Michael D. Page | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Michael D. Page 

Candidate for Durham County Commissioner

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Michael D. Page
Date of birth: December 22, 1959
Years lived in Durham County: 29 years in Durham County
Candidate web site: www.pagefordurham.net
Occupation & employer: Antioch Baptist Church, Pastor United Christian Campus Ministry, North Carolina Central University, Executive Executive Director

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

I believe the most important issues facing Durham county are maintaining healthy communities, supporting a global educational system and sustaining growth and development. My top three priorities for addressing these issues are to continue to support programs, staff and services that will enhance our educational system, providing resources and strategies to maintain and encourage healthy communities that are devastated with crime, poverty and environmental issues and to support infrastructure to sustain the growth and development our communities are experiencing.

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 spent the last twenty four years of my career devoting time to improving the quality of life for our citizens and I will continue to offer myself as a community servant working for the interest and concerns of our citizens. I have spent considerable time in the health and human service field through mental health, social services and public health therefore my experience has allowed me the opportunity to see first hand the needs of maintaining a healthy and vibrant community. I have been a champion for the rights and priviledges of the homeless community and serve also as an advocate for those families that are experiencing poor economic conditions through promotion of affordable housing, financial literacy, education and health matters.

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

I see myself politically in the following manner:

  1. representing the interest and concerns of grassroots citizens

  2. connecting to the community by listening, acting and responding to citizens

  3. investing time in building sustainable communities

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?

My election to office will support the Independent’s mission of building a community that we all can be proud to call Durham. I have for the past eight years in public office stood for equality of all citizens, recognized that all citizens deserve and have a voice and will continue to listen to ensure that we have a community that represent the diversity of Durham. My role as an elected official is to ensure that we provide a forum for every community to be represented and resources should be distributed equally among the neighborhoods for a balanced county. I will continue to advocate and promote as an elected official the importance of engaging and embracing our citizens in the building of this great community.

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

I would identify as a principle that I would be willing to take if elected is that I must value the importance of every citizen, every cause and every concern. Ideally, we have not embraced the “least of these” in our community (i.e. homeless, mentally incompetent, poor and disenfranchised) and this is not always a popular vote but I will continue to stand for these communities that these citizens will have an opportunity to excel like those who prosper daily.

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?

As a county commissioner I will continue to recommend that every household, business and outlet support water conservation. We should always be looking for opportunities to teach conservation and identify ways for our citizens to conserve. Second, we must look at placing some preliminary restrictions on water use such as time limits etc. Third, the outlook of where to look for water supply should be our priority agenda item to prepare us for measures of extreme drought. If necessary, I do think Jordan Lake is an appropriate water resource for Durham because it is the most available option for us however sustaining Jordan Lake is important to consider for future use. We as elected bodies along with the designated professionals should begin to examine other cities and identify strategies and methods for conservation. Realizing potential sites throughout the Triangle communities will be critical for the success of sustaining our water supply.

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 believe that the county has a modest budget that positively address some of the many needs we have. I applaud our county departments for always seeking additional resources through grants, program support and collaboration with other departments. I support building strong communities, supporting healthy families, providing equitable salaries and benefits to employees among others however I would support providing resources to assist citizens in improving economic conditions, encouraging and maintaining healthy lifestyles and focusing on building our neighborhoods with the necessary infrastructure to be successful. I cannot overlook the crime issues that are continuing to escalate in Durham and how we work with this population that are the perpetuators of the crime in our communities. Most importantly, all departments should identify ways to trim the excess fat from their budgets.

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 have brought revenue to this community however this revenue would particularly have been focused on a certain segment of the community. Is this a fair approach to dealing with our current situation? I believe not as we welcome newcomers and new building into our community however this is an total community issue and we must continue to search for ways that each of us as citizens will contribute. The pros of this tax would have added to our tax base, possibly increase revenue as a result of the implementation and given Durham additional dollars for expenditures however the cons that we may not have considered are decreasing home ownership, not supporting housing affordability and descent housing and reverting citizens from buying power through improving their economic conditions. I believe that other options that we my explore are to dialogue with our legislators about an approach that could be utilized throughout our counties, review sales tax options and search for other model communities that have been able to sustain themselves through this revenue.

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 county will again have to look for creative strategies to pay for our schools, while the lottery is providing for some capital needs, it is not the source of revenue to build and pay for schools. We will have to look at our taxing options, seeking resources from our corporations that reside in our communities, enlisting support (voluntary) from developers who have an interest in investing in Durham etc. I also believe it is time that we review our schools budget and see where we can use revenue that is not effective and placing these resources in enhancing some of our school needs. Everyone has to work to make this happen and we can all search for ways to cut without hampering services.

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?

The Cultural Master Plan is a funding priority for the county and it is a necessity because we desire to be a culturally and diverse city. I think again we can look for opportunity to receive revenue from some of the current art and recreational resources we may have, looking at increase food tax and identifying resources from alcohol and tobacco consumption.

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?

In appraising and property valuations, the county should address the inequities looking at the revenue that these sectors are bringing in. Perhaps it should be reviewed on a sliding scale as there are larger companies versus smaller companies and the revenue that they produce. These companies should be held accountable in paying its fair share of the areas that they utilized therefore fair market value should be the single most factor in this assumption.

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?

We recently made some changes to the County incentives policy however as we continue to move forward with this policy, I would encourage revisions to it to meet the needs of the county in achieving its goals. I am totally supportive that these incentives should bring benefits to the citizens of this community and those who reside here. There should be adequate training opportunities for our citizens to have a chance to obtain quality level employment. Companies should look at ways they can enhance citizens needs such as providing quality child care, promotional opportunities, educational incentives, networking support system etc. This should be a win-win for all of the parties involved. The oversight mechanisms can always be tightened up that companies are monitored on their progression and its commitment to the hiring and structure. Strict guidelines should be in place to monitor the company’s commitment and promises that were made. The commitment to remain in this county should also be a factor in determining whether this policy is valuable for investment.

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?

The County Greenhouse Gas Reduction plan should be monitored by the recently hired staff that is charged with this project. We should also have oversight for this project mainly with our Environmental Services Board and Department of Engineering to ensure that guidelines are being followed and evaluated. The county should monitor the performance of this plan to see if it merits are continuing support however we must continue to encourage staff to seek innovative solutions for emissions reductions. Some incentives for companies in persuading their use to cut greenhouse gas emissions are encouraging conservation and reduction, rewarding companies who do an ideal job in meeting those goals, using those companies as models to showcase to others who have reduced in this perspective. For the residential sector, this plan is much like the drought that we use community education to assist residents with saving and focus on reducing gas reduction. Durham will need to take additional aggressive steps when we are not able to see serious reductions in the plan to see these changes. This staff professional should be charged with developing a comprehensive plan that will address residential and commercial sites.

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 homelessness, what concrete steps can the commissioners take to reduce that rate? Be specific.

The commissioners can reduce the rate of affordable housing and homelessness by continuing to support the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. We have developed a good partnership with the City of Durham and now it is imperative that we work on getting support from our private partnership(s). I believe that we can reduce the rate by using boarded up dilapidated homes and look at how we can build affordable housing through such programs as Habitat for Humanity and other housing programs, we can provide incentives for residents who are first time homebuyers, reinvesting in our communities such as the Eastway Village project and looking at affordable descent housing.

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, juvenile justice? How will you fund those priorities? How will you measure the success of those programs?

The priorities for improvements in services are to really look at this revolving door criminal justice system. The plea bargain arrangement has to be eliminated and those individuals who commit crime MUST not be given the flexibility of lowering their time to come out and do it again. We MUST protect our citizens and grant sentences that will help these lawbreakers get their lives together. I am a firm supporter of reentry as I believe upon rehabilitation that helping individuals who want to change their outlook should be given a second chance. It is much more economic to find employment than to risk criminal activity over again. I would like to see greater emphasis placed on helping ex-offenders restore their lives with housing, employment and training than risk another court visit. The criminal justice system must do a better job of using court time wisely, looking at alternatives to day court system and placing managed supervision on its clients to ensure compliance and accountability. I would like to see specialized programs that will work with this populations to provide training and employment in helping to change individuals life perspective. There should be special emphasis on the population of high school dropouts and those 16-30 who are unemployed but desiring the need to change its outlook. We can measure the success of these programs by working with our local universities in evaluating the progress made and the status of these clients. We can also measure the success by monitoring the absence of crime activity, working history and progression of life changes since employment. The court system must be monitored closely that we do not continue to allow these persons to slip through the cracks. If we strengthen our programs to ensure accountability, I believe we can see some change.

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