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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners District 5

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

    Laura Meier
    (Dem)

  • Matthew Ridenhour
    (Rep)

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) 51
Contact Phone (704) 905-9341
email address laura@meierformeck.com
Twitter @laurameierD5
Position/philosophy statement I'm running for commissioner because I want to invest in people. My goal is to make a difference. If we invest in people, we invest in our future.
I believe I am the best candidate for the office of Mecklenburg County Commissioner District 5 because I believe in public education for our children, that our tax dollars belong in public schools, and that we should fund more mental health options in those schools. I strongly believe that there is a connection between mental health and being outside in green spaces and therefore, I support sustaining the green spaces we have, finishing our greenway, and ensuring that we have parks available for all residents close to their homes. Affordable housing is not only a city issue but one in which I believe the county must work alongside city leaders to address. I want to see an end to Source of Income discrimination, whether it is intentional or not. And in these times of crises, people look to the government for answers and protection, and thus I am committed to providing that leadership and making the tough choices to protect all the residents of the county.
I believe the most important issue for our county is battling Covid-19. The pandemic is affecting everyone, everywhere, and in every facet of our lives. From education to mental health to our parks to housing, this virus does not discriminate. We need strong leadership that our residents can depend on to hear the hard truth and to make the tough, unpopular choices. There is much about this virus that we don't know yet, and we don't even know for sure when we will see the end, if ever. The next two years, we are going to see changes in our traditional ways of life, and our economy is taking a big hit. We will need to look at creative ways to bring us out of this crisis.
I want to see more preK funded programs in CMS, career readiness opportunities and advanced placement classes offered throughout CMS no matter the zip code. I want our community to educate our youth on making informed decisions on birth control and have it accessible because unintended pregnancies often result in dropping out of school. I believe education is the foundation for success, and by offering quality education in Mecklenburg County, we will have conquered more than half the battle. Furthermore, I would like to see home ownership encouraged; programs that allow for low interest rates for some populations for mortgages and other ownership so that people can start building credit.
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I believe that our education system in Mecklenburg County is excellent but only for some. I want to see an education system that accommodates all, from all backgrounds, zip codes, races, learning levels and interests. We must research all opportunities for new methods of learning. For example, community internship programs help children to learn how to work in the outside world and lay the groundwork for future endeavors and growth. We need to recognize that not everyone is heading to college and CMS must meet those students' needs as well. One size definitely does not fit all.

Support
I would absolutely support an increase in the local supplement for teachers and staff. We have to pay our teachers and staff as the professionals they are. Our state does not currently prioritize education as it should. The counties thus have to make up for the inadequate funding.
We must do all things possible to develop a workforce that can be rebuilt following the COVID-19 disaster.

We must work collectively with our local corporate citizens to identify needs, develop the worker base, and place people back to work. I believe that the commission and the city must actively work together to recruit new businesses to Charlotte and support their development and growth. It must be a policy that the commission commits to regular reviews of the budget and the efficiency of its operation. It must be policy that all employees of the county be paid a fair and equitable rate. We must work to encourage all new and current businesses to follow this standard.
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I believe that by not expanding Medicaid at the state level, we have only hurt ourselves. I was thrilled to see more healthcare facilities in some lesser advantaged areas (for example, Michael B. Jordan Center on Freedom Drive). I think that both Novant and Atrium have stepped up during this time of crisis, but I want to see more testing, more contact tracing, and more education about the three W’s in these areas of the county. I think the commission and the health department can definitely jump start these programs that must be ongoing and included in school curriculum as well. From nutrition to contraception to Covid guidelines, we must preach these from the rooftops.
Age (optional) 43
Contact Phone (704) 880-4916
Twitter @mridenhour
Position/philosophy statement I'm a libertarian-leaning Republican who believes in limited government, fiscal conservatism, and personal responsibility.
Experience matters, and right now we need experienced leadership to help guide Mecklenburg County. We are facing issues of affordable housing, mental health, food insecurity, and job security--all compounded by COVID-19. In the last two years, Mecklenburg County expanded spending by $200M, and this year the county is expecting a revenue shortfall. How we get through this pandemic, and recover from its effects, will shape Mecklenburg County for years to come. I have six years' experience as a County Commissioner to help get through this recovery. I have worked on jobs programs, helped tackle affordable housing, and addressed food insecurity, and can apply the lessons learned to tackle these new challenges we face.
Recovery from the pandemic, without a doubt. The pandemic is directly affecting people's health, and also the economy (last week, two friends lost their jobs), mental health (calls to suicide hotlines and domestic violence hotlines are increasing), and county revenue. The county is projecting a revenue shortfall this year, which is especially compounded by the $200M spending increase seen over the last two years. This will put many existing programs at-risk, while also making it more challenging to expand greenways and create new county programming. The recovery will be a challenge for the county, just as it will be for residents.
I have long been a supporter of criminal justice reform. After the Keith Lamont Scott shooting, I called for a task force of stakeholders such as CMS, CMPD, the Sheriff's Department, the courts, and others to address criminal justice reform from investigation and arrest, through release and reintegration to society. Unfortunately, not one of my Democrat colleagues would join me in this important work. Should I be elected, I will once again take up this effort, in the hopes that a new County Commissioner will find this worthwhile. I will pursue policies which improve things like access to parks, food security, and housing affordability, which historically have seen discriminatory policies.
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First, it is important to note, that the County Commission has zero authority over policies and standards within CMS. The county provides funding to CMS, which is of course important, but it does not control educational policies, student assignment, curriculum, or other such things within the authority of CMS. In the past I have supported things like: funding for a nurse in every school, funding for new security upgrades, and funding for teacher pay increases. I will continue to support funding for CMS priorities, within the balance of the county budget and competing budgetary needs.
Support
In 2018, I supported a teacher supplement increase, along with the rest of the Board. Democrats wanted to fund the pay increase with a tax increase. I dug into the county budget, and found money within the budget to fund the pay increase. The majority of the Board supported my funding mechanism, and so we were able to increase the local supplement without an associated tax increase.

I will continue to work to find creative solutions to the problems and challenges we face, including paying our teachers well for the hard work they do.
The most important thing we can do is control spending. The county increased spending in the last 2 years by $200M, and this was even after a massive increase in commercial property tax revenue due to commercial property development. Unfortunately, with the pandemic slowing the economy, this has put Mecklenburg County in a dire situation. A massive tax increase next year to support this increased spending will only further hurt the local economy, and residents' ability be financially stable. We must control spending, expand the county's micro-loan program for small businesses, and reduce regulations that make harder to open a business in Mecklenburg than it is elsewhere.
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The county's Bringing Mecklenburg County to You initiative has improved the access to county services, by placing providers where the need is. I supported this program, and believe it is invaluable and could be expanded. I believe the quality of care is good, but could use improvement in the areas of communication, transparency, and accessibility. Unfortunately, the pandemic has highlighted some of the deficiencies in these areas. I think we now know where we can improve, and can set a course to ensure that we are better prepared to face future health crises. Additionally, the county should explore separating the duties of the Board of County Commissioners, and the Board of Public Health. Currently, Mecklenburg is the only county where the BOCC serves as both. Prior conversations around separating these duties did not go far, but perhaps would be more fruitful in light of the pandemic and lessons learned.