I believe that constituent services are key to being a member of the House of Representatives because, in my view, the role of a member is to amplify the collective voice of the district that they represent. This necessarily means that the House member must be skilled at setting aside their views on a matter in order to give opposing perspectives a fair hearing, earnestly presenting and attempting to convince the public of genuinely better options, and knowing when to let go of such attempts and accept that legislators do not have individual vetoes against the public. Unfortunately, far too many of our elected officials don’t value constituent services at all and patronizing behavior has become the rule instead of the exception.
As your next State Representative, I will work to reverse these problematic norms by providing or advocating for:
- Inclusive Community Access Events – Ensuring that constituent office hours and other community access events are routinely held in places that are geographically and economically accessible to all constituents.
- Reinforced Constituent Services – Requesting that all members of the House of Representatives have at least one aide focused solely on constituent services and that each of the social safety net agencies has at least two employees who are tasked with liaising with these constituent service aides.
- Stronger Collaboration Between State Agencies – Advocating greater collaboration between DHSS, Department of Education, DYFS, Department of Labor, and cooperating nonprofit organizations to ensure that all social safety net efforts and programs are working in concert instead of at cross purposes.
Equitable Economic Development
As an accomplished African-American economics scholar who has lived in gentrified and/or gentrifying cities such as Boston, Harlem, and Washington D.C., I know all too well that the trickle-down effect is a myth and that new development projects almost always hurt low-income families and other groups that have historically been ignored by or purposely excluded from public policy. I believe that businesses should provide real value to the communities that they become a part of. I also believe that public-private partnerships should be evaluated in light of modern economic knowledge, not outdated and oversimplified theories. As your state representative, I will support:
- Antitrust Legislation – Capping the amount of market share that any real estate developer may acquire within a given area and limiting the harm to renters deal with when new development causes inflation.
- Consumer Protection – Forming an exploratory committee that examines pricing conventions and other areas of market activity in which consumers are being taken advantage of.
- Economic Inclusion – Barring lending institutions from including loans originated via predatory lending practices from being included in the debt-to-credit ratio calculus or being scrutinized in other parts of the underwriting process.
Youth Services & Education
I became interested in public policy through my determination to aid the development of Wilmington’s youth. These youth and their families are still my North Star, but unfortunately, the support that they receive has sharply declined. As a first-generation college graduate and former social worker and youth program coordinator, I’ve seen how the support that youth and their families receive has been severely limited over the last decade and I know that when children do not have opportunities for safe fun or jobs they are more likely to make poor decisions.
In 2016, the U.S. D.O.J Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program ranked Delaware well above national rates in regard to juvenile arrests for aggravated assault, robbery, larceny, drug abuse, and weapons. We can reverse these outcomes by increasing and improving the services and opportunities available to Delaware’s youth.
Chief among these services and opportunities are access to culturally relevant curricula and the resources that will allow youth to indulge their individual interests. We must ensure that our youth are supported by flooding the systems that encounter them with the support that they need.
As your state representative, I will pursue:
- Equal Exploration Resources – Ensuring that every student in the state receives a library card on their 5th birthday and that every library in the state is equipped with industry-leading, self-directed learning resources that can be accessed online.
- Internet as a Utility – Developing a plan to ensure that every family in the state has access to reasonably priced high-speed wireless internet.
- Youth Employment & Training – Making DoL Workforce Training resources available to high school juniors and seniors who have decided to forego collegiate studies.
- Stronger Youth Centers – Promoting standards and allocating the resources necessary to make the offerings in these dedicated youth spaces as robust as possible.
- Expansion of Purchase of Care – Ensuring that purchase of care covers all extracurricular activities and youth enrichment programs so that no child is left out of a program or activity because their family can’t afford it.
I believe that providing housing to unhoused individuals in the 2nd district is simply a matter of local and state governments aligning their priorities with their constituent values. Recent events have shown that the majority of our neighbors at both the local and state level are appalled at both the idea and the reality of people being turned out into the street in the country’s most prosperous small state. They also disapprove of the current level of homelessness that exists in the 2nd District and throughout our state.
There is also a business case for a just and equitable housing policy. Since the rise of remote work during COVID-19, many people have begun to rethink living in major metro centers and are relocating to smaller, more affordable towns that feature inclusive communities, walkable green spaces, and amenities that are both sensibly family-friendly and sensibly priced. Millennials, whom our current development schemes target, are overrepresented in that group and place a premium on real community and social justice.
Taking all of these facts together, it is clear that the 2nd District and Delaware more broadly will benefit more from a development strategy focused on realizing Wilmington’s potential to become one of the Mid-Atlantic’s pre-eminent commuter cities than it will from our present strategy of mimicking cities that are seeing residents move away in significant numbers and mistreating our most vulnerable citizens in the process. Put another way: providing affordable housing and avoiding gentrification should be obvious solutions for any sensible legislator or policymaker.
As your next state representative, I will be sensible and support the following:
- A Tenant Bill of Rights – Reevaluating landlord-tenant law in light of present realities and clearly providing for a tenant’s right to legal counsel, fairness in rent price determination models, and tenant protections in a comprehensive bill.
- A Housing Action Plan – Establishing a housing action plan that sets forth SMART goals for developing transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness, increasing resources needed to enforce tenant protections, and implementing court diversion schemes such as Landlord-Tenant mediation.
- More Robust Emergency Services – Expanding resources available to the Delaware Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) and DHSS emergency services so that they are able to cover expenses for no-fault emergency relocation and provide quality emergency housing, respectively.
Holistic Public Health
While living abroad in Italy, I got to see how a society fares when a government assumes the necessity of its citizenry a healthy work-life balance, daily exercise, and the consumption of fresh, high-quality food. The health outcomes that I witnessed were staggering and are summarized here. While we can’t control all of those factors of public health, Delawareans can enjoy a comparable quality of life, if we decide to take advantage of our geography and local resources. The first step is targeting outdated norm and coordinating policies that concern our collective wellbeing. We can then multiply those gains by helping Delaware’s non-profit community take a collective impact approach to the intervention work that they do around these policy areas.
To empower Delawareans to pursue healthier lifestyles, I will work toward:
- Recognition of a Right to Family Time – Passing a resolution recognizing that all Delawareans have a right to spend time with their families and loved ones that no work commitment can override.
- Developing a Delaware Quality of Life Commission – Forming a Quality of Life Commission tasked with examining and advising the General Assembly on issues such as Delaware’s food deserts and the necessity of the 8-hour/day 5-day work week.
- Improving Health Education – Providing youth and families with improved resources on nutrition and exercise
- Mapping Community Resources – Developing a state-published social service asset map within every Representative District and encouraging non-profit organizations to collaborate with one another where possible.
Criminal Justice & Gun Violence
Like most Delawareans, I know several people who have either lost their lives or loved ones to gun violence. What makes these tragedies even more painful is that many of them were avoidable.
The 2015 CDC report commissioned by the Wilmington City Council informs us that “focusing comprehensive wrap-around services to individuals at the highest risk of violent crime involvement” can go a long way toward reducing gun violence. The report goes on to list “peer outreach/mentorship, medical care/counseling, educational support, economic assistance, and/or other services” as tactics that we might employ — tactics that have been successfully implemented by programs such as the Community Empowerment Project.
I agree wholeheartedly with the researchers’ findings and applaud the work of community leaders and frontline professionals who have been achieving spectacular outcomes with our at-risk youth population and our neighbors re-entering the community post-incarceration.
We have discovered what works and established that not only as a state but as a nation we agree on the need for effective gun reform and a shift toward both respectful policing and restorative justice.
To support the progress that we are making in this area I will use the State Representative’s office to pursue:
- Common Sense Gun Safety Regulations – Requiring that gun purchasers and giftees furnish evidence of 8 hours of gun safety training before purchasing or accepting a gift of a firearm.
- Expanded Mental Health Resources – Providing resources to expand the availability of mental health counseling in our school districts.
- Reforming the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights – Reforming LEOBOR to make offenses that undermine public faith in law enforcement i.e. instigating fights or otherwise antagonizing civilians, having inappropriate relationships with minors, etc. fireable offenses.
- Rehabilitative Prisons – Expanding resources for inmate education programs and reducing time for educational and/or workforce training achievement.
- Increased Funding for Successful Re-Entry Programs – Providing increased funding and material support for evidence-based reentry programs that have established proof of concept.
- Keeping Youth Out of the School to Prison Pipeline – Automatically sealing juvenile court records and empowering the Court of Common Pleas to issue a Writ of Mandamus against the Attorney General in instances where a school has been informed that a child has been charged with a violent crime but hasn’t been informed of the dropping of said charges.
I believe we must not only transition Delaware into a green state but we must ensure environmental justice for all residents while doing so. Environmental justice means transitioning from a status quo wherein the most vulnerable populations bear the majority of environmental burdens to one in which there is a fair allocation of both environmental advantages and burdens.
Transitioning to a green state will create sustainability within the environment and the economy. Some states have found that every dollar invested in environmental efficiency returns a minimum of $2 in net economic benefits. In addition to the economic benefit transitioning to a green state will also support Delawareans’ ability to lead healthier lifestyles, as urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery, can promote mental and physical health, and reduce morbidity and mortality in urban residents by providing psychological relaxation and stress alleviation, stimulating social cohesion, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air pollutants and excessive heat.
As your state representative, I will support:
- Balanced Policy – Correcting the regressive tax created by the plastic bag ban by offering a tax incentive to businesses that use plant-based disposable bags, containers, and cutlery, instead of punishing communities that are actually more likely to recycle their “single-use” grocery bags.
- Increased Green Spaces – Mandating that green spaces are a part of urban planning schemes and providing resources for youth to explore urban farming and other sustainable living practices.
- Cap & Trade Readjustment – Lowering the emissions cap at plants within a two-mile radius of a family home.