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Profile: Ursula Rozum makes uphill climb for Congress

Ellen Abbott

WRVO News is interviewing and profiling candidates in the region who are running in contested races.  Ellen Abbot took a closer look at Ursula Rozum, a 28-year old activist who works for the Syracuse Peace Council and is running in the race for the newly redistricted 24th Congressional seat as the Green Party candidate.

Rozum calls herself a progressive activist.  As the Green Party candidate for Congress in the 24th congressional district, she says it is in her blood to challenge the system, citing her Polish parents who worked in the solidarity movement before coming to America. She says she has always been involved in war protests and student activism.

But that changed four years ago. "Being here in Syracuse in 2008 was a very exciting time because we were coming off the Bush years and there was this excitement of change happening and people getting active and engaged," said Rozum. "So in 2008 I really jumped feet first into this world of organizing and activism."

So Rozum is offering voters what she calls a progressive alternative to the corporate backed two-party system. On the issues, Rozum follows the national Green Party platform on many fronts, including a strategy to deal with the national debt.  Rozum supports increasing taxes on the wealthy, specifically to the tax rates of the Eisenhower years, to bring in more revenue.

"There were multiple brackets, so for every $100,000 you make, you jump into a higher bracket, so I think that's one way to address the debt," said Rozum.

Rozum also believes military spending is out of control, and needs to be corralled. When it comes to jobs, Rozum supports the idea of a public jobs programs that would put money back into the economy. Her plan would to have the jobs program federally funded and locally implemented.

"People in Onondaga County and Cayuga County and Wayne County, and the different towns would assess their local needs," Rozum said. "And in that way, identify what community needs are lacking, and also what's the workforce like. The beauty of a public jobs program is, it would target communities that had been out of work for a long time."  

On the issue of health care, Rozum doesn't want to appeal the Affordable Care Act, but she says it doesn't go far enough. "We need to  keep moving forward, and we need to work towards a Medicare for all system that would stabilize health care costs. There's a lot of different analysis of health care that show that Medicare is the most effective way and most cost-effective way to provide health care at the national and state level."

On foreign affairs, Rozum believes the U.S. needs strong intelligence.  Foreign policy strategy should also look at how policies are affecting America down the line, she said.  For example, she believes the use of the drone program has hurt relations with other nations.

"It is generating hostility towards the U.S. because of the rates of civilian killing, and also because of the rates of killing of low-level militants.  It's generating hostility from people in the Middle East, in countries we're not even at war with, like Pakistan and Yemen,"  said Rozum.

One big issue emphasized by the Green Party is climate change.  Rozum says this is a very critical time to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.  She says scientists predict we have ten years before it becomes runaway climate change.   "I think we're at a point right now where we need the political will and political courage to change the way we use energy.  And a sane energy policy will be a win for the environment but also the economy because  there's a lot of work because localized energy and sustainable energy is very labor intensive."  

As a third party candidate, Rozum has no illusions about winning, although she says she wants to.  So where does she fit in in the race for the 24th?

"I think for some people I'm a breath of fresh air, and for other's I'm irritating.  There's that right wing guy on the radio somewhere calling me the 'green party chick' that doesn't understand any of the issue's I'm bringing up.  So I think it depends on who you ask, what's my role in the campaign."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.