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Q&A: Tracey Bernett, candidate for Colorado House District 12

The Longmont Leader reached out to candidates of the races listed in our voter’s guide with a list of questions. Each response will be published as it is received and may be edited for clarity and/or length.
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Tracey Bernett (Photo courtesy of Tracey Bernett campaign)

The Longmont Leader reached out to candidates of the races listed in our voter’s guide with a list of questions. Each response will be published as it is received and may be edited for clarity and/or length. The Longmont Leader does not endorse any candidate and is providing as much information as we can to help voters make an informed decision in the 2020 election. If you have questions please contact info@longmontleader.com.

Candidate bio

I’m a mom, engineer, entrepreneur, world class runner and a lifelong Democrat. I have an engineering degree from Cornell University and a Harvard MBA. I worked in construction, aerospace/defense and the computer industry, where I led large international development projects worth about $600 million in today’s dollars. While there, I hit the glass ceiling, broke through it and then formed my own successful consulting firm in the computer storage industry.

I am now retired. I became president of the OUR Center board of directors at the start of the Great Recession, where we came together as a community and helped over 16,000 families stay in their homes and then co-chaired their successful $4.7 million capital campaign for a new Family Resource Center facility.

As Chair of the Butterfly Pavilion board, I helped revitalize the organization and set it on a new strategic path. I am currently Vice Chair of Sustainable Resilient Longmont. For three of the past four years, I have volunteered as an environmental policy analyst for both State Senators Mike Foote and Faith Winter at the Colorado State Capitol.

I have been married to the love of my life, Frank Bernett, for 36 years and we have been blessed with two wonderful children, Allison and Frank, who are the light of my life. After running 36 marathons, I recently switched to track and now compete on the world masters circuit. Last year, I was ranked #1 in the world in the indoor mile in my age group. I also enjoy backpacking, gardening and botanical watercolor painting.

What qualities do you possess that qualify you for the job you are seeking?

Being an engineer, I use science and data as a baseline for forming an opinion. As a business person, I know it’s important to consider all sides of an issue, especially unintended consequences. My decade of community service helping people struggling to make ends meet get back on their feet has taught me that individual stories are also important to consider when forming an opinion. I am a proven leader and have a proven track record of getting things done.

If you are elected, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish? And briefly, what is it and why is it important?

If elected, I will focus my efforts in three areas, which I’ve coined the “Three E’s:”: Environment, because I believe in the science of climate change and because the Colorado Front Range has a serious ozone pollution problem. My son nearly died of an asthma attack when he was two, and the wildfires caused by climate change has caused me to take him to the ER multiple times since then. A friend of mine nearly died in the 2013 floods, when the St Vrain River jumped its banks and cut a new path right through her Longmont home. I’m a world class runner, but I also have asthma, and have to check both the weather and the ozone levels before I run.

Education, because I believe investing in education is the best investment we can make as a society, starting from the day a child is born. Growing up in rural New York State, my tiny but well-funded public school prepared me for Ivy League colleges. I am appalled at the lack of investment in education in Colorado, and resulting consequences of overcrowded schools and underfunded services, much of it caused by TABOR.

Equity, because I believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect so they can follow their dreams. Equity also includes affordable housing and affordable healthcare. We have a serious affordable housing crisis in Boulder County and across the Front Range. I’m allergic to bees, and walked away from paying $600 for an epi pen prescription. No one should have to choose between paying bills and healthcare, because I believe healthcare is a human right, not a privilege.

What are your plans to ensure that all of your constituents would have access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status? In your view, where does the system fall short?

Social inequity is a reality in our community, and needs to be addressed at both the state and local level. As a state representative, I want to ensure that people of color and other underrepresented communities not only have a place at the table but also are seen, heard and supported, and that disparaging remarks and actions are not tolerated. I believe the way to solve systemic inequities, due to race or socioeconomic status, is by addressing the root causes: affordable housing, affordable healthcare, quality public education, a living wage, paid family leave, quality child care and affordable access to internet services.

What are you doing to disrupt the status quo of politics? If you had the power, what one change would you make right now?

I think it’s important to treat people with respect, and not demonize people who hold different political views from me. This is the way I work and the way I grew up. While my three brothers and parents’ political affiliations range from ultra conservative to socialist and everywhere in between, we are and have always been a tight, loving family that treats each other with love and respect. Doing so is a core part of my being.

People want to be heard and understood, and it is from that place that I always look for opportunities for common ground we can agree on to move things forward. I also believe that no one political party has a monopoly on good ideas.

If I could change one thing, it would be to strengthen the transparency of our campaign finance system. Colorado has some of the most stringent campaign finance laws on the books in terms of direct campaign contributions, but there is far too much soft money and dark money that disproportionately impacts politics.

Are you satisfied with Colorado’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, why? If not, what do you think should be done instead? Can more be done at the local level? The federal level?

I think Colorado has done a reasonable job responding to the pandemic, especially considering the appalling lack of assistance and coordinated effort from the federal government regarding protective equipment and testing capability, as well as inconsistencies between the Trump administration and the scientific and healthcare communities regarding safe practices such as mask wearing.

Governor Polis’ guidelines have been reasonable. I especially applaud his willingness to allow counties to apply for exemption from certain state mandates if the data supports it, because Colorado is a diverse state encompassing both urban and rural communities.

At the local level, I think we’re making great progress on continuing to expand and improve testing sites so that anyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms, can be tested and receive results within 1-2 days. Expanding test capability to include less intrusive tests that can be administered at home would be especially helpful to ensure government, businesses, schools and childcare centers can safely remain open.

Aside from Congress’ initial economic assistance, the federal response has been an unqualified disaster. The inconsistencies mentioned above regarding safe practices has not only created divisions across the nation regarding mask wearing and the seriousness of the pandemic, but has also set the stage for many Americans to distrust the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines. Unless there is a change in the presidency, I am concerned that the lack of a coordinated federal effort and inconsistent messaging will continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

Colorado is facing a projected budget shortfall of more than $6 billion in the next three years because of the reduction in tax revenue caused by the pandemic. How should the state and local government set budget priorities? How deeply should cuts be made? What should your office be doing, or is doing, to prepare?

Even before the pandemic hit and despite a booming economy, because of TABOR and Gallagher limitations, Colorado was facing many fiscal challenges, especially in regards to severely underfunded education and transportation. As such, I support Amendment B (eliminating Gallagher), and do not support Ballot Initiatives 116 (Income tax reduction) and 117 (Voter Approved Enterprises). I worked to get Amendment 271 (Fair Tax Colorado) on the ballot (it fell short of signatures because of the pandemic), and will work to get it on the ballot in future years.

In the meantime, my job as a state representative will be difficult, because we will have to make painful cuts in many areas dear to my heart, because by law, Colorado must balance its budget every year. That said, my immediate priorities are to continue to protect the health and safety of Coloradans, help people stay in their homes, and help struggling businesses.

As we emerge from the pandemic and can open up safely, my priorities will include shoring up education funding and investing smartly in what I call the “sustainable infrastructure of the future,” by putting people back to work in good paying green energy jobs such as improving the energy efficiency of public buildings and schools, renewable energy, electrified public and private transportation, electrified buildings and more.

A question on this year’s ballot is seeking to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. Are you in support of the measure? Why or why not?

I support Amendment B, which would repeal the Gallagher Amendment. I do not believe tax policy should be embedded in the state constitution, especially simplified formulas like Gallagher and TABOR that have no basis in economics, have caused years of unintended consequences and have wreaked havoc on state and local budgets. Eliminating Gallagher ensures that hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for schools, fire protection, libraries, police, parks and other services are protected. Furthermore, repealing Gallagher has strong bi-partisan support.

Another initiative on the ballot seeks to create a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program. Do you support this measure? If it fails, should state or local lawmakers pursue similar measures?

Yes, I support Initiative 118, Paid Family Leave, because workers should not have to choose between caring for a loved one and losing their job or paying bills. Right now, 80% of Coloradans do not have paid leave.

Initiative 118 would allow up to 12 weeks of paid leave (more for some complicated pregnancies and childbirths), and would allow existing plans to continue as long as they meet certain criteria. The cost is split 50/50 between employee and employer, with an exemption for small businesses exempt.

If 118 fails, I would support passing scaled back legislation such as paid sick leave, and would continue to work on getting support for paid family leave either through legislation or at the ballot box.

What do you think is the most pressing matter that pertains to the next generation of Coloradans who may be voting for the first time?

Climate change is unquestionably the single most pressing matter facing all generations, not just future generations. I believe the current pandemic is a window into the future if we do not address climate change, and it will increasingly affect our homes, jobs, health, communities, economy, our national security and our very existence.

Colorado led the nation in passing the renewable portfolio standard, but that’s just the start. We have to take an “all of the above” approach to combating climate change, and I am prepared to take a leadership role at the state capitol on this critical issue.

As mentioned above, I want to invest smartly in building the sustainable infrastructure of the future, by putting people back to work in good paying green energy jobs such as improving the energy efficiency of public buildings, schools, residences and commercial buildings, transitioning to 100% renewable electricity, electric grid modernization and resiliency, electrified public and private transportation, electrified and decarbonized buildings, carbon sequestration, building more resilient communities, and more. I am committed to ensuring all Coloradans, regardless of income, are included in the transition to a carbon free future, and that workers currently in fossil fuel industries are also assisted in transitioning to jobs in the new carbon-free economy.

Who is your hero, and why?

My biggest hero is my mother, Marjory Thayer. She was a lifelong activist for environmental and social justice causes, who instilled in my three brothers and me a passion for making the world a better place. She was brilliant, thoughtful, empathetic, compassionate, hard working, tenacious, spoke truth to power, never took herself too seriously, laughed often, gave hugs with abandon and was the best mother anyone could ever wish for.