Ellie Kinnaird | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Ellie Kinnaird 

Candidate for General Assembly

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Ellie Kinnaird
Party: Democrat
Date of Birth: 11-14-31
Candidate web site: www.elliekinnaird.org
Occupation & Employer: Attorney, self employed
Years lived in North Carolina: 44 years

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?

It is very important that we continue to expand support for alternative energy, energy efficiency and for local agriculture to position NC for the future and to promote a stronger job environment. While I will continue to work on these longer-term issues, I believe the most critical issues and, therefore, my highest priorities are as follows.

  1. The mental health crisis is the most critical issue because the system is simply not functioning and people and families are going without necessary services.

    1. I propose to return the screening, crisis intervention, and service providers to the local organizations.

    2. The state must dismiss Value Options as the screening and crisis intervention agency.

    3. The state must change from private providers of services to county and local providers.

  2. We need to attract more good teachers into the system, especially in low-wealth schools.

    1. We need to pay teachers a decent salary.

    2. We must restore respect and discipline in the classroom. I hear from many teachers that they do not feel supported by their administrations so we need to improve administrative support for an environment conducive for learning.

    3. At the same time, we need to provide alternative services for problem students rather than expelling them. Over 300,000 students are suspended each year and that is a serious problem for both the students and for society at large.

  3. We can avoid spending more money on prison construction and redirect that money.

    1. We need to adjust the structured sentencing to handle nonviolent offenders in community-based facilities. If that had been done, we would have eliminated the need for 2500 prison beds. I will work to effect that change.

    2. Our police forces need to be trained to identify mental health issues in offenders and direct mentally-ill offenders into closely-supervised but therapeutic facilities rather than prisons. This has been done elsewhere and has been shown to save money and is more likely reduce repeat offense.

    3. I will also strengthen and fund more intervention and prevention programs for families and children in crisis.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

I am driven by the progressive values and principles that I share with my constituents and the tenacity and leadership skills necessary to get changes enacted in a sometimes reluctant legislature.

  • My environmental track record includes getting a moratorium on hog waste lagoons and then tougher regulations on their use; stopping the seven-state radioactive waste site that would have been built in Chatham County; incentives for farmland preservation; prohibiting construction waste in landfills; a moratorium on mega-landfills and improving energy efficiency in state buildings and vehicle fleets.

  • My commitment to open and honest government has led to such measures as preventing bundling by lobbyists by requiring transparency with employment information for political contributions; requirements that voting must have a paper ballot and the results must be auditable; making access to voting easier by providing for early voting and same-day registration; and significant steps toward public financing of campaigns.

  • And my achievements in areas of health and health care include getting tax disincentives on soft drinks and candy in school vending machines and tax on tobacco, establishing a folic acid program and birth-defects registry to eliminate certain childhood afflictions, establishing a tax incentive for small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees as well as stopping BCBS from converting their non-profit operation to for-profit without repaying the state for their tax-favored treatment over the years.

  • In addition to my leadership on these and many other bills, I have regularly supported the causes of working people in our state such as increasing the minimum wage, a refundable tax credit for the working poor and farm use taxation to help farmers stay in business.

3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am pragmatic progressive. I am fortunate to represent constituents who share my vision for a future in which we take steps to mitigate and prepare for global climate change, in which we take steps to improve working conditions and enable healthier families, and in which we take steps to prevent crime rather than just build more prisons. I initiate measures to move our state toward a healthier and more just future and work for those changes until they are enacted.

4. The Independent’s 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.

If re-elected, I plan to work on green building mandates for all low-income housing that receives public funding and—without reducing our water quality—we need to take steps to limit the effects of droughts in the future. I will work to repeal the ban on collective bargaining and I want to improve funding for child care for low-income families. And, as I indicated above, we must get mental health services to those in crisis. I hope to ban the execution of the mentally ill, increase expenditures for intervention and prevention programs to help keep youth out of prisons, and change the sentencing for non-violent offenders so we do not need more prisons. There is still so much to do. If the economy continues to soften, I expect to use my leadership positions to help preserve much needed programs while bringing in a balanced budget.

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 will work to repeal the ban on collective bargaining and, I suspect, that will be unpopular with some of my constituents. But it is clear to me that working families need a stronger voice in their working conditions, pay and heath care security, and in their retirement security.

6. If these issues haven’t 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?

Better schools in low-wealth areas are first. Child care subsidies to enable families to hold jobs to support their families above the poverty level and housing that is accessible to all.

b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?

We need a light rail in the Triangle, not just more lanes that fill up with commuters. I'd like to see more “complete streets” with bike lanes and sidewalks to encourage less automobile dependence and healthier lifestyles.

c. Overcrowded prisons: Should we be moving toward more alternative-sentencing programs instead of prison time?

We should definitely fund alternatives to prison, but more importantly we need to help children and families in crisis with adequate services before they get to the criminal justice system. 40% of people in prison are mentally ill, 80% of juveniles in the criminal justice system have serious mental health problems. Our largest mental health facilities are jails, prisons and homeless shelters. As previously discussed, we ned to train law enforcement to recognize the mentally ill so these offenders can get proper treatment rather than just prison time.

d. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?

We need universal health care in this state. A study 10 years ago showed that we could fund health care insurance like the state provides its workers for the cost of emergency care, indigent care and the costs associated with people not seeking health care before emergencies. I think the health insurance system is broken enough that we can make progress toward offering state-provided options to those without insurance or without adequate insurance.

e. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?

North Carolina passed the strictest predatory and mortgage broker laws in the country. We need to prevent Congress from diluting those measures with their override now before them. But Congress should provide measures to refinance those with balloon payments that are now facing foreclosure.

f. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it’s a mess. Now what?

Please see my opening statement. We must return control to local mental health organizations, dismiss Value Options, and provide government services, not for-profit providers.

g. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? What direction should the state be taking on the revenue side?

Our taxes are not too high, but they are being eroded by tax-credit incentives given to companies as a bribe to build or stay here which shifts the tax burden to individual tax payers. Sales taxes are regressive, the income tax is progressive. The land transfer tax will help distribute the burden more fairly. We also need to put a sales tax on services. I opposed lowering the income tax rate on the highest income bracket.

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 introduced and was able to pass a moratorium on the death penalty in the Senate, but it did not pass in the House. Because of the pressure created by my moratorium bill, many measures to improve the system were enacted. We prohibited the execution of the mentally retarded (which the Supreme Court referred to when they banned it nationally), D.A.’s no longer have to seek the death penalty, they are required to give all exculpatory and other discovery to defense attorneys, and the defendant must have two experienced defense lawyers, investigators and expert witnesses and the line up method is prescribed to prevent bias.

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 introduced the repeal of the Crime Against Nature laws my first term and the next two terms until the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. I believe the courts will eventually recognize marriage between gay people because it is a constitutional right of equal protection of the laws. I voted to add sexual orientation and identity as a protection for all state workers and will vote to extend it to all anti-discrimination laws.

9. Do you support women’s 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 women’s reproductive rights and Row v. Wade. I was a member of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention of North Carolina where the goal was sex education and programs for all teens. It and the Planned Parenthood programs were successful. I hope the bill to require all schools to have accurate information will pass this next session. I have voted for those bills every year in the Senate.

10. Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?

Yes, public employees should have the right to bargain collectively and I have introduced the bill in the past and will do so again if I am re-elected.

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