As a professional journalist Dan Ball was required to keep his opinions to himself and be politically independent. Now that the political shackles are off, he is in pursuit of a longtime goal – running for a seat in the U.S. Congress.
Losing is not on his list of options. He intends to seal the deal and topple U.S. Congressman Raul Ruiz, a Democrat, in the mid-term elections in 2018.
In a far-reaching, 60-minute interview with Uken Report, Ball outlined part of his plan. It includes a series of four pledges.
Pledges and his explanations are:
Pledge one: Term Limits. Both senators and representatives would be limited to 12 years each
“If you can’t make real change for your district and the American people in a dozen years, you need to get the hell out of the way and let the next generation try,” Ball said. “Twelve years, period. My pledge will say, ‘If elected to six terms, I will resign after 12 years.’ Even if my approval ratings are great and you think I’m doing a great job, it doesn’t matter.”
Pledge two: Reject Tenure and Retirement
“I’m going to turn down the tenure, the retirement. I do not want the retirement from Congress. Nowhere in the private sector do you get a pension for working or serving six, eight, 10, or 12 years, do you? Nowhere. In the military you sure as heck don’t, and I know if I worked at any store here on El Paseo, nobody’s paying me a full pension with benefits. So, I’m turning them down. I don’t want them.”
Ball said his consultants and his campaign team think he is crazy. They tell him all politicians in Congress receive retirement pay.
Well, I’m not a politician,” Ball said adamantly. “I’m a citizen. That’s another phrase that I’m coining. Citizen politician. I want to be a citizen politician. What’s that mean to me? A citizen first. I take into consideration all the other citizens around me. How does it affect us? I’m not a politician, meaning how does it affect the party? How does it affect my next campaign and race? How does it affect my image? No. Be a citizen first, politician second.”
Challengers, Kimberlin Brown Pelzer, Doug Hassett and Stephan Wolkowicz, will each be asked to sign the pledges, Ball said.
“We’ll see if they sign it with me,” Ball said. “Highly doubt it.”
Pledge Three: Reject Congressional ‘”Cadillac” Health Care Plan
“You know they get the best health care in the country, right? Probably the world. They have some of the best health care around, those 535 employed politicians,” Ball said. I’m going to turn it down. I have found out legally I can opt out of the pension; I know I can turn that down and the money will come back to the district, or they just won’t even be put in the budget. We’re still checking to see if they’ll allow me to refuse the Cadillac health care plan they get. Instead, as a veteran and as a 21-year reporter, I want to take the VA. I want to opt out of their “Cadillac” health care plan and take the VA health care plan.”
His reasons are twofold, Ball said. He wants to enter the VA system as a veteran, reporter and Congressman and report back to the 36th Congressional District how “messed up” the VA is from the inside.
“You rebuild a house by going inside and tearing it apart, right? You don’t sit outside and hammer it and say I’m going to knock it down,” Ball said. “Usually, you rebuild it from the foundation up.”
Ball said he will “implore’ congressional colleagues to follow his lead. He said if he is prohibited from refusing the health care plan offered to members of Congress he will write legislation in the first 60 to 90 days and request a vote. He is confident he can secure a co-author.
“I will put it to the floor and try and get a vote that any congressman or senator that wants to save their district money and turn down that health care system and take the VA, or opt out and pay for their own, should be allowed to do so. I don’t know if you can, but I’m making that pledge because I don’t need their health care, either. It’s ridiculous that Americans can’t afford it, veterans can’t afford it or get it, and those 535 men and women get that amazing health care. It’s disgusting.”
Pledge Four: Dedicate 10 Percent of His Salary to Provide Transportation to Veterans
One of the chief complaints Ball said he hears from disabled veterans is that cannot get to the VA hospital in Los Angeles or sometimes even to Loma Linda. The lack of transportation is a major hurdle.
“I know that the congressman (Raul Ruiz) worked on a mobile unit. I’ve seen the mobile thing drive around, but that only does minimal care for them,” Ball said. “They go into this little, like RV business thing. For the ones that need major stuff, they have to go to LA. They can’t get there.”
Ball said he has spoken with “a couple car owners in town” that he is friends with and claims he can get a “guaranteed lease on a brand new utility handicapped van at cost.”
“I won’t say what dealerships until we get it firm and I win,” Ball said. “But they’ll give me these vans at cost. I will use 10 percent of my salary, which is $174,000. I think a congressman makes $174,000 a year; maybe after tax it’s less, so it’d be $14,000. Either way, it’ll cover it.
“I will cover the lease payment and the driver payment to make sure we have a vehicle that gets our veterans in the 36th District out to the VA hospital, since the government can’t pick up the tab and find a way to close that gap, and get our vets to their appointments,” Ball said. “I’ll use part of my salary to pay for it.”
That’s a long trek, if you’re 56 years old, a Vietnam vet, and have a limp, or missing a limb, or whatever, Ball added. Or, if you’re 89 or 90-some years old and a World War II vet, you need assistance to get out there. Many are on fixed incomes. They’ve got to decide whether to pay their electric bill or their pharmaceutical bills.
“How the heck are they going to pay to go out and get the health care they need at the VA? They can’t afford a round trip van fare, Ball said. “It’s probably $200. I’ll use some of my salary and pay for it. That’s what public service is about.”