|Sent on:||Wednesday, March 13, 2013 12:28 AM|
To make it clear, I am not upset about the ferocious emailing and the lost of another more than half dozen of our members. It is part of the learning curve that we must go through to have some feel of being a community that can make a difference in this world. In fact there are many nuances of the liberal/conservative spectrum that deserve thoughtful attention.
We have a valuable communication channel with our meetup. However, we cannot treat is like a chat room. Please do not respond in 30 seconds if someone posts what seems to be a not well thought out comment. With a bunch of people doing that we get a huge long list of emails that few will want to read. What makes sense is to use our email list for more of an essay mode with at least an hour or two devoted to our more complex and well thought out perspectives.
One of the candidates to our April 11 forum reconfirmed that he is coming. In my email note back I said the following:
“By polls the majority of Americans support death with dignity laws. With the secular community the polls typically show about 90% support for such laws. Frankly I would regard a legal requirement that I endure a painful death because someone thinks it is pleasing to God to be among the most horrible fates that could be imagined. For people going into the end of life this certainly presents a quality of life issue that is stark in the extreme. Obviously we will be asking the wonderful candidates coming to our forum to think deeply about some complex and important issues.”
If our forum can result in adding DC to the list of areas with reasonable death with dignity legislation then we have done something significant to change our world. Each of the proposed questions contain similarly significant changes that deserve consideration and possible debate. However, please frame that debate with the best thinking that you can bring to the subject. We have have incredible wisdom with the diversity of education, experience and access to the science on this meetup. Let's use it share the best of what secularism has to offer in this region. We do not need to limit our discussions to these questions but please understand that we will be mobilizing significant media attention to the Secular Voter's Forum. We do hope to move attitudes in our region with this effort. The proposed questions are repeated below for your consideration.
Solar Energy in DC
Germans install solar energy systems on residential roofs for about $2 per peak watt. In DC multiple vendors are able to do it for $4 per peak watt or slightly less. A major difference is that in Germany there are no required permits and inspections reducing costs by about $2,000 on average. There is a web based form that needs to be filled in no more than two hours. A German installation is typically done in two weeks or less. The complexity of the American process can requires much more time and higher profit margins. What would you advocate to bring DC costs down to something closer to the average in Germany?
Net Zero Buildings
Mayor Grey has released an impressive Sustainable DC plan. It says that almost 75% of the energy in DC is consumed by buildings(p 58) primarily for heating, lighting and air conditioning. There is a goal of requiring all new building to be netzero by 2025. That means that the building produces as much or more energy than it consumes. There is the further goal of retrofitting all existing and multi-family buildings to be netzero by 2032. The plan notes DC's first passive house in Deanwood which meets a very high standard of energy efficiency. What policies would you recommend for DC to address energy efficient buildings?
The Washington DC region is either the worst or next to worst city in this nation for traffic congestion and gridlock. We currently have 56 miles of bike lanes with an expanding bike sharing service. There are plans for 37 miles of streetcar or Circulator bus service. What would be your recommendations for dealing with our area transportation?
Google is building a free WiFi system for a significant area of Chelsea New York. It will serve over 7,000 residents. Mayor “Bloomberg said that he’d ultimately like to see similar WiFi service throughout the city.” The capital costs is less than $17 per person ($115k total) and the maintenance is less than $7 per year per person($45k tot). If our Washington DC government can supply its citizens WiFi at this cost would you support using our government as an extremely cost effective buying agent?
There are excellent and not so excellent schools in both the charter and traditional school systems. Six of the eight underperforming tier 3 charter schools are in Wards 7 and 8. These wards have none of the top performing charters or traditional schools. Nine of the 15 traditional schools in the recent round of closures are in Wards 7 and 8. Kaya Henderson wants to be able to create charter type schools within the traditional system. Can DC give her the power to do this? Will it work? Do we have to wait for some charter system school to get it right?
Adult Education, Job Training and Employment
What would you do to employ those who need jobs and provide additional training and education so that they can get jobs? On the high end what needs to be done in the realm of education to make DC a magnet for high tech employers so our city economy will be one of the best in the country?
When DC first had home rule in 1984 the standard deduction allowed for income taxes were equal for both federal and state income tax returns at $2,000 each. The DC standard deductions ($4,000) and personal exemptions ($1,675) now total $5,675. The standard Federal deduction ($5,950) and the personal exemption ($3,800) for 2012 now total $9,750. Thus a typical working poor person can have $4,075 more of his or her income taxed on a DC return than the Federal return. Should DC move toward greater equality with Federal tax policy and have small increases on the income that is taxed? Or should we be concerned about losing wealthy residents because that will modestly increase their taxes?
There is a new influx of fairly well off people to DC with a notable increase in rents and housing prices. What would you do to provide affordable housing for our current poor and minority population to minimize their displacement.
Secular people by surveys are much less punitive than average Americans. We want evidence that society will be better off with any punishment delivered by the system. People convicted of a crime receive a form of punishment that does not end. They must check the box indicating that they have a criminal record on all job and housing rental applications even for non-violent and victimless crimes. This mechanism maintains an underclass where society's interest might be better served without this punishment. Would you support the amelioration of such records after a sunset period with no further offenses?
What would you do to promote and achieve statehood for New Columbia and provide for the greatest budgetary and legislative autonomy until that time?
Death with Dignity
The states of Oregon and Washington have death with dignity laws. After hundreds of cases there has not been one single case where anyone has reported that a doctor assisted suicide having any financial reasons. Many who pass the stringent criterion under these laws never fill their prescription. Many never make use of the prescription after they are filled. There is ample evidence that this law actually reduces the incidence of suicide because people are comfortable that they can chose a time to leave and need not commit suicide before a final decline. Would you support a death with dignity law for DC?
Congress has mandated a target of 1,700 school vouchers for children in Washington for this school year. These vouchers are used with no quality control whatsoever. Thus a storefront school run by the Nation of Islam in Deanwood gets funding from this program. Some of the schools have no accreditation whatsoever. Such voucher programs have been universally voted down by the public in all referendums where voters have a choice. This has been true even in the most conservative and religious voting districts. Do you support or oppose these vouchers?
There are two forms which may be used to apply for a license to officiate at a marriage. Both of them explicitly demand that the person be a member of a religious organization. Article VI of the US Constitution explicitly says that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Do you support a revision of this DC law and if so what change would you support?
Out of the 26 members of mayor Gray's interfaith council. None are atheist or non-religious. Do you believe our secular community should have a role on such a council?