Justin Rost | Reporter
On Sept. 20, I had the pleasure of attending the Franklin County Candidate Forum here at ECC. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I walked away pleasantly surprised at the progressive options available this election season. If you’ve been hoping for change then I have the scoop on upcoming policies and the corresponding candidates you can support at the polls this Nov. 6. (Note: Subheadings on policy aim to be purely informational; the final subsection includes personal opinion)
Alternative Sentencing and More Accessible Laws
Alternative sentencing may not be a familiar term for most but could easily benefit the wellbeing of our communities. Alternative sentencing already exists in Franklin County for some cases and offenses such as the drug court, which aims to rehabilitate people with substance abuse issues without incarceration. However, the alternative sentencing that candidate for County Municipal Judge Bill Stahlhuth endorsed is community service.
This would generally be a punishment sentenced in place of fines you would receive for minor offences like traffic tickets. Community service would not only mean that more beneficial work is being done in our towns; this option offers offenders a chance to do meaningful work, have positive social interactions and network. For these reasons it is believed that community service has lower recidivism rates than traditional fines. A furthermore positive effect of community service sentencing is that there would be a lesser financial burden on our community than is set by traditional fines associated with tickets and minor citations Stahlhuth also stated his intention to put the county laws online, which they currently are not.
Vote judge Bill Stahlhuth to see more community service in our county and be able to view the county laws affecting you online.
As our voting system currently exists, you have just one vote to invest all your faith into a single candidate in each race you are voting for. This means that voting for a third party candidate is risky business because if they lose, then you have no further say in the decision between the two primary parties. James Cordrey, candidate for State Representative of district 109, describes this as an “adversarial voting system.” Many people see their votes as routinely coming down to the “lesser of two evils,” and any more it seems that insulting the opposing candidate or party is a running platform on its own. Under ranked voting there would be less incentive to mudsling or make negative remarks, because, even if you received a large amount of support from your party, if you receive less than 51 percent of the first choice votes then widespread support will do you better than solely the first choice preference of your party alone. This will really help third parties get off the ground, which will likely make a dent in the about 40 percent of eligible voters who have not voted since 2000. More options mean more people getting their voice heard, which is what democracy is all about.
If you’re interested in learning more about ranked voting, Fair Vote will do a far more comprehensive job of explaining than I could.
Expanding Medicaid/Medicaid for All
Over the last few years, healthcare has been on everyone’s mind. I know a lot of people in the area are unable to, or are frightful of visiting the doctor due to the associated expenses. Following this need for improvement, many Democratic candidates are interested in expanding Medicaid.
Candidate for State Representative of district 61, Pamela Menefee, explained that currently about 67 percent of people are covered through Medicaid and Medicare; if we were to cut out insurance companies and their need for profit, as well as the middlemen and bureaucracy that currently stand between a patient and receiving health care, we could expand the Medicaid and Medicare systems to cover all people in our country for minimally more costs – if any.
Candidate Blunders, Additional Info and Personal Commentary
In response to candidate Pamela Menefee’s wish to expand Medicaid, Aaron Griesheimer fumbled over her idea, but in the end finished strong with, “I think that would take a lot of work… but we could look into it.” A quick history lesson on American healthcare: before insurance companies came around, medical bills used to be a straight bill for materials and care received with a little added on to pay the doctors and staff. However, when insurance bureaus formed they needed an incentive to lure in customers. The bureaus went to hospitals and asked for some kind of benefit or price cut; hospitals couldn’t do this because people were already paying at price, so the hospitals instead raised their prices all around, then lowered the prices for patients who were paying through insurance.
Thus, the disaster of American healthcare and the largest U.S. lobbying industries were born. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, the Pharma industry lobbied almost $280 million last year, and the insurance industry lobbied $160 million.
In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an opiate crisis. According to the Center for Disease Control, 49,068 people died from opioid overdoses last year, or 134 people a day. Many people are prescribed opiates for chronic pain and overtime lose the ability to afford the expensive prescriptions; this pushes some to begin self-treating their pain with the much cheaper alternative: heroin. Heroin is not only far more dangerous than the already threatening prescriptions, but – as an unregulated substance – it also runs a high risk of being laced with fentanyl which is 50 to 100 times more potent than Morphine (Morphine is comparable in strength to Heroin).
Amidst all of this, candidate John Simmons described medical marijuana as follows: “Usually, the medical marijuana is the big toe in the tent that eventually gives us to the recreational use. It starts with the medical marijuana and then we kinda get used to that, we get comfortable with that, and then it’s down into something else later on… You follow what’s going on in Colorado, you talk to law enforcement there and they say it’s a nightmare that’s happening down through that.”
Very brave of you, John, to deny the possibility of medical marijuana because, “what if it loses its stigma and we eventually legalize recreational cannabis?” Somehow, I feel if he or someone close to him was affected by chronic pain due to disease or injury, extreme nausea from cancer treatments or the recurring seizures afflicting people with epilepsy he wouldn’t feel the same way.
In conclusion, who knows what the hell will come out of the upcoming months; or what the next two years will look like or the years after that. Let’s just all be kind to each other and remember that we’re all human beings, and no one is really above anyone else. So, whoever you vote for, don’t be a jerk to anyone.
I would like to state my utmost thanks to East Central College Civic and Community Engagement Committee, East Central College Student Government Association, Franklin County Democratic Central Committee and the Franklin County Republican Committee for hosting the Franklin County Candidate Forum. Hopefully there are more of these events in coming years.