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Mary L. Sanders

Running for State Senator

5 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Green Party

CEP Status: nonparticipating


Age: 67

Marital Status: Divorced

Current Residence: Hartford

Current Job: Activist, Spanish Tutor and Grandma

Previous Job: 1998 - 2015 Executive Director Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain

Previous Job: 1988 - 1997 Associate Director of Counseling, Education & Training, YWCA of N.B.

Education: Capital Community College & CCSU - Spanish, Social Work & Business Management

What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
I think protecting African Americans, Latinos, the elderly or chronically ill are pretty much addressed in other answers but again must include access to rapid result testing sites, sufficient protective equipment, accessible healthcare and remediation of any food or housing insecurity.
What should Connecticut do to re-tool our public health for COVID-19 and the possibility of future pandemics, while also addressing other chronic illnesses that put people at risk every day?
Better use of existing resources by eliminating waste and duplication and a proactive approach. We need to be better prepared and on alert. We cannot count on the federal government to provide guidance let alone resources. While we must pursue any resource available we must be prepared to do without it. Scattered site healthcare centers vs. larger settings may help contain spreading illnesses as will the growing use of telehealth appointments. Universal healthcare would see more people receiving the care they need to manage their chronic illnesses and lessen more expensive interventions down the road.
What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
We need to make sure businesses have the resources and necessary equipment to maintain worker and client safety. We can help businesses, in particular small businesses, by making it easier for them to access emergency funding when needed. Payroll protection programs should have been more readily accessible these last 6 months and could have prevented many businesses from closing and many workers from losing their jobs permanently. I read that CBIA wants legislators to sign on to a few proposals that I would support; these include: creating workforce training programs for in-demand industries that would offer better earnings and perhaps lure new business to CT; they are also proposing the elimination of sales tax on job training programs, related safety and PPE equipment. I’m in agreement; if we want to improve our economy we need to invest in our workforce. If we want businesses to succeed, we need to help get them the resources they need. I heard folks talk about helping small businesses establish a pre-tax crisis fund, from which they could draw down not only what they’ve tucked away, but any government assistance that down the line could be directly deposited. Of course that would mean the banks or other middlemen would be out their cut and more could go to direct relief. I’m about getting rid of waste and duplication. I believe we can do more with less, so a social progressive but fiscal moderate?
With so much uncertainty ahead about COVID-19, how would you ensure that the people's business – both at the legislature and in all of our elections – will be conducted effectively, and with full participation, in the safest possible manner for the foreseeable future?
Even before this shut-down it was difficult to ensure that business be conducted to those standards, so we do not want to return to that normal. The elections are often ineffective in getting the candidates most voters agree would be good, but due to the rigged system have slim chances. Ranked Choice Voting, Proportional Representation, among other things could incentivize uninterested voters to participate and would give the major parties a reason to stop playing dirty. As for safety and efficiency during the pandemic or any other public crisis, we need to be better prepared, we cannot count on the federal government to come to our rescue nor guide us. We must ensure the health and welfare of both those in public service and the communities they serve by having an adequate stock of PPE, accessible testing sites with quick turnaround on results and flexibility on how services are provided.
With higher education facing major changes because of the pandemic, what steps will you take to make sure that Connecticut’s residents have access to college and/or other job training that won’t leave them tens of thousands of dollars in debt?
The Green Party supports education and lifelong learning and advocates for free community and state colleges. Workforce Development programs, apprenticeships, and other vocational training programs, in particular at the Voc-Tech high schools and 2-year colleges, need to be invested in. Unfortunately, there are numerous private institutions charging tens of thousands of dollars to many students who should not even be there and will probably not work in those fields. During my years as a career counselor I met so many that were $30, $40 thousand dollars in debt for programs they were not successful in or careers they were not happy in. That must stop, and the legislature needs to provide the oversight. Programs should be evaluated for their value and efficiency in putting people to work in livable wage jobs leading to growth and opportunity. People stuck in low-wage jobs with no career ladder will be seeking public assistance when their wages do not keep up with inflation. A highly skilled workforce will be able to demand higher wages benefitting both them and the State. The latest United Way ALICE report states that 40% of state residents and 66% of Hartford resident do not have enough monthly income to meet their needs, and this was before the pandemic! The Green Party supports a minimum wage of $20 per hour; CT legislators dragged their feet for so long that $15 no longer meets the need. We also support the government being the employer of last resort, meaning if there’s no work for you, we will employ you and pay you a livable wage. There’s plenty of work to do, especially in the Green New Deal.
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
Truly reducing racism should be the goal and is a lifelong commitment of mine. It requires a multilevel comprehensive re-education of the masses which cannot be developed without the communities they involve. For now, we can lessen the effects of this racism and legislate answers to the discrimination perpetrated. Starting with policing: unless we dismantle or overhaul the system, how officers are hired and trained, supervised and held accountable for their actions, nothing will change. Police unions must stop defending officers that commit crimes, are biased in their policing or are otherwise abusing their power. I testified at the LOB year after year regarding racial profiling and excessive force. A few of the proposed changes to the Alvin Penn Racial Profiling Act were enacted thru the years. Unfortunately, much of what was most recently passed into law was a repeat of things they passed years ago, like body cameras. The problem has been enforcement. My lens extends beyond that though, to look at the drug war and the faulty prison industrial complex and all its abuses as well. Of course, social, and racial justice goes far beyond policing and the prison system. Meeting the basic needs of all is a priority, access to healthcare, safe and affordable housing, food, quality education and livable wage jobs. Making sure that no one is discriminated against, regardless of race, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, religion or any other reason. These issues must be given equal attention, as well as addressing income inequality. This doesn’t necessarily mean I want higher income people to cough up money for a bunch of new initiatives. As a social progressive but fiscal moderate, I think we can do more with less. I believe there is a lot of waste, duplication of services, and fraud that if eliminated would free up money for some of these. I also believe community college and state colleges should be tuition free, run with private foundation and a mix of state and federal funding. I believe cannabis should be legalized, regulated and taxed, bringing new revenue, creating jobs in a new industry and keeping folks out of jail. I also believe we should have state banks and public utilities, and reduce military, police and corrections budgets. I do not believe we should cooperate with ICE. All of these could contribute to more social and racial justice.
Connecticut’s revenues will sharply decline as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and, unlike Congress, Connecticut has a balanced budget requirement. What changes would you make to balance the budget? (If you want cuts, be specific what will be cut. If you want to raise taxes, be specific about which taxes.)
I don't have the advantage of the incumbent in knowing the ins and outs of our budget but I can say that I would not vote for cuts to any basic human services, education and training programs, healthcare, housing, food assistance or childcare programs for example. I would first try to identify any underutilized programs, duplicated services, waste or fraud. I would look at any overlapping programs or departments and evaluate any potential for combining or merging administrative functions. I want to see cannabis legalized and taxed, which would also create jobs. I believe State banks, public utilities, reduced police and corrections budgets would reduce the need to increase taxes. I would support a fraction of a millionaire's tax but we first need to eliminate any wasted resources currently being collected.
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?
Again, I’ll start by mentioning waste, fraud and duplication of services. Too many layers of management affect provision of care. The Green Party advocates for a single payer system, beyond Medicare for All, including dental and vision, which would eliminate the need for money spent on administering different programs, the money spent on advertising by competing insurance companies, and would help reduce the occurrence of fraud. Money could instead be invested in making sure our healthcare facilities are fully and competently staffed and equipped, and free of the extra billing requirements currently employed. Healthcare providers would not feel like they must meet quotas and would be better able to meet the needs of their patients. More money could be invested on preventative care and the long-term health and well-being of our communities.
How should the state balance the needs of vulnerable populations with the reality of another large budget deficit?
I come from a human service background and have seen the widening income gap and how the poor have become even poorer. Vulnerable populations need to be provided with food, housing & utilities, healthcare, education & training, job development, and other services but these can and should be funded by a combination of municipal, state, federal, and private funding streams. I do feel there needs to be more caution and accountability with state bonding, development grants, employer incentive programs and other corporate welfare programs.
Will you support top-down efforts to regionalize local services with an eye toward more efficiency and reducing the state's obligations regarding ECS and/or other funding for towns? How would you go about it?
I would support efforts to regionalize some services but need to study the issue further regarding ECS and how to address this unfair system.
Where and how should state government focus its efforts in order to grow jobs?
I support what's been called a "Green New Deal" which primarily wants to end to the use of dirty fossil fuels, create green energy jobs. As a Hartford Legislator I would work to address the disproportionate effects of pollution and climate change on marginal and at-risk communities. We can have a clean-energy economy that guarantees everyone in the state clean air and water, modernizes our aging infrastructure, and creates high-quality jobs. If we also legalize cannabis & hemp there will be another industry hiring people at many levels. Healthcare, Technology and other endless possibilities exist; if we train the workforce the investments will payoff.
Would you support legislation to "ban the box," prohibiting employers from asking the question about criminal convictions on a job application?
Yes, questions about previous convictions should not be asked until a provisional hire has occurred. There will be many situations where a conviction will and should keep certain people out of particular job but it should not happen at the application level. Criminal Justice reform has been on my front burner for many years, and "banning the box" was part of that larger agenda. I was part of the Clean Slate committee that met with Hartford Mayor Segarra and helped remove that question from Hartford City job applications.
Eversource and some out-of-state entities appear to be attempting to buy control of Connecticut's water resources, and some of our quasi-public water agencies have signed away large amounts of water to commercial interests with little regard to future water shortages. What can you do to ensure that Connecticut residents maintain control of public water supplies in perpetuity?
We need to enact policies that will protect our natural resources. I am running as a Green in part because of our commitment to protect our land, air and water for generations to come. Profit cannot come before people and water is a public trust that our leaders need to control. The Water Planning Council needs the support of legislators who will work to preserve our resources and not cave to corporate pressure.
Should the government's response to the opioid crisis be to focus on law enforcement to stop drug dealers, or improving access to treatment for addiction and reducing the overprescription of painkillers?
It has to be a combination of all 3 responses in order to have an impact. Access to effective treatment will be the most costly and difficult to develop but it's long overdue.
In 2016 the Connecticut Retirement Security Program was created. It will give over 600,000 residents in our state a way to save for retirement at work. Knowing that employees are 15 times more likely to save merely by having access to payroll deduction, how will you continue the implementation of this important program?
I would have to find out more about the program to comment specifically but if it helps people prepare for the future and is voluntary I would support it. I would also want to see CT have a State Public Bank instead of just the private banks. Again, states venturing into new services have seen a steady and decent stream of new revenue coming into their states.
The 459,000 family caregivers in Connecticut provide an estimated 427 million hours of care each year. Nationwide, nearly seven in ten caregivers report making work accommodations because of caregiving, including arriving late/leaving early, cutting back their hours, changing jobs, or stopping work entirely. Would you support a family leave law that provides paid leave to employees who have to take time off for family caregiving purposes?
In addition to any other benefits/perks, I believe there should be a fair amount of paid time off that employees could use for family leave. As with vacation, sick time, etc. any paid time off should be earned month to month, with the length of employment considered equally thru the ranks.
How should the state address disparities in the Education Cost Sharing formula? What specific modifications would you suggest, if any?
The disparities in the ECS have created this unequitable education system, leaving poor cities' schools in dire need and students with limited options. We need to come up with a better way to fund these needs through regionalization, BOE budgets not so dependent on municipal funding. I would have to research this more fully, see what other states are doing, before suggesting specific modifications.
Would you vote for a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana? Why or why not?
Years ago I testified in favor of medical marijuana and additionally stated I believed recreational marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed. Personally I believe it causes much less harm than alcohol; practically I support this to get it off the street corners where people seeking marijuana are exposed to and perhaps offered drugs far more potent. There's also the possibility that street sold marijuana has been laced with other drugs. People young and old selling marijuana are at risk of incarceration, introduction to more potent drugs, exposure to violence but opportunities to work and support themselves are limited. Legalizing cannabis could create a whole new industry with jobs maybe some of these young adults could transition to. Not to be minimized is the financial benefit to the state by way of the new tax stream. States that have legalized, regulated and taxed cannabis have been able to eliminate budget deficits, fund quality education and much more. I believe CT can figure out how to do this and the benefits will outweigh any concerns.
A recent report found 40 percent of Connecticut residents can't afford basic needs such as housing, food, health care, or child care. What would you do to improve their situation?
I have many years experience helping people improve their situations, as case manager, workshop facilitator, career counselor and most recently as Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain for 18 years operating a Food Pantry, Social Services and Adult Education site. For those that can and want to work - education and job training for decent livable wage jobs and employers to hire them. For people who have retired or unable to work there should be sufficient income maintained thru government programs. Welfare Reform happened across the nation under Clinton and CT was one of the hardest hit. Many services and benefits ended, even for people living below the federal poverty level which fueled the increasing numbers of homeless individuals and families. Housing and utilities are the most difficult needs to meet, for people with limited income often paying 70 to 90 % of their income just for shelter costs. Food Stamps aka SNAP run out by week 3 for most of the hundreds of families using our Pantry each month and healthy food is costly. People can get some help at Pantries and Mobile Foodshare trucks but 200 people standing in line in the cold for half hour or longer just to get a bag of groceries is a sad sight, especially when many of them are seniors or children. Education about smart food shopping and public service announcements regarding available services might help, as would additional large grocers in low income neighborhoods. I know we can do better with the provision of basic needs and firmly believe we should be working towards universal healthcare and perhaps childcare.
Based on estimates that out-of-state drivers would contribute 30-40% of overall revenue if highway tolls are implemented in Connecticut, would you support tolls with or without offsetting cuts in the state's gas taxes?
Yes, we need the additional revenue. We pay tolls when we travel to other states and I believe we should charge a small fee at a couple places as well. I don't believe it should have an effect on gas taxes as not everyone is affected by the tolls but all would benefit from reduction in gas taxes making that trade unfair. Perhaps toll expenses will be deductible from the income tax.
Much of Connecticut is economically and racially segregated because many towns lack affordable housing and local zoning regulations prohibit multi-family dwellings. How would you propose incentivizing municipalities to start allowing multi-family units and other affordable housing options?
Much of CT is economically and racially segregated by design and choice and financial incentives to integrate may or may not be of interest. This will not be an easy sell but could start with a statewide task force, made up of diverse stakeholders who recognize that this is a problem that they wish to solve. Different municipalities might respond to different incentives but all could be laid on the table to see what is or isn't feasible. Still, developing multi-family dwellings and affordable housing may open doors for some lower income families but does not guarantee that racial barriers will be broken through. That will take a lot more education and community building, possible enlisting the help of faith communities. As more students of color leave their inner city neighborhoods for schools in surrounding suburbs perhaps the adults will meet and learn to appreciate each other's cultures. Maybe then it won't be so intimidating to see people color moving in.