Joan Buchanan is familiar to the voters of the San Ramon Valley School District, where she was elected 5 times to the School Board. But, she's now introducing herself to her second new set of voters in just 10 months. She was elected to the Assembly in November, winning a comfortable victory over Abram Wilson.
She's not what you would consider a progressive champion. She actually bears many similarities to the woman she is vying to replace, former Rep. Ellen Tauscher. Yet Asm. Buchanan is a rather humble, no-nonsense kind of politician. She may not have the oratory abilities to rally the crowds for miles around, but she does put her nose to the grindstone.
The voters of the tenth district are now going to have to decide exactly what kind of Congress member they want. Over the flip, you'll find a very roughly transcribed version of a pretty informative interview. It's definitely worth a read, especially if you are a voter in the district.
Brian Leubitz :: CA-10: Meet Joan Buchanan, A Calitics Interview
BL: Thanks for taking some time to talk with us. It's great that we have been able to talk with all of the major candidates. Before we move to the federal issues, let's talk about the budget. First, how do you think the process could be changed, and how does it reflect on indiviudal legislators
Joan Buchanan: We need a lot more openness. There were $60 Billion in cuts. With cuts in this magnitude, we need more transparency. The Big 5 negotiatied both final agreements, in February and July. I accept that it was done, but it's not an ideal process and it probably could be better.
BL: In terms of the result, how do we produce a more stable budget going forward.
This is California, given the 2/3 requirements, our tax revenues are too tied to the economy. With all of the revenue sources, we get more revenue when the economy is doing well. We are in the situation we are in today because we had a significant debt and borrowing before the collapse, and the collapse magnified the problem. We found ourselves cutting $60 Billion from the general fund. Karen Bass was right that we have a taxation system that was built in the 30s that doesn't work for us anymore. We need to change how we tax, not necessarily more taxes, but more dependable revenue that is more tied to our economic productivity and not the swings in the economy.
BL: Besides the budget issues, what have been some of your accomplishments have been?
JB: Greatest accomplishments have been through working with people at the local level. I met with the Livermore Chamber of Commerce with sales tax revenues being taken from Livermore, now fixed via legislation signed by the governor and pushed by Sen. Hancock and myself. Returning $2.5 mil to Livermore at a time when it is critical. School Board Member from Mountain View had problems getting matching funds. Asm. Buchanan helped to get state funds by appeal.
Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor talked about Highway 4, local electeds put together proposal to state and feds to get funding to complete the bypass.
BL: You have been praised for a campaign with a solid field campaign:
JB. I focus on field campaigns. It's the only way I know how to campaign. I've been involved in 17 campaigns over 21 years, many school board elections and other local campaigns. And I really believe in campaigning the old-fashioned ways.
BL: How do we proceed with Iraq now that we have moved away from the cities?
JB: I opposed it from the very beginning. 3/4 of Iraq was covered by the no-fly zone. The UN Inspectors couldn't find WMDs. Our job now must be to bring our troops home safely. We may be able to accelerate.
BL: The other area of insecurity - Afghanistan
BJ: raq was the real impediment to our success in Afghanistan. Afghanistan - our goals should be focused, secure border with Pakistan, get economic and political stability, and to bring our troops home safely.
BL: Pakistan - How do we balance the need for security and winning the hearts and minds. Specifically, what is your position on the drone attacks?
JB: Anytime we go to war, we need to avoid attacks on civillians. You don't win hearts and minds when that happens.
BL: THe other big issue of the day would be Health Care. What are the principles you are focused on?
JB: Start out with three issues:
1) Cover 47 mil Americans without insurance, and the estimated 50 million underinsured, and another 25 million who are in gaps of coverage. We are in a health care crisis, and we have to find a way to fix this issue.
2) How do we bring down costs? Companies are experiencing 10-20% increases. Bring down escalating rate increases. These costs get passed on to employees and employers. The trajectory is not sustainable.
3) Capacity - We are rapidly approaching a ciritical shortage of primary care providers. We need to address those shortages, nurses, doctors, technicians.
4) Access, people who live in urban and rural districts should both be able to get same health care. Areas in San Joaquin County have half of the doctors per capita than in the cities.
Elements that I think are critical:
1) Preserving patient - doctor relationship. People want to have a choice in their doctor and who treats them.
2) Adequate fair reimbursement levels. MediCal levels are far too low. You can't cover your overhead.
3) We need a system that focuses on prevention rather than accute care.
4) Fiscally responsible payment for the program. We need to be sure that it's sustainable 5,10, 20 years down the road.
BL: How would you regulate prices? Would you be ok with taking away Congress' ability to set prices and moving that to a seperate board.
JB: Can you elaborate on that?
BL: Sure, more generally, shoudld Congress have the power to set prices
JB: My understanding is that that they are trying to take a look at pricing, across specialties, make sure it is fair. They need an independent body that will look at procedures that it is fair and equitable across the board.
BL: Where do you stand on the public option?
JB: I could support a wide spectrum. I would have no problem supporting a public option. My #1 goal is to ensure that 47 million people is my number one problem. If the compromise includes a public option, then I could support that.
BL: Back to foreign issues, Iran, how should we be involved?
Economic sanctions are powerful tools to effect change in countries. When you look at Iran, and its insistence on continuing to enrich uranium and to move towards the production of nuclear weapons, its supplying of terrorist groups with missiles, and its posturing. It is probably the most destabilizing force in teh middle east. I agree when the presidents says there are going to be changes, and we are not going to wait forever. WHen a country can make money without investing in its people by just drilling a hole in the ground, there's a problem. We could embargo refined petroleum, as they import 40%.
BL: One last question - how do we address some of the economic inequality that we are seeing throughout the country?
JB: Congress does that between its policies it enacts. We need a strong middle class to have a strong economy. Restoring the middle class has to be a top priority for Congress.
One way we can do that is to help small business. I've toured small businesses across the district from Dixon to Livermore to Antioch to Livermore. They are responsible for 50-80% of job growth now. We need to do as much for Main Street and small businesses as we are for Wall Street.
BL: Thank you very much for taking time from your day.
JB: Sure, you have a good day.