Name as it appears on the ballot: Steve S. Rao
Full Name: Steve Sandeep Rao
Date of birth: 7/21/71
Home address: 128 Gratiot Drive, Morrisville, NC 27560
Campaign website: www.steverao.com
Occupation & employer: President, TSG Academies
Spouse’s name: Dr. Komal Parekh
Spouse’s occupation & employer: Pediatrician at Blue Ridge Pediatrics
Years lived in Wake County: 10
Home phone: (919) 466-9873
Work phone: (919) 434-5996
1. What are the three most important issues facing Wake County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
Job Creation – My top priority is job creation. Assisting small businesses, recruiting international employers, keeping taxes low, and rewarding innovation generates high paying jobs. We must work with Wake County Economic Development to aggressively market Wake County and recruit innovative companies in the technology, green, and biotech fields to our area. At the same time we must provide more support for entrepreneurs and small businesses, the true engines of economic growth in Wake County.
Education – We must invest in a world-class school system that provides opportunity for all Wake County children. I propose increasing the use of technology in our K-12 classrooms and a continued focus on improving student achievement. In addition, our school curriculum must involve more emphasis on global education and teaching our children about the global economy and other cultures around the world. We should also promote money management skills and entrepreneurial skill development.
Growth – How Wake County manages its growth during these tough economic times, including our investments in transit and the protection of the environment, will heavily influence our quality of life and our economic ecosystem. Transit will enable us to compete for jobs against other metro areas like Atlanta and Northern Virginia while providing positive environmental and quality of life benefits for our community.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Wake County Board of Commissioners? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
I will bring my global business experience and consensus building management style to the office of County Commissioner.
My career has been spent working to solve problems for my clients by bringing smart people together and giving them the tools they need to succeed. I will refuse to play partisan politics on important local issues such as education, economic development, and the environment.
As an entrepreneur running my own company, and having mentored and worked with small business owners and entrepreneurs, I will be a voice for small business in Wake County and work to foster job creation.
I have also served on the State of North Carolina’s Information Technology Advisory Board, which has given me a leg up how technology impacts government’s ability to serve its citizens.
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 pro-business, fiscally responsible Democrat, who is more progressive on social issues. My past achievements in business reflect my ability to work with others to arrive at solutions to complex problems. My present campaign platform is based on bringing new solutions to our challenges and a willingness to work with all my colleagues, regardless of their political affiliation, to build a better home for future generations of Wake County citizens.
4. The Commissioners board is often termed the school board’s banker, and the school board’s performance is the biggest issue in Wake County by far. What’s your take on the new Wake school board majority’s direction, including its opposition to using diversity as a factor in school assignments? If elected, what steps will you take, if any, to support or oppose the new majority?
The fundamental question I ask all voters is this, “If you had a $1.2 billion operation, would you change this business without a plan?”
That is what is going on in Wake County today. As a father of two children in our schools, that concerns me deeply.
The Wake County School System and socio-economic diversity have produced many benefits for students and our community, however, the new school board majority has acted in a rash and ideological manner to dismantle our highly recognized system without a plan. These measures are hurting our image around the country and will hinder future job growth.
Change and evolution in school policy are needed, but focus must remain on student achievement, not fighting political battles.
As a County Commissioner, I will demand a comprehensive plan with more details on how we can address the assignment challenges we face, while retaining a commitment to the value of diversity and our magnet schools. I will not give the School Board a blank check to continue in this manner without a plan.
5. If elected, will you vote to put the 1/2-cent sales tax for transit on the ballot in 2011?
Yes, I will support the 1/2 cent sales tax for transit on the ballot in 2011, but will demand a comprehensive plan from the Triangle Transit Authority on how we go about implementing an effective transit system for this region.
6. The closing of Dorothea Dix Hospital is making a bad situation worse for mental health patients in Wake County. The commissioners have taken some steps to address the problems? Are they enough? If not, what else is needed?
Wake County has benefited tremendously over the years from having Dorothea Dix located here. The uncertainty of it’s closing, along with the difficulties in the economy, have made a poor situation worse. More needs to be done to ensure that the mental health needs of our citizens are met, and I will work closely with mental health advocates to make sure our County meets its obligation during these tough budgetary times.
7. A woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy is once again a major issue in politics at every level. Please state your position on the question of abortion, choice and women’s rights.
While I have always valued the sanctity of life and do respect the moral significance of this issue, I am pro-choice and believe that such a personal decision should not be mandated by the seven members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
It was unfortunate that the Republicans on the Commission took valuable time to try and make our County employees’ health choices a political issue. It is wedge-issue tactics like this that drive people apart and prevent the Commissioners from fully serving the people of Wake County.
8. Do you support equal rights for gay and straight citizens, including equal protection from workplace discrimination and equal marriage rights?
I fully support equal rights for gay and straight citizens and will demand that our Commissioners always abide by the rights granted in our Constitution. I will not, and have never tolerated, any form of workplace discrimination based on gender, race, or sexual orientation, and I do support equal marriage rights.
9. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I have always supported a just society, where our citizens are united behind freedom and opportunity for all.
I am a bridge building leader, and I understand that to compete in the global economy we must become more open and diverse, not bury our heads in the sand. I will always remember that the strength of our community, and a key part of the American story, is that we are a mosaic of different cultures and backgrounds.
10. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.
Given the tough economic conditions we face, I would consider additional revenue sources for Wake County, such as impact fees, as well as tough budget cuts. We have to be willing to put everything on the table to find innovative solutions.