Debbie & Dana & Tom & Ernst, last segment: Gov’t transparency, Education, & Closing statements.


Topic 6 of 8: How will you make government more TRANSPARENT?

TOM:  Publicly funded elections, prohibiting corporations from giving to campaigns, Instant Runoff Voting, Proportional Representation.  People’s voices aren’t being heard, or Congress wouldn’t have approved the bailout.  I’m not against corporations but they shouldn’t have a voice in political campaigns.

DEBBIE: There’s an important part in our lives for both gov’t and the private sector, but we’ve spent the last 20 years trying to get gov’t out of everything.  Business does not always have the public’s best interest in mind.  Gov’t provides a level of transparency and accountability you cannot get from the private sector. It’s so important for gov’t to provide Americans protection from bad food, bad drugs, bad services, bad people, bad nations.  We’ve lost a lot of that because we’ve privatized it, losing accountability and transparency.  We’ve seen that in the military with Blackwater; we’ve seen it in the health industry, we’ve lost drug regulators, now we see so many stories of people dying from bad drugs and bad food.  I agree with Tom that we need to clean up this mess of financing politics which is destroying America’s democracy.

ERNST:  Gov’t needs to be more open, earmarks should be outlawed, Campaign finance is a big issue.  Don’t like limiting how much a person can give, but there needs to be some limit, I’m kind of on the fence.  In a lot of states it’s almost impossible for 3rd-party candidates to get on the ballot; that’s one reason our gov’t is less transparent than it should be.

DANA:  First and foremost, our elected officials must give straight answers.  (sounds of brewing unrest from hall) You may disagree with me, but I always make it clear what my position is, then the voters can decide if they want me representing them.  We can’t let people get away – as we’ve seen in this debate – with not answering specific questions.  Number two:  Corporations are already not permitted to donate; what we have now are PACs that represent the employees.  In any case, all contributions must be immediately available on the web to let the public know who’s supporting whom.  Also, for transparency and accountability – don’t centralize power in Washington DC!  Do everything you can – education, healthcare, etc. – LOCALLY.

TOM: I think, just like during the American Revolution, we are being taxed without representation.  DC politicians are looking out for the corporations.  Dana is not going to represent you for your $1000 contribution the same way as he’ll represent a corporation whose PAC gives him $100,000.  The Green Party already takes no money from anyone who doesn’t have a body. (No PACs, no labor unions, etc.)  Now, let’s just say Debbie Cook will be our next representative (uproarious applause) because if we’re restricted to the two major parties, I’d pick Debbie hand over fist.  Now, if I were in office I would pull these five oil rigs off our coast.  But what would Debbie do?  She owns stock in oil companies, she benefits from them.  How is that not a conflict of interest?  (And I agree with Dana that I’d like to hear a clearer answer from her about the bailout.)

DEBBIE:  Local gov’t is really the only place you do have transparency, since you have to file, once a year, a 700 form to show what your investments are.  My husband and I have been saving for our retirement, and on the day I filed my form I owned oil stocks.  I have a very diversified portfolio.  I don’t own those any more because I sold them just before they went down.  (audience: LOL, Debbie can’t lose)

Now, in response to Dana, maybe he can get someone to replay my answer for him. (If you missed it, click on “Part two” above) But I’d like to point out:  Regarding the bailout, it was changing hour by hour.  Every proposal that came out was changed an hour later.  So I don’t know what Dana’s talking about, what statement of mine he saw in what paper, but I’ll be happy to stay as long as anyone wants to answer any questions.  (which she did.) I always keep an open mind on issues.  But I also don’t have the access he does to Washington advisors, I have to tap in to the people I know that are experts, in banking, in trading, in SEC, I have a very limited amount of resources as a local official, but I’ve done my best to get as educated as possible before I came out.  My campaign was telling me, you’ve gotta come out against the “bailout” because all the people are against it.  And I said, No, I have to understand this issue before I take a position. And that position reflects the fact that I was constantly updating myself on the issue.

ERNST:  I also don’t take money from any corporations or PACs.  Not that the money’s been pouring in… (laughter) We shouldn’t be depending on the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT to pass some LAW though, we should tell our candidates ourselves that we won’t vote for them if they take certain money…

DANA: WE STILL HAVEN’T GOT AN ANSWER FROM DEBBIE!  (laughter, boos, he goes on, louder and louder for the rest of his time…)

Topic 7 of 8: No Child Left Behind

DEBBIE: Standards, accountability and testing are very good things but I don’t believe “One size fits all.”  I’ve spoken to many, many teachers throughout this region and I haven’t met one who feels good about NCLB.  (Here I have to observe that Debbie really does seem to talk to hundreds of people about every issue, and really listen to them; much more than the three others seem to.) It works against inner-city schools, it has a lot of flaws, I’m not sure it has to be totally done away with, but everyone I’ve spoken to thinks it needs to be revised with an eye to more local control, to letting teachers just teach instead of “teaching to the test.”

ERNST:  I’m against it;  FEDERAL GOVERNMENT shouldn’t have a role in education, it should be a state gov’t thing.  That’s all I can think of.

DANA:  Fed Gov’t should have a very limited role.  But by and large, control should be at the local and state level.  I voted against NCLB, even though my President was pushing it, and I did it because accepting Federal funds comes with all kinds of strings attached and then they tell us how to educate our kids.  Let me point out here that I’ve stood up against my Party and President on this issue, on immigration, on China trade.  I’ve taken on corporate America when they’re not working for the interests of the American people.  He riffs on China trade for a while, then touches once again on the ILLEGALS.

TOM: I’m a teacher and I know no teacher who supports NCLB;  teaching toward tests;  unfunded mandates;  basically just forces poor people into the military.  Part of NCLB was to allow the military access to school records.  I’m proud of my military service, but schools are more important than the military; without schools we have no jobs and without jobs there’s no real security.
DEBBIE: Mr. Rohrabacher also supports eliminating the Department of Education, so I’m not sure what role he really thinks the Gov’t should play.  Teaching to a test reminds me of when I was studying for the bar exam – you spend many many months cramming and cramming, and then two weeks later you’ve flushed all that info away. Much more important to teach critical thinking.  NCLB really is an unfunded mandate.  I think we can make it a lot better, and then we at least have to fund it fully.

ERNST:  Federal Gov’t the problem, etc. etc. etc.

DANA:  Federal bureaucracies are not the answer to anything, and NCLB proves that.  Federal bureaucrats are not accessible like a school board member or even a state legislator.  Now I’d like to yield the balance of my time so that Debbie can tell us if she supports the bailout or not. (outrage, boos) …whether she has changed her position again.  You have my time, Debbie, go right ahead.  (Someone in audience calls out “Moderator, decorum!” someone else shouts “Tell us about Jack Abramoff, Dana!”)

TOMThere are forces in our society today who would like to see public education fail. Who would like to see it all go to charter schools, vouchers, etc.  But our schools shouldn’t be about profit.  It was horrifying at one of the Republican primary debates when they asked the candidates who believed in evolution, and only two raised their hands.  I’m scared – we really have an ignorant populace out there.  And you can’t have a democracy without an informed citizenry.  (applause) (goes into military cuts that could free up money for education) We’re in a perfect position to lead the world to peace if we choose.

Last topic: How would you help college students pay for their education?

ERNST: People should pay for themselves.  Federal Government is the problem.  State government too.  I know that’s not a popular thing to say, but if you want someone to lie to you… mumble…

DANA:  We need to keep the COSTS at our Universities under control, and they’ve been rising dramatically over inflation.  Talks about his junior college, about scholarships, esp. for military…  He is the author of some scholarships for science, math and engineering… he’s connected it with the Oceanographic Admin., with NASA, with the Patent Office, governmental agencies that need kids with certain skills… they can give scholarships to kids who will then have to work for them for a couple years…
TOM: I was lucky enough to be a veteran under the old GI Bill.  I also went to CSULB.  … his daughters paid their own way or he helped them…  Maybe we can have a two-year peace corps type jobs program to earn your education.

DEBBIE: I think we’re all in our fifties up here, and we’re probably the last generation to realize the American dream of a quality education.  Reminisces of how cheap CSULB was in the 70s.  We haven’t invested in our young people, and now businesses are saying “We can’t get good qualified people.”   Especially in science, engineering.  If America cares, we will re-invest in our children.  We all had the advantage of a SYSTEM that was paid for by our parents and grandparents.  And yet we have not been willing to make the same sacrifices for our young people.  Junior colleges are good for a lot of us. We are not building colleges though at the rate they were built in the 50s and 60s.  My generation owes it to America to re-invest in education.

ERNST: Every year Calif is trying to get new bonds.  30 billion a year Calif spends on education.  Where does it go?  Need more accountability.  Too much waste, bureaucracy.

DANA:  Junior colleges need to focus on teaching TRADES that will give our young people jobs.  Story of how “people” wanted Dana to agree to bring in 100,000 Filipino nurses.  “We really need them.”  And these are good paying jobs.  Why can’t Americans be trained to do them?  Well, what I found out was that in order to hire senior nursing instructors here at junior colleges – who are well paid, you have to pay every teacher the same amount.  SO junior colleges can’t afford to have nurse training programs for their students.  (I wonder if there’s any truth to this story, or if he just wanted to say “100,000 Filipino nurses five times. – V)
TOM:  If we can spend billions on the military around the world, we can also spend millions on peace and education.

DEBBIE: Not every young person wants to go to college.  We need to look at VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS to train the people who are going to go out and build our GREEN ECONOMY.  And be willing to invest in education.  Jesus, these four candidates are sounding as tired as I am right now, transcribing this after midnight.

Closing Statements

ERNST: If you want more of the same then vote for Dana or Debbie.  (Sound of shock from audience that Debbie would be called “more of same.”) If you want to change America, take a step outside the system and think about Tom or myself.  Very little difference between Ds and Rs, they both work together to steal our money.  Go out on a limb, vote third party!

DANA: Hey I was the guy who insisted the third parties be included in this debate, and I wish we could have had more of them.  I’ve always debated my opponents (true, unlike other OC incumbents, so props – V) and I’ve always made sure I answer every question.  (audience groans) I’ve got all kinds of awards for keeping taxes down.  We need to focus on building a better tomorrow thru new technology – I spend considerable time on that, like a nuclear power reactor (?) being made down in San Diego… also taking 20,000 trucks a day off the highways by the Ports and putting them on a MagLev system.  I’m honored to be your Representative.
TOM:  You can look up here and think who has a chance to win.  Or you can vote for the person that you want to win.  If you want change vote for me.  I want to be a conduit.  I’ll come back and let you know what they’re doing to you in Washington.  I want to be as far out of the process as possible.(Is that really a good thing to say? – V) Vote for someone like me who won’t take a dime from corporations and I think you’ll be very pleased with the results.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.