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Oregon2020 – Andy Saultz

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This transcript is of the Andy Saultz interview.

DM – Don Merrill
AS – Andy Saultz

00:00 DM – I’m Don merrill I’m speaking with Andy Saultz Mr. Saultz is a Democrat he’s running for state representative in the 33rd district mr saultz welcome

00:09 AS – thank you for having me

00:10 DM – my first question why ask you what you want to be in the Oregon house

00:17 AS – sure it’s a question I get often in our and our politics I think a lot of times people think about the nastiness and the divisiveness I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old and I am not inspired by the leadership that I see especially nationally and I was raised that if I want to create the change that I want to see I need to get involved and so I grew up in House District 33 in Northwest Portland and have spent my career try to build a better education system and so really important to me that we have individuals who are committed to the long term health of our community and unfortunately have not seen that currently,

00:54 DM – I’m going to ask a lot of questions about how you want to do those things just because I hear a lot of people saying they want to but then they don’t lay out how you have a lot of policy positions on your website education is where your education and experiencing be centered is it your goal to get on the House committee of education or the education Ways and Means committee if you elected

01:17 AS – that would be fantastic and to get the how and I’m glad you brought that up a little bit of a policy wonk and so I really like getting into the weeds on some of the stuff

01:26 DM – not to say that the audience does

01:31 AS – I started as a high school teacher and I was loving life unfortunately Betsy DeVos and other folks were doing really harmful things to schools I was living with in Michigan at the time I partner is going to graduate school there and they were really trying to privatize a lot of our public education system and so I ran for my local school board in Michigan and got a PhD in education policy and so for my perspective our schools are inequitable and there are tangible things we can do to make them better so to answer your question yeah I’d love to be on the education committee this is the stuff that I live everyday

02:03 DM – I want to ask you a question about Healthcare because you know when you get into the legislature if you get in the legislature its not always going to play to your strength so I want to ask you about healthcare the Oregon health authority had a leadership change in 2017 after news reports revealed a plan to discredit the nonprofit healthcare provider family care that was because the two were disagreeing over how OHA was going to reimburse the nonprofit Oregonians depend on OHA considering how conservatives relentlessly attack Obama care so what will you do to make sure OHA works honestly and ethically to serve the Oregonians that depend on it

02:45 AS – yeah thanks for that and and I would just expand a little bit my research is actually on the intersection between education health and economic policy and so while my doctorate is an education policy really try to understand how these policy areas relate to one another so for example I have a grant right now that that’s working to understand the relationship between a school-based health centers that is health centers within schools and academic outcomes so in terms of OHA I feel really comfortable understanding the Medicaid system the shift to a CCO model that has a more holistic approach to health policy in terms of the accountability with OHA I do think we need to invest in Medicaid in mental health care and then have really transparent oversight over those those groups to make sure that we are getting the most for our tax dollars

03:35 DM – as opposed to what we have now we do you consider the oversight that we have now as transparent

03:40 AS – I think the CCO model moving towards thinking about what’s called the social determinants of health and that is education that is safety that is housing for all of our students is a really good model so that healthcare isn’t just who shows up at the ER but how to prevent things and I think that shift that OHA has has been really a leader on has been really important and I would continue as conversations

04:06 DM – I want to ask you a question about the environment all of these are planks in your platform you we haven’t a real car derailment in several years but odds are we will have another one what we do give Oregon more say not only over whether tanker cars move through Oregon at all but not having our first responders put in danger by responding to her derailment but not always knowing what the responding to

04:31 AS – great great question and two of my brothers-in-law our first responders so this is an issue that’s really near and dear to me for my perspective we need to have an environmental policy that moves us to agree on economy and we need to limit the transportation of dangerous materials and hazardous materials I don’t think we have done enough to make sure that our pipelines are safe and I think that there are tangible things

05:00 DM – why not why not

05:01 AS – why haven’t we done that we have like manual shutoffs in some of our underground pipelines for example I’ve heard a talk with some folks they couple as you may know Veterans Affairs with emergency preparedness in the house and I’ve talked with some of those legislators who say you know we have manual shutoffs for these things and so the event of an emergency or earthquake individuals would literally have to go to sites and pull a lever there are very few individuals who know how to do that or have the access and so moving towards your automatic shutoffs are other things might prevent the amount of damage moving forward so I think some of those conversations are important to have moving forward

05:41 DM – also there was legislation to change the thickness of the lining of tanker cars they would be less likely to split open Which was what happened in that derailment Hood River

05:53 DM – I want to ask you a question about climate change so cap and trade shut the legislature down at the end of last year’s session and it threatens to do that again that the group timber unity was very successful in influencing the legislature especially the Republicans to walk out in order to avoid discussion or a vote on cap And trade legislation so cap And trade is a priority for the governor she said so so if you get into the legislature what’s your role going to be regarding cap And trade

06:32 AS – I will be a champion for environmental policy and cap And invest is incredibly important for the future of our state

06:40 DM – now you call it cap and Invest

06:42 AS – I do I because I think that the focus needs to be the whole system is designed to put a price on carbon and then invest those additional dollars all of the additional dollars from that into a future economy that would be more environmentally friendly and so I focus on the invest part because I do think moving away from coal and to greener energy is really really important to me this is a core value and if something’s a core value shouldn’t negotiate away and unfortunately what we’ve seen is people say that it is important to them but the relative importance has led to folks negotiating away policies or having session and on these things which you look people can disagree all they want but to walk away and not even have a conversation I I don’t think that’s Democratic and and I really hope that we can bring folks together and find a resolution for this moving forward

07:43 DM – so I just want to ask a question related to something she said so far so you’re running for district in Northwest Portland its a fairly affluent district I’ve talked to people who are running for districts and what they said is I’m going to be focused only on the needs and wishes of the people in my district and I always wonder does that mean then that when it comes to voting on an issue that is statewide are you going to be ignoring the needs of the state in general to satisfy your constituents of the people who put you in office so I mean I’m curious to know do you think the role of a legislator to serve the people put him in office or to serve the larger goal of of what up being a legislator means which would to serving the needs of greater state

08:31 AS – yeah that’s a good question and as a political science undergrad I can appreciate the that the core and ethical question there for my perspective all of my work and education has been premised on the fact that there are things that are good for kids regardless of where they live and I think part of the problem with our system historically as we weve segmented our education system so that all kids arent getting equal chance to relate it back your question I think our environment it doesn’t matter where you’re polluting that’s gonna affect everyone and I really worry about some of the fractured nature of folks saying well were going to have a policy and and this actually relates back to cap And trade or cap And invest as you ask it the current proposal treats Portland different from the rest of the state and I fundamentally opposed that I think we have to were all in this together and state policy is made for the whole state now that said the constituents have to take the priority and have to have a representative who will fight for them but our policies affect everyone and so as a result we have to take a very holistic look about policy

09:37 DM – so how do you go about helping your constituents see that expansive view when you called upon to make a vote that may not be in the best interest

09:46 AS – yeah I mean a if it’s hard to get down the rabbit hole in some of these hypotheticals I think for me listening to other perspectives is really really important understanding where your constituents are and how you can best represent them is important but at the end of the day on things like education and health care the environment we haven’t talked about housing yet but housing is really important those issues affect all of us and if we ignore people that don’t live right next door to us then we arent serving our state best and we will feel the ramifications of not serving other communities down the line

10:25 DM – lets talk about homelessness you say on your website that you work to improve access the homelessness issue is complicated as back and forth by the Salem city Council have shown it’s easy to say Im going fight to make things better and I saw your post on twitter about how Finland has eliminated homelessness by giving everyone a place to live you but that kind of all in government intervention sounds a lot like the activism of Bernie Sanders so first do you know how you will reduce homelessness in Portland and second are you Democratic socialist like Mr. Sanders

11:04 AS – we are about 40,000 unit affordable unit short on housing our population has grown really quickly and as a result housing Costs are up about 200% since 2000 median income at the same time is up up about 17% and so we have this huge gap that has led to a couple of things one an increase in homelessness two gentrification and pushing out folks who need a affordable housing outside of the city center that makes our transportation puts a lot of pressure on our transportation system and it leads to worse environmental damage it’s all of these things are related for my perspective we have to have affordable housing in every community so people can live where they work because if people are traveling a long time to work that’s going to be worse on our environment and worse on our transportation system how are we going to do this I I think we have to look at ways to incentivize building affordable units and that developers have been building high-end housing because are getting more money for that their are something called the SBC which is a series of fees that are charged to folks when they build a new home those are flat fees regardless of how much money the house cost and what I would like to do is stagger or provide some sort of incentive program for folks to provide affordable housing because we have to we have to prioritize the housing side of this and housing first model I think is worked in other places so I think we have to invest a lot of money there the second question and I don’t I’m not a democratic socialist I really value investing and the Democratic Party platform but I don’t identify socialist no

12:43 DM – so you how you do how you view the portland city Council’s recent move to make all single-family lots zoned so that they can have duplexes fourplexs some even some housing advocates even want 8 plexes the people in those neighborhoods are saying we already have lots of mixed-use housing in a lot of our neighborhoods and when you when you make the neighborhoods susceptible to more mixed-use housing in portland’s narrow streets, you’re just going to make transportation worse

13:13 AS – so I favor the zoning changes 70% of new homes built last year were in single use single family use or detached housing as some folks refer to it as so think that zoning’s important the second part of that though is how does the infrastructure follow the zoning changes and these building changes and I think as housing is being built you have to have those discussions about the roads and the schools what happened out in Bethany in my neck of the woods and washington County is they’ve built a bunch of houses and then they realize that the schools are overcrowded and the roads can’t handle the infrastructure and so I think you have to have those conversations in coordination with one another I don’t think the stress on the infrastructure is a reason to prevent zoning changes I just think if you do zoning changes you have to think about how the infrastructure can keep up with those changes

14:06 DM – you believe in investments in transportation and mass transit but how do you propose to get people out of their cars because one of the reasons why mass transit is so difficult is such a difficult sell for people is because well because of what’s happening right now with of the trial Jeremy Christian people feel that mass transit is unsafe so how to get people out of their cars for the benefit of of of the environment for the benefit of the transportation infrastructure

14:38 AS – let me give you an example thats personal to me my partner works downtown and she would love to take mass transit the Sunset transit center right the max station closest my house their parking fills up by about 630 morning our daycare opens at seven so there’s no way unless I do drop by to drop off this morning as I can come in earlier but there’s no way for our family to drop our kids off and then be able to get to the max station and have time second it takes her about twice as long to take public transit as it does to drive now that’s not an excuse she’s very environmentally conscious and sometimes she make the decision to do that but if you’re taking longer on public transit if there are safety concerns then people are more apt to just drive in the car cities that do this well are able to say public transit is really predictable it’s safe and it’s really fast and so I think about like when I go to DC for example for conferences and things I take the public transit because I don’t want to sit in traffic like that’s awful and I go and is predictable and it’s a lot faster and so we need to get to a place as a city where people have the confidence in the safety as well as the speed of the transit and and I just don’t think were there right now the other thing I just want to say about public transit and and you mention trimet earlier my understanding is there’s only one bus only lane and all of washington County County and so I think we need to move to electric buses I think we need to have bus only lanes and again try to speed up the public transportation to incentivize people to take it

16:19 DM – when you get to the legislature how will you go about getting your colleagues especially colleagues on the other side of the aisle to appropriate stuff like that

16:30 AS – I do think one of my skill sets is working with folks regardless of their background and listening and trying to incorporate their perspectives I think it will reduce the emissions quite a bit if we are able to invest in public transportation and it will reduce traffic and what I’m hearing from folks when I’m talking on the doors is there is a priority for individuals but also businesses to reduce traffic because they can’t get their materials to where they really need to be either and so I do think there some common ground there

16:59 DM – I’m very interested in when I do these interviews I’m I’m interested in policy but I’m more interested in the people and how they interact with people who don’t think like them because those people represent a bunch of other people and so I’m I had another question here you got a lot of research papers to your credit so you’re familiar with the term confirmation bias and for people don’t know confirmation bias is the tendency of researchers to see what they’re looking for so it seems a confirmation bias might show itself in the tendency of people to do things against their own best interest in the long term to get a victory in the short term if you can of the legislature considering the acrimony that exists there right now how will you be able to help your colleagues overcome their own confirmation bias their own stereotypes and actually get together and get some work accomplished

17:54 AS – sure I think you have to invest a lot of time in relationships and unfortunately the confirmation bias reminds me a lot of other biases right that that people assume that I’m from Portland that I may or may not understand a certain perspective I think that the best thing you can do is humble yourself lead with integrity and listen to other perspectives thats something that I’ve prided myself in and feel like I will absolutely prioritize moving forward amd the other part of that question I just want to highlight you talked about can of the short term versus the long-term our legislator legislature unfortunately in the house it’s a two year cycle and so as a result I do think it incentivizes people to think in a very kind of short window which has led to a lot of long-term problems in our state and so I have a three year old and a one-year-old I’m not looking for a career change I actually love being a professor it’s a great job what I am interested in doing is trying to shift the discussion about what we want our state to look like 20 or 30 years from now how can we build and environmental policy that takes care of her most precious resource how can we build an education system where we arent second to we don’t have the second-worst high school graduation rate in the country I think that longer-term perspective is really really important and unfortunately lacking an oregon politics

19:15 DM – in the summer of 2004 according to your resume you taught in Poland what did that experience teach you about how to teach

19:23 AS – thank you for bringing this up so on a whim I was a political science undergrad I was I was raised that your education is about helping you learn how to think and not get a job and so as a result I went to undergrad Oregon State loved it learned a lot about politics but didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up and so a friend of a friend said hey do you want to go teach in Poland in the summer and I had never been overseas and at 21 who says no to that. So I go to Poland to a small town called Socha which is in southern Poland on the Slovakia border border with Slovakia the Czech Republic and that experience really was the first time I felt love with teaching I was teaching middle school English I knew no Polish at the time it was kind of this comedy of errors but at the end of the day what I learned is that teaching maybe like politics in this regard is about relationships that if you show students that you care about them that you are flawed that you don’t have all the answers and that it’s okay not to know that they will open their hearts to you and work really hard for you and so on that trip again I was 21 I decided I would spend the rest of my career in education I decided I would proposed to my partner when I got home and so it was really life-changing that regard

20:42 DM – I went through all of your social media and your websites and saw you have lots of endorsements

20:51 AS – thank you

20:52 DM – you you you are you are surrounded by people who have lots of respect for you who agree with your way of thinking who want to see you succeed and you’ve got a young family and I’m I’m assuming that you’re prepared for the rigors of of political campaigning but considering the state of union speech last night and what the speaker did at the end of the speech that’s another demonstration of how divided we are in this country and I’m just curious I mean are you prepared to encounter people in the legislature who are diametrically opposed to you in in almost every way who may not like you but who are who have the responsibility to work with you for the betterment of of Oregonians I you know that you talked about you know the long-term game and getting to know people and coming in with humility and all that other stuff but that takes a really long time and like you said it’s it it’s a two-year cycle

21:50 AS – for me the stakes couldn’t be higher we have I have a three-year-old and a one year old I grew up here. And am absolutely committed to this community my partner actually went to high school together at Sunset high school and so were raising her kids in the community that we grew up in and for me we can’t get distracted from the core of our work the core of our work is 22,000 children are homeless in our state the core of our work is we of the second-worst high school graduation rate in the country we are not taking care of our environment and we have the third-highest deductable rates for health insurance in this country we have to do the work and all of the distractions that become personal attacks or become walkouts or any this other stuff is a distraction from best serving the next generation and to me as a parent maybe people out there listening can relate to this that is the work and so I’m committed to not getting pulled into these distractions because we just have too much work to do

22:50 DM – it says on your Pacific EDU faculty page that the unifying purpose of your research service in teaching is to improve equity and schools since your education is in education I see youve been involved in research that looks at both public and private charter schools I want to ask you if you think the messiness and transparency of public schools is is better for taxpayers than the apparent orderliness of charter schools even though much of their operation is out of the public view

23:19 AS – yes I support traditional public schools and I think governance as you said governance is messy transparency is messy but it’s vital to democracy and I have just seen too many examples a lot of my research on charter schools shows that exacerbates segregation in particular both racial and socioeconomic segregation and I am a firm believer that we need integrated schools for a lot of reasons and I really worry about that charter model moving away from that

23:50 DM – well that reminds me of my next question a few years ago a report came out that accused PPS portland public schools of purposeful discrimination in the process that seemed to send color kids of color to detention more often which affected their schooling and ultimately got them more detentions and in adulthood more jail time a lot of people called that the school to prison pipeline do you recognize this problem in PPS and and what will you do to address it

24:18 AS – yes the school prison private pipeline is a problem throughout our state and I think that what I would like to do is move away from the

24:31 DM – And I just want to say it strikes me as ironic that such a thing could be documented and shown to exist in a state that often trumpets itself as one of the most liberal states in the country

24:40 AS – Absolutely and maybe thats the harsh reality of the ideals versus that the reality of the situation the reality of the situation is our school system is not serving students of color as well as it should be it is not serving low-income kids and what I would like to do is continue to push the conversation about discipline there’s a really powerful research actually out of New Orleans that just came out looking at discipline incidents where white students and student of color did exact same thing so imagine two students got in a fight one is a student color one is not a student of color what they showed thru this research empirically is that the student of color was punished more severely on on a statistically significant basis and so I think what we have to do is understand the problem I think we are there we know that these inequities exist we need to do a lot of work with educators about their implicit bias and how they can take a more holistic and integrated approach and there there needs to be consequences if disparities exist we have to push the conversation about how we are building inequitable system and the discipline side of things unfortunately has been and continues to be a huge part of the problem

25:59 DM – I talked with Serin Bussell last week she’s also running for the district 33 seat she also had a story of how when she was young she was passionate for politics mitch greenlick is retiring and his constituents are used to his style of representation how will you be different from challenges like like Ms. Bussell or Mr. Greenlick

26:19 AS – I think there are a couple of things that distinguish me in this race the first is I’m the only person in this race to have grown up in the district I think when you grow up in an area you see how it changes and some of those changes a really exciting House District 33 is much more diverse racially that we have ever been before thats something to celebrate some of the other changes are more challenging right we’ve had population growth that has led to more homelessness that has put a lot of strain on our infrastructure and so I think that historic perspective of growing up in the district is important second I’m the only educator in this race I firmly believe if we want to get to the structural inequities in our system we have to better serve kids you mentioned this with the school to prison pipeline if you look at a third graders reading score that is incredibly predictive of their ability to graduate high school to go to college and actually to end up in our criminal justice system and so what we have to do is focus on kids and unfortunately throughout the 90s we have divested in education to the degree that we aren’t serving all kids in our system has become more inequitable the third thing that stands out about me is on the only person that’s been elected official I served on the school board and I think having that local government experiences is really really important for a state legislator who needs to understand what the policy areas are what problems exist but then third who should solve those problems and sometimes thats the state and sometimes it’s local government and I think my school board experience will help me answer that question and then finally Im the only washington County candidate in this race two thirds of this district is in washington County washington County is a really unique place unincorporated Washington County would be the second largest city in the state for example theres like 400,000 people in unincorporated Washington county so I think having that perspective and bringing the voice for washington County will be really really important

28:13 DM – this my last question why should Oregonians vote for you

28:19 AS – I think I a partially just answer that I’m incredibly passionate I’ve I’ve worked in education for the past 15 years and have a deep understanding of policy I’m working incredibly hard we have a great team around us we have knocked a lot of doors we have a great number of endorsements including the current State Sen. from area Elizabeth Steiner Hayward folks should vote for me if they think we need a better future for our kids Oregonians are worried about the future when I talk to folks on the doors they’re worried that the schools are overcrowded that are our traffic is awful were not taking care the environment their healthcare costs I mean I can’t tell you how we people on the doors have told me I take my prescription drugs every other day cause I cant afford them I’m supposed to take them everyday but I can’t afford my prescription drugs and so I think folks want a different future and I think when they look at my background they can see someone who takes this stuff really seriously and can integrate these policy areas in important ways

29:17 DM – alright Mr. Saultz I really appreciate you coming in to talk to me thank you

29:22 AS – Thanks so much for having me it was great

29:26 DM – Andy Saultz is a Democrat he’s running as a candidate for House District 33 I’m don merrill thanks for listening

Written by Interviewer

March 2, 2020 at 10:39

Posted in Scratchpad

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