Mike Cross | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Mike Cross

Candidate for Chatham County Commissioner


Name as it appears on the ballot: Mike Cross
Date of birth: 12 October 1943
Years lived in Chatham County: 20 Years, sixth generation on family farm.
Campaign Web site: www.cross4chatham.com
Occupation & employer: Retired, Commander, US Navy…current Vice Chair, Chatham BOC

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Chatham County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

  1. Employment Opportunities
  2. Grow responsibly as we implement our land Development Plan
  3. Adequate Potable Water, School Construction and Waste Water Treatment.

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

  • Three plus years experience as a commissioner, currently serving as Vice Chairman.
  • All 07-08 Board of Education funding request were approved and placed on our Capital Improvements Plan.
  • I received the 2007 North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Premier Legislative Advocacy Award for my efforts in gaining legislative authority to hold voter referendums for revenue options – Land Transfer Tax and Sales Tax – for all 100 NC counties.
  • I received the 2006 Habitat for Humanity Affordable Housing Advocacy Award for establishing the Chatham Affordable Housing Taskforce and helping to grow our AH funding from $0 to $3.7 million.

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

Moderate Progressive. My political philosophy, “Honesty and Integrity”, is my campaign platform. I listen to all input offered, do my own research and make my own decisions (votes) for the good of the whole. I do not use my vote to make political statements.

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

As a retired US Navy Commander, I know the importance of holding true to my Oath of Office. I have sworn to conduct my business according to the US and NC Constitutions, “without fear or favor…to the best of my abilities” I take my oath very seriously.

5. What specific steps should the county commissioners take to preserve and protect Chatham’s environment and natural resources In the face of its booming residential growth? State specific initiatives or policies you would introduce and support to accomplish this goal.

Currently looking at the effects of human sewage sludge and poultry waste application on farm lands and the possible effects on humans and grazing live stock. This application process is occurring in Chatham at seemingly high levels.

We currently have an Engineering Firm performing Energy Efficiency tests on all government buildings, including schools.

We are requiring Green Building standards in all new government building, including schools.

We have just expanded setbacks in our Watershed Protection Ordinance for seeps and springs, Wet Lands, Ephemeral, Perennial and Intermediate Streams, Reservoirs, Lakes and Rivers.

We continue to work with the Triangle Land Conservancy to help create wildlife corridors while including parcels for future schools and parks.

We have forwarded a resolution asking that the new lower nutrient level criteria for Jordan Lake be enacted as soon as possible.

We have hired a staff Engineer, Environmental Resources Director, Erosion Control Enforcement Officer and a Land Use Ordinance Enforcement Officer to provide oversight, guidance and enforcement of our regulations.

We have established a Green Building Taskforce to review criteria and make recommendations to the BOC.

We have established a Commercial Corridors Taskforce to ensure we maintain some rural aspects/open space/scenic views along our major corridors.

We have established Agricultural Districts to promote/support our farmers while ensuring we maintain our rural heritage /open space for all to enjoy.

We expanded the wet lands of the upper Rocky River, north of US 64.

6. Define “economic development.” What does that term mean to you? Given the state of the national economy and local job losses such as the closing of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant, what specifically can you do as a county leader to strengthen and support Chatham’s economy?

Economic development should include it all, a complete community on a local scale – education opportunities, employment opportunities with livable wages, safe homes, parks, recreation, public transportation, public and social services and law enforcement.

Our current Economic Development picture is quite out of shape. We lack the commercial, retail, technical, light and heavy industries to provide those opportunities for employment. Far too many of our citizens have to go outside the county for employment and spend much of their income outside of Chatham. We lose approximately $7.5M per year in sales tax.

We have hired a new Economic Development President and have contracted with UNC to review and provide a new ED Strategic Plan which is currently receiving citizen input through forums around the county. We have reasonably priced land in large quantity and lower taxes than others in our region.

7. The county enacted a one-year moratorium on new residential developments that expires in June 2008. Should this moratorium be lifted or renewed this summer? If it is lifted, what growth-control measures should be enacted to ensure infrastructure such as schools, roads, etc. can keep pace with the population?

I anticipate the moratorium will be lifted this year depending on the progress of our ordinance work.

I supported the moratorium so we could to take the opportunity to adjust our ordinances to compliment each other and to employ appropriate staff to handle the growth we are experiencing. We have hired a staff Attorney and Legal Assistant, an Engineer, Environmental Resources Director, Erosion Control Officer, Land Use Control Officer, Planner, Human Relations Director and a new Economic Development Corporation President. All Capital school request, renovations of existing schools, a new middle school and a new high school are funded and on our Capital Improvemenst Plan. We will soon begin an upgrade of our existing water plant from 3mgd to 7mgd and we are in discussions for a new regional water treatment plant on the west side of Jordan Lake.

8. Give your assessment of the major corridors task force proposal.

I support the efforts of the Major Corridors Task Force; however, their proposal has not yet been completed. They are currently conducting citizen input forums throughout Chatham and we should have their proposal soon.

9. With the failure of the land transfer tax last fall and the county’s schools impact fee now at its maximum, what are your suggestions for finding new revenue for the county to keep up with its expenses, particularly school additions and renovations?

We have engaged a review of the School Impact Fee cap (currently set at $3,500 based on a 1999 study) and I would expect that cap to move considerably higher with the amount of growth we are now experiencing. We will revisit the SIF when the results are available.

I would also expect an approximate 4 cents increase in property taxes.

10. Please state your general philosophy on what role citizens should play in government decision-making. In general, do you think Chatham residents have enough opportunities to make their voices heard? If so, state some examples. If not, what are your ideas for improving and incorporating citizen input in county government decisions?

I encourage citizens to be as involved in our governance as possible. We have over 40 citizen boards with over 425 appointed citizen volunteer members. Citizens are encouraged to volunteer for these boards or they may choose to join one of the many citizen organizations for a collective voice or they may speak as an individual at our BOC meetings.

I know the citizens who wish to be heard have ample avenues to be heard. All major applications require community meetings with the citizens involved and the developers, we have Public Hearings, our Planning Board and BOC meetings have Public Input sessions, Emails, Letters and phone calls to your commissioners are also very effective.

11. If you are a challenger, how would you rate the job the incumbents are doing? Be specific in criticisms and compliments. If you are an incumbent, how would you rate the job you and your colleagues are doing? Be specific about accomplishments or challenges.

We are moving Chatham forward in a responsible and planned manner. We are on schedule with our 5 year Capital Improvements Plan; i.e., school renovations, a new Middle School, a new High School, a new Judicial Center, our Chatham Business Campus is open with a new CCCC Campus, a new Chatham Hospital and a new Juvenile Center. Our CCCC, Pittsboro, campus is getting a new Bio-tech Center and a new Public Library. We have increased our staff appropriately to handle the current workload.

Our main challenges are to move forward with developing good employment opportunities and continuing to work with partners for a new Regional Water Treatment Facility to ensure we and our neighbors have adequate potable water.

12. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take even though it cost you popularity points with constituents.

I still support the Land Transfer Tax as a revenue option for Chatham, although the voter referendum was soundly defeated. This option will likely require the support of all municipal governing bodies within Chatham, our United Chamber of Commerce, our Economic Development Corporation and our Business/Development Community. We obviously don’t have that. I will always vote my own convictions for the good of the whole. One thing for sure, no matter how I vote, some will be unhappy!

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