Channel 9 General Election Guide: Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioner candidates

CHARLOTTE — Ahead of the general election on Nov. 8, Channel 9 is asking candidates in several local races why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if elected. We sent all candidates contending to represent Mecklenburg County on the Board of County Commissioners five questions and asked them to respond in about 100 words.

READ MORE coverage from The Political Beat HERE

  • What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County?
  • How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic?
  • Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced?
  • Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral?
  • What separates you from your opponent?

Nine seats on the county’s governing body are up for grabs, with eight incumbent Democrats vying for another two-year term in office. Five of the six district races are contested, and four candidates are fighting for three positions in the at-large race.

Not sure of your district? Search Mecklenburg County district maps HERE

Below are the complete, unedited responses of each candidate who chose to participate.

District 1

Ross Monks (R)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? Accountability of county government to the people of Mecklenburg County, especially to those of District 1. Our schools are failing, our Sheriff’s department is understaffed and underappreciated, we face a 48% increase in residential property valuation, and our children’s and veteran’s mental health is not being adequately addressed. So far in this campaign, we have knocked on over 6,000 doors in District 1 and one common theme we have heard is that the people of our District believe they are forgotten and ignored. I will change that.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? While acknowledging that the pandemic presented a truly historic challenge, we must also acknowledge that it is the most important role of our government leaders to lean into challenges such as this and make the correct decisions, despite the environment of chaos and uncertainty. Our county’s response resulted in catastrophic learning loss, mental health issues, destruction of businesses and livelihoods, trampling on the right of free exercise of religion, usurpation of the doctor-patient relationship and animosity between neighbors. We must ensure we never repeat these mistakes . . . no more lockdowns, no more mandates.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? The County Commission did not go far enough. I will advocate for more consistent process rigor in the County Commission’s mission to drive accountability from the CMS Board to the students, parents, teachers, support staff, administration, and taxpayers of Mecklenburg County. We should require a strategic planning and management system, such as The Balanced Scorecard (which, I believe, the County Commission has employed in previous years), to drive the CMS Board to align the focus of every employee in CMS with established criteria of success in student outcomes, safety, teacher retention, fiscal responsibility, and asset allocation.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? I am committed to revenue neutrality as the upper limit for tax rates. Further, I will push the County Commission to leverage the economies of scale driven by our continued growth to reduce property taxes for home and business owners in District 1.

What separates you from your opponent? I am a husband, a father of three grown children, a grandfather of four, a former US Army officer and veteran of the First Gulf War. I retired after thirty years in Fortune 100 companies in the industrial services and manufacturing sectors. What my experiences have taught me is servant leadership. To resolve challenges, a leader must go to where the work is being performed and listen to the people who are doing the work. I will bring common sense, business best practice driven, results focused servant leadership to the Mecklenburg County Commission, proudly representing the people of District 1.

Elaine Powell (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? I think the most important issue the County Commission will have to address is meeting current and future needs of County residents while experiencing explosive population growth. It will be difficult financially and will require a comprehensive plan for the present and the future. In addition, as the population increases and we approach build-out, we need to have a serious action plan to protect air quality, water quality, water supply, etc. I asked to establish an Environmental Stewardship Committee when I was elected in 2018. I received unanimous support from my colleagues and I have served as the Chair since 2019. With the participation of multiple stakeholders, we crafted an Environmental Leadership Action Plan, which received unanimous Board support in 2021. Environmental Leadership has been a top priority of the Board since then.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? I think Mecklenburg County handled it well. We know that the stability of government services was vital for our residents. It is the duty of the County to protect public health and safety. In a public health State of Emergency, the Public Health Director is the Incident Commander. We relied on public health experts who had the most up-to-date information to guide us in our decision-making. It was our duty as elected leaders to listen to the concerns of residents and to make sure that their questions and concerns were being considered and/or addressed. We worked to ensure access to healthcare for marginalized communities within the current government infrastructure and by developing outreach programs with multiple community partners.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? Yes.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? Next year we will receive the Revaluation results from our Tax Assessor. It will be easier to answer the question when all of the information is in front of me. Revenue neutral is an important consideration and one that I take seriously.

What separates you from your opponent? Lived experience and 33 years of community service with stakeholder groups in Mecklenburg County. I value and respect all community voices. My skills, core values and life experiences make me a uniquely qualified candidate. In addition to my professional work, I’ve served the community for the past 33 years. I volunteered in CMS for 25 years, starting out as a community partner at Eastway Middle School in 1989. I’ve been appointed to multiple County government councils, boards and commissions since 2001. This provided me with a strong working knowledge of local government. I care deeply about the long-term health and livability of Mecklenburg County. I have a strong interest in community health, emergency management, natural resource management/protection, parks and recreation.

District 2

Incumbent Democrat Vilma Leake is unchallenged in her bid for reelection.

District 3

Dianna Benson (R)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? The top issues facing Mecklenburg county are CMS, Property taxes, and crime.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? Mecklenburg did not handle the pandemic well at all. Especially with CMS and job.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? Yes, much more needs to be done.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? Yes, the county needs to review the property tax increase.

What separates you from your opponent? Being a servant for the people of Charlotte instead of self is what separates me from my opponent.

George Dunlap (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? Affordable housing is a top issue facing Mecklenburg County. As the county grows, we find that more and more people need housing at a lower price point. I can’t help but to think that 4 years ago, the county was not in the affordable housing space. Seeing the need and the deficit in the number of affordable units in the county, the county has stepped up in a big way. This year, Mecklenburg County will invest more than 20 million dollars to help close the affordable housing gap.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? Given what we know about the effects of the pandemic on communities across the county and how they were we so negatively impacted, I feel that Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic extremely well. I think back to what happened during the 2008 recession, when the county used a large amount of money from its reserves to keep the county afloat. Additionally, we had to riff employees, and claw back funds that had been allocated to various county departments. This time the county was much better prepared. Additionally, the board had a focus on community safety, and while some believed that the county shut down too long, I believe that those efforts kept more people alive. The federal government stepped in to help families and communities, rather than focusing solely on the business community.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? What I will say is that the County’s attempt to hold CMS accountable for the more than 700 million taxpayer dollars that the state-run school system received, got this community to start talking about the importance of educating all children in this community, In addition, CMS was forced to take a closer look at who was running the school district. They ultimately decided that they didn’t feel that they had the right person. Additionally, the system was forced to look at its priorities, which were not student focused. They also developed a plan to turn the district around and to focus on student achievement. The fact that the incumbent school board members either have opposition or they decided not to run for re-election is evident of the community’s dissatisfaction about what has happened with our educational system. Some of them may ultimately be re-elected, but it won’t be a cake walk.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? The question is premature. It is only after all the information necessary to make that decision has been gathered, that the board will make that decision. From a historical perspective, what I will tell you is that once the board has adopted a new tax rate, which could be lower or slightly higher than revenue neutral, taxes have not been raised between revaluations. Another point that I will make is that some think that the counties that border Mecklenburg County have a lower overall tax rate, when in fact, the opposite is true. In fact, Cabarrus County Residence pay on average 10 cents more, per 1000 value than Mecklenburg and when I last checked, Union and Gaston County had much higher tax rates.

What separates you from your opponent? That’s a very good question and I would like to know the answer. What I will tell you is that my opponent has not shown up at any of the forums that I have attended. She has not been seen at any community events that I have attended, nor has she shown up at any neighborhood association meetings, to my knowledge. My opponent has only responded to one candidate survey, when compared to the many that I have responded too. The one survey that she did respond to had 3 questions and you gave the same response to two of three. I have not met my opponent, but who knows. Maybe between now and October 20, when the first votes will be cast, she will show up for something.

District 4

Ray Fuentes (R)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? Revaluation Inflation. The cost of every necessity of life is increasing by levels we have not seen in 50 years. Inflation is outpacing wages. The revaluation inflation is hidden in everything we eat, drink, wear, buy, rent, or own. No one is exempt. The revaluation is forcing our older neighbors out of their homes and preventing younger families from being able to afford to buy or rent a place to live. The families and businesses in District 4 need time and stability to recover from COVID and inflation.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? Newsweek published a detailed overview on 2/7/22 of the most prominent studies on the effectiveness of mask mandates, school and business closures. The John Hopkins study found that the efficacy was 0.2% and the upper range of other studies found efficacies of less than 10%. The peer reviews of the studies are ongoing, but the initial data suggest that the mitigation efforts were not effective.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? Yes. A core duty of the County Commission is to hold every person and entity that receives money from the people of Mecklenburg County accountable for results, including CMS. No child should be trapped in a failing school. Every family with a child in a failing school should be allowed to choose the school of their choice or be offered an opportunity scholarship. CMS Administrators need to be held accountable to parents, teachers, students and to the County Commissioners.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? In December, I will vote to postponing the revaluation. The revaluation ads another painful spiral to already historic inflation. The pain people are feeling is palpable and excruciating. Our poor, disabled, elderly, minorities, and marginalized neighbors are suffering the most because they do not have the resources to absorb the cost. Some people in District 4 had their valuations increase 300-400% just 4 years ago. Even with a revenue neutral rate, half of the families and business in our county will be hit with massive increases.

What separates you from your opponent? For me, results matter more than rhetoric. Is District 4 safer, cleaner, and more affordable now? Are the gaps in income, achievement, and wealth closing? It is admirable to talk about these ideas, but we need results. Doing more of what is not working will not work. We need Six Sigma and ISO processes to drive proven, measurable solutions that solve problems. The county spends $40 million a week and the City spends $61 million a week. We deserve accountability. We deserve a safe, clean, and affordable place to live.

Mark Jerrell (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? According to the most recent community survey conducted by the County, affordable housing is the most important issue for our residents. It is clear that affordable housing poses the most significant threat to the quality of life for our most vulnerable residents. Economic factors, inequity, limited options for economic mobility, coupled with explosive growth (and other factors) have contributed to disparities between those that can afford to live in Mecklenburg County and those that cannot. Government can and should play a significant role in establishing policies and setting the conditions needed to remove barriers and level the playing field for all residents. While I am proud of the recent efforts and change in focus by the County to increase investments and expand our commitment to address the lack of affordable housing options, we must continue to work to provide additional options for our residents. I will continue to advocate for incentives for developers committed to affordable housing developments, support rental subsidies, invest in critical home repair, support neighborhood revitalization, fund eviction prevention assistance, and support opportunities for homeownership through down payment assistance programs and other means.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? The recent pandemic was one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime and highlighted existing disparities among residents. As with any crisis, there are areas where entities excel and other areas that provide analysis for opportunity. This situation was unique in that information and guidance were rapidly changing and the County attempted to communicate and educate as information was received, in addition to leveraging all resources available to keep Mecklenburg County residents safe with a specific focus on our most vulnerable. Mecklenburg County Public Health should be commended as the staff worked extremely hard, under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions and made tremendous sacrifices. They were on the front line, placing themselves (and their families) in harm’s way to save lives. The County coordinated and galvanized local resources, established partnerships, enacted effective policies, and executed decisively. In addition, the County helped to stabilize small businesses and non-profits to keep the local economy from completely collapsing. As with any organization, we should utilize an after-action assessment to improve performance and ensure readiness for future threats that may adversely impact the health and safety of our residents.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? The decision to hold funds in “restricted contingency” was the catalyst for a conversation that was needed to address the racial disparities reflected in student outcomes. We all agree that the disparities for our children of color are alarming, and the action was taken after evaluating data, receiving community feedback and careful consideration. Mecklenburg County residents invest hundreds of millions of dollars on a yearly basis toward public education and must ensure that we do everything possible to ensure our children are college and/or career ready. While the action and situation were extremely uncomfortable, we learned that it is imperative that lines of communication remain open between both entities and that we must work together to meet our goals and objectives. In addition, the county plays a significant role in providing the additional supports and wrap around services that our students and families need to thrive in our educational settings. In short, we are in it together and cannot operate through a lens that reflects an “us” vs “them” mentality. We must remain focused on working collaboratively and taking action that will keep our community stable and set the conditions required for a future where all residents can thrive.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? The County has the responsibility to adopt a tax rate that will meet the needs of our residents. We must also keep in mind factors that adversely impact our residents which can include but are not limited to current and future economic conditions. We should never tax more than needed or less than what is required to provide the critical services Mecklenburg County residents need and deserve. I will support a revenue neutral tax rate if it allows the community to meet our needs and statutory requirements.

What separates you from your opponent? I am proud of my record of service and results while serving on the BOCC. I am an entrepreneur and veteran and have leveraged my education to provide me the tools needed to be successful in the space of public service. Since being elected, I’ve acted as a consensus and bridge builder among my colleagues and have aligned my passion for people with policy achievements that have positively impacted the quality of life for Mecklenburg County residents. I am extremely proud of many achievements to include (but not limited to), the H.OME.S. Program (Helping Out Mecklenburg’s Homeowners with Economic Support), critical home repair for seniors, $50m for land acquisition – up from $6m/year, Environmental Leadership Action Plan, park equity investments, accelerated greenway projects for District 4, park improvements for District 4 residents, source of income discrimination protections, increased funding for grassroots nonprofits and immigrant communities, and a report detailing the history of systemic racism in Mecklenburg County. It is an honor to represent the residents of Mecklenburg County and they deserve a Commissioner who is responsive, present in the community, listens, addresses concerns, remains engaged and delivers results. I will continue to work with my colleagues to improve the quality of life of all residents in the county.

District 5

Laura Meier (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? The top issue facing the county would have to be affordable housing and so many other issues are intertwined with it. People need a place to live. Children cannot learn when housing unstable, mental health is strained when one is unsure where they will live, physical health is compromised.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? I would give the county an A- in its response to the pandemic. The county did the very best they could with the information they had. No one knew what was happening. New information was coming out every day, sometimes hourly. I am certain that Gibbie Harris and her team at Public Health saved lives. And when it was clear that it was appropriate to rescind the mask mandate, Dr. Raynard Washington recommended it. He and his team listened to the experts and weighed the best possible solutions. Did I agree with everything that was recommended? No, I didn’t. For example, take tennis. It was unclear at the time if the virus was contagious from surfaces. Public Health did what it thought was right. I don’t fault them. And of course hindsight is 20/20. But during the ban on tennis, I was very vocal about restoring tennis and other sports back to the people. I also didn’t want the parks to close. It was obvious to me that parks and outdoor spaces became the lifeline for our residents during the pandemic.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? No. All it did was cause strain on the already-fragile relationship between the school board and the BOCC; create low-morale among teachers and staff during the stressful time of the pandemic; and divide the BOCC, wreaking havoc among members and dividing the community for which they represented. It was eventually proven that we did not have the authority to withhold money, and the school system received more money than the county originally allocated. It was a situation from which we are still healing. I hope we are able to move forward and repair the relationships that were damaged. I do feel confident that both boards are ready to move forward and do what it takes to bring CMS to the highest standards possible for all children.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? We are continuing to see the effects of Covid on our community. We are experiencing inflation and some forecasters say a recession is imminent. It has been a rough few years. Before we put more of a burden on our residents, we should first look at utilizing some of our fund balance, which is money the people of Mecklenburg County expect us to use for the services we should be providing, such as more investments in affordable housing, education, mental health and green space. Our property values have increased but we do not know for certain to what extent across the board. To make a decision like adopting a tax rate that is revenue neutral, without knowing what we are looking at first (i.e., what will our needs be, what are the rising costs of our services, what has changed) would be irresponsible

What separates you from your opponent? My opponent is the local Tea Party founder, actively aligns himself with the divisive Moms For Liberty, and is a self-proclaimed Libertarian - proudly proclaims that he is a Rand Paul Libertarian. I am pro-choice and my opponent has stated his opposition to choice. I believe in working collaboratively with fellow members of all of the elected boards in our county while he regularly attempts to make any collaboration with the school board a bad thing. His positions tend to waver over time. I believe the government should take care of its residents, including paying for the arts, human services and parks and green spaces. Voters have two distinct candidates from which to choose.

Matthew Ridenhour (R)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? Our overall quality of life, I believe, is our top issue. This encompasses many issues, since there are a lot of factors to having a high quality of life. Affordable housing, good schools, safe streets, beautiful parks, and a thriving economy are all aspects of a high quality of life, and I think we are falling short in all of those areas. If people cannot afford to reside in Mecklenburg; if people do not feel our streets are safe; if they look around at parks and greenspaces and find them unsafe or uninviting; if they cannot afford to live here--then they begin to feel restless and anxious. Those people may simply choose to uproot and leave Mecklenburg. So, I feel we need to work holistically in all of those areas in order to improve our quality of life.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? In many ways, the county handled it well. Decisions were made with the information available at the time, and communication to the public was frequent. We were fortunate to have organizations like StarMed which provided invaluable testing and vaccination. However, the county did not excel in all areas of handling the pandemic. Primarily, the county was slow to respond to new data as it came in. For example, closing basketball courts and tennis courts, even as data revealed being outdoors in fresh air was best. Another example was the decision to close county restrooms at parks, and forcing people to use less-sanitary portajohns. There was not much questioning from Commissioners as to why some actions were being taken, and if those actions were necessary or effective. In this regard, I think the county performed poorly.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? Mecklenburg County was correct to demand answers for poor outcomes in CMS. Half of the county’s budget goes to CMS--taxpayers have a right to know what outcomes will be produced by their investment. And when those outcomes fall short, they have a right to know what steps will be taken to improve outcomes.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? In a time of record inflation, a recession, and an uncertain economic outlook? Yes, the county should adopt a revenue neutral tax rate. Full stop.

What separates you from your opponent? I’m not driven by partisan politics. I have a track record of working across the aisle to accomplish the work of the people of Mecklenburg County. I stick to my principles, do my homework, come prepared for meetings, and work with others to improve Mecklenburg County for all.

District 6

Jeremy Brasch (R)

Did not respond to Channel 9′s questions.

Susan Rodriquez-McDowell (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? Affordable housing. In Mecklenburg County, our wealth disparity paints a very different reality depending on where you fall on the income spectrum. But, most people know that the cost of housing has been increasing at warp speed. I am proud of the work that this BOCC has been doing to attack the problem and create opportunities to slow it down. We have increased affordable housing expectations in all projects that include county monies and we have also enacted an ordinance that eliminates “Source of Income Discrimination” in those projects. We have been supporting NOAH projects that keep “Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing” units available to the community. We have our “HOMES” program for low-wealth homeowners and increased rental subsidy supports for renters. We have also raised up policy ideas to the national conversation around corporate purchasing of starter homes. These are just some of the ways the BOCC has been working to help make housing more affordable.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? I am proud of the way Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic in real time, and also how we continue to handle it today. The decisions we made with the information we relied upon from health professionals were difficult but necessary. The disparities that were exposed in regards to access to testing, for example, caused us to recognize the disparate approaches and then switch gears and invent new ways to reach people. We engaged the community in our ARPA funding allocations and recovery plans which are ongoing. We have engaged our grassroots partners and utilized their expertise and reach.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? No, I did not support that decision and voted against it. In my view, the disastrous achievement gaps that we are experiencing will never be solved by withholding financial or moral support from our educators and students. Our state has failed miserably to fund our schools properly (see Leandro ruling). I acknowledge the county cannot completely make up the economic shortfall, but we can and must do better. Some will say that there is more attention on the issue now and that was the purpose of the stunt. I disagree. I believe that it has cost us a lot as a community and it will take a long time to heal.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? I will utilize my knowledge and experience from the 2019 revaluation process as I approach next year’s revaluation. Mecklenburg County’s positive growth numbers keep us in a strong position financially. The county currently has a large amount of cash reserves which is a sign of positive fiscal management. These are strong indicators that a stable property tax rate is in order for FY24 but I will reserve any further comment until I hear from the experts and the county manager’s recommendation. I am keenly focused on the financial impact to residents in this time of economic uncertainty.

What separates you from your opponent? Having served two terms already, I am well positioned to continue the work I have devoted myself to at the local, state and national level regarding education policy, mental health, environmental concerns, and the arts. For me, being a commissioner is a full time job. I spend a lot of time on District 6 constituent concerns in addition to my work on multiple committees. Lastly, having the endorsements and support of all three of the District 6 mayors sets me apart from my opponent. We are working together to address the needs of our shared constituents and I am proud to have their confidence and respect.

At-large candidates

Leigh Altman (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? Increasing household incomes and reducing poverty so that all residents can access affordable housing, health care, transportation, and a better quality of life.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? Mecklenburg was committed to a science-based response to the pandemic from the beginning. We followed the CDC when it came to shut down orders and masking orders. We held press briefings to update the public as much as once a week during the height of the pandemic. COVID-19 was a new and deadly virus whose properties were unclear at its inception. Though we would do some things differently with the benefit of hindsight, the County’s pandemic response was nimble and professional and deserves high marks.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? One of the duties of a commissioner is to be a careful steward of $2 billion that comprises the County’s annual budget, nearly half of which goes to education and literacy. It was correct to urge CMS to come up with a meaningful plan to address catastrophic education deficiencies: the School Board Chair acknowledged that plans were fuzzy to remedy this crisis, and Board members acknowledged spending a mere 0-5% of their time monitoring student outcomes. This was precisely the concern that motivated the County’s efforts to encourage the School Board to improve attention and accountability for student outcomes.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? I cannot prejudge the process and will have to hear the recommendations from the Manager’s Office and the Tax Assessor. However, many families are struggling, and we want to do everything we can to reduce the impact of taxes. On the other hand, we fund core services like public education, public health, clean air and water, park and recreation, the library system, criminal justice services, the Board of Elections, MEDIC, and the Department of Social Services. Our residents heavily depend on many county functions, and we have an obligation to ensure those services can continue.

What separates you from your opponent?

I bring a 17-year career as a public-interest lawyer fighting for kids and families and getting results. I advocated for victims of discrimination and fraud, for adults with disabilities and seniors, and for at-risk children. The Board of County Commissioners oversees a $2 billion budget devoted to human services. My commitments over my professional career as an attorney, and my record of achievement for people who needed help make me a strong voice for positive change, accountability, and transparency on the BOCC.

Pat Cotham (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? The data clearly show that residents feel affordable housing is the number one concern in Mecklenburg County. In the last four to six years, residents have felt the stress of not being able to find adequate housing. I was shocked in 2016 when senior citizens asked me to visit their neighborhood and I saw rats everywhere. One woman had killed 33 rats in her apartment. The seniors were afraid to complain because they felt they would be told to leave and there was no place to go. Affordable Housing affects a broad base of residents.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? I publicly said I rated performance a “B+.” Communication at the beginning was confusing because we failed to inform the residents about Emergency Management and their responsibility. Residents thought the BOCC was making the decisions, and we were not-especially in the beginning. The Manager and her staff worked many hours on behalf of the people. When residents in certain zip codes were struggling, we hired non-profits to go door-to-door to help them. The Manager kept us informed and the Health Department led the way with vaccines. The Manager did well with coordinating plans with Partners.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? Definitely. We had been patiently waiting for a plan for five years and we had to be bold! Our decision did alert the media and the community that 42 schools were failing our children. It was a successful tactic, and your question is proof. We do not give $560M to CMS at one time. It is dispersed over the year with both CFO’s involvement. “Holding funding” was more of a tactic! I don’t thing CMS suffered, but, they did start to talk about how they would help the …now 50 failing schools, where children are NOT reading.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? We are living in difficult times. People are suffering and they are worried about their future and the futures of their children and grandchildren. Violence has increased and homicide numbers are terrible. Mental health needs are more prominent, and most people are concerned about finances. We all see the higher prices for housing, and we must address it with lowering the tax rate. We need a balance of enough funding to carry out services needed by the community. I am confident our Manager can lead us to a balanced but lower tax rate.

What separates you from your opponent? I have 10 years of experience and I am proud to have the trust of the people whose goals I adopt. That is why I was so involved with the toll lanes on I-77, ‘Ban the Box” on job applications, more personal time-off for family changes. I always support the LGBTQ community. Psychiatrists tell me that I know more about mental health than other elected officials. I am with people in difficult times like eviction court, funerals for their sons and marches and court for domestic violence victims. I always talk to the media….even if I don’t want to! LOL

Arthur Griffin Jr. (D)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? Upward Mobility. Our greatest untapped resource is human capital trapped in poor neighborhoods that potentially represent trillions of dollars in net productivity. It is imperative that the leaders within Mecklenburg County identify and execute a collaborative strategy to improve the educational, economic, and environmental outcomes that lifts the quality of life for all our citizens.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? Mecklenburg County Public Health handled the COVID-19 pandemic consistent with the science as it evolved and publicly communicated. However, the pandemic exposed the inadequacy and significant disparities of the healthcare systems. The negative impact on the poor was far more severe than other populations.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? Given the facts that CMS’s key student performance indicators were trending downward and the operating costs to taxpayers (2013 - $337M to 2023 - $557M) were trending upward, the County made the right decision in seeking clarification from CMS about improving student outcomes for all students. Prior to the County’s decision, members of the School Board admitted on video to spending less than 5% of their governance time on student achievement. I am fully committed to funding CMS schools to the extent we can afford in pursuit of academic excellence for all students.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? Although I am not inclined to raise taxes, my approach to the upcoming revaluation would include, but not limited to addressing the county’s priorities, equity to property owners and limiting the regressive impact on seniors. Property taxes generate revenue for the county to do things like supporting preK-14 educational opportunities, parks, detention and courts, health and environmental protections and other county services.

What separates you from your opponent? I do not have opponents in this race. What I do have to offer is my demonstrated character, capacity, courage and lived experiences to make upward mobility a reality rather than a political slogan.

Tatyana Thulien (R)

What is the top issue facing Mecklenburg County? American families are undergoing the highest and most painful inflation in 50 years, which affects all the aspects of their lives - food, gas, housing affordability, education, and quality of life overall. On top of that. Mecklenburg county constituents will suffer tremendously from the most recent revaluation, which already pushes property median prices up 48%, and will, accordingly, bring property taxes up. Thus, the tax rate needs to be held at least at the revenue neutral, preferably, even lowered, so county working families receive a much needed break in the form of the monetary refund.

How do you feel Mecklenburg County handled the pandemic? The goal was always to be safe. However, the Mecklenburg County exceeded what other North Carolina counties were doing with the same effectiveness in the end. Thousands of small businesses were forced to cease their activity for much longer than common sense would have suggested. CMS students and parents did not have to go through such a hard time. Both will feel the repercussions for many years to come.

Did Mecklenburg County make the correct decision to hold funding from CMS until a student outcome plan was produced? Yes, if the County would have followed through requiring CMS to produce the actual working student outcome plan instead of just bluffing.

Following reevaluation, should the county adopt a tax rate that is revenue neutral? At a minimum revenue neutral. But even better would be to lower a tax rate to help working families survive during a recession.

What separates you from your opponent? Firstly, I am the only conservative on the ballot. Secondly, I want to give taxpayers their money back versus spending more on programs that are proven not to work. And finally, my goal is to represent all of Mecklenburg County, not just the city of Charlotte.

Vote 2022 Stories

Channel 9 General Election Guide: CMS School Board candidates

Channel 9 General Election Guide: North Carolina state House candidates

Channel 9 General Election Guide: North Carolina state Senate candidates

Channel 9 General Election Guide: Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioner candidates

(WATCH BELOW: Election turnout lags in Charlotte’s rare summertime vote)