1. Do you believe that humans are a contributing factor in climate change? What role, if any, do local governments play to protect the environment and its citizens from climate change?
When it comes to climate change, humans are absolutely a contributing factor. I’m no expert, but I’d imagine we are more responsible for it than not. Even though climate changes are natural, we are clearly accelerating the pace of change and are seeing the consequences.
It’s very sad that we can’t work together, across political and jurisdictional lines, to combat this issue. Local governments must lead on these issues when their state or federal officials will not act. Wake County has a comprehensive, long term growth strategy, and we invest in land conservation, parks, greenways, public transportation, clean energy. We do a good job here, but we can certainly do better.
2. Have you read the most recent IPCC report (summary)? If so, what was your biggest takeaway?
I read the report and my first takeaway was that it was depressing to read, and very compelling in the picture it paints. My second takeaway came at the end, where it says that the observational network is shrinking. It feels like climate change is inevitable, and we aren’t yet taking that seriously.
3. Are you familiar with your municipality’s Waste Management Plan? Please share one way that the plan is handling/encouraging landfill diversion. Please share areas of opportunity for improvement of the plan.
I have read the comprehensive waste management plan made in conjunction with all 13 municipalities. I still have a lot to learn, however. One thing mentioned in the plan is that Wake County has received 15 commercial waste reduction grants between 2018 and 2020. That is great, but those grants only add up to a little over $100,000. The plan is very detailed, but also seems somewhat aspirational. We have one waste disposal site in Wake County and it’s a problem right now. It smells bad and is becoming a nuisance for the community that has sprung up around it at impressive speeds. We need to invest more in waste management and reduction. Wake County is a place full of very smart people, and we can be leaders in this area if we choose.
4. Where is the environment on your list of priorities? Please include a link to the webpage or other documentation of your policy priorities.
It’s pretty high on my list of priorities. The environment has been used politically as both a shield and a sword here in Wake County, so I’m not leading with how much I love parks and land conservation, but it is in my top 3. The current District 1 Commissioner has a reputation as a strong advocate for parks, greenways, conservation, public transportation, and other green issues. I hope to continue that legacy. Our natural resources are one of our best features in Wake County, and we must preserve and protect them. I have had dogs for years and visiting parks across the state has been a wonderful experience for us. I’d like to ensure these beautiful parks remain for future generations, and to do that we need to change the way we live and think about our consumption habits.
5. Have you supported pro-environment legislation at the state or national level? Would you, if elected, support and encourage legislation such as NC Managing Environmental Waste Act of 2021 (NC HB230), U.S. Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act (HR 2238), and COMPOST Act (S 2388)?
I am generally supportive of environmental legislation, and would support these three bills, though that wouldn’t be something upon which I could vote as a Commissioner, obviously. I am outspoken, however, and have no problem explaining issues and legislation to my constituents, and how they affect our county. Also, as a Commissioner, part of my job would be to advocate for key legislation that benefits our community. This is an area where I feel most local leaders do not do a good enough job, so I will prioritize such advocacy.
6. What are your thoughts on the Dillon Rule limiting what the city can do? How can municipalities encourage or incentivize waste reduction, landfill diversion, and carbon capturing behaviors among private and business citizens?
As a gay attorney living in NC I sure am familiar with the Dillon Rule, and I think it is more a tool for doing harm than a source of good governance. I mention being gay because the Dillon rule is the reason why local governments could not pass nondiscrimination ordinances for a period of years after HB142 was passed. My community’s rights were sold out, with Democratic support, thanks in part to the Dillon Rule. In my opinion, the Dillon Rule is more harmful than it is helpful.
One thing I loved about living in California was that the state took the environment seriously. For all its flaws and pollution, California often took EPA regulations a step further, enacting stricter requirements, thereby subjecting nationwide distributors to tougher requirements if they wished to enter one of the world’s largest economies. Similarly, cities should have the power to do more to help their people and meet local expectations. The state should not be able to rule with an iron fist, especially when it is unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
Municipalities can do more to encourage waste reduction in several ways. Here in Wake County, we have one landfill, and it is very smelly. I recently learned about this issue from a Holly Springs town councilmember, and I think it is worth discussing in greater detail. Holly Springs is about an hour from my home. People in my neighborhood, in my district, we don’t think about where our trash goes. Maybe if candidates and elected officials start talking about the smelly landfill, we can start a broader discussion on how to become our best selves here in Wake County.
I would also be open to adopting practices typically found in more established liberal areas, such as fees on plastic bags, bottles, and other items sold in our area in anticipation of disposal costs. These fees could be reinvested to help with reduction and diversion efforts.
I am a big proponent of smart growth, focusing on building dense, walkable communities connected by reliable and efficient public transportation. This, combined with a focus on clean, renewable energy, land conservation, and other similar measures could help us do our part locally to reduce our impact. Carbon capturing seems like it could be promising, and I think, if nothing else, we should make sure that our community is leading the way. With RTP right here, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.