CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 23 CANDIDATE DEREK MARSHALL ANSWERS A FEW QUESTIONS
Housing, infrastructure, the environment, cannabis and Veteran's Affairs top list of issues addressed
Editor’s note: We had hoped to run answers from both District 23 Congressional candidates - Marshall’s opposition is Congressman Jay Obernolte. Over the last four months, we sent multiple emails to Congressman Jay Obernolte’s campaign as well as reached out by phone to his staff who said someone “would be in touch.” To date, we have not received a reply. Of course we will publish Congressman Obernolte’s answers should we receive them. Our interview with Derek Marshall took place over email.
Occupying much of the space that was formerly Congressional District 8, the 23rd Congressional District of California is one of 53 Congressional districts representing California in the United States House of Representatives. The District was created after the state’s redistricting commission lead efforts to redraw congressional district lines in 2020. Established when California voters passed the Voters FIRST Act in 2008, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is responsible for redrawing district lines for Congressional, State Senate, State Assembly, and State Board of Equalization districts after every ten year publication of U.S. Census results. The proposition was amended in 2010 to include U.S. House district boundaries as well.
Communities represented by Congressional District 23 include Ridgecrest, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley, Morongo Valley, Yucaipa, Redlands, Loma Linda, Big Bear, Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, Victorville, and Barstow. Geographically, the district covers a large portion of San Bernardino County.
Desert Trumpet: 29 Palms and the other Morongo Basin communities are severely impacted by the housing crisis. Here in 29, we succeeded in capping STVHRs at 500 until 2030, in order to catch up with building housing (as City Council put it). Still that's 500 homes removed from the residential housing market with no replacements in the immediate future. What will you do at a Congressional level to accelerate the building of affordable and market rate housing in 29 Palms?
Derek Marshall: Southern California sits at the epicenter of the country’s housing crisis. Housing rentals and property prices are increasingly unaffordable and nowhere in the country can someone making minimum wage afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment. I believe housing is a human right and in Congress, I’ll work to pass Universal Rent Control, End Housing Discrimination, and expand government-owned housing that purchases and upgrades existing buildings to provide new, affordable planet-friendly housing across our district. I also believe we should regulate and limit short-term rentals, such as Airbnb and Vrbo so that the explosion of short-term rental properties stops swallowing up available affordable housing and rentals in the district.
DT. Regarding short-term rentals, your affordable housing platform states "We need to prohibit these properties from becoming short-term rentals" - can you expand on how this can be controlled at the federal level?
DM: At the federal level we can legislate housing regulations that would address the growing crisis that is the short-term rental in many of the same ways that it is regulated and capped at the city and state levels. As we continue to make federal investments into building more affordable housing, we must ensure that this housing is available to families and working folks, not investors looking to turn our neighborhoods into their own resort communities.
…we must ensure that this housing is available to families and working folks, not investors looking to turn our neighborhoods into their own resort communities.
DT. Your affordable housing platform argues for the creation of 34,000 publicly owned units in CA-23. Can you be more specific on how this would be realized?
DM: That starts with repealing the Faircloth Amendment. It’s a complex amendment but ultimately hinders and prevents the building of public housing in the United States. With the repeal, we can expand the growth of government-owned housing, the creation of which includes both new high-quality ground-up construction of housing units but also purchases and upgrades of existing buildings to provide new, affordable planet-friendly housing across our district. Additionally, we need more investment in the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Leaders in the affordable housing fight suggest a $1.5 trillion investment over the next ten years and I support that level of investment along with fully funding Section 8 rental assistance.
DT. One of the challenges for building housing in 29 Palms is the lack of a sewer system. The City is working towards building sewers in its downtown and downtown adjacent areas. Congressman Obernolte has helped steer federal funds to the project. Can you elaborate on how you would support the building of infrastructure in this region?
DM: Rep. Obermolte likes to take credit for federal funds that get steered into the district but it’s simply a bit of slick politicking on his part. The truth is, the majority of federal funding that comes to the district in appropriation bills are almost always voted down by Rep. Obernolte, and when a Democratic House passes them, he’s happy to take credit for them.
I believe we need a New Deal for the Inland Empire.
Rep. Obernolte has consistently voted down federal infrastructure projects, including Build Back Better, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the Inflation Reduction Act – all of which are bills that create massive investments in local infrastructure and repairs.
Full stop – I support these bills and would vote for bills like them in Congress. For too long the mountains, deserts, and neighborhoods outside of Los Angeles have been under-resourced at the federal level and this has led to a breakdown in essential public works.
I believe we need a New Deal for the Inland Empire which includes investing in a historic public works and infrastructure package that is climate-friendly and creates thousands of good-paying jobs to retrofit, build, and repair our crumbling or nonexistent infrastructure.
DT. 50% of the population of 29 Palms consists of enlisted Marines (the City limits include the barracks). We have heard that some of the military housing in our community is poorly maintained. How would you ensure our enlisted personnel have well maintained housing? And what do you see as other priorities affecting enlisted personnel and veterans?
DM: The problem at the core of this issue is the disastrous decision to privatize the office of Veterans Affairs. This has led to the department becoming understaffed and under resourced to the point where the basic housing and healthcare needs of our veterans are not being met. It’s a shameful way for our service members to be honored.
The Build Back Better Agenda offered a $5 billion dollar investment in modernizing our Department of Veterans Affairs and unfortunately, Rep. Obernolte voted NO on this bill.
This problem was made worse by Rep. Obernolte. The Build Back Better Agenda offered a $5 billion dollar investment in modernizing our Department of Veterans Affairs and unfortunately, Rep. Obernolte voted NO on this bill.
At the federal level I believe we must expand the VA Supportive Housing, Grant and Per Diem, and Supportive Services for Veteran Families and make it easier for veterans to use VA-backed home loans to secure housing. I also support legislation that would seek to fully fund and modernize the infrastructure of the VA and eliminate the VA benefits backlog.
DT. Illegal marijuana farms and the environmental damage they cause have historically been an issue in this region. As a part of his law and order platform, Congressman Obernolte has been very public in pressuring for the elimination of these farms which he also ties to illegal immigration. How would you approach the issue of these illegal marijuana farms?
DM: Let’s be clear, illegal cannabis farms, and the crime and human trafficking that go along with them, exist in California because cannabis remains an illegal drug at the federal level. Rep. Obernolte can try to law and order his way around this issue if he likes but I think 40+ years of the failed war on drugs shows that’s a losing strategy. When one farm gets raided, another springs up in a different location. It shifts the problem geographically but does nothing to solve it. The answer is to go after the profit.
These farms exist to export their crop to states where recreational marijuana is illegal. The obvious answer is to federally legalize marijuana and remove it as a schedule 1 drug.
These farms are unregulated, highly pollutant, run on slave labor, and often controlled by drug cartels. These farms exist to export their crop to states where recreational marijuana is illegal. The obvious answer is to federally legalize marijuana and remove it as a schedule 1 drug.
This would take monetary power away from these farms that have been historically difficult to eradicate.
DT. One of the entrances to Joshua Tree National Park is located in 29 Palms, and the southern border of the City runs along the Park boundary. What do you see as critical issues facing the Park?
DM: Climate change and the GOP-led movement to open up federally-protected lands.
Climate change has already been proven to be drastically changing our weather patterns to the point where our natural landscapes and the foliage and fauna that go with them are in danger of being eradicated. Scientists in 2019 projected that Joshua trees will be nearly extinct by the end of the decade due to the fires and rising temperatures of climate change.
At the same time, Republicans in Congress want to strip away federally protected lands and parks in order to mine them for resources, building projects, and industry. This pilfering of protected lands will not only ruin the natural beauty we have in the district but it will severely cut into the tourist economy that many small businesses rely on.
I support protecting our federal parks and lands in perpetuity. I believe climate change is the greatest single threat to humanity and believe we must invest in a Green New Deal to reverse the devastating effects climate change is having on our local lands.
DT: 29 Palms is a disadvantaged community. Stater Brothers is the only major grocery chain located in the City (although we are getting a Grocery Outlet which is more specialized). What will you do at a Congressional level to encourage essential businesses to locate here?
DM: This goes back to the larger topic of resources and infrastructure. For years our communities have been represented in Congress by representatives who are so beholden to the idea that any sort of government spending and investment is bad, that we’ve gone under-resourced and left behind for decades. While other districts fixed their infrastructure, upgraded their parks and schools, and used federal programs to help small businesses on Main Street, the Inland Empire stagnated. These districts brought in tech and business industries because they became enticing, well-resourced districts to move to.
For years our communities have been represented in Congress by representatives who are so beholden to the idea that any sort of government spending and investment is bad, that we’ve gone under-resourced and left behind for decades.
If we want investment from businesses like grocery stores or larger job providers in the tech and business fields, we need representatives in Congress who want to make our communities a place where these industries want to show up. That won’t happen if we keep being represented by a Congressman who votes No on any and all government investment in public works projects.