The Orange County Board of Commissioners must address poverty and growing income inequality – among the highest in the state – Vice Chairman Mark Dorosin said.
The first-term commissioner cited his leadership in the Family Success Alliance, a coalition helping poor families, and his role in the push to provide a local living wage to more county and school system employees. He also worked to include $5 million for affordable housing in the November 2016 bond referendum.
“We need to expand the FSA and coordinate it with efforts to expand affordable housing and support local businesses and job creation opportunities, to build synergy for our efforts to address economic disparity,” Dorosin said.
He is seeking a second term representing District 1, which covers southeastern Orange County (See map, bit.ly/245bP91). Incumbent Commissioner Penny Rich, former Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member Jamezetta Bedford and Southern Village resident Gary Kahn also are seeking a seat.
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Only District 1 residents can vote for District 1 candidates in the primary. Two winners, since no Republicans are running, will be selected March 15. Early voting starts March 3.
Dorosin, if re-elected, said he would push for “continued support for schools in the face of drastic state budget cuts” and to link education policies to other county priorities.
The county also needs “meaningful community outreach and engagement, particularly to excluded and underserved neighborhoods and demographics, in order to secure broad-based participation, and thereby a more responsive and effective county government,” he said.
See the full interview at chapelhillnews.com:
The $125 million November bond includes money to address about a third of the repair and renovation needs in both school districts. How would you address the remaining needs?
Dorosin: Fully funding the rehabilitation of older schools will likely require a combination of consistent investment from the annual CIP (to which the county added $5 million for schools) and other borrowing. I led the county to require that the renovation plans include and prioritize also increasing school capacity. As a result, the investments in our aging facilities will help postpone the need and costs for new school construction.
Additionally, as the only one of the three elected boards accountable to all residents of the county, the commissioners need to push to expand opportunities for collaboration, coordination and innovation from the boards, which should result in both cost savings and help ensure that all school children in the county have access to equal educational opportunities. A growing community focus on the urgent need to address racial and economic disparities for families and children require us to more deliberately link our education policies to the challenges of income inequality, declining diversity and economic opportunity. I believe, through the bond discussions and with new members on all three boards, this has begun.
We must work together to advocate for increased funding and against the anti-public schools agenda of the state legislature.
Have the county’s three economic development districts – Buckhorn, Hillsborough and Durham/Eno – failed to do what was intended? If not, how would you propose filling them with business or industry?
Dorosin: Yes and no. Although “big-game hunting” economic development model is of limited utility for Orange County, the successful recruitment of the Morinaga factory demonstrated that the continued infrastructure development and focused marketing of the economic development districts is critical. But we also need to reframe the way we promote the county to potential businesses. If we allow the property tax rate to be the determining factor for recruitment, we will lose out to neighboring counties. We have a very unique set of community advantages to offer (high-performing schools, environmental quality, cultural resources) that should attract desirable economic development.
Economic development efforts should include identifying, seeking out and then providing support for businesses that meet targeted needs, including job creation, local entrepreneurship, market demand and environmental protection. We have very successful small business loan and grant programs in the county, but there is no specific recruitment or incentivizing of businesses that would better meet the priorities of the residents, or reach underserved demographics or geographic areas. We also need to find ways to expand broadband and internet access further throughout the county. Finally, we should continue to promote the payment of a living wage as broadly as possible.
What should the county’s role be in making sure there’s affordable housing for lower-income and working class families? Would you be willing to relax the rural buffer rules?
Dorosin: We have outstanding affordable housing providers in the county. However, even their best efforts do not adequately serve the more challenging identified housing needs, including rental housing for very low-wealth residents and seniors, and persons with disabilities. We need to explore the possibilities for manufactured housing and the challenges that residents of that housing now face. Reaching these diverse communities requires direct investment from the county, potentially through the provision of land or infrastructure. The commissioners have set aside $1 million in the CIP for land acquisition, and I fought for housing money in the upcoming bond referendum. The comprehensive housing plan, including criteria for use of the bond funds, should prioritize identified categories of need, coordinate with other anti-poverty efforts underway (e.g. Family Success Alliance), and consider access to other services and additional needs of the ultimate residents.
The rural buffer has been a critical component of managed growth, but is often singled out as an impediment to affordable housing. We need to broadly revisit our planning regulations countywide to identify policies that undercut or otherwise impede affordable housing, including fees and secondary services, and prioritize ways to reduce the overall cost of living burden for low-wealth residents.
What issue would you raise during your first six months in office that no one else is talking about?
Dorosin: When I first ran, my primary goal was to make sure that our collective commitment to civil rights, social justice, equity and inclusion become the primary consideration in all county decision-making. I’m proud to say that’s happened, and now the commissioners are collectively more focused on prioritizing and increasing engagement on issues of child poverty, affordable housing, education equity, racial and socio-economic diversity, and broad-based resident participation in county government. We are all talking about these things, which is ideal.
One issue I will raise is universal pre-K for low-wealth children. Education research has demonstrated that access to pre-K is one of the most effective tools to address the racial and economic student achievement gap that continues to plague our schools. Expanding access to pre-K – through the schools as well as private providers – is not only an important education policy, but also supports the county’s broader anti-poverty efforts and creates additional opportunities for families.
Address: 113 Creekview Circle, Carrboro
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 919-967-1486
Political affiliation: Democrat
Career: Managing attorney, UNC Center for Civil Rights
Political activities: Orange County Board of Commissioners, 2012-16 (vice chair); Carrboro Board of Aldermen, 1999-2003
Community activities: Chapel Hill-Carrboro ACLU (president), Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch of the NAACP, Family Success Alliance, Orange County Partnership for Young Children, Alcohol Beverage Commission, Board of Social Services, HOME Committee, Orange County Small Business Loan Program