Las Vegas Sun

August 24, 2019

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Q+A:

Buttigieg, a millennial and Midwesterner, says he’s poised to topple Trump

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Steve Marcus

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., responds to a question during an appearance at an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Public Service Forum at UNLV Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said he is uniquely positioned to take on President Donald Trump because of his experiences as a millennial and a resident of the industrial Midwest.

Buttigieg, who is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke last week with the Sun to detail his positions on the stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, climate change and more.

Could you detail your position on Yucca Mountain?

The bottom line is that this should not be imposed on the people of Nevada, and I’ve been troubled to see that the Trump administration seems to have ignored what people in Nevada have to say.

I think the consent-based model was the right track to be on. That was what was advised by the Blue Ribbon Commission and that makes sure that states and communities have a voice. There’s just no justification for doing this over the objection of the people of Nevada.

Nevada is one of the states that has legalized recreational marijuana, but cannabis businesses have found that they are generally incapable of using banks due to federal scheduling of the drug. What is your opinion on marijuana legalization, and how would you fix the banking issue?

The simplest way is just fix the federal law and legalize (marijuana) at the federal level. I believe we should do that for a number of reasons, one of which is that it gets us out of this patchwork that makes things so difficult for the states that have moved in this direction.

We also have to pay attention to cases where the previous drug laws we’ve had and the incarceration that has happened as a result has been considerably more damaging than the offenses themselves.

That’s why when we move toward legalization, we’ve also got to look toward expungement and steps we can take with a focus on equity to make sure that people are actually going to be thriving when their lives have been disrupted by the war on drugs.

Could you elaborate on your plans for expungement?

I think that, as a rule going forward, incarceration should never be the response to simple possession, and I think as much as we responsibly can, we should make that principle retroactive. It’s part of my plan for how we reduce incarceration in this country by 50%.

Las Vegas is hot, and scientists say it — and the world — will get hotter without a course correction. What is your plan to combat climate change?

We definitely should rejoin (the Paris Agreement). We need a carbon fee and dividend model, and I think we can rebate the full value of that out to the American people on a progressive basis so that most Americans are made better off than before.

Even that’s not going to be enough.

We need to massively increase federal (research and development) on not just renewable energy, but energy storage and carbon storage. I think that we should set this to over $20 billion. Something that would be comparable would be the level of investment that you saw on something like the Manhattan Project or the Apollo project, because this really is the challenge of our time.

And it’s hitting every part of the country in different ways. I talked to my fellow mayors in Florida; they’re dealing with sea-level rise. In my own community in the Midwest, we’ve dealt with once-in-a-lifetime flooding happening almost every year.

In many parts of the country, including here, we’re seeing tremendous promise for the renewable energy economy. You look at what’s happening in the solar industry here, and it’s one of many ways that I feel like I’m glimpsing the future whenever I come to this state.

We see there’s a lot of job creation available to us as we do what we must do as a country, which is step up aggressively to tackle the climate challenge.

How are you different from the other candidates?

I definitely think I’m different than the other candidates. We’re at a moment where America is running out of time, and we can’t recycle the same arguments or the same people that have dominated for as long as I’ve been alive.

We have, according to science, less than 12 years before we reach a point of no return on climate change. We know that costs of education and housing are accelerating to the point that they will be completely unaffordable by 2030.

I’ve got a very personal stake in dealing with this because it’s been the experience of my generation. I was in high school when Columbine happened. We’ve now seen the second school shooting generation. My generation is on track to be the first to be worse off economically than our parents.

I served in the Afghanistan war, and the inability to end these forever wars has affected me and my generation deeply. I’m from a community in the American industrial Midwest that has been ravaged by the failure of our economy to take care of most Americans.

I’ve seen firsthand the problem but also the solutions that are at hand.

The way that local communities are stepping up to solve problems and the fact that we can take on these serious, structural reforms that are actually going to give us an economy and a democracy that works for us so that when we do get to 2030, which isn’t that far off, we can look back and be proud of what we did now.

Whether it’s on climate, on gun violence, on economic growth, on systemic racism that is such a persistent and worsening problem in our country, we can no longer act as though the same formula is going to work. We’ve got to do something different.

Lastly, I would say I’m the candidate best positioned to defeat this president.

As somebody who served this country, as somebody who belongs to the middle class and comes from the Midwest, I understand how to talk to voters who have felt very much left out of politics by both parties for the last few decades. We have to have a different conversation that is not obsessed with the current president but rather pays attention to the conditions that he took advantage of, that made it possible for him to get into office in the first place.

Is there anything else people should know?

I’m excited to be in Nevada because I think ... Las Vegas in particular reflects the future of the country, economically, socially, demographically. We’ve been really thrilled with the response we’ve gotten here. (We) find that people are really ready for that conversation, not stuck in the politics of the past and insistent that we create an economy that works for everybody.