Steve Yuhasz | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Steve Yuhasz

Candidate for Orange County Board of Commissioners


Name as it appears on the ballot: Steve Yuhasz
Date of birth: February 10, 1951
Campaign website:
Occupation & employer: Land Surveyor, ENT Land Surveys, Inc. Attorney, The Law office of Steve F. Yuhasz, PLLC
Years lived in Orange County:30

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

  1. Economic Development: The citizens of Orange County demand and deserve an exceptional level of service from government. In order to provide services the county needs adequate revenue. County homeowners are already taxed at one of the highest rates in North Carolina. Orange County is ideally sited to attract quality non-residential development with its proximity to UNC, Duke, and RTP and its easy access to the major commercial centers of Raleigh and Greensboro via Interstates 40 and 85. My first priority as Commissioner would be to support the Economic Development Director and other community efforts to attract businesses that will increase our tax revenue without increasing our tax rates.

  2. Land Use: Orange County is currently reviewing and updating its Comprehensive Plan. The Land Use Element will control the physical development of the county and provide the framework within which all other Plan provisions are implemented. As Commissioner I would ensure that the Land Use Element reflects the reality of coming growth and provides the basis to manage that growth in a manner that respects the contributions and property rights of the historic stewards of our county- the rural property owners.

  3. District 2 Representation: District 2 was created to provide the parts of Orange County outside of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro urban area with representation on the Board of County Commissioners. A high priority would be to represent District 2 by articulating the issues and concerns which are particular to the more rural parts of Orange County in order to make them more visible to the Commission and the general public.

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 served on the Orange County Planning Board for six years and the Orange County Economic Development Commission for three years. I have been a member of the North Carolina Society of Surveyors for more than 20 years and served on the Board of Directors for two years. I have owned and operated a small business in Hillsborough for twenty-five years. Each of these demonstrates my ability to understand, and work cooperatively within, a group decision-making structure.

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

I consider myself a political pragmatist. This philosophy allows me to embrace partial successes while maintaining sight of the ultimate goal.

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

I have attended approximately 4-6 meetings per year for the last 25 years.

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?

The budgets that are brought to the commissioners by the School Boards are a reflection of the priorities of the parents and administration of each school system. The School Board requests therefore are each system’s appraisal of “equity funding”. The commissioners’ budget decisions should be based on the county’s ability to fund the School Board’s requests as presented, not on an individual Commissioner’s appraisal of equity.

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?

The Board of Education is elected by the citizens of Orange County to make policy decisions for the school system. The Board of County Commissioners should not try to influence these decisions through the budget allocation process. It is important, however, that the decisions of each Board of Education be open and transparent.

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.

I am opposed to the land transfer tax. A tax designed to raise general use funds by taxing only a small proportion of the citizenry is fundamentally unfair. This tax is generally unpopular among the citizens of District 2.

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?

Orange County has little control over the county water supply. Other than ensuring adequate stream-flow releases, Orange County has no discretionary authority over surface water impoundments supplying OWASA, The Town of Hillsborough, and the Orange-Alamance water systems. Available ground water supplies are sufficient to supply any likely development in the unincorporated parts of the county. Orange County should continue to support voluntary conservation efforts as a part of an ongoing educational program.

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 is critical to the financial health of Orange County that the non-residential tax base be increased. Projects like Buckhorn Village will help to balance the mix of residential and non-residential development. The specifics of Buckhorn Village will evolve through the review and approval process. Any potential negative environmental impacts will be identified and minimized, while the use of “green” construction techniques and materials will be encouraged. The positive environmental impacts associated with shorter driving distances to employment and shopping opportunities should not be overlooked.

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?

Where to locate the waste-transfer station will be a difficult but necessary decision. Environmental justice requires that all environmental factors, past and future, be identified and considered. The transfer station must be located in close proximity to the geographic center of garbage generation to ensure that transportation costs and associated environmental impacts are minimized.

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?

I believe that I am the most qualified candidate to represent the citizens of District 2. By giving District 2 competent, committed representation, I will be fulfilling the goals of the people who worked so hard to create a more just government for Orange County through the district system.

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

As a Registered Land Surveyor and as an Attorney, I have been trained to base my decisions in principle, regardless of the sometime attraction of expediency. As a citizen-representative, each decision I make will reflect that commitment to principle. I believe that Orange County has a responsibility to accept its proportionate share of regional growth. I will work to ensure that the county fulfills its responsibility in a manner that respects real environmental constraints while valuing reasonable landowner expectations.

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