Jeremiah Pierce—Wake County Board of Commissioners, District 1 (Democratic Primary) | Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County | Indy Week

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Jeremiah Pierce—Wake County Board of Commissioners, District 1 (Democratic Primary)

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Jeremiah Pierce
Pierce4wake@outlook.com
919-749-2211
www.thepiercecampaign.com
32 Years


1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues facing Wake County? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?

Education is the most important issue facing the citizens of Wake County at this time.  If elected, I will be progressive in discussions with the Wake County School Board in getting them all the funding that they need to bring us to the forefront of education.  Our per pupil spending needs to be equal or above to the surrounding counties.  The second most important issue is socio-economic diverse communities throughout the county. We have to work closely with the building community to have affordable housing throughout the county to make sure that growth does not exacerbate segregation. The third most important issue is health and human services. As a member of the board, I will review the policies and procedures of other counties that have improved their services and utilize their ideas as well as ours in improving the well-being and accessibility to all citizens as well as minimize the negative impact of poverty. 


2. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?

I want Wake County to attract new businesses that bring high wage jobs. In doing so, one of the biggest economic drivers is education. My opponent has not fully funded the school system the last three years. We have not been innovative and progressive in looking toward the future for growth and opportunity for our students.  The current board has only increased spending to equal our growth and not given enough funds to lead us into the future or close the gap for per pupil expenditures with other N.C. counties. When there were opportunities to support schools, my opponent chose to bail out a wealthy Homeowners Association’s defunct golf course in the name of a park that mostly would benefit this same wealthy HOA.


3. The county is by most accounts prospering and growing. What do you think Wake County has done effectively? What policies would you like to see put in place to ensure growth going forward?

Wake County has attracted new companies and expanded local ones due to aggressive state efforts. We must not tip the balance to development at the expense of our neighborhoods and quality of life. The policies that I would like to put into place would insure that the growth going forward is balanced and well-planned by thinking 10 or 20 years down the road. This will allow us to grow at a favorable growth rate, so that we can avoid environmental issues and negative gentrification that we have witnessed in other larger cities.


4. With that rapid growth, of course, comes challenges related to suburban sprawl, transportation, and affordable housing, among other things. In your opinion, what have been the county’s successes in managing this growth in recent years? What about its failures? What would you do differently?

Wake County has experienced rapid growth over the last few years.  There are some that will say we have managed the growth. Yet, I have seen too many failures to say that we have not created negative effects. We are seeing massive gentrification throughout the county where an entire community feels they have been left behind and forgotten. Even though the current board has passed bonds to help with this growth, the lack of efficacy and comprehensive strategies have made the county more reactionary than progressive. I will work with the local municipalities to develop a collaborative plan of action that benefits everyone in the county. We have to look farther into the future so we are progressive and not reactionary.   We can no longer use the excuse that the state is not helping.  We have to take it upon ourselves to get the job done if we want to be a leader in the future.


5. What should be the county’s role in addressing issues of economic inequality, such as gentrification and affordable housing? Do you believe the current board is doing enough to help its municipalities manage Wake County’s growth in order to prevent current residents from being priced out?

The county should be the leader in addressing economic inequality.  We are experiencing the same problems today that we were 50 years ago in the gentrification of our county.  The county has a responsibility to all citizens in our community.  With that being said, we have to work with the business community, the local municipalities, local developers, and advocates for the poor to ensure that we have affordable housing available for all citizens.  I do not believe that the current board is doing enough to help its municipalities in growth nor to prevent the current residents from being priced and forced out. I will be an enabler not a barrier to implementing the work of Commissioner Holmes on affordable housing.


6. How would your experience―in politics or otherwise in your career―make you an asset to the county’s decision-making process? Be specific about how this experience would relate to your prospective office.

Growing up in a low income family and having to make every penny count, I understand what it feels like to be left behind.  My early struggles taught me the importance of managing finances which allowed me to attend and graduate from college. Those lessons that I experienced growing up helped me to start and run the business I have today.  As a small business owner, I understand what it is like to meet a payroll, future projections and managing a budget with limited funds.  Being married to a teacher, I know firsthand the shortcomings of this county in supporting their schools adequately.


7. Last year saw some tension between the county commission and the school board over school system funding. Ultimately, the county gave the school system less than half of the new funding it asked for. But from the county’s perspective, it has raised property several times in recent years to benefit the school system. Do you believe Wake County needs to commit more funds to its schools? If so, would you be willing to ask taxpayers for more money?

My opponent pits the needs of the Wake County School Board with other programs in county government. That is wrong. I believe that Wake County needs to commit more funds to its schools while assuring our county provides the services the citizens need. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.  As a county leader, we want to bring high wage jobs.  How can we expect to do so with underfunded education?  I believe that we can build our tax base, cut waste, and seek aggressively more funding from the state and federal governments. Raising taxes should be a last resort. As a parent, if any board came to me and said, “We need to increase taxes by x amount to improve teacher pay, improve schools, and improve the experience for the children,” I would not have any problems paying a little more in taxes. I believe that all citizens want what’s best for children who are our future.


8. Wake County has raised property taxes four times in the last four years. Currently the county is considering three potential bond referenda in November: one for school construction, another for parks and greenways, and a third for Wake Tech. Together, these, too, would likely require a property tax increase. Do you believe the citizens of Wake County are paying too much in taxes?

I do not believe we are paying too much in taxes. The best indicator is our citizens supporting these bond issues. A secondary indicator is the people moving into Wake County for its low property and sales tax.  If you look across the nation with counties our size and projected growth, we are currently on the lower end of taxes.

9. The embezzlement scandal at the Register of Deeds office highlighted the fact that the county does not scrutinize the offices of elected officials, such as the Register of Deeds and the Sheriff’s Office, in the way it does other county agencies. Do you believe there are steps the county could have taken—or could implement now—that could catch theft or fraud earlier?

This has to be a wake-up call. The County Commissioners must demand more oversight and assume more fiduciary responsibility.  I would demand that new procedures and protocols be established to assure the office of the Register of Deeds, the Sheriff’s office, and all other county government offices be scrutinized for fiscal management, customer efficiency, and productivity.  More importantly, I would monitor the culture of county government to assure honesty, accountability, and employee trust are core values. Further, I would make sure the “whistle blower” policies are the best.


10. North Carolina is a “Dillon Rule” state, meaning that the only powers municipal and county governments have are the ones granted to them by the legislature. Would you like to see this changed? How would you work with state legislators from Wake County, as well as mayors and council members from the city’s municipalities, to ensure that Wake County, its municipalities, and the state are on the same page regarding policies that affect residents of Wake?

I believe that the “Dillon Rule” can be a good checks and balance for citizens, but lately, it has been abused by recalcitrant legislators to suppress counties from expanding the rights of its citizenry. Every county should be able to enact its own non-discriminatory ordinances as long as it expands rights. I think it should be reviewed and only limitations should be enacted that might undermine or harm state government. Further, any county should be able to enact any measure voted on by the people in that county especially taxes.


11. The replacement bill for HB 2 that passed last year prohibits local governments from passing living-wage or nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020. If you are in office in 2020 when the moratorium expires, what sort of nondiscrimination and/or living-wage policies will you push the county to adopt, if any? Do you favor, for instance, a nondiscrimination ordinance that would apply to public accommodations, like the one Charlotte passed in 2016 that led the legislature to pass HB 2? Would you consider raising the county’s minimum wage?

If in office in 2020, I will support the expansion of the protected class status in Wake County to include LGBTQ people and veterans. Citizens and residents in Wake County who are in a protected class cannot face any discrimination. I will also be pushing a minimum county wage of $15.00 to include school employees. County employees are currently included. Further, I will work with advocate groups to develop living wage policies and programs that are progressive and innovative with a reach to all Wake County working men and women.


12. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.

While I have not served in a political office, I have had the opportunity to manage employees and engage in lively political conversation with friends and relatives. I adhere to the old adage of the following: “A wise man changes his mind often, a fool never.” I believe that facts override opinion. I believe that doing the right thing is more important than only doing things you are required to do by law. Government should be compassionate, efficient, and competent.


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

Being a progressive Democrat, you can lose some voters when telling them you have to increase taxes to make things better for the children, our future. We always want what we can’t have, and we always want it for free. I will say to those voters that for us to be leaders of the future and for the future, we have to step up and make the difference now.  


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