Here’s a quick look at the District 1 primary race for County Comissioner. The interviews were done by phone, and some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
QUESTION 1: WHAT ARE THREE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING WAKE COUNTY?
Hutchinson, District 1: No. 1: Transportation and transit. No. 2: growth, sustainability and affordability. No. 3: Public education funding.
QUESTION 2: PICK ONE OF THE THREE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING WAKE COUNTY TO SOLVE AND ADDRESS?
Hutchinson: Transportation and transit. I am chair of CAMPO (the N.C. Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) and vice-chair of GoTriangle. And I ran on getting the $2.3 billion transit referendum on the ballot. I got it on the ballot and got it approved. I am intimately involved in transportation and transit issues.
QUESTION 3: IS WAKE COUNTY DOING ENOUGH TO FUND THE WAKE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM?
Hutchinson: The real issue is the General Assembly isn’t doing enough. By Constitution, it’s the responsibility of the General Assembly to fully fund public education. Our part is the supplement. And we have done very well with our supplement. It is now 57% of our budget. We had the highest teacher supplement in North Carolina, which means we are getting the highest quality teachers. We had the highest per-pupil spending in the county. So we are doing well. Can we do more? Sure we can do more, and we need to overtime.
QUESTION 4: IS THE PROPERTY TAX RATE IN WAKE COUNTY TOO HIGH?
Hutchinson: It is what it is. I am working as hard as I can to keep our quality of life and education the best in the state and our tax rate reasonable.
QUESTION 5: IS WAKE COUNTY DOING ENOUGH TO CREATE OR SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
Hutchinson: We are doing a great job on affordable housing. We are putting $14 million a year (aside) with the goal of creating 500 units, which we are achieving that goal this last year. Which means 5,000 units over 10 years. But today we have a need for 50,000 affordable housing units in Wake County. And that is going to grow to 120,000 in 20 years. The reality of the situation is that the government or the public sector cannot solve the affordable housing problem in Wake County. We have to reach out to the private sector to get them to help us with affordable housing.
QUESTION 6: IS THE COUNTY DOING ENOUGH TO PROTECT ITS NATURAL RESOURCES LIKE PARKS, OPEN SPACE AND WATER?
Hutchinson: We could also do more. We’ve protected 7,000 acres of open space but we have a goal of protecting 30% of the county. That is a lot of land. We have got an amazing and growing greenway system of over 250 miles, but I am working with our county partners to make that a 15-county greenway network for the region. We have an amazing park system along with our municipal partners. I have a goal of having a 10-minute walk for every citizen of a park. We are a long way from that goal.
QUESTION 7: WHAT’S ANOTHER ISSUE YOU CARE ABOUT?
Hutchinson: We need to be doing more around behavioral health and continue to address the opioid crisis in Wake County.
QUESTION 8: WHY SHOULD VOTERS PICK YOU OVER YOUR OPPONENT?
Hutchinson: I have a track record of getting things done. I have taken a leadership role in organizations such as CAMPO, GoTriangle, the Upper Neuse River Basin Association and Wake County’s Growth and Sustainability Committee. And I love doing this work, which is making the lives of our citizens better every day.