Name as it appears on the ballot: Woodie Cleary
Campaign Website: www.woodiecleary.com
Occupation & Employer: Information Security; Retired (2/1/2016) from NC Dept Revenue after 21 years
Phone number: 919-267-9648
Years lived in the district: Over 21 years
1. How would you rate the 2015 session of the General Assembly?
Poor as they continued to fail the citizens of North Carolina overlooking the voices of reason.
2. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? The incumbent I am challenging supported overreach of state government in Session Law 2015-4 that meddled in Wake County politics by changing and districting the Board of Commissioners. Among other laws passed, he voted for Senate Bill 2 that allowed magistrates and other state officials to opt out of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, on the basis of religious beliefs. He voted again to override the Governor's veto on this issue. And he also overreached in supporting the passage bills restricting women's reproductive rights as well as the rights of voters. And all this from a group that values small government?? On the other hand, in his tenure as a budget writer, he didn't go far enough with funding of services essential to North Carolinians such as adequate assistance for families living in poverty including Medicaid expansion. On his watch, our public school suffered from overall teacher salaries plummeting from a state ranking of 28th in 2010 to 47th in 2014 and shrinking per student spending along the way that hasn't been normalized post-recession. (continued below).
3. Education spending, if you include the UNC system, accounts for more than half of the state budget. But per-pupil K-12 spending is among the lowest in the country. Does the state need to allocate more money to classrooms? Should teachers be given a raise? If so, how would you propose to pay for it? A good, adequately resourced public school system provides learning development and early skill sets that influence whether young North Carolinians will earn a living wage in adulthood. Despite the boasting of the Governor and the majority party in power about raising teachers' salaries, 70% of our public school teachers were denied a raise. All teachers lost funding for learning resources for their students that in some cases results in taking money out of their own pockets along with extra work in making copies of learning resources in short supply. And to add insult to injury, the funding for the NC Teaching Fellows Program was cut in 2011 and the program officially closed last year. In terms of closing some of these gaps in public education funding, we could restore funds needed for student resources and teacher raises by repealing the current regressive tax system. We could also expand Medicaid which would save the state $318 million between 2016 and 2020.
4. The state in recent years has embraced charter schools and vouchers. Proponents argue that these alternatives to traditional public education offer options for parents who would otherwise have to place their child in a subpar school. Opponents argue that these alternatives divert resources from schools that need them the most. Do you believe North Carolina needs more or fewer of these alternative education options? Charter schools are growing across North Carolina and while some charter schools perform well, others do not fulfill their mission. This becomes a problem since charter schools are drawing upon public school funding streams without the accountability of public schools. Another problem is that the student population in charter schools is less diverse as our state becomes increasingly diverse. In addition, the statistics related to the socio-economic status of students vary widely between charter schools (with a 36% economically disadvantaged student population) compared to 55% in traditionally public schools. I believe it's time for a public conversation about both the pros & cons of charter schools that includes their financial impact on the public school system.
5. The secretive process by which the UNC board hired Margaret Spellings has been roundly criticized in the media. Do you believe the Legislature should be more directly involved with university-system decisions of this nature? Also, do you believe the Board of Governors has become overly politicized in recent years, as some have alleged? Whether our legislature is majority Republican or Democrat, it should not have a controlling role over decisions made in our colleges and universities; there are many brilliant minds in higher education. The problem with Spellings being offered the position of President of the UNC System was the secrecy factor, leaving administrators, faculty, staff and students as well as alumni and other public stakeholders out of the conversations. One only needed to read the emails published in the N&O congratulating the Board Chair for hiring a conservative to see the partisan politics in this decision.
5. What are your three biggest budgetary priorities? Please be specific.
1. Restoring education funding to more widely raise teacher salaries and to reinstate sufficient funding for student resources.
2. Restoring severely cut unemployment benefits to at least 26 weeks.
3. Restoring human resources for the purpose of tackling environmental issues in our state.
6. The Legislature has over the past three years flattened and reduced the state income tax, and critics contend that most of the benefits have accrued to those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder. Do you believe the state’s tax system is equitable and prudent? If not, how would you like to see it changed?
New tax policies are neither equitable or prudent. They are regressive and put an unfair tax burden on the middle class and also North Carolinians hovering around the poverty level while favoring the very rich. I will be a strong advocate for returning to a graduated tax rate rather a flat tax. I would also do a review of the impact of raising fees on essential items like drivers licenses which creates another form of unfair tax on the poor. In a recent op-ed in the N&O, Gene Nichols quoted Robert Kennedy, "He who denies the outcast and the stranger also denies America."
7. North Carolina has not executed anyone in 10 years, but it has 148 people on death row. Would you support restarting executions, or do you believe the death penalty should be abolished? In 2016, I believe that we have reached a better jumping off point to abolish the death penalty entirely, becoming the 20th state to ban the death penalty.
8. Last year, over the governor’s veto, the Legislature passed S.B. 2, which allows magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex-marriage ceremonies? Do you support S.B. 2 or believe it should be repealed? Why or why not?
Unlike my incumbent opponent who supported SB 2 twice with a vote for it and also a veto override vote, I stand fully against this law. Not only does it violate the anti-discrimination protections under the US Constitution but religious beliefs should never interfere with others' personal freedoms under the law.
9. Also in the last year’s session, the Legislature passed a bill forcing abortion providers to send the Department of Health and Human Services ultrasound images of some aborted fetuses. Do you believe such provisions are necessary, or is this a case of the state inappropriately interfering in women’s health care decisions? This law really crosses the line by invasive tactics into women's personal health and reproductive choices. It also constitutes an all-out assault on privacy.
10. If elected, what would you do to protect North Carolina’s environment and natural resources? Do you believe state environmental regulatory bodies need more funding or less funding, and why? Yes. Regulatory Reform Laws have cut regulations on companies - most notably Duke Energy along with reduced resources at DENR have put our environment at further risk.
11. In recent years, the Legislature has reconfigured districts for both the Wake County Board of Education and the Wake County Board of Commissioners in a manner that critics allege was done to boost Republican electoral hopes. Do you believe this redistricting was proper? Would you support repealing these bills? Once again this is government overreach by a party with supposedly small government ideology. Yes- I would work hard to repeal these bills.
12. On reapportionment, both parties have shown that they will abuse the redistricting process when given a chance. Will you support a bill in the next session to turn all future redistricting over to a non-partisan or bi-partisan independent commission? Without a doubt - taking partisanship out of redistricting is long overdue.
13. 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. With some background in environmental issues, I will be a champion for the urgency of addressing the need for clean energy, acknowledging that sound environmental policies often bump up against business priorities. I love a Kenyan Proverb posted at a McDonald's in Cary: "Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children."