“The way you make changes happen — with a person, a town, a district or a country — is by engaging in a dialog to find out what people are willing, or are not willing, to do to make things better,” said California 1st Congressional District candidate Dennis Duncan who met with Plumas County residents at a town-hall style gathering in Quincy on Aug. 12.
Duncan, a Democrat from Magalia, is running in the 2018 race for the U.S. House of Representatives serving the northeastern part of the state that includes Plumas, Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama counties, as well as most of Nevada County and parts of Glenn and Placer counties.
Several attendees raised local and national economic worries.
Duncan responded that he supports a range of solutions to help earners keep more of their paychecks. He has several bill proposals in mind to accomplish his primary goal — putting families first and rebuilding the American middle class.
“I grew up in Butte County,” Duncan said. “I’m a big advocate for rural economies and a huge advocate for families. The middle class is our nation’s economic engine and the heart of our country.”
Raising the minimum wage, creating a universal healthcare program with substantially lower premiums such as Medicare-for-all, infrastructure job creation programs and student loan forgiveness are at the top of his list, he explained.
“I don’t think the rich should get richer at the expense of the middle class and the poor,” said Duncan, who comes from a Dustbowl background and has worked as a social worker for most of the past 35 years.
He expressed frustration with what he described as the worst problems he meets in his work — drug abuse, homelessness, poverty and child abuse. He said that these problems affect more than just the immediate people involved, they tear at the social fabric of communities. Duncan said that he has served on many boards and organizations working to improve the quality of life for residents in the 1st District.
“I see every day in my job that parents don’t make enough to provide what kids need, that families get into trouble and it impacts the kids the hardest,” Duncan said. “Children are suffering in this country because of the priorities [of Washington]. They aren’t fighting for the lower and middle classes.”
A woman in the audience agreed, saying, “When people don’t have the money to buy basic necessities, it’s demoralizing.”
Other attendees had many questions for the candidate, including thoughts about immigration and the escalating cost of higher education for better job opportunities.
Duncan has been hopeful about bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill.
“I support a clear roadmap to legal citizenship where people know exactly what is expected, what they need to do and that lays out a course of action that is reasonable to accomplish,” he explained.
On the subject of job-readiness and student access to higher education, Duncan said he wants to put forth a bill making two-year community college and vocational training programs free as an investment in American youth and the economy, which he calls the U.S. Affordable Education Act of 2019.
“We Baby Boomers had a heck of a good ride — our parents and grandparents did that for us,” he said. “I was low-income enough to get financial aid through college. When we went to school, it was affordable. That’s not true now. I have a 25-year-old daughter and I have faith in the millennials and the Generation X’ers. I want to see them be able to live their lives without going astronomically into debt just to get a good education and good job to be part of our economy.”
On a final note, the audience pitched a few more tough questions and someone spoke up about the impact on the local economy due to less-than-stellar Internet connectivity.
“I agree wholeheartedly!” Duncan replied. “I have no cell service at my own house, unless we stand out on the sidewalk, and I couldn’t check my email or my messages while I was at the pizza parlor here in Quincy. I plan to work on legislation to make rural broadband access as much of a priority as rural electricity was in the 1930s. You shouldn’t have to wait for other solutions that are being looked at, like tax credits for companies to build the service here when they get around to it.”