Bob Atwater | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Bob Atwater

Candidate for N.C. Senate, District 18


Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Bob Atwater

Party: Democratic

Date of Birth: February 28, 1945

Campaign Web Site:

Occupation & Employer: Retired, State of NC

Years lived in North Carolina: All my life, excluding USAF service

1) What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

The Economy - protection of home owners about to experience legal foreclosure as well as assisting citizens who have been subjected to abusive practices by the sub prime mortgage entities. Refining and improving our economic incentives package to accelerate the attraction and retention of jobs throughout our economy. Additionally, the General Assembly should promote and incent small business due to its proven potential to create new jobs faster than most other business opportunities. Clearly, we need jobs now and small business is the proven accelerator of new jobs! Finally and also in part a function of the economy, strong effort will be given to enable access to affordable health care for all of our citizens.

Public Education --Provide strong effort to attract and retain highly qualified classroom teachers as the highly qualified teacher is the single most effective determinant to successful learning for our children. Increased compensation is a critical component to this attraction and retention effort. Provide strong support to the most successful models of drop-out reduction programs throughout the state. Support the reduction of selected class sizes, especially in the very early grades. Provide additional scholarship and loan support for our citizens to pursue post secondary educational opportunities with special sensitivity to the debt load our students are carrying upon leaving higher education.

The Environment -- further refine and promote our drought management policy to enhance its effectiveness and acceptance throughout our state. Conservation is the central emphasis of this policy and we need to educationally promote this theme in all that we do in the areas of water consumption. We also should promote conservation regarding our consumption of energy. Continue to promote environmental protection as a cherished NC traditional value as our state continues to develop economically.

2) Are there specific needs in your district that you would add to that list? How do you propose to address them?

The needs and challenges outlined above are theme and variation of the needs and challenges of the district.

3) 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.

Certainly my comprehensive legislative experience as a former county commissioner is an asset in addressing the issues identified as well as my legislative seniority of two terms in the NC Senate. Additionally, my leadership as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee and membership on the Education Oversight Committee attest to my ability to be effective regarding the advancement of the issues identified. My legislative service on the Senate Finance and Senate Base Appropriations Committees also provide demonstrable experience and ability to address the issues identified.

4) 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 member of the Democratic Party. I consider myself a progressive Democrat who demands fiscal responsibility and overall accountability in state government. I believe in putting policy before partisanship and will support common sense solutions no matter what side of aisle they emanate. I also believe that the middle class is the engine that drives our state and our nation. I have tirelessly supported economic relief measures aimed at helping working families, such as the passage of our state's first earned income tax credit that will aid as many as 700,000 families, as well as providing tax credits to small business so that they can afford to provide healthcare coverage to their employees.

5) 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.

Central to my political philosophy and achievements is the core belief that the founding governing principles and promises of the United States of America should serve to protect the rights and responsibilities of every American as well as provide general enablement to every individual to become all that they were intended. To this end, my unending fight for improved public education in every facet serves as a beacon -- indeed serves as the time honored great hope and great equalizer that each individual and generation has available to pursue improvement both individually and collectively.

6) 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.

My leadership support for the refundable earned income tax credit is but one principled stand that I made to treat more fairly the very poor who are taxed disproportionately relative to their low incomes.

7) 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?

A holistic approach is necessary to enable t our people to lift themselves from poverty in order for them to participate more fully and justly in our society. Although we have a continuum of services that provide a safety net for those entangled in the poverty cycle, we need to continually evaluate our programs to assure that the safety net is effective at all critical junctures to preserve the citizen's opportunity to move foreword in a healthy, educated and job prepared manner toward a successful, contributing life style. I was proud to support legislation to increase the state's minimum wage and would be interested in revisiting this figure in the future as costs of living continue to rise. I will continue to support vigorous funding of job training programs in our public schools and in our community colleges in addition to other research-based initiatives to break the cycle of poverty in our communities.

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

I am pleased that we were able to end the transfer of money from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund beginning this year and over the next three. As our state continues to experience the rapid growth we expect we must plan for this growth and ensure that systems of public transportation are available to our citizens. I look forward to the final report of the 21st Century Transportation Committee's which is to be presented to the next General Assembly. I will pursue reasonable mass transit alternatives that serve to relieve the traffic congestion in the RTP area. Planning and implementation of more efficient transit options are desperately in order to preserve the future of the RTP which has been an incredibly effective and innovative economic engine which in fact drives (pardon the pun) our entire state. Frankly, we are literally choking off economic opportunity for our region and state due to poor RTP ingress and egress transportation options.

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

While it is important that we address the rate at which we are incarcerating our population as well the fiscal cost to do so, it is also vital that we ensure NC families can pursue their dreams in safe communities. I think we should evaluate and consider research-based, alternative sentencing programs in lieu of prison time where and when appropriate.

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 NC has a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us, including our children and our seniors. I will continue to be supportive of state efforts aimed at expanding coverage for all of our vulnerable citizens at every opportunity. Our General Assembly is in the process of fully releasing our counties from participation in Medicaid reimbursement, thus freeing local resources which may be considered to improve local affordable access to medical care for our uninsured citizens. Project Access in Durham is an excellent example of affordable access becoming a reality for eligible citizens at the local level. Given today's challenging economic cycle, the General Assembly must bolster our public health departments and public health clinics to enable them to treat citizens in need of urgent, chronic and preventive health care services.

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

I supported consumer protection legislation to assist citizens to avoid foreclosure by allowing negotiation between the home owner and the lender prior to formal foreclosure proceedings. This legislation also provides for mortgage crisis counseling, legal services support to those involved in potential or actual foreclosure. Further, I supported the regulation of mortgage servicers by the Commissioner of Banks similar to the existing regulation of mortgage banks and brokers. The next General Assembly will no doubt refine the nationally recognized progressive package of mortgage lending and foreclosure crisis legislation placed in effect 2008 and consider refinements and improvements.

f. Energy: Do you support off-shore drilling in the state's coastal waters? Other state initiatives to reduce gasoline and other energy costs?

Drilling off the coast of NC alone will not solve our energy needs. We need to look into many different avenues moving forward, with a focus on the development of renewable energy alternatives. Conservation of our energy resources as well as our natural resources must be the central theme of our daily efforts to assure wise usage and future availability of these resources as well as to support our state and nation's effort to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to support our economy. We are positively moving toward these goals witness our recent landmark legislation to promote renewable energy and conservation in the State of North Carolina.

g. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it's a mess. Now what?

We have taken steps to reform our mental health system and to ensure that our patients are getting the best care possible. We have strengthened the Local Crisis Response System with an additional $22.9 million; improved mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities by providing $10.9 million for staffing, clinical and operational improvements at State mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities; approved $5.2 million for the Dorothea Dix Hospital Overflow Unit; and approved sign-on bonuses for newly hired registered mental health nurses employed by State operated facilities. We have learned that effective mental health reform must be appropriately sequenced and appropriately funded along the way. Mental Health reform does not begin and end with a single legislative bill or a mere formal announcement of reform.

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

New revenues should be identified first by looking for and implementing new efficiencies in state government. I look forward to analyzing the final report of the 21st Century Revenue System Legislative Study Commission which is to report to the next session of the General Assembly.

i. School vouchers: Should the state provide vouchers to parents who choose private (K-12) schools for their children? If so, for what amount?


8) What is your position on capital punishment in North Carolina? If in favor, will you support a moratorium on executions while the question of whether the death penalty can be administered fairly is studied by the General Assembly?

I have supported and will continue to support the de facto moratorium on capital punishment in North Carolina until such time as the courts can determine that is absolutely being administered in an unbiased fashion.

9) 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.

All citizens of North Carolina should be able to live in a manner free of discrimination. I support civil unions. No one should be discriminated against in our schools or in the workplace.

10) 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 and Yes.

11) Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?

I am open to hearing both sides of this debate.

12) One of the most controversial issues in this election year is illegal immigration. Recently, several N.C. counties—including Alamance, Johnston and Wake—have employed the 287(g) program, which streamlines local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement. What is your assessment of the success, or failure, of these programs?

The General Assembly has supported these efforts with over one million dollars in funding in the past two budgets. Participating sheriffs in several counties did not spend all of this money in 2007 and we'll see what happens in 2008. The 287(g) program is not going to solve any problem and we must do more to prod the Federal Government to action as this issue falls under their purview. Due to Washington's failure to act in this area of comprehensive immigration reform, which is constitutionally reserved to Congress, necessary and comprehensive immigration reform has not been achieved and the states are forced into less than uniform ad-hoc interpretation and enforcement of federal laws.

13) Despite the Department of Homeland Security's finding that admitting Illegal Immigrants to college did not violate federal Immigration law, the N.C. System of Community Colleges ruled to maintain a moratorium on admitting Illegal Immigrants to degree-granting programs. How will you vote on legislative proposals to either ban, or permit, Illegal Immigrants attending college In North Carolina?

It is my understanding that the Community College board will set this policy independent of a vote in the GA and will do so in March after the results of a study are returned analyzing the impact of undocumented students being admitted to NC Community Colleges.

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