Community Member Enters Political Arena

June 17, 2010 -

The current state of politics may be exasperating to most, but it takes a certain mentality to dive in and try to personally bring about change. One of GamePolitics own community members has had enough and decided to do just that.

Zachary Knight is a GamePolitics moderator, ECA Chapter President and burgeoning game developer, and he’s made the decision to run for State Representative in his home state of Oklahoma. EZK, as he’s known around here, will be running in District 46, which comprises Newcastle, Noble and Norman.

EZK was good enough to take a few minutes out of his day in order to answer a few questions for us.


This is your first foray into politics correct? What prompted you to jump in now?

This year, Oklahoma's legislative session ended with no real solution to the budget deficit. They ended with increased burden on small business operators. They ended with no progress on opening ballot access. Additionally, my opponent was running unopposed as of the end of the second day of the tree day filing period. That solidified my decision. I don't believe that anyone should run unopposed.


How do you think your background as a game developer and advocate has assisted in preparing you for a role as a politician?

Prior to my work with the ECA and Game Politics, I was not active politically. Since then I have taken great interest in following the state and federal government's decisions. By starting a chapter of the ECA, I have gained a greater understanding of the needs of not only the gamer community but also others. Gamers come from all walks of life and although they share a common interest in gaming, they hold differing opinions and interests in other aspects of their lives. By learning of common interests and needs of those I will be serving as State Representative, I will better understand what needs to be done to improve the lives of the people of this state.


Why did you select the Independent party?

I have never agreed completely with either the Republican or Democratic Parties. Since Oklahoma makes it extremely difficult for new parties to gain ballot recognition, I am not able to register under any party with which I agree.


What issues are you going to focus on in the campaign?

I have several issues I plan to focus on. Primary among them is that of ballot access reform. Oklahoma is the nation's toughest state to gain party recognition on the ballot. The restrictions put in place are preventing people from having a stronger voice when it comes to those who lead them.
Next is the need for a more ethical government. While Oklahoma has some very strong campaign laws and ethical standards, politicians still receive far too much in contributions and gifts from lobbyists. Several Senators and Representatives sought the creation of a “No Gift List” on which legislative and other elected officials could register and thus make it illegal for lobbyists to give them gifts. Only seven Senators and Representatives signed a letter requesting this list.

I will also focus on the need for a more open government. Oklahoma's bill tracking software is painful to use and does not provide the necessary information needed to follow a bill from introduction to signing by the governor. Additionally, I support efforts to broadcast all public meeting online and on public broadcasting stations.

Finally, I want to promote economic development in the state. This will be done by lowering the tax burden on citizens and businesses. The amount of taxes that businesses and citizens pay in this state are not in line with those in surrounding states. I want to repeal the estate tax and work on eventual repealing of the state income tax in favor of a tax system based on sales taxes. By focusing on a sales tax rather than income taxes, the government will have a stronger incentive to pass legislation that promotes economic growth within the state. With a stronger economy, people will spend more and the government will gain more income.


I see that you want to “lower the tax burden” on OK citizens… in light of your state’s sizeable budget deficit, how can you make that happen?

The key to decreasing any deficit is to cut unnecessary spending. Any personal finance counselor will tell an individual or  family that if they are having financial difficulties, they need to first cut spending on frivolous items. Things like cable or satellite television, expensive clothing etc will make the cut. Why should it be any different for our government. Oklahoma spends a lot of money of projects, agencies and services that do nothing but cost the state money. They provide no tangible economic benefit to the state and should thus be cut. Raising taxes and fees is like a family getting second or third jobs. Sure it will ease the burden in the short term, but the long term stresses will be detrimental to the state's economy.


Any thoughts of creating interactive material to support your candidacy?

I don't have any solid plans at the moment. I have been considering a game that illustrates the hurdles that new political parties must jump to gain access to the ballot.


Have you been out talking to people in your district yet? Any indication how people are feeling… are they ready for change? Would they be willing to vote Independent?

I have not begun actively campaigning. So what knowledge I have of the positions and feelings of the people of my district are only my own and close friends and family. Yet, if you look at things from a national perspective, people are far more willing to vote out incumbent politicians, whether this is through selecting new candidates in the Primaries or voting for new parties in the general election. Now is one of the best times to be running as an independent.

The biggest hurdle I can foresee while running as an independent is the fact that I have no party affiliation to fill in any policy gaps. The best way to overcome this is to allow people to contact me directly with questions and concerns. This has always been a concern of mine from trying to contact candidates in the past. Very few respond to emails and letters asking for clarification. During the last election cycle, I sent emails to all candidates for Federal House and Senate in Oklahoma requesting information on their stances on issues like game legislation and net neutrality. None responded back. During that same election cycle, I asked the two people running for state house in my district of their stance on ballot access reform and neither responded. The lack of response troubled me as a voter.


Thanks EZK, best of luck!


Disclosure: GamePolitics is a publication of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA).


Comments

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Thanks all for the kind wishes of luck.

Thad, I think that we first need to cut spending and then move toward tax cuts. For now I don't think that raising taxes and fees will fix anything. Cutting spending is where the real healing will begin. But once we have spedning under control, I will focus on tax cuts.

Mr. Blond, Probably not directly. I am running at the state level and we have not had a problem with over zealous game legislation for 4 years. I will be gfocusing on legislation that promotes economic growth in the state and part of that will be attracting businesses from gaming and simulation.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

You keep mentioning cutting spending for things that do not provide a "direct" or "tangible" economic benefit.

But in FY 09, the top 10 budget appropriations for the state of Oklahoma, amounting to 88% of the entire budget were for the following:

Basic Education: $2.53 billion - 40.44%

Higher Education: $1.04 billion - 16.61%

Health Care: $842 Million - 13.45%

Department of Human Services: $559 Million - 8.93%

Department of Corrections: $503 Million -8.03%

Department of Transportation: $207 Million - 3.32%

Mental Health/Substance Abuse: $209 Million -3.35%

Career Technology Training: $158 Million - 2.53%

Office of Juvenile Affairs: $112 Million - 1.79%

Department of Public Safety:  $97 Million - 1.55%

Total: $6.26 Billion - 88.31% of all Oklahoma appropriations for FY 09.

 

All of these things either provide a tangible economic benefit to the state through job creation and education, or provide essential government services.

So where, pray tell, is the "out of control" spending? Instead, you have a state legislature that absolutely refuses to raise taxes. In fact, since 1992, when the OK legislature passed a law requiring any tax to receive at least a 3/4 majority in both houses, there has not been any significant tax increase or new taxes.

Your state has not raised its taxes ONCE in 18 years. And SPENDING is the problem, when nearly 90% of your appropriations go to critical governmental functions or services that directly benefit the state?

No offense, but I couldn't possibly support that platform.

-- Dan Rosenthal

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

There are certainly many ways to decrease spending in thaose areas as well as the last 12%.

Let's look at the basic education budget. Here in Oklhaoma we are laying off quality teachers solely because they have been employed at the school the least amount of time. These quality teachers are laid off while many teachers that lack the ability to educate our children stay because of tenure. That needs to be changed. Teachers jobs should be had based on their ability to perform. I can think of no other industry in which poor quality employees are kept over high quality employees based solely on tenure.

Continuing in that area, Oklahoma has a really high number of school districts. We can easily consolidate school districts or at least administration. Instead of having a Superintendent for each school district, we could change it to a single county Superintendent or have each Superintendent over see more than one school. With a large number of them being paid well over $100k the savings will be quite large.

Moving on to the Department of Corrections. Oklahoma has a problem with over crowding in prisons. Each of those prisoners costs us money to house. By eliminating jail sentences for certain non violent crimes and shortening sentences for others, we can save a lot of overhead by simply not housing them. Oklahoma already has a fine or jail system for most all crimes and by simply leaving the fine, we will be able to lower overhead and bring in extra funds for the state.

Administrative overhead is an issue in most areas of the state government. That is where I see most cuts coming from.

As for lowering taxes, I am still for it. I think that we should work toward the eventual removal of the state income and estate taxes. Eventually, I would like to see the state be able to function off of the sales tax completely. I do understand that we may need to raise the sales tax a few cents to offset the income tax, but I think this is reasonable in the long term. By focusing on the sales tax as the primary income for the state, the legislature will be more inclined to promote legislation that strengthens the economy and encourages spending by the citizens.

Now that may seem contridictory to my desire to lower taxes, but it is far from it. By focusing on a sales tax, each individual will only be taxed on their willingness to spend money in the state. The more you spend , the more you pay to the state in sales tax. I find that this is a far more fair alternative to the income tax. It also has the added benefit of far fewer loopholes than the income tax code we currently have.

I hope that this addresses your concerns about my position on taxation and cutting government spending.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Here are the election problems that I see here:

 

1) By consolidating districts and firing teachers, you eliminate jobs. Granted, OK has better than average unemployment ratings, but the teachers unions will oppose you because it is not the state legislature's job to meddle with which individual teachers are doing what.

 

2)Corrections: Your solution is to be basically"soft on crime" in a conservative state? Not gonna happen.

 

3) Administrative overhead: Not sure if you've ever worked with, or in government, but generally most offices are horribly understaffed and lack the administrative budgets to perform their jobs efficiently. This is the case almost uniformly in any state or federal government office. Cutting administrative costs will earn you the wrath of the state employees unions, and in the end it will hurt the state.

 

4) Lowering taxes: again, your state has not passed a new tax or tax increase in 18 years. What makes you think you'd be able to change the sales tax, which most directly affects low-income families?  By increasing the sales tax in state, you discourage economic growth within the state. It is always a trade-off between sales tax and income tax. Sales tax increases hinder consumer spending and economic growth directly.

 

I don't really have any "concerns" about your position, since I'm not an OK resident. It doesn't really affect me except in the most indirect ways. That said, I think your policies are unlikely to gain you the support needed to win an election, and I don't think they are the best solutions for your would-be constitutents.

 

-- Dan Rosenthal

-- Dan Rosenthal

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

If you pull this off, More states(like Pennsylvania and New jersey) Will have to hold truly open elections in addition to the Dems or Republicans.

You have my support Out of state Wise

Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

America has just became its own version of the Jerry Springer Show after a bizarre moment in Florida involving a carnival worker.

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Good luck to you, Zack. Will you be addressing the game regulation issue at all?

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Good luck, EZK.  Go for the sky!!!
 

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Good luck man. We need at least one perso nthere who isn't batshit insane.

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Good luck in the world of politics Zachary Knight.

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Wasn't Oklahoma the state where, in 1999, a public school had a Wiccan girl expelled for supposedly casting a spell on a teacher that (the school board or the principal argued) caused him to get sick?

If that's the sort of mentality in OK, any reasonably sane candidate will need all the luck he can get.

Alternatively, Mr. Knight needs to change his policy positions so that they're far less sane. Cutting taxes doesn't go nearly far enough, as it only brings in the moderate republicans. He'll need to attract the extreme nutjobs, so perhaps advocating the appointment of a state Witchfinder General and mandating the force-feeding of 'skinnies' might be a good first step. Then he can move on to more radical policy statements as his campaign gets off the ground.

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Oh, wow. Best of luck!

-

Good luck EZK

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

EZK you are more luckly to be hit with lighting but good luck anyway.


I have a dream, break the chains of copy right oppression! http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/cigital-disobedience/


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Let's renegotiate them.

---

http://zippydsm.deviantart.com/

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Well, that's a pretty means spirited and backhanded comment.

Good luck, EZK.

---

With the first link, the chain is forged.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Good luck Zach. Good to see a regular here getting involved. We should all take notice and become more involved in the community. If possible, try to stay objective and above all never lose your sense of humor.

Re: Community Member Enters Political Arena

Some points I definitely agree with (ballot access, lobbying reform), some I don't (tax cuts in a state that's running a deficit).

I'm not a constituent, but I'm glad you're out there making your voice heard.

 
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