Name as it appears on the ballot: Tommy McNeill
Date of birth: June 24, 1962
Occupation & employer: King Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Years lived in Orange County: 2
1) What are the three most important issues facing Orange County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
Increase funding for Economic Development Commission, Fund the positions requested by the County Manager and Maintain Farmland Preservation.
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.
Coming of age in rural North Carolina, I understand and appreciate the planning and execution that must accompany diligence, persistence, and hard work in order to produce results. This results-driven perspectivecombined with integrityhas been the key to my accomplishments. Just as I served my country in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and now serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster in my community, I have a genuine and deeply rooted desire to help others
3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
As a small business owner with 20 years of military and 13 years of corporate experience, I am a consensus builder with an understanding of business and government. I will place a strong emphasis on investing in innovation and partnering with corporations to bring in new business to Orange County.
4) Approximately how many BOCC meetings have you attended in the past two years?
As a recent resident of Orange County and President of Eno Woods Homeowners Association, I have spoken with Orange County residents about their issues and concerns. Being involved at the grassroots provides an insight which is beneficial toward shaping the future of Orange County. Therefore, I pledge to attend all BOCC meetings, if elected as a County Commissioner.
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?
I strongly believe that the BOCC should work collaboratively with the Orange County Board of Education and representation from the two school systems in order to identify priorities and to allocate funding. Balancing the per-pupil allocation with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools' district tax is a challenge, but it is not insurmountable. However, the identification of these funding priorities should be the result of the BOCC and educational representatives working together.
Regarding balancing the needs of the school systems in consideration of Orange County's other pressing financial needs, Given that 50 percent of the county's budget is allocated to these districts, I believe that creates an extraordinary opportunity for decision makers. It is therefore a much greater opportunity for the BOCC to consider the importance of education to the growth and future of our county and economy.
6) The Orange County Board of Education recently decided to address an imbalance of economic diversity between two elementary schoolsCentral Elementary and Hillsborough Elementaryby 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?
I agree with the BOCC's decision to address the imbalance. Futhermore, it is the BOCC's responsiblility to maintain a diverse and financially sound School System.
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.
The reliance upon the land transfer tax as an alternative revenue source. As we strive to serve the best interest of the citizens of Orange County, we must collaborate to determine what tax structures will provide the greatest benefit and return while managing in an economy that is already overly stressed.
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?
The recent drought has amplified the need to better manage our resources. As a result, we will no doubt have to change so that we all may continue to benefit from our resources. As this drought was unexpected, Orange County has been forced accommodate and adapt.
In the future, if elected, I would encourage the county to proactively create an Advisory Committee and subsequent comprehensive plan designed to address conservation in Orange County, and how we all can better manage our resources.
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?
Balancing economic potential and environmental concerns in situations such as Buckhorn Village is not an isolated situation, but is representative of decisions we will be making more and more frequently as we move forward in Orange County. Just as the BOCC is committed to the economic development and success of the county, the BOCC must also consider the environmental impact.
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?
Just as the Rogers Road community should not have borne the negative impact of environmental conflict, nor should our county continue to make decisions that place our precious neighborhoods and communities in parallel.
I would advocate that decision makers should consider public input as well as environmental and cost studies in considering We should conduct a study to determine the most appropriate location for the waste-transfer site.
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?
It is my strong desire to be elected so that I may lead others and contribute to our county as we strive to achieve the highest possible quality of life for our citizens. I am proud to be a resident of Orange County and confident that I could be of the greatest value in such a position. It is for this reason that running for elected office.
12) Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.
The merger between Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill - Carrboro Schools.