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

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Sig Hutchinson—Wake County Board of Commissioners, District 1 (Democratic Primary)


Sig Hutchinson
  • Sig Hutchinson

Name as it appears on the ballot: Sig Hutchinson
Campaign website: Sig4Wake
Phone number: 919-740-8848
Years lived in Wake County: 35 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?

1) Education, 2) Transportation and 3) Affordable Housing – Education continues to be important in supporting a thriving community and we have shown our commitment to Public Education by having the highest teacher supplement in NC and an average 44% increase in teacher pay in the last three years. As far as transportation, I have been a leader in transportation for the last 20 years including my work on the “Go Triangle” Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the Capital Areas Metropolitan Planning Organization or CAMPO. I’ve also been a leading advocate for our 200 miles of interconnected greenways as well as promoting more healthy, walkable communities. For Affordable Housing, we have just completed a 20-year “Affordable Housing Plan,” which was more than a year in the planning. Now we will be implementing that plan with additional funding and by working with the private sector and our municipal partners.

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?

As a community advocate for twenty years, I’ve been a leading force in many of our quality of life issues including leading 6 bond referendums for open space, parks, greenways and affordable housing. As a commissioner we implemented a living wage for Wake County employees, added 6 weeks of paid family leave, passed a $2.3B transit referendum, completed the Affordable Housing Study Committee report and completed a new Greenways Master Plan for Wake County. We have also raised the WCPSS budget by more than 30% in three years and now have the highest teacher salary supplement in NC. There is a lot more we can do and look forward to continuing to be a leader on these and other issues.

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?

To continue our growth, we need a nationally recognized public education system, a transportation system that works and a great quality of life. We have had record increases in funding for public education and a Community College – WakeTech that is one of the best in the country and now serving 74K students. We passed a $2.3B transit referendum and are also receiving a lot more highway construction funding from the state. Finally, I’ve been working for twenty years to improve the quality of life working on issues such as clean water and air, expanding parks and greenways, preserving open space and creating more recreational opportunities.

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?

I have mentioned some of our successes but as far as challenges, we must finally get serious about affordable housing with a need of more than 50K affordable housing units today, and that number will only continue to grow. To solve that problem, it’s going to take implementing the plan we have created in Wake County, as well as working with our municipal partners and the private sector to begin to address these complex issues. We also have a lot issues around mental or behavioral health and the opioid crisis is a real and growing problem in Wake County. We are beginning to address these issues, but they are going to take more time and state and federal resources to find real solutions.

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?

Wake County definitely has a role to play with these issues and with our new affordable housing plan, we are starting to move things in a positive direction. However, since most of these affordable housing units are within municipalities, we need to work closely with our municipal partners to deal with important issues such as density, diversity of housing options, the integration of land use and transit, and zoning changes that support smaller units such as “granny flats” or Accessory Dwelling Units. As far as economic development, we have just hired a new economic development officer to specifically work with vulnerable communities, and I have been working with a “Launch Raleigh” Program, which is a partnership between WakeTech, Shaw University and a local Rotary Club to provide mentoring, education and access to capital, and to see how we can expand this program to other municipalities.

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.

My career for the last 30 years has been in communications starting as a instructor for the Dale Carnegie courses, who many remember wrote the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” For the last twenty years, I’ve lead six bond referendums for the City of Raleigh and Wake County for open space, parks, greenways, transportation and affordable housing. As someone who has been in these conversations for years, I have a clear understanding of what I want to accomplish in helping shape the future growth of a world class region and the relationships to help me get these ideas accomplished.

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?

When considering the entire budget request to the county from the WCPSS, in the last three years we have funded 97% of their requests, which represents 52% of our $1.2B operating budget and we now have the largest teacher supplement in NC at $8,500.00 on average per teacher. Over time, we can and are committed to doing more, but there has never been a Board of Commission who has increased funding more or faster, as shown by raising taxes for the last four years in a row to pay for more funding for public education.

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?

Our property taxes are in the lowest 1/3 of all 100 counties in NC and a lot lower than any of our surrounding counties. However, it’s imperative in being responsible to our citizens that we clearly articulate the benefits of what these new tax dollars mean to our citizens. That said, to continue to grow in a way that ensures we can double of size while improving our quality of life, we must to continue to invest in a great public education system and a quality of life that will not only benefit our families, but will also encourage the best and brightest to want to come and live right here in Wake County.

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?

Yes, these offices are run by political officials elected by the citizens and as a result, have much more autonomy than Wake County employees. They also have annual audits done by outside auditors that should be picking up on these issues. That said, unless something happens that we are alerted to a problem, it is very difficult to identity these types of issues when collusion is involved. With the ROD situation, as soon as we found out there was a problem, we stepped in and have since implemented a whole host of improved policies and procedures including cash handling procedures and training and the ability to take more credit cards and less cash.

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?

We have a great working relationship with many of our Wake Co. legislative members and an awesome relationship with our Mayors. That comes from years of working together and developing relationships, of which has served the citizens of Wake County well. This is a major reason why voters would want to consider reelecting myself and my colleagues in that once the election is over, it no longer matters your political party. At that point, it’s all about working together and building relationships to get things done for the betterment of Wake County.

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?

We already have raised the minimum wage for Wake County employees and we did that our first year in office, which is now $15.05 an hour plus benefits, and passed a nondiscrimination resolution for the LGBTQ community and veterans. We believe that diversity in Wake Co. makes us stronger and will continue to do all we can to ensure that our diversity is not only protected but celebrated.

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.

I have changed my views on many issues and policies over the years that has come from a lot of conversations, seminars and conferences, education, experience and just doing this type of work a long time. A great example of this comes from how to build healthy, vibrant and thriving communities. To accomplish this while also protecting open space and a healthy environment, we need to think more about density in urban centers, which is a concept that has to be learned and many times at first, is not self-evident. But when seen and clearly understood, we see that it can provide alternatives that are highly desirable.

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.

I support and always have supported equity and healthy communities where all citizens can thrive. To accomplish that, we need safe walkable communities with more housing options, including affordability; more transportation choices; access to a quality education and a good job as well as parks, greenways and clean and abundant water and access to healthy food. To me, these principles represent why I became a community advocate twenty years ago and later ran for office and I will continue to advocate for these issues as long as I have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Wake County as their Commissioner. Thank You.

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