John Chan, a candidate for Georgia House Representative of District 97, talks with podcast host Rico Figliolini about state-level control of schools, sex education, police funding, taxes and regulations, and medical rights, and medicare expansion.
John’s Website: https://johnchan4ga.com
Time stamp (where to find it in the podcast):
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:46] – About John
[00:05:19] – John’s Political Viewpoints
[00:08:53] – Working on Taxes and Regulations
[00:11:26] – Expanded Healthcare and Political Stances
[00:14:28] – Education Issues and Opinions
[00:21:58] – Issues with Crime
[00:26:17] – Big Tech Censorship and Accountability
[00:30:27] – Public Concerns
[00:35:24] – John Asks for Your Vote
[00:38:18] – Closing
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[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. I appreciate you coming out, joining us on this show, on this episode. My special guest today is John Chan. He’s running for Georgia House Rep District 97. Hey John, thanks for joining us.
[00:00:45] John: Hey, great to see you. Thank you for inviting me.
[00:00:49] Rico: Yes. No, I appreciate you coming out. It’s the election time, so we’re getting quite a few candidates on the podcast, so it’s good to be able to get a good course section of candidates to interview. But before we get into that, I just wanna say thank you to our sponsor, EV Remodeling Inc., And Eli, the owner. Great people, great company. He lives right here in Peachtree Corners, does a great job with the work he does, has a great website. If you’re looking to maybe design and build or remodel, you should go to his website, EVRemodelingInc.com and check out his Houzz account, if you haven’t done that. Most people will use that H-O-U-Z-Z and find out the portfolios of work he’s done. So check him out and let him know you found it on the podcast. So now let’s get to John. John, this is the first time, you haven’t held political office, if I understand correctly, right?
[00:01:39] John: No, not only haven’t I held political office, I’ve never run for political office. I’ve never really thought about it before.
[00:01:46] Rico: Okay. So start us off, tell us a little bit about John Chan. Tell us who you are, where you come from. I know a little bit of your story, but give us a little background about where you’re coming from.
[00:01:57] John: Sure. So, my parents fled China when the Communists took over in 1949. They went to Hong Kong and eventually found their way over here at the United States. And I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. English was a second language for me so, I had to go to summer school to straighten out my speech. And I grew up pretty poor. They came over here not having too much. So I got scholarships and loans and worked and got through school. I went to UCLA. Today, my brother and I own a construction company that does historic restoration work. And we do work all over the country and even some abroad. So we’ve worked on, gosh, I wanna say seven president’s homes, and numerous really, really fantastic old buildings. We’re right now working on the Maryland State Capital, which is our third state capital building. And embassies, and you name it.
[00:02:52] Rico: Wow. I’ve only met, I think one person, that has done any work on that type of stuff. It is like, that’s gotta be the most intensive work doing that renovation, restoration actually of historical places like that.
[00:03:06] John: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
[00:03:08] Rico: How’d you get into that? I mean, that’s unusual actually.
[00:03:11] John: Yeah, it was a summer job. I would come back from LA and work at a small, little fledgling roofing company in Columbus, Ohio. It was a Slate Roofing company, and we just kind of broadened from there. So into copper roofing, into historic masonry work. And we do a lot of different things now all over the country and even some abroad. We worked on the House of Parliament in Trinidad.
[00:03:35] Rico: Oh, wow. Alright, cool. Great background. I noticed that you were part of the Roofing, National Roofing Association or something like that. I was wondering about that, roofing organization is nonprofit?
[00:03:45] John: Yeah, so I’ve been a member and served as, different board members or different positions in different associations. Right now, as you can see, I’m in a hotel room because I’m in Saratoga Springs, New York. It’s the National Slate Association’s Annual Conference, and I’m speaking here.
[00:04:05] Rico: Oh wow. Okay. So you’re active in the industry as well. So it’s not just doing the business, it’s actually educating in the business a little bit?
[00:04:12] John: Yes. I do, gosh, I’ve done seminars all over the country about slate roofing, copper roofing, and things like that.
[00:04:20] Rico: You did some of your studies or your schooling at UCLA with economics as a background or degree?
[00:04:27] John: That’s correct, yeah. I went to UCLA and graduated from there with a BA in Economics. That’s kind of like my formal background, yeah.
[00:04:35] Rico: Interesting. Before when you mentioned that English is your second language because I sort of am the same way. I was born here in the States. My parents came from Italy and I had the same issues. Yeah, some of the same issues. The principal called my mother in and said, listen, you’ve gotta speak English team only in, at home because he’s speaking to us in Brooklynese and Italian and we can’t figure out what he’s saying. So, yeah.
[00:04:59] John: Oh, that’s cool. What part of Italy were you from?
[00:05:02] Rico: Well, my parents came from a small village between Rome and Naples.
[00:05:07] John: Okay.
[00:05:07] Rico: A farming community actually. He was a mason, did some masonry work and stuff like that, but ended up not in that business. That was a tough union to break into in the United States, actually.
[00:05:17] John: Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure.
[00:05:19] Rico: Yeah. So, okay, so you haven’t run for office. This is the first office you’re running for. Let’s also give people a little bit of an understanding where that is. I’m gonna bring in this map. So prior to the redistricting that went on, the District 97 actually incorporated Sugar Hill, Suwannee, parts of Johns Creek I guess, Duluth. That’s the left side of that map, and the right side is actually the map that exists as of the new redistricting, which takes in parts of Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Burke Lake, and just a tiny bit of Johns Creek, mostly Duluth. Is that fair, I guess?
[00:05:55] John: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, yeah, that Johns Creek on that map it’s a little bit off where the name is. So it’s just, probably like, 10 or 12 houses in Johns Creek.
[00:06:05] Rico: Yeah, that’s what I thought. That’s what we talked about before. So to give people a little understanding about where that district is. Let’s bring it back in. And you are running as a Republican, you had no contested primary. I think, correct?
[00:06:19] John: Correct, yeah.
[00:06:20] Rico: Cool. So, and you’re a bit of a conservative. Do you think that comes from your upbringing? , I tend to see that sometimes, depending where people come from when they’re first generation American, they tend to be a little.
[00:06:32] John: Sure, yeah. I would say that comes from my upbringing to a certain degree because I heard a lot about communism and the horrors of it growing up. And in growing up how I did, kind of disadvantaged, poor, not speaking English, needing to work all the time. Basically you know, I got a paper route when I was eight years old because the clothes that we would get were, you know, they were kind of strange. We’d get them shipped over from Hong Kong and they were irregulars. And so I got a paper route and bought my own clothes. And what I really realized through it is that the work ethic and the American dream is so alive, but it has to be used. And that, that’s kind of what’s shaped a lot of my thinking of how I’ve been able to succeed in life being quote-unquote disadvantaged.
[00:07:25] Rico: Yeah. I guess that background does help sort of shape your outlook, your point of view in the world, right?
[00:07:33] John: Absolutely.
[00:07:34] Rico: So even going to UCLA, which is probably a liberal school, if you will, to a degree. How so coming from there, I mean, did you find challenges? Did your beliefs evolve a little bit? Most young people tend to be somewhat liberal, it seems, right?
[00:07:51] John: So growing up, I wouldn’t say I was conservative or liberal. I felt like I needed to just learn things. Because going to school, like I said, early on in childhood, I didn’t know what little league was. I didn’t know really anything about the Bible or Catholicism, which is what many of my friends were. I didn’t know a lot about the American way of life. So I was more in the gear of, well, let’s learn everything. I don’t wanna make too many harsh decisions without understanding things. So that’s why I actually took a very broad spectrum of classes educationally. Everything from biology to linguistics to Japanese tea setting ceremony. I took all these really unusual courses, appreciation of jazz. Because I wanted to learn as much as I could about virtually everything so I could make an informed decision of how things worked.
[00:08:53] Rico: Okay. Fair enough. And that makes sense. Having a broad pallet of experiences makes a lot of sense when you’re trying to shape policy even, right? , So let’s get into some of the issues. To some degree, I’m going off your website, right? Some of the bullet points, because these are your beliefs. These obviously are front and center on your website. So I wanna be able to let people know a little bit about who you are and the way you believe on certain issues. So one of them, for example, let’s take lower taxes and regulations, for example. Very broad. Let’s try to bring that down to the State of Georgia maybe, or maybe even down to the county level. So what does that mean in the state of Georgia when you have a Governor like Kemp already doing some tax cuts to some degree. Giving money to like the state, like the AARP, similar to what the federal government did, the American Registry program he did on a statewide. To some degree he gave back some money. How do you believe lower taxes and regulations would work for an area like the city of Peachtree Corners or Gwinnett County?
[00:09:54] John: Well, first of all, I wanna say that I think Governor Kemp has done an incredible job economically. We’re like number one, eight or nine years in a row for the top state as far as economics. So I think he’s done a great job at that. But on the more local level there’s still a lot of waste. And what I mean by that is, if you look at, say the study that Gwinnett County did. They paid about $300,000 for a study on the mall. And that was basically poured down the drain. Why? Because there’s several different owners of the Gwinnett Mall. Your anchors are owners, so you’ve gotta really go in and talk to the owners and get some kind of an idea or agreement of all the different directions that it could go before you do some kind of a study. So when you pay for a study that costs $300,000 and you don’t consult the owners, well, it’s gonna get shot down immediately. So you’ve got things like that where I feel that government spends money without thinking. They don’t operate it like a business. You know, we grew our business from virtually nothing to 120 employees. And to do that, you’ve gotta be fiscally responsible. And I feel like government really needs to be fiscally responsible, especially on the federal level. But this is more on a local level. But yeah, Governor Kemp overall has done great on that front.
[00:11:26] Rico: Yeah, government is, is a hard thing, right? So if you operate as a business, it’s good in some respects. In some respects though, then some other things happen, right? So, like, for example one of the aspects of helping out citizens, giving like medical coverage, expanded healthcare, let’s say. That’s another big issue that people talk about. That’s a big issue here in Georgia because we don’t have an expanded healthcare, right?
[00:11:51] John: Right.
[00:11:52] Rico: So, and part of that is, I had this discussion with a couple of other candidates, right? Federal government’s going to pay 90% of that, but only for a couple of years. Then the state has to take over that budget after that. Hopefully they have the money then at that point, but how do you feel about that, about expanded healthcare?
[00:12:09] John: I like the idea of expanded healthcare, to a degree. So I think that citizens should receive that, but I don’t feel like any illegal aliens should be paid this money through taxpayer dollars. So again, I think that healthcare is very important and we need to be able to fund some of that, especially because we’ve got a surplus. So I think some of that surplus money needs to be put in to help the citizens of Georgia. But yeah, not people that are here illegally.
[00:12:44] Rico: So you’re okay with expanded healthcare then?
[00:12:48] John: Yes.
[00:12:49] Rico: Okay. Because some Republicans aren’t, for some of that same reasons I explained before.
[00:12:54] John: I am conservative and I am running as a Republican. But in many respects, I’m a little bit more down the middle in that, the whole reason why I’m running is that I feel that a lot of fingers get pointed from the right to the left and the left to the right, and nothing really gets done. And what I mean by that is that look at society today. We’ve got men in women’s sports, we’ve got inflation spiraling out of control, the crime is creeping up here, and you get a lot of finger pointing. And that’s kind of where I feel like my background is really beneficial. I’ve been able to work with a lot of people from all different parts, of all different walks of life, I should say. And basically get them to look at a goal and get that goal attained. And I feel like a lot of politicians are more interested in pointing the finger than getting the job done. And that’s where I was saying, I think the business background is really helpful because it’s been done and achieved in the physical real world. So yeah, it’s like I may not agree with all the Republican ideas, but I am pretty much conservative, yes.
[00:14:14] Rico: So less of an idealogue right wing, more of a practical middle of the road, then. Sounds like to me.
[00:14:21] John: Yeah, you could say that. I’m more of a practical type of person, like what’s going to work?
[00:14:28] Rico: Alright. Thinking about that and talking about control and such, one of the issues is education and bringing control of education back to the state level, is what you’re pointing out. Whereas, I would imagine a Republican would want to keep as local as possible, like down to a county level even. And obviously Gwinnett County is one of the largest school systems, if not the largest in the state. So how would that affect then if you brought, if there was a department, if the state had control of education, like that?
[00:15:00] John: Yeah, I think we want to bring a lot of things back from the federal level. I prefer things to be more controlled locally. And as far as education, I’m 100% behind school choice. I think that the money should follow the child. Because what happens is, let’s say you’ve got a poorly performing school and they just keep on getting money. Well, they have no incentive to do any better. Whereas if the money follows the child, the child can go to whatever school, and then the schools that are performing will receive more of the money, and it just works out that way. Because you’re going to have schools like right now, where they’re underperforming and nobody cares.
[00:15:47] Rico: Interesting on that one, John, because I understand that, and I personally don’t have a problem with that. I think I agree with you to some extent on that. My problem is, is the amount of money that gets back. Because most private schools cost a bit of money. Even on the very low end, we might be still talking 10,000 a year. And that’s a very low end actually, because private schools, the median is probably closer to 16,000 a year. Or 12,000 somewhere around there. So how much you know, government money can be given back to let the individual actually practice their choice?
[00:16:23] John: Well, it would be however much they’re spending on kids, whether it be 7,000, 10,000, whatever. Let’s say it’s 10,000 and you’re sending your child to a private school that costs 16. Well, you’re going to have to make up the difference. You can’t just, that school’s a business.
[00:16:40] Rico: Okay and what about then the loss of that budget money to the local schools like Gwinnett County School, for example?
[00:16:47] John: Well, they lost it because they weren’t performing. And they’re going to have to do something to figure out how to perform, to maintain and keep their kids. And that’s the thing, when a business is shrinking, you’ve gotta be able to look at it and go okay, what is the remedy? Is it the economics? Is it our teaching? What’s happening here? And in any business, when you see the downturns, you’ve gotta be able to look at it and fix it. So when you have that loss of money, as the school district, you’d have to say, okay. Well this school, this particular, I don’t know, junior high school is having difficulties, but not our senior high school. So what’s happening here in the junior high school? And then you fix it.
[00:17:35] Rico: Okay. What about well, one of the bigger subjects has been training high schoolers. Either given them, creating an apprenticeship program, or giving vocational classes to high schoolers that may not want to go to college, may not be able to go to college, may prefer doing a vocational like HVAC or something along that line. Do you think the state should help with some of that? With funding of some of that or?
[00:18:02] John: 100%. Yeah, 100%. There’s a big lack of qualified people in your blue collar trades. And if they were able to learn things like wood or sheet metal or HVAC just a little bit as they grow up and have these apprenticeships, I think it would help society so much. Because as you can see, there’s a lack of qualified blue collar workers. That’s really needed.
[00:18:33] Rico: Yeah, for sure. And I see like sometimes, like even one of my kids had asked me, they said if I do this subject, I’m only going to max out maybe this amount of money, but if I become an HVAC person, I could be making a hundred grand a year, maybe. And that’s, that is that dilemma, right? Do you go spend a hundred thousand on your education and then not make the money?
[00:18:55] John: Yeah, right. There’s a lot of vocations, sheet metal, HVAC, being an electrician, a plumber. There’s a lot of those types of vocations that you can make a really great living at. And I think that it should be helped in the school system so that students can choose those vocations.
[00:19:15] Rico: Do you think, John, that there should be a public private partnership with certain industries to be able to promote that within the school systems?
[00:19:24] John: 100%. You know, if you look at a lot of your European countries, for instance, like Germany. For roofing, for instance, you’ve got this coexistence of the schools and businesses where they sponsor the kids and they can get a lot of this education for free. Or they even get paid learning it and doing it. So I think that if you could get businesses to buy in and actually help fund that, that would also relieve the schools to a certain degree.
[00:19:58] Rico: Cool. Totally agree with you there. Some of the other things that you pointed out, for example, and it probably all ties in, right? Sex education in the schools, gender equality, or gender identification. What is your core beliefs on that, John? How do you feel about that aspect?
[00:20:15] John: Well, I feel like the school should pretty much zero in on reading, writing, and arithmetic. And a hundred percent against all the gender reassignments and things like that. Because when you’re a kid, one minute you want to be a fireman, the next minute you want to be an astronaut, the next minute you want to be a writer, the next minute you want to be a basketball player. And when you get kids, they’re full of imagination and I think that kids should look and see all the different things such as like I said, HVAC, plumbing, whatever, or Japanese tea setting ceremony. But they should experience a lot of different things. But when I see things about like gender reassignment surgery, that’s shocking to me. It’s like now you’re stuck for an entire lifetime and that’s just horrible. So that’s my viewpoint on it.
[00:21:16] Rico: So within the education system though, and we’re not maybe talking about elementary school and middle school, because those are challenging years, although some people would want to take it down to that grade level. But even high school to be able to provide I guess safe areas, the ability to be identified the way you want to be identified. Do you think that’s reasonable within a school system? We’re not talking about necessarily, education versus acceptance or tolerance or something along those lines.
[00:21:47] John: Yeah. No, I don’t. I believe you’re born a male or a female, and there’s two sexes. I don’t believe in however many sexes that people come up with.
[00:21:58] Rico: Okay. Alright, fair enough. We talked about crime before, god knows here in the city of Peachtree Corners, we had a really bad shooting at a local QT station. Although, there’s been some violence even at some long stay hotels and such within the area. But the shooting at the QT was nerveracking for many people because it was a young man, 29 years old, had gone to Norcross High School. And it was simply a carjacking that went bad, it seemed. Three people decided that they wanted to take this pumped up car and the kid didn’t wanna let it go, and he died for that reason, likely. So these three were finally arrested, but they were arrested because they were followed through using technology. License plate camera readers, all the video cameras along the escape route, if you will. They finally were able to build that case. Do you think that the state should be able to help some of these cities get online to have like these crime centers in the cloud? Where do you think the state should be in creating a high tech environment for more effective crime prosecution? And being able to make public areas safety for our citizens safety.
[00:23:12] John: I think they should to a certain degree. I’m against government, big government, watching you all the time. But this is where it was very helpful. I think in curbing crime, you’ve got a much better opportunity to do that by having fully funded police. Police being very visible. If police are very visible you more than likely not have that crime. Whereas this, you’re catching them after the fact. If police are always around and they’re interacting with the citizens, they’re at the festivals and people feel comfortable with the police, the criminals are less comfortable and there’s gonna be less crime. But if you just have the cameras and everything, well now you’re kind of catching everybody after the fact. So that’s kind of how I feel about that.
[00:24:07] Rico: Well, some of it, like for example, fusūs is a company here in the city of Peachtree Corners. Actually they’re based here, but they’re a national company. Their systems have been signed onto cities like ours, like the city of Atlanta, other cities. Even across quite a few counties in California. Where they’re intredicting the crime, they’re actually being used while the crime is happening almost. That’s the idea, to be able to chase down the criminal almost in that live moment to be able to get them. It’s almost, it’s impossible unless you do like minority report, right? Like that movie?
[00:24:41] John: Right.
[00:24:42] Rico: Where you like get them before they do the crime. That unfortunately it doesn’t.
[00:24:46] John: A precog.
[00:24:47] Rico: Yes. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen. So you either get them while it’s happening or you get them post happening, but you don’t want get them like three weeks later if you could get them a day or two later. Because the same criminal is gonna do more crime during that time, right?
[00:25:01] John: Exactly. Yeah.
[00:25:03] Rico: So and the fact that, for example, I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but most police departments have budget for more cops, for more police on the beat. But they cannot fill the position with qualified people. It’s like everything else. There’s just not enough people wanting to be police officers. What do you do there?
[00:25:23] John: Well, I think you have to make it more enticing in many different ways. One is respect. I mean, we have to be able to say we respect and we back our police officers and we don’t have anything like the defund the police going on. So I think a lot of it has to do with respect and also with training. If the police officers feel like they’re very well trained and they’re also out on the beat in the community where the people really respect and admire them. I think you’re gonna have a whole different idea with the police. It’s hard to fill right now because it’s a little bit controversial. There’s the whole defund the police, there’s all the eyes on the police. I think that you have to make it more appealing for people. That’s one way. Pay is another way, but there’s a lot of different ways to make something more appealing.
[00:26:17] Rico: Okay. When we come to big tech. I know that part of your fight is against censorship. I don’t know how that would apply to, what do you mean by the censorship part of big tech? Do you mean like how the way Google and Facebook presents news or works with political viewpoints?
[00:26:37] John: Well yeah. I think it happens in many different venues whether they be political or any other way. But the ideas that they wanna shift and shape how you think. And I don’t think that that should be allowed. I don’t think that they should ban a certain type of expression or one side of a political campaign or anything like that. I think that things should be open and free.
[00:27:04] Rico: Do you think Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and his statement that he would let Trump back on Twitter, do you think that’s a good thing?
[00:27:14] John: Yeah, actually I do. I think that every person, unless they’re in some kind of criminal activity ought to be able to have free speech. I don’t see why he would be spent censored.
[00:27:26] Rico: Okay. Alright, fair enough. Because, I mean, we do believe in free speech, right? We are America.
[00:27:32] John: Absolutely.
[00:27:33] Rico: This is a republic, although most people think of it as a democracy, but we are republic.
[00:27:38] John: Republic, yeah.
[00:27:38] Rico: Right. So we want to make sure that people can put their viewpoint out. You might not believe in them, right? But that’s okay.
[00:27:46] John: So if I’m on Twitter and I don’t like Donald Trump, I block him. If I’m on Twitter and I don’t like President Biden, I block him. So, I mean, that’s how I think it should be. Not that Twitter should block somebody.
[00:28:02] Rico: Yeah. I think that gets a little complicated, right? Because they’re like a publishing tool, although they’re not the publisher of the news, they’re just the feed for it, the pipe for it. But when you throw in algorithms and the algorithm decides what you’re going to see as an individual whether it’s conservative, liberal, mean spirited, or whatever. Then is it Google that should be looked at and because maybe the algorithm is censoring what I’m gonna say. Right, I guess. Yeah, it’s a bit of that. That it gets complicated there, I think.
[00:28:38] John: It does.
[00:28:39] Rico: If we were all smart enough, we’d figure it out, I guess. So accountability. I guess that gets into the accountability and the false reporting and the misreporting and the misinformation and the disinformation and all that, right?
[00:28:52] John: Absolutely.
[00:28:53] Rico: So all that, I mean that happens within this. I mean, I could be on TikTok for 30 minutes and I’ll see things. I’ll be like, wait, I know that’s not, that’s just being put out there. There’s no explanation. And who knows if that was shot three years ago, that riot. And it looks like it’s just happening. So we should let that, I mean that’s part of free expression, I guess.
[00:29:14] John: Yep.
[00:29:14] Rico: Right?
[00:29:15] John: Yeah, it sure is. And it’s part of you know you’ve gotta be able to look at something and go, is that correct? Or is it not? And it should be the person’s own viewpoint, whether they want to act on it or not act on it.
[00:29:31] Rico: So, critical thinking should be part of every student, every person, right? Should have some sort of critical thinking?
[00:29:38] John: Yep. Absolutely.
[00:29:40] Rico: Alright, cool. Yeah, that’s one of the things my kids learned through the IB program, the International Baccalaureate was critical thinking. How to come, because that, if you’re familiar with the IB program.
[00:29:52] John: I listened to the principal of Norcross talk about that because I was over at 45 South speaking, as was he, so yeah.
[00:30:02] Rico: Oh, okay. Okay. So you got to know a little bit about that.
[00:30:05] John: Yeah, a little bit. Yeah. It was, it was very enlightening.
[00:30:08] Rico: Yeah, it’s a worldview actually. It’s looking at education and topics with a worldview to some degree. A more global look at these issues and these topics. Math and world history can have some things that tie them together, right? They shouldn’t be just separated out as siloed subjects.
[00:30:26] John: Exactly.
[00:30:27] Rico: So where have you been actually, where have you been speaking lately? And and what do you find out there, when you’re speaking at like 45 South? That must have been the Norcross community meeting, I guess?
[00:30:37] John: Yeah.
[00:30:37] Rico: They do that. What is it that you are finding people are interested in? What type of questions are you getting at those meetings?
[00:30:45] John: The main things are pretty similar. It’s what you see out there in society. They’re worried about their pocket books. They’re worried that bacon’s gone up from $4 to $9. They’re worried about their gas, they’re worried about their property taxes. They’re worried about what’s going to happen next. And so that’s one thing. Crime has been another. A lot of people are asking about you know, you talked about the murder at the QT. Well, that’s really close to home for a lot of us. I’ve gotten gas there many times. There’s another murder just a couple days ago in Lawrenceville, which is out of the district but pretty close. And I don’t know if you go shop at that Sprouts there, but you see all the, all the donuts. You know. People are just taking over the street right there.
[00:31:33] Rico: Right.
[00:31:34] John: Yeah, there’s all kinds of these kinds of issues. And then obviously education. People want to know what’s your idea on how you fix this? You know, Georgia’s ranked 38th out of 50 states. And yet we’re already paying our teachers 18th. So I think there’s a lot of things that are on people’s minds that are similar. And I’ve gone over most of how I think about those three problems. And I think it’s vital that we attack those things and get them on the right track. Because right now, and this is really why I’m running. I have an ad going that I’m not a politician. Well, I’m not. I’ve never thought about running for office. I just see what I see. I see inflation spiraling out of control. I see men in women’s sports. I see you know, the crime. Atlanta’s actually got a higher crime rate per capita than Chicago, and it’s creeping up this way. I mean, there’s, there’s all kinds of crime issues that we have right now in Gwinnett County. So these are a lot of the questions that are being asked. And I think that instead of pointing the finger from one side to another, I think that we have to have real life solutions. I think that I’ve been able to prove that I can create real life solutions and in working with a lot of different types of people and getting them all on the same page. So instead of pointing the finger, I think we need people that will work together and get a product.
[00:33:10] Rico: Cool. Okay, fair enough. Do you want to share, are there any topics that we haven’t discussed that you’d like to share your viewpoints on?
[00:33:18] John: There’s one, and maybe this is controversial. I don’t know. When I first threw my hat in there, I didn’t know who I was running against. So it was JT Wu and Ruwa and we’ve been kind of going around. And then I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and start telling me about Ruwa And now I’ve got it on one of my push cards. They said, hey you know, she’s been the communications director for CAIR, C-A-I-R. It’s the Council for American Islamic Relations. And they’re like, do you know what that is? I said, I’ve heard of it. And they’re like, well they’ve been labeled as a terrorist organization by the UAE, United Arab Emirates. They’re supported by Hamas and Hezbollah, what are your thoughts on that? I said, well it’s pretty shocking. I said, let me see. And it does say that she was employed by CAIR or is employed by CAIR. And I don’t know what to think about that. That’s very shocking to me.
[00:34:13] Rico: Now the UAE, but not the United States has that organization on a list. Is what you’re saying.
[00:34:20] John: That’s correct. But also if you look at, I haven’t delved into it too much, but there’s also an article where basically the FBI says the same thing. Because they’re doing that investigation on the whole UAE tie-in. So, I don’t know. I would just say, I think the citizens should probably look into it themselves. And that’s.
[00:34:41] Rico: Yeah, I mean that should definitely be, not for anything, but that should definitely be fact checked. Because, and I don’t have the facilities to do that here. But anyone with critical thinking in mind should be able to fact check that and for their own sake. Because listen. Other countries like the UAE can do that. Let’s say they can declare an organization as a terrorist organization, but if it’s not on the United States watch list or such. I’m not saying that that’s wrong or anything, but every country has their own agenda and what they try, what they’re going to be calling what. And we’ve seen that with the Saudis and other countries. So I would put anyone that’s listening to this aspect of it that they should check on that themselves.
[00:35:22] John: A hundred percent. Yeah.
[00:35:24] Rico: Okay. Alright, cool. So John, so what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna turn this over to you. I’m going to ask you to ask for the vote. Tell people why this show vote for you, and where they can find out more information.
[00:35:36] John: Okay. So I feel like I’m a very strong candidate for this because I’ve worked with so many different people of all different walks of life. Different cultures, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different ethnicities. And I’ve been able to get all of these people to work together to attain great things, great accomplishments, great goals. And I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. I’ve had a company for quite some time. And we grew the company from zero to 120 plus employees. And in doing that, it’s like you meet all kinds of different people and you get to really see how different people are and how they think and work with them and make a better company or make a better product. Or in this case, make a better district 97, make a better Georgia. And basically include everybody you know? That’s one of the things I love about what I do. I travel quite extensively and I love meeting people from all over the place. And yeah, you go down to, like I said, the bayou in Louisiana and somebody’s wading waste deep in alligator infested water and they think nothing of it. And just to meet somebody like that and understand their mentality behind it is very interesting. So I love all these different people that I’ve met and how I can get them to attain a great goal. And that’s what I bring to this seat. Basically being able to work with a lot of people and not being a politician of always pointing to the other side and saying they’re bad for some reason. But that you include everybody and get everybody working. Be fiscally responsible, because I feel that sometimes government isn’t that way. But as a business owner, you’ve got to understand fiscal responsibility and make sure that money is spent correctly. So yeah, I want to make sure that I do everything I can to handle the inflation, the crime so that people feel safe and secure in their homes and when they go out. And that we help fix the education system. So if you go to www.JohnChan4.Ga.com, you can go in there and sign up as a volunteer. You can go in there and donate. We could definitely use some donations right now and gosh, I would love to have your vote come November 8th.
[00:38:18] Rico: Cool. John, I appreciate your time today doing this podcast with me. Hang in there with me for a second while I just sign off. But everyone, thanks for listening in. Share this with your friends. If you’re listening to this as an audio podcast on Spotify or Apple, please leave a review. That’s how more people can find out about our podcast. If you’re looking at this on Facebook or YouTube feel free to share it among your friends. To find out a little bit more us, Peachtree Corners Life, about Peachtree Corners Magazine. This is the latest issue, just came out, hitting the post office this week. By the time you watch this, you should have it in hand. If not, let me know. You can find out more about our podcast at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com as well. Also, thank you again to Eli and EV Remodeling, Inc. for being our sponsor of these podcasts and for being an advertiser and supporter of our journalism here in Peachtree Corners. John, thank you again. I appreciate you coming out.
[00:39:17] John: Thanks so much. It was great being here.
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
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.
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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