WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS QUESTIONNAIRE 2022
WAKE COUNTY VOTER EDUCATION COALITION
Why are you running for the Board of Commissioners?
I am running for this seat because I love Wake County, and I want to make sure it remains the best place to live, work, play, and raise a family. I am 39 years old, on the cusp of home ownership, hoping to adopt a child, and struggling with student loans. In many ways, my experiences and struggles are typical of those faced by my generation, and we are ready to have a seat at the table so we can get to work creating lasting solutions. If we are not at the table, we are on the menu.
What do you see as the most pressing needs for infrastructure or capital projects in the county? Please explain.
The most pressing infrastructure need in our community is the lack of affordable housing, as well as free, safe housing for those in need.
It is also worth noting that our schools face $1.1 billion in capital improvement and construction needs over the next 5 years, and $3 billion over the next 10 years. This is accounting for decreased enrollment and competition from charter, private and home schools. These projects, for the most part, are not optional. We have made huge investments in these properties, and our children deserve to learn in a well-maintained environment. Our community also deserves to have these investments cared for, so that they last as long as possible. Failure to make these investments can compound the underlying issues. When we ignored problems at West Millbrook a few years ago, sewage soon flooded their hallways. Making these investments in a timely fashion is a critical element in ensuring our children have all the tools they need to be their best.
Long term, transportation is a huge issue. If we do not set ourselves up for success with a robust public transit system, we will develop into a car-centric traffic nightmare like Los Angeles. I have lived in Washington, DC and in southern California. The difference between the two areas is remarkable. DC planned for transit, and California did not. They are paying a price for their negligence, and we must avoid such an outcome here.
If new resources were available, what one area of county services would you feel the most needs additional resources?
That depends on how much money we are talking about. If it is a small amount, perhaps it can be added to a grant matching program so we can double our investment. If it is a significant amount, I would advocate for either property acquisition for affordable housing, or an investment in our human capital. Our county employees are a vital component of our community, and they deserve competitive wages.
Are county taxes too high, about right, or pleasantly low? Explain.
They are, by comparison at least, pleasantly low. Right now, Wake County ranks 70th out of 100 counties in NC for property tax rate. Considering we are the largest county and are experiencing rapid growth, one could easily expect our tax rates to be much higher.
Wake County may have a relatively low tax rate, but that doesn’t mean Wake County residents can necessarily afford a tax increase. My mother, for example, is a retired educator who draws a pension and social security. Between her HOA fees and property tax increases over the last several years, my mom is feeling the pinch. Everything costs more right now, from gas to food. Even a small tax increase can be the tipping point for a homeowner like my mother. We must make sure that the wealthy and corporations are kicking in their fair share. The burden should not fall on the working class to shoulder the cost of this growth.
What are your top “ 3” priorities if elected to the Board of Commissioners ?
Affordable Housing may be the biggest crisis facing our county right now. We are THE hotspot for real estate in America. While current homeowners have gained tens or hundreds of thousands in wealth as their home values increase, those who do not yet own a home face unprecedented market forces as they attempt to achieve the American Dream. Instead of pricing out our friends and neighbors, we must build an inclusive and welcoming Wake County for all. The current commissioners have been doing an excellent job leading the way on this issue, and I look forward to continuing their work. We must also continue to work with the many cities, towns, and other stakeholders in Wake County to address this growing need countywide.
Education has always been a priority of mine. Not only did I attend and benefit from our fine public schools, but my mother was also an 8th grade English teacher here in Wake County for more than 2 decades. As commissioner, I will work with our school board and staff to determine what we can do for our schools, and make sure we find the best ways to fund those projects moving forward. If elected, I will particularly look for ways to impact our early education and K-3 literacy programs.
I pledge to meet our school system’s needs each time we vote on a budget, and to support a bonds package to fund a backlog of school maintenance and construction needs. I will continue the great work of connecting our K-12 students with opportunities through Wake Tech, making education accessible for all. Finally, I will remind the NCGA of their habitual underfunding of public education and will work hard to keep the Leandro ruling and its mandates front and center.
The Economy in Wake County is strong, and Wake County is a top destination for employers and entrepreneurs. As a result, we continue to see record job growth and investment in this region. I look forward to helping Wake County maintain its competitive edge, and remain a leader in jobs, employment rates, wages, and quality of life.
While wages and home values have risen during the pandemic, those increases have been offset by inflation and across-the-board cost of living increases. Housing, gas, and even dinner cost more than ever before, and our friends and neighbors are feeling the strain. People are struggling in our community, and I will work hard to make sure that our rising tide here in Wake County lifts ALL boats.
Return written responses to Jerome.email@example.com by Friday , April 8, 2022