Name as it appears on the ballot: Hampton Dellinger
Date of Birth: 4/30/67
Campaign Web Site: http://www.hd08.com
Occupation & Employer: Candidate for Lt. Governor (departed law firm in December 2007)
Years lived in North Carolina: 30
1) What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
My first priority would be making sure that North Carolina is number one not just in one thing that matters a lotbeing a great state in which to do businessbut in all the things that matter mostlike discrimination-free workplaces, well-funded and effective schools, safe and sustainable communities, and honest and responsive government.
North Carolina is ranked in survey after survey as one of the top statesand often the #1 statein which to do business. Site Selection magazine recently awarded us their top ranking for the sixth time in seven years. This is an incredible achievement, one that reflects decades of hard work by North Carolinians and sustained commitment from state leaders. Our economic success was not a givento go from a state uniquely dependent on a single crop (tobacco) for both our agricultural and manufacturing sectors to a much more diversified economy is an incredible achievementand should not be lightly acknowledged nor taken for granted.
But while this is a great achievement, its not good enough. Not even close. Back when Site Selection issued its most recent ranking, I released a short video in which I commented on our top business ranking and emphasized the need for North Carolina to lead on other issuesincluding addressing continuing racial inequalities and freeing public health from right wing politicsin order to justify our reputation not just as a great place to do business, but as a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
Success in these other areas will make future business success possible. More importantly, they will make it meaningful. As Ive discussed through my campaign and throughout this questionnaire, Ive created detailed, comprehensive plans for everything from government reform and economic development to education (K-12 and higher ed) to senior issues, and Ive spoken out on mental health reforms, reproductive rights and affirmative action, and protecting the environment.
My second priority would be improving resource management in North Carolina.
We Tar Heels have been given a rich but fragile natural heritage. Those of us who are blessed to enjoy it today have a corresponding duty to preserve it for future generations. Protecting our resources requires a willingness to stand up and fight the immediate battles, and it also requires the ability to plan for the future, so that our children and grandchildren dont have to fight new ones. The Lieutenant Governor is uniquely positioned to take a long-term view and ensure that present actions benefit rather than burden succeeding generations. When it comes to resource management, Ive consistently taken such a view throughout my career and throughout this campaign. I believe deeply in the Native American credo that major community decisions should be considered, in no small measure, based on the expected impact seven generations later.
When Duke was pushing for another heavy-polluting coal plant at Cliffside, and an opponent in this race (Walter Dalton) was supporting two units, I stood up and opposed any, because I believe theres no overriding reason to lock ourselves into CO2 and mercury-spewing coal plants for the next 40 or 50 years when better alternatives are increasingly available. Instead of constructing another long-term polluter that would deplete and despoil our natural resources, I support a combination of efficiency, conservation, and increasing energy from renewable sources.
Smart resource management can begin with efficiency programs incentivizing energy-efficient heating, cooling, and appliances. If North Carolina can afford to spend enormous sums on questionable economic incentives, we can surely afford to spend a few million on a much longer-term investment in our natural heritage. In 2003, North Carolina was 46th in efficiency spending per capita. We could spend ten times as much and still be below the national average, and much of what we could spend would pay for itself. For example, effective education about the benefits of compact florescent light bulbs will save our citizens money while removing the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of cars in terms of pollution. I support a PBF, as recommended by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. I also believe we should offer tax incentives to businesses and individuals who use hybrid vehicles, and who invest in energy efficient houses and buildings. And as detailed below (Question 6b), we need to invest in mass transit and enable non-motorized transportation through better urban planning and development of basic infrastructure like bike paths.
We also need to enable conservation, by making it easier for North Carolinians to control their own power bills. Conservation means more than asking people to reduce their energy usageit means coming up with creative ways to help them do it. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the Energy Department has found that giving consumers more information about and control over their energy usage can result in up to 15-percent lower usage over the course of a year. And tiered pricing systems can be put in place so that responsible families and businesses are not punished but wasteful users pay for the preventable damage they cause.
And of course renewable sources are an essential part of any forward-looking energy plan.
It is clear that investment in developing clean energy today will pay great dividends down the road. By leading the way in attracting businesses that develop clean energy, we can decrease pollution and combat climate change while reaping economic benefits as wellthe Tellus Institute estimates that those businesses can create more than 20,000 jobs while providing benefits in the form of sustainable energy. And a study done in 2006 at the behest of the N.C. Utilities Commissions and the Environmental Review Commission found that wind power and waste from hogs, poultry, and timber could generate more power than the heavy-polluting Cliffside plants I opposed.
The Governors promise of funding for a new Advanced Transportation Energy Center to work with energy companies to improve lithium ion batteries was a good start in making North Carolina a leader in the development and use of clean energy. There are a number of other steps we need to take, beginning with changing the incentives weve given our energy companies. Right now, utilities make a profit on every kilowatt-hour of electricity used and can earn a profit on any new power plant, so theres no incentive to conserve energyin fact, weve given the energy companies economic reason to oppose any efforts by the state to become more efficient. That needs to change.
One of the great resources we can offer to clean energy businesses is our college and university system and the talented graduates they produce. We should make North Carolinas colleges and universities world leaders in preparing students to work in clean energy industries.
And while Im always happy to rush to the front lines when it comes to environmental protectionas I did in opposing the Cliffside plantIve found that forward-looking resource management plans are the easiest and most effective way to protect our natural heritage. Thats one reason my education plan includes a number of steps to reduce energy consumption and teach children the value and importance of resource conservation. Ive called for North Carolina to build LEED-certified schools, retrofit our school buses so as to cut tailpipe emissions by 85%, eventually move to a fleet of hybrid school buses to cut fuel consumption by 70%, encourage parents to turn off their cars while waiting to pick up their children, and install waterless urinalscurrently in use at Statesvilles Third Creek Elementarythat can save more than three gallons of water per use.
I think students should be active participants in our statewide resource conservation efforts. I have called for transforming drivers education into transit education in which students would learn not only the rules of the road but also the options for and benefits of mass transit and non-motorized options. Personally, Id love to see more kids biking to school, since bike paths here in the Triangle were what first got me interested in politics. And since healthy, active kids burn off so much more energy, its all the more important that we provide them with proper nutrition in the form of locally grown food. My family and I take full advantage of the Triangles incredible bounty, and Id like to see the great produce offered at the Raleigh, Durham, and Carrboro Farmers Markets being served in our local schools as well.
Resource management is a broad issue that demands the kind of holistic solutions Ive described here and elsewhere. I am proud that former Vice President Al Gore thought highly enough of my record on environmental issues to issue a statement that my vision and leadership are a tremendous asset to North Carolina. Hampton Dellinger would make a great Lt. Governor.
Finally, I think you can tell a lot about a candidate by where they stand on budget priorities. Since the beginning of this campaign, Ive said that I will have a list of budget items ready to submit to the legislature in January 2009, and I will use the unique position of the Lt. Governorwith a foot in both the executive and legislative branchesto fight for their passage.
Right at the top of that list will be compensation for victims of forced government sterilization, which Ive already spoken out for publicly, and which I discuss in more detail below (Question 4). Second, I will also push for improvedand better-targetedfunding for education, an issue I discuss in more detail in my education plan. Third, I will push for improved funding for mental health services.
As laid out in more detail in my government reform plan, I think real government reform means returning state government to its core competencies and making sure it does them well. That starts with funding basic government responsibilities like providing mental health services for those who cant afford them, rather than outsourcing these duties to private vendors.
2) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues youve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
Ive spent my entire career fighting for core progressive Democratic principles in both the public and private sectorsthose described above and others. Many of those battles have been successful. But while weve made progress on social justice and quality of life issues during the past forty years, my lifetime, there is moremuch morewe need to do. North Carolina needs state leaders who have both experience and the ability to put their principles into practice, and my experience and commitment make me the person to do just that as Lt. Governor.
I am the only candidate for Lieutenant Governor from either party with experience in the Governors office. As Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor, and as a Deputy Attorney General and Special Counsel in the Department of Justice, I worked hard to promote public safety, public health and public integrity. I learned firsthand the crises that can confront state leaders, and I am prepared to lead this state through any challenge. I also know the daily demands on a Governors time and the unique opportunity the Lieutenant Governor has to think not just about the next meeting but about the next year, the next decade, the next generation.
Ive served in government, but Ive also stood up to it. Ive challenged governmental decisions that waste taxpayers money or imperil the clean air, safe water, and scenic beauty that are every North Carolinians birthright. In a case covered by newspapers across North Carolina, I successfully challenged an agencys decision to award the entire state government office supplies contract to a higher priced bidder with financial ties to the agencys consultant.
Among my other efforts:
- Successfully challenging a state agencys decision to award the entire state government office supplies contract to a higher-priced bidder with financial ties to the agencys consultant.
- Aiding negotiations between bus drivers at the Charlotte Area Transit System and a private management company to keep the citys transit system operating.
- Working for the NAACP at the Baltimore headquarters as part of the organizations successful effort to solidify its finances and install new leadership in the mid 1990s.
- Volunteer teaching at Wilbur Cross High School (New Haven, CT) during law school.
Translating experience into action
Building on that experience, I am now running the most substantive, issues-oriented campaign in this race. I created a proposal to help N.C. seniors that the Wilmington Star News called attractive, sensible, and admirably specific. My detailed education plan is designed to make sure that North Carolina is a top for students and teachers by, among other things, offering pre-school for 3-year-olds, raising the dropout age to 18, and offering parents electronic student evaluations. And Ive clashed with my leading opponent on affirmative action and womens constitutional right to choose, both of which I support and he does not.
But even holding aside those basic Democratic principles and focusing just on the three priorities I identified above, my record stands out from those of the other candidates in this race.
First, Ive devoted my entire career to ensuring that North Carolina is not just a top state for businessan important accolade, to be surebut for all the other things that make business success meaningful: excellent schools, sustainable and well-connected communities, a clean environment, and an open and responsive government.
Second, Ive consistently and effectively supported resource conservation efforts for years. Im proud of my work in the Governors office, where I was part of a team working to ensure passage of the Clean Smokestacks legislation. Prior to that, I took part in a stepped-up enforcement effort against hog polluters when I joined the Office of the Attorney General in 1996. I also urged state regulators to curb increases in hog slaughtering, and I was part of a team that helped enforce environmental laws after Hurricane Floyd led to the leakage of hog waste into our rivers. Beyond hog farms, I urged and participated in enforcement actions against other agricultural and industrial polluters.
As a senior official in the Attorney Generals office, I helped attorneys in the Environmental Section file an amicus brief in the case of American Trucking Associations, Inc. v. Browner, in which the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the long-standing principle that the EPA should not consider potential costs or other effects when setting ambient air quality standards (531 U.S. 437 (2001)). During my time in the Offices of the Governor and Attorney General, I also helped to protect the Appalachian Trail from an adjacent rock quarry, successfully preserving the Trail for future generations, see Clark Stone Co., Inc. v. N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 164 N.C. App. 24 (Ct. App. 2004); fought sandbagging and hardened structures for a condominium development at Wrightsville Beach; and worked to preserve the publics right to beach access in Currituck County. See Giampa v. Currituck County, No. 98 CVS 153 (filed June 19, 1998).
Finally, Ive fought successfully for the right budget priorities. I was part of the Governors team that in 2001 stood up to Walter Dalton and others who were willing to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to the states education budget because they did not want to increase personal income taxes on the richest North Carolinians. We fought instead to balance the budget with revenue increases so that North Carolinas public schools and teachers were protected, not sacrificed. As Lieutenant Governor, I will be prepared to fight similar battlesincluding asking the most fortunate to do more when necessaryto ensure that crucial state programs and infrastructure receive sufficient funding. And I will always oppose cuts to education funding and other vital social services, just as I did earlier this decade.
3) How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a proud progressive Democrat who believes that government has an essential role to play in society, but who has also never been afraid to stand up to government agencies and officials not acting in the broad public interest. Ive never wavered in those beliefs, which is why my past achievements and my platform are consistent and firm.
I believe that government can be an ethical, capable, efficient, and positive force in peoples lives. And I fully embrace the core progressive principle that government can and should enable every citizen to participate effectively in our democratic system, while serving as a check on market failures and as a safety net for those who need it most.
As described above, Ive fought successfully for those principles through my career in the private and public sectors. I know that government cant do everything. But I believe it can do more to:
- Eliminate continuing racial disparities in schools, health outcomes, and our criminal justice system.
- Put patients first by demanding that affordable, comprehensive, and high-quality health care never be held hostage by politics.
- Safeguard the spectacular natural environment that makes North Carolina such a wonderful place to call home and that we hold in trust for future generations.
- Put state government at the forefront of promoting discrimination-free workplaces and the associational rights of government employees, along with fair business opportunities for companies large and small.
- Target the court backlogs and jail crowding that threaten public safety and erode public confidence.
- Enhance voting rights, government ethics, and open government in North Carolina.
- Embrace education policies that will make North Carolina the top state in the country for students and teachers.
- Expand health insurance risk pools.
- Make a deeper commitment to mass transit and sustainable energy.
- Reduce the gap that leaves low-wealth counties and school systems in certain parts of the state disadvantaged despite the best efforts of their citizens and leaders.
I believe in the promise of democratic government, and in the principles of the Democratic Party. I believe that honorable government can inspire, and that effective government can improve lives, and that North Carolina deserves a government that does both. As Lt. Governor, I will work to ensure that state government commits itselffairly and effectivelyto the things that matter most.
4) The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
Building a just community begins with correcting the grievous injustices of our recent past, especially those that have slipped from the public view. Thats why Ive publicly and repeatedly pushed for compensation for the victims of forced government sterilization, and have made it a prominent plank in my platform. (My short video on the subject is available here)
For more than four decades, until the mid-1970s, government agencies oversaw the forcible sterilization of more than 7,600 North Carolinians. Thousands of the victims were 18 and younger. In one case, a 10-year-old boy was castrated. Those involved said the program was needed to cleanse society of the undesirable, promiscuous and feeble minded, but racism and sexism are what really drove this horrific effort.
In 2003, a state committee called for compensation for documented victims. But to this day, not one penny has been paid to any victim. And yet the state is willing to use public money to fund athletic scholarships at private schools, overpay by millions for office supplies, and cut taxes for the rich.
We need to get our priorities straight. As Lt. Governor, I will submit a state budget proposal that includes payment to the documented survivors of the sterilization program. They are not unknowable victims of distant historical events. The sterilization program lasted until the mid-1970s, nearly 80% of forced sterilizations in North Carolina happened after 1945, and thousands of its victims still live every day with the enormity of the wrongs they have suffered. We need to begin identifying and compensating them, before this stain on our states history spreads any further.
While it is crucial that we teach our children about this shameful chapter of our history, we still have a chance to write a much better conclusion: One in which state government not only admits its mistakes, but fixes them. Im running for Lieutenant Governor because I believe that North Carolina needs the kind of creative, progressive leaders who are willing and able to confront the past while building for the future.
5) Is there a stand youll take on principle if elected, even though it may cost you some popularity points with voters?
While Ive worked hard in this campaign to identify and directly respond to voters concerns, I will always stand on principle when it comes to the things that matter most. I have, and always will, support reproductive rights and affirmative steps to ensure workplace equality. I believe the majority of North Carolinians support those principles as well, but my commitment preceded my campaign and will outlast my time in public service, no matter which way the political winds blow.
On those and other controversial issues, Ill hold my ground. For more than a decade — dating back to my time in the Attorney Generals office when I insisted that migrant workers be allowed access to legal and union representatives even when they lived in tenements owned by the agribusinesses they labored for — Ive stood up for undocumented immigrants, despite the shrillness of the immigration debate. Anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-immigrant policieseven if theyre popularare bad for the state and its workers, and more importantly theyre just plain wrong. Especially disheartening is the unnecessary harm done to the children of undocumented immigrants, who themselves bear no responsibility for their parents choices but who frequently become the victims of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.
The federal governments approach to immigration has been a comprehensive failure and I think the Congress and the President need to fashion a comprehensive solution. If local officials insist on determining the status of particular defendants arrested and indicted for violation of state laws, I will demand that they do so in a way that: (i) does not deter victims and witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement, (ii) does not separate parents and children unless the severity of the underlying state law violation demands it, and (iii) does not lead to jail overcrowding so that those charged with serious violent crimes are turned loose.
Throughout this campaign I have shown my willingness to take positions I believe in even if they hurt my chances of winning this election. As part of my higher education proposal, I pushed for a repeal of the provision that allows our colleges and universities to charge in-state tuition rates for out-of-state student-athletes on scholarship. I knew this wasnt a top priority for enough people to win me many votes, and I also knew that a vocal and powerful group of university boosters would be upset with my calling attention to the provision, which results in a transfer of millions of dollars from the state into the boosters pockets. Sure enough, not a single voter has told me I won them over with that proposal, while an influential athletic department booster has vowed to try to defeat me. But I know that we need to keep athletics at our universities in the proper prospective, and I will continue working to that end.
6) If these issues havent been addressed above, would you please comment on:
- Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?
Ive worked hard to bring poverty to the forefront of this race and I am grateful to jazz star Branford Marsalis for recording a radio ad that highlights my commitment in this area. Greater economic justice will remain at the top of my agenda as Lt. Governor, because I believe it is the single most important, overriding problem of our time. Like any other entrenched problem of such magnitude, poverty does not admit of a single solution, but demands a sustained, cohesive, comprehensive commitment to social and economic change. Nearly every plank in my platformfrom education to senior care to government reformis designed in part to lift up the poor in North Carolina.
Those kinds of broad reforms are the only real solution to the plague of poverty. But it takes a long time for such reforms to succeed, and North Carolinians are suffering in poverty now. Thats why, in addition to my comprehensive, long-term policy plans, I have also advocated the following immediate, targeted steps:
- Pay all state employees a basic living wage and require that vendors and contractors pay all employees a basic living wage in order to be eligible for government contracts;
- Affirmatively and actively work to grow historically disadvantaged businesses;
- Continue with the scheduled increases in the state minimum wage, so that North Carolina becomes a national leader in its minimum wage;
- Support further expansion of the state Earned Income Tax Credit;
- Commit to green collar job programs like the NAACPs Environmental Job Corps initiatives, which help combat both poverty and environment degradation;
- Create voluntary pre-school programs and raise the compulsory school age to 18 as part of a broader plan to improve education and decrease the dropout rate;
- Develop economic development policies that are strategic, forward-looking, and proactive, rather than reactive and focused on yesterdays issues;
- Build regional partnerships to deal with regional-level challenges like water conservation, energy allocation, and travel initiatives;
- Support business incubators and other mechanisms to help small businesses and entrepreneurs get off the ground;
- Encourage development of clusters of industrial and market strength
My innovative and detailed government reform and economic development plan would help stimulate the economy by reducing improper influence over state contracts, giving all businesses a fair shake, and making sure that state government invests its energy and money in doing the jobs it should, instead of throwing money at jobs it should not be doing in the first place.
North Carolina needs road maintenance, infrastructure improvements, and even financial reform in order to deal with our growing (and changing) transportation needs. Those needs are especially keen in the Triangle, as those of us who live and work here know all too well.
The string of red tail-lights on I-40 every morning and evening tells the story better than statistics can, but the numbers still tell a powerful and cautionary tale. The population in Wake County, which makes up much of the Triangles population, has more than doubled since the 1980s and is expected to double againto 1.3 millionby 2025. The average commuter in most of our cities spends 40 minutes in the car every day going to and from work. On our current path, that commute will worsen significantly as sprawl moves houses further away from city centers and the congestion on our roads increases. One commuter switching to public transit can reduce carbon emissions by 4,800 pounds per year, and a household giving up a second car can reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent.
Maintaining our current transportation system should take priority over the building of new highways, reusing and recycling road materials as we go wherever possible. But wherever new roads are the best option, they must be better coordinated with land use planning. Poor coordination can lead to inefficient road construction: roads are planned eight to ten years in advance, then zoning decisions redirect development, and the roads end up being built where theyre not needed most.
Our plans must consist of more than just roads. We desperately need better mass transit and non-motorized options in our cities and throughout our state. Unlike many of their leaders, North Carolina citizens understand the need for better transit options and are willing to pay for them, as evidenced by last years convincing vote against the initiative to repeal public transit funding in Charlotte. Charlotte residents voted overwhelmingly70% to 30%to keep the .5% sales tax that funds the citys light rail. The trains are a success, with ridership above projected levels and increasing residential and commercial investment all along the line. The implication of that is clear: resources put into increasing our mass transit options today will more than pay for themselves in the long run, both financially and environmentally.
We also need urban planning and smart growth initiatives to work hand-in-hand with transportation reform, by reducing sprawl and redirecting citizens toward a city center. Coupled with efficient mass transit and non-motorized options, we can save time, money, and energy, and decrease pollution. Charlotte has done a nice job funneling development to high density areas, making mass transit a better option. And like other environmental challenges, transportation planning requires us to think regionally. Transportation initiatives are an essential part of economic development and must be tailored to the reality that many working North Carolinians travel great distances between their homes and workplaces. The recent difficulties faced by public transit initiatives in the Trianglecatalogued in the pages of the Independentonly reinforce the need for real regional partnerships, no matter what geographic and political divisions might otherwise separate us. (The Triangle is growing apart, separated by geography, politics, transit and identity, Independent Weekly, March 5, 2008; Competing agendas threaten transit planning, Independent Weekly, Feb. 27, 2008; Three corridors STAC up, Independent Weekly, Jan. 16, 2008). After all, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill were barely even connected to one another before effective, forward-looking state leadership created the Research Triangle Park in 1959.
Effective, progressive leadership also means thinking creatively about ways to save our children from having to fight the same battles weve fought. To inspire the next generation of North Carolinians to use and support mass transit options, I have called for drivers education in our schools to be transformed into transit education, and I have also called for a collaborative state and local program that would allow North Carolinians to carry a single card that licenses the individual to operate a motor vehicle and allows for payment when using local- and state-operated mass transit systems.
These transportation improvements should go hand-in-hand with improvements in the way we fund them. Its time to end the annual $170 million transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. Confronting our transportation needs starts with being open and transparent about how the state handles its finances. And its hard for taxpayers to see how their money is being spent when we call it one thing and use it for another. Our guiding principle should always be Truth in Budgeting. It starts with calling things like they are, rather than using money that comes mostly from automotive taxes and is earmarked for highways to shore up the rest of the General Fund. Truth in Budgeting also means being honest about the fact that cutting $170 million from the General Fund will leave a sizeable hole in the budget, a hole well have to fill in order to protect our schools and other vital services.
As prisons become more overcrowded, we must embrace alternative sentencing. But we must also look further than that, because even alternative sentencing is not a complete solution. We also need to ensure that our prison system is adequately funded, and that North Carolinians battling mental illness and addictive disease have access to appropriate services so that they do not end upas all too many doin our jails and prisons instead of getting the help they need to be productive citizens.
First, I believe that alternative sentencing is a better option for certain nonviolent offenders for whom prison is simply not the right answer. Prisons are expensive for taxpayers, they are difficult to administer, and in many instances theyre the wrong way to punish and deter crime while protecting the public and rehabilitating offenders. When inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses such as drug possession, community-based sentencing can be the best way to ensure public safety through monitoring, without crowding violent offenders out of our prisons. Advances in technology like improved ankle bracelets and GPS monitoring may make it possible for courts and law enforcement to create creative, safe, secure community-based programs. Unfortunately, these programs havent always received the legislative support they deserve.
Second, and relatedly, increased use of alternative sentences will help address another of our major prison administration problems: lack of funding. It costs an average of $73.71 per day$26,904 per yearto incarcerate someone in North Carolina. Intermediate community supervision, by contrast, costs just $2.09 per day, or $769.85 per year. Even given the recent prison building projects, were looking at a 6,000 bed shortage ten years from now. Thats unacceptable. When we fail to adequately fund major aspects of government activity, the courts will step in, as they did with schools in Leandro, and as they did with the prison system beginning in the 1980s and continuing up until 1997.
Finally, we need to recognize the connection between jail and prison overcrowding and the failure to provide adequate services for North Carolinians battling mental illness and addictive disease. As Ive stated before, when the system comes up short, these North Carolinians all too often end up in jails, general emergency rooms, and senior care facilities, none of which are properly equipped to meet their unique needs. This is not fair or equitable for anyone. People with mental illness and addictive disease do not get proper services, and the public ends up paying police officers, rather than mental health professionals, to respond to mental health crises.
While the U.S. leads the world in providing preventative medicine that can eliminate serious disease and cutting-edge technology that can treat it, too many North Carolinians are unable to take full advantage of the benefits American medicine has to offer. In 2005, 16% of North Carolinas populationmore than 1.3 million North Carolinianswere without health insurance for the entire calendar year. Ethnic minorities, the working poor, young adults, and children are disproportionately uninsured.
1.3 million North Carolinians without health insurance is1.3 million too many. We know that individuals without health insurance are less likely to have a regular source of care, are more likely to delay care, and are more likely to have adverse health outcomes as a result. Further, when they do seek care, they often need expensive treatment which could have been avoided, or are forced to seek expensive emergency room care. These needless expenses in turn drive up the costs for those who do have insurance. It is thus in the interest of all North Carolinians, both those with insurance and those without, to ensure that each and every North Carolinian has health insurance and is able to access comprehensive health care services.
This is why I support amending the North Carolina Constitution to recognize that the right to health care is a fundamental right. Establishing a shared commitment to making health care universal is an important first step in an on-going discussion about how to bring that goal to fruition. The North Carolina Constitution already guarantees other basic state-provided rights, such as the right to a public education, and I believe health care is among those few rights which are so fundamental to North Carolinians that it should be guaranteed in Article 1s Declaration of Rights.
But declaring health care to be fundamental is not enough. As Lieutenant Governor, I will work to make that goal a reality for each and every North Carolinian. Some of my basic proposals for making health care available and affordable for all North Carolinians include:
- Implementing a universal health reform plan based on principles of shared responsibility: The only way to achieve truly universal health care is to require all individuals to purchase health insurance, but we must make that insurance affordable. Employers should contribute, and employees should pay premiums subsidized on a sliding scale based on income. We should also explore tax incentives, such as allowing employees to pay for health insurance out of pre-tax dollars and offering tax credits to both employees and small business employers, to increase affordability.
- Providing individuals with choice and the knowledge necessary to exercise that choice: Individuals and families should be able to choose the health insurance that is right for them. The best way to do that is to create a centralized exchange on the web for the buying and selling of health insurance; this way individuals can compare prices and services and choose the insurer that best fits their needs. Those who like their current coverage can keep it, and others can make informed choices about what coverage they want in the future.
- Maximizing options for the self-employed and unemployed: When individuals are transitioning between jobs, the last thing they need to be worrying about is their health insurance. By creating a centralized exchange for buying and selling health insurance, independent workers like the self-employed can benefit from lower group rates, and the unemployed can maintain coverage during job transitions. Employees with multiple part-time jobs can also combine contributions made by two or more employers.
- Ensuring that every individual can get insurance: Every North Carolinian has a right to health insurance. One component of ensuring that right is eliminating pre-condition exclusions all too often imposed by private insurers.
- Reducing the costs of health care: Insuring all North Carolinians so they can get early and preventative care will go a long way toward reducing health care costs, but more can be done. North Carolina should be a leader in the nation in exploring ways to create a more efficient, effective health care structure by, for example, shifting to a pay-for-performance system in which payments are based on patients health outcomes, not the number of types of services performed.
- Providing better health care: North Carolinians should not only get the care they need, but it should also be the best care possible. North Carolina should have programs in place to provide for better chronic illness management, such as a health record bank, a secure on-line site where patients can store their health records to eliminate unnecessary and duplicative medical testing.
- Supporting culturally appropriate health care services: It is not enough that every North Carolinian have available affordable health care; they also must have health care tailored to their individual needs. As Lieutenant Governor, I would support the NC Health Disparities Project sponsored by the NC Academy of Family Physicians to increase physician knowledge of culturally and linguistically appropriate health care services.
- Providing parity in health care services: An individuals well-being requires more than basic medical services. All North Carolinians should have access to mental health, dental, and vision services, and as Lieutenant Governor, I will work to ensure parity in the availability of these services. I will also support efforts to provide better integrated services to North Carolinians, such as the iCare Partnership of North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, which aims to increase collaboration and communication between primary care providers and mental health, developmental disability, and substance abuse providers.
- Beginning healthy practices early: The roots of health problems often begin early. I support early education programs in our schools to help our children understand how to be healthy and physically fit.
Finally, Id like to draw attention to one other group that too often gets left out of the health care discussion: veterans. As Lieutenant Governor, I would advocate on behalf of individual veterans not receiving the care to which they are entitled, and I would also use the power and influence of the state to act on behalf of veterans as a group. The first job of the Lieutenant Governor when it comes to veterans health should be to hold the feds feet to the fire, and to make sure that veterans get the health care they need and deserve. If the federal government spends hundreds of billions of our tax dollars prosecuting a needless war in Iraq, it must take care of the men and women who have risked their lives in that war. Taking care of veterans unique health needsincluding not just combat injuries, but also mental healthshould be a top priority for the nation and for the state. Experience has taught us that this is an issue that demands sustained attention. Many Vietnam veterans did not start to experience problems until 5 or 10 years down the road, by which point the support system they needed had diminished. Already, we are hearing reports that brain injury among Iraq veterans may be five times higher than the official military numbers reflect. Veterans affairs are primarily the responsibility of the federal government. But when the federal government comes up short, as it so often has, we as a state have to step up.
Achieving real, meaningful health care reform will not be easy, and will require a leader who is willing to fight for change and bring innovative ideas to the debate.
The national wave of foreclosures has crashed hard here in North Carolina. North Carolinians suffered nearly 50,000 mortgage foreclosures in North Carolina last year and will suffer an estimated 60,000 this year, and were not out of the woods yet. Just last month foreclosures were up 20% on a year ago. And foreclosures are only one aspect of what has become a true crisis in affordable housing. Three-quarters of a million households cannot afford a safe, stable home in North Carolina. Thousands more lack heat and indoor plumbing.
We need to protect families currently on the brink of losing their homes, and we need to ensure that borrowers in the future have the information and resources they need to make informed decisions and avoid unduly risky or unfair deals. The Independent described some of these very dealsand the forces that enable themin some of its recent coverage. (Stung by a middleman, Independent Weekly, March 12, 2008).
I agree with several suggestions made at a recent presentation by the House Select Committee on Rising Mortgage Foreclosures chaired by former House Speaker Dan Blue and Walter Church, including requiring judicial supervision of foreclosures when certain kinds of loans are involved, making housing counselors more available both before the signing of a mortgage and if a mortgage needs to be refinanced, and cracking down on con artists preying on those at risk for losing their homes.
In 1999, North Carolina became the first state in the country to enact a predatory mortgage lending law. I am proud of my work in the Attorney Generals office in support of this initiative, and as Lt. Governor I will work with the public and private groups at the forefront of that battle, including Durhams own Self Help and Center for Responsible Lending. We need to remain a leader when it comes to fighting illegal predatory lending while preserving access to a subprime market, and rehabilitating existing buildings and housing stock. Unfortunately, as the Independent has noted, the federal government has stood in the way of our enforcing our predatory lending laws, which reduces their effectiveness. (Crawling out of the foreclosure hole, Independent Weekly, March 12, 2008). Nevertheless, our efforts are yielding results, and a combination of work at the local level and pressure at the federal level may save thousands of North Carolinians from unscrupulous lenders.
Finally, we must always have a safety net in place to ensure that people caught in a tough spot do not end up homeless. The North Carolina Housing Trust Fund can be an essential part of that safety net, but it is woefully underfunded. I support an appropriation of at least $50 million every year to the Housing Trust Fund. The scarcity of safe, affordable housing often hits some of our most vulnerable children, seniors, and people with disabilities the hardest. Families are forced to make decisions between paying the rent or foregoing other necessities like health insurance or paying educational expenses, choices no family should be forced to make. In addition to giving some of these individuals and families the help they deserve, an investment in the Housing Trust Fund can create jobs, build tax bases, and make our communities stronger.
When the mental health system comes up short, the mentally ill all too often end up in jails, general emergency rooms, and senior care facilities, none of which are properly equipped to meet their needs. This is not fair or equitable for anyone. The mentally ill do not get proper services, and the public ends up paying police officers, rather than mental health professionals, to respond to mental health crises. ( about our mental health, Independent Weekly, Feb. 21, 2007). Although the state is currently committed to privatizing the mental health system, we must never forget that caring for the mentally ill is ultimately a public responsibility. (Privatizing insanity, Independent Weekly, March 7, 2007). Ive argued for that principle throughout this campaign, and I will continue to fight for it as Lt. Governor.
As I discussed at the recent Mental Health Coalition forum, I have long supported the de-institutionalization of North Carolinians dealing with mental illness and developmental disabilities, so long as adequate community care is available. I supported that aspect of mental health reform, and still do. We have a legal and moral imperative to provide North Carolinians with disabilities high-quality care in the least restrictive setting.
We should begin by ensuring that community-based care is not only available, but adequate, well-funded, and well-managed. North Carolinas ranking as one of the worst states in terms of per-capita funding for mental health must change. We must also have better coordination between local management entities and contract providers, particularly in cases involving individuals subject to court ordered outpatient treatment. For the health of those individuals and the safety of the public, we must have accountability and adequate oversight in every case.
And as Dorothea Dix Hospital is replaced by the new facility in Butner, we must redouble our commitment to ensuring a smooth transition for the patients and staff who have relied on that hospital for so long. That means working with local general hospitals to ensure that adequate beds are available for mental health emergencies in Wake County, and all of our communities. We must bring together a wide array of mental health services and make them easily accessible to those who need them.
Ive demonstrated my commitment to mental health reform throughout my career, and Ill continue to fight for it as Lt. Governor. When I was in the Governors office from 2001-03, I was approached by a number of mental health and developmental disability advocates who wanted to see the federally funded Protection and Advocacy (P&A) program moved outside state government to a wholly independent non-profit. These leaders asked me to make re-designation my highest priority in terms of what I did for the disability rights community, and told me they came to me because of the commitment to North Carolinians with mental illness and other disabilities I had shown while serving in the Attorney Generals office (where, for example, I successfully fought to have the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family Medical Leave Act apply to government employees). I strongly supported P&A re-designation because I wanted North Carolinians with mental illness and other disabilities to have the strongest advocacy possible. Ultimately, re-designation took place, and I am proud of the role I played in the creation of Disability Rights North Carolina.
I support a progressive tax system in which everyone pays his or her fair share, and I am willing to ask the most fortunate to do more when necessary to ensure that crucial state programs and infrastructure receive sufficient funding. Above all, our state and local tax system is too regressive those who have the least are time and again required to pay a greater percentage of their income for across-the-boar taxes than the most well off.
I also think we need to look more broadly at how state and local governments raise revenue. For one thing, I believe that all counties should have the same broad array of financing options, including impact fees. Given the extraordinary range of demands they face, every local government needs equal access to every tool in the local public financing toolbox, so that they can come up with creative, equitable, and effective solutions. Charlottes recent mass transit tax referendum could be a good model for future transit and growth initiatives across the state. Subject to voter approval, counties should also be able to embrace a progressive approach that asks those who are most fortunate to bear a larger share of the burden. We must give counties and voters a broad menu of financing options and make sure that new development is an additional benefit not an unfunded burden to communities. And we must make sure these new financing optionslike land transfer taxesare well-understood at the local level, particularly in light of the concerted and well-funded campaigns against them. (Land transfer tax: Whats next after resounding defeat on Nov. 6? Independent Weekly, Nov. 14, 2007).
In addition to raising money fairly and effectively, we need to be smarter about how we spend it. As part of my government reform plan, I propose that we stop paying for-profit consultants for services that government can perform more efficiently, stop assuming risks better left to the private sector, and direct public spending toward long-term infrastructure instead of offering company-specific incentives that wont entice any businesses if the infrastructure is not there to support them. I have also said we need to stop allowing our schools to charge in-state tuition for out-of-state student-athletes, which results in a transfer of millions of dollars from our schools general fund to athletic booster clubs. And while working in the private sector, I was able to identify $11 million in taxpayer money being wasted on office supplies and law enforcement equipment in just six months.
7) What is your position on capital punishment in North Carolina? If in favor, will you support a moratorium on executions while the question of whether the death penalty can be administered fairly is studied by the General Assembly?
I support a death penalty moratorium, and my concerns go beyond the immediate issue of execution methods. I am very concerned that there are effectively two death rows in North Carolina: one for people convicted of capital crimes after the statewide death penalty reforms in 2001, and another death row for those convicted before that date. As a result of the 2001 reforms, prosecutors now have discretion not to pursue the death penalty even when there are aggravating factors that previously mandated that a sentence of capital punishment be sought. And just as importantly, capital defense attorneys now have improved resources to defend their clients. (The 2001 reforms also included a ban on the execution of the mentally retarded, an issue I discuss here).
These reforms have greatly improved our system of justice, but they also suggest the depth of the problems they were meant to address. The number of death sentences dropped dramatically after these reforms, from 25 in 1999 and 2000 to 11 in 2005 and 2006. We need to determine how to fairly assess whether those inmates sentenced prior to 2001 would likely not have received the death penalty had those reforms been in place, as well as deal with evidentiary issues, racial disparities, and other related matters.
8) What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.
As Lt. Governor, I will focus on ending discrimination in state government employment, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. I support civil unions and partnership benefits.
I believe child adoptions should be governed by the best interest of the child standard and I oppose discrimination against parents based on sexual orientation.
I also applaud recent efforts to protect children from bullying based on their sexual orientation. I was happy to see that two weeks ago Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools adopted a policy addressing this very issue, and I would support an effort to do so at the statewide level as well.
9) Do you support womens reproductive rights, including the right to choose as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade?
I have been a consistent supporter of Roe v. Wade, and I am proud to have brought it to the forefront of this race and to have earned the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. In a recent article entitled, Candidates for lieutenant gov. clash: Democratic frontrunners criticize each other’s views on party positions, including abortion and death penalty, the Charlotte Observer reported my support for Roe and contrasted my support for the health exception with those Mr. Dalton, who said that [a]s a matter of personal preference he would not go that far. (Charlotte Obs., Nov. 27, 2007).
As I noted at the time, simply agreeing to follow decisions of the current U.S. Supreme Court is not the same as being pro-choice, particularly now that the Supreme Court is putting further limits on reproductive rights. Because we can no longer count on the Supreme Court to protect womens right to choose, it is all the more important to elect state leaders who support reproductive health and reproductive rights even when not constitutionally compelled to do so. As Lt. Governor, I will fight for reproductive freedom and health, and I will always defend womens fundamental constitutional right to choose.
The stakes in the Lt. Governors race are especially high. Mr. Dalton has opposed Roes essential requirement that a womans health be protected throughout pregnancy, and has written that he would deny, except in the narrowest of circumstances, any reproductive rights after the first trimester. (See www.hd08.com/differences/index.html for details).
By contrast, when NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina endorsed my candidacy last month, NARAL Executive Director Melissa Reed stated: Hampton Dellinger is 100% Pro-Choice and will be a strong leader for reproductive health in North Carolina. He not only has been a long-time consistent supporter of reproductive rights, but he is also positioned to win.
10) Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?
North Carolina is one of just a handful of states that prohibits public employees from engaging in collective bargaining. I support changing the law (G.S. 95-98) that denies government employees this right. Like most private sector workers, public employees should have the right to bargain collectively for enforceable agreements to govern the conditions of their employment. Providing a forum for public employees and employers to negotiate solutions to problems will increase job satisfaction, leading to increased efficiency and lower turnover, benefiting the employees, the employers, and the citizens they both serve.
Collective bargaining rights for public employees is an important issue, but its only one of the many Ive fought for in my career as a longstanding and effective fighter for rank and file workers and their representatives. Im proud to have recently received the endorsement of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, in addition to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the United Transportation Union (UTU).
The North Carolina AFL-CIO enthusiastically supports Hampton Dellinger for Lt. Governor, said James Andrews, the groups President. Hampton is the kind of statewide leader working families need now more than ever, someone who can help attract and retain good jobs while ensuring fair workplace conditions. And because the AFL-CIO decided not to endorse in the Governors race, I will lead the groups slate of endorsed candidates seeking state office. Electing Hampton Dellinger as Lt. Governor will be a very high priority for our leaders and members, Andrews said.
This was not the first time the AFL-CIO recognized my commitment to working North Carolinians. In 2003, I was honored to receive an Award of Appreciation recognizing my concern for and work on behalf of working families in North Carolina.
These endorsements are a reflection of the effective actions Ive taken on behalf of working North Carolinians, including:
- assisted Charlottes bus drivers in negotiations with a private operating company;
- worked with local and national leaders of UNITE (now UNITE HERE) to continue Pillowtexs operations in Kannapolis after creditors began threatening closure;
- supported Communications Workers of America (CWA) as it worked to ensure fair and adequate health care, leave, and retirement benefits for its members in North Carolina;
- supported SEANCs successful effort to have the Family and Medical Leave Acts protections apply to state employees; and
- provided free legal advice to plaintiffs in employment lawsuits.
Building on these efforts, as Lt. Governor I will put state government at the forefront of promoting, safe, discrimination-free workplaces and the associational rights of government employees.
But working families need more than just legislative solutionsthey need a strong and effective voice to speak powerfully and publicly on their behalf. I will use the statewide influence of the Lt. Governors office to promote a working families agenda with state boards and agencies, and will help improve coalition-building efforts with community partners, members of the state legislature, and the Governors office. And just as importantly, Ill be a champion for workers if the usual federal and state safeguards break down, as they did at the House of Raeford plants. Even if federal regulators fail, and even if the N.C. Labor Commissioner fails, I will be there as Lt. Governor leading the fight to protect workers.