Name as it appears on the ballot: Vicki Scroggins Johnson
Campaign website: www.Vicki4Wake.com
Phone number: 919.459.7197
Years lived in Wake County: 11
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1. What are the three most important issues facing Wake County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The three most important issues facing Wake County today are: 1) managing growth; 2) maintaining high-quality public schools, and 3) improving our regional transit and road network.
My top three priorities include public safety, schools, and making Wake County competitive in international business markets.
For public safety, we need to ensure we have adequate resources such as staffing to meet the needs of our growing county. We also must make investments in the technology and equipment needed to provide efficient services.
For schools we need to ensure that we make efficient use of land for schools, invest in educational programs for both young and adult learners, and support our teachers and staff.
In order to compete in the international market place, we must have an infrastructure that provides for a strong road and transit network, sustainable resources, educated work force, and a variety of housing products for all stages of life.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Wake County Board of Commissioners? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
Wake County reached a milestone one million people last year, and continues to grow at the rate of 63 people per day. We are the fastest-growing region (and perhaps county) in the country, and we need elected officials who are cognizant of the leadership role this presents to us.
I have served on the Morrisville Town Council since 2013. I address issues the communities in District B are facing and will continue to face in the near future. We are facing traffic congestion and growing out to complete development of our borders. I believe what I have learned in this process will help me support Wake County as a place that will live up to its reputation of a government which welcomes business and expansion while managing growth and our natural resources in a responsible manner.
The future of our county is on the international stage. Morrisville is already beginning to examine our role as an international site for competitive business and technology growth. I think I can bring that to the whole county and help all the communities of Wake County share in this success.
I am an experienced leader in international business units through my work in the pharmaceutical industry. I have a Masters in Business Administration and certification in Project Management. I have a proven track record of bringing people together to help move projects forward.
During my time on Morrisville council, we have opened the first regulation-size cricket field in Wake County; approved the expansion and connection of four new greenways; started, funded, and moved forward three road construction and improvement projects; enacted a responsible storm water management program in accordance with the Jordan Lake Rules; increased weekly recycling collection capacity by 45%; garnered attention and consideration from the School Board for a new school in Morrisville; approved expansion of the Park West Shopping Center area with an eye on the traffic situation and infrastructure; and supported both the police and fire departments in obtaining national certification.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I consider myself a moderate Democrat who works effectively across the aisle and across different levels of government. I believe that a government needs to use its resources with the utmost efficiency and best cost analysis. This includes creating a business environment which is welcoming, supportive, and willing to help ease the process of setting up a business.
As a member Morrisville Town Council, I have been successful in advocating for road improvements and greenways with collaboration from land owners, state government, and other resources to help keep the costs down for Morrisville residents. As an example, I worked with NCDOT to speed the construction and lower the cost of the new NC 54 bypass for both town and state taxpayers.
Another example of my pragmatic, collaborative style has been finding a way to increase school construction despite Morrisville being almost built out, with few land parcels large enough for new schools. Although town governments do not have jurisdiction for schools or their construction, our town council has strongly advocated for new schools and more stable school assignments. Through active dialogue and council letters, we have seen this effort result in more schools built in nearby Cary which Morrisville students attend.
4. In a split decision last summer, the county commission voted in favor of a 3.65-cent-per-$100 increase in the property-tax rate to help fund the school system. The tax hike raised an additional $44.6 million, most of it going toward teacher pay. Do you agree with the board’s decision?
Since 2008, the teacher pay set by the state legislature has not kept up with inflation. Wake County has a higher-than-average cost of living relative to the rest of North Carolina, and we have customarily provided a local teacher pay supplement to offset that. The recent supplement increase passed by the current Board of Commissioners was designed to bring overall teacher pay back in line with 2008 levels. I see this action as a one-time significant adjustment for Wake County teachers. In the future, the General Assembly should take the lead on increasing teacher pay, with the county providing supplements to offset area cost of living.
5. This spring, the commission is expected to approve a plan for an expanded transit system with bus and, eventually, rail components. The board will vote on whether to put a referendum for a half-cent sales tax increase on the ballot in November. Do you support the transit plan and the half-cent sales tax increase to pay for expanded transit? Why or why not? Do you believe the plan should have included a commuter rail line that connects to RTP, as some proposed?
Like many municipalities, Morrisville does not have an existing bus service, but the proposed transit plan, supported by the bond, will allow increased rapid bus service throughout the county. I feel confident that the half-cent tax increase will be properly earmarked to fund the expansion of Wake County’s bus service and eventual rail service.
This plan is the vital first step in an ongoing process of alleviating traffic and planning for growth rather than simply reacting to it. It will require regular expansion and adjustments as our region’s needs grow and change. Rail will eventually be a part of that. It will connect people and businesses efficiently not only in Wake but throughout the larger Triangle and North Carolina. That is important if we want to continue to make our county a hub for business investment from other states and countries.
6. The commissioners recently allocated more than $100,000 in next year’s budget to hire more investigators to fight drug trafficking, which, as the county grows, is increasingly becoming a problem. What other steps do you believe the county should take?
Wake County can increase its regional efforts to deter drug abuse and trafficking by increasing coordination with area law enforcement, providing more community outreach and education programming, and increasing the number of police dogs across the county. In addition, we need to increase our medical staff to support the Sheriff’s office in its efforts to manage this issue.
7. Wake County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. Thinking proactively, name three things the county should be doing now—or doing better—to prepare for this growth.
We need to think in terms of global business competition and regional growth. We need to adopt more policies that promote the best investment of our resources and foster a sustainable environment. I have traveled for business to countries across five continents, and I have seen first-hand the high regard other countries have for higher education, transit, and sustainability.
1) Schools — Wake County should establish a taskforce to work with local municipalities and state government to identify potential ways to secure school sites for future growth. This may include land banking and zoning coordination with municipalities.
2) Transit – We cannot simply add more lanes to our road network to ease congestion. Enacting the transit plan and supporting a bond referendum are key elements for success in managing the transportation issues. Connecting our communities, transit will offer more independence to our residents.
3) Sustainability – Increased coordination of our natural resources and preservation efforts is key to the long term health of the environment, residents, and businesses. More public awareness is needed on ways to reduce waste, increase recycling, conserve water usage, and manage storm water.
8. The commission recently voted to provide all of its employees with a living wage. What steps do you believe the county should be taking to address the broader issue of inequality within Wake County?
Much of my main focus on regional growth, strengthening public schools and transit has the added goal of working to improve opportunities for all. While we work on those areas, we must also coordinate with local towns to identify ways to increase affordable housing. Our local teachers, police officers, and fire safety cannot always live in the communities they serve. A variety of housing products is needed in all communities.
Access to higher education will help address inequalities. Wake Technical Community College is a leader in North Carolina. Through its early college and workforce retraining programs, students of all ages can learn the skills necessary to compete in today’s business environment.
9. The General Assembly in recent years has redrawn electoral districts for both the county commission and the school board, controversial measures that are now the subject of lawsuits. What do you think is the current state of Wake’s relationship with the legislature? If elected, what would you do to improve it?
The General Assembly has caused tension between the two parties by redrawing district lines. Some believe it was done in response to recent election outcomes. No matter the reason, they have that power. While the County Commission should not hesitate to make policy, it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to establish strong relationships with legislators, particularly those from our own delegation. When relationships are strong, state government can be a positive force for the people of Wake County, particularly our school system, and a source of funding for our projects.
On the Morrisville Town Council, I have worked with my fellow council members to establish improved communications with NCDOT, state elected officials, and county boards. With a better understanding of county and state processes, I am a better advocate for my town. If elected to the Wake County Commission, I would work on creating a relationship with state leaders that offers open dialogue and trust. I see the new Wake County District B as a platform for smaller communities across Wake County.
10. Identify a principled stance you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.
I believe that we should do more to secure school sites. Land costs continue to climb across the county, and the acquisition of future school sites would provide a more predictable financial model for school construction and renovations. Efforts to consider joint development with other governmental agencies could also accelerate school construction.
I would put more priority on increasing dialogue with local towns. Towns have long range land use plans that impact site selection and land cost.