Name as it appears on the ballot: Cynthia Ball
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: cynthiafornc.com
Occupation & employer: Mediator and Legislator; Self Employed and NC General Assembly
1. What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of North Carolina effectively? What would you cite as your three biggest career accomplishments?
As a professional mediator for the last 22 years, I have helped individuals and organizations resolve disputes successfully by finding common ground. And previously, I worked within the higher education arena for 14 years, dealing with public policy and budget issues in concert with a diverse contingent of university administrators, board members, corporate and community leaders, funding agencies, and the media. The skills and experience from my professional career along with my 4 years of service in the NC House of Representatives have deepened my understanding of what it takes to collaborate successfully for the benefit of strong public policies to build a state that works for all.
I am proud to have played a role in helping couples, families, community groups, organizations and businesses resolve disputes and develop stronger organizational potential, thereby encouraging further collaboration, saving scarce resources, and building a path for future progress.
While serving in the NCGA in Minority leadership for 4 years, I have advocated for policies that fully fund our schools, expand Medicaid, and ensure fair elections in fairly drawn districts. Unfortunately, of the 50 bills I have filed as a primary sponsor (most also joined by Republican primary sponsors), only 2 have gotten a committee hearing (with both passing unanimously). It has been very disappointing and to the detriment of our state that the Majority leadership has so rarely collaborated with the 55 Minority members in the development of public policy to benefit all in our state.
I am committed to full constituent services, and I am proud to have an office that is responsive to the needs and concerns of those I represent.
2. What do you believe to be the three most pressing issues facing the next General Assembly? What steps do you believe the state should take to address them?
Responding to the health, educational, business, environmental, and community impacts of COVID_19 within unprecedented budget challenges and uncertainties.
Fulfilling our obligations to provide a sound, basic education for all students, and ensuring educational opportunities from cradle to career – constrained by the significant budget shortfalls that have been created by the huge corporate and wealthy individual tax cuts implemented by previous NCGA actions, and further critically exacerbated by the financial impacts of the pandemic.
Finding ways to work together more effectively across the partisan divide for the benefit of our state, in the most divisive environment in our history. We should create more transparency of government and legislative processes, end gerrymandering with a non-partisan redistricting process, ensure that all eligible voters can vote and have their vote counted, and make Rules changes in our legislative operations to give all legislators and the people they represent a true voice in the making of public policy.
3. Do you believe the Republican tax cuts over the last decade have been effective in stimulating the state’s economy? If given the choice, are there any tax cuts you would rescind or any new taxes you would enact? If so, what would you put the additional revenue toward?
While some large corporations and selected small businesses may have benefited, these cuts have starved our public schools, widened the gaps in income, health, educational opportunities, working families’ financial security, and food insecurity, and increased the likelihood that more individuals will be denied a chance to seek a productive and healthy life. We should phase out the huge corporate and wealthy individuals tax cuts, and provide more resources and opportunity to educational and health priorities and to those most in crisis. We should prioritize the funding of our schools, Medicaid expansion, community colleges and universities, build out access to affordable health care services across the state, fund mental health services and alternatives to incarceration, and restore policies to encourage sustainable energy production.
4. North Carolina’s minimum wage is among the lowest in the country. Do you support raising the minimum wage, and if so by how much? If not, what other initiatives would you take to support low-income families in North Carolina?
Yes, we should ensure a living wage of at least $15 per hour. Most people who are earning minimum wages are working in jobs that place them disproportionately at risk for exposure to the coronavirus, so they should also be protected by sufficient PPE as well as workplace health and safety regulations that would put them at less risk. They also are much more likely to deal with the stresses of job, housing and food insecurity. The pandemic has laid bare and further deepened the inequities within our communities for many decades, so we must do much more to provide public policy relief measures including tax policy restructuring, Universal Pre-k, Medical Expansion, childcare assistance, job training programs, and broadband access. We also should incentivize and allow partnerships that create more affordable housing in our communities.
5. Housing affordability is rapidly becoming an issue in the major metros like Charlotte and Raleigh and pushing low-income families further from their jobs. What policies would you support to ensure North Carolinians can live near where they work?
We need to pass bonds to provide real assistance to those who need it most, not just to create a real estate market with more moderately priced homes for purchase. We can incentivize and allow partnerships between developers and municipalities to create more housing options for lower income and homeless families.
6. Scientists say the increased threat of hurricanes and the resulting coastal devastation is only expected to worsen in the coming years due to climate change. Please state three specific policies you support to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard the environment in North Carolina.
Promote clean energy by doing any/all of the following:
Set a Clean Energy Standard, directing investor owned utilities to generate:
70% clean energy by 2030
100% clean energy by 2035
Power the grid with clean, carbon-free resources like solar & wind
Remove barriers to solar and other distributed generation.
b) Provide funding for more public transit.
c) Buyout factory farms in floodplains and stop rebuilding large structures and road projects in areas that flood. Pass legislation that protects wetlands.
7. Do you believe assault weapons should be commercially available in North Carolina? Do you support universal background checks for all gun purchases? What policies do you support to address gun violence?
There is no need for assault weapons to be available for the recreational user or for the protection of an individual’s home and property. Universal background checks are a commonsense way to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and those who have unstable histories. Among the many other things we can do to address the gun violence epidemic are implementing commonsense policies that take guns away from those who have shown that they pose a threat of harm to others and themselves, and enacting policies that require safe storage of firearms.
8. Do you support the Black Lives Matter Movement? What steps would you take to address racial equity in North Carolina?
We have stood by and done little or nothing for too many years as Blacks and others of color have been disproportionately targeted and punished for “suspected” wrong doing; abused by police brutality for which the perpetrators are not held accountable; left behind by public polices for education, training, healthcare access, healthy food availability; and incarcerated at higher rates.
As the Black Lives Matter Movement advocates and I support, we need to reform the training and oversight of public safety officers, how budgets are built, and how our criminal justice system operates, from arrest to incarceration. We should create educational and housing programs to ensure and promote equity and inclusion. Among the many things we should do: ban choke holds; require officers to intervene when they witness abuse; more effective training, community involvement, transparency, and oversight; greater funding for mental health programs; more mental health professionals in our schools to be present, intervene, and handle disciplinary issues rather than relying on SRO’s who are not equipped with the training and skills and also raise more fear and conflict; and pursue and fund alternatives to incarceration. We need to include the voices in the community in developing the reforms that we pursue.
9. One of BLM’s key demands is police accountability, however, municipalities have struggled to enact oversight boards with teeth as police records are safeguarded by state statute. Would you support bills that would make public certain police records, such as internal investigations after use of force incidents, body camera footage, and personnel files?
It is critical that we implement polices to ensure police accountability. I support ensuring that there is more transparency and accountability by providing the public the opportunity to review certain police records, files, and footage that relate to internal investigations of controversial use of force incidents.
10. The battle over gerrymandering has stalled out in the courts. What do you believe needs to happen with the state’s district maps? Would you support an independent process for drawing new legislative and congressional districts?
One of the most important initiatives we must pursue is the creation of a non-partisan independent process for drawing new districts. I co-sponsored bills to do this in the previous session and I will continue to advocate for passage of an independent process.
11. Republicans boast to have increased school funding during their tenure controlling the legislature. Do you believe the state’s public schools are adequately funded? If not, would you support a tax increase to pay for it?
The NC Constitution, and confirmed by NC Supreme Court’s Leandro decision, mandates that we provide a sound, basic education, with equal opportunities for all students. Yet our state’s public schools are woefully underfunded and cannot fully deliver on this mandate.
Our current per-pupil spending is actually 3 percent below pre-2008-09 recession levels (adjusted for inflation). And the hardest hit school districts in terms of real funding are those with higher concentrations of low-income students.
Too many of our public schools are suffering from a lack of technology and other classroom essentials, as well as crumbling infrastructure. Further, inadequate funding fails to compensate our teachers, administrators, and other essential staff, who do an amazing job educating our students in spite of a shoestring budget. The Republican majority has syphoned money from our traditional public schools, directing those dollars to vouchers, charter schools, virtual charter schools, and other programs—many of which are actually failing our students while being unaccountable to taxpayers for their poor performance.
In terms of sources for public school funding, I support:
Rolling back the enacted tax cuts which benefit the wealthiest North Carolinians and out of state large corporations, and restructure our tax code so the very highest wage earners and large corporations pay higher taxes.
Divesting taxpayer dollars from failing programs (for-profit virtual charter schools and vouchers) and reinvesting them into public education.
12. Research suggests the state’s charter school system is increasing segregation in the schools. Do you support the expansion of charter schools? Why or why not?
I do not support the expansion of charter schools, as I believe that they have gone far afield of their original intent. Too many are not meeting overall academic goals and have contributed to increased school segregation.
Charter schools were established—with a 100-school cap—under the premise that “different and innovative teaching methods” would be developed to “improve student learning” and shared with traditional public schools. Charter schools are afforded a great deal of flexibility, have no curriculum requirements and only need 50% of teachers to be licensed.
Since the cap was lifted, the number of charters has grown to more than 180. A lack of proper oversight and accountability has increased the number of low-performing charters to 40. Additionally, the charter system does not meet the state requirement that 75 percent of schools must meet or exceed academic growth. The cost of funding these schools (2018-2019) is in excess of $670 M. If our goal is to enhance the quality and efficacy of public school education, we should divest from failing charter schools and redirect resources to traditional public schools where our investment will have oversight and be put to better use.
13. More than 3,000 North Carolinians have died from COVID-10 since the onset of the pandemic and thousands more left with crippling medical debt. Do you believe the state needs to invest in an expansion of Medicaid? How would you address healthcare affordability for North Carolinians?
Yes, I am totally committed to passing legislation that expands Medicaid. We also need to work to lower the costs of prescription drugs and minimize the usage of unnecessary expensive diagnostics. Our healthcare system should reward healthy lifestyles and incentivize healthcare providers by parity payments for preventative services.
14. The state’s Voter ID law, which has been criticized as targeted to disenfranchise African American voters, is temporarily blocked by the court. After the election, would you support repealing this law? Why or why not?
Yes, I would support repealing the Voter Photo ID law. There is no convincing evidence of voter fraud that would be prevented by the presentation of a photo at the polls.
15. North Carolina has not executed anyone since 2006, and challenges to the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty continue. Would you support the repeal of the death penalty in North Carolina? If not, do you believe the legislature should change the law to restart executions?
Yes. The death penalty is unfairly applied and has a larger public cost than the other most serious punishment, life imprisonment. The application of the death penalty in capital murder cases is discriminatory. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, juries in some states are three times more likely to hand down a death penalty for a black offender than a white offender. Ending the unjust and error-prone death penalty is a crucial part of building a more humane criminal justice system in North Carolina.
16. Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been covered by this questionnaire?
Your questions have been thorough. Of course, there is much more I could address about protecting the vote, dealing with the specifics of restoring the public education system that NC has been a proud national leader of in the past, and closing the coverage and equity gaps in our communities.
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