Overheard in Carson: What the candidates would learn from listening to locals | NevadaAppeal.com

Overheard in Carson: What the candidates would learn from listening to locals

by Abby Johnson

Democratic presidential candidates: Welcome to Carson City, and to your first job interview in Nevada.

If you’ve done your homework, you know to say “Ne-vadd-a,” not “Ne-vodd-a.” You may know more about us that we know about ourselves. You may be here to listen to our concerns and ideas as you begin to shape your campaign message and mission in advance of the Nevada Democratic Caucus in January.

Here’s some of what you would hear if you came to my house for a chat with my Carson City friends and neighbors.

Iraq: “Get out of Iraq and establish a foreign policy of collaboration and cooperation rather than pre-emptive war.” … “The current administration seems bent on actually making things worse. When you only have one tool in your tool belt (or gun belt, as it were), that’s the tool you use, leaving a diplomatic solution totally out of reach. Our international credibility is bankrupt until January 2009.” … “What is it about your experience that equips you to make peace and restore our respect in the world? Tell us your plan to make peace without compromising our national interests.”

Health care: “My outrage on health care is hard to contain. My family’s health history and current problems would prevent us from getting coverage in Nevada at rates we could afford if my wife lost her job. States are forced to tackle these issues because the federal government clearly doesn’t give a damn that 45 million Americans are chronically uninsured.” (Eighteen percent of Nevadans are uninsured). … “Fix our increasingly dysfunctional health-care system. Make health insurance affordable and available to all.”

Money in the middle: “My No. 1 concern is how to restore, revive, and resuscitate the middle class.” … “Many problems in this nation such as gangs and crime, broken families and lack of pursuit of secondary and higher education are at their core related to economic inadequacy and instability among the middle and lower classes in America. How would you address this problem?” … “Get out of Iraq and free up money to invest in our schools and our social services and reduce the deficit. Reinvest in our communities by repealing tax breaks to the rich.” … “I’d like to see our government and social institutions revert to ‘the common good’ instead of ‘the bottom line.'”

Nevada is not a wasteland: “The West is no longer that vast wasteland for an endless amount of garbage from other parts of the country. We are the perfect place for developing renewable energy, not enabling nuclear power by accepting the burden of the waste.” … “The proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project is fatally flawed. It’s unsafe and unfair, and we want to know how and when (not if) you will kill the project when you are president.”

Water in the West: “The rural West is being threatened by drought and water grabs from urban areas which need water to fuel growth at any cost. How will you ensure that rural areas are not destroyed as urban areas scramble for water at any cost?” … “Develop regional water resource plans that preserve rural and urban sectors, their economies and the environments upon which those economies depend. Include drought plans that reflect pending changes suggested by global warming, water conservation and sustainable growth that reflects the natural hydrologic cycle of each region.”

Tests of leadership: “What would you as president do about the genocide occurring in Sudan?” … “We need an energy policy that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and reduces our contribution to global warming (without using Nevada as a dumping ground).” … “How can you hold the Democratic party base and its traditional supporters and at the same time lead the development of a platform and winning campaign that crosses racial, economic, social, religious and generational lines to appeal to Republicans and nonpartisans?”

It is exciting that the Democrats have focused on Nevada as an early-caucus state. Democratic candidates, thank you for coming to Carson City. We missed you, Sen. Obama.

The final question for the candidates is: Will you still listen to us after January?

• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nevada. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.