Jeff Ballinger's Response to the Create the Vote Questionnaire

1. The Role of Arts, Culture, and Creativity

What role do arts, culture, and creativity play in your life, your family, your community? What impact does it have?

We are lucky to have free time and enjoy television series and films several times per week.  Even our busy grad students sons find some time for this, and we enjoy discussing and sharing views on dramas and comedies alike. The communities we're most familiar with - Lowell, Lawrence and Andover - have a diverse cultural output. We particularly enjoy history programs and folk/roots music.


2. Addressing District-wide Issues

Just as any other part of the state, we face many economic and social issues here in the district.

What are your priority issues? What role can the creative community play in addressing these challenges?

Here is a heartbreaking headline that pretty much sums up why I chose to run: "Money Pouring into Wisconsin for a Key Race." My number one issue will be changing the word "money" to "activist."Activists Pouring into Wisconsin for a Key Race. We can do this partly through public financing of campaigns but principally by getting our party to stop seeking contributions from banks and insurance companies and Wall Street. Before unions were seriously weakened, labor provided the Democrats with most of the help it needed to compete with Republicans. 

We need to rebuild union power by reversing years of anti-union policies - first by reestablishing the National Labor Relations Board's Division of Economic Research. Our workplaces and the very nature of work itself is changing so rapidly that unions need to get reliable information about organizing targets and new opportunities for growth.  Secondly, the Department of Justice needs to establish a Corporate Crime Database and Annual Report (first introduced in the 112th Congress). Prominent among the crimes to watch and repot on are: union-busting – often a form of psychological persecution of union supporters and, also, the refusal of bosses to bargain, even after workers win bargaining rights. Both are addressed in the new ‘‘Workplace Democracy Act,’’ recently introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Rebuilding union power will take all forces interested in social justice. Film can be powerful (I worked on the J.P. Stevens organizing campaign & knew the real Norma Rae.) More recently, Boots Riley ("Sorry to Bother You") has made a deep connection with fast-food workers. Curating museum exhibits keeps the spirit of movements like "Bread and Roses" alive - very important in the Merrimack Valley. Songs of struggle will always be important, too.


There is a growing body of data and science that’s telling us that loneliness is more prevalent than we thought. Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy even compared the mortality effect associated with loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

What do you think the creative community can do to address social isolation?

We need to get more music and poetry programs in public spaces, like libraries; funding should also be made available for all types of entertainment for our Senior Centers.


3. Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Research has shown that arts education increases achievement across all academic disciplines, enhances student engagement, and fosters development of critical thinking and learning skills.

In accordance with the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is currently redesigning school and district report cards.  These reports cards will include measures for arts education participation. In addition, DESE is updating arts curriculum frameworks for the first time since 1999.

What will you do to increase access and participation in arts education for youth both in school and out of schools?

These programs cost money, of course. Of necessity, they will stand behind our shredded safety net in line for funding. Until we get big money out of politics, our Democrats will remain beholden to corporate PACs, insurance companies, banks and especially the defense industry (60% of House Dems voted for a Pentagon budget $57 bil. more than Trump had asked for).  

We are in a crisis of youth after school programs: 4.5 million youth 7-14 years old are left on their own 4+ hours per weekday. Good "twofer" - give arts programs. 

4. Public Access to the Arts and Humanities

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are the nation’s vehicle for supporting the creative sector and providing public access to diverse opportunities for participation in the Arts and Humanities. The Trump Administration’s FY18 and FY19 budgets recommended eliminating both the NEA and NEH. However Congress, in a bipartisan show of support, rejected the Administration’s proposal and instead authorized a $2 million increase to both agencies.

How will you protect national funding for the arts and humanities and work to increase opportunities for everyone in your district to access art, culture, and creativity?

Arts programs will suffer cuts due the Defense Department's increasing share of the "discretionary" budget. This will not change until we get public financing of political campaigns. Term limits for Congress and prohibitions on "revolving door" lobbying would help, too.


5. Art and Public Health

Expressive art therapy is a proven and effective treatment to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, help cope with traumatic experiences, decrease depression and anxiety, and aid addiction recovery.

How would you ensure veterans, young people in the juvenile justice system, the elderly, and those suffering from addiction are able to access art and creative therapies?

Arts programming as a form of therapy is desperately needed. We can fund with settlement with opioid makers and other pharmaceutical companies like the Sacklers, one of the richest families in America. We may use the tobacco settlement–$246 billion– as a template. Recently, the Teamsters union made a demand at the McKesson shareholders meeting to clawback excessive CEO compensation. The CEO had income of $368 million in a five-year period! In the same 5-year period, the company flooded West Virginia –a state with only 2 million inhabitants –with 100 million doses of opiates. 
The Sackler's Purdue Pharma sent sales representatives to push opioids in Massachusetts clinics and hospitals: 150,000 visits in a decade.


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