Sheryl Cole Candidate Questionnaire
If there were one thing you could accomplish immediately, what would it be?
Fully funding and investing in our Public Education until it was recognized as the gold standard of our nation.
What spending would you advocate increasing or decreasing while in office?
Aside from the previously mentioned increase in Education spending, we also need to invest deeply in health and human services, while decreasing wasteful spending, such as Greg Abbott’s border patrol surge - we could have funded full-day Pre-K with that money, for example.
What is your stance on gun control?
I do not understand the Tea Party’s obsession with expanding open carry into every aspect of our lives - I am opposed to all of these measures that encourage vigilante justice. I am in favor of gun control, and though the current Texas legislature is unlikely to pass such measures, I would support bills championed by groups like Texas Gun Sense that are geared towards reducing gun violence.
What is an example or two of legislation you’d like to see passed on Criminal Justice Reform?
The Texas Tribune reports that 23 prisoners have died heat related deaths while in state care since 1998 - that is cruel and unusual, and it is unconscionable that prison conditions are this poor for people serving their debt to society. That is only the tip of the iceberg, but prison standard reform is necessary. I would also look into what could be done about a statewide “Ban The Box” law to help reintegrate formerly incarcerated people into society, an issue I worked on while on Austin City Council.
Explain your stance on corporate subsidies.
Certain industries, like farming and agriculture, rely on subsidization to operate on fairly thin margins, and would struggle greatly without our help. I believe there are definite situations where economic incentives and subsidies can protect and save working class and middle class jobs.
How would you go about fighting for equal pay for women?
During the regular session, I supported HB 228 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, which would have given the legal system better tools to fight wage discrimination. In a Republican dominated legislature, where many deny the existence of the wage gap, this is the kind of incremental progress we will have to make. However, I will support all legislation that strives to give equal pay for equal work to women, whether it is a full throated equal pay bill or more incremental steps.
What state policies would you implement to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change? What actions have you taken on Environmental Justice?
On council, I served on the Water Conservation Task Force, and immediately after being elected to council in 2006, I sponsored an item to aggressively pursue water conservation. I worked to expand the Brownfield development program and to address lingering inequities in the placement of infrastructure and industrial sites, worked with community members to update the Austin Climate protection plan for more aggressive targets and implementation plans, and worked to implement greener targets for power generation and a more aggressive closure to Fayette. I am in favor of replicating successful programs across the state, or at minimum protecting local governments’ abilities to have similar measures.
What’s an example of legislation you would support to promote clean renewable energy?
My expertise on council defending Austin Energy at the State Legislature would make me a strong advocate for local control. I would defend local governments and their right to promote renewable energy sources, or, in the case of Denton, to prevent environmental destruction in their backyard.
What should the State Government do regarding undocumented immigrants?
The absolutely opposite direction we are currently heading! Repealing SB4 is the bare minimum start - Texas does not need a show-your-papers law that undermines local government and police while endangering immigrant families. We also need to have a robust and safe DREAM Act, as that is one of the best tools available to the State to make up for our National shortcomings. Formalizing policies regarding ICE like Sheriff Sally Hernandez’ into law would also be a step in the right direction.
What ideas do you have for fixing the Texas School Finance system?
There are several steps that the state needs to take that have been continually ignored, session after session. First, the formula that dictates recapture is horribly out of date - it is the reason why AISD has to send over $500 million to the state despite 60% of our students being classed as low income. Secondly, the State has massively cut down on its investment in public education dollars. The majority of funding for schools now comes from local property taxes, one of the major contributing factors to the affordability crisis. While it won’t be a perfect system yet, righting the formula and reinvesting major budget dollars into public education will certainly begin to get us back on track.
How are you funding your campaign?
I am soliciting and accepting donations from individuals, and have and will continue to accept donations from certain PACs, like the Austin Firefighters Association. Texas law prohibits me from accepting corporate donations, and I am not soliciting any donation of that kind. I am also accepting in-kind donations from individuals, though again, not from businesses.
What state policies would you like to see in place to address racial justice? What actions have you taken on racial justice?
An issue that is deeply personal to me is the issue of police shootings of unarmed black men. Behind every tragic loss of young life, I hear a mother’s screams. I can not imagine the pain. This is why, while on council, I advocated tirelessly on behalf of victims and their families. I know that police violence is a small sliver of institutional racism. I know first hand the injustices and systemic racism that exists. There isn’t a switch we can flip to end it. But we can continue to advance and protect programs like affirmative action, minority owned business incentives, and implicit bias trainings, while maintaining a robust social safety net and public education system to truly bring opportunity to all.
What state policies would you pursue to address the issue of income & wealth inequality?
One of the key issues I have worked on my entire life as an activist is affordability - it is the lense through which I view many issues, including income and wealth inequality. People deserve to be able to afford to live their lives and support their families. To me, affordability does not end with investment in housing and affordable housing bonds. It means making sure people aren’t bankrupted by healthcare costs or overburdened by student loan debt; it means being a steward of their tax dollars to make sure we are investing in public education and not unnecessary border patrol expansions; and it means making sure that employers treat their employees fairly, equitably, and that people can earn a living wage. The Texas Legislature has a strong influence on every one of these issues, and each of these issues affects the everyday worker. Though the environment at the Capitol is hostile to many of our values, I will go to bat for Texas workers and laborers every day.
What are some policies you would implement to make our election system more democratic?
Our democratic institutions have taken some unfortunate steps back in Texas. Every time a court finds an issue with the GOP’s discriminatory Voter ID laws, the Tea Party just passes a new one. Voter registration in Texas has arcane deadlines, and early voting and voting by mail are quite restricted compared to some other states. Texas Urban Counties, which have some of the longest ballots in the nation due to all of the judges we elect, just suffered a loss that will make voting take even longer, with the removal of Straight Ticket Voting. We absolutely need to implement Online Voter Registration. As Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant says, it’s not a matter of if Texas implements Online Voter Registration, but whether we will be the last state to do so. The governor has continued to veto these efforts, but it is just a common-sense way to expand ballot box access with modern technology. Expanding access to mail-in ballots to the entire voting population is another way to make participating in our Democracy easier, and many governments already use it as the primary form of voting.
What actions have you taken to improve your community?
I stand by my Austin City Council record as one that improved the lives of others in Austin. Outside of tenure on Council, I have also served as a PTA President, on the board of Planned Parenthood, with the Urban League, with Downtown Austin Alliance, and on several bond committees.
What is your campaign strategy for winning in November 2018?
House District 46 is a very blue seat. The next State Representative will be decided in the Democratic Primary. However, that does not mean the campaign can end there. HD 46 has not had a strong campaign investment in a very long time. If I win the Primary, I look forward to working with the Travis County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign to insure that East Austin, Manor, and Pflugerville get their fair share of voter registration and GOTV efforts to bring their numbers in line with the rest of Travis County. Additionally, with our statewide races on the ballot in 2018, every extra Democratic vote found in HD46 is another vote to send Ted Cruz home!