Fred Foster, Jr. | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Fred Foster, Jr. 

Candidate for Durham County Commissioners

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Fred Foster, Jr.
Date of birth: September 12, 1948
Years lived in Durham County: Twenty-nine
Campaign website: None
Occupation & Employer: Retired

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Durham County? What are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

Expanded economic development opportunities appear to be the most important issue confronting Durham County citizens, and my top priorities for handling this are as follows:

  1. Re-training our aging baby boomer population and finding alternative income sources, particularly small business with green jobs so they can continue to contribute to the county’s prosperity.
  2. Discover and support ways that our rapidly aging population can avoid bankruptcy and foreclosures.
  3. Finding ways to open new economic development opportunities for the county’s younger population (28-45) who confront the challenges of more and more jobs disappearing from our economy.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Durham County Commission? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have been involved with community services for more than a decade, learning to work within existing systems to help effect change and expand opportunities. As Political Director for the Durham NAACP, I helped to form a Coalition to Reduce Plea-Bargaining of Violent Gun Crimes in Durham. As Chairman for the Durham Voter Coalition I worked with East Durham Fair Share to develop a new City-Wide Housing Impact Policy. We also worked to get the Durham City Council to adopt a code that requires the landlord/owner to repair the house within 90 days, if the cost of repair is less than 50 percent of the structure’s current tax value. Durham Voter Coalition worked under my leadership with the City and County to adopt a Junk Yard Ordinance. That states the accumulation and storage of abandoned, wrecked, junked, partially dismantled or inoperative vehicles as defined herein within the City of Durham is hereby found to create an unsightly condition.

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 a political pragmatist, prepared to find new, innovative and creative solutions to local government challenges. My political philosophy has been formed by my history of community organizing. I believe in the right of people to choose what they want and to reject what they do not want. My job is to give them the best information we have and represent their point of view.

4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

Durham County has an untapped wealth of talent that as a commissioner, I will tap into this untapped talent to provide the necessary resources to meet the communities’ need for smart growth, funding schools, providing public safety and human services.

5. Identify a principal stand you might be willing to take if elected, that you know would cost you popularity points with voters.

I believe we should work closely with individuals released from prison who also want to become contributing citizens and make certain that they become registered to vote and vote regularly.

6. Durham city leaders have been criticized for failing to act quickly on dealing with the extreme drought. As a County Commissioner, what policies would you recommend—and try to build consensus on---to address the existing crisis? Do you think Jordan Lake is an appropriate water resource for Durham? Why or why not? What permanent, new water conservation measures should be implemented in Durham County?

The County should ask the Legislature to set up a Regional Water Commission to oversee our water resources so that this doesn’t happen again. Further, the Commission will make sure that the water is shared equally among all affected counties. Members of the Commission should be composed of representatives of the Soil and Water Commission, County Environmental Affairs Boards, and the City Water Resources Department.

7. In any County Budget, some agencies’ expenditures must be cut, while others need increased. In the current budget, where can the cuts be made—most painlessly—and in what areas should allocations be increased? Explain your reasoning.

I would increase treatment for substance abuse. “For every $1 invested in treatment, there is a $12 savings in reduced health-care costs, drug-related crimes, criminal justice costs and thefts”-- information from the(Durham Substance Abuse 10 Year Plan).

8. Last year, a public poll suggested the majority of Durhamites were hesitant to approve the land-transfer tax, which could bring $17 million to County Coffers. What are the pros and cons of the tax? If the land-transfer tax were to fail, what other development-funding mechanisms should the commissioners explore?

The land transfer tax would help those living on the margin to be brought into the mainstream of our community as well as finance other economic development initiatives. This tax would put an excessive burden on the market at a time when we are losing homes to foreclosure, so wisdom dictates that we use other sources as a revenue stream. The sales tax is our only means even though it will hurt the poor more than any other group, but this is the only way to pay for the growth that Durham is experiencing at this time.

9. On a related note, the cost of Durham Public Schools’ long-range facilities plan is $551 million. Given the financial constraints of the county and the lack of an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, how will the county pay for these schools?

The money for these new Schools, Roads, and Fire Stations must be borne by those who spark the need for them—the developers who bring in the new citizens. Bonds are the best way to pay for our County’s long term needs.

10. The Cultural Master Plan has also encountered funding problems. Where does this plan rank among the funding priorities for the county and why? Where can additional funding be identified?

11. In appraising and property valuations, how should the county address any inequities not only within the residential sector, but among the industrial, commercial and warehouse sectors?

We must use our technology to develop more equitable scenarios for evaluation of property values. I will look at best practice of other counties similar in size, hold a public hearing, and make a decision.

12. The county’s economic incentives policy lays out several criteria. What are the pros and cons of this policy? How would you amend it? What oversight mechanisms are in place to ensure companies adhere to the policy? Are those oversight mechanisms sufficient?

I like this policy because it focuses economic incentives toward revitalization of depressed areas of our County. Private dollars will follow public dollars. We need to know up front that companies asking for incentives can do what they say they will do and Durham will benefit from the investments. We need to monitor for cost overruns and job creation.

13. The county has adopted a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan. How should the county monitor the performance of that plan? What incentives would be appropriate in persuading the commercial and industrial sectors to cut their greenhouse gas emissions? The residential sector? At what point will Durham need to take more aggressive steps in emissions reductions?

I would partner with the City and pay for staff to evaluate the problem, report on best practice, and provide incentives to companies with measurable outcomes. I will focus on improving our housing stock. I will ask for the housing code to include energy conservation. Improving our housing stock would save some of them from fire, create green jobs, and increase property values.

14. The county’s poverty rate is 15 percent. Although there are several committees whose charge is to tackle issues such as affordable housing and homeless, what concrete steps can the commissioners take to reduce that rate? Be specific.

I will use the untapped talent in our community to focus on saving human capital. I will ask them to help bring the Private Sector to the table with other stake holders to invest in best practice measurable outcomes solution. Human Capital is the people not in our safety net because of mental illness and substance abuse. Improving our housing stock would decrease boarded up houses saving them from fires and making more affordable houses available.

15. The criminal justice system is a large component of county government. What are your priorities for improvements in services, such as the court system, jail, re-entry programs, and juvenile justice? How will you fund those priorities? How will you measure the success of those programs?

We must work cooperatively with elected officials in the City to develop multiple points of access to help residents living on the margins of our communities to access mainstream opportunities. Studies have shown that the more educated a person is the less they would get involved in criminal activity. I would target those in grades K-9 and foster support for funding of a pre-school reading program. I would ask the Faith Base Community and the Private Sector to adopt neighborhoods. I will ask for funding and special attention for our youths to promote early intervention to keep them out of gangs. Crime prevention begins with more organized neighborhoods and informed leadership. I will ask for Crime Watch Program to become a part of the whole County.

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