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Learn everything you need to know about voting in the upcoming election, including how to vote in person or through the mail as well as local candidates' positions on various issues and why they think you should vote for them.

Mecklenburg County Commission

Candidates for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners answered questions about why they should be elected (or reelected).

District 1

ELAINE POWELL (D)

Jim Puckett - Mecklenburg County Commissioner
Jim Puckett

JIM PUCKETT (R)
What is your top priority as a Mecklenburg County commissioner?
We have two urgent needs, To re-establish a legitimate Board of Health and work to set legitimate priorities for the next budget in light of expected lower than normal revenue growth and the use on one time only money in this last budget that will now need to be covered with regular taxes.

What would you do to help Mecklenburg County residents and businesses rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic?
Develop a Board of Health that can more quickly advise the manner in which to open up businesses safely and look at possible tax deferrals for small businesses. I would also look to see if we could renegotiate current tax rebate incentives with large corporations in a manner that would generate greater revenues in the near term. Lastly I would NOT vote to increase ANY taxes or fees.

What would you do to make sure that as Mecklenburg County prospers there is enough affordable housing as well as economic opportunity for everyone?
Eliminate the costly regulatory requirements for permitting and see how we can best leverage any county properties in partnerships with developers willing to include more affordable units as a result of the lower cost of land.

The Carolina Panthers owner is talking about a new stadium. Should county money be used to build that? Why or why not?
NO they are a private entity with multiple revenues streams. Like any other large corporation in the county they need to make private investment and reap private rewards. I have a LONG history of voting in this manner as regards pro-sports (and other major industries as well)

District 2

VILMA D. LEAKE (D)

District 3

GEORGE DUNLAP (D)

Friday Paul Okure - Mecklenburg County Commissioner
Friday Paul Okure

FRIDAY PAUL OKURE (R)
What is your top priority as a Mecklenburg County commissioner?
If elected, will be humbled to serve with the new County Commission and to fight for constituents' needs: quality education, access to quality health care and affordable housing; lower taxes, family values, business innovations and opportunities as well as an inclusive safety policy to reduce crimes and keep our youth safe through active involvement. And I will engage the faith community to pray for our country, state, and county both for the healing of our land and for godly governance.

What would you do to help Mecklenburg County residents and businesses rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic?
As a proponent of inclusive representation, I will listen to my constituents and community leaders and work with fellow commissioners both to negiociate with bussinesses and to enhance and expand business opportunities for Mecklenburg County citizens. I will also propose reducing taxes that prevent business growth and/ or cause community members to lose their homes. Finally, our budget would be re-examined to ensure that we cut our coat according to our size. I will ensure that every suspicious program and county entity is reformed until we operate within our means.

What would you do to make sure that as Mecklenburg County prospers there is enough affordable housing as well as economic opportunity for everyone?
I would be glad to introduce proactive recovery plans to the commission for the safety and welfare of our residents and for businesses opportunities and innovations. However, we must first, lower taxes for homeowners, second, make gentrification house-for-house, instead of house-for-cash, third, examine current homelessness and obtain experts’ 5, 10, and 20 years projection, fourth, negotiate with reliable developers and spread affordable housing across the districts, where those who qualified can afford other physical and social needs around them. These certainly would reduce the rate of housing needs at which Charlotte-Mecklenburg is observing right now.

The Carolina Panthers owner is talking about a new stadium. Should county money be used to build that? Why or why not?
The Panthers stadium has gone through several renovations and expansion between 2007 and last year (2019). However, we now have a new owner, David Tepper, who is also the owner of the newly Charlotte Major League Soccer (MLS), I would be interested to deliberate on this with my constituents and the new commission.

District 4

MARK JERRELL (D)

District 5

Laura Meier - Mecklenburg County Commissioner
Laura Meier

LAURA MEIER (D)
What is your top priority as a Mecklenburg County commissioner?
I want to advocate for increased affordable housing in Mecklenburg County. Addressing this most pressing issue is a win-win for everyone—ensuring stability for our workforce is imperative for a healthy, thriving community.

Affordable housing, mental health and education are intertwined. We seem to forget that there are people devastated by the local housing issue, and that they are not just statistics and numbers on paper. Stable housing leads to less of a strain on the mental health system, increased success in schools and a productive workforce.

I will work with the City Council, religious organizations, houses of worship, and the corporate and business communities to produce solutions to this critical problem in Mecklenburg County.

What would you do to help Mecklenburg County residents and businesses rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic?
The virus has wreaked havoc on our people. I believe that as a Commissioner my first commitment is to serve as an advocate. The county must immediately review its budget obligations to determine if there are areas where debt can be restructured, county reserves can be accessed, and any additional sources of funding discovered and considered. I know that there are new money sources opening up on both a state and federal level that could help communities rebuild and create new job opportunities. I will work with members of the Board and county staff to pursue these possibilities. I will work to open avenues of communication with the neighborhoods, and the businesses within, to listen, to document needs and then respond in ways that work for all. This is a time for the county and city leadership to join together to see how they can work together in the best interests of the community.

What would you do to make sure that as Mecklenburg County prospers there is enough affordable housing as well as economic opportunity for everyone?
Again, this is an area where our residents can be best served through the building of coalitions between the city, county, businesses, and community representatives. No single group can affect the changes needed. I will be a vocal supporter and work to ensure a viable plan for future development using a collaborative approach. Crossing both city and county lines, I will support the adoption of laws prohibiting Source of Income Discrimination and, in so doing, we must ensure a commitment to developing source of income protections.

As a board member, I will look at offered tax incentives for proposed development and I will seek to include a commitment for inclusion of affordable housing in their plans. Every day, thousands of people come into Charlotte to work. Our county must pay attention as to why. For many, they are being priced-out of Charlotte. I believe that it is time to implement a proactive approach to study over-traveled roads, equity in schools, the tax base quality-of-living inconsistencies and professional opportunities. The need for decisions is now. I will work on behalf of the residents of District 5 and Mecklenburg County.

The Carolina Panthers owner is talking about a new stadium. Should county money be used to build that? Why or why not?
Mr. Tepper is talking about building a stadium, and at this point, it has not moved beyond talk. There are no current plans to build a new stadium. The Panthers own the stadium but the city owns the land on which it sits. Currently, the county does not have a role to play in any discussions. If future developments warrant inclusion of the county, I would educate myself about the proposal, evaluate the risks/benefits to the county, and only act when I am comfortable with the plan and what its financial needs might be from the county.

Matthew Ridenhour
Matthew Ridenhour

MATTHEW RIDENHOUR (R)
What is your top priority as a Mecklenburg County commissioner?
My top priority is the recovery from this pandemic. The pandemic is affecting all areas of Mecklenburg County--with lives lost, jobs lost, housing instability--and how we chart our path forward will have an impact for years to come. We are going to have to make tough choices. The county is already projecting a revenue shortfall for this year, and this is on top of more than $200M of increased spending by the county over the last 2 years. Our focus will have to be on economic development, mental health, and housing/food stability.

What would you do to help Mecklenburg County residents and businesses rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic?
First, I would look to control spending. In the last two years, the all-Democrat County Commission increased spending by $200M, and raised taxes an average of 20% on residents. This year, there will be a projected budget shortfall. We cannot raise taxes on a community that is already reeling from business layoffs, closings, and losses, and also saw its taxes recently go up 20%. Thus, I would look to rein in spending where we can, while still providing the services for which many people depend on the County.

Second, I would look at how to make it more efficient to open businesses in Mecklenburg County. This would include going through code enforcement and permitting, as well as working with Raleigh to ease some of the licensing requirements for operating in NC. NC is notorious for the difficulty and cost it takes to open businesses here--far more challenging than it is almost anywhere else in the country.

Finally, I would see what economic development tools we can use--such as our micro-loan program for small businesses. What tools are other communities using? Let's learn from others, and deploy our resources here in proven, effective ways.

What would you do to make sure that as Mecklenburg County prospers there is enough affordable housing as well as economic opportunity for everyone?
In NC, mandatory inclusionary zoning is not allowed by the state, thus the city and county cannot mandate affordable housing within a development. I look at this issue from what the county can control--and that is permitting and inspections. By streamlining the process for a builder to get through the county's permitting and inspections process, that will drive down the cost of the unit under construction. The county doesn't have enough money to build 30,000+ units of affordable housing that are needed. But it can make it more affordable to build units. Additionally, the county explore options to protect Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing, and to encourage landlords to make it easier for tenants to obtain housing--such as not letting prior evictions be an eliminating factor on an application.

The fastest and best way to put a roof over someone's head is via a good paying job. When I previously served as a Commissioner, I voted for thousands of jobs being brought to Mecklenburg, the expansion of the Economic Development department, helped stand up the micro-loan for small businesses program, and worked tirelessly to bring as many opportunities as I could to the people of Mecklenburg County. I hope to be able to do so again.

The Carolina Panthers owner is talking about a new stadium. Should county money be used to build that? Why or why not?
No, it should not. Study after study by economists have shown that public investment in sports assets are a losing proposition for taxpayers. I successfully fought against the $150M+ Memorial Stadium/Major League Soccer 'deal', and I would fight against this one, too.

District 6

Joel Levy - Mecklenburg County Commissioner
Joel Levy

JOEL LEVY (R)
What is your top priority as a Mecklenburg County commissioner?
Sadly, COVID-19 will have a severe long-term impact on local residents and we will see a surge in homelessness, bankruptcies, suicides, and mental health disorders.

My top priorities as County Commissioner are rebuilding Mecklenburg County post COVID-19, funding our overcrowded schools, and preparing for the upcoming property revaluation.

I have been endorsed by many prominent local public officials, including the local school board representative, over my incumbent opponent because she has been largely silent on CMS education funding. I will fight for our children.

What would you do to help Mecklenburg County residents and businesses rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic?
The key to the recovery is to reopen our businesses while protecting the vulnerable. North Carolina was one of the last States to move into Phase 3 and the prolonged shutdown has caused a severe economic hardship to our community. I support a smart, targeted and apolitical reopening of our community so our businesses have a fighting chance at survival.

For individuals, it’s deeply important that we not raise taxes on our struggling families. The County has raised property taxes 2 of the last 3 years and also attempted to raise the sales tax. Unlike me, my opponent was a supporter of those tax initiatives. In all likelihood, there will be a tax increase discussed in the next budget. I would not support that increase.

This election cycle will also shape the policy for the next property tax revaluation. As an attorney and money manager, I will fight to have your home valued correctly and will not view it as an opportunity to increase tax revenue as my opponent did in the last cycle.

What would you do to make sure that as Mecklenburg County prospers there is enough affordable housing as well as economic opportunity for everyone?
The first step in creating affordable housing is to stop the tax increases that cause rents to rise and push families out of our community. When my opponent votes for tax increases, she is raising the cost of housing in the community. The tax increases disproportionately affect poor, elderly and minority populations.

I grew up on social services and am the first in my family to go to college. I have experienced being forced from my home by growing taxes and landlords who raise rents. The City of Charlotte has presented a $50 million dollar bond to address the issue of affordable housing, but this is a temporary fix.

The best way to fundamentally fix the affordable housing crisis is to build a strong CMS and CPCC system that prepares students for jobs that pay sufficient income levels to sustain themselves without governmental support.

Finally, the County Commission should entice economic development opportunities for all levels of education and trades so that all members of the community can get high quality jobs.

The Carolina Panthers owner is talking about a new stadium. Should county money be used to build that? Why or why not?
I believe that I have a duty to listen to the proposal before making a final conclusion. However, in the current economic climate, it would be very difficult to justify allocating general fund money to build a new football stadium.

The owner of the Panthers is a billionaire with substantial personal resources. Philosophically, if given the choice to fix our overcrowded schools or build a new football stadium with general fund taxpayer dollars, I would choose to address education.

If the funding were to come via tourism funds, which carry spending restrictions set by the State, additional analysis and discussion would be warranted.

Susan Rodriguez-McDowell
Susan Rodriguez-McDowell

SUSAN RODRIGUEZ-MCDOWELL (D)
What is your top priority as a Mecklenburg County commissioner?
For me, being a commissioner is a full time job. I serve on many different committees including Health & Human Services (so think Public Health & Social Services); Economic Development (so think workforce development, large and small business investments); Environmental Stewardship (meaning everything from storm water to air quality and carbon neutrality); Domestic Violence Advisory Board; Child Fatality and Abuse Prevention; so it is hard for me to pick just one top priority. I have goals and priorities in each area and they all center around how I can help real people. Making progress within each area is important to me. Listening for the community voice and responding with action items and policy updates that can make a difference while watching out for unintended consequences. It is a full time, rewarding job and I love it.

What would you do to help Mecklenburg County residents and businesses rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic?
One thing that I am very proud of is our COVID-19 Recovery & Renewal Task Force. This group is evaluating all of the different ways our community is impacted by the pandemic and coming up with ideas on how to address. Everything from public health, mental and emotional health, housing, homelessness, education, racial disparities, employment, the arts and non profits - all of these areas have differing needs that are impacted by the pandemic. We want to make sure our approach is holistic and that we respond in a sustainable way that doesn't exacerbate our current disparities.

What would you do to make sure that as Mecklenburg County prospers there is enough affordable housing as well as economic opportunity for everyone?
There must be multi pronged approaches to these issues. We must partner with other governmental bodies and focus on increasing wages, supporting entrepreneurs, job training and workforce development opportunities. We must always maximize affordable housing on building opportunities that involve county land, but we must preserve naturally occurring affordable housing if we are going to make real progress in this area. This will include slowing down gentrification and keeping an eye on property tax staying low.

The Carolina Panthers owner is talking about a new stadium. Should county money be used to build that? Why or why not?
No, I do not support county funds being used for a stadium. In my view, this opportunity falls under the city and their hospitality funds.