Anyone who has played a sport has heard a coach say, “there’s no ‘I’ in team.” This is the phrase most uttered when people forget that most things cannot be accomplished alone. I learned a version of this saying when I was a White House Fellow—the bipartisan year long program that brings equal numbers of democrats and republicans into government to learn about leadership and community. It was there I learned from republican (e.g., Donald Rumsfeld) and democratic leaders (e.g., Madeleine Albright) alike that to tackle our biggest challenges, we’re going to have to tackle them together, beyond the politics that career politicians typically use to divide us. The version of this truism—people before politics and communities before party—that I learned in the Navy was that the mission rises above everything else. When I was in Iraq in 2007, a country torn apart by civil war, neighbors and families were killing each other because of religious differences and hundreds of thousands of people, including children, died senselessly. After seeing so many of the dead and injured, I realized, more so than most politicians, that we need leaders who understand the importance of truth in democracy and setting aside surface differences so that we can tackle our biggest problems to protect our communities against all enemies foreign and domestic.
Our challenges throughout California’s 3rd Congressional District with respect to wildfires, fire insurance and access to healthcare are clear examples of the types of problems that will only get worse if approached through the partisan lens of someone who cares more about getting elected than solving problems. Fifteen of the twenty most destructive fires in California history have occurred since 2010. The Camp Fire killed at least 85 people and caused over $10 billion in damage. Nearly a million acres were damaged by the Dixie Fire. The Caldor Fire burned down Grizzly Flats, and this year’s Mosquito Fire burned over seventy-five thousand acres. In short, our district has some of the worst fires in the country and fire insurance has increased by over 1000% for some people, driving them out of their homes and businesses. The partisan approach tried up to this point, such as voting against budgets that contain millions of dollars set aside for forest management, like my opponent has done, simply won’t do.
Ensuring that homes are protected and that we are properly managing our forests is why my campaign for congress is choosing, a “no ‘I’ in team,” approach to a problem that is bigger than all of us. Working alongside fire experts from all partisan backgrounds, I’ve structured a plan that we discussed in a tele-town hall last week with over 6000 attendees. This federal fire insurance plan emphasizes working with members of congress, state insurance commissioners and Western state officials, regardless of party, to obtain federal tax rebates for home hardening. Allowing people up to $20,000 to harden their homes and create defensive space will not only help individuals, but also, it will help entire communities lower insurance premiums and stay safe in their homes. Because we know these devastating fires are getting worse and fires don’t care about political party or faction, I’m focused on and working with the team of hard-working Americans throughout our district who do see themselves as having more in common than they do in division.
In our times of greatest need, such in the weeks after 9/11, Americans demonstrate a cohesiveness that I have not observed in any other country where I have served while in the military. Despite the differences we may have, like any good family does, that unison to address things bigger than any of us is why in the end, I am confident that with the right approach and representation in Congress, we will tackle our issues with fire, healthcare and so much more. These are issues that our district has been struggling with for far too long and it’s time we demand and affect change.
Dr. Kermit Jones is a candidate for Congress in California’s 3rd Congressional District.