Name as it appears on the ballot: Noah

Oswaald

Campaign website: www.noahoswald.com
Phone number: 919-619-0121
Email: noah@noahoswald.com
Years lived in Orange County: 33 – County Native

1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues facing Orange County? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?

Public Education Funding – Orange County has

long

history of prioritizing our children’s future by funding public education. We have two excellent school systems; people from all over the country move to Chapel Hill and Carrboro to enroll their children in our schools. Although we have maintained a high level of funding for our schools, both systems are currently operating at a deficit to maintain the current level of services and personnel. Additionally, State-level policies and legislation are set to require extensive hiring and additional costs to the school systems. The county’s capital funds have been stretched thin by incredible growth rates over the past two decades. As

commissioner

I will continue to prioritize the funding of our education programs and work to establish a well-managed capital expenses plan to maintain, improve, and expand our school facilities.

Affordable Housing – Our progressive social culture, excellent schools, and top-rated university continue to drive residential development in the county. We have a heritage of placing

high

value on diversity in our communities. Economic diversity requires housing at all income levels. Local residents have been troubled by recent development plans which call for the removal of traditionally low-income housing and the development of luxury, high-density residential projects. Our senior citizens and immigrant populations struggle to find and maintain affordable housing, while long-time residents struggle to maintain their housing payments while satisfying the demands of increasing property taxes. As commissioner, I am committed to the promulgation and preservation of affordable housing in the county. I will champion efforts to reduce the tax-burden on vulnerable populations and advocate for development at a price point that allows valuable public servants such as teachers and law enforcement and fire personnel to live in the communities where they work and serve.

Economic Development – Orange County has developed a regional reputation for being tough on business. We have excellent local resources from our public schools, our community college, the University, and excellent local resources that can be put to use developing and recruiting valuable business endeavors in the county. Plans like the Settler’s Ridge development which take advantage of our two interstate highways will provide

much needed

relief to the residential property

tax payers

. As commissioner, I will encourage local economic development that preserves the identity of our communities, responsibly manages our environmental resources, and provides the backbone for sustainable local public fiscal policies. A comprehensive development plan that incorporates expanded business opportunity, local entrepreneurship, and cross-municipality partnerships.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County Board of Commissioners? (This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.)

I am respected among my peers in the legal community for my earnest engagement in the decision making and

problem solving

process. As a member of the local Bar Association leadership, a member of the Orange County Courthouse Committee, and the Orange County Committee for Procedural Fairness I actively promote policies that guarantee equity in and access to our local courts. For the past several years I have been a member of the Orange County Commissioner’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board; on this

board

we listen to

and

attempt to address the concerns and problems of citizens from around the county regarding their housing needs. Working side-by-side with other dedicated volunteers on the Affordable Housing Board, I understand the value of varied backgrounds and perspectives in addressing needs at the county level. I have supported initiatives to research tiny home applications in the county, enhance education opportunities for aspiring and new homeowners, and consistently recommended important county funding for local non-profit partners like Habitat for Humanity, Community Home Trust, and EmPOWERment.

3. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?

4. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

As a lifelong Democrat, I value diversity, equity, public services, and fiscal responsibility. After graduating from Orange High School, I chose to enhance my education through a degree program at Brigham Young University in Utah. Active with

Democratic leadership

of the Utah House of Representatives, I worked with state leaders to advocate for programs to benefit the homeless, expand access to public services, and fight discrimination in all forms. I am a proud graduate of North Carolina Central University where I used the State’s student-practice program to serve Orange County’s Child Support Enforcement Program and as an advocate at the State Department of Veterans’ Affairs. As a local trial attorney, I have the opportunity and privilege of working with local clients who need effective advocacy to help them through difficult family transitions where I see first hand the need for effective public services, a variety of affordable housing options, and truly local employment opportunities. My priority as a local

democratic

leader is to listen to the citizens of this county and actively promote community growth through policies and decisions that enhance equity, embrace diversity, and ensure our collective benefit.

5. What is your view of how Orange County should grow economically? What policies would you like to see implemented to enhance economic development in Orange County?

Appropriate industrial and commercial growth is essential for the advancement of Orange County. Over the past decades, we have enjoyed significant population growth and a boon of residential developments. Rapid residential growth creates a financial climate in the County that burdens residential property owners and struggles to provide sufficient public services – such as education, housing, and public health programs; industrial and commercial growth traditionally provide much needed diversification in local revenues and provide a strong foundation upon which necessary, high-quality public services can be provided to county residents. As commissioner, I will advocate the expansion and marketing of our local cash-based grant programs which are tied to corporate property taxes. Also, I will continue to support our local education programs so that Orange County’s workforce can remain the most qualified in the State. It will be important to pair prospective economic developments with expansions to public transportation and enhanced affordable housing efforts to guarantee new employers have access to our highly qualified workforce.

6. What steps should the county take to address challenges related to growth and development, such as sprawl and transportation? In your opinion, what

have

been the county’s successes in managing this growth in recent years? What about its failures? What would you do differently?

The county’s residential growth is a testament to the efforts of county and municipal leaders in creating a highly desired region to live, grow, and develop. Maintaining

high level

public services and providing for our local public schools at a rate which is top in the State are accomplishments that should be perpetuated. Unfortunately, local officials have struggled to successfully solicit economic development which would provide

much needed

diversity to the county’s tax base. Recent accomplishments like the Morinaga factory in Mebane are steps in the right direction. I believe our county needs new leadership perspectives to help create and implement a plan for future development that works with municipalities to prioritize a diverse tax base, enhance our communities with local employment opportunities, provide robust and affordable public transportation options, and encourages local entrepreneurship. The first steps in the process are enhancement and acceleration of current development coupled with municipal partnerships to fully leverage our local interstates for tasteful, managed, and appropriate development.

7. Similarly, what should be the county’s role in addressing issues of economic inequality? Do you believe the current board is doing enough to prevent current residents from being priced out?

Every Orange County family should have the opportunity to maintain their residence, whether rental or owned, amid growing property values and costs. Our county has enjoyed great benefits from rising property values, including additional funding for our stellar schools; however, the foundation for a good education begins with the security of good housing. Affordable housing programs on the county level generally entail one of several things: programs to connect individuals with housing opportunities, developer-side incentives to keep occupancy costs low, and public subsidies or some combination of those programs (including public-private partnerships). I believe that the county must solicit partnerships and engagement from developers that prioritize affordable housing at all income levels, but especially to those who are most vulnerable. We face a current tragedy where we are seeing mobile home parks sold to developers of high-end units while residents are being displaced, uprooted, and excluded from their home communities. We should be incorporating protection for low-cost housing inventory into our long-term, cross-municipality development

and

growth plans.

8. How would your experience―in politics or otherwise in your career―make you an asset to the county’s decision-making process? Be specific about how this experience would relate to your prospective office.

Orange County needs leadership that hears and responds to its citizens. As a practicing trial attorney, my job is to hear differing perspectives and then to craft solutions that satisfy the priorities of many different parties. Often working under the pressures and demands of sensitive issues at individuals most trying times, I apply skills of compromise and advocacy to an array of situations. I have heard from residents around the county that it can be a struggle to have the public voice heard in local decision making. I know first hand that when individual concerns and feeling are heard, understood and incorporated into final decisions, the results are stronger, more efficient and lasting. The citizens of Orange County need a leader who can improve that process, my professional skills and local upbringing

give

me the tools necessary to help make that happen.

9. North Carolina is a “Dillon Rule” state, meaning that the only powers municipal and county governments have are the ones granted to them by the legislature. Would you like to see this changed? How would you work with state legislators from Orange County, as well as mayors and council members from the city’s municipalities, to ensure that Orange, its municipalities, and the state are on the same page regarding policies that affect its residents?

Local governments, agencies, and ordinances have the most direct impact on our day-to-day lives. Limiting the powers of local authorities provides

clear

division of responsibilities when it comes to

policy making

. Orange County is fortunate to have a long heritage of quality leadership at the State level: Speaker Joe Hackney led our State House until his retirement from public office and now, Representatives Insko and Meyer, together with Senator Foushee, advocate for policies that reflect our modern values of equity, justice, and inclusion. Our local municipal leaders and County Commissioners have a moral obligation to set an example of inclusive, equitable policies and decisions and should work closely with our legislative delegation to convey the concerns, perspectives

and

opinions of our constituents. A strong partnership with a cohesive message forged by our mayors, council members, commissioners, and community leaders is essential to this type of community success.


10. The replacement bill for HB 2 that passed last year prohibits local governments from passing living-wage or nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020. If you are in office in 2020 when the moratorium expires, what sort of nondiscrimination and/or living-wage policies will you push the county to adopt, if any? Do you favor, for instance, a nondiscrimination ordinance that would apply to public accommodations, like the one

Charlotte

passed in 2016 that led the legislature to pass HB 2? Would you consider raising the county’s minimum wage?

The living wage is one of the most direct ways our county can combat the affordable housing crisis that is developing. If every employee in the county were paid a localized living wage, we would be able to enjoy the benefits of rising property values without forcing a large part our population into other housing markets. A living wage would have

widespread

impact on our local economy, increasing the amount of money exchanged for goods and services, enhancing the skill of our local workforce and facilitating the strategic growth of local business. As County Commissioner, I would support both State and local efforts to increase the minimum wage and thereby improve the quality of life in our communities.

11. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.

As a graduate of law school and a local trial attorney, my views on justice and the law tend to be absolute. Public outcries about the difficulty of navigating complex litigation issues in divorce, custody

and

property distribution have been the subject of many state and local policy debates. I value my education and the hard work that it took to earn my law degree. In my naivety, I often thought that litigants who choose to go without counsel do so at their own risk – as the old saying goes: “A man who represents himself has a fool for an attorney.” However, as I have worked with people who truly struggle to provide for their families while combating issues like abuse, abandonment, infidelity, and more, I see the need for equitable access to justice and law. I have heard several of my colleagues in the profession discuss this topic and their thoughts and words have resonated with me and changed my previously harsh opinion. Listening to their interpretation of the purpose of law, its ability to equalize citizens independent of wealth and influence, and need equitable alternative forms of truly restorative justice, I have become an advocate for new public resources to enhance the layperson’s access to vital legal tools, expand public education efforts and to return our systems of laws and local ordinances to one that is truly accessible to our citizens. Social status, wealth, race, gender or ideology should not limit individual access to our courts or appropriate redress.

12. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.

Orange County struggles with several sets of competing principles and values. Almost every issue that a leader advances will cut both to their gain in some circles and to their detriment in others. My views on economic development are one such example. Orange County benefits from a fantastic University, multiple interstate highways, and quality State parks which all draw tens of thousands of people to our county on a weekly, even daily, basis. Despite the high volume of traffic to and through the county, our income base rests primarily on the shoulders of our residential property owners. To sustain our local commitment to public education and local services, our revenue plan has to adapt, and that adaptation should include strategic development which leverages the excellent tools at our disposal. Plans like the development at Settler’s Ridge and emulation of the recruitment of Morinaga can have a long-term positive impact on our local economy, diversify our county revenue, and provide the foundation for sustainable long-term growth that protects the integrity of our towns and communities. Having met with residents throughout our cities and the county, I know that many oppose development in its various forms. As a native of Orange County, I share similar views with my friends and neighbors about the value of the small-town community feel that is central to Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. As Commissioner, it would be my goal to advance programs and plans that preserve those identities and values, but allow for necessary, well-planned development partnerships to blossom.