Bringing RELEVANT EXPERIENCE and COMMITMENT to ensure Wake County’s PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, PUBLIC EDUCATION and QUALITY OF LIFE
The most critical issue is how best to balance the pandemic response and our economic environment. This is an unprecedented time where the restrictions to our economy are set based on mandates to control an infectious disease. We want our economy to re-open, people to earn money and businesses to prosper. Foremost, we need our community to be safe and protected from COVID-19.
As an Epidemiologist and a Business Improvement Consultant, I have a 20-year career in public health and government. My background includes emergency management during the H1N1 pandemic, and leading recovery projects at the highest levels of State, County and Local government after the effects of the Early 2000’s Recession and the Great Recession (2007-2009).
Wake County needs a representative who has the experience to make important decisions about the challenges we will face in this next term. While doing this, a person who will not forget our humanity as we continue the fight to eradicate COVID-19, to eliminate inequity, and to make the changes that we need for a better community.
The most effective role the Board of Commissioners can play is to commit to the work we have with our government partners, specifically the Wake County Board of Education; Wake County Public School System (WCPSS); Wake Tech Community College Leadership and Administration; and North Carolina Legislature (NCGA).
I will work together with WCPSS and Wake Tech on their goals and budgets (overall and considering COVID-19); and will be open to listen, learn and exchange ideas.
I support fully funding public education and commit to:
1) Recruit, retain, and support Wake County educators and administrators; school psychologists, social workers, nurses and school mental health professionals; school bus drivers; and all non-certified and school staff.
2) Invest in Classroom Learning by funding textbooks, digital resources, and instructional materials.
3) Fund school construction; school safety; universal Pre-K; school lunch programs; Art, Music, Physical Education and STEM; and Early College.
Wake County functioning as a stop gap by providing a local supplement must be acceptable, for the time being, but this is not the permanent solution. The amount of the local supplement has been increasing every year. The NCGA needs to take responsibility and fully fund public education. It is through this that we may significantly decrease the financial demand on Wake County to close the gap on the funding for public education.
I will focus on 3 areas to improve economic development: marketplace, workforce, and community.
1) Small business development initiatives. Sponsor initiatives such as training and financial assistance for businesses owned by minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and socially and economically challenged individuals.
2) Economic growth through innovation. Innovation and start-ups fuel our economic growth. They are the ultimate job creators in a local economy.
3) Business attraction and retention. Market Wake County to relocate businesses that will bring targeted jobs to our area and retain those who are currently contributing to our economy.
1) Workforce development and training. Maximizing Wake County services to develop and train our local labor force, and to connect workers to demands for skilled labor.
2) A diverse Wake County workforce. Common challenges are underemployment, shortage of skilled workers, and scarcity of a young workforce. Addressing these challenges help in long-term economic stability.
1) Development of socially responsible economic development strategies. Improved income equity; affordable housing; pre-K - 12 and higher education; transportation; and environment contributes to socially responsible economic development.
2) Technologically-connected Wake County. There needs to be 100% build out of high-speed internet facilitating coverage, speed, and affordability for all in Wake County.
COVID-19 has magnified what is needed to improve our social services. Wake County is responsible for administering federal human service programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. As unemployment numbers skyrocket, residents will turn to the county in unprecedented numbers to access safety net programs.
Professionally working in social services, the steps we take include studying the baseline levels of services, seeing what resources are effective, and setting goals. From being on the Wake County Community Health Needs Assessment, combining the work of the Wake County Population Health Task Force and Wake County’s Strategic Goals, the policies I would propose include:
- Creating a comprehensive blueprint and measures that align with goals (in housing, transportation, education, employment, social support, culture, and physical environment).
- Improve health and well-being by addressing the barriers that limit access to health care especially for crisis services and substance abuse treatment.
- Be mindful of growth by preserving open space and developing parks and greenways; implementing the long-range transportation and land use plans; and promoting sustainability.
- Raise social and economic vitality by creating more affordable housing and support efforts to end homelessness; and supporting
collaboration among agencies, nonprofits, governments, and the community to deliver more evidence-based services.
The financial impact of Covid-19 on Wake County will be felt for some time. Sales tax and fee collections are down dramatically and represent over 20% of county revenue. Wake County staff has estimated sales tax revenue will fall by $42 million over last fiscal year’s collections. There has also been a decline in building permits and real estate transactions in Wake County.
The most important issue for Wake County this next term will be to cover services to Wake County citizens while absorbing revenue losses due to Covid.
I am an advocate for education as it is the driving force behind our economy. Without an effective education system business and industry will not have the trained workers they need to grow their business.
Currently, 58% of Wake County’s budget is dedicated to the Wake County Public School system. While that is the largest single budget item it only funds about a third of the School system’s needs, the remainder of the school budget comes from the state.
In 1997 the NC Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s constitution guarantees every child an opportunity to receive an education. In 2004 the Supreme Court held that the state has not provided a sound education to children, particularly poor children. I would advocate the NC legislature resolve this on-going lawsuit, Leandro v NC, and I will also ensure Wake County Schools are fully funded.
I would propose Wake County to not provide tax incentives for industry to relocate in our area unless all business get the same benefit.
Oppose regionalization of Health and Human Services. Support social service reform as identified by the “Social Services Working Group” at UNC School of Government. Support legislation to reinstate funding for the Drug Treatment and Mental Health Court. Support the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act.
Seek flexibility in the funds Wake County received from the Federal CARES Act. Currently those funds cannot be used to pay for current revenue short falls.