Incumbents, challengers offer views on water quality, income gaps and Confederate imagery

Candidates running for the N.C. Senate and House gathered at the Paramount Theater in Burlington, Tuesday, Oct. 23, for the third of four public forums hosted by the Times-News.

Republican incumbents Sen. Rick Gunn and Reps. Dennis Riddell (District 64) and Stephen Ross (District 63) faced off against their Democratic challengers — J.D. Wooten, Elliot Lynch and Erica McAdoo, respectively.

Here are some of the highlights:

Both parties, when out of power, decry gerrymandering yet do nothing, when in power, to fix it. Why can’t North Carolina join other states in having a joint committee that returns the state to one person, one vote?

Riddell: “You know for 140 years, we had one-party rule here in North Carolina, and we didn’t hear a lot about the problem before this, of gerrymandering. When I first moved here back in the mid-'80s, my House district was two counties joined at one corner with four at-large members. Think about that. That wasn’t a Republican-drawn district. … If you want to make a deal with me, how about this: We had 140 years of one-party rule that controlled the redistricting process and [made] it very partisan. How about you let us have just 20 years?”

 Watch full video of the forum below or at this link.

 

After Tropical Storm Michael, cities dumped 40 million gallons of human waste into the state waterways, joining Gen X, coal ash, animal droppings, and a lot of other stuff we don’t know about. … What do we do about water infrastructure?

Wooten: “The broader issue, when talking about water, water quality, water infrastructure, is really the conversation of right to basic amenities. This is something that we really have to look at across the spectrum because it doesn’t affect all of our population equally. You know, it’s not the country club house on the 18th green that’s getting sprayed with hog waste. It’s not the country club house that’s getting sprayed with human feces, either. … It’s very unfortunate that disenfranchised communities have to take that, but this is part of the broader issue that we need to make sure we’re taking care of our water quality for all North Carolinians and making sure that everybody has these rights to basic amenities.”

Gunn: “We know the pipes are failing, and they’re doing it throughout cities, and we have, through our rural programs, we have grants that are going to these communities as they try to repair this infrastructure. … I want you to understand that there’s probably no legislature that’s done more for water quality than we have over the past few years, and I want to explain that to you. First of all, when it comes to coal ash, Duke Power is totally responsible for the cleanup of [the spill] that happened in the Dan River, totally responsible. We have, now, the strictest, strictest coal ash legislation on the books in the United States of America. You cannot argue that. … To sit here and to think that we somehow help out Duke Power is a lie. It’s a lie.”

 

Can you address, in a sentence or two, what you think about allowing Confederate statues on public property?

Ross: “Well, it is a very passionate issue. It is a historic issue. And if we try to erase history then we’re doomed to repeat it. The purpose of the legislation that Rep. Riddell mentioned was so that we would have a process for movement of statues in North Carolina, and it was done so that we would not be moving statues with mob rule. Unfortunately, we have seen cases here in North Carolina where the mob rule has taken over, but there is a legal process that’s in the statute for moving these statues.”

McAdoo: “So many of these statues were erected decades after the fact as a method of intimidation, and I think that the current relocation process is too cumbersome. I question whether we should allow some localities to make that decision themselves, as to whether to remove or relocate the statue. I think it comes down to putting yourself in other people’s shoes. … I can try to imagine what it might feel like, and then I try to act accordingly.”

 

How can we better address income inequality in our community and how will you provide leadership to close our growing gap?

Lynch: “I’ll start with education. … I don’t think we need to give tax incentives to corporations to locate here. One of the things they look at are, ‘How are the schools?’ because some of the people have to relocate here that pay taxes and they want good school systems for their children, so I think we need to make that investment into our school system as well as promote the great state in which we are living.”

 

One issue all six candidates could agree on: the education bonds. Each of them urged the public to vote for both bonds as well as the quarter-cent sales tax increase proposed to help pay for them.

You can hear more about that when the candidates for the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education gather at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Paramount Theater for their turn to show themselves worthy of public office.

Visit the Times-News Facebook page to access the Facebook Live video feed during the event.

 

Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at jessica.williams@thetimesnews.com or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.