A candidate who recently entered the race for Iowa Governor visited Webster City on Wednesday.
Jonathan Narcisse, who announced his intent to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2014 election on Jan. 20, visited with community members at Mornin' Glory Coffee Shop. Narcisse has been touring the state to garner support for his plans if elected which include eliminating poverty in Iowa.
"To really address poverty effectively, we must first fix government in Iowa because that frees up the resources for us to be able to invest," Narcisse said.
Jonathan Narcisse, left, meets Ben Everson at Mornin’ Glory Coffee Shop in Webster City. Narcisse met several community members during his visit and outlined his plans to eliminate poverty and change education in Iowa. Narcisse is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2014 Iowa Governor race.
The former Director of the Des Moines School Board and former Co-Chair of the Polk County Democratic Party said he would address what he called the "full-throated, obscene investment in bureaucracy in Iowa." Narcisse said he would create efficiencies and accountabilities that would bring billions of dollars back to state taxpayers.
To accomplish this, Narcisse said he would reduce bureaucratic costs in schools. During his time on the Des Moines School Board, he said the district was billed for time that didn't exist, bottled water and cell phones by a contractor. He has also found schools who report having students that don't exist. Narcisse said he would order the head of the Division of Criminal Investigation to create a plan to audit state and local governments.
Another cost saving measure Narcisse has proposed would be to "front-load" public schools. Through work with a commission including superintendents, college presidents and private sector members, Narcisse developed a plan where the state could save money by incorporating the junior and senior years of high school with community colleges. Students would still be able to take part in band and football, but would be able to pursue vocational or technical courses, college preparatory classes or remediated classes, whatever they need to prepare for their careers.
"They get greater flexibility, but most importantly, it costs us thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars less," Narcisse said. "It's a fraction to send kids to Iowa Central Community College for what it does to send them to Fort Dodge High School."
With that money saved, Narcisse said the state would be able to provide full-time early childhood education for children. While the education wouldn't be compulsory, Narcisse said the classes would focus on music, art, math, science and other areas that would make children more well-rounded citizens. Iowa families would also then save money by not having to send those children to childcare services.
The candidate's plans for education and cost-savings also extend to college students. Narcisse said his plans include allowing college-bound students to attend a public university at no cost if they perform 40 hours of community service over each summer and agree to stay in Iowa for each year that the state pays for. Students looking to go to private colleges could also receive financial assistance. Narcisse said those students could get the same amount that it would cost to send a student to a public university, which would cut down on their post-school debt.
The savings, according to Narcisse, would create about a billion dollar windfall that students and their families could keep. The funding for this proposal would come from trimming the bureaucratic fat in Iowa schools through audits.
"The administrative excess is nothing more than white-collar welfare," Narcisse said. "By eliminating white-collar welfare in our bureaucratic positions, we then free up the resources to say to our young people, 'You can get an education at no cost or significantly reduced cost, but you got to stay here in Iowa and you have to give us community service.'"
Through changing the Iowa education system, Narcisse said Iowa will have more citizens that have job skills. Those skills will allow Iowa's poor to be more self-sufficient.
"You don't entitle poverty. You don't end poverty simply by giving people food stamps or paying their rent or giving them free medical. You end poverty by providing them a path to be able to take care of themselves," Narcisse said.
This path to self-sufficiency is one that Narcisse said harkens back to Democrats of the past such as Lyndon Johnson who during his Presidency announced a "war on poverty." Narcisse said that finding jobs around communities in Iowa for the unemployed can include working at schools, with nonprofits, with the elderly, at bike and walking trails and more. Narcisse also wants to eliminate taxes on overtime.
In addition to tax breaks, Narcisse has proposed that Iowa residents have a small percent of their income tax bill rebated so it can be put into a community charitable cause. He said this would allow taxpayers, instead of politicians, to decide where their money would go.
"Hamilton County could put their money in an art program or community theater, whatever," Narcisse said.
Iowans could also put their rebates into state businesses under this proposal. Narcisse said it would allow community members to seek investments for their businesses from their neighbors and friends. Individuals could reinvest that money into their own businesses as well.
Another proposal from Narcisse would reduce penalties for minor drug possessions which he said would save the state and working-class Iowans money. While Narcisse said poor Iowans can face decades for being caught with a small amount of marijuana, wealthier citizens face fewer consequences for more egregious drug charges. He cited the arrest of David England, the former President and CEO of Des Moines Area Community College, who was found with about $20,000 worth of marijuana in 2003 according to the Sioux City Journal. Narcisse said England was sentenced to community service.
"We know this disparity exists," Narcisse said. "My point is, I no longer want to fund that hypocrisy. So, for example, if we move possession without intent to sell to the civil docket where people pay fines, or if need be we get them in treatment, we save hundreds of millions of dollars."
Narcisse's campaign for 2014 marks the second time he has run for office. He first ran for Governor in 2010. He said he was nave the first time he ran, but served his role as an activist and garnered support. This time, Narcisse said he's running to win. While Narcisse entered the race after several others, including Jack Hatch, he said there's still a road to the nomination for him. He cited a Des Moines Register Poll from Dec. 16, 2013 which showed Hatch polling at a 15 percent very or mostly favorable rate. That is behind Bob Krause's number of 19 percent, who dropped out of the race for Governor.
"I'm running against an opponent who the (Des Moines) Register has anointed, but even in their own Iowa polls, after spending $200,000 and running since May, he couldn't beat (Bob Krause) who hadn't raised any money," Narcisse said.
Narcisse will compete with Hatch and Paul Dahl for the Democratic nomination in the Democratic primary to be held on June 3.