Mary M. Wolff | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Mary M. Wolff

Candidate for Orange Board of County Commissioners


Name as it appears on the ballot: Mary M. Wolff
Date of birth: 45 years old
Campaign website:
Occupation & employer: Graphic Designer / Self Employed
Years lived in Orange County:

1) What are the three most important issues facing Orange County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

I believe the important issues facing Orange County are maintaining and improving the quality of our schools, increasing the tax base and the sustainability of our natural resources. As commissioner, I will put schools first and return them to the top 100 schools in the nation.

2) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County Board of Commissioners? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have more than 25 years of business, professional and community leadership. I have been in supervisory positions since 1989. My responsibilities encompass hiring personnel, project planning, developing budgets, negotiating contracts, successfully working within budgets and completing projects on time. In addition, I am actively involved in our community by volunteering as a PTA board member, being a church leader, and as treasurer for the cub scouts.

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 registered Democrat. However, I don’t define myself politically. It’s up to the voters to define me politically based upon the issues as they arise and my position on those issues.

4) Approximately how many BOCC meetings have you attended in the past two years?

I believe that keeping informed and being involved in the community is more important that how many BOCC meetings a person has attended. Whether attending the meetings physically, viewing them on television or through the local news and media sources, I have kept myself up-to-date on the issues that most affect my family, my town, and the county.

5) Orange County is in the almost unique position of allocating funding to two separate school districts, which together account for approximately 50 percent of the county’s budget. To make matters more complex, commissioners must balance the per-pupil allocation with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools’ district tax. How do you balance the needs of these two school systems while ensuring equity between them, at the same time considering the county’s other pressing financial needs?

As county commissioner, my priority will be to put schools first. I have a vested interest in Orange County public schools’ performance. I have two young children in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro School system and like other parents, want them to have the best public education possible. Therefore, since the schools account for 50% of the county’s budget, there must be at least half or 4 of the 7 seats on the board of county commissioner filled by persons who now have children within the orange county public schools and have a vested interest in their high performance. Most of the candidates for county commissioners and the currently seated commissioners do not presently have children in the orange county public school system. Which begs the question: “How can our schools be a priority if only a few of the seated commissioners have children currently enrolled in the Orange County schools?”

6) The Orange County Board of Education recently decided to address an imbalance of economic diversity between two elementary schools—Central Elementary and Hillsborough Elementary—by setting a cap on the number of students from a given attendance zone who can be enrolled in HES. Furthermore, the board chose to use federal Title One School Improvement money (available to the district because neither CES nor Efland-Cheeks Elementary made Adequate Yearly Progress in math last year) on pre-K programs. Both decisions have proven controversial. Do you agree with the board’s actions? What role does the BOCC have in overseeing these types of budgetary actions on the part of the school board?

These are some of the types of issues that motivated me to run for county commissioner. The fact that some of the schools are not making the required standards and/or progress, suggests that Orange County schools are not being put first. Further, given that 50% of the county’s budget is directed toward schools, one would expect that 50% of the county commissioner’s time be spent on these types and other school related issues. As county commissioner, I will put schools first and be actively involved in developing policies and solutions to these types of problems. However, I will respect the authority of the school board and administration to collectively work with the BOCC in defining these policies and solutions.

7) The BOCC voted to put the land transfer tax on the ballot this spring. Do you personally support the land transfer tax as a revenue option for the county? Please explain why or why not.

The approval of this tax is up to the voters to decide. As county commissioner, I will support what the voters in Orange County decide on May 6.

8) The drought has raised awareness of the limited natural resources our region’s population relies on. Do you think Orange County has done a good job managing its water supply and encouraging conservation? What steps would you take as commissioner to manage the drought situation?

What is clear is that the present commissioners have failed to previously completely address the drought issue given that we recently dropped to only 40% of our water resources. As county commissioner, I will provide a new proactive direction that will insure future sustainability during droughts.

9) Commissioners will soon consider the proposal for Buckhorn Village shopping center, which calls for more than a million square feet of retail, hotel and other development near the intersection of I-85 and I-40. What are your thoughts on the potential economic and environmental impact of this proposal? How should the board weigh these concerns?

It would appear that this is a moot issue since the present board of commissioners will vote on the Buckhorn Village shopping center. But, if there are residual issues needing to be addressed when I am commissioner, I will listen attentively to all sides and make a balanced decision based on the needs of the county.

10) Orange County’s landfill is full, and the county must now decide where additional trash should go and where to put a waste-transfer station. Some citizens have raised concerns over environmental justice, saying the historically African-American Rogers Road community has already borne too much of the county’s waste and should not be considered as a waste-transfer site. What should the county do about this problem?

It’s my understanding that the present commissioners will decide the future of our trash disposal and therefore, my position is likely to be moot. However, since the county gave its word to the Rogers Road community years ago, I believe they must live up to their word now. Therefore, when the landfill is full, it should be closed and no longer used for any type of waste or trash disposal or transfer activities.

11) The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

Unfortunately, this question it is not clear to me. Therefore, I am unable to answer without more specificity and a more clearer understanding of your mission.

12) Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.

I will put our children and our public schools first.

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