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A Talk with Scott Hilton, a Candidate for Georgia House District 48

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Why is Scott Hilton running for office? What can be done about Georgia’s almost 14% inflation rate? What is his view on public safety, education, property tax bills and how will he represent Peachtree Corners? Rico Figliolini discusses these issues and more with candidate and Peachtree Corners resident Scott Hilton.

Listen to “A Talk with Scott Hilton, a Candidate for Georgia House District 48” on Spreaker.

“I love Peachtree Corners. This is where we call home. I love District 48. It would be an absolute honor to serve you again. I’m the most experienced candidate in the race. The candidate that’s proven to be able to get stuff done, and the candidate that’s proven to be able to listen to both sides of the aisle, be sympathetic to everyone, listen to folks, and really be an effective leader for you in the state. I’m someone who is a common sense conservative, that you can trust and really get behind to fight for you and your families.”

Scott Hilton

Timestamp Where to find it in the podcast:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:17] – About Scott
[00:05:52] – Voting for People over Party
[00:08:32] – Problems in the Economy and Inflation
[00:13:03] – Housing and Education
[00:21:19] – Public Safety Concerns
[00:24:13] – Remote and Hybrid Working Issues
[00:27:49] – Becoming a Smart State
[00:29:08] – Expanded Airports in Gwinnett
[00:29:53] – Movie Industry Incentives
[00:32:03] – Space Ports in the State of Georgia
[00:32:45] – Georgia Tech in Peachtree Corners
[00:34:09] – Scott Asks for Your Vote
[00:35:21] – Closing

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Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. This is one of these shows where we’re talking to political candidates about the upcoming election and their race. And my good friend Scott Hilton is a candidate for Georgia House 48. Scott, thanks for joining us.

[00:00:46] Scott: Rico, great to be here. Always good to see you. Thank you.

[00:00:49] Rico: Same here, glad to have you on. In the meantime, before we get into that interview, a couple of things, I just wanna tell everyone about our corporate sponsor for these shows and for our publications, is EV Remodeling. Eli is a great guy, he lives here in Peachtree Corners does a great job. You should visit him, he does a lot of remodeling, design to build type work. Just been a fantastic person to deal with. So check out Eli’s website, EVRemodelingINC.com. And that’ll take you to his showcase page and you can check out what he’s done. So before we even get into any of the questions for Scott, I’m gonna pull out some of our lower thirds here, and I’m gonna bring on the map so that people can understand where this district. This is a new house district, 48, first time being run in. It encompasses Peachtree Corners and that lower portion, as you can see, and Johns Creek, Alpharetta, and Roswell. Very big difference on some of the districts that are out there. Certainly this is a district that people have to get used to and may not even understand where they live. And who they’re gonna be represented by eventually, but the incumbent, if you will of this newly formed district, which is different from what the incumbent originally had anyway. So I don’t even know how that works, because it’s so different from what it was before. The incumbent right now is a Democrat by the name of Mary Robichaux, who only was elected, I believe in 2019, if I’m correct on that.

[00:02:15] Scott: 2018, yep. That’s correct.

[00:02:17] Rico: So, you’re running as a Republican candidate, you won your primary. You had over 6,000 voters come in. I think it was 6,400 votes come in. Granted, it was a contested republican race for some higher level statewide races there. You know, republicans had more votes coming out and like you said earlier before we got on, probably even some cross voting, maybe coming onto that. Whereas a democratic primary, very little voting going on there. I think the incumbent that you’re facing had only about 3,300 votes in that primary. But she had no opponent, I think in that race either. So that’s just to give a shape to where we are. And now I’d like to discuss a little bit, let some people actually know who you are, Scott. Give some background about where you’ve come from, what offices you’ve held and what you’ve been doing the last couple of years.

[00:03:04] Scott: Awesome. Well, I appreciate, that’s a great set up Rico. Always good to see you and talk to you. Love what you do for Peachtree Corners. I know I read the Peachtree Corners Magazine all the time and there’s always good info found in there. So for me and our family, we’ve been in the Peachtree Corners area and in this district a little over 10 years now. We moved here in 2011. And absolutely love it. And immediately was embraced by the community and got involved in public service almost right away. Joining the United Peachtree Corner Civic Association, my HOA board. Ultimately serving on a number of organizations in Gwinnett, including our local Fowler YMCA. And when you raise your hand enough times, people say hey, have you ever thought about, you know, maybe running for public office and the right doors opened at the right time. And I was able to run for what used to be House District 95. And was fortunate enough to win in 2016 and served in the state house for two years. And got a lot of good things done on behalf of families, in the areas of education, special needs, public safety, and was really proud of the work that we were able to get done. Unfortunately 2018 was a challenging year for a lot of Republicans across the Atlanta Metro area. And we found ourselves on the losing end. For me, like I said earlier, public service has just always been in the blood. And so at that time, Governor Kemp reached out and said, Scott, I’m creating a small business commission to look at cutting red tape and streamlining government for the benefit of small business. Would you lead that initiative for me? And anytime the governor calls, you say yes, sir. And so headed that initiative up for him for the last two years. We’ve got a lot of great stuff done in terms of streamlining government, reducing regulation, and really toward the tail end of our service, becoming a small business triage unit during COVID and helping small businesses with the resources they need to survive and thrive and get past COVID. And I applaud the governor and his leadership in keeping our state open and keeping our economy strong during that very difficult period. I then finished my work there, went back into the private sector where I’m a banker by trade. I’m a commercial banker now with South State Bank. My office is right here off of Spalding in Peachtree Corners. So we now truly do live, work and play in Peachtree Corners. My family is here. And opportunity opened up to run for the house seat again. We’re excited about it, had a ton of friends and family say, hey, why don’t you go ahead and jump on in, give another shot at it. Senator Isaacson, the late great Johnny Isaacson used to say, the only thing that can get politics outta your blood is the formaldehyde when you’ve been gone. And it’s, it’s so true. I found the same with me. I just love the opportunity to help others out. And this truly does feel like a calling.

[00:05:52] Rico: It’s interesting. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever met a politician, like you said that doesn’t come back in or anything. I mean, they, you have to die in this essentially pretty much. It doesn’t leave. You answered one of my questions about why did you decide to run again? And that, that’s good. You know, you’ve lived here for quite a while. I’ve seen you at Light Up the Corners, you know, Glow Run and I’ve seen you at other events. Of course, you’ve been on the YMCA board. So you’ve been involved in the community quite a bit. You know, you’ve done, I believe a decent job out there. Of course, you know, being a Republican, there are competing issues, right? People believe in certain things and they, some of them will hold true to those issues that they believe in. But overall, I believe that you’ve probably done a decent job out there when you were in office.

[00:06:38] Scott: Yeah, I think Rico, one of the things I’m most proud about is even though we ended up losing in 2018, as we kind of broke down the data around what happened it was amazing to me to see a thousand people check the Stacy Abrams box and then went over and voted for me on the Republican side. And I think it just kind of speaks volumes to people really picking person over party. And that’s kind of our message this time around as well. You know, you can really trust me to listen to you. We may not always agree on the issues, but I’m going to be open, accessible. And like I said, really listen to you. And people admire that and they want that they want more of a uniter in politics than a divider. And that’s what I aim to be. And again, my goal this time is to, yeah, whether you’re Republican, Democrat or somewhere in between I’d love to be your candidate.

[00:07:25] Rico: It’s interesting. Politics is local. I mean, as you go up that ladder towards the Senate race and then the national races, things do get picked apart. And probably even more so now. I mean, if we look at what the New York Times just put out a few days ago about Democrats fretting over the race between Abrams and Kemp. That there’s not enough enthusiasm there right now. And that they’re actually afraid of what you’re saying, that people will jump that ballot. And vote for Kemp and then come back and vote for Democrats on other races or Republicans. More splitting of the ballot than ever before, maybe even in the state of Georgia for this type of race. At least from that top down.

[00:08:02] Scott: I think Georgia’s really unique in that standpoint, they talk about how we’re a purple state, but really a state that votes for good people. You saw Kemp in the primary get 70%. That was huge, you know? And I think as I talk to voters, a lot of them are looking at his record and yeah, maybe in 2018 they said, ah, I’m not sure. But they’ve seen what he’s done and how he’s managed. And I think that’s why Stacy’s having a tough time is, it’s hard to argue against the record he has in terms of keeping our state strong, safe, and on the right track. So we’ve got a good message this time around.

[00:08:32] Rico: And I think he’s avoiding the Trump trap, if you will, also. Trump’s not my favorite person to say the least. I don’t have a problem saying that out loud. I don’t think he’s fallen into that trap really. He’s his own man, it seems at least. So whether I agree with some of his issues or not is a different story. But for the most part, I believe he’s done some good things. And he’s planning to do some more it sounds like. Now biggest issue right now, aside from some of the social issues, which we could get into debates over abortion, for example, and stuff. That’s a very emotional type of debate I believe. So that’s a debate I’d rather leave off this particular talk because it’s just a very emotional type of thing. I think. It deals with beliefs, when life starts, we can agree to disagree about certain things. So let’s leave that aside for a minute, even though that’s an important issue, and then you can state where you stand on it. But I really wanna talk about the problem with inflation right now and the problem with the economy right now. So you have, originally there was high gas, that’s coming down. Now, I don’t know if that’s coming down for any good reason or if that’s gonna go back up as we get into the Fall again. We have 40 year high inflation in the state of Georgia. I mean, I know when I go shopping at Ingles or Publix, the price is like, where are these prices coming from? Food’s a lot more expensive than it used to be. There’s just things hitting the pocketbook with people. And even businesses not able to hire, even with that, not able to hire enough people. Whereas before they would never advertise the per hour job rate, let’s say, now I see it plasted on windows, $15 an hour start. That would never have been put up there. And every business person I talk to, I mean there’s a restaurant, fairly big restaurant that’s supposed to open on Peachtree Parkway that’s not opening yet because they’re afraid to open right now. Because there’s not enough workers to staff the restaurant. Okay. So there’s stuff like that. So tell us, you know, what do you think can be done? I mean, what can be done on a state level? That’s where you would be, so what can be done on a state level to combat that inflation?

[00:10:39] Scott: That’s a great question. Yeah, and Georgian’s unfortunately are really suffering the consequences of, we really overacted in Washington DC, overacted in terms of when Biden was sworn in and passed a number of spending bills that really, if you look at the US money supply, there is so much money out there that is just driving inflation to all new highs. And we’re unfortunately going to be suffering the consequences of that for at least the next year or so. And I know our families face it. Every time we go to the grocery store, it feels like we’re paying double what we were before. And so, what does that look like at a state level and how do we address that? So right now, because of all this spending, Georgia is actually, since we’ve done so well and budgeted so conservatively and done a fantastic job. We’re sitting on a lot of excess cash at a state level above and beyond what we need in our rainy day reserve. So the state keeps a rainy day reserve in case we have another COVID or economic shutdown. We have a few billion dollars above and beyond what we need to keep. And so the decision point for voters is do we elect someone like Scott, who’s gonna look at those resources, allocate them responsibility, even return a lot of them back to the taxpayer to help them combat inflation. And so that’s one of my campaign promises is listen, Georgians need more dollars in their pocket to kind of help combat some of this. The doubling of gas and grocery costs, et cetera. As opposed to kind of further expanding the size and scope of government. Number two, you know, a lot of the pain has come through supply chain issues. And we really need to focus in on, we’ve got a great airport, a great port in Savannah. Let’s continue to invest in those assets so that we can avoid ever having to go through those supply chain disruptions again. And then thirdly, workforce development. I hear the same thing that you do from all business owners that I just can’t find people. And if I do, I’ve gotta pay them outrageous rates. And so we’ve got to strengthen, enlargen our workforce. And so that comes down to education that comes with reequipping workers who maybe were in one industry and want to switch to another. And so I’m the candidate that has proven that I can get stuff done. And we’ll get down there and do that again, to kind of lessen the burden of policies that we’re facing from DC that are having real world impacts on some of the families right now. I mean, it’s easily the number one issue that I hear at doors is Scott, we’ve got to do something about inflation.

[00:13:03] Rico: Right. So talking about inflation, talking about what a state can do and stuff. I just got my property tax bill. I can’t even, I can’t even like, it’s just like, they can say they’re not raising the millage rate and they are right. But when they assess the property that much higher and essentially have increased my tax just by valuation, nevermind by raising the millage rates. It’s ridiculous. So now I understand there may be some support for Governor Kemp’s $500 property tax rebate for 2023. That something he’s proposing. Obviously we don’t know if he’s gonna be governor next year. The assumption is he may be, he may not be. Is this something, I don’t even know if this is something that Democrats would actually support? You would think that they would, but I don’t know. Is this something you support? Do you see this as a value thing? Do you see this as a reasonable thing for property owners? Residential? I’m assuming versus commercial.

[00:13:54] Scott: Yeah, that is correct. Yeah, so Governor Kemp has proposed this property tax relief, which I think is fantastic. Yeah, I mean all of us, we’re not selling our houses, so we’re not realizing the equity that we have, but the tax bill just goes up on the value. A lot of that again is driven by inflation. And so I fully support Governor Kemp’s property tax relief. It’s something that’s impacted again, our family with so many others across the district that I hear about. And so I think that is the difference. Again, as sort of you evaluate the two parties this November. I know my opponent has voted against some budget items that would’ve provided that kind of relief to families. And so yeah, as voters evaluate who they support in the polls. You know again, rather than kind of grow the size and scope of government. I want to return your tax dollars back to you in the form of relief on your property taxes. And so I think it’s just a prudent thing to do. Government is not in the business of making a profit. And so if we can help everyday folks out all across the spectrum, I think it makes absolute sense.

[00:14:53] Rico: Alright, cool. And my other two cents is, I would love to see a cap on these things too. There’s no reason just because evaluations have gone as high as they are, that these assessed values are that much higher. It’s like, I think some of them are like 20% increase. That’s just crazy. Especially if you’re retired. If you’re a retired person, which I’m not, but a retired person having to deal with that. It doesn’t make sense to me. Residents moving to Peachtree Corners because of our excellent schools. There are a lot people coming to Peachtree Corners. There are, my phone is either phone calls or text messages or emails or letters, of people just saying, are you ready to sell your house? We’ve got a cash offer for you. I’m just getting a little too tired of that. But apparently there’s not enough housing in Peachtree Corners. So I don’t know what’s, what is going on and how do we address some of these housing issues and make sure that our schools remain good quality schools, either through funding or programs. So tell us a little bit where you are with that.

[00:15:53] Scott: It’s a great problem to have. Like you said, I know personally we moved to Peachtree Corners because of the great schools. And so a lot of, you know, good education, that’s what drives businesses moving here, people moving here. We’ve got to keep them strong. And so when you ask me kind of what my platform is, it’s number one economy, we’ve gotta get that fixed. Education, got to keep our schools strong. And then public safety, we have to keep our area safe. But yeah, in terms of education, we’ve had some difficult past couple years, right? So with masking of students, keeping folks at home, it’s been challenging. And a lot of our students are behind and we’ve gotta figure out a way to get them caught up. We’ve gotta figure out a way too, to give parents more power in the decision making in regards to their kids’ curriculum ,the requirements in terms of how they go to school, what the school’s requirements are there. We’ve gotta keep our schools safe. I know the governor has invested millions and millions of dollars in keeping our schools safe. But we also have to empower our teachers as well. You know, so many of them have to teach to the test and there’s so much bureaucracy. We’ve got to remove a lot of that red tape and let teachers get back to what they do best, which is teaching. I previously served when I was in the house on the last time, I was on the education committee and was the leader in passing a charter school bill to increase the number of charter schools that we had in Georgia, giving parents more flexibility and choice in their child’s education. It shouldn’t be a one size fits all model. Every kid is different. Every family is different and we’ve gotta make those options available to them.

[00:17:21] Rico: What would you do for public school wise, also? Specifically, as far as program improvements or other things within the public school system, even. Are there any specifics that you would recommend?

[00:17:33] Scott: Well I, again, I support what the Governor’s done. And I think there’s still more room to do in terms of teacher pay. You know, one of the big things he did, is he did a dollar raise rather than a percentage raise. And what that did is that rewarded some of our newer teachers. You know, we need to really focus on the pipeline of younger teachers coming in. I think we’ve lost a lot of that and there’s been a lot of turnover. And we’re losing some of the best and brightest talent that we have in the state. So I would focus on how do we attract newer teachers into that K-12 environment. But then I also want to focus on higher education as well. That shouldn’t be a one size fits model too. We’ve seen a lot of kids go off and get a four year degree expecting a, a job of some type after that and it just doesn’t happen. And so we’ve been kind of trained that, you know, you’ve gotta go through that. Well, that model doesn’t fit everybody. We have tons of technical colleges, schools in Georgia that I want to promote some more that teach you real life skills that you can take to either start your own business or have a real life skill that you can add. And so that’s part of that workforce development that I mentioned earlier that’ll really help companies who are looking for good talent but it’s just not out there. And we’ve gotta bring more of that talent to our state.

[00:18:43] Rico: I think that’s a great idea. My youngest son went through Paul Duke’s Stem. I took a tour through there, we did a couple of articles in the magazine about the school, about their 3D printing about this certification within the school system where these kids essentially can graduate and actually go get a job because they’ve been trained in CAD software and 3D printing, and they can actually go out and get a job. He was, got into that school for the first year and then COVID hit. So interestingly enough, they were digital, they had digital Fridays a lot. So school, four days a week with the digital Friday. And for the last two years, sophomore and senior year, he was essentially out of the school, he was learning from home. And then his senior year, he was actually on the GSU’s Dunwoody Campus for all his courses. So he’s like 38% through ready. He just started Kennesaw, but he’s 38% through his degree practically. I mean, that’s the benefit of hope. That’s the benefit of some of these schools and digital learning. But like you said before, it doesn’t always help everyone. Younger kids, their reading level is shocked, some of these kids.

[00:19:46] Scott: Yeah, and it really pains me. We had these digital learning days and we still have them in Gwinnett and it drives, it frustrates me to no end. Because I don’t know about other parents, but it is really difficult with younger students to have them sit in front of a computer all day and try to learn. And there’s some families where both parents are working and it’s just not possible and it’s not, it doesn’t work. And so kids need to be in school learning. You know, again, another way to kind of differentiate between me and my opponent. I mean, that’s kind of a, my core belief is that we need less of, you know, behind a computer. Not everyone has access to a laptop or internet.

[00:20:21] Rico: Would you believe in more hybrid? You know, the willingness to adapt, like you said, there’s a choice you want to give, right? Charter school is a choice. So why not choice in the school, public school system, whether you want to have a hybrid learning where it’s three, four days a week in class, a day or two digital. If the parents would like that, if the kid, some kids work better that way. It’s an odd thing, right? And some kids work better being in a class in front of a teacher, it’s just the nature of the beast. Everyone learns things different, right? Some people learn better with videos. Some people learn better from reading a textbook.

[00:20:54] Scott: One of Georgia’s largest high schools, and one of the largest charter schools in the state is the Cyber Academy. It’s all online. That was even pre COVID, it was all online. And so for some students who a classroom doesn’t work, they’d prefer online. That’s awesome. We need to have those. Essentially we need to have every channel available for every student. Becau se like I said, not every student is widget, they’re all different and special in their own way. And we ought to be able to accommodate that.

[00:21:19] Rico: Cool. Now we were talking a little bit, you mentioned safety before. And of course, Uvalde, everyone knows that, I think now. And it’s sad, the things that they went through. Over a hundred officers there and yet for an hour, those kids just unbelievable. I just don’t know what was running through anyone’s mind at that point. Now we in Peachtree Corners, so I mean, these things can happen anywhere. Because it only takes that one time, right? We’re fortunate in the City of Peachtree Corners to be able to have certain things going right? There was that shooting at the QT that was essentially solved to some degree and quickly because of cameras, because of Crime Center in the Cloud type of operation. Because things were able to be found here and in Atlanta, through these technical online and in the cloud searches. There’s a lot of that going on. We don’t have our own police force, the City of Peachtree Corners. We have Gwinnett police that we hire to do our work. You know, where do you see safety, as far as what you believe should be brought back into local, into a city like Peachtree Corners? There’s a lot out there, right?

[00:22:24] Scott: Yeah, it’s huge. I mean, you mentioned that QT shooting. I think that was a wake up call for a lot of us, you know? It’s certainly been an issue in Atlanta and the problem is, it’s starting to impact our area. Certainly Buckhead has been struggling with it and it’s kind of creeping up our way. And so yeah, we have a lot of district attorneys and prosecutors you know, democrat prosecutors down in Atlanta who are not enforcing a lot of this stuff. And folks are getting back out on the street and yeah, the QT thing was scary. Because it was folks that managed to steal a car down in Atlanta, drive up here and an incredible young man lost his life because of it. And it’s horrible and it’s a tragedy. And so, you know, we moved to Peachtree Corners for a reason. For the good schools, the business, and public safety. And so yeah, we’ve got to elect folks who care about that. We don’t need to be become a police state obviously, but we need to be diligent about enforcing our laws. And, you know again, another differentiator between me and the opponent is, you know, I’m gonna vote in favor of a lot of laws that restrict the street racing and some of that stuff that’s plagued the suburbs. You know, folks stealing packages off your porch and all that. Just some of the nonsense that’s out there. While my opposition may have voted against that, I’m gonna be in favor of that because I think having a strong community is the underpinning of a lot of things. And so yeah, I think that’s incredibly, incredibly important. And it’s on a lot of folks’ minds. I mean, it’s just, we’re seeing this boiling of the pot of more and more activity. And if you put up with it, it’s kind of the broken window syndrome. And that’s what you see in Atlanta now. I mean, it’s pretty eyeopening to me. Every time I go down there I, you know, see office vacancies and businesses starting to move out. And our capital city in the state cannot go that way. I mean, we were the home of the Olympics. We’ve gotta keep Atlanta strong, prosperous, and then, so that’ll be part of our job.

[00:24:13] Rico: I’m curious what you think as an individual, as a citizen about remote work. What I’m seeing right now is that a lot of these businesses, not necessarily here in Georgia, although some of them too, are really wanting people to come back to the office full time. No remote work. The sad to say part is that the employee has become more powerful, if you will, than the employer over the last few years. Which is a good thing. You know, I think that’s a good thing. And now, because inflation, because of unemployment, may end up rising now because of what’s going on with the fed reserve and the raising of the rates. The employee may be losing some of that leverage they have, to a degree. I mean, do you think people should be going back to work? Like, do you believe remote work is okay or hybrid of that? How would you solve that employee issue that these companies are facing without removing the freedom that some of these people have?

[00:25:08] Scott: It’s a great question. You know, from a state perspective, I don’t think the government ought to be dictating, you know what private entities do with their employees. I think it should be up to the companies and their shareholders and employees. I will say how it impacts us at a state level is when we think about transportation, you know, that’s one of our biggest items we spend on in our $30 billion budget. And I know Peachtree Corners and Gwinnett at large has had a number of votes on Marta and other things over the years and if COVID taught us anything is that we need to be really innovative and rethink how people move around. You know, and you’re right Rico. Now you can work from your home, you can go into the office for a couple hours. It’s really kind of changed what transportation looks like in Georgia. And so we’ve gotta be forward thinking about that and how people are gonna be moving around in the future. But you’re right, there’s gonna be some pretty real world consequences in terms of folks losing jobs over the next, you know, 12 to 18 months. And that’s gonna impact a lot of people. And again, going back to that retraining and educating and equipping folks with new skills to allow them to get immediately back into the workforce is huge. But yeah, in terms of government mandates and stuff, I err on the side of you know, I think businesses and their employees know best what the best setup is for them. I know personally with three kids at home, I enjoyed going back to the office and having a little bit of quiet and stability in our office. But that was the decision that, that we made. Yeah.

[00:26:29] Rico: Right, right. Yeah. Everyone has, I mean, I’ve been working from home for a while. So it does, and it’s a great opportunity for when my kids were in for the most part. I have three, so one of, one of them is still here. The other one’s up in school and the other one lives on his own with his girlfriend. You know, having them down for lunch and breakfast and it’s all good to a degree, right?

[00:26:49] Scott: Well, I think one of the things that at a state level also we’ve been talking about, and I think that what the Georgia house and the Governor have done a real good job on is rural broadband. So right here in Georgia or in Atlanta and Peachtree Corners. We’ve got just about all the internet we need, but there were some sad stories about folks, you know, out in rural parts of our state went all digital having to drive to their local Wendy’s and piggyback off their WiFi in order to go to school, you know? And so we’ve gotta figure out and we’ve got the dollars to do it now, to get internet to parts of the state where, especially school-aged children really need it.

[00:27:23] Rico: Aren’t the federal dollars, didn’t that come in through federal dollars to the state? So then they can allocate it where it needs to go?

[00:27:30] Scott: Yep, that’s exactly right. So Georgia, the Governor’s Office, Office of Planning and Budget is doing that grant process right now to get those dollars in the hands of folks who can build kind of that last mile connectivity. You know, internet now is really kind of the new highway. And you’ve gotta build out these fiber optics to homes that before we weren’t able to reach.

[00:27:49] Rico: You know, we’re at sort of tail end of the interview, but I’d like to hit on a few different issues that we weren’t really thinking about, but things that come to my mind. What do you think about the autonomous vehicle stuff that we’re doing here in Peachtree Corners? Do you think the state should get more involved in creating a smart state? We have a smart city here. I mean, how much? And we’ve had the smart city, I think it was the smart expo. That was the world expo that came here, I think it was last year. You know, what do you think about that? Getting more businesses that are that type of tech oriented?

[00:28:20] Scott: I’ll tell you one of the very first bills that I’m going to sponsor when I get down there is called a regulatory sandbox. And what it is, is if you’re a new startup business, you operate in a sandbox essentially free of any type of regulation to allow you to test out innovative technologies and do things that are next level into the future. You have very few customers, you impact very little folks, but you all, you kind of work out. And then what happens is the government kind of works alongside you and figures out what the right mechanisms are from a regulatory standpoint. But it helps spur innovation, like a lot of the, what we’re doing at Peachtree Corners. So yeah, I am all behind that and I’m all behind, they’ve done it in a number of other states. Arizona, I think Minnesota, these regulatory sandboxes, where you kind of play, you figure it out, you innovate, and you create new business and new opportunities. I think it’s fantastic.

[00:29:08] Rico: I love that idea. Great idea. What do you think about, I know we have Heartfield International, do you think Gwinnett needs an expanded airport to be able to take on more traffic here?

[00:29:19] Scott: That’s a great question. I’m a big believer, I think Atlanta’s doing a fantastic job with its current airport right now. It’s the largest in the world, so. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it is kind of my position. Yeah, I’d love to have something right here in my backyard. But no, I think Atlanta’s doing a good job right now. Yeah, I mean, there’s been some discussion over the years in terms of, should the airport authority be managed by the state or the city? Frankly, I don’t know enough about the pros and cons of each to give you an educated opinion, but I think that would be something to look at or consider, but a second airport in my mind, at least doesn’t make sense at this point.

[00:29:53] Rico: Okay. What about movie incentives? The movie industry, movie entertainment industry has been, we’re the Hollywood of the east coast, right? More productions being done in the state of Georgia then almost any other state in the Southeast. Do you think that should continue? These incentives have really helped build, not just bring in these movies, but build all the peripheral infrastructure around it. Caterers, all the you know, electricians, the woodworker, everything, hotels, stay and all that. Do you think that we should continue with that type of incentive?

[00:30:27] Scott: That’s a great question. So just philosophically, I’m not in favor of the government kind of picking winners or losers in terms of certain businesses or industries. You’re absolutely right. The film industry has been a huge boom for our state and that’s fantastic. But it really seems kind of haphazard to say, let’s get behind film or healthcare insurance companies. I think we, as a government level, we ought to create a level playing field and let folks kind of compete to come here. Georgia is the number one state to do business, really in my mind, I don’t think we need to throw stuff out there to attract folks. I will say in terms of the film industry in particular, I do think that legislation needs to be tweaked a bit. We have a fairly large unfunded liability as a state right now of folks, these tax credits that we’ve offered that have been claimed but have not been sent into receive their money yet. And so the state has somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple billion dollars in tax credits that haven’t been claimed. And so that’s, that’s a liability on our balance sheet. We haven’t put a cap to it. So people can claim as many credits as they can, and that liability continues to grow. So if we were to make changes, that would be something that I’d be interested in tweaking.

[00:31:35] Rico: Okay. I think there was one other change I’d like to see probably on that one. And that is that people can sell, companies can sell their tax credits to other companies that are not shooting in the state of Georgia. I think that’s ridiculous.

[00:31:47] Scott: Yeah, that’s why I talked about the unfunded liability. If we have folks who have nothing, you know, these film companies, their tax liability is in California. So the tax credits have no value to them in Florida. So they then sell it. And we’ve got Georgia taxpayers who have tax credits that haven’t been claimed yet. So, yeah.

[00:32:03] Rico: So that’s, that’s crazy. I agree with you there. A space port. I know there’s a thing on the coast that wants to be, I think it’s in Camden county there. We want to be a space state almost, I guess some, in some people’s minds. Do you think that maybe Elon Musk should be planning a space port in the state of Georgia? Do you think we should be doing something?

[00:32:22] Scott: I think it’s exciting technology. I do know the voters in Camden kind of overwhelmingly voted against it. But I’m in favor. I think Georgia lends itself just where we’re located. We’ve got the coast there. We’d love to compete with Florida on that. So if it’s not Camden somewhere. I think Camden does lead itself naturally to be a space sport, but again, that’s for the locals to kind of figure out if that’s something they want in their backyard.

[00:32:45] Rico: Alright, cool. I think we’ve gone through most of what I wanted to get through. Well, maybe one more thing, one last thing based on that list that I just gave you and that’s Georgia Tech. I know that Georgia Tech is doing Coding Camps at Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners. Love to see what would happen if Georgia Tech decided to do a satellite campus here in Peachtree Corners. I mean, I think it would be a natural extension for them. Is that? I don’t know if the state gets involved in that type of thing. You know, based on Intuitive Robotics buying five buildings, essentially setting up a biotech campus for robotics, for medical robotics. Does it make sense for us to lure, the city of Peachtree corners to lure a college, a university like Georgia Tech to build a campus here in Peachtree Corners. Any thoughts personally?

[00:33:28] Scott: No, I think it’s fantastic. And yeah, I’d do whatever I could to make that happen. I think just given our city’s history with Paul Duke and his connection to Georgia Tech, it makes all the sense in the world. Especially what we’re doing with the Innovation Lab and everything here in Peachtree Corners. So yeah, the Board of Regents is really the important entity to make that happen. I’ve got a lot of connections there, obviously. And yeah, if that’s something that both sides have an appetite for, I would be happy to help facilitate that and make it happen.

[00:33:54] Rico: Great. Thank you, Scott. You’ve been very patient with me and all my questions. Before we leave, I’d like you to tell everyone, you know, why they should vote for you, when the date is and ask for the vote essentially. And where they can find out more information about Scott Hilton.

[00:34:09] Scott: Yeah, no, I appreciate that. And Rico, thank you again for your time today. I love Peachtree Corners. This is where we call home. I love District 48. It would be an absolute honor to serve you again. I’m the most experienced candidate in the race. The candidate that’s proven to be able to get stuff done, and the candidate that’s proven to be able to listen to both sides of the aisle, be sympathetic to everyone, listen to folks, and really be an effective leader for you in the state. I’m someone who is a common sense conservative, that you can trust and really get behind to fight for you and your families. You can learn more about our campaign at ScottHiltonGA.com. And on there, you can click on a map to be able to scroll in, to see exactly where you live in the new district. You can sign up to volunteer. Contribute to the campaign or get a yard sign. Early voting starts Monday, October 17th. I think Pinckneyville Community Center is probably the closest one to us here. That’ll run for two weeks, Monday through Friday and on weekends as well. We encourage you to go in, vote early and get that done. But again, I ask for your vote, early vote and your vote on November 8th. Again, thank you so much for your support. It would be an honor to serve Peachtree Corners and our community again. Thank you.

[00:35:21] Rico: Scott. I appreciate your time here. Everyone, check out Scott’s website and information where he stands on the issues. You can find out a little bit more about him there. Certainly if you have questions for Scott, please direct them to Scott. Because he’s been great about answering all sorts of questions and he is local. So if you’re not gonna ask you won’t know. And be diligent, you know, be aware of what politics, you know, you like you don’t and where you wanna vote. And don’t just stick to one party because you feel that’s the party that you feel overall works for you. You have to really look at the issues and the local candidate running. So Scott, thank you again. I appreciate your time. Hang in there while I say goodbye to everybody. Check out LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. That’s the Peachtree Corners magazine website. Our latest issue is out. We’re working on next issue right now. If you have any interesting stories, feel free. Send it to Editor@LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. Always looking for good ideas to write about, good stories to tell. We’re curating things. Check us out online on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook we’re there. And these podcasts of course, and thank you again to EV Remodeling, Inc. For being a sponsor of these programs. Take care guys. Be safe.

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Elections and Politics

What to Know About Ballot Questions — SPLOSTs, Amendments and Referendums

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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.

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Elections and Politics

A Conversation with Ruwa Romman on a Broad Range of Issues and Being Muslim in America

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Ruwa Romman

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.

Resources:
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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Elections and Politics

Absentee and Early In-Person Voting and Registration in Gwinnett County 2022

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early voting Peachtree Corners

The campaign ads seem to be on an endless loop on TV and radio and everyone over 18 has received political messages via social media. Now we’re nearing the home stretch of the 2022 General Election.

There are some changes in the way things have been done over the years, so Peachtree Corners Magazine has compiled information from state and local sites to help local voters unravel some of the confusion.

Still, it’s up to you to actually cast your ballot to elect our next legislative leadership.

The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 11. If you haven’t registered by now, you’ll need to sit this one out.

Absentee voting

Absentee voting dates are Oct. 17 to Nov. 4. If you haven’t signed up to vote that way, there is still time – but not much. The Georgia absentee voting by mail request deadline is Oct 28.

Georgia allows absentee voting by mail and in person. No excuse is required to vote before Election Day. You must request an absentee ballot in order to receive one in the mail. Your County Registrar’s Office must receive your ballot before the polls close on Election Day to be counted.

Voters should complete an absentee ballot application and return it to their county registration office. Absentee ballot applications can be returned by mail, fax, email (as an attachment) or in person to the local county board of registrar’s office.

To vote via absentee ballot, you must first be registered to vote. You will also need some form of voter identification, such as a government-issued driver’s license or voter identification card.

You must submit your application for an absentee ballot by the deadline. Absentee ballots may be requested any time between 78 and 11 calendar days prior to Election Day. It’s important to request and return your absentee ballot early. This will give your ballot enough time to travel through the mail and resolve any issues that may arise when voting by absentee ballot.

View a list of upcoming elections and registration deadlines on the Secretary of State’s election calendar.

If you are voting in a primary election, you will need to request either a Democrat, Republican or Non-Partisan ballot. You do not need to request a specific type of ballot for a general election.

Information: https://georgia.gov/vote-absentee-ballot

Early in-person voting

Early in-person absentee voting is available in Georgia. Dates and hours vary by county. Early in-person voting has begun in Gwinnett County. No matter what city or neighborhood you live in within the county, you don’t have to vote in a particular precinct.

Residents can vote at any of the early voting locations. Before you head out, you can check the wait times online.

  • Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections Beauty P. Baldwin Building, 455 Grayson Hwy., Ste. 200, Lawrenceville
  • Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 N. Bogan Rd., Buford
  • Dacula Park Activity Building, 2735 Old Auburn Ave., Dacula
  • Gas South – Hudgens Center for Arts, 6400 Sugarloaf Pkwy., Bldg. 300, Duluth
  • George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Hwy., Suwanee
  • Lenora Park Gym, 4515 Lenora Church Rd., Snellville
  • Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Rd., Norcross
  • Mountain Park Activity Building, 1063 Rockbridge Rd., Stone Mountain
  • Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center, 4650 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Berkeley Lake
  • Rhodes Jordan Park Community Recreation Center, 100 E. Crogan St., Lawrenceville
  • Shorty Howell Park Activity Building, 2750 Pleasant Hill Rd., Duluth

General election

Polling hours on Election Day (Nov. 8) are 7 a.m.-7 p.m., except in cities with a population of 300,000 or more. Those polling places remain open until 8 p.m. for municipal general elections.

Information: https://mvp.sos.ga.gov/s/

To check on your voting and/or ballot status, you can use the state’s Municipal Voter Portal.

Use the MVP Portal to check your:

  • Voter registration status,
  • Mail-in application and ballot status,
  • Poll location,
  • Early voting locations,
  • Elected officials,
  • Registration information on file with the county office,
  • Sample ballot for the upcoming election,
  • Provisional ballot status, and
  • Access to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) ballots.

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