At one time, North Carolina was second only to California in movie and television production. Then the Republican General Assembly failed to renew the N.C. tax credit for productions filming in North Carolina. The disappointing result: The number of productions doing business in Charlotte and the surrounding area went from 10 to zero. Lionsgate, whose feature films have grossed more than $7 billion over the past four years, canceled a multimillion-dollar production that was to be made in the Charlotte area.
As a predictable result, hundreds of local companies lost money that those productions would have pumped into our local economy. One local firm almost went bankrupt when Lionsgate canceled its production. It will be extremely hard for the state to bring back that business.
When I served on both the North Carolina and Regional film councils, I worked on a committee that helped develop the state film council website. I also met major producers and actors who were seeking locations in North Carolina.
Because of House Bill 2 (often called the “bathroom bill), authored by my opponent, the state also has lost other major industries and the jobs they would have provided for North Carolina citizens. The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed this heinous bill, Governor McCrory signed it into law, and companies canceled plans to build or expand facilities in North Carolina, costing the state economy hundreds of millions of dollars. The state will have to work very hard to make itself attractive again as a favored location for national and international companies.
Rather than deal with the reality that HB2 is unconstitutional, the General Assembly grabbed another $500,000 from the state's Disaster Relief Fund to pay for defending against the lawsuit to overturn HB2. It is reckless to take money from our Disaster Relief Fund just as the hurricane season begins, and it shows callous disregard for the needs of our citizens.
I will work hard to repeal HB2 and create a bill that will entice companies to bring jobs back to North Carolina. That is one of the most important things I can do as a state Senator.
Charlotte citizens are intelligent, qualified, and eager to work. Losing these jobs over the discrimination issues created by HB2 is not fair to them. Elected officials are supposed to help our citizens, not make their lives more difficult.
As a successful small business owner, I understand and appreciate how important even the 10-plus jobs my business provided are. I will bring the lessons I learned in starting and running my videotaping business to the task of helping to convince business and industry leaders that North Carolina is still a very attractive place to locate their enterprises.
When I am elected, I will do everything I can to bring these companies and jobs back to Charlotte and North Carolina.
Public education is the cornerstone of our state's and nation's future. It is the foundation of our economy, our community and our society. When major industries consider bringing their jobs to our state, the number-one quality they look for is excellent education. That's because, for the highly capable employees they want to attract and retain, an excellent education for their chhildren is a top priority. To sacrifice education is to throw away jobs.
Teachers are the engines that power our schools. Our legislature must acknowledge that fact by compensating teachers in a way that treats them as the professionals they truly are. Our General Assembly has failed to rise to that challenge.
We must raise pay for all teachers, not only those beginning their careers. Teachers should not have to take a second job to make ends meet. Inadequate pay also encourages our best teachers to accept jobs in the private sector or in other school systems. We must recruit great teachers back into our state, not hemorrhage them out to neighboring states that offer higher pay!
Retaining quality teachers, however, is only one part of the equation. The state legislature also needs to fully fund all of our schools, providing the infrastructure necessary for teachers and administrators to properly educate our children. Restore the formula that adequately funds school districts based on objective criteria, not the current subjective method that the General Assembly quietly slipped into the state's budget recently.
Legislators claim they have funded schools at a higher level than ever before – but that's a misleading statement. The increase the General Assembly approved in the recently adopted budget pays only for the growth in the number of students enrolled; the funding rates stayed virtually the same.
Another part of the money question is charter schools, many of which are run by private, for-profit businesses. Although they are funded the same as public schools, many charter schools are public in name only. Charter schools must be made transparent and held to standards that require them to teach all children and to provide services required by law. They must not be allowed to pick and choose only those services that make the school's test scores look good. Remember, for-profit businesses are interested in one thing: profit!
As your state Senator, I will work hard to secure teacher pay that acknowledges their crucial role in meeting the future of our community. I will push for school funding that provides the environment, equipment and materials that teachers and administrators need to run an excellent school. And I will work to make sure all charter schools are providing an excellent education.
North Carolina is facing a major crisis in protecting our drinking water. Duke Energy has been dumping poisonous coal ash into our water supplies. The effort to make the mega-corporation clean up its toxic waste has led to political deal-making between Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly.
Duke Energy is fighting its responsibility to keep our drinking water clean and to atone for choosing to profit by polluting water sources. Already this gigantic utility corporation has poisoned millions of gallons from drinking water that North Carolina citizens depend on.
Just recently it was discovered that coal ash from a coal-fired Duke electrical plant had leaked into Mountain Island Lake, which is Charlotte's and Mecklenburg County's primary source of drinking water. Tests showed the leak significantly increased the amount of arsenic – a deadly poison – in the water that most of us drink.
The president of Duke Energy and its lobbyists met with legislators to get Duke off the hook for cleaning up its toxic waste. Instead of solving the problem, the Governor and legislators are repaying Duke Energy's huge contributions to Gov. McCrory's campaign.
Protecting our drinking water is crucial, and playing the issue for political advantage is contemptible. Legislators like Dan Bishop, my opponent in District 39, have made it difficult to clean up the poisonous coal ash that Duke has deposited around the state. Bishop in February accepted a $2,000 donation from Duke Energy toward his Senate campaign.
Duke's arrogant negligence in allowing coal ash to flow into the Catawba and Dan rivers – affecting hundreds of thousands of people who trusted the purity of their water source – is a prime example of the problems facing North Carolina citizens because of the state's current leadership in Raleigh. We must stand up to this cozy political favoritism and make Duke Energy clean up its toxic mess.
We also are dealing with climate change, which is now accepted as fact but still is being treated as a political issue. The overwhelming majority of scientists have concluded that human activities are changing the climate in potentially catastrophic ways. But it's not too late to undo the damage if we start now by changing our leadership, beginning in Raleigh.
Protecting and maintaining a safe and clean environment starts with providing incentives that encourage citizens to buy fuel-efficient cars and live in homes that use less electricity and water. We can develop more environmentally friendly ways to produce energy, reducing the mining and burning of fossil fuels and investing in solar energy.
I need your support and your vote to redouble our efforts in this environmental crisis.
Charlotte has a population just short of one million, but astonishingly, because of Dan Bishop's handiwork on HB2, it is now illegal for the city to make laws to protect its citizens from discrimination. That's not the only damage the bill has done: It also prevents Charlotte elected officials from establishing a minimum wage that's appropriate for our community.
Bishop wrote House Bill 2 in one day. The General Assembly passed it without any meaningful discussion or debate, and Gov. McCrory signed it into law. The result has been a disastrous backlash from corporations that have canceled their plans to locate in North Carolina, and from major events, concerts and conventions that bring much-needed revenue to local businesses.
PayPal, a large corporation that handles electronic payments, had planned to bring a facility here to Charlotte, promising 400 new jobs at an average annual salary of $70,000. But after HB2 was made law, PayPal immediately withdrew its plans to locate in North Carolina, because it needs to keep valued employees who would be hurt by the law. That's $28 million that legislators erased from the state's economy.
Even when we repeal HB2, or the courts rule that HB2 is unconstitutional, it will take us years to recover our national and worldwide reputation as a beacon of the New South. So bringing jobs back to North Carolina will be an uphill battle, and that affects every citizen. But it's a battle I intend to win.
I am running to keep Dan Bishop out of the Senate, end this hateful Republican-sponsored discrimination and regain North Carolina's standing as a place where businesses come to succeed.
I need your support and vote to end this hate and discrimination.
For over 25 years, I have been intimately involved with the issues and concerns of senior citizens. At all levels of government – county, state, and national – I’ve worked in a bipartisan manner to unite those of different political backgrounds to do what was right by our senior citizens.
As a Mecklenburg County Commissioner, I worked directly with Sens. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to reverse a provision of the 1992 Welfare Act that put seniors at a disadvantage if they were the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. I mustered bipartisan support for changing the law to allow seniors to keep their benefits if they were performing such parental duties.
Named the President of the National Aging Commission by the National Association of Counties in 1995, for four years I met with seniors from across our great country. I heard first-hand their issues and concerns for the future. Then I put what I had learned to good use, working with several General Assembly members, both Republican and Democrat, to increase the Homestead Exemption Act property tax exemptions to $45,000. Increasing that exemption allowed senior adults, especially the disabled (including veterans), to stay in their homes when facing potential bankruptcy.
As chair of a study group on senior concerns and issues for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners, I again met with senior adults, gaining a better understanding of their concerns at the local level. By a unanimous vote, the County Commissioners adopted three of the study group's recommendations: those concerning Transportation, Short & Long Term Care, and Easier Facilities Access. In fact, the City and County both took up these recommendations to make changes that favored seniors. Affordable Living Wills was another issue I helped bring to the forefront.
Along those lines, another looming concern that the State must address is the aging baby-boomer population. This group will put a strain on our health-care system, making it important for the state to approve Affordable Housing Tax credits so builders can increase the amount of lower-cost housing for seniors.
As your State Senator from District 39, I will continue the work I began over 25 years ago, helping seniors meet their needs head-on, with the dignity and respect they deserve.
As children we all sang “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” Now the state is lagging far behind on maintenance and repairs to many aging bridges across North Carolina. That endangers the lives of both North Carolinians and people traveling to or through our state..
Two bridge collapses elsewhere in the U.S. have killed people. In 1983, a bridge on Interstate 95 in Greenwich, Connecticut, fell without warning. Then in 2007 the Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., collapsed during rush hour.
We in North Carolina should view those tragic incidents as warning signs. For years, North Carolina has failed to maintain the safety of too many of its bridges and roads, which have grown old and dangerous. An excellent example is the length of time it took to replace the Yadkin River Bridge on Interstate 85. The bridge was built in 1957 to carry traffic over the river along what was then U.S. 29. It was so narrow that a passenger could actually look straight down through holes in the structure and see the river while riding over it. When I-85 was built along the same route, traffic greatly increased over the old bridge, and speed limits on the highway jumped by 10 mph. Wrecks became commonplace on the bridge. Yet it took the state until 2012 to replace it with a stronger, safer bridge!
In addition, many roads need repair, from major highways to secondary roads, from Manteo to Murphy, N.C. We must make a commitment to repairing and maintaining these roads regularly to meet the steadily growing traffic demands of both residents and tourists traveling through North Carolina, which run in the tens of millions.
While these repairs are necessary throughout the local area and the state, our elected leaders are instead debating toll roads. Road maintenance is ignored.
The parts of Interstate 485 – Charlotte's Outerbelt – that were constructed more recently were built with six or eight lanes. But in the older section, between I-77 and Johnston Road in our district, it dwindles to just four lanes (two in each direction). That segment of the Outerbelt has become a serious bottleneck that brings traffic to a standstill during rush hours and is often bumper-to-bumper at other times. Why are other parts of the state getting many new roads and other tax-funded services, while Mecklenburg County goes begging? More effective representation by the county's legislators in the General Assembly will help create a fairer way of funding road construction.
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport has become another bone of contention. The state and Charlotte are now opposing each other in a lawsuit over the state's attempt to take over ownership of the airport, which has been a huge asset to the city. The city built the airport, and now the state – prompted by the former Senator from District 39 – wants to take it away. That would be outrage enough, but it goes further: Charlotte taxpayers are paying for both sides of the case, the city's and the state's! As Senator I will introduce a motion to stop the lawsuit.
The Blue Line of the county's Lynx light rail system is being extended to serve the UNC Charlotte area. As a Mecklenburg County Commissioner, I supported construction of the light rail system. I knew it the extension would bring growth and planned development, just as its earlier phase has improved the “South End” area along South Boulevard through new private investment. Thanks to the county's initiative, that area now has become an important economic asset to Charlotte and the county. The Blue Line extension has already begun to bring the same benefits to the University City area.
It has become common for the Department of Transportation to give contracts of up to 50 years' duration! I would introduce a bill requiring the state Board of Transportation to review any contract of more than 10 years' duration. Never again should the state sign a 50-year contract, which limits the state's ability to do its business.