Get to know Pa.’s Auditor General candidates: Green Party candidate Olivia Faison

Green Party Candidate Olivia Faison. Capital-Star Screen Capture).

A Philadelphia-native and former inspector of elections at her polling place, Faison is the Green Party candidate for Auditor General.

What is the role of the auditor general?

Faison: The principal role of the Auditor General. And I’m reading this from the Pennsylvania Auditor General [website], because of my background. I’m a retired analytical chemist. And politics is not something I was groomed for, But I see the need. And I feel that I have a responsibility to try to do what I can to make a change for the better to help this situation. So the principal role is to determine whether the funds that are being used are in accordance with the purpose and guidelines that govern the use of those dollars. So that’s basically what the Auditor General does. I think it’s probably like, oversight, a lot of oversight. 

They do audit, things like the pension plans, school district, municipal, pensions, even funding that comes in, through government assistance, they basically are there to make sure that the money goes where it’s supposed to go, and that it is effective. I do believe that at some point, they do have some sort of way to measure if these programs have been, you know, effective, how effectively they’re using the public money, It says, also that they perform more than 6,000 audits a year. So, that is what the Auditor General’s Office does. 

I think also, I might like to say, because I did some research, looking at different things to see the type of latitude because what I see as a Green Party candidate, my party is totally different. We’re looking at things in terms of grassroots democracy, we’re looking at ways to make sure businesses are really protected, and they got a lot going for them. But the smaller organizations, like the 501(c)(3) [nonprofits], which are the community. The 501(c)(3)’s are so important. They hold our heritage, our culture, they’re the community, and they’re plentiful, and they are struggling. They are not getting the funding that is required. And they should be tasked with creating jobs creating grassroots jobs, and they can and they can even help tackle the problem of homelessness, you know, to help reduce it. It’s very different. 

My vision of what an auditor general could possibly do, is what they say the auditor general does. But also I would like to focus on the grassroots democracy element that our party subscribes to. We subscribe to grassroots democracy, social justice, peace and ecological wisdom. And with those four pillars, that’s where I feel that I can really make a difference.

What are your top three priorities to address as auditor general?

Faison: Well, my top three priorities would be, first, I would seek to find and generously increase and target the 501(c)(3)s across the state of Pennsylvania, and that means the West Philadelphia drummers who are the official drumline for the 76ers, these young people who  train drummers little kids through adulthood, and they’re disciplined, they’re playing drums and they’re awesome. But they don’t even have a place to rehearse half the time. They’re struggling. So that’s the kind of job that we would like to provide. I would like to see that happen.

I would also like to see the rural farmer who has I don’t even know what they do out there. But if his town doesn’t have enough hay , and he has a 501(c)(3). 

That’s the kind of help we need to provide you for these small businesses and organizations that are that the tentacles reach right into the community, so that each and every person who can who wants to, they should be able to have some support and some employment, if possible, it may not employ everybody. But it is a great start, because we’re losing way too much with COVID. 

We’re losing jobs, we’re losing our economy, we’re losing health care, we’re losing our security. And we don’t need to lose our culture and our heritage and our uniqueness to each and every community. It all, it all contributes to the richness of our society. And we can’t afford to lose any of that. 

Because of this COVID thing. We had to come out of COVID eventually. And that’s one of the problems I have. They’re not, they don’t seem to be thinking ahead. But what do we do after my second priority would be, and I don’t know if the Auditor General’s Office has this type of latitude, but I would also tackle or make people understand that we’re changing our climate, climate change is happening. And we have, I think, done a disservice to the people.

I left Philadelphia in 1970, I moved away. And I lived in several different states, New York, I went to college there. I lived in California, I lived in Tennessee, Kentucky, [and] came back to Philadelphia, in 2006. I discovered that there was no fog. Now, when I left in 1970. And all the millennia prior to that there was fog. I haven’t seen fog since I’ve been back in 2000. 

And, and I cannot find a person, who can recall the last time they saw fog on the streets of Philadelphia, I mean, surrounding the skyscrapers with the low lying clouds. That’s what we should be getting. 

I’m talking about the fog that really makes it necessary for you to use your high beams. Because I think that’s what they were designed for in the first place. Nobody can recall when was the last time they saw fog. And that was a regular weather pattern that we had. And coming back. 

But I think that that’s what my training would tell me because we need the oxygen. We need the transpiration, which is what takes place between the trees and the atmosphere. 

So apparently somebody doesn’t understand the connection between the atmosphere and the surface. So I think that climate change is something we need to really look at because if we’ve lost the fog, what’s next?, We can’t afford the means of water or any of our other weather patterns. And I’m not sure which is likely to fall. But they’re the domino effect when we do stuff like this. 

My third, I actually have six. But my third thing would be public school education. And that’s something that I don’t understand why we are not preparing for our schools to be open. Public schools need a lot of resources …They need to be refurbishing the schools. 

I have seen construction going on. I’ve seen the 5G wire being installed. So there is construction going on why isn’t there anything for the school, the school should be provided with some sort of that they should be doing the work that gets them ready so that the teachers and the students are safe and they feel safe. 

The other thing I want to say about COVID, just going back to that one one more time about COVID. Being a scientist, I always think out the box I always ask questions about everything. I don’t care what they tell me. I question and I and I understand the need for vaccines. But why are we only focusing on vaccines? 

Why aren’t we focusing on something a little bit more less invasive, rather than having something to inject or inject or insert into our bodies, a device. And somebody I’m not an engineer, but I can envision a device that would detect and remove pathogens and filter them from our immediate environment … so that we can get back to the business of doing our business, working, going to school, living in these other countries are doing this.

Rather than just focusing on a vaccine, which may not be ready until a year or two, or whatever, some sort of filtration device, I think, I mean, I think we should have the technology to do this. 

Anytime we can look at Venus and say, Oh, this, this this type of gases on Venus, we should really, and we can look at these droplets that they show that show that COVID is coming through the droplets, when you talk with your knees or your cough, they should be able to detect the pathogens in the air, they should be able to remove them, they should be able to filter them or whatever. 

Again, I’m not that type of engineer, but I do have a scientific mind. And it seems to me that that’s something that they should be exploring, especially if other countries are doing the same thing. And they have very few. I think Vietnam has a population of 90 million people. And I think they’ve only had like 35 COVID deaths.

What unique qualities/skills would you bring to the job?

Faison: I would probably be, like I said, I am a unique person. So I don’t think that I would be doing things that the others would be doing. But I don’t know that for sure. But I basically would be looking out to find any and every way that I could, to serve the people, and to serve the small organizations like the 501(c)(3)s. That would not be my total focus, but that would be a big part of it. And that’s, that’s what I would try to bring that thing, that’s what I would try to champion for the people because I don’t see them getting a fair shake. 

And I’m one of those people. So I see this from living through this as well. So I just can’t really say what would make me different from anyone else, because I don’t know about anybody else. But I just know that my own uniqueness, my own skill set, I tend to think about things, maybe a little differently, maybe they’re a little more radical. Maybe they don’t are not possible. I don’t know what exactly is possible or not. 

So I do have the vision of grassroots democracy, I have a vision of a change for the better. I have a vision that these local and small community organizations should be encouraged, they should be funded. And they should be entrusted with creating these all important social and cultural jobs that are so vital to the diversity and to the unique makeup of our neighborhoods, in our communities. 

And at the grassroots level. I think this can help stimulate the economy, because I don’t care how much money you give to businesses. And I’m not an accountant or an economist, but it just seems to me if you don’t have the people having resources and money to buy to consume to stimulate the economy, then the businesses can’t do anything. I mean, they’re there.

They’re just useless if you don’t have the people, so it’s I think it’s important to have two people, there’s been a lot of focus on the businesses, keeping the airline industry and the cruise industry and the oil industry and all of these other industries.

But we’ve got millions and millions of people and Pennsylvania has millions of people that are not part of the corporate community, but are part of the grassroots community. And they’re mostly the grassroots community. And I just want to see these people have a fair shake to get there. Get on their feet, and stay on their feet.

Why do you want to be auditor general? 

Faison: I did not think of being auditor general. At first, my party, I ran for [Philadelphia] City Council for the Green Party last year or so. And, again, I’m still new to politics. You know, I guess what I didn’t get on the ballot, because they make it very hard for third parties. And that’s another problem we have, we need another voice. Because this duopoly has not served, that we suffer with now, they have not served the people to me. 

I mean, our standard of living has gone down. And I’ve been around a long time. And I’ve seen you know, my first president that I voted for with Jimmy Carter. So I’ve been voting for these presidents, Republican democratic systems coming back and forth, back and forth, like a yo-yo, and nothing changes. So the third party candidate really need a third, fourth, fifth, I don’t know, but there needs to be more choices.

But my party when I did not make it on the ballot, you know, I’m like, well, they want me to run. So I’m gonna run this race. And I didn’t know that, you know, if you don’t make it on the ballot, I guess most people stop at that point. Well, I didn’t stop, I declare myself as a write-in candidate. So you could write me in because that’s what you have, right is if you don’t make the balance, you get that you have a writing option. 

So that’s what I did. And it was very, probably amusing to most people. But I really enjoyed the whole experience. And it taught me a lot about, you know, politics here in Philadelphia. And so but I had had, you know, I did that, and that was done. 

Next thing I know, they’re calling me to ask me, would I be on the ballot for the auditor general, they really needed someone on the ballot, the green in order to keep our minority status, so that we can continue to build the greens. … But because we don’t take corporate money, because we don’t do super PACs, and all that other stuff that makes you beholden to these corporations, we just do what we can. So they needed me, they needed a candidate, and I fully am on board with the green values. And, I didn’t have to do a whole lot.

I said, ‘Okay, I will do that.’ And so, I’ve just been spending my time reading up on what an auditor general is about. And I was very surprised to see that. When I read about the qualifications. It says right here, black and white, there are no specific qualifications for the Pennsylvania Auditor General. 

So if that’s the case, I’m immensely qualified for this job. So that’s why I’m reading. I’m mostly reading because my party invited me to run. But after jumping into this, I realized that there is a lot of good that I could at least I am hoping that it would be good. 

But I see a way to really help my fellow citizens. And since I was willing to do it as a city councilperson, I was still willing to do it as a public service. As auditor general, it really didn’t matter too much. 

I didn’t know what a city councilperson was, either, but I’m used to meeting I was secretary for the board of directors for the health centers here in Philadelphia. I am an elected minority inspector for the Green Party. So, I say to myself, somebody needs to try to help out and I was available, and I’m certainly willing, but that’s the honest truth as to why I wanted to run for this office.

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.