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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners District 6

The 9-member Board sets the policy for the county, determining the strategic vision for the county, appoints a county manager, attorney and others to serve the county. The Board's primary responsibilities are to adopt an annual budget, set a property tax rate and establish priorities to address the County's needs, especially in the areas of health, education, welfare and mental health. Six members are elected by districts and three are elected at-large every 4 years.

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  • Candidate picture

    Joel Levy
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Susan Rodriguez McDowell
    (Dem)

Biographical Information

What do you think makes you the best candidate for this office?

What is the most important issue the County Commission will have to address in the next two years?

What kinds of policies, if any, will you pursue to promote social and racial equality in the county?

How would you rate Mecklenburg’s public education system?

If you rated it below excellent, what proposals would you support to improve it?

Would you support an increase in the local supplement for teachers and staff, even if the state does not give one next year?

Please explain

Are there policies you believe can be enacted that would improve the economy of Mecklenburg in the next two years?

How would you rate the access to healthcare services your county is providing?

How would you rate the quality of healthcare services your county is providing?

If you rated them less than excellent, what can the commission do to improve things?

Age (optional) 42
Contact Phone (518) 248-2474
email address joel@joelformeck.com
Twitter @GratefulDadx5
Position/philosophy statement I believe that the role of local government is to ensure that the community is safe, well educated, and inviting to economic growth.
The Board lacks someone with deep financial experience, a history of fighting tax increases, and an alternative political philosophy. If elected, I will be the only Republican on the Board and uniquely qualified to provide professional guidance on financial matters. As the former Asst. City Treasurer for the City of Charlotte, I am very familiar with the County’s fiscal policies. I would also be the only person on the Board with large scale professional money management experience. After the failed property tax revaluation, a bipartisan County Board appointed me as Vice Chairman of the Board of Equalization and Review. In that role, I proudly oversaw the reduction of thousands of property tax bills. This experience is timely as the newly elected Board will have significant oversight in shaping the next scheduled property tax revaluation. The incumbent has never been through this very complex process. As currently constituted, the 100% Democratic majority has led to a near rubber stamp on recent tax increases, limited public discussion on pre-COVID-19 lock down, and has suffered from a general lack of transparency. Prior to the most recent budget, property tax increases were done in consecutive years and the current incumbent led the charge as a vocal supporter and advocate to increase the local Sales Tax. I supported neither of those agenda items. I offer a philosophy of true fiscal restraint and greater transparency, with a deep professional background.
Without question, the most important issue the Commission will have to address over the next two years will be the lingering effects of COVID-19.

COVID-19 will have a significant impact on our local economy. Early estimates show there could be tens of thousands of permanently lost jobs, a surge in County run social services and homelessness, and billions of dollars in lost commence due to a sustained and prolonged shutdown. It's imperative that we reopen our economy to stop the suffering.

Additionally, looking forward, we need to finally address and fund the capital needs of our overcrowded schools and focus on fairly valuing our homes for the pending property revaluation.
I am currently earning my PhD in Public Policy and Economics.

Studies have shown that education is the leading equalizer between race, gender and socioeconomic mobility. As the first person in my family to attend college, I can attest that a strong education is the gateway to equality. As someone who grew up on social services, I appreciate the value of strong mentors and work-program opportunities to build skills.

The best social program is a job. I want to create an environment that is attractive to future employers of all graduates ensuring that we focus beyond the traditional high tech and banking sectors.
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CMS is a large system with schools performing at many different levels.

Some schools are excelling academically while others are below average. What is clear is that we have neglected the capital funding requirements for too long. We have significantly overcrowded schools with unclear future remediation plans. That is unacceptable. I will be a voice for school capital funding on the Board.

The future leaders of our community will come from the CMS system and we are doing a disservice to our community by continually underfunding the capital program of our schools while ignoring the explosive educational growth needs of our community.
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In my discussions with stakeholders, and as the husband of a former CMS math teacher, it's unclear to me that CMS is having a difficult time recruiting teachers based strictly on the local supplement. I think a more effective approach is to improve class sizes and student-teacher ratios to ensure that teachers are getting the classroom support they deserve. For example, teachers should not be forced to buy their own supplies.

COVID-19 will change the future of public education. I believe that there will be many efficiencies and improvements that are born out of necessity which will free up budgetary dollars that can be used by CMS to address long-term structural deficiencies.
Mecklenburg should reopen as soon as possible. Thousands of local jobs are threatened and potentially lost forever. These lost jobs will have a long-term effect on our economy.

Next, crime destroys economic growth. I will call for a deeper discussion about the rising local crime rate.

The County outsourced policing via an interlocal agreement. That agreement is worth reevaluating in light of the ongoing crime resurgence. The past two years have been the most dangerous in decades and I believe we need to get ahead of this problem now.

Additionally, the County directly funds the Sheriff. We should look for ways to achieve more measurable results from that funding.
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Community advocates often deride the quality and access to services of our local county run healthcare system. While that may or may not be fair, what is clear is that the most vulnerable in our community were increasing at an exponential rate before COVID.

By one measure, the County reports that local homelessness was sky rocking prior to COVID-19. The Country reports that homelessness grew to nearly 3,600 in January 2020, double the amount from recent estimates. This has only been exasperated by COVID-19 as tent communities have sprung up around the City and off-ramps are frequented by panhandlers.

By any rational analysis, the County needs to do a better job identifying and helping the most vulnerable in our community.
Age (optional) 56
Contact Phone (704) 491-1390
email address susan@mcdowell4meck.com
Twitter @mcdowell4meck
Position/philosophy statement I was elected to my first term in 2018 and I am proud of the progress we have made so far, but there is much more work to be done!
I have been serving the people of District 6 and Mecklenburg County in a way that is fresh and new. Showing up consistently and listening to the people has been my honor and privilege. We are in the midst of a tragic global pandemic and my focus has been on you and your family's health, safety, and our long-term economic recovery. You may rest assured that I will continue to focus on the physical and mental health of our county's residents, our children's education, racial equity and the protection of our fragile environment. I will continue to challenge the status quo and consistently strive to find better, ore efficient ways to provide County services.
Recovering from the pandemic will take priority in both the short and the long term. So many aspects of community life have been affected and tragic disparities have been laid bare. Lives have been lost, businesses have been decimated, education has been disrupted, physical and mental health is at stake, and so much more! There has never been a more important time for local government to be laser focused on rebuilding and on creating fair opportunities for recovery. We cannot continue with "business as usual" thinking. We cannot merely provide services, we must also create policy change so that we do not re-create the same failed outcomes that are part of our current demise.
Racial equity has been a top focus for the current Board of Commissioners since our very first budget retreat in January of 2019. There is absolutely NO area in our government and societal systems that is free from the effects of historic and current racism. It is pervasive. When considering any policies (in all categories of county business) I will always ask the question - who will benefit from this decision, and who will be burdened? What are the unintended consequences?
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The biggest impediment to excellent education is poverty. We have got to focus on the whole child, the whole family to improve our outcomes. Education is a very complex system and our community has largely handed off the problem of poverty to the school system and asked them to educate students in spite of their circumstances. Racism and segregation has played a major role in our schools and that is a tragedy. We have to make choices as a community as to what kind of outcomes we want for our children's futures. I support policies that create mixed income housing in order to bring people of different incomes into the same schools. I support less emphasis on testing and more on creativity.
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In our FY20 budget, the Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners provided an increase to the local teacher supplement which made our teachers the highest paid in the state. In my opinion, the county cannot continue to play this role, the state must step up and pay teachers a proper salary. Currently, the county is paying more than $400 million dollars PER YEAR to supplement items that the state is neglecting! State funding gaps in our schools and our courts are shameful and have resulted in an unnecessary inflation of our property tax rates. While prioritization of education in our community is crucial, there are other areas that the county must focus on like environment and health.
Job training is an area we can and must focus on. Making sure that our kids are graduating high school and utilizing job training programs at CPCC and in various industries is very important. I also think we need to look at how we do Economic Development at the county level and do more to help small businesses form, grow and thrive. We are in the process of completing a disparity study which has proven the existence of disparities in how we utilize minority owned businesses. This is important because we all know that the disparities exist, but with this study we can point to data and prove our need for new policies that support a different approach to procurement and small business support.
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Unfortunately, Mecklenburg County is like most other healthcare service providers in our country: failing to reach the most vulnerable people. The COVID crisis has laid bare the abject crisis that is our healthcare system. In June 2020, the BOCC made a proclamation that "Racism is Public Health Crisis in Mecklenburg County". Why was this important to the community? The proclamation helped us to be able to prioritize and assign dollars to address some of our worst disparities such as food deserts, access to care, and black maternal health. It takes leadership to recognize and have the courage to dismantle systems that create terrible outcomes. Mental healthcare is another area where we need improvement. Educating the community on adverse childhood experiences, safe sleep, and child abuse prevention are a few areas where we are striving to make improvements.