Dyson wants to focus on criminal justice reform

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Cindy Dyson

Cindy Dyson is making her first foray into seeking political office.

The Libertarian is running in the House District 5 race. While Dyson, who has lived in Whitefish for more than two decades, says she has always had an interest in politics, she really began feeling “energized” about politics in 2012 when she researched Ron Paul, who had previously run as a Libertarian for U.S. President. She worked on other Libertarian campaigns and eventually joined the Montana Libertarian Party.

“I just see the kind of person I am — both my skill set and my proclivities — are what we need,” she said. “I’m very evidence-based. I don’t get wrapped up in interpersonal squabbles.”

Dyson, 51, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She is a writer, newspaper reporter, magazine freelancer and author.

She is married to husband Mark and has a grown son, Simon. She is a former foster mother, former board member with Literacy Volunteers of the Flathead, Flathead County Libertarian party chairwoman and Montana Libertarian Party secretary.

Education

Dyson would like to take a closer look at teacher salaries. She says that while there are plenty of applicants for positions in the Flathead Valley, it’s important to consider if salaries are meeting the cost of housing.

“Keeping quality educators is a perpetual problem,” she said.

On whether schools are being funded adequately she says that a quality education doesn’t come from funding but “quality is about creative ideas.”

She would also take a look at the statewide funding for gifted and talented students, which she says has been cut to zero, because she says funding has been directed to other areas.

“Those kids with talents often get bored and drop out,” she said. “I would like to free up the innovation of teachers.”

Affordable housing

Dyson says programs that would look to provide state funding, rather than just passing out federal dollars, to develop housing is the “wrong path.”

“I don’t want to take somebody’s taxes in New Jersey to solve the problem here,” she said.

She says one of the underlying issues is restrictive zoning.

“Those communities with affordable housing issues also have significant overzoning restrictions,” she said. “We certainly know Whitefish is among that group. I want to first look at what we are doing to restrict the natural market that we don’t need to be doing before we pile up a number of programs.”

Failing septic tanks impacting water bodies like Whitefish Lake

Dyson said she agrees it’s an issue that should be addressed, but isn’t sure what the answer is to the problem.

“I would like to gather the evidence and know the science to find the best practices to deal with it before we go creating programs and spending money,” she said.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Dyson says spending more money on the issue isn’t the solution. She does support a user fee for boats.

“It’s important that we deal with that quickly and effectively,” she said. “I’m optimistic that we can reduce the chance of getting AIS and we can reduce the number of bodies that may get them eventually.”

“We need to encourage research on testing in the field,” she said.

I-185 and Medicaid expansion

Dyson is against the proposed tobacco tax increase saying she is against any “sin tax.” Voters are set to vote on I-185 this fall.

She also is against the expansion of Medicare in the state.

“I would choose to not continue the expansion in general,” she said. “The system is not one that should hold up. We’re on the wrong path, I don’t see an easy way to turn around, but I don’t want to build more that will make it easier to turn around.”

Dyson said when she was a foster mom she had to take her foster child to doctors approved under Medicare and she did not receive adequate care. She said she was forced to pay out of pocket to get the care her foster child needed.

Top priorities

Dyson says criminal justice reform is the at the top of her list for what she’d like to tackle, if elected.

“We can solve an economic problem by getting rid of cash bail for non-violent offenders,” she said.

She said the state and county are spending money to increase the number of beds in jails because the number of people they are housing is increasing. In addition, she said, those who can’t pay bail money are becoming criminalized by forcing them to remain in jail which can often have other consequences such as them losing jobs.

“It’s a system that’s antiquated and we can do better,” she said.

Also in the criminal justice area, she would like to change state law that would ban the practice of shackling prisoners during labor and delivery.

“It doesn’t cost anybody any money,” she said. “And it gives respect to women and their unborn children.”

In terms of the environment, she says, the state has laws that do not allow for cooperation between conservation and resource development.

“We have laws that prevent cooperation when parties want to,” she sad. “I’m working on legislation that would reward private land owners for rehabbing land with hunting license they can use or sell. This would encourage restoration of habitat through private people doing that themselves.”

Dyson has two election issues she’d like to address also.

She’d like to do away with a state law that requires the vice chair and chair of a political party, and other election areas, be of different sexes. She says the law is outdated and prevented two women from chairing the Flathead County Libertarian party.

She would also like implement ranked voting for state elections, which allows voters to rank candidates and eliminates the need for run-off elections.

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