Interviewer: Live in studio with Mark Cripe, a candidate for Congress, how you doing?
Mark Cripe: Hi I'm doing good.
Interviewer: Thank you for coming in. So you are one of four Republican candidates trying to challenge current congresswoman Katie Hill for the 25th congressional seat.
Mark Cripe: That is correct.
Interviewer: So where are you from?
Mark Cripe: I was originally born in Glendale California, just down the hill a little bit from us. Grew up in Sunland-Tujunga, graduated from Verdugo Hills High School and then got married. We moved out to the Antelope Valley and that’s where we've raised our children since.
Interviewer: So you're raising your family now in the AV which is still part of the 25th, so why are you running?
Mark Cripe: There's several reasons why I'm running. One is for the last 19 and 1/2 years I've been working with many families from our district. Those families–going through challenges, themselves––and just helping them navigate that and just listening to their struggles, I felt that they deserve to have a voice. A lot of times our candidates come from a wealthier side of town, so to speak, and so just the opportunity to represent the normal everyday person. I decided to throw my name in the hat and see what happens here.
Interviewer: And you spent some time in the Sheriff's Department as the sergeant for V.I.D.A. Can you explain what V.I.D.A. is and what the program is about?
Mark Crip: Yeah, for me, V.I.D.A. is a passion. V.I.D.A. stands for Vital Intervention Directional Alternatives. It is a a program that's designed to redirect youth away from being incarcerated. They come to us––a lot of times they're already in trouble or just about to get into trouble, and we work with that family. We work with the parents and the child for 16 weeks trying to give them new skill sets... the parents, new skill sets on how to work with today's generation and then two, is to give the child new skill sets in how to become more productive and successful in what they want to do, because no child dreams of failing. We already know that. There's nobody [who] dreams of failing, but yet we have people that are homeless, people that are going in and out of jail. So that's our goal, to redirect that whole family onto a better path.
Interviewer: And are there any stories that kind of stood out in your time at V.I.D.A.? They were on this one path and then they went through the program and now they're kind of successful or they're on a different path now?
Interviewer: Well there's a lot, how long do we have here? There's several, and some of them… some of the ones that impacted me were the ones [where] I learned something, myself. One young man was in a gang, he had an ankle bracelet on, and we were working with him, trying to get him to go to school. He just would not go to school whatsoever and so we did all the, ‘Hey do I have to cite you every day that you're truant?’ and he turned to me with complete respect and he said. ‘Deputy Cripe, why would I go to school if I'm gonna be dead by 20?’ And his words just hit my heart. I realized we were asking the wrong questions. I should have been asking him, ‘Do you want to live past 20?’ And he wasn't wrong; a lot of the kids from his neighborhood, they're either incarcerated or killed before they're 20. So that started kind of a paradigm shift for me: asking better questions. But we have kids that, some of them we've actually worked with the University of Antelope Valley. They have been kind enough to give us, every once in a while, a four-year scholarship from them. And so a child that does real well, we can award them that. We've had some kids go on and do phenomenal things. We have one that was in the engineering program, working with aerospace. These kids aren't dumb, they're not. You know, they're just, for whatever reason, whatever has happened in their life, they started making choices that were were not the most effective, not the most functional for them to achieve the dream that they had. Once they have someone breathe some belief into them, they take off, they do real well.
Interviewer: That's great to hear… They spoke about your experience in law enforcement, but not only law enforcement, also your experience in the military. How will those experiences help you if you were elected to Congress?
Mark Cripe: Well the the Marine Corps time grew me up. I mean, without a doubt. And I don't have anything to be cocky about in that, because when I first went in there, they didn't think I'd even make it through boot camp because I was too immature and too insecure. And as much as that bugged me hearing it, they were absolutely right. So the Marine Corps grew me up. They set me on a path. The Sheriff's Department has taught me so much about, one, dealing with crisis, and when to fight and when not to fight, right. There's times where you just let things go. In today's politics there's a lot of bantering, a lot of name-calling. It's unnecessary as far as I'm concerned, and it's unprofessional. I give the Sheriff's Department a lot of credit for that, in training me in how to be professional and what I do. So those things are great. There's some other things in my life, as we get on with the program today, I'll share with you that actually add to those two foundational learning platforms that I've had.
Interviewer: So if you're elected, what were your main priorities be?
Mark Cripe: Well one of them obviously is vets. In fact I just came from coffee with vets this morning–the effort that the community is doing to try to get all of our vets out of the dirt. We have over 500 vets that are homeless. I was a homeless vet. That was my own choice, but I was a homeless vet. I understand what it's like to live in the dirt and what it takes to get out. Sometimes that's not the easiest thing. Helping the vets, getting mental health for not just our veterans, but all of our first responders. The first responders, the burden that they carry, the things that they see in their everyday lives–imagine every day you see your society, your community, at its worst. Day in and day out. That plays a toll. Our apartment has a great program for mental health and I'm very thankful for it. I've utilized it myself, but that's something needs to be done. The other thing is education. I know we're gonna talk about that a little bit. I think parents have the right to choose where and how their child is educated. Families is everything to me. Family family family. We need to rebuild the American family. That institution has taken a hit over the last several decades. So those are some of the things. There's many things, obviously. Too many to number, but if you boiled it down just the basic ones that would be it.
Interviewer: …You mentioned education. There is currently a discussion in California about charter schools and how they should be regulated, if regulated. So how do you feel about the charter school issue?
Mark Cripe: I like charter schools. I support charter schools. One is we've utilized them within V.I.D.A. now. As far as regulation, I'm not necessarily opposed to any accountability. We need to make sure that the charter schools are teaching things that are academically sound. To get rid of them, I think would be a mistake, but the charter schools fill a huge gap. There's kids that hit 17-18 years old [that] we're not successful in completing comprehensive education in our main schools. In the charter schools they can go and actually get their degree–I’m sorry–their diploma. It's huge. There’s several kids I've personally enrolled into a charter school just for that purpose. I think the charter schools are a great thing. There's actually home schools that are actually really really good. California Virtual Academy is a great one. We actually raised our kids at k12 California Virtual Academy after we pull them out of comprehensive campus. so I'm very for that. I think parents need to have the choice of what's going to help their child.
Interviewer: …So this is a big issue: how do you feel about immigration reform?
Mark Cripe: Well we need to have a lot of different types of immigration reform. I've sat and talked with several families, Hispanic families, some of them I have no doubt are here undocumented. Our country's done a few things like the temporary protective status–TPS. They're allowed to be here legally, some of them have been here for 20 years. They're not allowed, there's no pathway to citizenship for them they have to renew every 18 months. They've been in our communities, like I said for 20 years. They've got jobs, they've got houses, they've had kids and had families. We need to create a way that they can have a pathway to citizenship. I'm not saying just flat out blanket amnesty, but give them a pathway so they become a citizen. They're in our communities already; they're a contributing part of our society. The other thing is, I understand why we have this delay… you apply and then you gotta wait. It's like a probation period: are you going to be able to assimilate to our laws and customs. If you violate those laws and customs, all the immigration documents you would sign to come into this country, we'll say if you violate a law, you have to leave. Some of this stuff that's going, it's creating this conversation. I'm glad we're having this conversation. These individuals have broken a law, they understood that they broke the law, they have to leave. The challenge is they have a family here… how do you deal with that, right? …[Do] you make the whole family leave? Do you pull them away from the family? This becomes a big, big challenge. Morally and ethically what do we do with that, and that's a discussion that needs to be happen. I would love to see the the Bracero Program brought back. It was effective, you know, we celebrate Cesar Chavez and what he did in that, but that program went away. It was a good program and those individuals were allowed to have benefits within that program that served them well. So something like that. When we talk about immigration reform right now everyone's just talking about the wall. Wall this, wall that. Well that's only a small part of what needs to be done. I am for and I've been admittedly for containing or securing a border. Whenever we have a problem in law enforcement the first thing we do is contain it, right. Just stop the hemorrhaging. But that's just step one, you know. We need to have a conversation that's going into, you know, maybe as far as step ten. Whatever that would be, but we need to reform all of our programs. Give people… if we’re going to bring them in, let them be in here, there needs to be steps that they can actually take to become a US citizen.
Interviewer: You mentioned families. How do you feel about the internment camps and the separating of parents from the children?
Mark Cripe: Internment camps…
Interviewer: Or excuse me, the the camps that they bring them to. There's one in Al Dente, which is only a few hours from here.
Mark Cripe: Detention facility is actually what's professionally called. They’re detention facilities. For whatever reason, we know when the Obama administration built those, they built them with chain-link fences inside. The chain-link fence idea may have seemed like a prudent way to do it in the beginning, but with the volume that we are experiencing today, you go down there and you see all these people in a chain-linked cage, it definitely looks, you know, what's the word unhhhh unhumanitarian is probably a good word. So obviously if we're going to have this kind of volume of people coming across our border, we need to probably rebuild, redesign how we have these detention facilities. The detention facilities are necessary. The bottom line is you have to have them. Just the way the laws are: we catch these people, we have to figure out who they are, why they're here, they need to be medically screen. The taking away of the children, a lot of people don't realize a lot of these kids–I think it came out and said a third–are not the child of the group that they're supposedly a family with. In other words, that child, there's a high probability that they're being trafficked or utilized in some way to benefit them coming into this country. That's why they take the kids away. They're doing DNA tests. Those DNA tests are coming back and saying yes, that's their family, no that's not their family. So there's a time that the kids are going to be separated for the benefit and safety of the child, just so we can figure that out. There are young girls that are being sexually victimized along this whole route. So, if we care about the children, this is a needed thing, but we need to have facility that deals with this in a way that everyone can say okay, that's like us. That's like the United States. Caring, compassionate. We're a wealthy country. We shouldn't be necessarily just putting him in a chain-link cage. I understand that completely. So fixing those facilities, revamping them, making them so that they're more humanitarian, in this process, as we bring these people over. And to some of them, believe it or not, that cage is more safe and a better environment than what they've experienced. So yeah, I think that these facilities–we can do better. Especially with the volume, but it's gonna cost money. If we can't get Congress to pass bills to to get that kind of aid down there, it's going to be a challenge.
Interviewer: …So we've previously spoken about education and immigration, but one big thing in this area is transportation. Living in the Antelope Valley and commuting around and in Santa Clarita Valley, especially their traffic, is a big issue. So do plan on working with local agencies and local governments to try and ease the traffic around here?
Mark Cripe: Well the traffic thing, you know, there's tiers to it, right, so I know that Steve Knight got a bill passed, and funded the expansion and development of the i-5 and several things there. We've seen this project, for what, the las–I don't know–ten years? It's been going on for a long time. In fact, I think they've been building the i-5 out since I was a custody deputy. Some of these issues are state-level and some of them are local level. Depends on what municipalities control that road. Now for me, I've been in the area for a long time, okay, raised my kids here, my oldest is 28. I've seen it go from kind of Sleepy Hollow, really nice, to just this packed. I mean trying to get across Santa Clarita takes just about as long as it does to drive from AV down to Santa Clarita. So whether we try to develop mass transit, you know, a trolley system, a subway line, I don't know what it's going to take to do, but we've got to start thinking 50 years from now. Where's this going to be 50 years from now? Now it doesn't take 50 years to build these things out, but it does take time. So we need to start acting now and looking at, okay, how are we going to expand this, make it easier to get from point A to point B. Yes the streets here are packed–there's no doubt–it's a great place to live a lot of people are moving here. It's a great bedroom community and it's got its own economy as well right here, But how we grow that, it's not gonna be able to stay the way it is. You're gonna have to develop a better way to get around. My time in Europe, their answer was, you know, trolleys and things like that and it was very effective. They have a very very good mass transit system. Easy to use, inexpensive, if we make it expensive for people to use they're not gonna use it and we just waste taxpayers money. But yeah, it would be nice to get some bills to try to grow that. You see, that's what they're doing in LA. They keep expanding the Metro down there. It's nice. I don't know if you've ridden on it. I've had the opportunity to actually go down there. The Sheriff's Department had us temporally assigned, from time and time, and actually work the metro, save taxpayers money on overtime. That's the first time I actually rode it and I liked it. The stations are nice. They've done a really good job down there, obviously that concept’s gonna have to be brought up here on the north end as we grow. We keep pushing out more and more homes and developing more land.
Interviewer: …We're going down to the last few questions. How do you feel about health care? Do you support a public option, or support only private option? Or kind of a combination of the two?
Interviewer: Well that's a good question. I'm really torn on this one. I'm actively… I have a 28 year old who timed out on my health insurance and that's just been a struggle. She doesn't make enough money to afford the Obamacare exchanges–I’m sorry–the Affordable Care Act exchanges, and the way that was done, I think–I’ve always said you can do the right thing the wrong way, and I think the Affordable Care Act was trying to do the right thing, but I think they went about it the wrong way. So what is the right way? By far I am NOT a medical, you know, expert on this or even an insurance expert, but I think there's a lot of reforms that we can do. We got to bring some of the prices down for some of these medical procedures without hurting physicians or people's desire to become a physician. Obviously we don't want to necessarily– you go to become a doctor and, you know, instant millionaire, but at the same time, we got to make it where people can afford health care. So I love the fact that unions provide health care. That's one of the things, you know, I think that unions bring to the table. I've been a union guy, it's you know, I was a teamster for UPS early on in life. I got medical benefits through them, and then of course for the Sheriff's Department, we’re union, so I've enjoyed that, but my kids? They're having a hard time making this transition and so now I'm going okay, how do we fix this? How can our our children afford medical care? Whether that's a private thing–private thing drives competition, right? And that's why the United States healthcare is so good. A lot of people don't realize I've been in socialist countries. The health care there was not that great, trust me, not that great. That's why a lot of these people come to the United States just for our health care, but it's expensive. We've got to find a way to get it so people can afford it.
Interviewer: So small business is a big part of every economy, but especially here, in the Santa Clarita Valley, so if you're elected to Congress, how would you support small business?
Mark Cripe: It's not just Santa Clarita Valley by the way, our entire district–we have numerous rural communities and those rural communities have small businesses. I mean there's no big package stores and even franchises in those small businesses. So, you know, I want to call them mom-and-pop shops, but I love mom-and-pop shops. It's what makes me feel like small-town America. I love that community feeling–you go in, you know everybody, they talk to you by your first name. So small business is incredibly important to who we are and part of our identity. The challenges with that, obviously, is they can't afford to pay some of the hourly rates that people are wanting to push. They'll go out of business or they'll have to lay people off. That's their fight. Some of these small businesses I know the owners and they're struggling just to keep their doors open as it is. It's expensive in California to have a small business. Between your workman's comp and everything else you got to have, it's very, very expensive. I want to see small businesses stay. I think that it just makes community community. It brings people closer. Some of these small businesses I've been to, you know, they got a little coffee pot there, you can have a coffee and talk with everybody, and they come in in the early morn–whatever the business is. I love small business. I want to see small business stay and I want to try to protect them the best I can. That's why you'd hear me, if they say, ‘Are you for the $15 thing?’ I'm like ‘No, that's the nail in the coffin to so many people I know’ Do I want to have some kind of job that people can afford to raise their kid? Yeah, working with V.I.D.A. I’ve worked with parents that have three jobs. You got three jobs just to try to make ends meet. And then we're telling them you’ve got to spend more time with your kid, your kids never seeing you, you know that's why your kid is acting up, they want mom and dad there. So they're being forced to make this decision. Do I have a good family or do I make enough money to put food and a roof over over my children's head–that's unfair. We need to get middle-class jobs back here. Manufacturing is a big one. I know they've talked to me about trying to bring more manufacturing jobs here. A lot of people don't realize how NAFTA actually affected us locally, when that went down, and and shifted America's focus on what kind of industries we're gonna have. So yeah, bring in middle-class jobs. Construction–I used to be a construction worker. That's how I started with my family, was framing and making enough money framing that I could actually pay for all these things and that went away. I'd like to see new housing starts go. Santa Clarita, you guys are building, still, building and building. I love seeing that, but that adds other problems doesn’t it? Transportation and whatnot. Yeah, it's a catch 22 and we’ve got to find a balance that's working for everybody. Give people a means to raise their children, worry about what school to send them to, at the same time spend enough time with them that they're not out there, you know, going ‘Mom and dad don't care about me’.
Interviewer: So this is our final question. I don't want to pull a debate on you but we only have about 60 seconds left, so what sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?
Mark Cripe: Well I think the biggest thing is my life experience. My wife and I, [during] our first year of marriage, we sold everything we owned as a personal choice–wasn't like, you know, fate, no one did anything dastardly to us–we took a risk, we knew it was gonna be a risk, we went all in–literally all-in–sold everything we owned, backpacked across 13 countries. We were momentarily detained in a communist country–that was an eye-opener. I think it made me a better law enforcement officer here when I when I finally joined the Sheriff's Department. When we came back the United States, we went through the biggest culture shock in our lives. This country is so rich. I grew up here, never understood the difference between this country and other countries. I tell people: go travel. Go outside the safety of our borders. You're gonna come back here and you'll have the biggest culture shock, but we came back absolutely with no money. And so my wife and I spent eight months living–we were homeless. We had an Indian tepee. The guy that let us live on his land didn't want a tent, you know, so we figured our way to get this kind of this hippy teepee thing, and we lived in an Indian tepee, no dirt floor no water, no electricity, no bathroom. Then we came back from that, right, worked our way back. A church donated a car that allowed me to start getting handyman work. Got into a house. Once we got a house, my wife could go back to nursing. We just got back in, what I call the American rat race–but this process, working for the Sheriff's Department, I'm gonna finish up 29 years here soon. The Sheriff's Department gives you the opportunity to see your community in a way you'd never see it before. I've seen the very worst of our community, I've seen the very best of my community. So these things all together–Marine Corps, all that together–I think gives me a very unique perspective. You're not gonna hear me be real cocky. I believe in helping people. I believe in helping my neighbor. I've been doing that in this district my entire adult life. So I think that makes me unique in that respect.