3. ECONOMY AND JOBS
4. CLEAN WATER AND AIR
5. OTHER ISSUES AND PRIORITIES
Our public schools must be ready to provide a quality education for every child. It is unacceptable that teachers find themselves needing to buy school supplies out of their own pockets, or working a second job to support themselves and their families. It is unacceptable that North Carolina has fallen to 37th in the nation in teacher pay, and 39th in overall per-pupil expenditure. Our legislature must start to budget on the basis of what we need to make quality pre-K, K-12, community college, and university education available to all our children and families. Cuts in taxes on corporations and the wealthy come after that, not before. I will work hard for better pay and respect for our teachers and funding to meet the needs of all our students.
I pledge to consult with parents and teachers before the legislature makes decisions affecting the future of them and their students. Experienced teachers as well as newcomers deserve better pay. All our teachers deserve respect for their hard work, caring, and sacrifices; and all our people deserve a transparent public budgeting process, not decisions made by a few in secret and announced as a dictate to the rest of us.
My mother was a career teacher and principal in North Carolina public schools, and I have classroom teaching experience myself at the college and community college levels. I went all the way through our public schools and attended the University of North Carolina with a merit scholarship. Teaching runs in my family. I understand how critical educational opportunity is for our future as individuals and as communities—and how central good teachers are to providing that opportunity.
Beyond those fundamentals, it is also necessary to remember that the legislature largely is not composed of teaching professionals. The legislature’s job is to provide the resources necessary for our schools and our students to thrive, not to ignore the advice of educators and attempt to micromanage their work.
State government must do all we can to ensure that everyone in our state is covered by good health care plans that they can afford. It is shameful that our legislature has denied life-saving health care to over 600,000 people in our state, including 13,000 right here in Forsyth County. Public health experts estimate that this lack of health care coverage results in more than 1,000 preventable deaths in our state every year.
The legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid coverage is also financially irrational. The current majority party in our legislature has turned away more than $2 billion a year in federal funds to cover health care for the working poor and other low-income families. This is money that we have already paid in federal taxes; we’re just not accepting it back to help our own people in our state. By that irrational refusal, our legislators are also hurting our hospitals and our economy, foregoing 40,000 jobs that would be created in health care employment with those resources.
Finally, refusing to expand coverage raises medical costs for all of us, even those with good insurance. When poor families cannot get regular checkups and other preventive and early treatment care, they end up in emergency rooms as their last resort. Who pays for that? They can’t, so it is rolled into the costs which hospitals charge to the rest of us.
I pledge to do everything within my power as a legislator and community servant to get this unconscionable policy reversed, and to expand Medicaid coverage in our state. I will also work to improve market coverage and control costs for both those who get their health care under individual market policies and those who get it through large-employer or small-business plans.
Many of the same wrong-thinking legislators responsible for denying health care coverage to 600,000 North Carolinians are also attempting to approve cheap insurance plans which effectively cover nothing. This and other efforts to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act would result in higher costs and poorer health care for women, older adults, children, and all those who have been sick or have chronic medical conditions. I pledge to fight against these efforts to raise costs and reduce care for those who need it most.
Folks who are young and healthy today need to remember—everyone eventually needs health care. The price of saving a few dollars today by opting in to cheap plans which cover nothing means not only that more people who need help now won’t be able to afford it, but also that you will find yourself priced out of health care coverage in your own times of need. After all, the very idea of an honest insurance program is that we all pay in a fair rate now so that we all will have help when we need it.
I pledge to fight against any and all efforts to take away coverage for those with so-called pre-existing conditions, or to target seniors or the sick for jacked-up costs that will knock them off affordable coverage. We can and should improve health care coverage and quality in our state—not take away the progress that has been made in expanding coverage.
ECONOMY AND JOBS
My experience in working for economic development and better jobs at the local level as a city council member has taught me some important lessons. First, businesses who are interested in locating or expanding in a community ask first about education. They want to know that they will be able to hire the trained, qualified workers they need. They also want to know that all their employees will be able to send their children to good public schools and higher education here. Second, they ask about infrastructure. Will they have the roads and transit, water and sewer, and other services they need to operate safely and efficiently? Other factors like incentives are nothing but tie-breakers, at most.
I am committed to ensuring that we have the good public schools, community colleges, and public universities necessary to meeting these needs. Community colleges in particular play a vital role in providing the targeted training needed to take advantage of growing job fields. By working with businesses considering expansion, they can also help that happen here, instead of being lost to other states.
In addition, I have strong local and regional public service experience in transportation and water/sewer planning and development. I will see to it that these needs are treated with the priority they deserve in our legislative planning and budgets so that we build our economy and grow jobs. I’ll also use my local experience in ensuring that economic incentives are provided only in a smart manner that guarantees performance and protects the taxpayers.
Finally, I understand the difference between just more jobs—and more jobs that pay well, include good benefits, and provide paths to long-term success. I’ll work to promote policies and programs that grow jobs with good pay, benefits, security, and opportunity to advance.
CLEAN WATER AND AIR
North Carolina has a fundamental obligation to protect clean water and air for all our people. We cannot permit pollution that threatens public health and undermines the future well-being of our families and communities. This duty includes enacting and enforcing laws that require polluters to pay the costs of cleaning up the messes they create. Public utilities like Duke Energy cannot be allowed to foist the cleanup costs from coal ash onto the taxpayers. Global corporations cannot be permitted to pad their profit margins by relying on outdated disposal methods which destroy the value of neighbors’ property and threaten their health. We must ensure that our public health and environmental protection agencies receive the funding and support they need to test for, monitor, and require cleanup of emerging toxic threats to our water supplies and our air.
A clean environment is compatible with a strong economy. In fact, the long-term health of our economy requires protection of public health and our abundant natural resources. We must protect our natural heritage of farmland, forest, fishing, and wildlife from the mountains to the sea. There is no need to jeopardize our irreplaceable coastal resources and economy with offshore oil and gas drilling, or to pollute our air with increased fossil fuel use. Instead, we must continue to develop our vast potential for clean, renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind. We must continue to improve the efficiency of our vehicles and improve green transportation alternatives, including public transit. Human-impacted climate change is real, and a growing threat to our children’s future. We must act now to address this problem while we still have time to do so.
I have worked on these issues since my teenage years, when I tracked down and reported water pollution problems in my home town of Hickory, NC. I worked as an attorney for poor families threatened by industrial pollution in coastal NC, and served for 20 years as a governor-appointed member of state rulemaking commissions charged with protecting clean water and air and public health. Most recently, I have worked here in Forsyth County and the Piedmont Triad for regional clean air quality and clean transportation alternatives. I will put this experience and knowledge to work for our communities and our families’ health in the state legislature.
OTHER ISSUES AND PRIORITIES
My focus as a state legislator will start on these four priorities of education, employment, environment, and health care—but it won’t end there. I understand that we must attend to public safety, equal opportunity for all, civil rights and voting rights, a welcoming community for all regardless of our differences, and more.
To get more perspective on my concerns, issue positions, and priorities, see my endorsements page.
If you have other questions, you are welcome to contact me at