At-large county commission candidates prepare for Election Day

With early voting in full swing and Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6, the seven at-large candidates for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners are making their final push for votes.

This election will change the look of a board that makes decisions on everything from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools funding to the property tax revaluation. The three current at-large candidates all opted not to run for re-election, with Harold Cogdell Jr. preparing to leave the board and Jennifer Roberts and Jim Pendergraph deciding to run for higher office. The board also will see a new commissioner in the SouthPark-area district, formerly represented by the late Neil Cooksey, and incumbent commissioner Bill James faces a challenge from Democrat Connie Green-Johnson in the south Mecklenburg district.

We asked the candidates to share some of their thoughts on local issues. Here’s what they said, listed by party and in alphabetical order according to last name. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. Residents will vote for three at-large commissioners.

Democrats

Pat Cotham
Age: 62
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish from the University of Missouri-Columbia
Occupation: Works for a nonprofit which helps people who have been in prison find jobs
Website: www.patcotham.com
Reach out: Call Cotham at 704-506-3056 or email patcotham@gmail.com.
What are the top three most important issues in your community and how would you address them if you’re elected?
Jobs, education and quality of life. We have universities here, retired people with great business knowledge and we need big ideas. If a company wants to move here, why not ask them if they can bring a small supplier with them as well?
I would ask Central Piedmont Community College to have more job training for trades like Licensed Practical Nurses, nursing assistants, hair dressers, industrial trades, ServeSafe Certification for restaurants – that would help our people find work. Communication needs to improve about the services the county offers – they offer free certifications for businesses and help in being a vendor for the county, (but) who knows that?
Under what circumstances would you support raising property taxes and/or other fees?
Only two of the candidates attended multiple meetings for the revaluation when citizens complained. I listened to 17 hours of it at four meetings. I think it is more than just taxes-people wanted answers and did not receive them – they felt slighted and they were! They just wanted to know why there was an increase.
The county was not transparent and now all these people mistrust government so we have some bridges to repair with them. Unless I have something in front of me, I cannot say one way or the other. But I can say we need to “meet people where they are” with information.
Senior citizens need a trained person to talk on the phone, younger people need the internet. We can do much better.

Trevor Fuller
Age: 45
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English literature from New York’s Hamilton College; law degree from Georgetown University
Occupation: Attorney
Website: www.votetrevorfuller.com
Reach out: Call Fuller at 704-724-5831 or email info@votetrevorfuller.com
What are the top three most important issues in your community and how would you address them if you’re elected?
First, we need to invest in education through technical and vocational training in the sciences, technology, engineering and math.
Second, we need to focus on job creation, by linking tax incentives to the creation of jobs for people already in Mecklenburg County.
Third, we need to invest in the efficient and effective delivery of social services, particularly by fixing our broken mental health system.
Under what circumstances would you support raising property taxes and/or other fees?
Raising taxes should only be considered as an absolute last resort after all other options have failed to meet the needs of the community.

Kim Ratliff
Age: 44
Education: No answer given
Occupation: Motivational speaker/recruiter
Website: www.kimformeckcounty.com
Reach out: Email the campaign at nc_esteban@yahoo.com
What are the top three most important issues in your community and how would you address them if you’re elected?
Education, jobs and taxes. I will work to increase funding to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Central Piedmont Community College, work with other government sectors to bring jobs to the area and I would work hard to keep taxes affordable for taxpayers.
Under what circumstances would you support raising property taxes and/or other fees? No answer given.

Libertarian

Jason Bateman
Age: 36
Education: Bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; master’s in business administration at Vanderbilt University
Occupation: Banker
Website: www.electjasonbateman.com
Reach out: Call Bateman at 980-254-7767 or email jasonb@electjasonbateman.com
What are the top three most important issues in your community and how would you address them if you’re elected?
The most important topic facing our county today is the economy. We need to make Mecklenburg a place that businesses and taxpayers choose to move to, not from. I believe we can actually lower taxes and increase revenues because no longer will we have taxpayers fleeing to surrounding counties.
The second issue I would like to focus on would be education. I believe we should investigate a school voucher system where each child would receive a voucher for $7,500, which is roughly equivalent to what the county spends (per student) on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools now. The parents of each child would be able to “spend” that voucher at any school they chose. The second half of this plan would be to allow principals to own the curriculum and essentially turn every school in the county into a magnet school.
Finally, I believe we should consider privatizing county services such as park (and recreation) and waste management. Allowing private companies to serve these functions would allow our government to focus on governing.
Under what circumstances would you support raising property taxes and/or other fees? None.

Republicans

Michael Hobbs
Age: 55
Education: Graduate of John T. Hoggard High School in Wilmington
Occupation: Area manager for Blaser Swisslube, Inc.
Website: www.electmichaelhobbs.com
Reach out: Call Hobbs at 704-299-1321 or email michael@electmichaelhobbs.com
What are the top three most important issues in your community and how would you address them if you’re elected?
1. Save our children – the recent (Department of Social Services) debacle has put the lives of our kids at risk. This is what happens when county bureaucracy and the Democrat “good old boy network” throws money at a problem without the proper oversight. This is a top priority for me as I once depended on these services. There will be a change in oversight if I’m elected.
2. Job creation by reducing pressure on small businesses.
3. Lowering taxes by making government more efficient and effective. I support an independent audit of every agency or group that receives taxpayer money to root out waste and abuse.
Under what circumstances would you support raising property taxes and/or other fees?
We are already the highest taxed county in the state. I am convinced that we can prevent raising taxes by eliminating waste and abuse.

James Peterson
Age: 40
Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science  at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; master’s in business administration from Queens University in Charlotte
Occupation: Works in the financial services industry
Website: www.ElectJamesPeterson.com
Reach out: Call Peterson at 704-453-8121 or email electjamesfpeterson@carolina.rr.com
What are the top three most important issues in your community and how would you address them if you’re elected?
My number one issue is jobs.  Mecklenburg County has an unemployment rate of approximately 10 percent.  That number jumps to approximately 20 percent for minorities.  We have many examples of businesses moving across our county and state lines for nothing more than lower taxes.  Jobs and the lack of jobs impact us at all levels of our lives from foreclosure rates to
stressed social support systems. I will work to bring companies back to our county.
Communication and accountability are the next two issues that need to be addressed.  From Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools budgeting to (the Department of Social Services) to the recent property revaluations, we have a clear need of accountability and responsibility that needs to be implemented back into our county commission. I will work to ensure each of these areas have regular meetings and direct reporting to commissioners.  We can no longer afford leadership that is not held responsible for the management of our community and your tax dollars.
Under what circumstances would you support raising property taxes and/or other fees?
I will not raise taxes and will do what I can to reduce the burden of taxes on our businesses and families.

Wayne Powers
Age: 62
Education: Bachelor’s degree in American history and political science
Occupation: Owner of TEA ReX, a tea company in Charlotte; career in entertainment spans television, radio, nightclubs and music, including network television for almost 20 years, jazz vocalist/recording artist; special programming host on News Talk 1110 WBT radio
Website: www.electwaynepowers.com
Reach out: Email Powers at wayne@waynepowers.com
What are the top three most important issues in your community and how would you address them if you’re elected?
We need to restore the confidence of our citizens in their county government. That requires a thorough audit of (the Department of Social Services) and an investigation to find out precisely who decided to keep a $75,000 highly
critical report on child protective services a secret from the public and our elected representatives for more than a year.
We also need to fix the broken property revaluation process going forward and refund or credit those who have been abused by the most recent severely flawed and patently unfair revaluation.
Finally, we need to change the long-time culture of secret deals and closed-door meetings. The
people’s business should be conducted in the people’s presence whenever possible.

Under what circumstances would you support raising property taxes and/or other fees?
Absolutely none. We need to reduce property taxes for our residents and businesses. Creating a more desirable business climate in Mecklenburg County will increase our tax base and help create jobs for our people.

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