Wichie Artu

Wichie Artu, Democratic candidate for State Senate

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With the Aug. 9 primaries fast approaching, Vermont News & Media sent a questionnaire out to candidates with three questions: 1) What qualifications make you the best candidate for this office? 2) What are the three most important issues or challenges going forward and how would you address them? and 3) What Vermont traditions do we need to preserve in the Green Mountain State?

Wichie Artu, Democratic candidate for State Senate, Windham CountyQualifications: I have 17 years of experience in developing and managing public health programming. I have administered public health programs across many industries: performing arts, youth empowerment, workforce development, higher education, eldercare, hospitals, government administration, and legislation.

I have been an advisor to Governor Scott, through advisory groups like the COVID Vaccine Implementation Committee; and the Vermont Legislature, through committees like the Racial Justice and Juvenile Detention Disparities Advisory Panel.

Furthermore, I am the product of the American dream. I came to the mainland U.S. when I was 7, learned English through a bilingual program, lived off of subsidies like Section 8 and food stamps, learned to apply for college through college mentorship programs, and learned to run public health programming. And now I own a farm with my husband because of so much support from community, government, and nonprofits.

Issues and challenges: 1) Family retention. We are doing a great job of bringing young families to Vermont. In fact, a net of about 5,000 people are new since the pandemic. But they’ve come to a place with no housing, no child care, and lack of transportation. I plan to do the following to help solve this: Raise taxes on second homes to increase revenue and housing stock; incentivize rehabilitation of vacant homes, commercial spaces, and lots; increase the efficiency of child care management by housing it under one agency, and reducing barriers to workforce retention; amend the current family leave policy to ensure family leave is paid and that it includes foster parents in its qualifiers.

2) Health care: Our nation’s health statistics are one of the worst among wealthy countries. It is also one of the most expensive. This is because we rely on the denial of service as a profit opportunity, and refuse ourselves the assurance of good health as an investment. We must: Provide coverage and decrease bureaucracy for health improving programs; activities that prevent negative health outcomes such as exercise; alternative health services such as arts program participation; standardize costs for billable procedures; incentivize hospitals to meet quality outcomes; incentivize businesses to sign on to a consolidated version of public health insurance options.

3) Human rights: Our right to exist is under attack. When/if to choose to be a parent, who you can love, and even access to food and water. We must protect our right to exist. Climate resilience: Hold accountable companies that have polluted our waters to the money needed to provide clean water to those waters; fund flood and drought resilience that strengthen our soil microbiomes/structures, and mitigate crop/livestock losses in extreme climate; improve infrastructure for incoming climate refugees. Civil rights: Protect people’s right to legally bond (marry) with each other, engage in private sexual acts consensually, and be paid fairly in jobs regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity; protect the right to have an abortion; have equitable access to contraception; support efforts to address racial disparities in our criminal justice system; subsidize local food sovereignty; enforce farmer labor protection and fair wages; incentivize a lower barrier farmland-only market; study possible retirement plans for farmers.

Vermont traditions: One of the most important Vermont traditions is our affinity for small-scale farms in each of our towns. However, being a farmer gets more expensive each year. We must promote the livelihood and resilience of our local food farmers and system. Another important tradition is our community resilience. When our community members are suffering, we show up. We saw it during the pandemic with the creation and strengthening of so many mutual aids. However, with increasing gas prices, the political division and rise in xenophobia, and a new wave of Vermonters in our state, our community resilience has been pushed off balance. We must look to promote cultural humility, emotional intelligence, and active listening skills in our schools and places of work.