Elections and Politics
Michael Corbin: A Personal Calling to Run for Congress
Why is Michael Corbin running for the U.S. Congress (GA District 7)? Who is he, why is he passionate about his community, and what issues are his top priorities. Rico Figliolini talks with Michael about his run as a Republican, term limits, inflation, immigration, and COVID-19.
Term Limits Amendment: https://www.termlimits.com
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:42] – Why Michael is Running
[00:06:11] – Term Limits
[00:10:35] – Countering Inflation Rates
[00:21:59] – Immigration Issues
[00:29:05] – Moving Forward from COVID
[00:36:30] – COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates
[00:38:48] – Quick Questions
[00:42:49] – Closing
“The biggest thing for me is that I just have a lot of pride and passion in our city, our state, and even more so locally in this community. I’ve spent my entire life here pretty much, since 1992. I was 14 years old. And I don’t plan on going anywhere. My purpose to get into politics is to just make change… I’m doing this because I really, truly care about our country. I truly care about this district and want to make change.”Michael Corbin
[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life and publisher of Peachtree Corners Magazine. Which I hope you’re getting in the mail. We mail every single household in the city of Peachtree Corners, so certainly if you’re not getting it, let me know. But this show is a special show that we’re doing this evening, depending on when you’re listening to this. We’re recording it live and the candidate that I’m speaking to is a candidate that’s running for Congress, for Georgia House Seat Number Seven. He attended Duluth High School, UGA. He’s a member of Peachtree Corners Baptist Church. He’s lived here in Peachtree Corners for a while as well. Hailing originally I guess, from Ohio, if I’m not mistaken. But we’ll introduce him, we’ll talk to him. Tonight is about the issues, is about his passion for running, why he’s choosing to run and what issues are dear to him. So let’s bring on Michael. How are you?
[00:01:20] Michael: Doing good Rico. I appreciate the time and being on here and I do get the magazine and read it. I like it. It’s usually very nice content and pertinent to Peachtree Corners. So, really good publication.
[00:01:32] Rico: I appreciate that. Trying to keep everything relevant to the city of Peachtree Corners, as much as we can. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of stories to tell about this city.
[00:01:40] Michael: Yeah, we’ll keep growing.
[00:01:42] Rico: Yeah, for sure. So let’s get right into it. You want to run for Congress. Not State House, not Mayor of the city, but for Congress. A national platform. Tell us why you’re choosing to do that? And you’re going to be running obviously well, not obvious, but for those that don’t know, in the Republican Primary that happens next year. So we’re early on in the process, but not for a candidate that wants to run for office. You’re going to have to start now to be able to get that headwind going into May of next year for the primary. So tell us why you are choosing to run and tell us why you’re passionate about it.
[00:02:19] Michael: You know, it was really kind of a personal calling that came upon me. And one of the things, and we’ll get into this a little bit later, is something that I see is a disease in our political establishment. And that’s what I would call a career politician. Everybody’s always complaining, we never really get anything done. And the reason why is because of career politicians. And it leads to a lot of divisiveness. It leads to what people call the establishment, on both sides. And it’s a lot of just party bickering. And, you know, I say you’ve got to cut the cancer out and then treat it. Our forefathers never intended it to really be this way. It was for citizens to represent their constituencies. Take a moment out of time of their private life to do so, and then go back. Unfortunately there was nothing put into writing to limit that. And people now use that as, really kind of a power grab. And it’s becoming a problem where we can’t get anything done and everything is really revolving around pride and not really pushing our country forward. I’m obviously a first time candidate going into this and not starting at the small level, at the city council level or anything like that, you know. Kind of going at it and whether win or lose, I always say you either win or you learn something in the process here. But I’m passionate about trying to make a change. It’s not something I need to do in life, but I’m passionate about this community. I’ve lived here since 1992. Did move here from Ohio. And went to Duluth high school, went to University of Georgia. After that, moved back here. I’ve lived my entire professional career in the Atlanta Metro market area. And specifically within this district. I care a lot about the district. I’ve seen it grow. I’ve seen it change over the years in a lot of good ways. And I think that our leadership should represent that change. That’s why I’m running. I really just want to see change and people that want to get into government to make change and then get out.
[00:04:18] Rico: Do you find that there is, politics is very different from what it was before. There was a bit more willingness to compromise on issues versus being the extreme on issues. And we find that in our media too, between CNN and Fox news, they’re both two extreme. I could be looking at both of them, which I do on occasion, and I’ll be looking at one and the other will be like, is today the right day? Why is one covering one thing and the other one covering something totally different, maybe. So do you find that on both sides of the aisle, do you find that issue that people are not doing what they should be doing on both sides of the aisle. We’re a two-party system at this point, so there is the two sides. Do you find that in both parties?
[00:04:58] Michael: Absolutely. I mean I think, when it comes to media, it’s about ratings and getting that viewership and the money. When it comes to the different sides of the house, whether it’s Democrat or Republican, they’re both always constantly interviewing for their job. They’re always trying to get as much money as they can for the next election. They’re always trying to push their agenda because they can. And a lot of times those agendas are going to be completely polarizing from the other side of the house. You’re always going to get that both ends of the spectrum. And it seems like that gap is getting wider and wider when you look at the people that represent America. But when we’re living our daily life, I don’t see that in the citizens of this country. I see that in the government. And I see the government and the media really fueling that polarization of our country. Just walking around, talking to people, living in the world, you see less of that polarization than you do actually in our government. Who are supposed to be our leaders and our media who are supposed to be reporting accurate news. You know, it’s a little bit, I would say disappointing, because those are the people that are supposed to be looking out for the best interest. And I almost think that the citizens actually have a better idea of how things should actually go.
[00:06:11] Rico: Yeah, it sad to see that. That the news, Fox news, CNN, those are the two major cable news now. People don’t digest the news the way I do maybe, or the way you do. I might have it on in the background even for like hours versus people might see it for 10, 15 minutes. There’s no such thing as what there used to be, you know, anchor news. Now they’re just talking heads, opinions. Bringing on other people that might have opinions. So yeah, a variety of positions and sometimes like anything, facts can be construed into any which way you want to use it, right? Statistics are the same way. You can look at one stat versus another stat and what’s more important and how you interpret it. Those are the things I come across. Now, I know you want to change things. I know one of your biggest issues is term limits. I believe you want three terms for Congress and two terms for the Senate.
[00:07:04] Michael: Yeah. And there’s a group out there, www.termlimits.com. I’ve signed the pledge. There’s been a lot of other current representatives in Senate and House. Ted Cruz, a lot of other people that have signed it which is promising, to really put guardrails around it. You know, right now there are no term limits. It’s almost, I wouldn’t say impossible, but unless there’s a vacancy, someone says I’m just done. Nobody really runs. Because the incumbent wins, I want to say 94% of the time. The statistics are pretty overwhelming when it comes to that and it’s just tough, right? It’s tough to unseat people that are incumbents. They’ve got the name recognition. They’ve got the political backing, the financial backing. And they don’t have to leave until they want to leave.
[00:07:50] Rico: And they bring home the bacon, if you will. If they can take care of the constituents, whether the companies or organizations or non-profits, if they can bring those grants and that money to the congressional district, who’s going to argue that to a degree, right?
[00:08:06] Michael: Yeah, exactly. And a lot of them along the way, I wouldn’t say all representatives whether it’s Congress or Senate. They’re cut from a certain cloth and they get out of being a lawyer or doctor and they get into politics and a lot of times it’s to stay there as long as they can to make connections so they can improve their personal wealth. It’s more pride and power over really virtue and doing the right things. That’s why, I just constantly see that nothing gets done, right? It’s all about winning, like we’re playing a football game. Hey, who’s going to have the majority who’s going to get, and it’s not really ever about like, well, what’s going to be the best thing for our country? And I think it all stems back to the people that just don’t want to get out of Congress. They don’t want to get out of the Senate. I mean, look at, Joe Biden. You know what, 40 plus years in government? So you know, that there’s a problem when it gets to that point, it’s time to step down. So, and Joe Biden not pick on there’s lots of people that are like that.
[00:09:04] Rico: No for sure. And you have, even when you have term limits sometimes, I think it was Mayor Bloomberg was supposed to have in New York city, I think three terms was supposed to be his max, but he had the city council change the rules. So this way can run for another term. Because I guess he felt he didn’t have enough time to do what he wanted to do, his agenda. And he got a lot of things done. And maybe that was good, but at some point, if you had three terms in Congress, but you weren’t able to accomplish everything you wanted, but you’d have to leave. Would that be a good thing?
[00:09:37] Michael: I think some of that you have to put the onus on yourself, right? How motivated were you to try to get the things accomplished for your constituency first and then your country. Because there’s some people that just aren’t that motivated, they just want to get in there, to be able to solidify their name recognitions when they get out, they’re making more money. So if you really want to get things done and you’ve got a shorter time span, you’re going to be a lot more motivated to get it done. And the ones that aren’t, there’ll be weeded out pretty quickly. But yeah, if you don’t get everything accomplished, anytime there’s unfinished business, I think it pulls at your heart strings. But sometimes, your will is going to be trumped by God’s will. And I believe that. And you just have to have patience and understanding. But yeah, I think anybody that serves that term and doesn’t finish everything that they want, not to use a Mark Richt euphemism, but finish the drill. If you don’t finish the drill, you may feel something or some way, but I still think it’s better that way. I think people are going to be more motivated to get things done based on serving the people than serving themselves.
[00:10:35] Rico: It’s too bad that I don’t see that passing anytime soon. And so it’s not the same level playing field, unfortunately. People will leave because they want to keep to that term limit, but then there’ll be others there that will stay there 20, 30 years. And no doubt, like you said, once you’re an incumbent, the odd’s are actually north of about 87% remaining in their incumbency because they not only control the process if you will, to a degree, but because most people are not motivated to vote them out. You really have to have a really diehard reason to get those voters out, sometimes in certain districts. Especially the way the lines are drawn sometimes. A Republican will stay a Republican seat. The Democratic will stay a Democratic seat. This district, Georgia Seven, is changing. The demographics have changed over the last decade. Which is why I believe, Carolyn Bourdeaux was able to win along with some other aspects to it. But the demographics are changing a bit, the politics are changing. Do you find that this might be an uphill battle to get there? Or do you think you have that chance to be able to get that seat?
[00:11:44] Michael: I would say it’s definitely an uphill battle for Republicans. I mean, a lot of times, you know, the ebbs and flows come with what’s going on at large with the country. Some people might just be so upset because they’re looking at okay, Atlanta, for instance, we lead all metro markets in the country and inflation rate about almost 8% right now. So there may be some people that are just so fed up they’re just like, Carolyn, I don’t care. You’re done. I need something new. But a lot of times people just go to the ballot and they’re okay, Carolyn Bourdeaux, I know that name, incumbent, they just check the box. So you have to be able to find some of those swing voters, which I think are getting more and more narrow. If you look at the district map, since 1990, it has gone from red to just blue, blue, blue, blue. But the demographics of our county have changed and that’s just the way it is. You know, you have to be able to change with that. It was a Rich McCormick who ran last time. I don’t know if he’s even going to try to run this time because there’s not an open seat. It’s one of those things where if you’re not really appealing to some of those people that are independents, maybe swing votes, you’re just going to lose. In this district, at least. You’re going to lose.
[00:12:48] Rico: For sure. I think moderate versus extreme is probably the best place to be. So let’s talk a little bit more directly on the issues. You touched on inflation, so let’s talk a little bit about that. What that means to residents of this district. Inflation is topping over 8%. And it’s been steady. I think the last five months has shown a steady increase in inflation rate. Some people say that’s the supply chain. Some people are saying that’s the wage that’s pressuring up prices. And that it’s short term. And then some companies are saying, no, this is the new norm. We’re going to be seeing this. Not enough employment, the rate’s going to be going higher. Inflation is going to be going on. Where do you see that? And what do you see as a good way to counter that?
[00:13:33] Michael: I think a lot of the damage has been done, unfortunately. And I think it’s a perfect storm. You had COVID. And there was a relief that needed to happen, there were people out of jobs. I do volunteer at a organization here in the Norcross area and saw firsthand how many people were in the food line and needed help. And I think that relief was really needed, but you know, over time it’s kind of weaned off a little bit. But I think, as the political machine goes, that’s how you buy votes, right? Let’s continue pumping that money back into, the economy artificially. And that was just passed again. There’s a lot of that going on, with new entitlement programs and the new Build Back Better plan. Trillion dollar infrastructure plan that was passed. So I don’t see a whole, I mean, I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. If right now we’re at, 8% here in Atlanta. Workforces still stagnant in terms of, new jobs are out there, but people just aren’t taking them. And it’s, it’s in, specific sectors. Mostly the service industry. But you know, at a certain point, people have to work. If you’re just pumping money into the economy and people are spending, but not working, you’re raising the wage. When eventually people go back to work and they’re making more money. And you’ve already put more money into the, into the economy. The cost of goods are just going to go up. That’s just simple math. Personally in my corporate life, I see it firsthand. And the lack of workforce when it comes to labor, raw material there’s major shortages. 20, 30% in some material that, in at least in my industry. Telecoms, copper, fiber, all the electronic chips. We’re looking at, from what I’ve been seeing from a lot of our large distributors, two years till we get back to where we were. That’s just in industry. On top of that, just, you know, labor. The actual engineers and technicians that, were maybe not high end engineers that got furloughed are now not going back to work. Cause they’re making just as much money on assistance. A lot of that’s gone away, so that may change. It’s been kind of a perfect storm. It’s been a tough year because a lot of businesses want to get back to business, but they can’t get anything and they can’t get a workforce going. So, you know, it all kind of ties into inflation and just really making a tough, I would say, economy and workforce.
[00:15:48] Rico: Isn’t that interesting? I mean, people were furloughed or people were working remotely. And they want to still work remotely. So maybe the company wants them to come back. Maybe they don’t want to go back. I’m seeing more companies doing hybrid type jobs where it’s, you know, where, when you can. Certain jobs, you can’t. Obviously restaurants and other areas. Manufacturing, you can’t do it that way. But service jobs as far as like, IT work and marketing and graphic design work and other things can be done remotely. So I’m seeing companies doing two days in the office, three days out. I don’t know if that’s going to change anytime soon. That might. That’s affecting commercial buildings, rentals and all that. You know, people are still, I mean, you look in this area, it’s almost a hundred percent occupied, the apartment buildings. So those are doing well. People are paying their rent at this point. And unemployment subsidies has been gone for what, two months now? Three months?
[00:16:43] Michael: Yes. I think it was like end of August.
[00:16:45] Rico: So it’s been gone already. And if you look at the national statistics of what a typical household income or savings where people are only month to month, with their savings. I don’t understand how they’re paying the bills, then without that subsidy, without taking a job. And there’s plenty of jobs out there it seems. Certainly in certain sectors anyway, and even the high end, even in your sector, do you find that you’re not able to fill the jobs within your company, within your sector of the business?
[00:17:15] Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s become, you know, really just a job market for anybody seeking a job. It’s a playground, right? There’s so many jobs out there, they call it the great resignation right now. You know, there’re just people just leaving jobs because they can to get a higher salary because people are desperate to hire them. Now it’s not as dire is the service industry. And people are still working. But yeah, with the amount of jobs posted versus how to get them filled is very difficult. There’s demands. I want to work at home a hundred percent. Full-time right. When you had never even been part of the industry, it’s like, how do you get trained? You know? So there are a lot of factors that go into it. But it’s a tough time when it comes to that. I think eventually it’s going to turn back around. I just don’t know when that’s going to happen. I think, passing that spending bill is going to keep people waiting around to see, okay what’s next? What is going to be given out which is just going to prolong the cycle. And unfortunately, when it ties back into inflation, when you’re working let’s just look at 8% and in the Atlanta market, how many people’s income is going up 8%? It’s not. You’re having to cut back in some areas. You’re not able to save if you’ve got kids for college. And that 8%, year over year of it keeps going up higher, you have to make sacrifices. And you know, for middle-class Americans that may not be major sacrifices, but you’re making sacrifices for your family, in terms of being able to save for the future, do some of the things that you wanted to do. Hopefully there becomes a time where that does end, but the passing of that bill I feel may have thrown some fuel on the fire. We’ll see.
[00:18:52] Rico: Yeah. There was a lot of stuff in that bill. I mean, a lot of good stuff, I thought.
[00:18:55] Michael: Yeah.
[00:18:56] Rico: And it dealt with broadband expansion of that. Helping with EV, the EV market, the electric vehicle market, to a degree. There was a lot of good stuff in there. You know, obviously this type of bill when you’re talking a trillion dollars, which no one could get really their head wrapped around. Saying what a trillion dollars is, right? Nevermind a million dollars and how you spend that. So supply chain, jobs, inflation. What would you have done different in a bill like that? And in a trillion dollar bill, if you were able to put it together, what would you have done different there? What would you have taken out? What would you have added that may not be there?
[00:19:35] Michael: Yeah, I mean, it’s still, and I feel like it’s kind of a mystery, cause it seems like there’s a lot of Republicans, even Democrats that don’t know exactly what’s in it. There’s a lot of things that are earmarked. When it comes to things like rural broadband, I think that’s something that needs to happen. Being in the telecommunication industry, it’s very expensive. A lot of telecom companies get a lot of heat saying, why are you not building out fiber? Well, nobody really knows how much that costs to trench, dig, pull fiber past 10 houses over 50 miles. Like you’re never going to get your return on investment. So why do you think they’re not doing it? So the money’s got to come from somewhere to help those companies build out that fiber and not just take a massive loss. You know, things like that are very important. Roads, bridges. But I think when you start filling it with these other programs, and there’s probably too many to name, but there was just a lot of other government assistance type programs that are in there that are new. That we don’t know how long they’re going to run when they’ll end and what their purpose is in the long run. So I think those questions were a lot of, there just weren’t enough answers to those questions where I think anybody felt comfortable signing off on it. Obviously it ended up passing, they got enough support, but.
[00:20:53] Rico: Passing by I think 62, to something. I forget how many Republicans were on board with it as well.
[00:20:59] Michael: Yeah, I only think there was like seven, something like that in Congress that kind of flipped. It’s something that, I think it was just, without knowing all the details of it and reading it thoroughly, which, you know, would probably put you to sleep, you don’t really know the long term effects of some of the stuff that’s hidden in there. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s hidden in there. That we’ll see what those effects have. The timing is just bad. When you’ve got that kind of spending and the debt that we have and the inflation issues that we have spending that kind of money is, at this time, not a good time. We’re not in a depression. Biden tried to sell it as like The New Deal. And it’s not, right? We were coming out of, you know, a depression, were in a depression when FDR passed that. And we’re not in a depression right now, you know, we’re, we have inflation and we have enough people to work and we have enough jobs, but people aren’t working. So the need to spend that amount of money was in my mind unnecessary. There was a need to spend money, but probably not that much.
[00:21:54] Rico: And certainly they wanted more than what they got, by far.
[00:21:58] Michael: Yeah, exactly.
[00:21:59] Rico: And like you said, in a bit like this there’s always amendments. There’s always things put in that certain congressmen wants or senators wants. So it’s gets to be a bit of a pork barrel of stuff too. So that’s, I wouldn’t be surprised there are things in there that probably we would never know about. Let’s get on to immigration. There has been a crisis at the border. There’s been a crisis at the border since Trump, and even before Trump. Hasn’t gotten worse, hasn’t gotten better. I mean, ebb and flows. Sometimes I think that Biden’s immigration problem is roughly no different than what Trump had at the border also. But should we be creating, spending time to create a comprehensive immigration bill? Should people be waiting five years before they are allowed to come into this country? Should people be paying certain visas because they can put a hundred thousand dollars into a new business to be able to come to this country? Is it broken? How do we fix it?
[00:22:57] Michael: Yeah, it’s definitely broken. I think the optics just depend on who’s president, right? You had kids in cages when Trump was president, you had kids in cages when Biden was president It’s no better now. It’s no worse. It’s just how the media spins it. You know, for me, I just think that, yeah, there needs to be an easier path. Our country was built upon immigrants. I’m here from, descendants from Europe, and wouldn’t be here if immigration wasn’t. None of us would be right? Unless you’re a hundred percent Native American. So, there needs to be a way. People come here to find a better life for the most part. There are a minority of people that come here for the wrong reasons. And I think there can be taskforces, which already exist to make sure you crack down on that and narcotics, human trafficking. I think if you have more money pumped into those programs to make sure that we’re really kind of honing in on, okay, who’s coming across the border to really make a life for themselves and their family versus those that are just really trying to do the wrong things. And putting efforts around that, then we’ll see progress. But nobody wants to work together on that. It’s all about, your plan is bad, my plan’s good. Vote for me, vote for him. So, immigration is an important topic for me. A lot of that just comes back to my religious beliefs and, you know, Christ said, you should welcome widows, orphans and foreigners. And treat them with that kind of respect and to see how we treat people that come into this country, it’s disheartening. It’s emotional times to see kids, trying to get over here, families broken apart. So there’s just gotta be a better way to do it. I think there can be. But it’s always about, who’s right, who’s wrong. And how do I make the situation look worse for that guy? So I can get voted in house. Rather than actually worrying about and being an advocate for the people that are trying to come here to make a better life for themselves.
[00:24:45] Rico: Do you think DACA should be made permanent? The whole idea of DACA is to accept the immigrants that are here, which depending on who you talk to, it could be 10 million, 11 million, 15 million that are illegal. To come here illegally, but have made permanent homes here. Kids have gone to college here. They may have been here for 10, 15 years. They may have been here since they were two. All of a sudden, one administration wants to deport a two year old that was here that’s 18 years old now, to a country they know nothing about. Do you think that we should create a path for citizenship, at least for the children of those that came here illegally? Do you have any idea of what you’d like to see in that?
[00:25:26] Michael: I would like to see that and, you know, I would challenge people that are Republicans to actually get out and get exposed to people that have come here illegally and understand what they’re going through, right? And try to put yourself in their shoes. Until I really started doing that, I didn’t really understand. But you really see what they go through, the conditions they live in and how much pride they take in just being in this country. And I think if you actually gave them status as an American citizen, they would be red, white, and blue all over for the rest of their lives. The vast majority of them. There are some people that come here legally to do the wrong things. But I think that, you can’t paint with broad strokes. I think most of the people come here to make a life for themselves. Just like people did at the beginning of our country, throughout the early 19 hundreds. I mean, there’s always been waves of immigration. And when people get over here, they pound their chest, red, white, and blue. And I think that’s what does need to happen. And then moving forward, there needs to be a better way to allow people in, in a responsible and humane way, so they’re not clamoring and rushing to the border. But they know that, Hey, if you get here, there’s going to be a path and it’s not going to be ridiculous. You’re not going to have to the smuggle yourself in.
[00:26:40] Rico: So would you think that, I mean, we’re at the point where we’re an aging society. It’s an aging economy. We’re not expanding as much as we were. The white birth rate is lower than it used to be, by far. It’s actually below the level, that would be expanding the population. The expanding populations right now are Asian populations, Latino community. Within about 20, 30 years, or less maybe, we’ll be a majority, minority country. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying there is. There’s nothing wrong with that. Blended families. There’s just nothing wrong with that, but we need to maybe make the immigration process shortened. There’s no reason why someone needs to wait five years, four years, even three or two years before they get an answer, whether they can come into this country or not. Should we be putting more money towards that budget? Because right now there’s not enough people to even, you could wait 10 years before you get accepted into this country.
[00:27:42] Michael: That’s the only way to, I would say. Prevent what’s happening now. When you start to have these mad rushes, because people will say, alright well, this is my time let’s get in. And you start to see, smuggling of people and babies coming unaccompanied. And that’s a problem. It’s systemic because we don’t have a good way of getting people that want to be here legally in. And yeah, it’s, lack of funding, lack of oversight. And there needs to be work done there. Hopefully it gets that way. You know, my wife’s a teacher, she’s got a heavy Hispanic population. And the parents that she talks about there are just so invested in their kids and wanting them to have a better life. And so invested in what they’re doing and how they’re performing. And they want to be here. They want to do the right things, the vast majority of them. They just need the support. I take a little different view probably than a lot of Republicans do when it comes to that, just because of some of the things I’ve been exposed to. Just volunteering and being alongside of some of these people that I know are illegal, but are providing assistance to. Because it’s, to me, the right and the Christian thing to do is to help them out. They’re human beings. So yeah, there’s gotta be a better way. I don’t know what that way is, but it’s going to be money and it’s going to be building or fortifying organizations that already exist to make sure that there’s a path and it’s not chaos at the border.
[00:29:05] Rico: What do you think about, COVID is going on two years now, almost. When it first started in the month of February or March, when it got really bad and things shut down in lots of parts of the country, it almost felt like not the walking dead, but it almost felt like apocalyptic. The way it was going, like things had to be shut down because the contagion was spreading. And you think about these movies, Outbreak and stuff like that. But we’ve come out of it. Things have changed. Lots of things have changed. The way we work, the way we eat, how we order our food, how we talk to our employers, how we work remotely. But now we have vaccines. We have boosters. Hopefully COVID, doesn’t come back again. Hopefully there’s not another resurgence of it. But what do you see moving forward that we should be doing? Looking back in the past, we can’t change anything, but moving forward, what should we be doing?
[00:29:58] Michael: When it comes to vaccines, I mean, I got vaccinated. You know, it’s just one of those things. I was a little bit hesitant at first, I think there were a lot of people. But chose to get vaccinated. The science is showing that obviously, even if you get it you’re going to be a lot less likely to have to get serious medical attention. It’s a good thing that the vaccine is out here. It’s letting us get back to normal lives. When it first hit us, yeah it was very weird. I mean, I remember, I do a lot of running around here and just running in and around the forum. And there’s just nobody there. It just, it was like a ghost town. It was creepy. And nobody knew what was going on, and where it came from or how it happened. I think we learned a lot from it, in terms of, we were not really that well prepared for a pandemic. And I think it was well documented that there’s been, even in Obama’s administration, I think when it was SARS that was going around. And they said they dodged a bullet that there was no outbreak in the US because there was nothing, right? It would have been almost the same. So I think, moving forward, there’s gotta be a better plan. You can’t plan for every virus that’s out there, but you’ve got to have a better plan with the infrastructure. Like we didn’t have enough ventilators. We didn’t have a lot of the right advice at the beginning wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. There was just a lot of chaos and misinformation. I think, you know, if it happens again, maybe we’ll have a better plan. But I think there should be some type of group that’s going to be. Okay, here’s what happens if this type of virus gets out or this type of virus. It may not be a certain strand or whatever it is, but how did we prepare? What type of infrastructure is going to be needed? And how do we scale it? Because we didn’t know how to do that. Testing, yeah, we couldn’t test. We couldn’t, we didn’t have ventilators. We didn’t have facilities. So nobody thought about that or just nobody put enough thought into it to actually put a plan in place. So, you know, we’ve got to think about that, cause it could happen again. And another thing, I still want to know what happened. A lot of people do. I still think, China needs to be held accountable. I don’t think the US, as a global society, the world has really pressed on them hard enough. I don’t know if it was intentional. I don’t know if it was accidental. But if it was intentional, who’s to say it’s not going to happen again?
[00:32:15] Rico: But what, how would you hold them accountable? Whenever I hear that, like the draw that line in the sand thing that Obama did, and then someone steps over it and they look at you and you don’t do anything. If there are consequences, what would those consequences be? And then where would that stop?
[00:32:32] Michael: The consequences in my mind, just from an abstract view is number one, you have to start pulling away resources and money. Which is what they care about the most. And it has to be done from a coalition perspective. If the United States goes out alone, they’re just going to be, whatever. So you’re going to have to get other countries on board. And really press them, and stop trade. Stop a lot of things. poor companies out of China.
[00:32:59] Rico: How do you do that? Talk about supply chain issues. We buy, I didn’t know this until COVID happened, that 80% of the active ingredients in most of our pharmaceuticals come from China. And almost the entire supply of masks, 90% or something of those M95’s. Everyone else is wearing cloth, so am I, they’re not going to work on most viruses like that. M95 s is what you have to have. Almost all of them come from the Asian Pacific. All that we buy. Our iPhones, our iPads, our foods, even some of it comes from Asia. How could we do that? It would just go bad.
[00:33:38] Michael: It would. We have the ability. It’s, are we willing to pay more for what we’re getting today for less? That’s the whole reason why a lot of companies moved over there. A lot of productions moved over there. Even my four and seven year old daughter know that everything’s made in China. So you can’t do it overnight. I think you have to apply pressure over time. And why you’re applying that pressure over time, starting to build a contingency plan. If you don’t, the world is always going to be at the mercy of China. And let’s say this was something nefarious that they did. And they just said, Hey, let’s test this out and see what they can actually even do. I don’t know if that’s what they’re doing.
[00:34:19] Rico: Do you think really that, that would be the case? I mean, something like that it’s like Israel’s, what was it, the Stutnik virus that got into Iran’s system then went wild and went across other countries besides Iran. A virus is worse, right? Because you can’t just direct where it’s going to go. It’s going to go where it wants to go.
[00:34:39] Michael: I don’t think anybody can say with certainty that it ‘was planned or not planned, but there’s just, no, there’s no transparency in what actually happened. And they could have. I mean, they could have. And China’s such a closed off society and very secret to the point of, you say the wrong thing, you sometimes don’t get heard from again. Nobody really knows. It could have been an honest mistake, a bat bit somebody, or somebody ate some.
[00:35:04] Rico: Or it could have came out of a lab accidentally. I’m not saying it didn’t come from a lab, but accidentally I wouldn’t be surprised. Things happen.
[00:35:12] Michael: I definitely don’t believe it came from an animal because expert immunologists have said, there’s no way a virus could become that lethal that quickly in nature from animal to human transmission. So I think it was produced. Was it leaked accidentally or on purpose? I think that’s the question. If it was on purpose then yeah while, China’s definitely a pretty evil society. If, If they said, okay, we’re going to pick this one city. And let you know, those citizens probably suffer. Let some people fly out of there and spread it amongst the world and see what happens. That’s the farfetched theory that the, you know, the probably more problematic or more likely scenario is it leaked out somehow. Somebody left that lab and got infected by it. And China just doesn’t want to admit that it happened. And, yeah.
[00:36:03] Rico: I agree. That’s likely the scenario. I mean, I’ve seen CDC reports where sometimes they’ve lost virus vials that they’ve been working on. They can’t track down anymore. So it’s just how do you do that then? How does that walk out of what is a level four lab or something?
[00:36:21] Michael: But I mean, yeah the most likely scenario out of all those is, you know, in a lab accidentally got out and nobody just wants to take accountability for it.
[00:36:30] Rico: Let’s do some quick questions. COVID-19 vaccine mandates. For it? Against it? Private companies, government, your opinion?
[00:36:40] Michael: Personally, if I’m working for a company that is mandating it, then just go ahead and do it. I think it’s become such a political issue now. You have to get vaccinated to go to school. In the military, you’ve got to get something like 17 vaccines. To go overseas you’ve got to get vaccines. So I think a lot of people would just are like, I’m not going to do it because it’s my right. And I respect their right. But I also respect the right of companies to say, hey, we don’t want to have to deal with this long term. So get vaccinated or you can’t be here.
[00:37:13] Rico: Do you think that schools should do the same thing? I mean, right now, my kids have to have, your kids likely when they enter school, I have to have certain vaccines done. Do you believe schools should mandate vaccines for this?
[00:37:24] Michael: I would say if COVID is still here, let’s say in the next year, two years, not a bad idea. If it starts to wean off, then probably not. To me that’s more like the flu shot. Like we just have to live with the flu. The flu is going to be around. It used to be very deadly. Now it’s not, but my hope is that COVID, we’re always in, it’s going to be part of our lives, but it would just won’t be as effective as it has been. So I would say let’s wait that out a little bit, not rush to judgment, just because kids bodies are growing. They respond in different ways. And the studies have shown when kids get it, it’s not very bad. There’s not that many deaths like it is in older people or people that are immunocompromised. So I personally, my opinion would be, let’s give it a little bit more time. Adults, I personally have had family members that decided not to get vaccinated and then got COVID afterwards and went to the hospital. And it’s kinda like, you know why, right? Everybody was crying for a vaccine like, a year ago. Where’s this vaccine, where’s this vaccine? And then it comes out and they’re like, ah, I don’t know about that.
[00:38:29] Rico: Yeah. It’s amazing how humans can be.
[00:38:32] Michael: I say all that to say this, if somebody says, Hey, I don’t want to take it. That’s their choice. Everybody’s got free will in their life. So I’m not going to bash people for not taking it. But I also do believe that, Hey, if it’s out there and it’s proven to be helpful, then it’s not a bad idea to get it.
[00:38:48] Rico: Cool. We spent more time than we were going to, but there was a lot of good topics to talk about. So I appreciate your hanging in there with me like that.
[00:38:55] Michael: Yeah, for sure.
[00:38:56] Rico: Let me just do some quick, easy stuff. What’s your favorite food?
[00:39:00] Michael: What favorite food? Definitely pizza.
[00:39:04] Rico: Okay. You like to run, it sounds like. Do you listen to music while you’re running or podcasts?
[00:39:09] Michael: I listen to typically music, yeah.
[00:39:12] Rico: Okay. Any particular type of music or?
[00:39:16] Michael: Believe it or not, yeah. I grew up listening, to kind of like, the southern rap sort of scenes. So like OutKast and stuff like that, yeah. So I’m usually listening to that cause it’s getting me pumped up. I can’t listen to anything real slow and easy.
[00:39:31] Rico: Do you have any app games or board games that you like best?
[00:39:35] Michael: I play jeopardy on my phone all the time. Yeah. And I play kids monopoly with my daughters, so yeah, those are the two things. I don’t play video games anymore. I used to love that. High school, college, but yeah, don’t have that anymore.
[00:39:47] Rico: Which ones did you play? What was your favorite?
[00:39:49] Michael: Mostly sports games. Like a NCAA 2001 or 1999 or whatever it was back then, yeah.
[00:39:56] Rico: Oh, that’s funny. I moved here in 95, but before that, when my wife and I got married, not a sports person. So we were playing Zelda, Mario Brothers, all sorts of games like that.
[00:40:07] Michael: I love Zelda and Mario Brothers too, yeah. I was a big Nintendo guy, not Sega.
[00:40:12] Rico: Yeah, okay. There you go. That’s between that and espressos, we’d be up eight hours playing. Before kids.
[00:40:20] Michael: Yeah, yeah. Now have you always lived in Peachtree Corners?
[00:40:23] Rico: I moved down from Brooklyn, New York. And we’ve always lived in Peachtree Corners. We moved straight here in 95 and haven’t moved anywhere else since then, so.
[00:40:32] Michael: That’s fantastic.
[00:40:34] Rico: Kids grew up here. Kids went through the public school system, through the IB system, they all cried as they were going through the IB system. But the two older ones, loved it after that, because college was easy. They were the only ones that knew how to write, it seemed, in their study groups. And so they would have to take over, but the IB program and this school system here was phenomenal for them.
[00:40:57] Michael: That’s awesome, yeah.
[00:40:58] Rico: Yeah. I wish we could’ve talked about education, but we are at 50 minutes and we’re at the end of our time together. So what I’d like to ask you to do, and what I ask most candidates to do, is give us that one minute, what you would do out at the door when you knock. Why should people be voting for you and where they can find out more information about you? So ask for the vote, if you will.
[00:41:18] Michael: Yeah, you know, in some of my email campaigns, I’m not shy about that. I’ve been in sales my entire life. And I’m going to ask for the business, right? So, I ask for your vote. The biggest thing for me is that I just have a lot of pride and passion in our city, our state, and even more so locally in this community. I’ve spent my entire life here pretty much, since 1992. I was 14 years old. And I don’t plan on going anywhere. I’m not cut from the cloth of the rich or elite. My purpose to get into politics is to just make change. And, as Rico was talking about, if I can’t get it all done in the term limit that I’m there, I will try my hardest. And that’s the biggest thing. I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m doing this because I really, truly care about our country. Truly care about this district and want to make change. I don’t want to just say things and have it be hollow, empty promises. And I think a lot of people are just starting to see that and you can kind see it on their faces. You go to the polls and you have two choices and both of those choices don’t look like you. They don’t talk like you, they don’t act like you. And they’re not going to support you. Well, I will. You can find more information on me at, www.Corbin four, that’s the number four, congress.com. That’s www.corbin4congress.com. So a lot of information on there as well as @Corbin4Congress on my Twitter handle as well.
[00:42:49] Rico: Great. So we’ve been talking to Michael Corbin, congressional candidate, US house, Georgia District Seven. Running as a Republican in the Republican primary. That’ll be coming up in May of 2022, next year. Sounds like it’s far away, but it’s not. It’ll be here soon. More issues will probably develop before then that we are not even thinking about yet. So you never know what God brings to you. Doors close, doors open. So be safe out there. I appreciate Michael, you hanging in there with me and being on this podcast. Thank you. Everyone else, visit LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com and find out a little bit more about what’s going on in your community. If you have any questions for Michael, post them in the comments below. Even though this is a live simulcast stream, we’ll be able to answer back some of these questions later. So thank you for being with us. And if you listening to this on an audio podcast, please rate us and share it with your friends. Let them know where you’re hearing news about Peachtree Corners and the things that go on in the city. Thank you all.
[00:43:50] Michael: Thank you Rico for having me. Appreciate it.
[00:43:52] Rico: Thank you.
Advocating in a Different Way
Lorri Christopher will remain active in the community but wants to pave the way for the next generation of local leadership.
When it comes to Peachtree Corners City Post 5 Councilmember Lorri Christopher, her actions speak for her. Not one to raise a ruckus, her four decades as a resident of the area before it became a city had been chock full of leadership in business, education, and community service.
With all she has accomplished, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this 80-year-old woman with the stamina of the Energizer Bunny has decided she won’t be running for re-election when her term expires in 2024.
“I’m not going to stop advocating for the city,” she said. “I’ll still be Lorri Christopher. I just won’t be a city council member.”
A life filled with achievements and successes
Christopher’s bio on the Peachtree Corners website points to a career brimming with numerous titles. Here are a few:
- Principal in CAP Associates, a human resources consulting firm
- Computer Information Systems (CIS) Faculty Program and IA Director at Gwinnett Technical College
- Trustee of the Gwinnett Senior Leadership program
- Former IT Project Manager for the 1996 Olympics
- High school Math and Science teacher,
- Management Information System (MIS) Director and CIS Program Chair at Trident College
- COO of Atlanta Desktop
- Co-president of United Mortgage Company
- Marketing Director of Right Associates
- Vice President at Midland Associates
- Vice President of Finance and Management Information System (MIS) for Edwards, Inc.
- Marketing and technical leadership positions at DCA and Burroughs/Unisys, and
- Founding Director of Paces Bank & Trust.
Christopher has been well-recognized through the years. She is a recipient of the 21st Century Award from The International Alliance, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) award, and the Triumph Inspiration 21st Century Woman Award. Christopher is also a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Academy of Women Achievers.
Her accomplishments include service to the community, business, and charity organizations. Christopher served on the leadership committee for the Center for the Study of the Presidency, chaired the Gwinnett County March of Dimes, and served on the Georgia Alliance for Children Board.
She is a member of several chambers of commerce, including the Gwinnett, Hispanic, Southwest Gwinnett, and Atlanta chambers, as well as the Gwinnett Village Alliance Board. Christopher is a past officer of Fox Hill homeowners’ association and a member-volunteer for United Peachtree Corners Civic Association (UPCCA), Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA), and the Peachtree Corners Festival.
Then there’s her education. Currently a Ph.D. candidate in Information Systems at Nova Southeastern University, Christopher holds an MBA in Business and Finance from Emory University, an MBA in Global Ecommerce from Georgia State University, and a BA in Mathematics and Chemistry from the State University of New York. She has additional graduate studies in CIS at Georgia Tech and Education at Hofstra University — and she holds a number of professional certifications.
“I worked in Peachtree Corners in the 70s and 80s in the Summit Building. Our technology firm, Burroughs/Unisys, was located there where we developed financial applications for the world …we had over 400 people in that facility,” she told Peachtree Corners Magazine in a 2019 podcast. “So, I’ve seen Tech Park when it was in its heyday. I’ve seen it since, and it is so exciting with what’s happening now.”
She added that seeing the vision that she and several others had for the area during the cityhood movement more than a decade ago now coming to fruition makes the hard work worth it.
A vision that’s blossoming
Besides the business growth and economic development, Christopher said she is proud that the city has remained one of the few that doesn’t collect property taxes from its homeowners. And instead of building a city hall right off the bat, Peachtree Corners officials chose to turn the Town Center property into a place for people to gather and be together.
“We’ve worked really hard at keeping the millage zero and being fiscally responsible,” she said.
Christopher is a pioneer in her own right, blazing a path in Information Technology when women were often relegated to administrative support roles instead of heading departments.
After college, she’d gone back home to Charleston, S.C., and was offered a position as Chief Financial Officer and IT Director for a chain of stores where she’d worked as a cashier in her youth. Even back then, Christopher realized that she didn’t have to tell anyone what she could do — she just had to show them.
That’s what she hopes for the future of Peachtree Corners. She doesn’t want future leaders judged by anything more than their credentials.
It’s that kind of stewardship that Christopher said she’s looking for in her successor. She has someone in mind but insists that she’ll back anyone who has the knowledge, passion, and energy to continue the work that was begun more than a decade ago.
Christopher hopes someone will bring Peachtree Corners into its next phase with diversity and inclusion. “I’d like there to be more people who don’t look like me involved in city government,” she said. “I think it’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that we’re an inclusive city.”
Passing the baton
From the outside looking in, many people may not see the pockets of need in this seemingly affluent area.
Christopher would like the city to start receiving federal funds to pay for things like a homeless shelter. “We don’t have a plan for people that are indigent,” she said recalling a section of Spring Drive that had no streetlights for seven years. “It took too long to get lights there and that subdivision has over 200 homes,” she said.
Even though it’s impressive to gather a list of titles, Christopher stressed she does what she does because it’s the right thing to do — and she wants to see the city continue doing what’s right.
“I don’t want to be one of those people who die in office,” she said. “The City of Peachtree Corners is going to go on long, long after I’m gone. I see my decision as making room for another person.”
Photos by George Hunter
Elections and Politics
What to Know About Ballot Questions — SPLOSTs, Amendments and Referendums
Before you head to the polls to vote, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the questions you’ll face on the ballot. Peachtree Corners Councilman Eric Christ included the following information in his recent newsletter, along with his insights.
Voters may want to do some further investigation on the ballot questions.
SPLOST and other ballot questions
In addition to the Federal, State and County races on the ballot, there are also five questions for Gwinnett voters to decide. You will see these questions at the bottom on your ballot, so be sure to scroll all the way down.
Gwinnett SPLOST Renewal Referendum
Question: Shall the one percent sales tax in Gwinnett be renewed for a period of six years commencing on April 1, 2023 to raise an estimated amount of $1.35 billion to fund courthouse facility renovation, transportation (roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks and related facilities and equipment), public safety facilities and equipment, park, trail and recreational facilities and equipment, senior services facilities, animal welfare facility renovation, fleet management facility expansion, city administrative facilities and equipment, city water, sewer and utility capital improvements, etc.?
Christ explained, “If it passes, the existing 1% Gwinnett sales tax (in place since 1997) will be continued for another six years. The sales tax is charged on purchases within the county, and it is estimated that 30% to 40% of the taxes are collected from people residing outside of the county who shop in Gwinnett.
The taxes collected are split between the county and the 16 cities in Gwinnett. The City of Peachtree Corners is projected to receive $58 million over the six years and has allocated these funds as follows: 80% to Transportation (roads, streets, sidewalks, etc. and related equipment); 9% to Administrative Facilities; and 11% to other Capital Projects.”
On the other hand, if it doesn’t pass, “the county sales tax will end in March 2023 and Gwinnett County and its cities will have to make up a $225 million annual gap in revenues for each of the next six years by increasing other taxes and/or by cancelling projects,” Christ said.
Constitutional Amendment #1
Question: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to suspend the compensation of the state-wide elected officials or any member of the General Assembly while such individual is suspended from office following an indictment for a felony?
Christ said that if it passes, Georgia will become the first state to stop paying the salary of an elected official immediately upon being indicted for a felony and prior to their trial. He noted that other states only do this if the official is found guilty after a trial.
“If the Georgia elected official is found not guilty or the charges are dismissed, the suspended pay will be reimbursed,” he added. “If it doesn’t pass, the current law that stops salary payments if the official is found guilty of a felony will continue.”
Constitutional Amendment #2
Question: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so that the local governing authority can grant temporary tax relief to properties within its jurisdiction which are severely damaged or destroyed as a result of a disaster?
According to Christ, if it passes, counties, cities and school boards will be able to make temporary adjustments to property tax after a natural disaster so property owners whose property has been severely damaged or destroyed don’t have to pay some or all of the property tax.
“If it doesn’t pass, property owners will have to pay the full property tax [as valued at the start of the year] even if their property has been severely damaged or destroyed,” he said.
State Referendum A
Question: Shall the Act be approved which grants a state-wide exemption from all ad valorem taxes for certain equipment used by timber producers in the production or harvest of timber?
“If it passes, timber producers will be exempt from property (ad valorem) taxes on some of their equipment,” Christ noted. “If it doesn’t pass, timber producers will continue to pay the same taxes they do now.”
State Referendum B
Question: Shall the Act be approved which expands a state-wide exemption from ad valorem taxes for agricultural equipment and certain farm products held by certain entities to include entities comprising two or more family-owned farm entities, and which adds dairy products and unfertilized eggs of poultry as qualified farm products with respect to such exemption?
“If it passes, family-owned farms and dairy and egg farms will be exempt from property taxes on some of their equipment,” Christ said. “If it doesn’t pass family-owned farms and dairy and egg farms will continue to pay the same taxes they do now.”
A further explanation of this Referendum can be found here.
A sample ballot for Gwinnett voters can be found here.
Elections and Politics
A Conversation with Ruwa Romman on a Broad Range of Issues and Being Muslim in America
Ruwa Romman is the Democratic nominee running to represent Georgia State House District 97. During our conversation, she addresses the most pressing issues for the residents of Berkeley Lake, Duluth, Norcross, and Peachtree Corners, and growing up Muslim in the American South.
Ruwa’s Website: https://www.ruwa4georgia.com
Timestamp (Where it is in the podcast):
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:00:55] – About Ruwa and Her Background
[00:03:53] – Dealing with Bullying, Discrimination, and Rumors
[00:15:08] – Education Issues
[00:21:51] – Economic and Employment Issues
[00:27:19] – Opinions on Healthcare
[00:32:35] – Concerning Community Safety
[00:39:45] – Voter ID Laws
[00:45:30] – Combating Misinformation
[00:47:08] – Ruwa Asks for Your Vote
[00:48:16] – Closing
“We live in a digital age where anyone can write anything and send out anything that they want with little to no consequence… I would hope as constituents, as people who care about our society, that we start to more critically think about some of the things that are being sent to us. The one rule of thumb that I’ve started to implement for myself is if somebody tells me about a problem and is only scaring me about it, and they’re not offering me a solution, then they’re not going to fix it. They just want to fear monger me into a vote. And so please, think about the world around us. How much control does the person that is leveraging this issue actually have on that issue? And ask those critical questions of them.”Ruwa Romman
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
Transcript of the podcast:
[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. Thanks for joining us. I appreciate you coming out. This is one of those podcasts where I’m interviewing a candidate that’s running for office that certainly could affect us here in Peachtree Corners if they win their seat. So I want to introduce Ruwa Romman, she’s a candidate for Georgia House 97. Hey Ms. Roman, how are you?
[00:00:52] Ruwa: Hi, I’m great. Thank you. And thanks for having me. How are you?
[00:00:55] Rico: Good. It’s a beautiful day today. Now this may be streaming on another day, but it’s a really nice, sunny day. A little cold, and I think we hit that frost in the morning at about 30, 31 degrees. But before we get into Ruwa Romman’s campaign and who she is and stuff, let’s just say thank you to our sponsor. Corporate sponsor who supports journalism like this, podcasts and our magazines. And that’s EV Remodeling Inc. And Eli, who’s a resident here in Peachtree Corners, it’s a business based in Peachtree Corners. They do a lot of remodeling. If you’re familiar with Houzz, H-O-U-Z-Z.com, that’s a place where you could go online and find out all the latest types of remodeling that’s going on. He’s part of that. You could check his reviews there. He does a great job here, great corporate citizen and great community citizen as well. So check out EVRemodelingInc.com. Now that we’ve gone through that, and of course, Peachtree Corners Magazine and Southwest Gwinnett Magazine supports this endeavor as well. So Ruwa Romman, you’re a Democratic nominee looking to represent this district. In fact, District 97 takes up Berkeley Lake, Duluth, Norcross, and Peachtree Corners here in Gwinnett County. And if you’re elected, you’d be the first Muslim woman in this Georgia State House as well. Tell us a little bit about you. I know you were raised here in the district practically, I think, right?
[00:02:19] Ruwa: Yeah, so I was originally born in Jordan and my family and I moved to Georgia when I was about seven, eight years old. And my family established a business actually right here in Gwinnett about 25 years ago shortly after that. But that meant that we were trying to settle in, trying to figure out where we wanted to live. So I moved around a lot. We lived in Fulton, Forsyth. I was a public school kid, so it was sort of one of the few constants in my life. I’ve essentially lived a majority of my life in Georgia. Went to DC for three years to get my Master’s in Public Policy and came right back.
[00:02:51] Rico: And you went to Georgetown University, I think, right?
[00:02:54] Ruwa: Yes, I did.
[00:02:55] Rico: Cool. Your background and your studies are in what field?
[00:02:58] Ruwa: It’s sort of, I look back on my journey and it’s very interesting because I feel like it builds an arc almost, of everything connecting together. So after I graduated from high school, I went to Oglethorpe University, which is literally down the street from me. Like if I take a left outta my neighborhood and keep going straight, I’m at the university. That’s where I met my husband. I worked for several civil rights organizations and nonprofits. So I worked for Points of Light, which was an organization started by Bush Senior to increase civic engagement. I worked for CAIR Georgia, which is a Muslim civil rights group. And I worked for the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, which was established to increase civic engagement particularly in the Muslim community, but within immigrant communities as a whole. And then I went to grad school, got my Master’s. And then I worked for a professional management company, which I don’t say the name just because I’m running for office and out of respect for them and the corporation. But yeah, I’m currently working full time for them.
[00:03:53] Rico: Okay, neat. Going through the public school systems, I gotta ask. Because certainly, I’m first generation American in my family. I was born here, in Brooklyn, New York I was born. My parents came from Italy. They’re immigrants. Typical immigrant story, right? Four kids in my family, we all grew up, we’re all over the country. I mean, one’s in Canada even now. But you know, growing up with language and stuff like that on my end, should have been easy because I was born in the States. Because my family spoke Italian in the household when I grew up young, I was speaking Italian and English. Almost a brooklynese, if you will. Yeah, it was sad. They had to bring my mother in to say, he needs to learn English and stop speaking Italian to some degree, you know? So being Italian in New York is a lot different. Being Muslim in Georgia is probably a lot different also. So how did that affect your life growing up? How does that affect your life now?
[00:04:47] Ruwa: Yeah, so I’m actually the oldest of four. So it’s really interesting that we both had the same number of siblings. Yeah, I’m the oldest of four. I’ve got two brothers and a sister. And moving around a lot meant that I was exposed to different types of community. My mom tried really hard to make sure that we knew our culture. And a lot like you, we didn’t speak English at home. I had younger siblings and my mom felt that it would be unfair that they wouldn’t be able to learn. We spoke Arabic at home, so she felt it would be unfair if they didn’t know Arabic. So she would pretend not to understand us, the whole nine yards. And she taught us to read and write. So I’m, because of her, I’m actually fluent in both English and Arabic. But then the biggest shift for me, I was kind of oblivious to people’s reaction to me. I started wearing a headscarf when I was really young because I really wanted to. My parents were actually really concerned for my safety. They were like, please don’t like, just wait until you’re a little bit older. And I was a stubborn child, for lack of a better way to describe myself. And I said, well my parents said, don’t do this, so now I’m going to do this. So I was in middle school and I started wearing my head scarf. And a couple years after that we moved to Forsyth County Georgia. And Forsyth County, at least where I lived, was very different at the time. I think a lot of people like to paint the south with a broad brush, but that wasn’t, it was a little more complicated than that. I was stereotypically, I was one of three non-white kids in my entire eighth grade class. Which meant that, you know, people have stereotypes about Muslims. They would call me a terrorist. They would point out my house as the bomb lab.
[00:06:16] Rico: Oh my God.
[00:06:17] Ruwa: But simultaneously, yeah, it was not fun. And the first black kid I ever met in Forsyth County was sophomore year of high school. It’s very different now. My sister goes to the same high school that I go to and her experience is night and day from mine. But it really taught me a couple of things. One, it taught me that not everybody is militantly hateful. Some people just don’t know any better. And if you give them a chance and you talk to them, you’d be surprised at how open and understanding they can be. Obviously that wasn’t fair for a child to have to deal with, but it really did teach me how to talk to people very different than me and who don’t agree with me on anything. And the second thing that it taught me was the importance of knowing who you are and just really living within your identity. Because I don’t think that I could have gotten through all of that sort of bullying and that experience growing up had I not been comfortable in my own skin. And I was very lucky as a kid to have a support system around me that let that happen. When I say my teachers saved my life, this is exactly what I’m talking about. They were some of the first people to step in when students were being too much. But they did it in a way that didn’t increase the harm. Instead they used it as a learning opportunity, a teaching opportunity for me and my fellow students of, how can we do this better? Why is this not okay? And truly it’s because of them that I had gotten through that part of my life.
[00:07:35] Rico: You’re fortunate. I mean, I believe the school system has a lot of great teachers, but sometimes not. And so I think you were fortunate then, that that was the case. And I can see that. I mean, I see it unfortunately in adults that speak about Muslim experience and stuff. And they know nothing about the Muslim experience. Not that I know enough, but I’m, I feel educated a little bit, at least on it. And from coming from an immigrant background and seeing what my parents had to face also. And sometimes what I faced even. And people look at me and say like, you’re white, what’s the difference? No, no. You know, Rico Figliolini, italian, people remember the Sopranos from HBO? And I’m like, no, we’re not all monsters. You know, and so, there’s a bit of that sometimes.
[00:08:22] Ruwa: Exactly. And I do wanna say my primary election, I think was the kind of election that I wanted to have. Where it was very much on the who’s gonna work really hard? What are the policies that matter to the people the most? And we really ran on our merits. I felt like JT and I really ran a good campaign where it stayed clean and we were able to go back to that ideal of what politics should be. Unfortunately, this time around, that’s not what’s happening. So we found out this weekend that people in my district received a mailer saying I have ties to terrorism. And the way I explain it to people is that, it’s shocking and upsetting and we have to absolutely respond to it. But at the same time, it’s one of those things where, unfortunately, my threshold is so high. That it was just like an extra to-do list on my list to deal with, right? And to explain why we had to deal with it. When I worked for CAIR Georgia, CAIR Georgia is a Muslim civil rights organization.
[00:09:18] Rico: And that’s spelled C-A-I-R. Wasn’t that?
[00:09:21] Ruwa: Yes, C-A-I-R. Yes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations. I helped start the Georgia chapter. The Georgia chapter didn’t exist. I mean, it was kind of there as like a board, but we weren’t offering any services. And I had just graduated college like two years earlier, and this was at the time when then candidate Trump was like, we need to shut down all Muslim immigration. And then a year later signed the first iteration of the Muslim ban. So we weren’t sleeping. Like, that’s not an exaggeration. There were people who were stuck at airports whose entire lives were upended. And my team and I, brand new team, just started out this organization were like in airports translating. There was a grandfather that was trying to, he visited the states multiple times from Syria. Like this wasn’t his first time visiting, but this one time he actually did need to be here because he needed life saving cancer treatment that his family was completely paying for. And he was banned. It delayed his treatment, and it really, really jeopardized his life. So when people say that she’s got ties to terrorism because of that, it shows some pretty intense ignorance. Because not only has CAIR been investigated because of these conspiracy theories, we actually had anti-Muslim groups infiltrate the organization and put people on our payroll who were eventually outed like 13 years later because we were so boring and they couldn’t find anything on us. Like it was your typical like non-profit drama office stuff and whatever. But it wasn’t what, It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t what they were looking for. And so they actually outed the guy earlier this year. Because they’re like, we’re not getting anything juicy off of them. This is useless. So, but again, I do want to go back to the point about why we responded to it. It’s because one, network is really important, good work. And two, my life was put in danger. We didn’t have an office. And so at the time it was pretty easy to find where I lived and who I was. And I was targeted by an armed militia. We all were. We were put on like multiple hit lists.
[00:11:12] Rico: Is that something that was reported to the authorities?
[00:11:15] Ruwa: Yes. Yeah.
[00:11:16] Rico: How did you know you were on multiple hit lists?
[00:11:19] Ruwa: So we had a GBI agent. Each of us was assigned a GBI, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent who anytime we received a threatening phone call or voicemail or whatever the case may be, we had to submit it to them. So each of us basically had a file of just threats that were accumulating over that year, year and a half.
[00:11:38] Rico: And how long ago was that? Or is that recent?
[00:11:41] Ruwa: So it was 2015 and it continued until I went to my graduate program, or maybe 2016. 2016 until I went to my graduate program. Even when I went to DC I was still getting the phone calls until about 2018. So it was about two years of just constant, you know, my social media was always full of comments. My emails were always full of comments. Our inbox was always full of comments. Which is again, quite unfortunate because, like every organization we were dealing with having to provide services for the people that needed them. We were dealing with your typical office stuff of like how to properly set up as an organization, what strategy works best, all of those typical things. And on top of that, I’d call my GBI agent and be like, hey, I just got another one. Here you go, so.
[00:12:21] Rico: Wow. Now just to let people know, I mean, obviously when I interviewed John Chan, your opponent in this race for the 97. Because there’s no incumbent for this seat. This seat is a brand new seat.
[00:12:34] Ruwa: Yeah, it was actually mostly Beth Moore’s old district and then partly Bonnie Rich’s old district. So yeah.
[00:12:39] Rico: So it’s brand new. So John Chan was a guest, for those that haven’t seen the episode, you should probably look at it. Running also for the seat. And towards the tail end of that interview, he mentioned that you were part of CAIR Georgia, which is recognized, according to him as a terrorist organization. I think it was by Syria? By some foreign country. I forget which country.
[00:13:01] Ruwa: Yeah, he said the UAE designated us.
[00:13:03] Rico: The UAE. That was it. Sorry. That was it.
[00:13:05] Ruwa: No, no no, you’re good. He said the UAE designated us as a terrorist organization. Which the last time I checked, we live in the US. The UAE is not a civil rights friendly country.
[00:13:16] Rico: No, by far.
[00:13:17] Ruwa: So it’s not surprising that they would want to designate a civil rights organization as a terrorist organization.
[00:13:23] Rico: In fact, before this interview I went online. Anyone can go online and go search. I did not find anything disparaging about CAIR Georgia on there or the organization.
[00:13:33] Ruwa: What you’ll find, by the way I really care about internet literacy and mis- and disinformation. There are literal think tanks whose entire, for a while it was like a 300 million industry to increase fear about Muslims in America. And they literally would fundraise off of, let’s find the terrorists among us. And we’d see these, like, it was truly like that’s how they would fundraise. And they went after everyone. I mean, they went after CAIR Georgia. They went after an organization called Islamic Relief whose literally only job is to feed and house poor people. That’s truly all that they do. And I think there was a comment on the last podcast that was like, I can link to everything that John Chan mentioned today. And so I went to look at the organization that she cited. And the first thing about it that you read is that it’s an anti-Muslim think tank. And I lived in DC, I know these think tanks. I know how they operate. I know how they’re structured. We know how this stuff works. But unfortunately for a typical person who’s reading, they don’t know that, right? They never walked down K Street. They never saw like what these buildings look like or who these people are that there’s people sitting behind their computer.
[00:14:34] Rico: Right and there’s no transparency about who funds them and such. Which is, which is a bad thing because anyone can be funding anything secretly through third party corporations into a pack or a think tank even. Alright, good. So, I just wanted to make sure we got that out of the way.
[00:14:50] Ruwa: I appreciate it. No, you’re good. Thanks.
[00:14:52] Rico: Cool. So now let’s get onto some real issues. I think, that will matter as far as if someone wants to vote for either one of you, so this way they can see where you guys sit.
[00:15:01] Ruwa: Also this detracts from the issues. We have so much happening in our communities and I’m like, we don’t have time for this. But anyway, I digress.
[00:15:08] Rico: Yes, just it’s the economy stupid. So anyway, let’s start with education. Let’s go there first, okay. So I know that education is on your website, one of the first items someone will look at and see. And you talk about teachers, you talk about reinvestment in schools and stuff. So tell us a little bit, because this is of the biggest budget in education, that’s 50% of Georgia’s budget according to your website. And I know we rank, everyone knows and we hear the stories that we rank 38 at the bottom, maybe even lower depending on how you actually look at that statistic. So tell us a little bit about what your campaign would like to see and how in practical purposes, what you would specifically suggest.
[00:15:53] Ruwa: Yeah, I firmly believe that teachers are the cornerstone to our education system. I think technologies come and go, I think teaching methodologies evolve over time. But the ones that stay, the ones that are in that building the longest are truly our teachers. And that’s why I really do stress paying them better, because we really don’t pay them well. And one of my favorite things that I learned recently is that Georgia has a multi-billion dollar budget where we could give teachers an $11,000 raise tomorrow and not raise a single cent in taxes. $11,000. It wouldn’t be a one time bonus like Governor Kemp did, it would be a consistent raise that would stay over time. And that’s truly one of the first things because we’re losing teachers at a rate that is just astonishing. I know some teachers that are actively applying to my company. We’ve seen an influx of teachers that want to just get out of the profession completely and not just go to a different school. Which tells us that it’s not like a particularly bad administrator or administration. It’s the profession itself. But if you invest in teachers and you invest in that pipeline, that means a couple of things will happen. One, you’re able to retain teachers better. Two, you’re able to then recruit more teachers to decrease classroom sizes. And three, the students now get more attention from their teachers. But also the reason I’m so stuck on public schools isn’t just because of my personal experience, but also what that personal experience looked like. A good chunk of my public education was in Forsyth County. I had access to five different magnet programs. One of them, and not all of them were like STEM and STEAM and stuff like that. One of them was a culinary program. One of them was a robotics program. One of them was a career based program. And it was all within a public school system that every child had access to, regardless of their income level. And that’s what I want for students. It’s not that I’m saying one size fits all and let’s just throw money at the problem and it’ll go away. What I’m saying is that if you invest in your people, they are and can be very innovative and can give students the kind of opportunities that I had. Which was truly an incredible education.
[00:17:51] Rico: Peachtree Corners itself, and Norcross, and the parts that you’ll represent if you were elected. I mean, we have good schools here, right? To a degree. It varies, obviously, depending. Peachtree Elementary, Norcross Elementary, you have, although you also have the IB program at Norcross, you have Paul Duke’s STEM, High school. Which is not a testing school, you don’t have to test to get into that school. So it’s a school that you can attend and get into STEAM. And also allows, in that particular case, kids to learn like 3D printing, coding, actually graduate or possibly get a job right out without going to college. So paying more. I know, you know, listen, Kemp has done the refunds, the state refunds to families and stuff. Which is a good thing. But you know, everyone can debate on where to put that money. And education certainly would be at, I know that Gwinnett County has empty slots and they can’t fill it. I mean, probably because they can’t get enough applicants actually into it. Yes, more pay would be helpful. But what else do you think should be done there?
[00:18:56] Ruwa: Yeah, so I love when people ask me what else, because a lot of things I’ve talked about are multi-prong approaches. So you also have to look at the sort of teacher pipeline as a whole. In order to become a teacher you have to become certified. There are a lot of hurdles to becoming fully certified. Some of it financial, some of it just a support system for people as they’re going through their education. And there are grant and student loan forgiveness programs for teachers that I think if we were able to reduce the timeline of those for people to see that payback of it a lot faster, we would see a lot more people entering this profession. Versus now where I get the student loan forgiveness program is there, but it’s 10 years. And when you’re a kid who decided to become a teacher and you’re constantly paying this loan, even though it is adjusted for your income, it’s still an extra expense. What if we did a five year loan forgiveness? Because then that teacher pay isn’t as intense for them to feel, especially in a rising, where everything is rising in cost would be really great. Additionally, is there a way to have people working maybe under a mentorship program or something so that the certification requirements are adequate enough that they are able to be good teachers, but they’re not cumbersome? Like are we asking for too much based on the level that a teacher is teaching? How much certification do they actually need? What are these schools offering, especially some of our public universities within their education? Are there classes that they’re taking that they don’t have to be taking? They can save time and money on and get them into the classrooms more. But it really does come down to respect. I think that the other piece of this, so money, the pipeline itself of educating our teachers. But then also how we treat our teachers. I had mentioned this during the Peachtree Corners debate. I have watched the disrespect, and the harassment, and the threatening of teachers that has increased over the past year, year and a half, maybe two. We need to stop that. Period. It is a cultural shift that needs to happen. We need to actively call it out and support our teachers, and it needs to come from our state legislatures.
[00:20:54] Rico: Okay. Are you seeing that mainly from parents? Or parents and kids?
[00:20:59] Ruwa: It’s sort of one of those things where, and I want to be clear, most parents are awesome. The parents I’m seeing are very supportive of teachers, but there’s a very small but vocal minority that is doxing teachers, that is calling for surveilling teachers. And of course that’s going to permeate to their students, right? If you’re a kid and your parent is constantly talking badly about your teacher, you’re more likely to disrespect your teacher in the classroom. You’re more likely to misbehave in the classroom. You’re less likely to listen to your teacher, whether as an authority figure or as someone to teach you. And so we need to change this culture that we have as politicals. As a whole, by the way, across the board. Of talking to teachers more, respecting them more, and treating them like the professionals that they are.
[00:21:42] Rico: Cool. Yeah, I agree with you on most of those points. It’s a tough profession. I can’t see being one of them. I don’t, I wouldn’t have the patience for it.
[00:21:50] Ruwa: Me neither.
[00:21:51] Rico: That’s a tough thing. Economic opportunity. We have a tremendous amount of inflation right now. Interest rates have gone higher, gas is going a little higher. I mean, that’s a fluctuating thing. And unemployment is low. And it’s ridiculously low and to the point where, businesses, like where was I just now? I went to a local gas station that’s fairly new and they just opened and I went to gas up, gassed up. I went to go into the convenience part, which is brand new, beautiful looking. Couldn’t go in. There was no staff.
[00:22:23] Ruwa: Yeah.
[00:22:24] Rico: They just couldn’t hire anyone, I guess. I mean, it’s just crazy. So how can we deal, how can a state, at the state level. I mean, we’re feeling that in Norcross. I constantly, when I go to Dunkin Donuts, they don’t have enough employees. When I go to Town Center and I see a sign in the window that literally says $15 an hour, where they would never put out that sign. How can the state help local cities combat that and other issues?
[00:22:52] Ruwa: So again, with my multi-prong approaches, and sorry for my dog, she’s excited.
[00:22:56] Rico: No, you’re good.
[00:22:57] Ruwa: We need to talk about the facts first and foremost. The fact is that a million people died of Covid and millions more are disabled because of complications from Covid. The reason I know that is because I’m experiencing long-term Covid symptoms. None of my blood levels are normal, every time I go to the doctor’s office, like something new. So it’s real and it’s impacting people. And a lot of the jobs that you mentioned, are very strenuous jobs. On my campaign, we’re offering $17.50 an hour to canvas. We’re actually working to up that to 20 for the last couple of weeks hoping to get like a grant for it. But even still, that is not enough for a lot of people. And I don’t think any of us expected this kind of lower unemployment rate because we thought, oh, the economy is struggling, so therefore X, Y, and Z. But it’s also important to recognize that a lot of these local stores. Some of them are corporations of course, but a lot of these mom and pop stores are competing with large corporations. These large corporations can offer healthcare. They can offer benefits in a way that a small business cannot afford. And in a place like Georgia, and again, I’ve lived in DC, it’s uniquely bad and expensive on healthcare. So if a mom and pop shop wants to compete with a company to hire people, it just simply can’t afford to because healthcare is so expensive. And we’re leaving billions of dollars on the table in Medicaid that you and I paid for in our taxes, that could really help ease that burden and bring down some of those private insurance costs that we’re seeing. And that’s one way that we can help mom and pop shops compete because then they can offer a benefit they can afford to then bring back some of those people from the private corporations. But we also need to think a little bit more long term about, again, our students, our education system, our future generations, so that they are equipped to enter the workforce. Maybe even faster, but making sure they can have a living wage if they do leave school early, because that’s the unfortunate part. If you have a high level of education, you tend to be paid very high. So we also need to fix that disconnect of, we want more people in the labor force, but we also want them to be able to afford to live. And so how can we, like you said, those apprenticeship programs. You know, my sister currently, which I didn’t do in high school, but I think it’s really cool. Two of her days in high school now are working at a clinic. She gets an opportunity to get real world experience as a high schooler before she even graduates. So there are ways that we can think about this creatively, but we also, again, for me, it’s all about the safeguards, right? Like making sure that kids aren’t being exploited, that they’re getting these opportunities, and that we’re fixing this labor problem at the same time. By sort of having people, or at least mom and pop shops, be a little more competitive, increasing the labor market. Because a lot of people are about to retire and I don’t think we’re ready for that.
[00:25:31] Rico: Right. I think people retired during Covid even. Because they found that this is the perfect time, let’s just get out of it. And I appreciate the apprenticeship program idea because I see that in Europe. I see companies now beginning to, large companies like Bosch and some other companies, beginning to talk about that. Because not every kid can go to college. Not every kid wants to go to college. Not every kid can strive through four years of college and then come out. I mean, I’ve seen kids come out with a degree and then not do the work in that degree. I mean, so what’s the point? If you could come out of a school within, through an apprenticeship program and making 70, 80,000 possibly even. Like HVAC or electrician or plumber. There are definitely jobs like that. And they can’t get enough people, it seems. So do you see the state being able to step in to some degree to help with those types of apprenticeship programs?
[00:26:24] Ruwa: Yeah, the state, there were a few pilot programs that started as early, that I know of in 2015. The problem with the pilot programs was we didn’t put proper safeguards in place so that students were being pushed to leave the apprenticeship program early, and then they were stuck in a lower income bracket because the company that they were on offered them like $12 an hour, which to them was a lot of money. And then they grew up and they wanted to buy a house and wanted to start a family and realized, oh shoot, I can’t live on my high school pay anymore. And so we need to make sure that if a company wants to take advantage of those apprenticeship programs that they commit to allowing students to finish their degree in full before they pull them out. Because you know, apprenticeship programs come with certificates and degrees and stuff that you can then take with you to other companies and be able to shop around for a job. And so that’s a very important piece that I don’t think we have fully invested in. Because it, a lot of people were like, oh, this might not be great for my child.
[00:27:19] Rico: Yeah. I agree with you. There’s different problems in different states, right? New York State has a lot of unions, which is not a bad thing, but can be a bad thing. So it can be a detriment or an impediment, depending on how you look at it. And it can be good. Georgia doesn’t, right? Georgia is a right to work state or work at will state, depending on how you technically want to call it. So I agree with you. I believe in free market, but you have to make sure there’s oversight because people will take advantage. Totally. Healthcare, you mentioned that before about affordable and accessible healthcare. So the state of Georgia is not part of accepting the expanded Medicare system. I mean, I can understand part of that reasoning, even though the federal government will pay for 90% of that cost, at least for the first few years or first two years. And then after that, the state will have to pick that up. We can’t pay for everything. We can’t do $11,000 increase in pay for teachers and then do this and that. So how do we handle healthcare?
[00:28:19] Ruwa: Yeah, so the interesting thing about our current surplus is that the immor, amortization, I can never say that word. But the rate on it actually would replenish the fund even as we use it. The thing is we have a real opportunity in Georgia right now. These surplus funds came mostly from ARPA funds and other pieces of legislation that President Biden had signed into law recently. So we have a windfall and a real opportunity to invest in our people. And no one is saying that we can pay for everything tomorrow. But the idea is that if we have this opportunity, we’re able to make these investments now for a better future without raising taxes and that are sustainable and long term. Why wouldn’t you? And that has been my question over and over and over again is, this is a moment where we can really fix a lot of these problems we’ve been having in Georgia. I would say that have gotten worse since 2008. But our rainy day fund is fully funded. All of our budget items are fully funded and we still have this surplus. So on the issue, and again, this is something that I think a lot of people, I appreciate and understand that we do live in sort of a capitalist society and a free market system. But healthcare is not something that can be controlled by the free market because it’s an inelastic good. If I had diabetes, I can’t just decide not to purchase insulin because it’s too expensive. That’s not an option for me because I will die. It is that simple. And so when we treat healthcare as a typical market good, we end up with a lot of market inefficiencies. I do understand economics because I spent a good chunk of my public policy learning economics which I think a lot of people think, oh, she’s just a kid and she’s idealistic, and oh, she’s very cute. But no, I know the principles I’m talking about. I just don’t share the values of people should die because they couldn’t afford insulin. Which by the way, Medicaid is just one solution, right? Again, I like to talk about multi-pronged approaches. Georgia’s also bad on public health. We don’t teach our people when to go to the emergency room versus their primary care doctor versus an urgent care. And that causes a lot of strain on our hospitals that is exacerbating the closures. So if somebody needs insulin, they’re probably better off going to an urgent care clinic than they are going to an emergency room. But you know what would be even better is if we could give them insulin, right? If we could give them an inhaler for their asthma so they’re not ending up costing thousands of dollars instead of whatever the cost of the medication is.
[00:30:36] Rico: Absolutely. But hospitals have to accept, there are people without insurance, right? I forget what the number here is in the state of Georgia. So you can’t go to an urgent care, likely, or a doctor maybe, because you feel you’d have to pay there for sure. Whereas a hospital has to take you. Although depending on which hospital you go to, they may also shift you out.
[00:30:56] Ruwa: Right, right.
[00:30:57] Rico: And they’re not allowed to. But the people that don’t know that, don’t know that.
[00:31:01] Ruwa: Oh, of course. But we’re talking about tears of people, right? Like if the people who have insurance instead of going the emergency room all the time, they went to these other doctors, then that’s one less critical in the emergency room, so on and so forth. But then again, if you have a public healthcare option that people have access to, then they don’t even go to the emergency room at all because they have access to insulin. And if we’re gonna really have a serious conversation about the market, having a public health option that is competitive in the market forces health insurance companies to stop price gouging. Because again, we don’t really have a choice in, we have the illusion of choice in health insurance, but they’ve all consolidated into like two or three companies I think now. I mean they’ve got like subsidiaries, but that’s not choice to me. They’re literally running a muck with the market and doing whatever they want to do, and no one is stopping them.
[00:31:48] Rico: Agreed, agreed. I know someone that’s going for a diagnostic mammogram, I think it’s called. A screening mammogram, actually. There’s different levels of that, right? So I saw the sheet and there’s no pricing on it. There’s no price transparency. The interesting part that we know how much it costs, it actually costs less going and paying in cash out of pocket then if you went with your insurance in hand. I’m like, now why is that? Why does it cost less for me to pay out of pocket let’s say, versus going through the insurance. And then you see when they send you the explanation of benefits, it’s like a horrendous amount. It’s like, but that’s not your bill. But it is your bill because in a way, you’re gonna end up paying it.
[00:32:30] Ruwa: Right. Why did a bandaid cost me? What was it? $200 the other day kinda thing.
[00:32:35] Rico: It’s ridiculous. Let’s go on to, let’s try crime and safety. So public safety, community safety, that’s the new phraseology used. Community safety because that’s just about the public, I guess. It’s about how we keep our community safe. So here in Peachtree Corners, I mean, there are things that happen. Shootings at extended stay hotels and other places. And there was a shooting at the QT not too long ago, if you may remember that. Three perpetrators tried to do a carjacking. The kid, 29 year old that used to coach, I think at Norcross High School, didn’t want his car jacked. And it was on Peachtree Parkway, really busy intersection. And I think for a lot of people, a wake up call to, like, it’s not just other places. It happened here. Now those three were found within a month, I think. All three of them were arrested and I guess they’re going to be fully prosecuted, supposedly. We’ll find when that goes. But part of it was technology was being used. Fūsus is a Peachtree Corners company that does crime center in the cloud, computations and uses algorithms and video cameras and such. They’re one of many companies, right? They’re based here. Those three were found because of some of these efforts. Using technology to track people to be able to find them. I know there was a point of people wanting to defund the police. Do they need an armed vehicle carrier to bring the people in? I don’t know. But how should the state work with local cities to make sure that technology can be used? Because it’s effective. And to be able to look at how the police operate. Also, in a social environment where maybe police aren’t needed and maybe a social worker is needed, or a social professional is needed, maybe even in concert with a police officer. Because I wouldn’t want to send somebody out to a domestics disturbance by themselves without a police officer. Because those things can turn deadly. So how would, Romman handle this as a State House Rep?
[00:34:40] Ruwa: I do want, there’s a couple things I want to say here about this conversation and then I want to talk about my solutions. One of the things that has been very upsetting to me around conversation about public safety and crime is it has almost felt like some people have been giddy that that shooting happened. Because then they can go, oh my god, crime Democrats and defund the police. Somebody died that day. And the lack of sensitivity around that conversation, frankly, has been very upsetting to me. It’s also important to note, like you said, that the perpetrators were apprehended pretty quickly. And that’s due to investment by our county commissioners, who are all Democrats, by the way. None of them are defunding the police. That are supporting law enforcement in a way that does increase public safety. So I’m really glad you mentioned it that way because while it is scary and terrifying, I mean, I’ve always gone to that QT. The Forum mall is like one of the first malls I ever went to as a kid, right? You hang out with your friends, you’re supposed to be in a safe space. But we need to look at public safety holistically from a prevention and a response perspective, like you said. So a lot of these extended stays, what can we do to make sure that people have affordable housing? Including first responders, by the way. A lot of first responders can’t afford to live where they’re serving. That’s not good for public safety and doesn’t increase trust. The second piece of it, like you said, is mental health and social workers that are useful, that do have to be escorted by police officers. Like I said, my husband’s a part-time first responder, and if it’s a shooting scene, police always go and clear the scene before they’re able to support anyone that’s been hurt. So that’s like a, again, a holistic approach. At the same time, we have to make sure that the public, we are focused on community and public safety in a way that doesn’t increase harm. And what I mean by that is you mentioned the technology, you mentioned how there are these really awesome and cool tools that we have in our back pocket that we can apprehend criminals. We also need to make sure that our privacy is continued to be protected. And this is coming from me as a woman, right? If I go to my OB-GYN tomorrow and that OB-GYN happens to also provide abortion as a service, do I then become a suspect for the state based on our new laws? Even if I’m not pregnant, even if I’m not whatever. How can we make sure that those safeguards are in place so that we can adequately respond to crimes? While making sure that completely innocent law abiding citizens aren’t ensnared in that system of suspicion that only the wealthy are able to get out of quickly and be able to overcome. The other piece, and I know I was attacked on this recently, I think. I’m not really sure. On cash bail was, our prisons and jails are overflowing. Especially our jails. And it’s because nonviolent offenders can’t afford to pay their bail even if they didn’t. This is only people who’ve been charged of a crime. They haven’t been convicted of a crime. And I had a friend the other day tell me they work for like an ankle monitoring business company type thing. They said that they had to put an ankle monitor on a murder suspect because they didn’t have space in jail to hold that person. And they know for a fact that the people in that jail are nonviolent criminals. That they could be let out with those ankle monitors instead, but they just can’t afford it. And so when you put money and tie it that closely to freedom, it doesn’t make any of us safer. In fact, it’s actually putting a lot of us more in danger. So going back to that holistic approach, I was talking about. It’s, support our first responders better, and I think I would add social workers to that term as well. Increase their certification along with that increase in pay so that there aren’t any bad actors in that type of workforce and field. And two, how do we support these new technological innovations while protecting innocent, average everyday citizens? And three you know, educate the public on how to be a part of that community safety approach of how do we care for one another? How do we look out for one another? I think is sometimes something that we don’t always talk about.
[00:38:20] Rico: Yeah, true. I think that depending on the community and outreach, you find a lot of that from the faith institutions reaching out, providing services, jobs, how to find a job. To people that may not know how to find a job. So there’s a lot of that going on in certain communities, there’s more than in other communities sometimes. I agree with you on the privacy. I think technology is moving faster than legislation can catch up with and right? And unfortunately there are legislators that are older than me out there that don’t even understand the technology and what the privacy issues. It’s a very complicated, right? It’s very complicated. There’s a lot of gray areas. I know the idea of cashless bail, people are like, no, no, that’s bad. And you get a TikTok video of someone that you know, smashed someone to the ground, and now they have a brain injury and it’s a misdemeanor, and why are they on bail or cashless bail? Well, that’s just bad judgment call. Some of it has to just be like, the judge has to realize there has to be some latitude in what’s done, right? Everyone picks the extreme of a problem.
[00:39:29] Ruwa: Exactly.
[00:39:30] Rico: And say that’s the problem. So yeah, I get what you’re saying. And I like the fact that multi-prong is important because it’s not a black and white thing.
[00:39:38] Ruwa: I’m a nerd like that, yeah. I tend to geek out on policy because I’m like, you’ve gotta address the whole thing not just bits and pieces of it.
[00:39:45] Rico: Yeah, yeah. No, I agree. I love talking shop. So let’s go to voting rights because that’s a big thing for me too. Because sometimes when I have to pay by check, I have to show an ID.
[00:39:56] Ruwa: Sure.
[00:39:56] Rico: When I go pick up drugs, I have to show an ID. There’s some things I have to show an ID for. And I fervently believe, when I go to vote, I should show my ID. That makes sense. Now what that ID is can be you know, it’s a government ID or your driver’s license or something like that. But I believe that if we’re gonna enforce that, then we should actually make it as easy as possible for these people to get their IDs.
[00:40:22] Ruwa: Right.
[00:40:22] Rico: If that means you know, drop it off by Door Dash or something then that’s good. You know, it’s alright. You know, because as long as you do the initial thing and you have a picture and you have a fingerprint and you say you’re IDed. You’re good to go, right?
[00:40:37] Ruwa: Yeah.
[00:40:37] Rico: So what do you, how do you feel about that?
[00:40:39] Ruwa: Yeah, so full disclosure on this, I actually did, my master’s was on voter ID laws and voting in general. And I looked at every single county in the 48 contiguous United States to look at the impact of voter ID laws. One of the most interesting things about my findings is that it wasn’t necessarily the voter ID law itself that reduced turnout, which by the way, I used some of the strictest models I could. We were all shocked that my findings were, to get really nerdy like statistically significant, in the fact that there’s a negative correlation between voter ID laws and turnout. But the caveat and the nuance there is the type of voter ID law that was implemented. So in other states what they do is, they have voter ID laws, but they also allow somebody who goes to vote to prove their identity in a different way. They can sign an affidavit, they can look them up in an already existing system. There are so many different ways that somebody can prove their identity right then and there so they don’t leave and can’t come back to vote, that doesn’t prevent them from voting. And that’s the biggest piece of nuance I think that a lot of people miss on the voter ID laws is, nobody is saying that we shouldn’t verify who is voting. That’s like 101, like you’ve gotta trust but verify, right?
[00:41:51] Rico: Right.
[00:41:52] Ruwa: But one, of the billions of ballots that researchers in this field have looked at over time, there has been no voter fraud. And when there has been voter fraud, it’s immediately been found and none of it has ever flipped an election. Period. Those are facts. I get that we live in a society where I can write whatever I want on the internet. But there are people who study this and they have been looking at this in a way, way, way deeper than I can in a quick Google search. And so you’re right. There are ways to write these laws where we’re securing our elections without preventing people from voting. One of them is making sure they get IDs. That’s what they do in Mexico. Mexico has a very strict ID law, but they ensure that every citizen in Mexico gets an ID. To the point that they have like the people who are census takers, kind of like what we saw during the census, their only job is to deliver IDs. They literally go to the highest mountains, to the deepest slums.
[00:42:41] Rico: There you go. Right, and that’s what we should be doing too, then if we’re gonna be forcing that. And I like the idea of multiple ways to validate someone’s identification.
[00:42:50] Ruwa: Right.
[00:42:51] Rico: Using other means. But that also means the state would have to step in to some degree. We’re a county by county, right? Every county uses their own election thing, whatever they want to use. Whether it’s a ballot receipt or a scanned ballot or whatever it is. There’s too many ways to do this from county to county that it becomes difficult unless you’re going to be able to make some sort of broad ID that’s accepted by every county, right? I mean.
[00:43:18] Ruwa: Which exists, like, that’s what the driver’s license system is. And county officials do have access to those records, by the way. So during my day job, I’ve got various clients, a lot of them are federal agencies and some of this stuff really is just technological supply chain process. Boring stuff that you just need to put in some time, effort, and yes, funding into. But it makes life so much easier in the future.
[00:43:39] Rico: Yeah. And I think that makes sense. So I agree with you on most of your points there. There’s a lot of valid places, valid ways to be able to say who you are. And the only thing I have is that I’ve been out of Brooklyn, New York when I was part of the Democratic machine, became a Reagan Democrat later. But in New York, and most anyone that’s listened to me often enough knows I worked for Chuck Schumer when he was a congressman early on for a year, just doing constituency work, but worked in politics. You know, people should be more afraid of how votes are suppressed, people’s rights are taken away, not physically, but just by mailings. Of if you get slammed with enough mailings, you become so immune to it that you’re like, I don’t even want to go vote. I know lots of young kids that don’t even, they five years into their voting ability and not once have they gone to vote. So there’s so many other ways to get people to vote. And that’s, voter ID is not really one of them.
[00:44:39] Ruwa: You’re speaking to my heart here. I mean, I always tell people you know, a lot of people say, what’s the point of getting politically involved? And I remind them that there have been races, like in Virginia, the state legislature stayed Republican for an extra two years because of the equivalent of a coin toss. Like it was a tie and they had to break the tie. And we have our city council race up here in Duluth was decided by four votes. So I have a hard time believing that this doesn’t matter. But you’ve also gotta build political power during off years so that if somebody, including me, doesn’t do what you elected them to do, you’re able to vote them out and get a better person in.
[00:45:12] Rico: Yes. People love to complain and I love to say, well, if you haven’t voted then. And I know people get tired of that, but you know what, if you haven’t voted, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care, and I wanna hear you. It’s like that type of thing. Because, and then people say, well, it doesn’t mean anything, but those four votes in Duluth it meant something.
[00:45:29] Ruwa: It matters.
[00:45:30] Rico: Right. Could have been something else. There’s so many other issues we could talk about and we’re running into 50 minutes right now, almost an hour. And I do want to give you an opportunity to ask for that vote. Is there a particular burning issue that we haven’t touched on that you wanna spend a couple of minutes on?
[00:45:45] Ruwa: This is sort of a very meta issue, I think. But I really want to encourage, listeners and voters to reach out to their candidates and hear from them directly. Trust me, I know a lot of money goes into marketing. I have to fundraise for it. I get it. But you know, my number is on our website. My email’s on our website. If you leverage that, I will respond to you. And the reason I say that is we live in an, in a digital age where anyone can write anything and send out anything that they want with little to no consequence. And as you saw even during this podcast, we had to spend the beginning of it dispelling a rumor that someone took five minutes to write and say. And that kind of stuff really does detract from the real issues. And I think, I would hope as constituents, as people who care about our society, that we start to more critically think about some of the things that are being sent to us. So I think the one rule of thumb that I’ve started to implement for myself is if somebody tells me about a problem and is only scaring me about it, and they’re not offering me a solution, then they’re not going to fix it. They just want to fear monger me into a vote. And so please, think about the world around us. How much control does the person that is leveraging this issue actually have on that issue? And ask those critical questions of them. Again, I have solutions and ideas. I think that with my expertise in everything, I can do a lot. A lot of good in this work, but I’m also not naive and I know my limitations. I don’t wanna over promise and underdeliver kind of thing.
[00:47:08] Rico: Let’s go right into you asking for the vote, then. We might as well, let’s go right there. And tell people where they can find you.
[00:47:15] Ruwa: Yeah. So, as I mentioned, my name is Ruwa Romman. I’m running for Georgia State House District 97. You can find out more about me at Ruwa, R-U-W-A , the number four, Georgia spelled out, .com. So Ruwa4Georgia.com. There you’ll find a form that you can reach out to me directly. You can ask questions, we can have great conversations. And more importantly, I really, really hope that I’ve earned your vote and that you will vote. Early voting is happening right now and ends November 4th. Gwinnett County does provide early voting on both weekends, between now and then. And then the last day to vote is November 8th. I urge you to vote early so we can help you if you run into any issues. And if you do, contact us. But thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet you, talk to you, let me come to your home and knock on your door. It has been a true privilege doing this work.
[00:48:00] Rico: Cool. And where can they find out, what’s your website and your social media address?
[00:48:05] Ruwa: Right, so it’s all the same. Ruwa, R-U-W-A, the number four, Georgia is spelled out. So Ruwa4Georgia. And it’s dot com. It’s every handle. I’m learning TikTok, so I’m making a fool of myself there, but trying to have fun.
[00:48:16] Rico: Alright, cool. Hang in there with me while I just close out. Thank you everyone for attending this podcast, listening to it on iHeart, Spotify, or watching it on Facebook or YouTube. You can find more of these types of podcasts, either by searching Peachtree Corners Life on Apple, or wherever you find podcasts. Or by just liking our Facebook page which is Peachtree Corners Life. Or our YouTube channel, which is Peachtree Corners Magazine. Leave your comments. I’m sure Romman’s team is monitoring things. So wherever you’re at, if it’s on Facebook and you want to leave a comment or a question, you can put it there and they should get notified about that. Check out LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com for further stuff on Peachtree Corners and SouthwestGwinnettMagazine.com as well. So we have two magazines. Thank you again for being with us. Thank you Ruwa for coming.
[00:49:06] Ruwa: Thanks for having me.
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