Inclusion, engagement, and racial & economic justice are the ideals that underlie my life & work, & are the commitments I bring to every BOCC decision
1. Racial & social justice: continue advocating for full inclusion and equitable access to public services for the Rogers Road community; expanding resources, programs, and policies to increase access to affordable housing and prevent displacement of low wealth residents, including development of affordable housing on the Greene Tract; revising criminal justice policies to increase diversion programs and ending the criminalization of poverty. 2. Education: pursue equitable funding for all students in the county; continue efforts to make school budgeting process more collaborative & transparent; advocate for greater education support and funding from state; implement universal pre-k for underserved students. 3.Economic opportunity and income disparities: expand economic development efforts that have resulted in hundreds of new job opportunities in the community and help diversity tax base; expand accessibility and programming at Durham Tech; continued support for the Family Success Alliance, the county's primary child poverty reduction program; revise land use planning to increase affordable housing opportunities, develop targeted housing programs to make it easier for public employees to live in the towns where they work, and incentivize affordable housing development along transit corridors..
The commissioners should continue to pursue efforts (which I worked to initiate when I served as Chair) to improve communication, collaboration, and transparency on the budgeting as well as substantive policy goals that we share. These include the critical need to address racial and economic disparities for families and children, and to align school policies and efforts with other county resources (e.g. Durham Tech, the departments of health and social services). Universal pre-k, which is a necessary measure to address racial equity, must be a top policy priority for county. As the only elected board accountable to all students of the county, the commissioners must push to expand collaboration, coordination, and innovation from the school boards, and to ensure that all school children in the county have access to equal educational opportunities. We also must combine our strengths, strategies, and voices to advocate against privatization and the broader anti-public school agenda and budget constraints of the state legislature. During my tenure on the board, school funding has been consistently increased. In order to maintain that commitment, the board must continue to pursue economic development to expand and diversify the tax base. As we begin to pay down the 2016 bond, we should explore the viability of additional bond funds, as well as more effectively prioritizing other capital needs, with the understanding that we cannot make up all lost state support with local funds
We should continue the successful business and industry recruitment efforts that have resulted in securing substantial new investment in the county and the creation of hundreds of well-paying new jobs. As commissioner, I worked to create and will push to expand a scholarship program at Durham Tech to make community college more accessible. We must also work to make career and technical training opportunities more available for students. Improving the economy means addressing the growing income disparity in our community. This means prioritizing affordable housing efforts like our new local housing voucher program and support for residents facing displacement from redevelopment. We should also pursue policies to incentivize housing opportunities for public employees, many of whom cannot afford to live in the community they serve. Improved access to public transit is also a critical economic (and social justice issue) for the community, especially as we consider inter-county alternatives to light rail. We have very successful small business loan and grant programs in the county, but there is no specific recruitment or incentivizing of businesses that would better meet the priorities of the residents, or reach underserved communities. While the county has taken innovative steps to expand broadband and internet access further throughout the county, more needs to be done. Finally, we should continue to promote the payment of a living wage as broadly as possible.
OC Social Services does outstanding work, especially in the face of increasing needs in the community and the loss of resources and adverse policy changes from the state and federal government. In light of those challenges, and our community’s commitment to social justice, DSS needs additional resources and support. To maximize existing resources and in recognition of the interrelated challenges facing our lower wealth residents, my colleagues and I have pressed DSS to work more closely with other county agencies that also serve this constituency (Dept. of Health, Durham Tech, the school districts, transit providers, Dept. of Housing, and the courts). DSS is the frontline agency in addressing the impacts of poverty, which are exacerbated in our county because of its overall wealth and the high cost of living. Three potential changes (more accurately, efforts already underway but that can be expanded or enhanced) we should pursue are 1) continue to develop and deepen these inter-departmental and inter-agency collaborations and opportunities for synergies in providing services; 2) develop additional resources and support for particularly hard to serve populations, including children aging out of foster care; 3) enhance opportunities for coordination and advocacy with the state, other counties, and nonprofit agencies.
We must prioritize environmental justice and adverse impacts on excluded communities as we consider any county policies, including more traditional conservation or other environmental issues as well as how we utilize the new the 1/4 cent climate change tax. Developing the county's new transit plan in the wake of the demise of the Durham Orange light rail plan is one of our most pressing environmental issues. Other challenges include implementing policies to address climate change; working with UNC to close its coal plant; and revising land use policies to incentivize high-density housing along the North-South Bus Rapid Transit route. Changing economics regarding recyclable materials will require community outreach and engagement to focus on reduction of waste and reuse.
Environmentally responsible development requires revising current land use policies to support increased density in the towns and within the water and sewer boundary, including allowing multifamily development on all residential parcels. Similarly, the community should revisit height restrictions which can artificially suppress housing supply. The anti-sprawl premise of the water and sewer boundary (and the rural buffer) is based on embracing the economic and environmental benefits of strategically developing more urban areas. In addition to traditional environmental benefits, such efforts can help reduce residential racial and economic segregation, which lies at the root of achieving environmental justice
I am running for commissioner to bring insightful, collaborative, and effective leadership, and forge a more equitable and sustainable Orange County.
Education – the key to individual success and community prosperity
Equity – we should promote equal opportunity and fair resource distribution
Environment -- the future of our county depends on sustainable and sensitive growth
The Orange County Board of Commissioners is responsible for ensuring essential funding to schools and adequate facilities to meet educational needs. When elected, I will make it a priority to work with city and county school boards to outline a timely funding plan to make older schools safe, energy efficient, and accessible. I will consider existing and new funding sources, including advocating for increased state funds and revisiting the possibility of impact fees. We must plan for future schools by identifying and setting aside adequate land, including land in the Mebane area and Greene Tract. I am also committed to expanding pre-kindergarten (pre-K) classes.
Working with schools to avoid overcrowding is a priority. Upholding the existing Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (SAPFO) is essential for realizing this goal, as is including pre-K classes when calculating school facility capacity. I will work in partnership with the school boards to understand funding needs for programs and teacher retention. I will be open to using the special district tax if no other funding source is available and the Chapel Hill- Carrboro community supports it use.
The role of the Orange County Board of Commissioners in economic development requires partnering with other elected officials, private business, and education and other nonprofit organization to promote sustainable opportunities. I support broadening the tax base by attracting diverse business from manufacturing to high tech. I propose working with public schools, Durham tech and employers to develop pathways for students to be trained in high demand occupations. I also would support a plan to establish a regional integrated mass transit transportation system linking Orange County with Chatham and other counties where there is a flow of workers. In addition, I support programs to increase the affordable housing stock through renovating homes in disrepair and looking at rental subsidies in addition to new development.
I believe that there is room for improvement in Orange County’s social services and would specifically urge three measures. First, I would prioritize efficiency in meeting the needs of people seeking services from the County by first gathering data on caseloads and studying the ability of social workers and other staff to meet service demand. Second, I would encourage the Division of Social Services and similar county service departments to explore ways to promote employee retention and maintain nondiscriminatory treatment of staff of color. I will advocate for staff training in addition to evaluating data on employee turnover. Third, I would promote selected expansion of services. Areas of need include emergency shelters for women who are victims of domestic abuse, an emergency shelter for men, educating the public about human trafficking, and increasing the level of childcare subsidy for low income families.
Promoting the environment can be achieved through standards for energy use, protecting residents from pollution sources, and promoting thoughtful public policy. As county commissioner, I will advocate for zoning rule that require new developments to meet high-energy performance standards. In addition, I will support the use of alternative energy sources in public buildings and public vehicles, provide electric charging stations, and educate the public about reducing our carbon footprint. Commissioners should advocate for Duke Energy and other power utilities to move to renewable energy sources and educate the community on commercial and residential alternative energy financing options. I will implement a program to promote well testing and make sure it is affordable for low-income residents. I will also advocate for the state legislature to allow counties to regulate plastics and encourage business and residential composting.
Orange County also needs a climate change plan and ways to track its progress. I will continue to enforce current impervious surface limits for new developments, be open to new limits consistent with climate change science, and to support creating more permeable surfaces for existing county buildings. The challenges of climate change may require more resources and so I will advocate for an evaluation tool to make sure our plans and policies are working as designed and we are using our tax dollars efficiently.