they be modified to better serve the students? All questions an audit might be able to answer.
LMV would like to see an increase of minority leaders engaged in our political processes. How would you encourage Leadership Development and Civic Engagement in our communities?
I have said this repeatedly as I talk with groups across the state during this campaign, I view the Secretary of State as a non-partisan position. Audits and archives, ballots, and businesses – those divisions are for everyone, no matter what political affiliation you are, your gender, your religion, or the color of your skin. I want to make this office welcome, open, and fair to all Oregonians.
Having said that, I would like to make a special effort, like Secretary Richardson did, to sit down with former colleagues in the legislature who represent areas with a higher percentage of disadvantaged communities to get their ideas for how the Secretary of State’s Office can engage young people in their government. Kid Governor is great for 5th graders. However, engaging with high school and college students, young business and nonprofit leaders takes it to another level.
Anyone who has a voice and who can use that voice to serve others, should step up and take a swing at serving. To that end, I think those of us who are elected must reach behind us, and even across aisles, to help give advice and encouragement to those interested in running. I think the SOS could take on a role in facilitating non-partisan “how to” events just to get people better familiar with the processes around campaign finance, filing, the calendars associated with campaigning deadlines, etc., as a way to make the process less overwhelming and more informative. The same would be effective for those seeking to engage in the initiative process – having a better understanding of how direct democracy works shouldn’t just be an opportunity for those who are connected or political insiders/special interests.
What do you think of the following voting initiatives: (1) Same-Day Voters Registration; and (2) National Vote By Mail?
Because of Oregon’s past history with same-day voting registration and groups who sought to manipulate our election process for their own gain, I am not supportive of changing the current process. As to National Vote By Mail, Oregon has been a leader in this area. Because of the pandemic I know a lot of elections folks are looking at Oregon’s vote by mail system.
As Secretary of State, I would be happy to advise other experts across the country interested in implementing Vote by Mail, things like the correct drop site protocols, provisional ballots.
Most polling I’ve seen shows Oregonians love our vote by mail system and we continue to improve and make our system even stronger and safer – Oregon can be the standard-bearer when it comes to voting by mail.