Editor’s note: This Q&A is one in a series that aims to allow voters to get to know candidates who are running in the Aug. 2 primary. Nooga.com sent questionnaires to candidates on the ballot. We will post responses as we get them.
Businesswoman Elizabeth Baker is a Democrat seeking the District 5 County Commission seat.
She and her husband of 22 years relocated to Hamilton County in 2015 in search of the ideal place to raise their three sons.
In addition to the experience of starting her own business, she has more than a decade of experience an education policy researcher, advocate, and community liaison, she said.
Elizabeth Baker is facing Republican Chip Baker in this contest.
Early voting runs through July 28 for the Aug. 2 primary.
If elected, what are your top priorities as a County Commissioner?
Since becoming a candidate, I have gone from door to door and from meeting to meeting listening to the voters, and I consistently hear three main concerns.
The first concern is education.
People want to be sure that the children of Hamilton County are receiving the kind of education that will prepare them to take their place as productive members of society. For this to happen, our children need the skills to learn and adapt to the rapidly changing technological world in which we live, both as it relates to employment and to the physical, political and demographic changes we are experiencing as a society.
We must be modernizing and appropriately funding our public education system.
The second concern is safety, both for our schools and our communities.
Parents want to feel confident that their child will return home from school safely. People want to know that a trip to the corner store will not end with them being a victim of a senseless crime. Parents worry about the opioid drug use is too accessible. We must better support solutions to increase community safety.
The third concern a lack of government transparency which destroys trust in government.
When given the opportunity, people will participate in the governing process, but too many people in Hamilton County say that the process of governing happens behind closed doors without public input.
Addressing these concerns and seeking solutions for the issues they raise will be my top priorities.
There has been a lot of discussion about equity in schools, do you think it’s an issue? Why or why not? What do you want to see happen to address it?
Yes. I think there is an issue with equity in our schools, but to fully answer this question, I think I need to be clear about what equity is.
Equity is not about giving every child the exact same thing, it is about giving every child the thing(s) they need to reach their potential and compete on an equal footing with those of equal potential.
Not every child is a rocket scientist, but no child should be asked to master advanced calculus when their failure to grasp basic math skills was ignored or overlooked.
I know equity is an issue because the schools in our system with the poorest achievement rating are those in the areas with the highest levels of disadvantage.
This is not to say that there are not students throughout our system who are disadvantaged by the lack of equity, but this disadvantage is most pronounced in our poorest and most poorly educated areas.
Bringing equity to our school system is a complicated problem and may require a different approach at each level of K-12 education. Currently, there is a task force working to identify equity issues and suggest ways to address them.
I would look to this group for their insight and expertise on this issue but I would also rely upon my years of experience as a parent advocate to support more early childhood education, guidance counselors and psychologists at every level.
I also support growing the Future Ready Institutes. I was educated similarly in high school and owe my business success to the education I received. We must investigate ways to ensure the Future Ready Institutes are funded today and for the next generation.
What specific improvements or changes would you push for if elected?
Education: I would push for a revised BEP formula to increase Hamilton County’s share of tax dollars, with the goals of providing increased funds for more pre-K educational opportunities, providing individualized student needs assessments for all below grade level students and providing more school guidance counselors and psychologists, especially at the middle and high school levels. I would also seek a source of revenue for education technology and infrastructure.
School and community safety: In addition to increasing the number of counselors and psychologists in middle and high schools, I would seek ways to pay for SRO’s at all Hamilton County schools without negatively impacting the MOE and annual budget for the Hamilton County School System.
I would support training SROs in childhood and adolescent development to help them relate to the students in the schools where they work and to help them act as a positive force in those students lives.
I would also want to see all SROs trained in dispute resolution to help them diffuse, rather than escalate, potentially dangerous situations. I would not support any attempt to arm teachers or to impose a prison state on our students. To improve community safety, I would support efforts to improve technical interface between all law enforcement agencies in the county and between those agencies and all courts within the county.
Transparency in government: First, I would work to move County Council meetings to a time more conducive to public participation. I would hold town hall-type meetings within my district to allow citizens an opportunity to express their concerns and to allow me to present them with my reasoning on various issues. My door would be open and my listening ears on for any constituent who has a concern or comment.
How do you believe a leader should handle people they don’t get along or agree with?
We are all human beings deserving of basic respect and civility. While we might disagree, even to the point of extreme dislike, we must all work to find common ground or we are doomed as a democracy and a species.
I will work diligently to find solutions with anyone who is seeking solutions. I know a resolution that benefits everyone is most often the result of a compromise between two opposing views. However, I will not go along just to get along.
Why should residents vote for you and not one of your opponents?
People should vote for me, not just because I care about the people in my district, but also because I have the time and energy to devote to the issues that concern us all.
While I have significant business experience, with the birth of my children I chose to be a stay-at-home mom.
That role involves a wide range of responsibilities which include being an active and involved participant in every aspect of life in the communities where we have lived.
When we chose Hamilton County as our family home, the future of my three children immediately came to depend upon the attention I pay to the major issues in this county: education, health and safety, good governance, and good jobs.
I am, and have been for almost 20 years, an advocate for my children, and through them for my community. There is nothing that matters more to me than their future. For them to thrive, our county must thrive. My goal as a county commissioner is to make that happen.
What is your personal motivation for running for this office and wanting to lead?
I am running for two reasons.
First, I believe a democracy cannot work if there is not more than one, real choice in an election. Had I not run, there would have been only one candidate in my race.
Second, I believe that I am the better candidate because I am a hard worker, willing and able to dive into the details of things like budgets and tedious regulations. I am a problem solver who enjoys the challenge of working with others to find solutions to difficult problems.
While I am diligent and do not give up easily, I am willing to change my position if the facts show that I am wrong.