ON THE ISSUES
As the son of a union steelworker and school teacher, Saafir Rabb understands the need to be paid a living wage for meaningful work. This is why he supports the proposed increase in the federal Minimum Wage to $15/hour and, more specifically, the establishment of living wages.
Saafir also believes it is possible for Maryland’s 7th District to achieve Full Employment. In the past two decades, Saafir’s company built a solar manufacturing plant that led to the creation of 1,000 jobs in San Diego. He has also helped to create hundreds of construction trade jobs in the Baltimore and DC metropolitan areas. His goal is for all federal infrastructure funding allocated to the 7th District to prioritize hiring from the capable local workforce, including talented licensed professionals and union laborers, already living here. This approach will incentivize residents to stay in the District and contribute to a growing tax base.
Some District residents may require Vocational Training, or re-training, in order to secure jobs in emerging industries such as information technology, multi-platform media, and renewable energy. Although the national unemployment rate is at an all-time low, there are thousands of people in our District who continue to experience barriers to employment, such as low-income entry-level workers who cannot afford advanced training programs, individuals whose felony convictions are a barrier to work after they re-enter society, and veterans returning to civilian life.
Saafir will work hard to secure resources to support Small Businesses and any individual living in the District who is seeking full-time, stable employment.
Whether renters or homeowners, we all care about our neighborhoods. We appreciate the value of historic landmarks that increase Property Values and contribute to the culture and attractiveness of an area. We want to live in communities that are safe and welcoming, with trees and green spaces for recreation. Everyone living in the 7th District has a need for stable and affordable housing that has functioning heat, air, water, plumbing, and electricity.
Much of the housing stock in Baltimore City is sub-standard. Lead paint and mold are ongoing problems, rats and other pests are not efficiently controlled, and condemned buildings owned by absentee landlords endanger surrounding residents. Affordability is a major barrier for many District residents. We all know Baltimore has a Homeless problem. In 2018, more than 12,000 homeless individuals in the city were provided services. But there are also homeless individuals and families in other parts of the 7th District. Nearly 4,000 homeless individuals in Baltimore County and 1,000 homeless individuals in Howard County were also provided services in 2018.
Saafir wants to expand District residents’ access to Home Ownership, including expanding subsidized mortgage programs. Home ownership will not only reduce the number of absentee and predatory landlords, it will also increase property value and residents’ equity and a sense of pride in their homes. Land use, green spaces, community-friendly spaces for recreation and celebrations can all be value-enhancing additions throughout the District.
Saafir is committed to securing the infrastructure resources that will ensure quality and Affordable Housing for all District residents.
Everyone benefits from regular health check-ups, preventive screenings, and treatment in the earliest stages of disease. Access to quality and affordable health care must be a right for all Americans. There are compelling proposals for Universal Coverage, such as Medicare For All, that warrant a thorough examination. And the ACA made significant improvements to our health care system, such as protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions, that must continue. But the cost of health insurance is still a barrier for many.
In the real world, away from the policy debates, health insurance alone does not always ensure access to health care or good health. Visits to the doctor may help our elders manage diabetes or hypertension, but those visits cannot prevent traumatic injury among people living in communities with high rates of violence. There are communities in our District with no grocery stores and sub-standard housing. There are impoverished neighborhoods in Baltimore City where rates of infant mortality, HIV, and life expectancy are equivalent to developing nations in Africa and Asia. The Opioid Crisis is an ongoing concern. In the years that Saafir served as Chief Operating Officer of the Baltimore-based I Can’t We Can program, over 15,000 addicts were brought into recovery.
The solution to poor health has many dimensions. In order to achieve good health throughout Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, all of our citizens need access to food that is fresh and nutritious, stable housing that is safe and affordable, living wage jobs, a physical environment free of violence, and access to affordable health care. Saafir is concerned about families’ Nutrition in low-income communities, and has experience establishing youth-led urban farms in food deserts which grew 65,000 pounds of vegetables and fruit last year, much of which was donated. Next year, even larger urban acreage is on track to produce closer to 500,000 pounds.
As a member of Congress, Saafir will seek to ensure health coverage for all, more resources for drug treatment, and additional acreage dedicated to urban farms, while he also strives to ensure jobs, housing, public safety, and infrastructure throughout the District.
It has been said that “Education is the passport to the future.” Saafir believes that all of our children deserve a high-quality education that is relevant, inspirational and a springboard to positive experiences of adulthood. Public Education is a cornerstone of democracy and American life—the promise that all children have access to quality education. In many parts of our District, we have failed in that promise.
In order to be competitive on a global level, in order to stay current with the fast-paced advances in technology, in order to weigh in on ethical issues such as prenatal genetics and end-of-life care, in order to achieve personal goals such as full-time employment or professional goals such as advanced training and graduate degrees—our children need an educational foundation that grounds them in the basics, stimulates their intellect and God-given talents, and propels them into jobs and careers that are fulfilling and appropriately compensated. We need to give each child the foundation they require to develop into a positive and productive adult, including children with special needs.
In some parts of our District, schoolchildren wear coats and scarfs during the winter months due to faulty heating systems. They swelter under heat in the early fall and late spring due to faulty air-conditioning. Textbooks are lacking, chairs and desks are unstable, cafeteria food is unhealthy, and the curriculum is outdated and lackluster. Children from poor neighborhoods may begin their school day hungry, angry, sad, or insecure, but they should leave that afternoon invigorated, encouraged, and inspired.
Saafir believes that Teachers are one of our most precious and yet most undervalued commodities. Young adults need to be inspired to seek higher education and training in order to serve as the next generation of public school teachers. In order for that to become a reality, teachers need to be compensated with wages equivalent to their labor-intensive, all-important service.
Any child with the ability and desire to attend a trade school, community college, college, or university should have that opportunity to excel regardless of their ability to pay. Saafir believes that the increases in college tuition and resultant Student Loan crisis must be abated in a pragmatic and fair manner as soon as possible. In one of the largest and wealthiest nations in the world, and as a leader in technology, medicine, science, and business, no student should be discouraged by financial barriers.
Saafir believes the consensus among scientists across the world that climate change has man-made origins. He believes this is an urgent and existential crisis that is calling out for leadership, vision, and strategic man-made solutions.
A national transition from carbon-based energy to renewable and sustainable energy is essential, and it needs to begin now. Saafir supports the Green New Deal, which is not simply about protection of the environment. It is a complex, layered plan that will retrain workers and retool whole industries. Solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources still under development need to be championed with ample resources. Going forward, every infrastructure, housing, and commercial project should be required to address environmental concerns and strive for 100% green compliance.
All of us need clean air, clean water, and nutritious food to flourish. Saafir sees great value in the federal legislation that has been passed to protect our environment, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency. When nature is imbalanced, people living in impoverished neighborhoods are often the first to suffer—from flooding, utility cut-offs, isolation, and lack of emergency response. This is true in America as it is around the world. We are all vulnerable, however, to the increases in storms and violent winds, flash flooding of streets and highways, and the imminent breakdown of utility grids. We need to ensure that our District’s public services infrastructure and emergency preparedness are strong and fully resourced, so that we are ready to act.
Our green spaces need to be preserved and expanded. This includes our National Parks and Monuments as well as the local forests, parks, and waterways spread throughout our District. Our grandchildren, and the grandchildren of our grandchildren, deserve a healthy, vibrant planet on which to live. They deserve to cherish and live among the diversity of flora and fauna that previous generations have enjoyed.
Saafir has experience with large-scale environmental projects. He recently worked, for example, with urban stakeholders in San Diego to build a solar manufacturing plant, and he worked with environmentalists in Montana to create a two-million-acre park and nature preserve.
Saafir will prioritize legislation and allocation of resources that will help us to reverse the climate change trend. He has faith that we have the ingenuity to heal our planet before it is too late.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS and HUMAN RIGHTS
“People are people are people,” stated Saafir recently. “Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, income, religion, or country of origin—people are the same everywhere.” This statement represents Saafir’s core beliefs and principles. He is a family man, something that his wife and three children and his large extended family can easily attest to. He believes that people from disparate groups can be brought together when the needs and aspirations they share as human beings are highlighted. His campaign team is filled with men, women, and youth who share these principles.
Saafir supports women’s rights, including the Right to Choose and access to comprehensive reproductive health care. He will push for reauthorization and increased funding of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to support community-based efforts to protect women. He supports the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment on the federal level and policies that will mandate equal pay for equal work.
Saafir believes that human rights are a priority in all federal policies. The current Administration’s Muslim Ban goes against our country’s assurance of freedom of religion. He is angered by the rash of vicious assaults in the U.S., based on a person’s religion and believes that Hate Speech is not protected under the First Amendment. He will fight against anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, and racist rhetoric, and challenge all Americans to treat their neighbors with respect and dignity. He is horrified by the caging of babies at our southern border, and will push to reunite all immigrant children with their parents—a God-given right!
Saafir feels strongly that criminal justice reform must tackle Mass Incarceration and make changes in the law that will support and motivate individuals with felony convictions who are re-entering society. Police brutality has also taken a huge toll on African Americans across our country. Saafir will push for standardized screening of police and correctional officer candidates, and he will push for in-depth training in cultural competence for all law enforcement personnel who work directly with the public, as well as training in mental health crisis response and trauma-informed mediation.
Finally, Saafir supports a reinvigoration of both the Voting Rights Act and passage of legislation to correct and preserve our election infrastructure. He supports the movement to eliminate the Electoral College so that future presidents are more fairly elected by a majority of the people.