Washington Area Secular Humanist Meetup Group Message Board › Secular Voter's Forum and On-line discussions

Secular Voter's Forum and On-line discussions

Don W.
DonWharton
Group Organizer
Washington, DC
Hi All,


We have been working on a Secular Voter's Forum to be held at the Cleveland Park Library on April 11. A copy of draft questions for the DC candidates are included at the end of this email. I am committed to discussing the draft questions for this forum at the Rockville discussion group this Friday and the Acre 121 event in DC on the 29th of this month.


We have set up the DC Atheist Meetup so that people can discuss issues using that meetup's email list. Those who are not members of that meetup can join it here.­


The email list facility can be felt to be a negative because one's inbox can become flooded when discussions become fast and furious. This can be dealt with by changing the email list delivery to summarize everything into only one email for a day. See the My Profile menu pick in the upper right of the meetup page to do this. We have lost almost a dozen members of that meetup for this reason and almost 60 members have removed themselves from the email list. Please join in discussion there at your discretion with the understanding that many people are not fond of THAT much communicating.


There are many people who are members of both meetups. WASH meetings are posted here in most cases and might not be posted on the DC Atheists meetup. Conversely some informal events may be posted on that meetup and not on the WASH meetup.


We want wide ranging discussion of the questions we will be asking the candidates. The first four questions below will be on renewable energy, energy efficiency and telecommunications. The next six questions cover education, job training, jobs, taxation, affordable housing, governance, and the treatment of those with criminal records. There are four questions at the end that specifically deal with the treatment of secular people and issues with a stark difference in our views with many in religious communities.


A major goal of this forum will be to make the secular community visible in DC politics. Nationwide those with no religion are about 20% of the population and rapidly growing. Being “out” in a way that is very visible worked wonders for the gay community. This is to some extent a coming out that might be very visible nationally. I have not been able to find cases where any other secular group has hosted a forum for candidates running for office. To some extent a goal is to make DC very secular friendly just as all politicians in DC understand that they must of necessity be gay friendly. If this forum works it will be a step in that direction.


Feel free to comment on any of these questions and/or the philosophy with which we are approaching this forum. Draft question list follows below.


Don Wharton


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?


Transportation


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?


Telecommunications Infrastructure


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?


K-12 Education


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?


Taxation


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?


Affordable Housing


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.


Criminal Records


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?


Statehood/Governance


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?


School Vouchers


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?


Secular Weddings


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?


Interfaith Council


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?
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