A series of conversations with elected officials kicks off with Hal Ginsberg's interview of Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, representing Dist. 18 in Montgomery County.
/by Hal Ginsberg/On Friday, July 17, I interviewed Maryland District 18 Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez on my morning talk show. District 18 is wholly within Montgomery County and includes Chevy Chase, Kensington, and parts of Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville, and Wheaton. Sol Gutierrez is running for Congress in District 8 to replace Representative Chris Van Hollen who in turn is seeking retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski's seat. I have posted the entire 32-minute conversation here. Below are the topics we discussed accompanied by my summary of the Delegate's express views in each area.
Gun Violence: The massacre in Chattanooga and so many others point up the need for serious action to address the unique availability of access to guns in the United States since other countries limit citizens' access to weapons and don't have the kind of mass shootings that we do. In the 2013 Maryland legislative session 20 to 25 bills were introduced to reduce gun violence. Ultimately, Governor Martin O'Malley signed a comprehensive law. It included measures designed to keep guns from people with mental health problems and requiring increased training for gun owners. Delegate Sol Gutierrez introduced successfully a provision to limit magazine capacity. Nobody is recommending taking away guns from responsible law-abiding citizens who keep their weapons away from children. But because this is a public safety and public health issue, we cannot leave the status quo untouched.
Education: Delegate Sol Gutierrez's first elected office was on the Montgomery County Board of Education in the 1990s. Since the 1980s, as a result of President Reagan's Central America policies, many less affluent Central Americans migrated to the District metropolitan area including to Montgomery County. Schools serving them and in predominantly African-American neighborhoods were incapable of providing the same high-quality education that they had been providing to better-prepared middle and upper-class whites and Asians. For this reason, she ran for a seat on the Board. New processes and training may be necessary due to the unique challenges caused by poverty and the fact that many different languages may be spoken in one school district. In any case, society has an obligation to meet these challenges.
Governor Larry Hogan's cuts to public education are harmful. He didn't get elected on a platform to cut public education and fund private education. The cuts are coming at a time when costs are rising. The only possible response is to increase class size, which is the worst thing you can do. The Legislature did everything it could to stop the cuts. It fenced off funds to maintain the education budget but Hogan refused to restore the money. Next year, however, based on the Legislature's action, the governor will have to restore the funds.
Trump: Delegate Sol Gutierrez took personally Donald Trump's remarks calling Mexican immigrants drug dealers, criminals, and “rapists”. She believes Trump came close to engaging in hate speech. He was attacking all Latinos and what is most damaging is that he made a very negative and ignorant stereotype about all Latinos without acknowledging their huge contributions. Issues surrounding immigration are complex but it's now becoming harder and harder for people to come to this nation of immigrants and it's harder and harder for those immigrants who are now in the United States. Trump is awakening xenophobic views and that cannot be good.
Economic Security/Jobs: It's not good for the nation to have the polarity we currently have in our economy. Maryland has addressed the issue by raising the minimum wage. Delegate Sol Gutierrez supports indexing the minimum wage to inflation. She is also very concerned about tipped workers who, if they work in a diner or a small restaurant, may be making below-minimum wage. Such workers are usually women and often the sole breadwinner in their family. Black and Latino communities are especially harmed by restaurant workers' low take-home pay. The federal government needs to help with tax policy and job opportunities. States can help too but there is great variation in their approaches and willingness to help their struggling residents.
TPP: Delegate Sol Gutierrez opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership. She saw up close how the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which is very similar to TPP, has devastated Central America by destroying local initiatives and environmental protections. There's now a race to the bottom for low-wage retail and fast-food jobs. In El Salvador, based on CAFTA, the Pacific Rim company sued the country successfully after it was denied the right to mine for gold under El Salvador's major source of fresh water. More than anybody, Senator Elizabeth Warren has spoken out about the dangers of TPP.
Purple Line: Delegate Sol Gutierrez supports the Purple Line and is happy that it appears clear now that the line will be built even though it will be reduced in size and scope. The Purple Line, which runs between Prince George's County and Montgomery County, is especially important because it provides a much easier commute for people who can't afford to live in Montgomery County but work there. Delegate Sol Gutierrez has been the only strong consistent Purple Line supporter in her legislative district.
Presidential candidates: Delegate Sol Gutierrez will support the Democratic nominee. She's been a Democrat all her life. She knows Hillary well and served in the Bill Clinton administration. She is excited about having a first woman President but she's enjoying hearing the ideas that Senator Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley are bringing forth – especially those relating to economic disparities. Regarding the Republicans, she's concerned that none have had the courage to say stop it to Donald Trump's hate speech directed towards the Latino community.