It’s that time of year – election season. And if you didn’t notice, then you must not have looked at your phone every night for the past week around 7 pm. Primaries are June 12th, and that’s just the pre-show.
To help our moms do a bit of research, we are hosting a Q&A for any interested candidates for our local Reno market. These are not an endorsement, just a collection of information to provide moms some insight into the leaders in our community. To kick us off, here’s some more information from Sarah Peters, who’s running for State Assembly, District 24. For more information on Sarah, visit https://www.votesarahpeters.com/
If you are a candidate interested in posting a Q&A on our site, please message our blog.
Q: Tell us about yourself and why you’re running?
A: I’m running because environmental issues are the challenge of our time, and as an environmental engineer, I have a unique skill set and perspective that we need in state government to protect us from the terrible actions of the Trump Administration, and keep us moving forward on renewable energy development.
I’m a home-grown, second generation Nevadan, born in Silver City and raised in Reno. I went to UNR, and graduated with a degree in environmental engineering (I was the only woman to graduate with that degree that year, by the way). I’m a project manager for McGinnis and Associates Environmental, a local consulting firm. I work to make sure our water and other resources are protected. I’m the primary provider for my family: Isabelle (5 years old), Cas (3), and Rose (1.5). My husband, Matt, is a Marine veteran who served three combat tours in Iraq and has been a stay-at-home dad, and a really good one at that. He is now working as a part-time Washoe County Park Ranger and going back to school. While environmental issues are my expertise, I have been active in the local community for years on a number of different causes and issues.
Q: You mention environmental issues. Tell us a little more about how the state is affected, what we can do, and what you would do?
A: This is the most common question I get as I go door to door talking to voters, so let me give you an example.
Less than two months ago, the EPA and BP got the state of Nevada to take on the oversight of BP’s cleanup of a Superfund toxic waste site. This is the Anaconda Mine site, that you’ve seen in the news where the company recently stopped bottled water delivery to the Yerington Paiute Tribe.
That’s less than 80 miles’ drive from here, and the groundwater, the Tribe’s water, is poisoned. So is the land. The State signed on to this deal that put us on the hook for overseeing and holding BP accountable for hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental cleanup. Yes, that BP.
The state should never have taken this on in the first place. As far as I can tell, the governor signed this agreement for political reasons — his administration was afraid that a Superfund cleanup site designation would be bad for economic development and tourism.
It still needs to be cleaned up.
I’ve been working for the Tribe over four years, assisting with site management and monitoring; regulatory issues; planning and technical support, including cost control; and general environmental consulting.
You can check out my website for a much more detailed discussion of why this site is different than the other contaminated mine sites and Superfund cleanup sites around the state. But the kind of short answer (sorry, I’m an engineer!) and broader point is two-fold.
First, we are not equipped, at the state level, to handle this. But, while we should try, it is unlikely that we can give it back to the federal government. So now we must make the best we can of it, by bringing more experts on board and, hopefully, by electing state lawmakers who understand the issue, will pay attention, and help hold BP accountable. Perhaps more importantly, we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.
That brings me to my final point: unless we are vigilant, this will happen again. The EPA and Trump Administration will try to pass the buck; we can’t let them. They are also dismantling environmental oversight and protections that could prevent future environmental devastation. It just takes one bad corporate actor to go unmonitored, and this happens again.
Q: We are of course the Reno MOMs Blog, tell us about where you stand on issues affecting moms, families, children, and women in general?
A: Well, I’m all 100% about supporting moms and working families. As I said, I’m a working mom myself. I’m in a male-dominated STEM field, so the me-too experience is certainly not unfamiliar. I also have three young children and a husband who is a combat veteran. I understand the challenges moms and working families face because I — we — live it every day. We need to improve access to healthcare and costs. We need to support families with expanded services and ability to take family leave and so many more things. I’m a huge advocate for normalizing breastfeeding — posted a picture of myself doing that at work just the other day! We also need to expand and promote things that support dads’ ability to be home and part of the family, and to stay at home if they are the ones that want to and are in a position to, like in my family. And of course, we need to improve our schools, to support children and families.
Q: That’s a perfect segue to our education question: What would you do to improve education in Washoe County, and the state in general?
A: Funding is first. We need to invest more in our schools. I’m not afraid to say it: We need to raise taxes to fund education! We have to make sure that marijuana tax revenue is adding to our school funding, not just taking the place of (“supplanting”) other funds, as I believe it is currently doing. We must hire more teachers and reduce class sizes.
Secondly, a big focus of mine will be on making sure teachers are teaching, not testing. Cut down everything we possibly can that gets in the way of teachers and students engaging in education, not high-stakes tests.
I don’t want to sound too down on our education system. Yes, we need to improve and yes, we hear a lot of things in the news about how Nevada ranks. But most of those rankings and funding-level comparisons are a couple years old with their data, meaning they don’t take into account recent investments. Washoe County also always performs better than the state, and has been improving in many ways, like narrowing achievement gaps and improving graduation rates. Passage of WC-1 allows for us to update our schools and address overcrowding, and I’m particularly happy to see investments in repairing older schools. But, being the best school district in the state is still not good enough.
Q: Affordable housing is a huge issue facing our region. Any thoughts or plans on that?
A: This is a huge, tough issue that we must tackle, immediately, and on a number of fronts. We need to enable local governments to be more aggressive with things like rent control and development approvals and denials. But a big thing that I’ve been thinking about is how to incentivize builders to stop building as much sprawl of wildly expensive homes and massive lots, and instead build more housing that’s in reach of working families, middle class families, localfamilies. I have one big idea, and I don’t want to oversell it because it needs more work and input and stakeholders to weigh in, but the idea is to create a kind of affordable housing infrastructure “bank” where we would impose a tax or fee on new homes built that are priced out of the reach of median income families in Washoe County (or even 1.5 or 2 times median income). Then, that funding would be used to provide direct incentives to builders who construct homes that are affordable to working and middle-class families. It may have to be done on a sliding scale —- both the tax or fee as well as the incentives. Like I said, a lot more work to be done on this issue (and there are more details on the idea on my website) but, this is the kind of direction that voters can expect me to take if I’m elected.
Q: We talked about education generally already, but what about school safety, specifically?
A: We need to make our schools safer. I’m not talking about turning them into concrete bunkers with guard towers. I’m talking about more counselors, smaller class sizes, and more things that promote well-adjusted children, like physical education, music, and art. This is a big issue, and it needs to be addressed in multiple ways, including things like raising the minimum wage so that parents can work one job, make ends meet, and have time to spend with their families and raise their children. A couple more things: I think we should essentially ban the types of weapons that make school shootings so deadly, like the AR-15. I also do not believe we should be arming teachers or school staff. That one is both gut level and informed by my husband, a Marine veteran who served three combat tours in Iraq, and also thinks that even former military personnel should not have guns in schools, unless they are uniformed school police officers.
Q: You touched on gun control a little, but we’d like to hear more about where you stand on that.
A: As I said, my husband is a former Marine combat veteran. He and I are both native Nevadans and like to hunt and fish. We also both strongly support common-sense gun legislation, like universal background checks, essentially banning civilian ownership of military-style weapons like the AR-15, banning bump stocks, and things like that.
Q: Anything else you’d to talk about that we haven’t yet?
A: I’m sure there’s lots! But mainly, I want people to understand that I am a little bit of a different type of candidate. Besides being an environmental engineer, I mean, which is itself a different skill set and background than most in the legislature, and besides the fact that I look a little different, too. I’m not steeped in the ways that we “can’t” do things, I’m a problem solver and I believe that there are win-win solutions.
For instance, I’m endorsed by the Nevada Conservation League and the Sierra Club, which are about preservation, and the state AFL-CIO and many member unions, which are about jobs and growth. That is at least in part because I know there’s a way to grow that is sustainable. Mining can be done well and is necessary for the raw materials to make things like the batteries and solar panels we need to move away from fossil fuels. These are mostly skilled, organized labor jobs that pay good, middle-class wages. But we cannot let industry run amuck and police themselves; we have living examples of how bad that can be. My approach is not all or nothing, and that is why I have support from a broad range of people and groups.