Name as it appears on the ballot: Guy Meilleur
Party affiliation: Libertarian
Campaign website: guyfornc.org
Occupation & employer: Consulting arborist, Historic Tree Care
Years lived in North Carolina: 37
1. What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of your North Carolina district effectively? What would you cite as your three biggest career accomplishments?
As a contracting arborist 30 years ago, my fulfillment of tree pruning contracts for the Raleigh Housing Authority was very satisfying. Not many arborists were willing to bid on these contracts. Most of them focus on removing trees, and were not comfortable working in that part of town. But having grown up in south Chicago, I was comfortable there. I could see my work improving the living conditions for the residents in those housing projects, and making their spaces shadier and more livable.
As a consulting arborist on the national tree care standards committee, I wrote the industry standard for the inspection of trees. The standard directs arborists to get information from trees, before deciding what to do with them. This fact-based approach provides an alternative to the fear-based approach too commonly taken when assessing valuable trees. It took two years to get the standard through the committee. There was constant pressure from corporate interests to simplify and dumb down the standard so their entry level employees would be qualified to meet it. More experienced arborists wanted to raise the bar, and the level of professionalism in the industry. It took a lot of negotiation to arrive at a consensus, and I am proud of the role I had in bringing people together to get that done.
As an educator, I have presented the art and science of tree care to students and professionals around the world. Together with my partner Karen Cantor, who designs and creates our puppet characters, I write the scripts and perform the shows for PuppetTREE. It’s been satisfying to strike a balance between education and entertainment, conveying important information by engaging the audience. As much as I enjoy presenting advanced arboriculture at tree care conferences, entertaining the audience at the National Puppetry Conference was a high point for me.
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?
VOTING RIGHTS. The lawsuit by a few of our state legislators at the United States Supreme Court should be dropped immediately. The legislature has no constitutional authority to neuter the courts, and usurp the democratic process. Laws that threaten our election officials and volunteers have no place in a democracy. A super majority is not a dictatorship; at least it should not be. Voting rights are under attack by the legislature, which should be working to restore confidence in free and fair elections.
I am in favor of counting ballots as they come in, and having a deadline for ballots that will allow the final results to be announced soon after the votes are in. But I am not in favor of other limitations that the legislature has imposed or wants to impose on voters, including the scrutiny of signatures and the difficulty of appeal for voters who are denied because of a technicality, when their identity is clear. I am in favor of ranked choice voting, a more direct form of democracy.
PROTECTING CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS The Constitution guarantees our right to peacefully assemble. The NC legislature should change its anti-rioting bill, to protect demonstrators who are not rioting. While demonstrating for peace and justice in the 1960’s, I saw non-demonstrators provoking violence, to discredit the demonstrations. In 2020, I watched on TV as non-demonstrators broke the windows of stores and urged the crowd to loot. The legislature should stop proposing bills that would criminalize peaceable assembly, so the police can focus on lawbreakers.
ECONOMIC FREEDOM—ENDING CORPORATE CRONYISM
The state government should not be dominated by polluters. Today our rivers are poisoned by coal ash and pig waste, but the utilities and agribusiness that create the problems are also big campaign donors. By manipulating the regulatory and enforcement process, they get away with violating the rights of their neighbors downstream to clean air and water.
3. To what extent do you support municipalities exerting local control over issues such as regulating greenhouse gas emissions, criminal justice reforms and police oversight, and passing development-regulating ordinances?
POLICE should be encouraged and empowered to enforce the laws and keep the peace. But they should be held responsible if they exceed their authority. Qualified immunity should not be a get out of jail free card. It needs reexamination and restrictions, to hold police accountable. Citizens deserve the right to fight City Hall, and win when they are in the right. Police should be respected and rewarded for doing that difficult job.
ORDINANCES should work to protect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. That includes our rights to clean air and water. A block away from our home, a developer wants to cut down 80 mature trees–that are in the buffers! The trees are not in their way, but they make no effort to retain them. The Durham ordinance talks and talks about the value of tree preservation, but staff walks and walks away from opportunities to make it happen.
Both Hillandale Road and LaSalle Street are threatened by massive canopy loss, just to make room for redundant sidewalks. Reasonable alternatives exist for both projects, but Durham does not want to regulate development–especially its own! If a developer wants to preserve a tree with a 20 inch trunk diameter, the Durham ordinance tells them to build a fence 20 feet away, and prevent any activity between the fence and the trunk. This is crazy! Trees have very few roots at that distance.
Public funding for any development should require the conservation of trees wherever possible, or reforestation. There are several good ways to install sidewalks and buildings without cutting down every tree. Ordinances should be designed and implemented by professionals who will not unreasonably restrict either development or tree preservation. Our quality of life depends on a healthy environment.
4. Do you support raising North Carolina’s minimum wage, and if so by how much? If not, what other initiatives would you take to support low-income families in North Carolina?
The best way to help low income people is to eliminate barriers that get in the way of them earning a higher income. Community college should be encouraged and at a reasonable cost. Tuition waivers should be available for people who make passing grades. High schools should be encouraged to regenerate their vocational education programs, and stop trying to put every kid into college. Any state initiatives to get kids into college should be balanced by initiatives to get kids into vocational schools.
Better yet, do away with as much state control as possible. For someone in Raleigh to tell employers in Murphy or Manteo or Morrisville what to pay their employees is overreach. The more local the decisions, the better.
5. With rent, property taxes, and home sale prices all rising, what, if anything, should the state legislature do to address this growing affordability crisis?
Last month there was a guy knocking on doors in our neighborhood, looking for work. I kept him busy for a few hours and drove him back to the one-star hotel his family was staying at. I helped pay for his room, so I found out what he had to pay: $84. per night! Soon after, driven by desperation, he cut some corners and got ostracized. I hate to think where he and his family are now.
Low income people can be helped if they have more housing options. Too often, zoning discourages rooming houses or hostels. This leaves many people with the decision between overpriced hotels and apartments, or the streets. Businesses need the right to provide housing for people with low income. In Europe, hostels are common sights, in the suburbs and downtown. Zoning should not get in the way of housing choices.
6. Do you believe that the state government has an obligation to prevent the impacts of climate change? If so, please state three specific policies you support to address climate change.
State regulation should prevent or punish large scale water pollution, whether it be from coal ash or hog waste flowing into our rivers. These industries are in bed with the regulators, and they get away with a slap on the wrist. The rights of downstream citizens and property owners should be enforced by severe penalties and prompt action when our waterways are polluted.
One look at our mountains can tell you that large scale long-distance air pollution is damaging as well. Many trees have died along the Smokies as a result of pollution from Tennessee. Some court cases have been successful and won short term gains. Overwhelmingly we are just victims of whatever people want to do upwind or upstream of us. The state stop regulating activities that don’t affect our right to life, and focus on clean air and water.
We need devices to moderate the impacts of climate change in our communities. Fortunately, we have them–our trees! State policy should empower reforestation and stop supporting deforestation.
7. Would you support an independent process for drawing new legislative and congressional districts?
I come from Wisconsin, where the voting public is equally split between the red team and the blue team, but the red team has seven representatives, and the blue team has only one. The red team harnessed the power of computers and gerrymandering at the right time, so they are pressing to cement their advantage into the long-term future. Alabama legislators are suing at the Supreme Court to get the same power.
The blue team is doing the same type of tricks in Maryland and California and everywhere else they have power, but they are not as effective. We need to end this bipolar madness. Our state should provide for free and fair elections. All voting districts must be drawn up by totally independent commissions.
8. Does the General Assembly have a constitutional obligation to comply with the state Supreme Court order in the Leandro case to fully fund public schools and give every child in North Carolina a sound basic education?
Every child in North Carolina deserves a sound basic education, as provided by their parents and supporting agencies. I have attended and volunteered at private and public schools. I’ve seen both work, and not work. There is no one-size-fits-all for a student, and the state should not get in the way of reasonable private options.
The state should not throw buckets of money at schools and hope it is spent well. If one county raises $1000 for education per child and another county raises $10,000 per child, I’m not sure it is up to the state to make up the difference. Parents should be primarily responsible for making a sound basic education available.
9. When it comes to teacher pay, North Carolina is one of the lowest-paying states in the nation. Schools across the state are facing shortages of educators, support staff, and other key personnel. Do you support raising teacher pay to at least the national average? What else can the General Assembly do to improve working conditions for teachers and make the teaching profession more attractive to potential future educators?
As a middle school tutor, I was proud to help at risk kids stay on track and earn passing grades. I saw the extreme restrictions that teachers operate under, and I wish they were set free. Parental involvement should be encouraged to supplement classroom staff. Contracts with teachers’ unions should not limit this important resource. But parents need to respect teacher autonomy.
Teachers get into education for the satisfaction of teaching children. When mandates from the state and the county and the principal impose unreasonable restrictions, that kills teacher morale, and the educational process. The teacher’s control of the classroom should be maximized. The principal’s control of the school should be maximized. Mandates from Washington and Raleigh and the county seat should be minimized.
I enjoy teaching environmental science in summer camps as a contract educator for Duke University and elsewhere. Teachers want to teach because of the value of interaction between teachers and students. Nothing should get in the way of this connection, if we value education at all. North Carolina ranks #38 in the United States, and the United States ranks #17 in the world. We need to set teachers free from mandated curricula and methods.
10. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling this spring that overturned Roe v. Wade. The legal cutoff for abortion in North Carolina is now 20 weeks. Do you believe the 20-week cutoff is too restrictive, not restrictive enough, or just right? As a state lawmaker, would you support legislation that further limits or prohibits abortion in North Carolina, or punishes/criminalizes abortion providers or patients?
As a husband, I was thrilled to see the sonograms showing us the growing life within my wife’s body. Watching those fingers moving and that heart beating was a joy like no other–until I held the human life in my arms. There are many theories about the beginning of human life; is it at conception, or at six, 15, or 20 weeks, when pain or pleasure are sensed, at viability outside the womb? Who can say for sure? Arbitrary benchmarks are a poor basis for legislation. We do know when the cord is cut, and when the first breath is taken. No government should have arbitrary power over men’s or women’s bodies.
11. Should North Carolina expand Medicaid? Where do you stand on increasing the number of slots for the Innovations Waiver for special needs individuals?
I just read that 5 out of 6 of the major US medical providers are fraudulently and massively overcharging the government by exaggerating ailments. Which explains why our health care costs so much. The US health care industry is corrupt and broken. I have seen single-payer coverage work well in other countries, but I’ve also seen disabled people exaggerate and prolong their disabilities. Wellness, not profit, should be the goal of medical care.
The Innovations Waiver program has laudable aims; to provide for an independent living lifestyle for people that need around the clock care. If this waiver allows expenditures exceeding $135,000 per year, that’s $369.86 per day per person. I would have to learn a lot more about this program before voting to exceed that.
12. Do you support reforming North Carolina’s marijuana laws? Do you support full legalization? Please explain your position.
The government has no place regulating lifestyle choices. If adults want to smoke a joint or have a drink, that’s their decision. Cannabis is legal in many other states that collect taxes on it. North Carolina should end the war on drugs, and vacate all prosecutions and convictions for possession of marijuana. Giving or selling drugs to children should remain illegal.
Cultivation is another policy that the state should look at. If the federal government outlaws the production of hemp for fiber because the active alkaloid is federally regulated on the same level as heroin, that is a big problem with the federal government. Government needs to get out of the way of production, and profit from reasonable regulation of other cannabis activity, as other states do. The ABC boards are poor models for regulation and should be done away with.
13. Do you support strengthening gun safety regulations such as expanding background checks, banning bump stocks, and raising the age to buy or otherwise regulating the sales of assault-style weapons? Please explain.
The second amendment is grossly misinterpreted when it empowers disturbed teenagers to have weapons of mass destruction. Single shot hunting rifles should be available for young people, but not high capacity killing machines. More powerful weapons should require higher age limits and stronger background checks.
14. Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?
Our two-party system has failed to maintain collaboration in government. People are far more diverse than red or blue. There should be room in the political process for people who are socially tolerant and fiscally responsible. A vote for the lesser evil is still evil. Vote your heart, your mind, or your gut–but vote!
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