Ann House Akland | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Ann House Akland

Candidate for State Senate


Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Ann House Akland
Party: Democrat
Date of Birth: 01/20/1949
Candidate web site:
Occupation & Employer: Executive Coach and Consultant Services; Retired Fed. Employee; co-owner two small businesses
Years lived in North Carolina: 59

1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina?

The first major issue is the economic melt down. If this continues for a long period of time, it will result in added suffering for our families, communities, and people with disabilities. The basic requirements for food, shelter, health services, etc. will be hard to get for many of the economically disadvantaged. As the economy worsens, the number of those in need will increase putting added pressure on public services. The overall community standard of living will experience a negative decline. This could become a very difficult chapter in our history.

The second issue will be the impact of global warming on the environment. For the purpose of this questionnaire, I will include the impact of draught on the health of our communities (which may arguably be a result of global warming). Some cities may already be making choices about how to address the water shortage to address their needs. But the overall water resources available to the state must be considered a higher priority. We must be able to match the growing demand for water, with the possibility of an ever decreasing supply. Considerations for the demand for energy must also be considered within this debate. The state must take a responsible position as to how to build energy sources without increasing the carbon dioxide burden. And within this context, controlled population growth is needed to properly protect and utilize our natural resources.

Restoring confidence in our legislative and executive leaders is my third issue. In order to address the first two major issues facing North Carolina, as well as others, we must restore public trust in North Carolina politics and politicians. We do not want to read about our political leaders conducting unethical business in bathrooms or executive leaders unwilling to answer questions or talk openly with the public about public business. We need energetic government leaders who are responsible to the people who elect them. The important issues facing North Carolina will not be solvable without the public's confidence that the political system is fair and that elected officials will to listen to all the people, not just those who buy influence.

If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

We must restore public trust in North Carolina politics and politicians. As the state senator of District 14, I will bring leadership to the Senate to fix the broken service system for people with disabilities. Over $400M of the people's money devoted to helping disabled people has been wasted because of lack of leadership and oversight by the Legislature which includes my opponent who sits on the oversight committee responsible for taking action. Meanwhile political and special interest groups are buying influence from the very people we chose to represent our individual interests and concerns. I want to be different. I want to represent my district and not the special interest groups. Accordingly I will not accept PAC money for my campaign. My responsibility is to the citizens of this state, and not special interests. I will also support legislation for ethics reform and campaign finance reform. To gain and maintain public trust, all public business should be fully transparent to the public. We cannot be leaders if we hide from the public.

I want to be recognized as an energetic champion for our families, communities, and people with disabilities. I will advocate for programs and sponsor legislation to provide an economic safety net for those most affected, including pushing for universal health care and improved services for people with mental illness.

I want to apply my work ethic, training, skills and experience toward making NC a "green state." The planet is faced with severe environmental stressors that have upset the delicate balance to our ecosystems. I would welcome the opportunity to apply a systems approach to addressing the complex interactions among environmental resources, population and economic growth, energy supply and demand, and the overall impacts these will have on our contribution to global climate change. Can NC be a leader in the country in leading the way to solving these complex issues. I believe we can be a leader and it is our moral responsibility to do so.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

My experience has been as a passionate advocate for disadvantaged people, especially the mentally ill. In 2002, I retired to give back to the community by helping to put a family and consumer face on the need for mental health services and to advocate for improved services. I also led community efforts to keep a state psychiatric hospital in Raleigh and to try to convince our community hospitals to manage a local crisis hospital in partnership with Wake County. I believe my record demonstrates that I am very effective in working with our state and local officials and in getting community leaders involved. For example, I was one of a few people/organizations highlighted in Tony Gurley's, (Chair of the Wake County Commissioners) State of the County address as being influential in getting the County to address the shortage of psychiatric beds. My record also demonstrates that I am able to evaluate and take a stand on issues even when the position may not be popular. For example, I led a small Wake County group in pointing out the fallacy of the mental health reform plan when other organizations stood by and waited for the sky to fall.

And I have demonstrated that I can do more than just talk about an issue. I realized Wake County needed more community services to address the needs for the mentally ill once mental health reform began to impact their lives. So, as a volunteer with a small group of parent from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, I founded a psychosocial rehabilitation facility for people with severe mental illness in Knightdale. During this process, I got the Raleigh City Council to change the Raleigh zoning code to allow psychosocial programs. Prior to this, Raleigh did not allow day programs for people with mental illness to be located in the City.

My business management training and 32 years experience with the Federal Government (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) have given me skills that can be applied to complex systems analysis and solutions. I have provided leadership of multidisciplinary teams of scientists who have been addressing various environmental aspects related to global climate change and predicting potential risks to the ecosystems. This experience should be an asset to the legislative committees who will be addressing future needs for North Carolina in relationship to its resources and the environment.

In addition to what I have in my platform with regards to ethics and campaign finance reform, to become a member of the Senior Executive Service of the Federal Government, I had a thorough FBI background check. And I have been subject to stringent ethics rules as a federal executive. Many of the changes with regards to ethics I would support are already in place for the federal government workers. Emphasis of the reform would also be on the appearance of conflict or influence. This aspect is extremely important to the public if they are expected to trust their representatives as well as state government leaders.

3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am a Democrat and I believe strongly in bipartisan politics. I have a passion for helping people and doing what I can to improve the quality of life for all. My past achievements are a clear indication of this passion, and it is a vibrating, unifying message in all my campaign goals.

4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.

As the State Senator, I will: Take action to bring the American Dream to everyone in the District and the State. I will

  • Use tax dollars wisely and provide oversight to protect against waste and abuse.

  • Sponsor legislation to provide affordable insurance and health care for everyone and quality care for people with disabilities.

  • Support our law enforcement agencies as they fight gangs and drugs. I will focus on prevention programs that work.

  • Work for competitive wages and benefits to recruit and retain the best and the brightest people to keep our schools and state and local government agencies operating efficiently.

  • Increase availability of well constructed, affordable housing.

5. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

In addition to my positions identified in response to questions 7-10 below, my passion for helping those in our communities who are disabled and disadvantaged, especially the mentally ill and addicts, will undoubtedly be considered a political liability. Nevertheless, it is time for our community to recognize that 1 in 17 people in our county have a severe and persistent mental illness like schizophrenia and that chronic mental illness is the biggest cause of disability for adults between the ages of 18 and 44. Yes, it is a bigger disabler than heart disease and cancer. So, why aren’t we doing more to help when these brain diseases are so widespread? Why are we still denying that we or our family members suffer from mental illness rather than seeking treatment that will help? Why are hospitals across this state closing psychiatric inpatient units when their emergency rooms are overflowing with people in need with no place to go? You bet, if I am elected, I will continue to raise these unpopular issues until we find solutions.

6. If these issues haven’t been addressed above, would you please comment on:

a. Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?

Our goal is to ensure that everyone In NC is able to have a basic standard of living. This means that the public should support programs that will a living wage, affordable housing, and health care for those in need. In addition, our tax laws should be changed to provide an earned income tax credit for low-wage workers.

b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?

It is increasingly clear that within the larger metropolitan areas of the State, a greater dependency on public transportation programs for all will become more of a necessity. The state must end its political pork-barrel allocation process for transportation funding and put the dollars where the traffic needs exist. Within the Triangle and other metropolitan areas of the state, I support a mass transit system. In addition, public transportation must be made available for more residents with better connections and locations for ease of use. Anti-sprawl land-use planning must be integrated into transportation expenditure decision-making . Beyond that, the State must invest in infrastructure Improvements to the roads and bridges. I would also support incentives to encourage reduced dependency on gasoline, such as hybrid cars, electric cars, etc.

Problems at the North Carolina Department of Transportation must be addressed before its budget is increased. As a pre-condition of receiving any budget increase, the DOT must demonstrate-over a sustained period and verified by third party audit-that it has changed its internal structure, decision-making processes and project management such that it has become an efficient and accountable organization that is responsive to community needs.

c. Overcrowded prisons: Should we be moving toward more alternative-sentencing programs instead of prison time?

There are a number of alternatives that have been shown to be effective that will result in reduced numbers of those who would otherwise be incarcerated. First, I support jail diversion programs. For example, I helped to establish the first Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program in NC. This is a jail diversion program for those who suffer from mental illness, first started In 1988 In Memphis Tennessee. The program consists of providing skills for police officers and sheriff deputies so that when they encounter a person with mental illness they can utilize their training to assess the situation and bring the person to a facility where he/she could be provided treatment rather than incarceration. Not only does this save jail space, it also saves on the judicial costs of litigation and sentencing. Since its inception in Wake County, hundreds of individuals have been treated rather than be taken to jail.

Second, we are faced with a family and community crisis of major proportions when 1 in 9 African American men are in jail. We must seek solutions to this problem by addressing the underlying social issues that lead to this problem. This will involve community-based programs that provide alternatives, especially for our youth.

Third, we should be looking at alternative-sentencing programs. Perhaps this will require a tiered approach based upon types of crimes committed. For example, drug related crimes may have a different path for behavior modification, than that for a sex offender, or a crime committed with a gun.

And finally, I think we need better community re-entry programs. We need to be thinking about getting training and skills, housing, healthy peer relationships, etc. for those who have served their time so that they will not find themselves back in front of the judge who must make the determination of how to address the most recent law violation.

d. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?

I believe in universal health care for all. Our present health care system of managed care provides coverage only for those who can afford it, or others who are covered by existing public programs such as Medicaid and S-CHIP (for children). For many, choices are being made about whether to go to a doctor or feed the children. Others have been faced with a medical tragedy that has resulted in foreclosures of their homes and/or bankruptcy. Why should we have a public policy that makes health care affordable only for the rich? I would support a national program of health care for all, such as is being offered by the two Democratic candidates for president. Short of this happening, I would support a bill that follows examples of other states, such as Massachusetts.

e. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?

In 2007, several bills were passed and signed into law by the Governor, that indicate some of the steps that can be taken by the state to address the foreclosure issue. The first was a bill to make it easier for borrowers to sue for illegal lending practices (HB 1374). It is designed to "protect home owners from abusive mortgage loan servicing companies that misapply mortgage payments, charge Illegal fees, and mishandle escrow accounts on home loans." The second bill (HB1817) limits broker fees. Prior to the law, broker fees were tied to the type of loan offered the client, such as the adjustable rate mortgage loans. It also requires the lenders to determine that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan.

These actions suggest that the state has already begun to address the foreclosure issue and will likely continue to weigh alternatives for legislative action that may be available to reduce those homeowners who might experience foreclosure In the near future. I hope that by the start of the 2009 legislative session, this problem has been addressed to the extent possible, and the attention will focus on addressing the need for affordable housing, including increased support for the NC Housing Trust Fund.

f. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it’s a mess. Now what?

First, we must all resist the urge to make a lot of system-wide changes quickly without careful evaluation and testing.

Leadership, management, and staffing issues at the North Carolina Division of Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services must be addressed. Otherwise, the system will continue to spiral downward with continued inappropriate policies and decisions being forced upon providers and local managing entities. As a pre-condition of receiving any budget increase, the Division must demonstrate-over a sustained period and verified by third party audit-that it has appropriately qualified staff at all levels and that it has changed its internal structure, decision-making processes and project management such that it has become an efficient and accountable organization that is responsive to community needs

What we should do quickly is re-establish a basic level of public sector crisis services at the local level to insure that people are kept safe. We should also re-evaluate the number of state hospital beds needed in the face of the failure of mental health reform and population growth and take steps quickly to ensure adequate beds and staffing.

We should also explore state-wide solutions to ensure an adequate number of psychiatric beds in our local general hospitals. We must learn from the mistakes of the implementation of the 2001 Mental Health Reform Act, change the legislation where needed, and appropriate adequate funds to take care of people with mental illness, addiction disorders and developmental disabilities in the community.

Finally, the state should set a goal of being a leader in providing treatment and services for their mentally ill citizens. Out of this crisis will be opportunities to develop new programs that would demonstrate our overall commitment of health care for all its citizens. We have world class medical research in neurosciences and together with outstanding behavioral research we can make this all happen.

g. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? What direction should the state be taking on the revenue side?

The needs for the tax money are great, and efforts will be required to restrain the spending so that taxes do not have to increase. Based on many examples of poor execution and lack of oversight by the present administration, the first step is to make better choices with how the money should be spent and how the agency is held accountable to the taxpayers. For example, it has been recently documented (by the News and Observer) that well over $400 million has been misspent in the implementation of community support for the mentally ill. The needed care was not delivered to those in highest need. If the agency charged with the implementation of a program fails to provide financial oversight, then the administration must be called to account for this.

The state should be taking steps to encourage economic development within the state. If we can provide good quality, higher paying jobs, then it will result in added revenue for the state. Educational programs aimed at improving skills for the economically disadvantaged citizens through the 58 community colleges across the state would be one way to develop the state's work force to encourage economic development.

I seem to recall that the state legislature in the recent past voted to reduce the highest tax rates on the richest citizens. Without knowing all the details that went into that decision, on the surface it seems that such action would reduce revenue and give the appearance that we only cared for the richest people in our state. The needs of the state for revenue sources appear to outweigh any positive aspects this bill would have on the public.

7. What is your position on capital punishment in North Carolina?

I am against it.

8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.

I am against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by public or private entities. Sexual orientation and identity, along with other "Identifiers", including race, religion, and age, should not be factors for discrimination.

9.Do you support women’s reproductive rights, including the “right to choose” as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade?


Given that North Carolina has the ninth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, do you support medically accurate sex education that includes information about birth control?

YES I support a bill that would require public school systems to offer a comprehensive curriculum which includes abstinence, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy.

10. Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?

I support the right for employees to collectively bargain for pay and benefits. However I do not think it is right for public employees to strike, as it is not in the public interest for North Carolina. I understand that at present In NC, it is illegal for public employees to collectively bargain, and this should be changed. Public employee associations and labor unions have stood up for the workers in the United States. Through their efforts, fair treatment, work conditions, and equitable pay have been realized for the employees, and not just for a select few.

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