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Marrow, Noel outline campaign visions

NBC-29 reporter Matt Talhelm interviewed 25th House District nomination candidates Greg Marrow and Jim Noel for a story that appeared on the evening news Tuesday night. The full interviews are available online. The AFP transcribed the interviews to present the answers from the candidates side by side.


Matt Talhelm: Why did you decide to jump in this race?

Greg Marrow: “I’ve been involved in politics for probably 30 years or so on both sides of the aisle. In fact in the ’80s I worked on Ronald Reagan’s campaign. I knew that one day I would run. The question was when.”
“Over the past several years, I’ve watched, unfortunately, a lot of the jobs in Waynesboro and Augusta County exit in a mass exodus, and it’s slowly getting worse and worse and worse. And unfortunately, I’ve seen no attempt by our elected officials to try to remedy that or reverse the trend. And I find that quite disturbing.”
“One of the things that I’ve been involved in for a long, long time is the green movement, conservation. My undergraduate degree is actually in marine biology. I did a lot of conservation-effort stuff and green technology. I even tried to put solar panels on this building to be sort of a case study in doing it on a medical facility, and it was just cost-prohibitive, because the state of Virginia does not have any tax incentives or rebates or anything like that, so it didn’t materialize.”
“I’ve always wanted to bring that sort of technology and that concept to the area. With this economy the way it is, if you look at Waynesboro and Augusta County, the unemployment is about 8 percent, 8.1 percent, it’s a little higher than the national average. Something needs to be done, and nothing is.”
“What I am proposing, what I want to do, is to start a green initiative to bring jobs, particularly green jobs, to the area. In 2007, $125 million were dedicated to training people in new jobs. President Obama just recently allocated another $500 million. That’s $625 million, and right now our politicians are not going and looking for it, and I want to know why. We’ve got a great community college. There’s no reason we can’t set something up and have some sort of training facility. And it’s being done in other states. They’re doing that in Ohio, they’re doing it in Texas, they’re doing it in Arizona. Why aren’t we doing it here?”
“In the same year, 2007, 9 million green jobs were created to the tune of about $970 billion worth of revenue. Not one dollar, not one job came to District 25. And we need to change that.”


Matt Talhelm: Why did you decide to get into this race this year?

Jim Noel: “Well, I’ve been wanting to do this for years. I really have. And my kids are at an age now where they can be on their own a little more, and I can devote some time to this. And Steve has been in there for 14 years now, six years unopposed, and I think it’s really bad when nobody goes unopposed. I think everyone should be – have some competition. And he’s said in his meetings before that, you know, you know, I believe that, you know, you can take me out of office any time you want, just vote me out. You know, so he’s there for the long haul, forever, unless you get rid of him. You know, and for people in this area, there’s a lot of heavy-duty Republicans, and they vote party-line. They don’t care who’s in office or how they do, they just vote for the party. You know, last week when we were up at the office building, you know, Government Center, I talked to people, like, oh, you’re a Democrat, I only vote Republican. Times have changed. We need to start really worrying about what’s going on in Virginia and here locally. You know, we need to worry about this place, this now, not worry about what party you belong to. So I’ve said I’m more of an independent Democrat. I’m going to do what I think is best for this area and best for the people.”


Matt Talhelm: What are some of the issues you want to get out there to the voters in the 25th District?

Jim Noel: “One of the big things I have is schools. There’s a lot of kids in this area that probably won’t go to college and don’t know what they want to do. I’d really like to see more specialized training in schools. You know, Massanutten has grown, and it’s a great school now. Valley Vo-Tech is I think still in the small stages and needs to really build up. You know, I’ve said one of the things I really like is Blue Ridge started a aircraft-maintenance program. I think that could translate to a high-school level and have an aviation high school, something that kids can learn aircraft mechanics, or stuff in that line, and immediately have a job out of school, or be that much higher when they leave school to be able to go on to a technical school or even join the military and have knowledge ahead of time and be that much further than anybody else. You know, really specialized schools throughout Virginia would be a boost to this area.”


Matt Talhelm: Is that something that you see working at Perdue – that things are changing? Do you see that from your experience in business?

Jim Noel: “Trades are going to the wayside anymore. People aren’t – they don’t have a trade anymore. There’s so many jobs in this area that if you had an actual trade, and you knew what you could do, there’s thousands of jobs here. There really is. Over at Purdue, you know, we have mechanics that make a very, very good wage, and a lot of these jobs could be learned hands-on. It’s not something that you necessarily have to have in a trade program, but you can learn it and build your way up. But people don’t think the poultry industry being a prestigious job. You know, it’s not something they want to do. But there are some very good jobs there. In the refrigeration department, we work with ammonia systems. Those guys make extremely well-paid jobs. And something that could be used anywhere in the U.S. But, you know, you have to have the ability to teach these kids and let them know there are these kind of jobs once they take these things.”


Matt Talhelm: A lot of industries locally are going through big layoffs. Is it time to look at a new way of doing things in business and industry in the district?

Greg Marrow: “Actually, there certainly is. The neat thing about green technology boom that we’re about to experience in this country is it’s great for small-time small-business entrepreneurs as well as large companies. The tax incentives that other states are giving their entrepreneurs are quite productive, In fact, in Europe right now, what they’re doing is if you generate electricity using solar power or windmill, you get four times the going rate of regular electricity. So people are building and buying up small wind turbines and putting them in their farms and selling the power back and making some money. Which is a great incentive for these folks to do that.”
“The United States is responsible for about two-thirds of the world’s production of small farm wind generators. Two-thirds! Are there any of them being done in 25 – District 25? No. And I think that’s unfortunate. We need to – you know, we all would have liked to have been in on the bubble, the dotcom bubble, at the beginning, and the real-estate bubble at the beginning. Here is our opportunity to be at the beginning of the green bubble, and we need to be there.”
“President Obama has also allocated $20 billion to create new green jobs, and we need to be creating those here. I’ve actually met with two of the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran, and they both have great green incentives to try to make Virginia a flagship for the United States for green technology. And if we can get the bureaucratic red tape, and we can change that so it’s easy for folks to come here, that would be wonderful.”
“The other gubernatorial candidate, Creigh Deeds, actually had a bill that he introduced that would have given tax breaks to companies who brought green jobs here. Unfortunately, Del. Landes voted against that, and it was defeated in committee.”


Matt Talhelm: We’ve seen in this district some massive job cuts in industry. What would you say to the people who have gone through that? What do you think needs to change in this district from a state level that you could take to Richmond to do to change that?

Jim Noel: “I really don’t have a good answer for that. I mean, yes, this area has – developers have come into this area, and major businesses have left, and we really need to reverse that trend. In Waynesboro, it’s more like a giant bed and breakfast. A lot of things have popped up in Waynesboro, but it’s the small-paying jobs, the minimum-wage jobs, restaurants, hotels, and you get sales, but there’s nothing for people to do there, and they’re all traveling over the mountain to go work.”
“We need to find some ways to bring some industry back into this area to keep people here. And I really don’t have specifics on what could be done to bring them in here. You know, people talk about the green jobs, which is a great concept, but does it translate to jobs right now? I don’t know. In the future, in 10, 15 years from now, sure, there’s going to be a great demand for that. But I think we need to concentrate on right now and find the things that can bring some jobs to this area now.”


Matt Talhelm: How do you deliver a campaign message to the diverse 25th District?

Jim Noel: “It’s very hard. It’s very, very hard. You know, they just had in the House and the Senate floor, they tried to do the redistricting, and Steve was one of the ones – headed to block that. And redistricting would have made this area fair. You know, for the next 10 years after the census, it would have been a fair,impartial – which would have made, you know, my area, it would have been a nice area, not having, you know, I go around Staunton. You know, Staunton’s a major part of this area. Albemarle County doesn’t really reflect the people that are over here. We really need – our government system really needs to be responsible for the people, not for the politics.”
“Don’t worry about if the Democrats are going to win, the Republicans are going to win. We need to worry about what’s going to make Virginia win and the people.”


Matt Talhelm: How do you send a message to encompass all of the people in all of the 25th District?

Greg Marrow: “What it really comes down to is the message of my platform. My platform is not necessarily about Republican issues, it’s not necessarily about Democratic issues. It’s about community issues. When I talk about job creation, everybody, all ends of the spectrum, at all ages, at all work-experience levels, they all understand that concept. When I talk about the need for affordable health care, because infant mortality in our state is so abysmal, they understand that. They all have horror stories about what it’s like to have to pay these astronomical premiums or to try to take care of their older, aging parent. They understand that concept.”
“The other big platform, the big color of my platform that I’m interested in, is military-returnee issues. I spent almost 13 years in the United States Navy, and I think it’s a travesty that these returning servicemen and servicewomen coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be being forgotten. Right now, Army suicides are at an all-time high. Divorce rates across the board are at an all-time high. Some of these folks are going back and joining gangs as a way to exist. I think that is just absolutely atrocious. I think we need to have some sort of identification program – when they come back Stateside, and they come back to their base, there needs to be some sort of debriefing program where we’re identifying specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, are identifying at-risk individuals and making sure that they’re getting the information that they need to transition back into civilian society.”
“That’s not being done. It wasn’t done during the Vietnam era. And as a result, about one in three homeless folks today are Vietnam veterans. I think we needed to have learned that lesson, because we cannot afford to do that a second time around.”


Matt Talhelm: A lot of those are federal issues. Do you think there’s more that can be done in Richmond and at the Capitol and at the state level?

Greg Marrow: “I do. As the health-care reform comes down, actually the way it’s going to play out is going to have a lot to do with state regulation and the way that insurance industries are regulated in their individual states. As a doctor who deals with this every single day with patients, I think it is critical that doctors who are looking after patients’ interests are involved in these decisionmaking processes. I think it’s absolutely critical that our side and the patients’ side gets represented as well.”
“On the military benefits issues and taking care of our veterans, that can be done at a local level. I don’t want veterans to have to travel two or three hours to go to a Veterans Administration for, let’s say marriage therapy, counseling. They’re probably not going to do that. But if somehow we can initiate a program where the clinics that are already in place, or maybe even tap into some of these psychiatrists and psychologists to do some pro-bono work, but somewhere at the local level, the state level and then the regional or town and city level, a way in which we’re making sure that these folks are not falling through the cracks. Once they have been identified as at-risk, great, we need to make sure that somebody, a case worker, is following them through, and they’re getting taken care of.”
“These folks deserve this form of treatment from us. We need to take care of them.”


Matt Talhelm: What needs to be done in Richmond to change the way the budget has been going the past few years?

Jim Noel: “A lot of things, like when they were talking about the budget with VDOT, you know, money is collected for – from taxes for gas sales. And we had money that was supposed to be going – we had a 2 percent sales increase a few years ago, that money should be going towards our infrastructure. We should be working on our roads, our bridges, our highways. Look at the possibilities of high-speed rail. That’s something that could be really – make Virginia, put it on the map, and give us something, it would give us jobs, give us, you know, work. It would give us a step up on everybody else, and I think something like that would bring jobs to the area, because you would have that system in place.”
“We really need to start spending the money wisely on what – for the future, not for right now. You know, to close down, you know, parts of 81 for the rest stops, that doesn’t accomplish anything. It just makes people unhappy. You know, you need to worry about finding ways to spend the money that we have the right way, and think about it for long term instead of short term.”


Matt Talhelm: What is your answer to some of these economic challenges that the state level is seeing that has trickling down to schools, counties, cities?

Greg Marrow: “I think the transportation issue is sort of a travesty. It’s been several years before we actually resolved this and actually passed a funding bill, and that’s what’s caused this crisis right now. Right here in the Valley, as you know, they’re thinking about shutting down some of the rest areas, and they’re going to cut back on some of the budgets, and there’s a lot of angst by the voters and the folks who live along 81, and rightfully so. But those drastic cuts are being put in place because we’re not funding VDOT. And yes, it needs to be reviewed and understand better. I’m actually meeting with several of the major players, including VDOT, so that I can come up with a better, more geared, more focused opinion on the matter.”
“I think it’s sort of unfortunate that we’re crippling them and then getting mad when they decide that they have to make these cuts.”
“The traditional way of thinking things is you either cut programs or you increase taxes. You know, we can increase our tax-base revenue by creating jobs. And these green jobs that I’m talking about are not cheap jobs. They’re twenty, thirty, fifty dollars an hour. And they’re manufacturing. It’s called bringing made in America back to America. If we can bring these jobs in here, bring these companies in here, and increase the tax base that way, we may not need to increase taxes, we may not need to take care of and cut programs.”


Matt Talhelm: This is an uphill battle for both of you gentlemen, not just in June, but beyond that. Are you ready for that challenge?

Jim Noel: “I really am. I think people in this area are, too. You know, I have talked to a lot of people, and there still are, like I said before, there are those people who no matter what, I’m a Republican, I’m a Democrat. You know, the things that have happened in this area are not just because of Republicans, not just because of Democrats. It’s everybody. We need to stop worrying about, you know, the petty politics, concentrate on what’s going on here, you know. I tell my wife, you know, she’s a Republican. For a long time, she says, I’m not going to vote for you, because you’re a Republican, I mean, because you’re a Democrat, and she’s a heavy Republican. And you know, and the last thing she said is, you know, Don’t do anything to make me regret, you know, backing you. And I want to do that for everybody here. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, you know, if you’re going to vote for me, and put me in there, I want to do my absolute best, no matter who you are, to represent this area, and to make you never want to say you regret putting me in office.”


Matt Talhelm: Are you up for this challenge against Steve Landes? You’re the underdog in this, really.

Greg Marrow: “I like being the underdog, and even in sports, I always root for the underdog. So I have no problem with that. Again, I’ve always been involved in politics in one way or another, and these issues that we just talked about today are issues that have always been important to me. And with the economy the way it is, and with health-care reform on the horizon, basically my issues are now becoming the community’s issues. And so I felt like this was a great opportunity, a great time, where I don’t have to try to sell to the community what is important to me. We’ve got a common connection here. And now we just need somebody who’s got the organizational skills, who’s got the background, who’s got the experience, who’s got the leadership, who’s run a small business successfully, to get in there, get on the ground, get that grassroots moving, going, and actually start taking care of our constituents. Because essentially nothing has been done for years and years and years.”
“I always ask myself, What has my public official done for me lately? And I hope that people who are in our district ask that same question, because I think you’d have to go back a long, long ways before we actually found something that actually benefitted the quality of life of folks who live in Waynesboro, Augusta County, Southern Rockingham County.”


Story by Chris Graham

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