APN Candidate Q&A: Renitta Shannon, HD 84
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the upcoming May 2016 Primary Election, Atlanta Progressive News sent a questionnaire to Renitta Shannon, a progressive candidate challenging State Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur).
State Rep. Mayo received a B in the APN combined Scorecard for 2014 and 2015. To be sure, this is a comparatively high grade, even for the DeKalb and Fulton County Senate and House delegations. However, Mayo lost points for supporting a measure to disband Georgia’s soil and water conservation agency; and for supporting a measure to allow raccoon trapping.
Shannon “is an active member of 9 to 5 Working Women Atlanta, the Executive VP for the Georgia State Chapter of the National Organization for Women, an active member in the Fight for $15 campaign and active in intertwined movements for racial, gender and economic justice,” according to her campaign website.
Shannon has been endorsed by the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union and by State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), she stated in an email to Atlanta Progressive News.
APN did not reach out to Rep. Mayo while the Legislature was in Session, and the Session just ended early Friday morning, March 25, 2016. APN attempted to reach Mayo on Friday, and will be sending him a questionnaire as soon as possible.
Shannon’s responses to the APN questionnaire as as follows:
DO YOU BELIEVE ALL HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES SHOULD KEEP MINUTES INCLUDING A RECORD OF ALL VOTES, YEAS, NAYS, AND ABSTENTIONS; AND THAT THOSE MINUTES SHOULD BE MADE PUBLIC? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL IDEAS FOR TRANSPARENCY AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS?
I absolutely support keeping committee minutes that will be made public and a record of all votes. Transparency in government is essential for creating a democracy that citizens can and will want to participate in. Anybody elected to public office who is truly interested in representing constituents should want this transparency, because it allows the people who elect you to have true political discourse on important issues and for them to be able to assess if a public official is accurately representing their interests. Promoting civic engagement is something that would be paramount to me if elected. As an elected official I would continue to work with grassroots organizations as I have been to achieve the goals of the community and bring about the change that many want to see in Dekalb and the State of Georgia.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON NUCLEAR POWER?
I am very concerned about the safety and security issues associated with nuclear energy. In 2016 nuclear power sources are obvious targets for terrorism. Additionally, nuclear plant accidents do not occur frequently, but when accidents do happen the environmental and health impacts can last for decades, forcing those who lived near the plant to deal with on going significant health issues. Nuclear power plants are almost always located in poor minority neighborhoods and there is no proof that nuclear reactors are not causing the higher rates of cancer we see in these neighborhoods. Climate change is both a complex and serious issue. I believe that we must explore alternatives to fossil fuels. Doing nothing is not an option, but in our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint we need to find solutions that do not perpetuate environmental racism and that move us forward in a sustainable manner.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS, IF ANY, TO EXPAND WIND AND SOLAR IN GEORGIA?
I would support efforts to expand wind and solar in Georgia. It is a renewable source of energy without the risks associated with nuclear power. The retail marketing by companies to talk specifically to homeowners about moving their homes to solar energy make this an energy source Georgians are getting more and more comfortable with. The future is bright for solar in Georgia and I would support providing economic incentives to help consumers continue to move towards this energy source.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT REDUCING PETITION REQUIREMENTS FOR INDEPENDENT AND POLITICAL BODY (MINOR PARTY) CANDIDATES FROM THE CURRENT ONE PERCENT STATEWIDE, FIVE PERCENT NON-STATEWIDE REQUIREMENT? IF SO, WHAT SHOULD THE NEW REQUIREMENT BE, IF ANY?
I would support reducing petition requirements. It is nearly impossible for independent or minor party candidates to get on the ballot, and this contributes to voter apathy. I would set the requirements at 1500 signatures for statewide candidates and 1000 for non statewide candidates. Lack of choice in candidates contributes to low voter participation, which is not good for democracy.
Even more than just reducing ballot access requirements, I would like to see Georgia move to ranked choice voting for elections. Many cities around the country already successfully use this system and I would love to see Georgia be the first state to implement this for both state wide and local races. Rank choice voting allows voters to vote for candidates that inspire them instead of going to the polls to cast protest votes against other candidates or feeling forced to vote for who is the most electable.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT ADDING A VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL TO ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEMS IN GEORGIA?
I would support adding a verifiable paper audit to electronic voting systems. There is a climate of suspicion around whether elections are being fairly conducted, and that suspicion has grown since the Voting Rights Act was essentially dismantled by the courts. So I would support any measure that would help to restore faith in the process of voting. In 2015 Fulton County admitted to illegally disenfranchising minority voters in 2008 and 2012 elections. Stories like this last in the mind of voters and we need to be vigilant to ensure things like this do not continue to happen and the state should work to restore voter confidence.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE REFERENDUM TO CREATE A STATEWIDE OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT TO TAKE OVER SO-CALLED “FAILING” SCHOOLS?
The OSD plan for failing schools is something I strongly oppose. This amendment allows for some very problematic changes in Georgia to public education. OSD would change the Georgia constitution to allow the state to create charter schools without getting both parent and teacher majority votes as the Georgia constitution currently requires. Basically the state will be allowed to circumvent democracy and ignore the voices of parents in matters concerning local neighborhood schools.
All across the country we see schemes like this where legislators have been bought by corporate lobbyists to help pave the way for charter school expansion and school privatization schemes. First they starve public education of funding, creating a situation where schools will begin to fail and then legislators propose a state takeover where schools are essentially sold to for profit management companies through plans like OSD. We have seen the terrible results of similar school takeover plans in places like Louisiana and Michigan. Currently Tennessee, after only two years under a similar plan is trying to abandon their school takeover plan because of the damage it has done to public education so far, and it has not yielded the positive results in student achievement initially promised.
Everyone can agree that Georgia’s Public Schools need to significantly raise student achievement but the facts show that plans like OSD do not work and have devastating consequences. Legislators need to push for fully funding public schools and look at other more productive models of changing public education to raise student achievement.
DO YOU SUPPORT AN EXPANDED MEDICAL CANNABIS PROGRAM (IN-STATE CULTIVATION, FULL PLANT MEDICINE, EXPANDED LIST OF CONDITIONS)? DO YOU SUPPORT DECRIMINALIZATION (NON-MEDICAL)? DO YOU SUPPORT LEGALIZATION (NON-MEDICAL)?
I do support expanding Georgia’s medical cannabis program as the medical community is finding more and more uses for medical cannabis nationwide. I also support legalization of non medical cannabis. Lives are being ruined everyday by otherwise law abiding responsible citizens being given criminal records over the possession of marijuana. Marijuana should be treated like any other substance that can be harmful if abused, for example alcohol. It is about education not criminalization. Alcohol is not illegal but instead we as a society work to educate the public on excessive use. Cannabis should be treated the same.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON CITYHOOD AND ANNEXATION IN GENERAL? DO YOU BELIEVE GEORGIA’S CITYHOOD AND ANNEXATION LAWS SHOULD BE CHANGED? IF SO, HOW?
As we have seen in recent cities formed, cities are often much more expensive to operate than initially estimated and once the city is formed the residents are just forced to bear the tax burden or move. City of Decatur just went through this as more and more elderly residents were being evicted from homes they completely own, due to rapidly accumulated tax debt they just could not afford to pay. Decisions need to be made in a more equitable manner that takes into account the impacts on the most vulnerable and especially our elderly residents. Ultimately residents must be accurately educated on both the perceived benefits as well as potential pitfalls of cityhood before voting on these measures. As we saw with the proposed City of Lavista Hills the loudest voices did not reflect the will of the majority of residents in that area and it was voted down.
I am very concerned about the trend of cityhood in Georgia. The proposal of more and more cities is creating a climate where a growing number of people feel that they must “Eat or be Eaten”. So many are starting to feel that they must quickly grab both land and businesses to create a tax base to form their own cities. Where will all of this ultimately leave the last to incorporate or those with less political influence who do not even realize that this is going on around them?
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE PROPOSALS FOR NEW CITIES IN DEKALB COUNTY, SUCH AS STONECREST AND GREENHAVEN?
My concerns with these cities would be the same concerns previously stated about cityhood in general.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE PROPOSED CITY OF SOUTH FULTON?
My concerns with these cities would be the same concerns previously stated about cityhood in general.
DO YOU SUPPORT GMO LABELING?
I absolutely support GMO labeling, people have a right to know what is in their food, and make choices accordingly. It is a public health issue. People cannot fully manage allergies and other health conditions if they cannot account for everything they are putting in their bodies.
DO YOU SUPPORT ANY OF THE RECENT PROPOSALS REDUCING THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD, OR ALLOWING LOCAL JURISDICTIONS FLEXIBILITY TO REDUCE EARLY VOTING?
I strongly oppose any measures to reduce access or availability to vote. I understand that some want to make reducing voting periods a fiscal issue but we need to resist that. State and local governments set their funding priorities in the budget and this should be a top priority that is not sacrificed in the name of saving money.
DO YOU SUPPORT A U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE CITIZENS UNITED RULING, CLARIFYING THE ABILITY OF CONGRESS TO REGULATE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS? (THE STATE COULD EITHER CALL FOR SUCH AN AMENDMENT BY RESOLUTION OR CALL FOR A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.)
Yes, I strongly support passing a constitutional amendment to overturn the citizens united ruling. We need to restore our democracy on all levels, and corrupt campaign finance laws are at the heart of what has broken it. I believe we need to do more than overturning the Citizens United ruling. I have already publicly supported a more comprehensive reform called the Citizens Equality Act of 2017. This act would do three things. First, it would overturn voter ID laws which have mostly served to suppress the minority vote, by masquerading as fixing the manufactured problem of voter fraud which does not exist. Secondly, it would end gerrymandering which allows politicians to pick their own districts, thereby hindering the potential for competitive races. Lastly, it would reduce big money influence by using a system of public matching funds. This would for example make a $50 donation from an individual just as valuable as a $500 contribution from a special interest group.