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LD 20 candidates give their views on issues

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Paul Boyer

Tonya Norwood

Michael Powell

Jackie Thrasher

Kimberly Yee

Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2012 3:30 am

There are four legislative districts that cross paths in the City of Glendale. Two of the four districts have candidates seeking office with either Democrat or Republican opposing candidates. Following are answers to identical questions posed to those who face opposition in Legislative District 20.

1. What do you believe is the No. 1 problem facing Arizona and how would you solve it?

District 20 State Representative Democrat Jackie Thrasher: We have three critical issues that are interconnected that we must work on at the same time: investing in Education, creating new jobs and growing a vibrant economy. The first thing I would do is create local jobs by giving Arizona businesses first crack at state contracts instead of outsourcing our tax dollars to India, China and other states.

District 20 State Representative Tonya Norwood, Democrat: There isn’t just one main problem, everything is interconnected. Our economy is weak right now and job growth is Arizona’s number one challenge. We have an opportunity in our strengths which are a highly educated labor pool along with low business and property taxes. However, our state does not show favor to locally owned businesses when contracting work. Arizona made a mistake in investing too much into real estate; now we need to change our focus by investing in locally owned businesses and entrepreneurial efforts. We need to invest in industries such as medical research, renewable energy, and technology. Diversification is the key in job creation.

Increasing jobs can create economic growth, economic growth will strengthen our tax base which will support and increase our educational system. This will strengthen our educated workforce and maintain a strong, sustainable economy.

District 20 State Representative Paul Boyer, Republican: Education. Too many students in Arizona graduate high school without the basic skills they need to succeed in college and career. Many students are required to take remedial courses at community college or the university before they can begin the coursework for their degree. The literature suggests the number one predictor of student success is quality teaching and parental involvement. While we cannot legislate parental involvement, we can retain and hire the best teachers to ensure students receive a high-quality education. The Legislature has passed the principal and teacher evaluation bill so now we must support all of our school districts as they each begin to implement these new standards. Further, we must support our school districts as we implement the new Common Core State Standards that places higher expectations on students and teachers. Quality education has a very real impact upon employment. When site selectors consider moving or expanding into a state, they take into account several factors – a highly qualified workforce, a competitive tax environment along with low and predictable regulations as some of the most important criteria. We must encourage all of this as a state.

District 20 State Senator Democrat Michael Powell: The Arizona Legislature has had a Republican majority for 40 consecutive years. The result is a state economy that is worth $74 billion dollars less than Colorado’s even though we have 1.3 billion more people living in Arizona. If our total economic wealth was the same as Colorado’s every man, woman, and child in Arizona would be $11,400 richer.

This result is not an accident. It is the result of lawmakers who refuse to invest in and build a 21st century infrastructure that interconnects innovative technology, with a strong job-creating base, driven by quality academic and technical education institutions ranging from pre-Kindergarten to our colleges and universities powered by efficient, effective, and sustainable energy.

The current Legislature is driven by trickle-down thinking and application that insist on making due with a poorly maintained 20th century infrastructure driven by 19th century thinking. We need new people in the Legislature who have the capacity, competency, and understanding of the realities of the 21st century and are open to new courses of practical action. I am running because I offer these needed skills, knowledge, and abilities.

District 20 State Senator Republican Kimberly Yee: We need to build a strong economy in Arizona so that people can get back to work and employers can keep their doors open. I would introduce a series of measures to work towards this effort including enhancing our funding for K-12 classroom education and workforce training. There are a number of valuable programs for veterans and seniors who are in need of workforce training and re-training, especially in computer technology. These job training programs are helpful to prepare workers for new job opportunities in our workplace. Career and technical education programs for students offer practical vocational skills for students to be prepared to compete in the job market upon graduation from high school or college.

2. What are the main issues in your legislative district?

Thrasher: When I walk and talk to the voters of District 20, they tell me how fed up they are with the legislature. They also talk about the need for good schools, safe neighborhoods and keeping jobs in Arizona. But they don’t feel represented and here’s why:

Instead of making education a priority and creating jobs, our legislators have spent time raiding $50 million dollars from the foreclosure settlement and using that money to pay for private prisons, cooking up a special-interest budget behind closed doors, restricting access to birth control and refusing to work together.

I am committed to making education a priority by investing in a 21st century education system that will prepare our kids for tomorrow’s jobs, creating and keeping jobs in Arizona, standing up for kids by supporting proper funding for CPS and KidsCare, representing you, not political cronies and delivering common sense solutions to real problems facing Arizonans. I will work for you to get the Legislature back on track working for us.

Norwood: Jobs: The quality of jobs versus the quantity of jobs. My concern is with minimum wage positions attracting unskilled workers which do not give our States’ economy the long term boost we need to guarantee future success.

Education: The state of Arizona has lingered far too long in the bottom five in the country in regards to funding per student and per faculty, and as a result we have consistently found ourselves in the bottom of performance. The K-12 teachers and administrators in our district needs modern facilities and updated teaching tools including updated technology. We also need to offer stronger financial support to our teachers and administrators.

Healthcare: Healthcare has consistently been an issue when it comes to job loss, loss of homes, bankruptcies, and social status. Accessible healthcare should be made available to all Arizonans. Simple preventative care could save our state countless dollars in the long run as opposed to the taxpayer being burdened with the high costs of ER visits when someone who is uninsured or underinsured has to wait until their condition becomes an emergency. Healthy people go to school, look for jobs, and strengthen the workforce thereby strengthening the economy.

Boyer: Debt, high taxation and high unemployment. This has had a very real impact on public safety and will continue to do so if not addressed. Further, the uncertainty of what will happen nationally with looming defense cuts, the very real possibility of a massive tax hike that is preventing businesses from hiring right now, and the impact of the Obamacare tax upon full implementation.

Powell: I see three main issues that are directly tied to the number one problem we face. First, we need to support and modernize our neighborhood schools to provide the knowledge, skills, and abilities our kids need to be successful in the 21st century. There are numerous research studies that show what practically works in the classroom to actively engage students to improve learning. The ideological food fight over education by the current Legislature needs to stop. As I do teach, I can bring what works in the classroom to the discussion and include teachers from across the state in this discussion whose experience is now virtually ignored.

Second, we need to create innovation centers that are public-private partnerships between Arizona, the universities, and companies actually creating the 21st century economy. In Albany, NY an innovation center exists where a nanotechnology research facility is shared by 300 companies that pay $5 billion dollars in salaries averaging $92,000/year with the State University of New York, Albany.

Third, mortgage foreclosures still hurt our district. The current Legislature, including my opponent, voted to sweep $50 million dollars from the Mortgage Relief Fund and not help good people faced with daunting circumstances in order that they could keep their homes. Denying mortgage relief that was designed to help save our neighborhoods and protect our home values is another example of 40 years of Republican choices that harm, rather than help, Arizona grow its economy. They used the money to build a private prison we didn’t need at a cost of $100,000/bed. However members of the Governor’s staff and advisors directly benefited from this “business” transaction.

Yee: Jobs, education, workforce development, and turning around Arizona’s economy. I was born and raised in our district and grew up in our neighborhood when MetroCenter Mall was the newest and largest mall in town. Our district now includes families who are struggling to find work while others who own small businesses are trying to keep their doors open. I would like to continue to finish the work I started in my two years as a State Representative. During that time, I helped turn a massive $1.5 billion deficit into an $800 million surplus and passed a Jobs Bill that boosted Arizona from 49th in job creation to 4th in the nation. As your State Senator, I would continue to be a responsible steward of your tax dollars, and work across party lines on important issues to bring back jobs and prosperity to Arizona’s economy.

3. If elected, what would be the first bill you introduce once the legislative session begins?

Thrasher: I would introduce a bill banning gifts from lobbyists to support ethical and transparent government.

Norwood: My main concern is Arizona’s economy. I am looking to sponsor bills that put people back to work, strengthen our economy, encourage support of our education system or offer accessible healthcare.

Boyer: I will look proactively for ways to reduce any unnecessary regulatory burdens and help reduce the time it takes to obtain permits and licenses so new or existing businesses can thrive. I also plan on carefully monitoring HB2823 from this year’s legislative session to see if it requires any legislative fixes and any other ways we can support our school districts succeed.

Powell: The Legislature has a relatively easy fix to help jump-start our economy. My first bill would fix the procurement code so that local companies that hire local workers get first preference on state contracts. The state does hundreds of millions of dollars of business annually. It makes no sense to outsource our tax dollars to companies out-of-state and out-of-country when we have good companies here in Arizona. By outsourcing you eliminate the 7:1 multiplier effect, the effect that spreads the money out when you work and buy locally, thus helping everyone benefit.

Yee: I would introduce another “taxpayer watchdog” transparency bill so that we can keep our government spending and procurement contracts accountable to the hard-working taxpayers of Arizona. In fact, the first bill I sponsored last year was to expand our transparency laws in Arizona by requiring electronic reporting to show financial disclosures by elected officials and special interest groups so that you and I, the taxpayers, can know exactly who is influencing our government and how much they are spending. The bill also made it easier for the public to find this financial data at the ease of your own home computer, so that you don’t have to travel down to the State Capitol to make a public records request for this important financial information. In 2011, I successfully sponsored transparency bills to reveal exactly how our taxpayer dollars are being spent by local governments and school districts. The Arizona Capitol Times recognized me with a “Leader of the Year” award for my work to advance important transparency laws.

4. Why do you believe you are better qualified than your opponent?

Thrasher: Having been a teacher for 30 years, I am uniquely qualified to pursue productive education policy for Arizona schools. As a former legislator I know how the system works and I know how to get things done at the Capitol.

Norwood: I am running to make people a priority at the legislature. I believe that people matter. I have taught high school and I have worked for consumers in Arizona for over 10 years in various positions including serving as Executive Director of The Arizona Consumers Council and am currently on the board of the city of Phoenix Community and Economic Development - Workforce Connection. With all of my degrees, experience, and qualifications my faith, my family, and my community are my motivating factors. I have experienced every downfall of this economy and can relate to far too well the struggles my neighbors are experiencing. I am not a political insider, I do not have a political agenda, nor do I conform to a political ideology. My goal is to be a voice for the individuals and families that our legislature has overlooked.

Boyer: I have more experience than my opponent and served the state of Arizona in my official capacity as a policy advisor and spokesman for House Majority for three years during the worst fiscal crisis in our state’s history. Further, while over 90 percent of all state spending occurs in three areas – education, public safety and healthcare, I have worked in or am currently working in two of these areas. I was the Legislative Liaison with the Arizona Department of Corrections for three years and am currently the Supervisor of District Communications for Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in the state.

Powell: Both my opponents are hard workers and I respect their skills and abilities. Unfortunately, both my opponents are weaned on 19th century thinking that has ruled Arizona for 40 consecutive years. The results have been we are near the bottom in education, we are near the bottom in strength and wealth of our economy, and we are near the bottom in innovative strategies to produce the number of job-creating companies we need to improve our overall economic standing. In the end, our quality of life has suffered as demonstrated by our $74 billion dollar deficit to our sister state, Colorado.

Yee: I have a strong record of accomplishment at the State Capitol. In my first term of office, I was awarded “Legislator of the Year” by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and received awards for “Friend of the Taxpayer” and “Friend of the Family.” I have been endorsed by U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, Governor Jan Brewer, and Congressmen Trent Franks and John Shadegg. My opponents support tax increases. I do not. I believe that freedom comes from individual responsibility, that the strength of our state and nation comes from hard-working, productive members of our society, and that the free enterprise system is stimulated when there is more competition and less regulation.

5. What is your educational and career background?

Thrasher: I am a graduate of Arizona State University. I was a music educator in the Washington Elementary School District for 30 years. I am a former State Representative.

Norwood: I was the executive director of The Arizona Consumers Council. I have served as the legislative liaison and environmental chair for the Governor’s Commission on African American Affairs. I have worked as coordinator to the boating and water safety program for Arizona Game and Fish Department. I was also the executive director of the Arizona Conservation Districts. I sit on the board of the City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development - Workforce Connection, where I actively connect jobs and companies with Phoenix residents.

Boyer: Bachelors in English from ASU West (2003) Barrett Honors College; Masters in Communication Studies from ASU West (2011); Masters in Philosophy from ASU Tempe (current). Legislative Liaison, Arizona Department of Corrections (2005 – 2008); Spokesman/Policy Advisor for House Majority, State Capitol (2008 – 2011); Supervisor of District Communications, Mesa Public Schools (2011 – Present).

Powell: My 30-year career includes work teaching, employee training, grant, business and proposal writing, and organizational improvement specialist. My work has revolved around solving organizational problems, community challenges, and workplace performance improvement.

I have a bachelor’s degree in political science, a masters’ degree in organizational management, and a master’s degree in conscious evolution. I also have a graduate-level certification in integral studies.

Yee: M.P.A. Master's degree in Public Administration from Arizona State University; B.A. Bachelor's degree in Political Science and B.A. Bachelor's degree in English from Pepperdine University.

Arizona State Representative and small business owner in the West Valley; Former Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs for Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin; Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; Senior Research Analyst for the Arizona Senate Committee on Education; Policy Analyst for Governor Pete Wilson and the State Board of Education; Executive Fellow for State Superintendent of Public Instruction working in childcare and development; Administrative Services for the Maricopa County Attorney; Intern for the Criminal Division, Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C

What is your age and marital status?

Thrasher: I am 55 years old and I am married to John Thrasher.

Norwood: 42, single.

Boyer: 35, single

Powell: I am 58 years old. Patricia, who is a registered nurse, and I have been married for 7 ½ years.

Yee: Age 38; Married

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