The Housing Affordability crisis Our housing vacancy rate is flat: in Whatcom County it’s less than 2%, the cities are worse, in San Juan County businesses can’t stay open 7 days during the peak tourist season because there is no housing for workers. A balanced and competitive rental market is one with a vacancy rate of 5% or more, if you to have choices that are affordable.
- The solution – Make the Absentee Investors that are causing the problem Pay – Like British Columbia Does. Before we can fix the problem we have to understand the cause – non-resident investors are buying up houses in Vancouver and Seattle then leaving them vacant to avoid having reportable income. This is increasing the demand for housing in the 40th District. Instead of funding new low income housing by raising taxes on everyone, why not adopt BC’s approach to non-residents who buy residential property they don’t intend to live in – charge them a 15% property purchase tax. If the non-residents owners leave the homes vacant, then they are also pay higher annual property ownership fees. This places the tax burden on those causing the problem NOT YOU! Non-resident investor’s money is used to fund solutions to the crises they created. IT WORKS! and it’s already stabilizing the market in BC.
- Encourage voluntary Density transfer within rural areas: Too much of our farmland is zoned for residential, making it too expensive for the next generation of farmers to buy land. Resulting in good farmland, often far from emergency services and infrastructure getting converted into housing. By allowing farmers to sell their development rights to someone wanting to build more housing on land located near existing schools and public facilities we protect farms and make everything more affordable.
Access to Affordable Health Care Our current Federal Government seems committed to destroying the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies will again be allowed to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, making it unaffordable to all but the wealthy. People have real reason to fear they are one sickness or accident away from bankruptcy and debilitating health. The most frightened are those 50-65 who have lost the last good job that provided healthcare but are too young for Medicare. After a lifetime of paying off their mortgage there is a real risk they could lose their home to medical bills.I have been fighting for better Healthcare for years – it’s why WA Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says: “I appointed Rud Browne to my committee to help with implementation of a state version of universal health insurance coverage. This was even before the Affordable Care Act. I know Rud is committed to improving access to health care, and his local and international business experience would be invaluable in the State Legislature.” Some solutions:
- Be prepared to cover what the Feds remove from the Affordable Care Act.
- Demand the right to buy our life saving medications for the same prices as our Canadian friends pay. Why do we pay three times more?
- Provide protections against you losing your home to pay off medical debts by using a catastrophic reinsurance program to provide and offer more affordable coverage for those that don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.
- Offer a $500 a year Dental Care allowance for kids in need. A child who fails to have dental work done early is likely to see their health and education suffer.
- Better support for mental health challenges like depression, addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and suicide prevention. Why delay when the lifetime cost of doing nothing is so much more than the expense of early intervention?
Investing in Education vs. Spending on education Nothing explains the need for easy access to education better than the expression “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” We have to shift discussion away from “our spending on education” to “our investment in education”. The success of America is built on the investments each previous generation made in educating the next generation and there is no more certain way to raise living standards than by investing in education. Access to education is not just about giving kids opportunity to be independent it’s about nurturing the talent we need to discover more of the worlds wonders, of solving our most difficult problems, of creating the next generation of jobs. In order to build the infrastructure for economic prosperity that benefits us all we must have the skilled trades people necessary and this requires more investment in the technical and vocational education. Affordable Child Care When I owned Ryzex, an employee, a young single mom, told me she had lost her kids after school care and they had nowhere safe to go. She asked if the kids could stay in the front lobby until she got off work that afternoon. I offered her the company cafeteria and for the next six years the kids did their homework while they waited for their mother to finish work. And I was happy they did. All this was back in the day when child care was half what it costs today. There are lots of good employers that want to be partners in finding a solution. In many cases it’s the zoning code that stops employers providing onsite childcare from also offering it to employees of adjacent business – this is an unnecessary restriction which makes it uneconomical to add childcare at most companies and provides no value to our community. We need to work with our businesses and make these day care locations accessible to every working family.
Increasing the number of new Family Wage Jobs. The time tested, proven way to find more funding for schools, roads and bridges while giving you more to take home at the same time – is to raise wages faster than we raise taxes. The most certain way to raise wages is to increase the value of what our workers make for sale in world markets – when we don’t wages stagnate like we are seeing now. Washington State can create and attract more family wages jobs without damaging our existing natural environment or current employment base. We must lead because the job market for our kids is going to change dramatically as automation and artificial intelligence becomes more commonplace. Leadership requires us to educate the talented entrepreneurs and skilled labor needed to create the industries that will provide the next generation of jobs I am the only candidate in the race (likely the only one in any Washington race this year) who has personally created 360 family wage, clean, green jobs with full benefits. I’m a progressive businessman that built a business (Ryzex) with my own funds and ran it for 23-years. I started with an idea, used my own money taking high tech products that were broken – and fixed them instead of them ending up in the landfill. Making government work better for you I believe State Government’s primary role in Economic Development is
- Protecting and preserving our existing industries – ensure policies allow them to thrive
- Anticipating future economic trends and then investing in the right public Education, Transportation, and Infrastructure for success
- Reduce uncertainty, administrative burdens and delays without reducing environmental protections, or progressive social policies
I’ve run a business that has needed all these things to succeed. I understand that economic development as primarily a private sector role, in part because it requires a degree of risk that governments rarely have the skill to manage effectively. I also recognize that good government regulations that don’t create unnecessary compliance burdens encourage and increase job creation, while bad regulations and high compliance will do the opposite. See the About Section to see the long list of personal and business awards I have received.
PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT
I have a long history of using private sector resources to solve environmental problems I’ve fought to protect our environment my whole life – but I haven’t done it by asking or paying other people to do my part. I’ve changed our environment by creating an industry to recycle stuff that used to go into the landfill. I’ve done it by providing hundreds of green jobs, and giving guidance to many other businesses on how they can do they can be good environmental stewards. I have been a leader on the Whatcom County Council to find new ways to protect us from the dangers of oil-by-rail and limit additional crude oil tanker traffic in Puget Sound – but without destroying the existing high wage jobs at Cherry Point. Balancing the water needs of Families, Farms & Fish The Washington Supreme Court ruling (called the Hirst decision) on permit-exempt wells generated strong emotions. It’s true that our water is finite and that over-use is impacting stream flows in the summer. It’s also true that for over a year many citizens were not able to build homes for their families on land they bought for that purpose. This helped push housing prices up. Balancing the water needs of Families, Farms & Fish is not easy as water has become the most important currency in the world. The great challenge to good sustainability policy is its four dimensions. For policy to be truly sustainable, I believe it has to be environmentally, economically, legally and politically sustainable. Click on NetZeroWater to see some of my work on this issue
I’ve fought against injustice all my life – environmental, economic and social. Two recent examples: As a County Councilmember I asked our local courts to help poor defendants receive appointment reminders using the free Federal Lifeline phone program. Sending these simple text and voicemail reminders has resulted in a 50% decline in defendants acquiring new “Failure to Appear” charges and the “no show” rate for drug tests has dropped to almost zero. After learning that parts of Whatcom County had been using Customs and Border protection staff to process 911 calls – including those coming from undocumented residents who were victims of Domestic or Child abuse. I used my position on the Council to argue and vote for the Belllingham 911 center to take over those calls. We cannot have victims of abuse – no matter what their status is – afraid to call for help because of the fear they may be deported. Ending Homelessness – especially among youth Last year I learned that half the homeless kids on the streets are stuck there simply because they lack identification. Fixing the problem will cost us $250 per case, save us up to $40,000 a year and give these kids a future. Read my flyer on this issue, but be prepared to moved to tears as many others have. Homeless Kids & ID Mental Health and Substance Abuse If we have the knowledge, to identify mental health challenges like depression, addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar, suicide and Reactive Attachment Disorder, and learning style differences such as autism and dyslexia, then why are we delaying access for help to these families when the lifetime cost of doing nothing is so much more than the early intervention? A woman’s right to choose As the father of a daughter I have always supported her and every other woman’s right to choose. If the recent attacks at the federal level on Planned Parenthood are upheld by the courts it is clear to me that the State government will have to step in and replace the funding for these essential services, and I will help lead that action. Modernizing the criminal justice system There is much more that can and should be done to divert those with mental or substance abuse problems away from our jails. We also need to significantly expand the use of alternatives to incarceration, particularly for youth, the poor, those experiencing homelessness and first time offenders. We have to stop keeping poor people in jail because they can’t come up with the bail/bond money necessary to be released. I support diversion and incarceration prevention programs and want to see them expanded. Our primary focus should be to deal with the root cause of the problems (poverty, homelessness, mental illness, adverse childhood experiences, self-medication, etc.) and use comprehensive intervention early in the cycle. Gun Responsibility I support universal background checks for all firearms purchases, restrictions on purchasing assault weapons, safety training and safe storage requirements. These are important things that must be done to lessen the harm caused during the mass shootings we now see almost every day. I do not support the idea of arming teachers and asking them to assume the role of first responder in a crisis.