Wake County Commission District 1
Joe Bryan, an incumbent seeking his fourth term for District 1, has occasionally expressed an inclination to defy the party line but never when it counts. Bryan has effectively played second fiddle to Republican ringleader Paul Coble since Coble was elected to the board in 2006. Even though Bryan has spoken recently in favor of a new transit plan, a transit referendum and committing additional funding to Wake County Public Schools for teacher raises—all issues he has voted against in the past— we think it’s too little, too late.
We endorse Sig Hutchinson, a Raleigh communications specialist. Though he has never held elected office, Hutchinson’s contributions to Wake County and Raleigh as a volunteer have been immeasurable. Hutchinson has secured more than $280 million for the area for open space preservation, parks, greenways, transportation and affordable housing via six successful bond referendums. He has ensured that nearly 6,000 acres in Wake County are permanently protected, and he led the way to create more than 180 miles of interconnected greenways throughout the Triangle. Hutchinson has chaired numerous boards and committees, including the county’s Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee and the Triangle Transit Authority; with deep knowledge of the County and its issues, we don’t doubt that Hutchinson will make a proactive and effective commissioner.
The current Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Phil Matthews is a shoo-in to cast a Republican vote, no matter the issue. Matthews served on the Garner Town Council for eight years and is seeking his second term as a county commissioner, but even as chairman, he’s not shown significant leadership. While maintaining the county’s enviable AAA bond rating is important, throwing teachers and transit under the bus is bad public policy. And Matthews was running the show this summer when the board didn’t allow Democratic Commissioner Betty Lou Ward—who had just been released from the hospital—to vote by phone on whether to put a tax increase for teacher pay before voters this November. (The vote failed.)
We endorse Matt Calabria, an attorney from Fuquay-Varina, who makes the direct connection between teachers leaving the county “at an alarming rate—” and in the middle of the school year— with their being poorly paid. He says the County Commissioners need to work “collaboratively” with the school board, and that it is the Commissioners’ responsibility to advocate to state government leaders on behalf of students and teachers. Calabria also singles out water quality and availability as a top issue for the County, which has seen its water sources threatened by droughts and pollution.
Rich Gianni, the Republican incumbent, was unanimously appointed to Board of Commissioners in April when Commissioner Tony Gurley resigned to take a different government job. The CFO of a tech startup in Cary, Gianni hasn’t had time to do much of anything on the board, for better or for worse, except vote in lockstep with the other Republicans (or “vote responsibly” against a teacher pay increase, as he explained in a letter to The News & Observer.)
Regardless of our incomplete understanding of Gianni’s slim record, his opponent Jessica Holmes is an impressive candidate, and we endorse her. An attorney for the North Carolina Association of Educators, Holmes is the first person in her family to attend college, and she worked her way through UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate and law schools; we think she is serious about education and improving conditions for teachers and students. Holmes has been politically active for years as an organizer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and hers has been a strong voice against school vouchers.
If any one county commissioner deserves to lose his seat this November, it is hard-right conservative Jesse Helms’ nephew, Commissioner Paul Coble. Since 2006, Coble has ruled the Commission with an iron fist. He has silenced moderate voices like Joe Bryan’s, passed a superfluous and inappropriate county resolution to support Amendment One and quashed—repeatedly—attempts to get education and transit initiatives before voters, despite overwhelming support for these issues in Wake County. Coble is out of touch with what Wake County residents want, and worse, he doesn’t seem to care.
We endorse John Burns, a commercial lawyer and former Chair of the Raleigh Environmental Advisory Board. Burns is the polar opposite to Coble in terms of his positions on transit and education funding, and Burns has been running his campaign as to get Democrats elected as a unified bloc, to shift the majority away from the Republicans and ensure Wake County moves forward. We think this shows a true instinct for leadership.
To read more, visit the Indy Week article.