Name as it appears on the ballot: Floyd B. McKissick, Jr.
Date of Birth: November 21, 1952
Candidate web site: www.mckissickforsenate.com
Occupation & Employer: Self-employed D/B/A McKissick & McKissick
Years lived in North Carolina: I was born in Durham, North Carolina; however, my family moved to New York in 1965 and then returned to North Carolina in 1974. I lived out of state on several other occasions; however, I have lived permanently in North Carolina since 1987, approximately twenty-one years ago.
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
In my opinion, there are many important issues facing North Carolina among them are the following, which are part of my platform:
IN THE AREA OF EDUCATION
Reducing the drop-out rate
Increasing teacher pay
Reducing class sizes
Implementing measures to decrease test score disparities on standardized tests
Effectively addressing the challenges presented with an increase in the number of students for whom English is not their primary language and with their families who may not speak English
Equalizing access to computers and databases to mitigate the digital divide
Increasing opportunities for vocational education
Increasing the age requirement for dropping out of school
OTHER SIGNIFICANT ISSUES
Instituting programs and policies to reduce healthcare disparities in North Carolina
Establishing a Study Commission to identify jobs and positions in state government, where wage disparities exist between males and females in similar or comparable positions. The commission should recommend policies that can be adopted to eliminate wage disparities in state government.
Implementing policies and procedures that encourage regional cooperation in the planning of infrastructure, such as water and transportation systems
Passing legislation that requires the installation of devices that reduce the usage and demand for water
Developing comprehensive programs and strategies to address issues related to rapid growth and urbanization
Adopting policies that protect potential borrowers from abuses from mortgage companies or mortgage brokers
Assisting homeowners facing the potential of foreclosure as well as those who own homes that are worth substantially less than the outstanding balance owed on their mortgages
Protecting our environment
Developing comprehensive and effective Economic Development Incentive Strategies
Assisting low and moderate income households to purchase homes
Developing strategies to finance North Carolinas long-term transportation needs
Conducting a study to determine the feasibility of merging the various divisions of state government charged with the enforcement of our civil rights laws into a single agency which could more effectively carry out its goals and missions.
I presently serve on the following committees in the N.C. Senate, which can assist me in addressing the issues identified above. They are as follows:
Appropriations on Natural and Economic Resources
Commerce, Small Business, and Entrepreneurship
Finance Subcommittee on Capital and Infrastructure Financing
Judiciary I (Civil)
State and Local Government
Joint Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives
If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
Since I am presently representing Senate District 20, which includes the vast majority of Durham County, I have worked vigorously to support the agenda of other progressive members of the Senate, since my appointment. During the upcoming short session, I plan to co-sponsor a bill with Senator Doug Berger to fund a pilot project to expand an alternative school in Durham County and to create a similar program in Vance County that will assist us in decreasing our dropout rate. The program would be targeted at students at the 8th and 9th grade level who, due to their academic performance and other issues, are most likely to drop out of school. These students would be provided instructions in small groups in a non-traditional environment. The goal is to stimulate learning and to help the students obtain the type of academic skills that will enable them to graduate from high school and prepare them to attend a two or four year college or obtain gainful employment. This program will lead to an increase in the self-esteem of students while exposing them to positive role models and peers which will decrease the likelihood of these students dropping out of school and becoming involved in crime or in other forms of antisocial conduct. This Pilot Project is supported by representatives of Durham County and Vance County Public Schools, and it will be a high priority.
We need to implement as many policies as possible to encourage water conservation, in light of the drought which is impacting significant portions of our state. This will require us to network together to pass legislation that requires the installation of devices that reduce the usage and demand for water. We should use this opportunity to establish a study commission to identify opportunities for regional cooperation in the planning and construction of infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems. This group, or another similar group, should also explore regional approaches to planning transportation systems, including the creation or expansion of regional bus and mass transit systems, as well as the coordination of open space plans for trails and bikeways between neighboring communities. The commission should also develop strategies to address issues related to the rapid growth and urbanization of the metropolitan areas of our state.
We must work with the Center for Responsible Lending and other groups to craft legislation to help homeowners facing the potential of foreclosure, due to the sub-prime crisis, as well as those who own homes that in today's market are worth substantially less than the balance owed on their mortgages.
The items identified above as a result of practical considerations, need to be addressed immediately. On a longer-term basis we also need to address the following:
Instituting programs and policies that can improve the health of our general population and which can also reduce healthcare disparities in North Carolina. There is compelling data, which reveals that through effective intervention, we can decrease heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. We must also increase access to health care particularly among certain demographic segments of our population.
We need to establish a study commission to identify jobs and positions in state government, where pay disparities exist between males and females in similar positions. The commission should recommend a plan with tactics and strategies to eliminate these types of pay disparities in state government.
We need to provide adequate funding to equalize access to computers and databases to mitigate the digital divide in our public schools. All students in all 100 counties in North Carolina need access to technology to help them obtain the knowledge to complete in a world which is growing in technological complexity. We must also fund programs that will decrease standardized test score disparities.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues youve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
I believe that my experience as a member of City Council in Durham for eight years will greatly assist me in addressing the issues I have identified, as well as other significant issues, which will face North Carolina in the years ahead. Prior to serving on City Council, I served on the Planning Commission and on the Board of Adjustment in Durham. In addition, I served eight years as a member of the Triangle J Council of Governments and I had the privilege of serving one term as its Chairman. The Triangle J Council of Governments is comprised of approximately thirty-four units of local government in a seven-county area. The Council of Governments addresses issues of local and regional concern. In addition, I hold advanced degrees that will assist me to understand the most effective means of addressing some of the issues referred to above, as well as other matters which come before the Senate. I also hold a Masters Degree in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where I specialized in Land Use Planning and Financial Management. I hold a Masters Degree from Harvard University in Public Administration where I specialized in Management in State and Local Government and Diplomacy. Lastly, I hold a Law Degree from Duke University, and I have been an attorney for approximately twenty-four years. I have found this multi-disciplinary background to be useful in the past. While serving in the positions referred to above, I have learned to study and analyze complex issues and to build a consensus of opinion among colleagues and stakeholders that is necessary to move issues forward. During the time that I served as Chairman of the Joint City County Planning Committee in Durham, I worked effectively to forge the consensus necessary to pass Durham's first environmental regulations. While serving in that capacity, I also helped us to build consensus on an alternative plan to Eno Drive, which was an extremely controversial road project, which had divided our community. As Chairman of the Council of Governments, I worked with representatives of Durham County, Wake County, the City of Raleigh, the Town of Cary, and the Town of Morrisville to fund and sponsor a Center of the Region Conference to study and plan regional growth and development patterns along the 540 corridor where all of these committees come together and share common borders with common interest. Also as part of a Durham-Wake County Work Group, I worked with other elected officials and support staff to identify and establish boundaries for portions of the City of Raleigh which will be in Durham County and portions of the City of Durham will be in Wake County, in the future depending upon which community can best serve an area with utilities. We also identified areas where open space connections, as well as where roadways and bikeway connections should be created between neighboring communities. This type of regional thinking and approaches are needed for us to address issues relating to infrastructure planning and land use planning as we urbanize, not just in the Triangle but throughout North Carolina. The Triangle and the State must do better than we have done in the past.
As a newly appointed member of the Senate, I assisted other progressive members of the Senate to bring about mortgage reform among sub-prime lenders by passing legislation recommended by the Center for Responsible Lending, as well as others, during the final days of our session. This is the same type of work which will be necessary to address the foreclosure issues discussed above. In addition, while Senate Bill 3, which was passed last session, did not go as far as we needed in some areas, it does require utility companies to obtain 12.5 % of their energy supply from sustainable sources by the year 2020. During this past session we also worked to build consensus with our colleagues for a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit that will provide refunds for those whose circumstances may not allow them to work. This year dispute considerable opposition from a number of groups, the General Assembly also passed legislation to allow counties to impose a .04% land transfer tax or a ¼ cent sales tax with the approval of a local referendum. We also passed legislation which over the next several years will relieve counties of the burden to pay for Medicaid which was crippling the budget of many county governments and depriving them of funds for local projects. This is the same type of networking that is needed for us to address the issues I have identified as well as a host of other significant issues we are facing.
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I would classify myself as a financially (fiscally) responsible, progressive Democrat. The issues identified in this questionnaire are a part of my platform. I believe that my past accomplishments and present campaign embody my political philosophy.
4. The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
I believe that many of the positions articulated in my platform would, if achieved, help the Triangle to become a more just community. I would also like to point to two issues, which I pursued during this past session of the General Assembly. The first was the establishment of a commission to examine pay equity issues in state government. This proposal was contained in a Study Bill approved by the Senate ; however, this years Study Bill was not approved by the House. The second was a bill to study the feasibility of consolidating the various divisions of state government charged with enforcing our civil rights laws.
5. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I have taken positions on many issues over the years, which I felt were correct even if they were not the most popular positions to have taken at that point in time. I see no reason why I would deviate from that approach in the future.
One issue, which could be controversial, is whether civil unions should be allowed between gay and lesbian couples or whether domestic partners should be entitled to benefits to the same extent as married persons. I would support legislation allowing these privileges.
6. If these issues havent been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a. Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?
In order to effectively reduce poverty, one must first identify the root causes of poverty. One must first understand that poverty is primarily the result of deprivation and a lack of opportunity. If one does not have access to quality education, access to medical care, access to decent housing, and access to transportation, it is unlikely that one will have the skills necessary to obtain jobs in what has become a global market. We must begin by providing access to mothers who require prenatal care, as well as health benefits to all children. We must continue by providing access to quality early childhood education as well as assistance that may be needed to provide after school care and tutoring in order to nurture the development of the minds and bodies of our youth in their early years. Adequate nutrition must be provided for those in need. As young adults, summer jobs must be provided to help our youth develop skills and a strong work ethic. For those who are not able or choose not to pursue an education in a four year college, vocational training and community college education is essential. This is equally true for young adults and for older adults who have been laid off due to down sizing or plant closures. We must adequately fund our community college programs to offer job training that is designed to fit the needs of businesses in a particular area and more importantly to provide the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow. We are increasingly moving from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. Many persons being laid off will need to obtain a GED Degree, if they never completed high school, as a basis for obtaining a new job. We must also financially support programs such as Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits that use volunteerism as a means for neighbors and businesses to assist communities in providing affordable housing. The North Carolina Housing Finance Authority can also serve an important role in helping individuals obtain decent affordable housing that not only provides shelter, but which gives people an opportunity to build wealth, which in turn provides them with a stake in our future.
b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?
We need to encourage regional solutions to our transportation needs particularly in the major metropolitan areas. We should encourage the development of regional bus systems as a first step, rather than bus local systems, which serve only one community. We need comprehensive regional bus systems if they are to effectively serve as an alternative to the use of personal automobiles. Longer term, we must explore other types of rubber tire transit systems, as well as fixed guide way systems. These approaches will require dedicated funding sources, by way of illustration we should evaluate options such as increased gasoline taxes, the dedication of ½ cent on a local sales tax subject to local referendum, which was used in Charlotte to fund its mass transit system, or increased motor vehicle transfer fees. In the Research Triangle area we are using taxes from the rentals of vehicles as a funding source for our future transit plans; however, it has proven to be insufficient. We could also consider taxes on tires and on tractor-trailers that use our highways as potential funding sources. Technology is available to tax tractor trailers based upon the miles driven in our state. These funds could be used not only for mass transit but to assist us to satisfy our ever increasing need for additional roads and improved roads. We should always seek to use taxation policies which are the least regressive; however, we should never lose sight of the fact that, initially, many users of mass transit will be those without other transportation options open to them. We should encourage and perhaps require Transportation Demand Management Programs with major employers as well as carpooling to decrease peak hour demands on our transportation systems. We should also develop a plan to build high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV) on our highways or allowing the shoulders of roads to be used in some areas during peak highway hours. Considering the demand for highway improvements and our capacity to finance improvements, we will ultimately need to consider designing some of our new highway projects as toll roads. In the end, to meet air quality standards, the increased use of mass transit and encouraging the planning of transit-oriented development at the local level are exceptionally important components of an overall strategy to meet our long-term transportation needs.
c. Overcrowded prisons: Should we be moving toward more alternative-sentencing programs instead of prison time?
Considering the cost and social consequences of warehousing inmates in prison, we would be far better off considering the use of alternative sentencing programs. We also need to provide prisoners with job training to obtain meaningful jobs after their incarceration is completed. Lastly, the state, directly or through non-profit organizations, should consider becoming an employer of last resort for those released from prison that can't find jobs. It would be far cheaper than paying to incarcerate them again, if they can't find a job and crime becomes an option which negatively impacts all of us.
d. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?
The method in which we address healthcare and health insurance for adults and children will be greatly influenced by federal policy adopted by Congress, which may limit, enable, or restrict state policies in this area. Notwithstanding this fact, we must find a means to address these issues. Last year, the General Assembly adopted a plan to take over the increasing cost of Medicaid from the counties. This may cost the State approximately one billion dollars, as I recall, over the next five years. I do not know how, but the members and leadership of the House and Senate must collectively develop a reasonable financially viable plan, which can be implemented over the next five years to address these issues. We must also focus more attention on prevention programs that helps us to become healthier as a society. This means requiring physical education in our schools, providing healthier school lunches, addressing childhood and adult obesity. Prevention and early intervention will also help us address many of our health related problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer. We must fund programs that teach good dietary habits. We must also encourage and offer incentives for employers to offer workout rooms and exercise trails and who encourage good dietary habits in the workplace and daily exercise. An exercise break work be far healthier than a smoking or coffee break. This sounds simplistic; however, sometimes it is the small things that over the long run can have substantial positive impacts and decrease chronic diseases that require massive health care expenses to address.
e. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?
We must provide funding for home owner counseling and legal assistance, and we should expand the Home Mortgage Protection Pilot Program, through the North Carolina Housing Finance Authority. In addition, we must consider legislation that would allow mortgage companies to write off debt owed by borrowers who can demonstrate through a bona fide appraisal that their homes have fallen in value, for example, a verified thirty percent (30%) decrease in the value of a principal owner occupancy dwelling. Initiatives should also be evaluated to stabilize values in neighborhoods where property values are eroding due to foreclosures. I should point out that the State may be constrained in its options in dealing with this issue, as a result of Federal Law.
f. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees its a mess. Now what?
The State has a critical role to play in the provision of mental health care. Many of the problems which we encounter in our school system, and among our homeless population, are frequently rooted in our incapacity to serve persons experiencing mental illness. We must find an appropriate means for the state to take over areas which we essentially privatized in many respects several years ago. I know little about this area, except what I have read in newspaper articles in recent weeks. I have attempted to contact persons in the General Assembly who were proponents of the changes made in the delivery of mental health services, to obtain their opinions relating to tactics and strategies to reform our system. Unfortunately, I have been unable to reach them. I am reluctant to express detailed opinions in an area which I have not researched or been significantly involved in the past. I fully intend to research options in this area and to draw upon opinions from experts and practitioners in the field.
g. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? What direction should the state be taking on the revenue side?
We need to study the entirety of our tax structure to determine if there are opportunities to improve its effectiveness while reducing its regressiveness. Income ranges, deductions, and areas taxes, such as personal income, corporate income, as well as utilities and gasoline, should be thoroughly evaluated. We obviously need to enhance our revenues if we are to adequately provide for the needs of our state and community.
7) What is your position on capital punishment in North Carolina? If in favor, will you support a moratorium on executions while the question of whether the death penalty can be administered fairly is studied by the General Assembly?
I am opposed to capital punishment, and I support the moratorium.
8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.
I would support allowing civil unions in the State of North Carolina and allowing sexual orientation and identity as protected classes under state government discrimination laws.
9. Do you support womens reproductive rights, including the right to choose as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade? Given that North Carolina has the ninth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, do you support medically accurate sex education that includes information about birth control?
I support a womans right to chose as provided for in Roe vs. Wade. I also support medically accurate sex education that includes information about birth control. I was shocked to recently learn that approximately twenty-five percent of our teenagers carry a sexually transmittable disease. Something must be seriously done to address these types of problems.
10. Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?
North Carolina Employees should have the right to collective bargaining.