(originally published on May 29, 2018)
Meet Arlene Easley, born in Mobile, AL in 1963. Arlene was raised in an African Methodist Episcopal Church. She is a graduate of Bishop State Community College, from which she received an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Computer & Information Systems Science, and then went on to get her Bachelor of Science Degree in Organizational Management from the University of Mobile. Lastly, Arlene got her Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
I first heard of Arlene from the online Glamour Magazine Article entitled, ‘It’s Our Time’: Meet 18 Candidates Leading the Historic Rise of Black Women Running for Office in Alabama when I received it in my inbox. (Please click on the link and have a read because it’s a very inspiring article!) I started following all of the women running on social media. One of those wonderful women -you guessed it- Arlene Easley started following me back. (Don’t worry, I read about the women before following them, I don’t blindly support people!) From there, I followed up on Arlene even more than I already had been. I emailed her and asked her for a quick interview so I could help her get the word out for her campaign. I was ecstatic when she agreed! So, after speaking with this wonderful, smart, compassionate woman, I’m going to tell you why I believe you should vote for Arlene Easley for the Alabama House District 104.
1. Arlene wants to get more girls in K-12 schools and young women in college into STEM fields. Of course, boys and young men are welcome, too, but statics show that there are fewer females in STEM fields than men. Arlene shared 2017 statistics from the US Department of Commerce that says 47% of 2015 jobs in the US were held by women, but only 24% of the STEM jobs (during the same time)were held by women. And, the kicker is that the women in STEM jobs make more than those other jobs (at about 35% more.)
She told me that we (the people of Alabama) on a local level have a huge opportunity to leverage that technology that is out there. For example, Arlene says that schools could benefit greatly by expanding on partnerships with Universities, small businesses, and large corporations. While there are some programs that currently exist int heir local high schools, Arlene feels that early childhood intervention is key. She mentions, as an example, evaluating opportunities to incorporate robotics, foreign languages, and cutting age technologies like 3D printing into school curriculums through partnerships with local businesses to offset expense.
2. She wants to help people with mental health issues. This speaks close to my heart as a mental health activist. A woman was speaking to Arlene about the men in her family and their history of mental health issues. This particular woman went on to tell Arlene that she felt like the men in her family who were struggling could have greatly benefited from early health intervention.
Arlene responded by saying that we see a lot of people with mental health problems face serious challenges such as dropping out of school turning to drugs or ending up in the prison system. So, she believes that we should focus more on the early identification of potential issues, and work towards early intervention programs that target mental health problems for earlier diagnosis.
3. Going back the unemployment system in Alabama, I asked Arlene about affordable childcare here. My question was, “For working parents, would daycare be a priority? How does this fit into the unemployment system?” Well, she told me the biggest goals is to help the working class in Alabama have a reasonable living wage.
Some of you are sitting there at your screens, shaking your heads, thinking, “Not the $15 minimum an hour thing again?!” Well, that’s not the case, here. Arlene fully admitted to me that since she’s not a member of the House (yet), she has not seen the numbers or been able to do the math. But hopefully, if and when she gets elected, she can work with both parties to give us all a living wage that’s reasonable but won’t put smaller companies and mom & pop shops out of business. This may mean that different businesses offer a different starting wage. We’ll have to wait and see. But rest assured, the working class will not be forgotten and no one will have to go out of business or fire employees because they can’t afford to pay everyone. This way, more parents can afford daycare, babysitters, nannies or whatever childcare they need while working.
4. Finally, I asked Arlene how she would go about fixing the overcrowding problem we have with our prisons. She started off by saying that she found that to be a great question. Then she told me that statistics show that a large majority of prisoners have mental health problems that aren’t being treated properly for them (mainly due to lack of resources). And, many of them end up in and out of the prison system.
Arlene believes that an opportunity exists to develop a plan for reducing prison overcrowding by identifying those inmates who have either mental health or drug addiction issues.
Arlene said, “Just look at Tutwiler Women’s Facility. They’re at around 140% capacity. But what’s concerning about this is that 75%-85% of inmates either have mental health or substance abuse issues.
“Prisons are significantly over capacity, have a shortage of prison staff (including medical, mental health and corrections staff), and is one of the biggest budget line items in the states general fund.
“We should be looking at successes in other states general fund. We should be looking at successes in other states as it relates to drug policy reform.”
So, as of right now, when it comes to our inmates, most likely, they’ll end up back in prison. (She is absolutely correct. Click here for more information on what she’s talking about and that this isn’t “fake news.”)
Arlene told me that correctly placing people in mental health care facilities instead of prisons could help the state’s budget. Of course, this would have to be tested out and see how the long-term effects would be, but it’s a lot better than what’s happening right now!
Lastly, Arlene wants to help police officers get properly trained on how to deal with prisoners who could have mental illnesses; how to properly identify them, and how to work with them until it’s decided whether or not they need to stay in the prison or be moved to a mental health care facility.
To wrap this up, I want to throw in a few facts about Arlene so you can get to know her on a more personal level.
-Arlene is a mother of four daughters and has been married 30 years to a career firefighter.
-Arlene has over 20 years of budget and financial management experience and over 5 years of project management experience.
-Arlene was inspired to go into politics after going to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. in January of 2017.
-Arlene has volunteered as a rolling reader (reading in the classroom), served as a member of the Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee, a member of the PTA Board, Best Robotics, Habitat for Humanity and as an advocate for the American Heart Association.
To learn more about Arlene, click here. To read about her issues and values, click here and here. To read more about why she’s running, click here. To signup to volunteer, click here. Finally, click here, to follow her on Twitter.
Make sure you get the word out by mailing out postcards to people in Alabama about info about Arlene, call up your local radio stations to get the word out and please sign up to volunteer. Oh, and most of all, vote for Arlene Easley, District House 104 on November, 6th 2018!