Name as it appears on the ballot: Sally Greene
Campaign website: http://sallygreene.org
Phone number: 919-260-4077
Years lived in Orange County: 30
1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues facing Orange County? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?
A. Affordable housing. The national housing crisis is having a very real effect on Orange County. According to information from the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition, rental costs rose by 16 percent from 2009 to 2015. There is an estimated market
of almost 5,000 units affordable to households living in Orange County and earning less than $20,000. Of the people earning below 80 percent of the area median income, 13,163 households are paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing. A problem that is just beginning to show effects, although it was predicted for years, is the displacement of residents of mobile home parks. These and other alarming statistics and trends confirm the need for greater and more intentional action from the County: the $5 million housing bond that voters authorized in 2016 is already half committed.
Specific goals I would like to work on:
• Following up on the county’s set-aside of $2 million for land-banking for alternatives for people displaced from mobile home parks. Current efforts involve collaboration with Empowerment, Inc. and the use of Family Success Alliance Navigators as liaisons and translators for people whose homes are at risk. There will be more of these dilemmas with the county’s mobile home parks. It’s important to bear down on this work and get it right.
• County hiring of a housing coordinator—much needed for when people need to identify specific low-income housing availabilities but don’t know where to turn.
• Stronger collaboration between county and municipalities and private partners on housing efforts. I would engage broadly with county nonprofit housing providers and other stakeholders to encourage strategic partnerships, including major federal tax-credit projects. I would want to explore the possibilities of the County’s donation of land for housing.
I would bring 13 years of experience in achieving results in affordable housing. I led the initiative for the Town to enact an inclusionary zoning ordinance, expanding the requirements for for-profit developers to provide affordable homes. With regard to housing more broadly, as a result of a task force that I chaired in 2013, the town carved out a penny of the existing tax rate to dedicate to affordable housing and in other ways increased the level of investment in housing; established a housing advisory board; hired staff with experience in housing development and finance to focus on affordable housing; and adopted an affordable rental housing strategy, the first step of which was to partner with DHIC, of Raleigh, to produce 149 units of affordable rental housing for low-income and very low-income families under the federal low-income housing tax credit program.
B. School funding. Orange County’s two school systems are facing a kind of perfect storm. (1) The state’s average per-pupil spending on K-12 public schools has declined in constant dollars, since the recession, from a high of $6,422 in 2007-08 to $5,810 for 2015-16, a decrease of almost 10 percent (DPI data). This money goes to salary and benefits, textbooks, transportation, classroom services, lunches, and other non-instructional support services, leaving gaps across all those areas. (2) A recently passed law mandating reductions in class size for grades K-3 seems impossible to implement. While the idea is attractive as a matter of policy (although restoring funding for teachers’ aides, according to teachers I’ve listened to, would be the better solution), implementation will require many additional teachers and unworkable increases in classroom space. For the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, it would require an additional 44 classrooms, and there is no physical way to accommodate that at present. (3) Locally, the Orange County Schools and CHCCS are facing a backlog of capital expenditures to catch up on deferred maintenance of school facilities. Combined, the districts have identified $300 million in capital needs. (4) Local legislative authority for school impact fees was revoked, which deepened the gap in unmet capital needs by $3 million.
In 2016, Orange County voters approved a referendum for $120 million in bond funding for the school districts’ capital investments. Seventy-two million went to CHCCS and the balance to OC Schools. This amount is obviously not enough, and yet it will most likely result in a tax increase this year. Complicating the expenditure of the bond money is the fact that the costs that CHCCS had estimated for doing two projects—extensive renovation of Chapel Hill High, and the creation of a central pre-K program and other improvements at Lincoln Center—came in higher than expected. They have decided to put the Lincoln Center on hold for now, so that need remains unmet.
The OC schools face a special challenge from the number of students electing to attend charter schools. School districts are required by law to transmit funds to charter schools for students who reside in the district but attend a charter school. Orange County has historically made up the difference, although this is not required by law. The number of students that leave for charters is much greater in the OC Schools district than in CHCCS. The amount of money Orange County has paid to the OC system to replace monies lost to charter schools has gone from $1.9 million in 2015-16 to $2.75 million in 2017-18. And the latter number is less than the actual
because the budget is settled before the actual number is known: they will be asking this year for a payment in arrears to cover the difference. Also in this spring’s budget request, OC administrators will ask commissioners to budget for $3.2 million for charter students for the upcoming year, based on their projection of the number—in an effort to avoid having to come back to request more.
These are serious challenges. As the proud parent of a child who benefited from the county’s investment, I’m strongly committed to the success of our public schools and will work very closely with commissioner colleagues and school board members to fund both systems to the fullest practicable extent. I will work particularly to achieve the following goals:
• A long-range plan for systematically addressing the backlog of facility maintenance expenses.
• Prioritizing safety improvements at our most vulnerable schools.
• Ensuring the continuation of funding for school resource officers as well as nurses, mental health resources, and other social support.
• Lobbying the General Assembly to promote passage of the Public School Building Bond Act, HB 866/SB 542, during the upcoming short session to get a statewide school construction bond referendum on the ballot in 2018. If approved by the voters, this legislation will provide $1.9 billion for public school facility grants across all 100 counties. As currently drafted, the legislation would direct $11,992,004 to Orange County.
Additionally, I’m hopeful that plans, even limited ones, can be re-engaged to launch CHCCS’ combined pre-K program. I would be interested in exploring whether a combined pre-K program for the two districts was feasible. Recognizing that there are logistical problems, especially transportation, that may make this solution unworkable, I think it’s at least worth a discussion.
The budget impact of the charter schools, particularly in OC, looms as a continuing problem. I would support the OC system’s request that they
allowed to base their budget on their own
so that they don’t have to come back to ask for more money when the actual number turns out to be greater than what that year’s budget provided for.
And there are other ways to approach improving the situation of the schools:
(1) Through providing more housing affordable to teachers. Housing advocates who stepped forward to argue for a housing bond in 2016 (a $5 million bond referendum was passed) drew the essential connection between teacher attraction/retention and affordable housing. Both districts report difficulties in attracting and retaining teachers: Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools reported an attrition rate of 14.22 percent and Orange County Schools 13.74 percent—while the state average is 9 percent. The high cost of housing is a barrier.
I would like to pursue an idea that has been mentioned as a possibility, of partnering with State Employees Credit Union to provide housing for teachers. SECU this past fall opened a 24-unit apartment complex for teacher housing in Buncombe County, following similar initiatives in Hertford, Dare, and Hoke counties, and a recently announced one in Durham County.
(2) Through making more money available by growing the tax base through economic development.
C. Economic development. In 2016, the balance of residential to non-residential tax base was 80 percent to 20 percent. I would work on shifting that balance away from residential by focusing on three areas:
(1) Traditional industry. Orange County lags behind in having readily available sites for businesses looking to locate in our region. Because the county didn’t have a great concentration of factories in the 20th century, it is not left with empty facilities that can easily be repurposed. Thus, it can and does miss out when a business prospect finds a site more easily adaptable to its purposes in a neighboring county.
Orange County does, however, have two economic development zones on either end of the county, and a third one bordering Hillsborough. Morinaga, the Japanese candy factory in the Buckhorn EDD, is a success story. The county needs to do more to make more such success stories possible. It can do this by improving site readiness. One problem is that the land is in fragmented ownership. The county should work with willing buyers to assemble land in the EDDs. Zoning is another issue. Some of the EDD areas are zoned for residential development; subdivisions are possible as a use of right. The county should consider prezoning areas in the EDDs to commercial or mixed-use, to signal the kind of development that it wants to attract.
(2) The local agricultural economy. Recent decades have seen big changes in this sector. Farmers who once grew traditional crops, like tobacco, have had to respond to economic changes and find alternative products to grow: and they have. The demand for goods produced using sustainable practices has resulted in an increase in locally produced, environmentally sustainable items. The direct-to-consumer market for farm products has grown from $26,000 in 1997 to over $1.4 million in 2012, and it is still growing. Anyone who visits any of the county’s many farmer’s markets, or
on one of the spring farm tours, has an appreciation for the richness and depth of this industry.
The county supports the growth of this sector through the Breeze Farm and the Piedmont Food and Agricultural Processing Center, and through grants and loans and other support. But there is a limit to what it can offer by way of infrastructure support, and as a result, many businesses that start out here end up somewhere else.
The County should consider creating a light industrial food campus as a way to keep more of these businesses in the county. For example, Weaver Street Market is launching a new store in Raleigh. Its Food House in Hillsborough will need to expand, but there is not room enough in the current location. A relocated and larger Food House could be the anchor tenant for this new campus.
(3) The arts economy. A $130 million arts economy supports some 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $12.5 million in local and state government revenue. This is a significant industry that is poised for growth. But it too needs infrastructure support in the form of galleries and performing arts space.
Both the agricultural and arts sectors reflect the unique talents and values of Orange County residents. Both of them support our robust tourism economy. I’d like to consider working with the private sector to create a destination venue that showcases the distinctiveness of Orange County—the intersection of the arts, agriculture, and local history.
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.)
During 13 years of service to the people of Chapel Hill, I gained significant experience directly relevant to the role of county commissioner. I have demonstrated an ability to shape policy within the structure of a municipal government organization and to work effectively with other local governments, including the county.
My early work on homelessness took the form of a countywide, multijurisdictional initiative. Launching the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness involved me directly in the workings of county government. It was through this work, in fact, that I began to see how important the impact of the various county human services functions is not only for those who are
the health and livelihoods of us all.
I was especially struck by the intersection of homelessness and reentry from prison. Among the accomplishments led while on the Town Council were revising the rules for public housing to make the fact of having a criminal record no longer absolutely prohibitive of getting a home. We also “banned the box” in Town Hall, and more, so that not only is there no box to check indicating that the person has a criminal record; the person’s record is not even to be considered unless they are a finalist for the position.
I came to see where there are gaps, particularly in the areas of mental health treatment. (An ongoing problem since the state’s move to privatize mental health services, beginning in 2001.) My service on the steering committee of the Drug and Family Treatment Courts—one of the many areas in which Orange County has led the way—introduced me to the concept of alternatives to punishment. These experiences shaped my understanding that the county’s role in supporting people’s ability to lead their best lives is a holistic one: certain social determinants of health exert powerful influences over the course of a life. These include inadequate housing, food insecurity, deep poverty and joblessness, and having a parent who is incarcerated. All of these are problems for which county government should be able to make a difference, and these are areas in which my passion combined with my experience would fuel my effectiveness in extending the reach of this work.
My track record of results in affordable housing, outlined in 1.A. above, will serve as a strong basis for achieving similar results at the county level. Additional accomplishments that demonstrate an ability to be effective as a county commissioner:
• Economic development: Participation as a Council member in
of a new process for considering the grant of incentives to attract targeted business opportunities. The Wegman’s that is coming to Chapel Hill is the first result. The town and county agreed to contribute up to $4 million – or $2 million each – to the company over its first five years. The incentives offer (not a cash gift but an agreement to forego collecting property tax) is contingent on the company’s meeting specific targets for new jobs and increases in sales and property tax revenue. This background will be helpful in carefully thinking through the county’s further use of incentives to attract or retain key businesses.
• Successful advocacy for major changes in Chapel Hill’s 40-year-old personnel ordinance: The ordinance was revised to increase clarity, consistency, and equity. New conflict resolution procedures were instituted to replace a process that was lengthy, confusing, and unduly adversarial. Results two years
more mediated resolutions that create a better work environment; more employee participation in skill upgrade training; enhanced employee access to helpful professional resources; strong supervisor training and accountability; fewer serious disciplinary actions. This work will serve as a background for an understanding of county personnel issues and potentially
the environment for county workers.
• Public art: Changing the conversation about the place and function of art within the community: Transforming the Public Art program to a Cultural Arts program, with an emphasis on the arts as a tool of grassroots individual empowerment and community engagement, as well as an economic driver. This work aligns with the work of the Orange County Arts Commission to make art an engaging presence throughout our communities.
• Public history and historic preservation: Led a committee that recommends transforming the old Chapel Hill Town Hall into a community-engaged museum. This process is ongoing, and there the county has been participating in the discussions. Additionally, led efforts to place the old Chapel Hill Library under historic preservation easement; this is relevant to county discussions about listing the Schley Grange and potentially other properties on the National Register.
• Environmental advocacy: Work on environmental issues, first with the Morgan Creek Valley Alliance and later directly on Town conservation initiatives, involved working with county environmental officers and an understanding of the county’s conservation objectives.
• Orange County Food Council: I represented Chapel Hill on this new body while I was on the Town Council, and I remain involved. The Council’s mission is “to grow and support a community-driven food system in the Orange County region of North Carolina through building strategic partnerships across all sectors, identifying issues, advocating for policies, and coordinating action to ensure access to nutritious foods for all, promote sustainable agriculture, increase economic development, and advance social justice.”
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?
I am a lifelong Democrat who subscribes to the core beliefs of the party: that Americans are stronger when we work together than we are on our own; and that we all succeed when everyone has equal access to the means of success; and that we all play by the same rules. I’ve been influenced by the “capability approach” of Nobel Prize-winning economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. This approach supplements traditional economic theory by offering a broader, deeper alternative to such metrics as growth in gross domestic product per capita. Under the capability approach, “poverty” is understood as
of the capability to live a good life, and “development” is understood as
of the capability to live a good life.
This approach underlies my my past achievements in working for the homeless, to improve access to housing, to create supportive policies for persons
civil society, to support the arts as a tool of community engagement, to strengthen opportunities for job creation, to improve the work environment for town employees, and virtually my entire approach to public service. This approach similarly fuels my passion for service to the county: to support quality education, increased opportunities to gain a livelihood, more equitable allocation of resources, and care of the environment.
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?
See 1.C. above. In addition, I have two specific ideas for helping farmers.
• Targeted reinvestment of recouped taxes: Under N.C. law, the Present-Use Value Program allows certain agricultural land, horticultural land, and forestland to be assessed at a value consistent with its present use rather than its higher market value. But when land is sold out
such use, the difference between the present use value tax and the tax at the higher market rate is assessed for the preceding three years. Currently, that money goes into the county’s general budget, unassigned. An idea emerging from the Orange County Food Council is to earmark that money into a separate fund that would augment the funds available via the county’s quarter-cent sales tax to support grants and loans to
or it could be used to supplement the Lands Legacy program. I would advocate for this practice.
• Conservation easements via Lands Legacy program: The Lands Legacy program leverages local funds with state and federal dollars to support
of conservation easements on prime farmland in priority watersheds. A conservation easement can greatly reduce a landowner’s tax obligation. If the county were to work more aggressively to sell more such easements to farmers, they would gain financial benefit while the county would benefit from greater environmental protection.
6. What steps should the county take to address challenges related to growth and development, such as sprawl and transportation? In your opinion, what
been the county’s successes in managing this growth in recent years? What about its failures? What would you do differently?
The county’s land use plan and the 2017 Orange County Transit Plan work together to provide an effective approach for mitigating the effects of sprawl and fostering the efficient use of public transportation. Public infrastructure is concentrated in discrete areas, while the economic development districts are adjacent to interstate corridors. Thus far, the county has admirably resisted extending the EDDs beyond their designated areas. And, with resources available from the quarter-cent sales tax passed in 2011, the county is investing water and sewer service in these designated locations. The planned Durham-Orange Light Rail Project, combined with the enhanced bus service funded under the 2017 Transit Plan, will serve to channel new growth along dedicated transportation corridors. I support the direction in which these plans and initiatives are moving.
The recent process of approval of the Settler’s Point, a
retail-commercial development in the Hillsborough EDD at the intersection of old U.S. 86 and I-40, is an example of how the county could do better in managing development. This development is sited in an area that was designated years ago as an economic development district, and yet many neighbors did not realize that the EDD existed. The disconnect between what they assumed could happen on this land and what could happen here created discord among the neighbors and fueled their distrust of their local government. The county needs to do a better job of informing neighborhoods and communities of the future land use plans—and of giving them an opportunity to help shape their common future. It also needs somehow to do better to ensure that Realtors provide adequate information to prospective homebuyers about the potential for development of nearby properties.
As noted in no. 2 above, the county, with the Town of Chapel Hill, has gotten involved in the project of offering incentives to attract new businesses. The outcome of the collaboration over Wegman’s bodes well so far. In that respect, it is unusual. The County and the Town do not have a strong history of collaborating effectively together. This is an area that needs improvement.
Further, the Wegman’s experience raises a question about strategies for business growth. If incentives are appropriate to attract new businesses, what about existing businesses? I think the county should next consider whether there are times when it makes sense to offer similar performance-based incentives to existing businesses.
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?
Orange County has the largest income inequality, for a county with more than 100,000 residents, in the state. Approximately 12.5 percent of the county’s residents—about one in eight—
in poverty. In rural Orange, the figure rises to around 16 percent. Economic inequality is a serious concern and should be at the top of each commissioner’s mind at all times.
One thing commissioners should be thinking about is
rate. Is every tax dollar a necessary and wise investment? The value of the programs it provides versus the costs that those programs impose on taxpayers should frequently be reassessed.
Orange County in many ways invests in its people to a far greater extent than other counties in the state do. The Family Success Alliance, for example, addresses the basic needs of children from impoverished backgrounds, working to give them the tools they need to succeed educationally and economically. It is a “pipeline” program that starts with children at preschool and promises to follow them through high school. This is an admirable and ambitious project, and its good work is evident (see no. 1.A., for example). But it costs half a million dollars a year, and it is open-ended. There are great arguments for maintaining this program. Without a good start in preschool, without literacy skills and adequate health care, children cannot succeed. It is a very worthy program, but at the
it’s going, it may very well create an unsustainable burden on taxpayers.
Thus, the conundrum is that the county spends significant public money in order to improve people’s lives, and yet doing so can impose serious, sometimes unbearable tax burdens on the people most in need of this help.
One way to alleviate the problem is to intensify efforts to form partnerships and find private money. The county could work harder to create partnerships with the municipalities and with UNC. Additionally, the county could be more systematic and intentional about seeking grant funding. Certain departments are doing a good job of this: the Lands Legacy program, for example. would explore whether there’s an opportunity to increase private funding by creating a single staff position for work dedicated to working across all county departments to coordinate grant-writing efforts. More, and higher-quality, grant proposals could be made with this single focus; it would also prevent multiple departments from competing with each other for the same grant. Chatham County, for example, has a strong program for grant-seeking. Orange County could do the same.
The county can also help to address economic inequality through its economic development work, making more opportunities for jobs available. Settler’s Point, for example, which will consist only of commercial and retail development, promises to bring many new jobs to the county.
Finally, access to broadband is an equity issue with significant economic implications. Businesses depend on access to high-speed broadband infrastructure. And the quality of internet access directly affects the quality of our children’s education, which in turn affects their ability to become self-sufficient adults. Those without access to
internet are disadvantaged economically.
I support the county’s persistent efforts to expand broadband access throughout the county. These efforts include the current solicitation process for proposals from private internet service providers to improve broadband in unserved and underserved areas of the county. I further support the county’s partnership with the Town of Hillsborough on vendor selection for a project to connect county buildings from Cedar Grove to Carrboro, and to have fiber running east-west along U.S. 70 from the Efland Cheeks Community Center to points near the Durham County line. Similar to what Chapel Hill has done already, the intent is to make the excess dark fiber available to organizations and individuals outside county government for both broadband and economic development purposes. Given that state law prohibits local government from directly entering the broadband business, these are effective creative approaches. I will support these efforts because I believe they are critical to economic equity.
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.
My experience in local office has made me a better listener. The practice that I’ve come to follow is to approach a problem thoughtfully, with some idea of how to go about solving it, but with no conception of what the exact solution might look like. The best approach to making policy decisions is to begin by studying the problem, then listening carefully to the interests of others with a stake in the outcome. The best decisions are the ones that are made as a result of all voices being heard—a process that involves dialogue and reflection. This is the style of decision-making that I would practice as a county commissioner.
As an example, I put this practice into action in 2013 when I led a task force to consider the problem of affordable rental housing in Chapel Hill; see no. 1.A. above. I did not have the answers—I just knew that after the recession the problem many people faced was how to find an affordable
and that the housing projects developers were bringing to market were apartments, not subdivisions or condos; and that we needed new ways to address this kind of housing. Believing it was time to reach beyond Orange County for partners, I invited Gregg Warren, president of DHIC, to sit on the task force. It was the people gathered there who brought their ideas to bear and led us to a productive series of outcomes.
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?
Governing from positions on municipal and county boards would certainly be easier if we could be assured that we were on the same page with the state. The source of the current difficulty stems from the courts, not the lawmakers. Dillon’s Rule is a doctrine that arose in the 19th century to guide the courts’ interpretations of
authority. North Carolina has not been a Dillon’s Rule state since 1973. That’s when the General Assembly enacted a statute that overrode Dillon’s Rule, granting broad lawmaking authority to county and municipal governments: “It is the policy of the General Assembly that the counties [and municipalities] of this State should have adequate authority to exercise the powers, rights, duties, functions privileges, and immunities conferred upon them by law. To this end, the provisions of this Chapter and of local acts shall be broadly construed and grants of power shall be construed to include any powers that are reasonably expedient to the exercise of the power.”
But to this day, our courts have inconsistently interpreted this statute, and the latest Supreme Court holding is not favorable to counties and cities. The holding announced by the Supreme Court in 2012, in Lanvale Properties v. County of Cabarrus, reads the statute quite narrowly: so narrowly as to practically read it out of existence. While not reinstating Dillon’s rule (which it could not, in the face of the 1973 statute), the majority Lanvale opinion calls for rules granting local authority to be interpreted very narrowly. Justice Hudson in her dissent well articulates the fallacies in the majority’s reasoning. The statute seems clearly written to grant broad authority. But until a later Supreme Court comes to embrace her sensible reading of the General Assembly’s intent, counties and municipalities will continue to be limited in their powers to regulate for the health, safety, and welfare of their communities.
I hope that change will come with the evolution of the courts, as new cases are decided. Until that day comes, local governments will need to work as closely and cooperatively as they can with their own legislative delegations to reach common understandings of what kinds of local ordinances can and cannot be enacted. As a county commissioner with experience in local municipal government, I would stay in close touch with the interests and intents of the municipal governments in the county, in an effort to remain consistent in our approaches. From my experience on the Chapel Hill Town Council, I can vouch for the fact that such communication among members of the different elected bodies does regularly occur, and that strategies for working within these narrow boundaries are well coordinated.
One avenue for gaining legislative authority is through the enactment of a local bill. Historically the Orange County delegation has had the ability to get local bills passed. But the politics of the General Assembly right now do not favor passage of the kinds of local bills that Orange County would want to see. The best hope is for the voters to change the face of the General Assembly.
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
passed in 2016 that led the legislature to pass HB 2? Would you consider raising the county’s minimum wage?
I would favor Orange County’s passage of a nondiscrimination ordinance like the one Charlotte passed. A fair reading of HB 142, the replacement bill that was passed about a year ago, would say that local governments do have the power to enact such regulation after Dec. 1, 2020.
A law passed in 2013, prior to HB 2, prohibits local governments from passing an ordinance regulating the wage levels of private employers. This law still stands to prohibit counties from passing minimum wage ordinances.
But it is arguable that the 2013 law did not prohibit local governments from imposing wage conditions when it contracts for employment. A fair reading of HB 142 would suggest that after its expiration, the county could require that its own contractors pay a living wage. I would advocate for that reading of the law: for ensuring that all county contractors pay a living wage. On this theory, Orange County could fund the school systems to pay their custodial staffs living wages.
As to the county’s own employees, HB 2 did not regulate a local government’s control of its own employees’ wages. Orange County is a certified living wage employer in the Orange County Living Wage campaign. I’m happy to know that Orange County will be paying a minimum of $15/hr. in fiscal 2018-19.
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.
This has happened numerous times during my political career. Here I’ll mention the most recent example. I was on the fence, and leaning against, on the question of whether the County should take action that would result in regulating the size of flags on private property—something that was prompted by a very large Confederate flag on private property on U.S. 70. Although the proposed ordinance would address only the size of a flag, it was clearly prompted by a wish to suppress its message, and that troubled me. While I wholeheartedly supported the advocacy of the Hate-Free Schools Coalition, and applaud the results they achieved in the public schools, asking someone to refrain from making a speech act (flying a flag is a speech act, protected by the First Amendment) on private property struck me as entirely a different question.
Here’s how I was thinking about it: If the KKK holds a cross-burning rally in a big open field, far from anyone’s house or even a road, and it’s on private property, that is their right, protected by the First Amendment. But if the KKK decides to burn a cross directly in front of someone’s house, that is not their right: that is intimidation rather than protected speech, and the law prohibits that. A very large Confederate flag, flown on someone’s private property although clearly aimed and intended to intimidate passers-by, is somewhere in the middle. In other countries, it might not be so close a question, but our First Amendment would seem to protect the private party’s right. Because I believe so strongly in First Amendment rights, my tendency in this close case was to err on the side of First Amendment protection.
Then I had a conversation about it with two African American men. They clearly considered the prospect of such a large flag flown beside a major thoroughfare as intimidation. I began to see the situation from their point of view, which is informed by life experiences that I do not share. It then became clear to me that the BOCC should be responsive to their interests. The BOCC is the first line of defense for those who feel singled out and oppressed by an action like this. If there is any plausible argument for taking responsive action, the BOCC should take it.
It looks as if they will do so soon. They are scheduled to take a vote on regulating the size of flags on private property, and from their comments at a previous hearing, they seem favorably inclined. This is a reasonable action, in that it does not speak to the content or message of the flags but only to the size—and bringing a flag down to size will do a lot to reduce its message of intimidation. As to whether the BOCC’s likely response is proper within the boundaries of the First Amendment constitutional guarantee—or whether, despite the stated content-neutral intention, it would be construed as an ordinance that impermissibly targets the content of someone’s speech—a court action may be necessary to settle the question.
But the insight I gained in this conversation is a reminder that the BOCC is not a court. BOCC members are the elected voice of the people. As long as the action can be justified by a plausible reading of the law (the County attorney supports this proposed change in the ordinance), the BOCC should be responsive to the interests of those who feel burdened and threatened by its presence.
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.
One of my most deeply held beliefs is that people should not be criminalized for being poor. This belief is what drove my interest in creating the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness. My motivation to find more humane responses to the problem of homelessness arose directly in reaction to what I felt were unduly punitive and overbroad panhandling regulations that the Town of Chapel Hill had recently passed.
The same belief is why I am so supportive of Orange County’s evolving approaches to providing alternatives to jail. Thus I’m very supportive of the concept of diversion from the criminal justice system.
A proposal being discussed within the county’s Criminal Justice Resource Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, other law enforcement leaders and senior court system stakeholders is to adopt Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) policies. Under LEAD guidelines, law enforcement would have discretion,
time when they might otherwise make an arrest, to choose not to make the arrest but to divert the person
to therapeutic interventions and case management. Depending on their situation, the person would be referred to mental health treatment, drug treatment, or other social services, even assistance with housing.
This strategy would be applied to low-level offenses such as drug possession, “public nuisance” charges, and prostitution. These are crimes often committed by people with very few resources and with many existing life challenges. They are disproportionately poor and non-white. LEAD is a “harm-reduction” model of intervention for supportively addressing unmet behavioral health needs; it is advocated by
. Harm Reduction Coalition.
The LEAD program, launched in Seattle in 2011, reflects an attempt to get away from the War on Drugs paradigm and to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement. It has led to unlikely collaborations between police, prosecutors, civil rights advocates, public defenders, and even business and neighborhood leaders—all of whom share an interest in finding new ways to keep individuals from cycling in and out of the criminal justice system.
The controversial aspect of LEAD is that some voters could interpret this program as “letting a criminal off the hook.” Even those who agree that it could be appropriate for a first-time offense can argue that it should not be used for a person’s second offense. But professionals who work with the population most likely to commit these types of crimes understand that they are repeat offenders, and they do not favor limiting this option to a first arrest.
Because I see the value of this program from a public health and community benefit framework, I support Orange County’s exploration of the LEAD policies. As
I would support the efforts to bring LEAD into existence, even if were to cost me points with some voters.