The Orange County Board of Commissioners is governed by a seven-member board of commissioners, elected by district and at-large in partisan countywide elections. Commissioners serve four-year terms and elections are held in even-numbered years. The primary duties of the board include adopting an annual budget, establishing the annual property tax rate, appointing various officials and representatives to advisory boards and commissions, enacting local ordinances, and assessing and establishing priorities on the many community needs, especially those related to health, education, aging, social services, transportation, and the environment. The board also has the authority to call bond referenda, enter into contracts and establish new programs and departments.
Building community through access, opportunity and inclusion to promote sustainable living, to protect our freedoms and to establish justice for all.
My overarching issues or concerns are:
1. Inclusion of the diversity of voices and values in Orange County
2. Access to government services and programs
3. Opportunity for prosperity and financial well-being
The BOCC allocates approximately 50% of local tax revenues to our two school systems. County Commissioners can be very effective in improving local schools by developing and strengthening relationships with school board members, our elected colleagues. I believe that much can be achieved through collaboration. When the new BOCC is seated, I will advocate for increased communication and periodic reporting between and among the boards with respect to both the operation and capital budgets.
For years, economic development has been a quandary for Orange County; we now are making progress. By partnering with the City of Mebane, state departments and Durham Technical Community College, and by offering incentive packages, we have succeeded in attracting major corporations to locate within our borders—including Morinaga, ABB and MedLine.
I support these incentives, for in return, these companies are creating hundreds of opportunities for jobs and skills development for local residents while adding to our local property tax base. In addition, I will continue to promote our Business Investment Grant Program that provides opportunities for local small business start-ups and expansions.
Furthermore, we need to support our farmers and be sure they are able to thrive now and for generations to come. The Agricultural Economic Development Grant Program provides opportunities for the preservation and growth of family farms.
I feel a moral obligation to assure safe, secure and decent housing to individuals and families, and though we have programs that will help towards this end, too many people are homeless or living in substandard conditions. The issue of affordable housing has been discussed for years, and yet, affordable housing still is a major issue. In addition, we have an achievement or opportunity gap between white students and students of color.
1. I will work to provide greater outreach to assure that people are aware of and take advantage of our home repair programs, Homestead Tax Exemption, eviction diversion program and Habitat for Humanity communities, including homes for people over age 55.
2. My objective also is to continue seeking ways to break down the barriers to affordable housing, while also looking at affordable living.
3. If we are to break the cycle of poverty we need to level the field at a very young age and provide universal pre-K or early childhood education.
Orange County is comprised of people from a broad spectrum of cultures, colors, persuasions, perspectives, ages, abilities and income levels. To the extent possible, everyone should be represented when deliberating county-wide issues--such as natural resource conservation, waste reduction, transportation and climate change mitigation. We have made modest attempts with equity trainings, yet the intentional inclusion of multiple voices and values will be critical in our efforts to implement and amend environmental policies. We need to understand one another based on our experiences, and incorporate varying ideas in formulating programs and policies, and in considering the impacts of our proposed actions. Buy-in from as many people as possible will be necessary in order to make a substantive and sustainable difference.