Current Position: Abingdon farmer and small business owner
2018 Democratic Candidate for the US House – Virginia 9th District
Source: Campaign Site
Anthony has been working on community environmental and economic development in the Appalachian region for more than 30 years. In 1995, he founded Appalachian Sustainable Development, which became a regional and national leader in sustainable economic development. Anthony left ASD in December, 2009 to found SCALE, Inc, a private consulting business dedicated to catalyzing and supporting ecologically healthy regional economies and food systems. SCALE works with community leaders, farmers, foundations, economic development agencies and others in Appalachia, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico the Arkansas Delta and other communities.
Anthony speaks and writes about sustainable development, economics, food systems and rural development issues extensively, with some of his pieces appearing in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Solutions Journal and elsewhere. He is one of the co-founders of the Rural Progressive Platform, a public, sharable platform for advancing progressive values in rural parts of the country. In 2016 he wrote a book, Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real World Experience for Transformative Change (University Press of Kentucky). He’s also a two-time Congressional candidate in Virginia’s 9th district.
Anthony has received a number of awards and honors for his work in recent years, including the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award, and selection by Blue Ridge magazine in 2009 as one of Central Appalachia’s most important agents for positive change. He was a Kellogg National Food and Society Policy Fellow during 2007 and 2008, and a Fellow with the Business Alliance for Local, Living Economies (BALLE) in 2010/2011.
Anthony has a BS degree in Agriculture and Environmental Science from the University of Kentucky and a Masters degree in Economic and Social Development from the University of Pittsburgh. He is married with three grown–and terrific–children.
Why Vote for Flaccavento
Published on July 16, 2018
By: Anthony Flaccavento
Who is Anthony Flaccavento? He’s a regular working person just like us, and he wants to represent us in the US House of Representatives.
Source: From Candidate’s website
Everyone deserves respect and equal opportunity. When we provide that–when we level the playing field for girls and women–we all benefit, truly. Being a husband with a grown daughter has only intensified this commitment for me. The problem is that even today, that playing field remains very uneven.
While we’ve made a good deal of progress in securing rights and opportunities for women in the US, three issues make it clear that we still have a long way to go: First, the persistent gap in both pay and opportunities for women; second, violence against women, including both domestic violence and workplace sexual harassment and abuse; and third, the push to roll back and restrict women’s access to health care, from maternal health to contraception to reproductive services.
- On average, women in the US now earn about 80% of what men earn for the same job and the same level of qualifications. For an annual salary of $50,000 per year, something a professional might earn in southwest Virginia, that translates to $10,000 less per year. Keep in mind that wages for men have been pretty much stagnant, so it’s not that working men are doing great, just that women are struggling more. I support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and other measures to achieve pay equity for women.
- Educational, training and career advancement opportunities for girls and women are improving, but remain stuck in outdated ideas of what women are good at, capable of. This is especially true of the tech industry and science and technology more broadly. I’ll work to remove barriers to education and career advancement through promotion of STEM education and enforcement of equal opportunity laws.
- The National Network to End Domestic Violence reports no significant decrease in the numbers of women seeking help over the past two years. In rural areas, like the 9th District, domestic violence rates are more than 40% higher than in urban areas, even as victims are twice as likely not to have access to the assistance they need. I support significant increases in funding for domestic violence prevention and treatment, particularly in rural communities, along with stronger protections for victims and penalties for abusers.
- To reduce workplace sexual harassment, we must strengthen and enforce laws against harassment and abuse, increase penalties against corporations that allow harassment to continue without consequence, and dramatically restrict the use of ‘non-disclosure agreements’ that force employees to remain silent while abusers go unpunished.
- For women, affordable health care is especially critical both because they have unique health care needs, and because they are more likely to work at a lower wage rate than men. I support expanded access to health care, as we move towards a Medicare Choice for All system.
- I support a woman’s right to choose, and I will work to support women, so that this difficult choice is made much less frequently. We know how to reduce abortion rates:
- Affordable contraception, along with meaningful sex education for both girls and boys
- Paid maternity leave and good quality child care to new moms (and dads); nearly 70% of women choosing abortions are low income or working women whose economic circumstances drive their decisions
- Better educational and economic opportunities for girls and women, making unwanted pregnancy less likely
I am a gun owner. I fully respect the Second Amendment and will protect the rights of law-abiding citizen to own firearms. That will not change.
I will also work tirelessly to reduce gun violence by:
- Closing loopholes and synchronizing systems so that background checks are truly universal and stop the sale of guns to people involved with terrorism, domestic violence or with significant mental health problems, something that 90% of all Americans, including the majority of NRA members, support.
- Increasing mental health treatment and support, especially in rural and under-served areas
- Adopting sensible limits to the firepower of guns, including, for instance the outlawing of bumpstocks and other types of massively destructive weaponry.
- Ending the absurd ban on using public funds to undertake research on the causes of gun violence.
- Strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence, including insuring that abusers cannot buy guns.
Five years after watching 20 innocent children be massacred in their Sandy Hook school, and one month after 17 people were killed in Parkland, Florida, Congress has done nothing to reduce gun violence. Nothing. A moment of silence is not enough. We can and should take sensible steps.
Defense & Security
Getting Big Money out of Politics
The flow of money into our political system, especially “Big money” from wealthy individuals, large corporations and special interests, has utterly corrupted our politics. It is a system that works not for everybody, but for a select few. The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision made it painfully clear: with economic power comes political power; those at the top have the most power over who gets elected—and who writes the laws. It shouldn’t be like that.
My campaign is taking no money from corporate PACs (Political Action Committees) of any kind, instead utilizing a community-centered, grassroots approach. Why? Because it’s clear that too many of our elected officials are beholden to lobbyists and special interests, including our current congressman who gets nearly 70% of his funds from corporate PACs. I intend to be beholden to the people of the 9th, to send a message to Washington that you matter, and that together we will make a difference.
I’ll fight for:
- Publicly funded elections, including legislation like the proposed Fair Elections Now Act;
- The reversal of Citizens United, either through legislation or a constitutional amendment. We must declare that only human beings have ‘personhood’ and that money is not equivalent to free speech;
- An end to Super PACs, created by Citizens United, which allow unlimited, secret giving (AKA ‘Dark Money’); or at minimum, increased and rigorous transparency in terms of donors and limits to giving;
- Legislation that reduces the influence of lobbyists, who at present write most of our laws. I support legislation establishing a minimum five-year period in which members of congress and their senior staff are prohibited from taking a job with any industry, or their lobbying arms, which they’d been overseeing while in office. This will help bring an end to the so-called revolving door, and might actually begin to “drain the swamp”.
Economy & Jobs
Trickle-down economics just doesn’t work. Forty years of cutting tax rates for the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations has not led to widespread prosperity. On the contrary, it has made a few people unimaginably rich, while diverting resources away from fixing serious problems and building real wealth. Nowhere could this be more true than in Southwest Virginia.
I’ll continue to work with leaders around the region to:
- Level the playing field for workers, local businesses and the community banks that lend to them
- Expand broad band access, including support of public providers where appropriate
- Bring both public and private investment to innovative manufacturers creating products that make us more resilient and productive
- Focus investment and support on retaining and expanding existing businesses rather than subsidizing transient corporations
- Expand workforce and technical training, closely connected to area businesses and employers
- Foster and support entrepreneurship, especially among younger people
- Reinvigorate anti-trust laws to reverse the extraordinary concentration of power held by a handful of giant corporations
My wife, Laurel, taught public school in Hayters Gap, Greendale and Abingdon for 30 years. Throughout her time as a Washington County teacher, she used her creativity and resourcefulness to ensure that even the kids in the smallest rural schools had opportunities to learn, whatever their backgrounds. That’s what good public school teachers do every day. More and more, however, their hands are tied by the combination of inadequate funding and excessive testing requirements. It’s a double whammy that’s bad for teachers and students.
While many education decisions are made locally and much of the funding comes from the state, I’ll push for federal policies that:
- Strengthen public schools, especially those in struggling rural and urban communities, rather than diverting resources to privatization
- Encourage experiential learning, creativity, problem solving and applied learning in and out of the classroom
- Support and elevate technical and vocational learning, both at high school and community college levels, to prepare people for essential trades
- Make community college free to all
- Dramatically reduce student debt through a combination of increased public and private grants, options for repayment through community service and reigning in of for-profit colleges
Energy & Environment
Farm, Land, & Environment
My family has been selling organic fruits and vegetables for the past 24 years, long enough to know both how productive a small farm can be, and how tough it is to make a good return in agriculture. On our place – an old tobacco farm, just outside of Abingdon – we work to balance good land stewardship with efficient production of high quality produce that people will buy. Because that ‘buying thing’ can be tricky for farmers, along the way we’ve helped launch farmers markets, a regional food aggregation hub, and a number of efforts to make good food more affordable for people of limited means. I’ve done similar work as a consultant in places as diverse as rural Arkansas, West Virginia and the South Bronx.
My policy priorities for farming include:
- Keeping farm land in farming whenever and wherever possible
- Increased public investment in infrastructure that enables small to mid-size farmers to add value to their products and reach good markets, including farmers markets, food hubs, meat processing, and other community capital
- Reform of agricultural subsidies to level the playing field between big ag and family farms
- Scale-appropriate regulations in agriculture to reduce unnecessary burdens for small and mid-size farms
- Developing incentives that expand use of locally produced food and farm products in universities, hospitals and other so-called anchor institutions
- Accelerating entrepreneurship in food and farming and linking aspiring young farmers to retiring farmers through ‘land-link’ programs
- Increased support for sustainable farming research and extension through Cooperative Extension and their community partners
Rural places, like much of the 9th District, are deeply tied to the land. Whether we farm, fish or hunt, hike the AT in Damascus or bike Sugar Hill Trail above St Paul, gather ginseng or morels, or cut downed trees for firewood, we experience the environment as part of our lives and livelihoods. It’s out our back door and under our fingernails. This is true not only for outdoor enthusiasts, but for many coal miners and loggers as well. So how is that so many rural people have come to hate the EPA or to mistrust environmental regulations?
Well, that’s a complicated issue. Part of the answer is no doubt money: The Koch Brothers and others on the extreme right have spent millions of dollars convincing us that we can’t have ecological protections and a strong economy; that every effort to control carbon emissions or keep our air and water clean is a “war” on coal, on farmers, on our way of life; that we have to choose between jobs or the environment.
I don’t buy that. As someone who has helped tobacco farmers shift to organic produce, and seen loggers exercise outstanding forest stewardship as they harvested timber, I know that it can be done. But it will take a new approach, where rural people and businesses become part of the solution to our ecological challenges, enabled by policies that include:
- Support for the RECLAIM Act, to restore degraded mine land while creating economic opportunities in the coalfields
- Sustained investment in ecologically sound businesses and farms that create jobs while restoring or sustaining the land
- Developing new technologies, strong markets and fostering investment in businesses focused on energy efficiency, solar and renewable energy, water conservation and green building products
- Strong air and water pollution regulations that protect public health, waterways and the land
- Support for local land use decisions that protect farms and private land from pipelines, fracking and other takings
- Designing scale-appropriate regulations that protect the environment while enabling family farmers and small to mid-size businesses to thrive
- Fighting climate change by undertaking all of the above, while investing in economic transition for coal communities
Families in Virginia’s coalfields have suffered an acute loss of jobs over the past few years, compounding a long-term trend of decline in the coal industry. I’ll work to promote the steel industry in the US so that markets for metallurgical coal remain strong and grow. At the same time, we’re long past due for a major, long-term, sustained investment in the coalfields of southwest Virginia and neighboring states, an investment to build a much more diversified economy that utilizes our natural resources sustainably.
Some have called this a “Marshall Plan” for Appalachia. Whatever we might call it, this should include:
- Immediate, substantial public and private investment to expand local businesses and manufacturers in order to create thousands of new jobs in the coalfields
- Supporting the development of innovative manufacturing and new products and services that meet emerging markets and real needs, in energy efficiency, food production, health, renewable energy and more
- Designing an Appalachian Homestead Act that puts land back into the hands of local farmers, businesses and others, increasing productivity and resilience
- Working with UVA Wise, community colleges and others to build on and expand miners’ skills and knowledge to enable them to work in emerging new industries
- Passage of the RECLAIM Act to simultaneously restore degraded strip mine land and create farms, businesses and jobs
- Forging partnerships with conservation and environmental groups to create good livelihoods and get beyond the ‘war on coal’.
Mountain Valley Pipeline
I oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. While most every energy project has both pros and cons, in the case of these two pipelines, the benefits accrue almost entirely to a few large energy firms, leaving farmers, residents and ratepayers with little more than risk and harm. Specifically, I have spoken out against the MVP and the ACP because:
- Farmers and landowners should not be forced to give up their private property unless a project has clear and widespread public benefit. Neither the MVP nor the ACP meet this standard, so the use or threat of eminent domain has been unjustified.
- In addition to the loss of farmland, forest land, and other private property, the pipelines also present threats to our water supply and damage to tourism resources. The track records of some of the companies involved with these pipelines – substantial erosion, sedimentation and other damage that was not properly mitigated – should have been a red flag for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality.
- Because of the guaranteed ‘return on investment’ which FERC provides to investors in pipeline projects, there is a strong likelihood that ratepayers will pick up the tab through higher utility bills.
- Spending nearly $9 billion dollars on gas line infrastructure for which there is no clear demand or public benefit is more than wasteful. This massive outlay will be a “sunk cost”, one that the utility companies will almost surely use both to justify higher rates and to delay serious investment in renewable energy and changes to the grid needed to expand renewables.
As a congressman, I will work to bring more transparency to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, along with other changes to FERC:
- Insist that pipeline projects be reviewed not in isolation, but together, in order to determine when such projects really are necessary and in the public benefit
- Reduce the guaranteed rate of return provided to utility companies and investors to ensure that they too share in the risks, rather than being assured profitability
- Reduce the ‘revolving door’ at FERC, so that Commissioners cannot leave their role as public regulators only to assume high paying jobs with the gas and energy firms they had been, theoretically, overseeing
- Push for expansion of renewable energy, and much needed changes to our electric grid to both expand local jobs and reduce the vulnerability of our grid
The Affordable Care Act expanded health care coverage to nearly 20 million people, provided protection to tens of thousands with pre-existing conditions, and enabled young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance while they get their feet on the ground. But it has not stemmed the rising cost of either insurance or medical care, nor has it moved us from a system focused on treating illness to one designed to promote health. While there’s no doubt that we have some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world, our health care system is a mess: much less coverage, much more cost and a less healthy population overall than most developed countries around the world.
Obamacare didn’t create this mess; it’s been going on for a long time. It’s time for us to move away from incremental steps that do nothing to improve health or challenge the power and profits of the insurance industry and Big Pharma. It’s time to begin the transition to a system of universal health care, or “Medicare for all”. I will support this shift over the next several years, and in the interim fight for:
- Medicaid expansion so that the working poor, young people and elderly people in nursing homes receive quality care.
- Expanded support for community clinics and rural hospitals, tied both to Medicaid expansion and debt relief opportunities for young doctors and health care professionals
- Innovative educational and action programs in schools to improve eating, health and wellness among young people
- Expanded, community-based treatment for mental health and addiction
The Opioid epidemic is destroying lives and undermining our communities in so many parts of the 9th District. Drug addiction more broadly is making it harder for employers to hire qualified people. As we tackle this critical problem, I will encourage effective approaches to both treatment and prevention, including models like the Partnership HealthPlan strategy in rural northern California which reduced the number of patients on dangerous levels of opioids by an astonishing 79% between 2014 and 2016.
I’ll also work for:
- More treatment and rehabilitation and less incarceration
- Training and support for local police, sheriffs and health care workers to more effectively address the crisis
- Stronger penalties for pharmaceutical companies who promote overuse and unnecessary prescription of opioids
I’m the grandson of Italian immigrants who came here seeking a better life. Most of us are only a few generations removed from immigrants, and we know that this mix of people and cultures is at the heart of our nation, a big part of what make us tick. Immigrants bring new ideas, and an entrepreneurial spirit. They also put more into our tax system than they take out in the form of benefits and commit fewer crimes than the population overall.
I agree with the majority of the American public. People who were brought here illegally as children, went to school here, and have been working here should not have to live in fear of being deported. What I’ve seen with the immigrant families I know is not that they take our jobs or drain public resources. Quite the opposite: The folks I know are remarkably hard working, resourceful, and neighborly. That’s a lot like many folks I know who were born and raised in the 9th.
We need broad immigration reform that both protects our borders and offers a clear and reasonable path to legal citizenship.
I will work to
- Create a clear path to citizenship for Dreamers. We need their contributions to our economy;
- End deportations that break up families, or target hardworking immigrants who’ve committed no serious crimes;
- Increase, rather than decrease legal migration into the US, including both skilled immigrants and refugees fleeing war or violence;
- Reform our foreign aid and foreign policy in order to help other countries build their own strong economies and stable political institutions, as this is the clearest path to reducing illegal immigration into our country.
In July of this year, I toured an affordable housing development near Wytheville, VA, built by the folks at HOPE – Helping Overcome Poverty’s Existence. When first proposed nearly twenty years ago, some neighbors fought the idea of ‘subsidized housing’ nearby, and local government didn’t support it either. Twenty years later, Deerfield is a lovely neighborhood of modest, beautiful homes and well-kept yards. Working people, folks on fixed incomes and lower income people – all buying their homes – comprise this neighborhood. It recalled for me the Southwest Virginia Homeownership Program that I’d helped to launch nearly 30 years earlier, in partnership with Virginia Mountain Housing, People, Incorporated and Appalachia Service project. Over 200 homes were built, using a combination of public and private funds which enabled families of modest means to buy their own homes.
We are in the midst of a housing affordability crisis in southwest Virginia and the nation as a whole. In the 9th district, rents are rising much faster than incomes. In Smyth County, rents have outpaced incomes by 36%; in Galax, 44%; in Grayson County 69%. Yet the President’s proposed 2019 budget cuts federal housing funds by 18%, nearly $9 billion.
Home ownership is the primary form of ‘wealth’ for most families, their biggest single source of assets and savings. And affordable, decent rental housing helps stabilize families and neighborhoods, keeps kids in the same school rather than jumping around and reduces homelessness. Decent, affordable housing is similar to good quality health care – it’s good for people and it saves money in the long run.
- Full funding for HUD programs, including the very successful efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans and the general population. As one example, the HEARTH Act in 2009 has helped reduce homelessness in Virginia by more than 30% since 2010, more dramatically still among veterans;
- Expanded funding for the Home Investment Partnership Program which works with community-based organizations and local contractors working to make home ownership more affordable for working families and lower income households;
- Work with local governments, realtors and landlords to dramatically reduce eviction rates in the 9th District and in rural communities more broadly