Name as it appears on the ballot: Fred Foster Jr.
Date of birth: September 12, 1948
Campaign Web site: www.electfredfoster.com
Occupation & employer: Retired, but working as Teacher Assistant at E.K. Powe
1. Describe your past leadership roles, both in career and community. How will these experiences help you serve on the Board of Commissioners? Please be specific about how these roles correspond to a commissioner's responsibilities.
Having served as the President of Old Farm Neighborhood Association, Vice-Chair of the Bridges Pointe Foundation, the Second and Third Vice Chair of the Durham County Democratic Party, and Treasurer of the Durham County Democratic Party, and former Commander of the American Legion Post 175, the Secretary/Treasurer of the Executive Board of Operation Breakthrough, and former Executive Board Member of the Durham Literacy Council. I have also served as the President of the Durham Branch NAACP since 2006. In that capacity, I have had extensive experience examining policy imperatives, policy maps, and the relevant consequences for communities in the United States—but particularly in North Carolina and the Durham Community. Specifically, I have had to address budgetary audits, housing policies, health policies, criminal conduct, education policies in cities, and counties in North Carolina. For example, I have had to confront the stoppage of foreclosures, the denial of healthcare to the underprivileged, crime policy, the fight for equity, and excellence in education. The County Commissioners of Durham County have had to make decisions of consequence in each of the respective issues described above. I believe my experience uniquely qualifies me to confront the rising challenges posed by youth in our community, and the need to give greater attention to the environment.
2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a liberal democrat who believes in the criticality of conscience and moral imperatives that undergird both government and markets. An expansive democracy must of necessity promote greater social and economic prosperity for all citizens regardless of race, color, or gender. I have served in the United States Military and I oppose war. I believe we would be better served by investing in healthcare and education. I believe in reducing government waste and unnecessary taxes. To this end, we need to ensure that corruption is rooted out of government and markets. In short, I believe that the market is broken and must be reconfigured to sustain growth and face the global challenges of countries such as China and Germany. But as government seeks to reduce our reliance on foreign nations and meet the new political/military and economic challenges, I believe every American must exercise greater discipline and assume responsibility for their own choices. We must ensure that for every measure of support provided by government to the citizens of Durham, the citizens must assume some responsibility for their welfare as part of an exchange relation.
3. List the three most important issues facing Durham, in order of priority. If elected, how will you address these issues? Please be specific.
1. Jobs; 2. economic development; 3. Protection, aggressive surveillance and exposure of environmental challenges and enforcement of related laws.
I will address the issue of jobs by developing grant proposals for state and federal assistance, identifying opportunities to bring more corporate entities to Durham, by supporting the provision of reasonable incentives to corporate entities whose requirements are consistent with the major properties of the workforce in our community. We must support working people, and develop operational strategies for reducing crime.
I will address the issue of economic development by partnering with government officials in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Research Triangle Park to expand and support expansive growth. I will also support the expansion of Durham's infrastructure and support for education. Further, I will develop and support the marketing of Durham as an entity for growing business in the global marketplace.
I will address the issue of protecting the environment through aggressive surveillance and the accentuation of transparency. First, I will call on the Environmental Protection Agency for greater support and surveillance of Durham per reports from members of our community. Second, I will support greater scrutiny of existing challenges to our environment that may potentially compromise public health. Third, I will develop a working and cooperative relationship with all city and county officials who are responsible for protecting the environment. Fourth, I will develop and support community forums to ascertain their concerns and proposal of solutions. Fifth, I will support that greater penalties be applied to those who dump waste in our community or who otherwise engage in criminal conduct that impacts the community.
4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected, that you know would cost you popularity points with voters.
I stand against Amendment One which violates everything that I have fought against since becoming the leader in Durham for civil rights. Many members of our community fail to fully understand the moral and legal imperatives that undergird hate and persecution.
5.Please describe how you handled a difficult decision in your community leadership experience or career. What were the possible consequences of the decision you made? Looking back, please explain whether you are still comfortable with how you handled the situation, or how you would change your actions.
I notified the City of Durham to report a homeowner for violating city ordinances that we could not get him to comply with ourselves. He threatened to sue the association as a result of that complaint and I had to decide whether to apologize or just let him sue the association. I decided to meet with him, apologize and ask that he accept the wishes of the association in the future. This could have bankrupted the association and caused a division in our community. I am comfortable how I handled the situation.
6. Last fall, voters approved new sales taxes to generate new revenue for the Durham Public Schools and for mass transit in the county. Did you vote for or against these measures? Please explain why.
I support Durham Public Schools and mass transit and I will search for revenue that derives from waste and duplication of services instead of any form of taxes. Durham Citizens have been burdened with a series of tax increases. I oppose tax increases.
7. The newly adopted Durham County Strategic Plan identifies the need in Durham County to expand residents' access to technology. As a commissioner, how would you work toward this goal and how would you finance the efforts?
I would work very closely with Duke University, UNC, North Carolina Central, and North Carolina State to acquire community grants for new technology, and establish a systems platform that would be available to members in each community and enhances access and collaboration. I would provide greater support for Kramden Institute to distribute computers to as many Durham Citizens as possible, and particularly young people. Kramden Institute has enjoyed support of more than 4500 supporters, donors, and thousands of corporate and personal gifts from the community. I would also propose that local business leaders provide greater access to cyberspace by providing more points of access to cyberspace. I would also support the development of a permanent body of experts drawn from all of the aforementioned communities to serve as an advisory group on all matters electronic. Finally, I would propose the development of databases related to social media that provides greater contact with members of our community on all public policy matters brought before the County Commission.
8. What are the pros and cons of the county's economic incentives program? How would you amend it? What oversight mechanisms are in place to ensure companies adhere to the policy? Are those oversight mechanisms sufficient?
The advocates of the county's economic incentive program argue that the provision of incentives support market expansion and competition, more jobs, greater tax revenue, and intersectoral growth. The critics argue that Durham has no assurance that companies receiving incentives will make a long-term commitment to the community i.e. Dell Computers in Winston-Salem. Second, Durham has limited ways to enforce agreements or sanction corporate entities that fail to meet their commitments. Further, critics argue that using incentives without giving the appropriate attention to residual forces and/or peripheral matters such as balanced growth, possible sprawl, water management, and emissions may ultimately do more harm to the community in the long-term. The globalization of cheap labor represents a constant threat to local labor, and corporate entities may abandon local capital and labor at any time. Risk assessments must be constant and ongoing matters involving the provision of economic incentives to corporate entities. I know of no oversight mechanisms that are currently sufficient. I would suggest convening a series of specialized meetings to fully explore the full use of 'economic incentives' prior to offering amendments. In any event, I propose the use of Auditors to fully explore and analyze all decisions involving the use of economic incentives. As a matter of accentuating transparency, I would propose that the full report deriving from the work be made public.
9. What incentives would be appropriate in persuading the commercial and industrial sectors to cut their greenhouse gas emissions? The residential sector? Durham County in 2007 adopted a Greenhouse Gas Emissions plan, but at what point will Durham need to take more aggressive steps in emissions reductions?
Durham needs to take aggressive and progressive steps to reduce emissions immediately. I believe the best incentives to use in this process is a reduction in taxes for the commercial, industrial, and residential sectors. Tax reductions balanced against the costs of Greenhouse Gas Emissions should be clear. If Durham County continues to ignore this reality, the associated costs for Greenhouse Emissions will force officials to raise taxes at some point in the near future for the express purpose of meeting our responsibilities.
10. Crime and safety is a large component of county government. What are your priorities for improvements in pre- and post-conviction services, such as prisoner re-entry programs and diversion programs for juveniles? How will you fund those priorities? How will you measure the success of those programs?
Working more closely with the Courts to ensure young people are not abandoned in the process, and their parents are an integral part of all young people who are the subject of conviction. To press officials to ensure that warrants are properly served, and those who violate their probation are promptly arrested and incarcerated. To press officials to ensure that the punishments for crimes are consistent with the nature of the crimes. Repeat offenders must be placed under intense scrutiny and repeatedly subjected to interventions. I propose an independent board that monitors the aforementioned matters using public information and advises the County Commissioners. Funding these priorities may be best served by reducing or suspending salaries of irresponsible personnel, and attacking corruption in government.
11. Among the most controversial issues to test the commissioners in recent years is development. Please explain the philosophy that will guide your decisions on development while serving as a county commissioner, and also share your definition of smart growth.
My philosophy of development is to promote creativity that is practical and balanced, which gives the greatest opportunities for members of the Durham Community to take advantage of the social and economic prosperity in the community. I am also committed to diversity and the building of coalitions in the community that fully articulate the challenges and necessities that promote community—but especially growing opportunities for employment. Sensitive to an aggressive approach to protecting the environment, all development projects must be thoroughly subjected to critical analyses by City/County Personnel and at least one body of signature professionals outside the City/County of Durham. In other words, we need to make better use of consultants who are not likely to possess biases that support presumptions that are embedded in the planning and development culture. In my view, we need to encourage greater discourse about development that is critical in nature without treating it as conflictual. Unfortunately, lines of criticism are tied all too often to notions of unprofessionalism rather than constructive dialogue. Herein are the philosophical ideas that will govern the process of my decisions with respect to development. Also, I will always convene meetings with citizens from several walks of life prior to making any decision on development.
Smart growth is urban planning and transportation that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl.