What is your vision for cannabis in the District — what have the Board of Supervisors and city councils done right, and what should be different?
Caldwell: The supervisors should have done a pilot project, allowing a phasing in of these businesses on a trial basis, in different zone districts in the county, in order to better analyze the pros and cons of approving these grow operations, instead of a free for all. In a rush for the fool’s gold of marijuana, the state of CA created a huge gray area between legal and illegal grow operations going all the way back to the permitting of medical marijuana. The state is as much to blame for putting forth deadlines and application processes that were not properly vetted and promulgated in a timely and orderly manner- in other words, they helped to create chaos. I never expected that we would get flowers from Columbia and drugs from Carp in my lifetime. The most important thing I will do is address the underlying issue that has led to the collapse of our domestic flower industry, namely, duty-free flower imports from Columbia. Protecting American growers and jobs could help alleviate this unfair competition that has decimated the local flower industry leading to this vacuum being filled by cannabis.
Carbajal: I supported Proposition 64 to legalize recreational cannabis in California, and I believe that there is a way to responsibly implement this at the local level with input from all stakeholders and impacted parties. There are many factors to take into account—schools, neighborhoods and other agricultural operations—I’ve spoken with these stakeholders, and I know our local leaders are working toward a solution that works for everyone.
At the federal level, I have worked to reconcile state and federal cannabis laws. There is a wide disconnect right now between federal and state laws on cannabis, and this divide hurts businesses in our area. It limits their access to banks, compromises worker safety, silences the voices of state voters who elected to legalize cannabis, and it makes it more challenging for our state to make the most of the marketplace.
The House passed the SAFE Banking Act last year to help align state and federal laws around cannabis banking. The bill protects states’ rights, allows cannabis businesses to access the banking system and is a win for public safety. I am glad to have helped pass this bill.
How do you relate to your political party and its current members; what are changes you hope to see in the party after 2020?
Caldwell: I have been a democrat half my life and a republican half my life. In Ronald Reagan’s words, I didn’t leave the Democratic party, it moved so far left, it left me! Having said that, I am not running to represent party interests, I am running to represent this district in its entirety. Salud Carbajal has been too focused on party business at the expense of the people’s business. I want to represent and protect our common values and heritage rather than pursue a hyper-partisan political agenda, including the current push towards socialism. Socialism is THE existential threat to America that must be defeated in order to preserve freedom and opportunity to one and all. Unlike Salud Carbajal, 99% of my contributions and support is coming from the district. I want to see both parties return to the goals and limitations outlined in the constitution by way of restoring authority and money back to the states in order to reverse the influence and effect of crony capitalism. Our federal government is too big and inefficient. I believe the states are best situated to handle their own affairs instead of a one size fits all mandate from Washington DC.
Carbajal: I am proud to be part of the Democratic House majority in Congress, and I’m excited about the work we’re doing each day to help make people’s lives better. We’ve passed bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs; bipartisan plans to curb the gun violence epidemic; legislation to raise the minimum wage, protect jobs and affirm workers’ rights; strong environmental protections and more. Many of these pieces of legislation were bipartisan and gained support from Republicans and Democrats alike.
I’ve built my record on standing up for our Central Coast values and working across the aisle whenever possible—52% of the bills I’ve cosponsored are bipartisan—and I would like to see both parties talking more about how we can work together to effect change. Make no mistake, in the House we are securing wins by working with colleagues across the aisle. I want to make sure we don’t allow that willingness to work together to get lost in the shuffle of political posturing and punditry. I am committed to finding common ground, and working alongside anyone who wants to make our community and world a better place for all.
What will you do to ensure that the right infrastructure projects are prioritized in the district and receive appropriate federal assistance/funding?
Caldwell: Far too many infrastructure decisions at the federal, state and local level are based on social policy instead of rational transportation needs. For instance, the non-partisan transportation think tank TRIP estimates that 70% of California roads are in poor or mediocre condition, yet CA is still spending $80 BILLION on “High Speed Rail” which even proponents admit will reduce highway traffic only 1%. That’s mismanagement of funds. I will prioritize projects that improve public safety and quality of life. I want the forests cleared of dead trees and I want the fuel loads in the national forest reduced. I want our dams, reservoirs and debris basins cleared of silt in order to help provide more water and better flood control protection. I want our freeways and highways widened and our bridges and culverts repaired. I want to eliminate diversion of taxes and fees, that were meant to improve our roads, to other uses. Government is squandering too much money on studying things to death, rather than using the money to fix things. We need to streamline the permitting process and alleviate the need for redundant studies for routine projects, including construction and maintenance.
Carbajal: As Vice Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a leader on the New Democrat Coalition Infrastructure Task Force, ensuring the strength of Central Coast infrastructure is a top priority for me. Across our district, I continue to meet with local, state and federal transportation stakeholders, and I bring their concerns back to my committee so we can make progress. Roads, bridges, airports, broadband and public transportation are not Republican or Democrat—in Congress, I am working with members of both parties to fund infrastructure that benefits all of us.
This Congress, I brought forward a bill to fund infrastructure with no additional federal spending. This bill creates an infrastructure bank that uses private partnerships to invest in much-needed projects. It is one step to ensure communities across the country have the resources to fund roads, bridges and more without skyrocketing debt. I have also continued to push for clean water infrastructure in our community by securing $3 million to enhance clean drinking water infrastructure and water resilience; working across the aisle to garner support for these efforts; and by introducing a bill to better support our water systems and address drought.
What is your plan to address homelessness and the rising cost of housing in the district?
Caldwell: California has a disproportionate number of homeless people and some of the highest housing costs in the nation because of state and local policies and priorities. We need to separate the homeless into three groups in order to address unique needs. Some people are homeless through no fault of their own. They simply need a hand up. Others are addicted to drugs and alcohol, they need to be given no choice but to enter rehab. The final group, the mentally ill, are the hardest group to treat. The laws have to be changed to allow them to be institutionalized in a humane setting where they can get the help they need. We need to move the homeless out of our neighborhoods and into facilities where they can get the treatment the need to get sober, then get the training needed to get a job and truly break the cycle of homelessness — only THEN should we be looking at housing. We cannot afford to keep wasting taxpayers money and we cannot afford to let the problem get worse. High housing costs are caused by lack of inventory — we simply are not building enough housing or enough variety. Rent control, restrictive zoning, and high fees all discourage building new housing.
Carbajal: As a county supervisor, I helped work on the Safe Parking Program that provides short-term safety for people experiencing homelessness, and I worked to ensure our community had access to strong mental health and addiction treatment programs. I know we must keep building on long-term solutions.
I’ve supported local projects like Johnson Court veterans’ housing and the work of People’s Self-Help Housing, and it’s important we continue partnering to bring more affordable housing to the Central Coast. In Congress, we raised funding for Community Development Block Grants that expand economic opportunities and housing options in our district. I fought for more federal resources for our community though the HUD-VASH veterans’ housing program, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Home Investment Partnership Program, robust mental health services, drug and opioid treatment programs, and other initiatives that ensure people have life-changing resources and safe, affordable places to live. My Home for the Brave Act is another way to expand housing options for homeless veterans. I’m pushing to pass this bipartisan bill.
Improving affordable housing is close to my heart. I grew up in public housing and know firsthand that these investments change lives—they changed mine, and other people need that same chance to succeed.
What are you prepared to do in Washington to curtail the national debt and where do your federal spending priorities lie?
Caldwell: I believe we are in a dire situation with respect to our national debt. We need to cut the size of the federal government per the precepts of the constitution. In other words, if the constitution doesn’t prescribe authority to the federal government for a program, then the program belongs under the purview of the states and the people. Bringing jobs back to America and allowing our economy to grow will help alleviate the Debt/GDP ratio. My spending priorities will be national defense and infrastructure, along with public health and protection of the environment by way of active management and wise use of public lands and resources. Per the requisites of the 9th and 10th Amendments, I plan on returning money and authority back to the states so that they can decide how to best solve their problems unfettered by federal government interventions and machinations.
Carbajal: We must work across the aisle to address the debt.
It’s important to note the 2017 Republican tax plan skyrocketed national debt, giving 83% of the tax benefit to corporations and the wealthiest at the expense of working families. President Trump’s latest budget doubles down on these giveaways, increasing debt by another $1.5 trillion. It also proposes slashing trillions more from Medicaid, Social Security, housing, small business development, FEMA disaster assistance, USDA and more.
This is wrong.
To curb debt, we need to stop giving handouts to the president’s ultra-rich friends and be wiser with our investments. We cannot and should not spend frivolously. We also cannot hang middle-class families out to dry.
Our funding must ensure strong, safe, sustainable infrastructure and invest in clean energy to create new jobs. As House Transportation and Infrastructure Vice Chair, I’m collaborating across the aisle to strengthen forest roads for fire safety, increase energy efficiency, and I passed a bipartisan bill bolstering coastal resilience against climate disasters. We must support CDBG housing and SNAP food assistance that helps people get back on their feet. This administration cannot steal from important programs to fund projects like a border wall or corporate tax handouts.