Orange County has historically been in the forefront by providing our children with the best educational system we can afford. We’ve protected our water supplies so that economic growth and public health are simultaneously served. Our local farmers are selling more food directly to consumers than ever. Our recycling efforts are some of the best in the country. We have strong social support agencies. But we need to do more.
Now there is great pressure from the Republican-led legislature. Funds are being cut and local powers are being rescinded. Our ability to shape our communities is threatened.
I will creatively resist these wrong-headed initiatives and fight for the people of Orange County. I have a long track record of working effectively with allies on local and regional issues to strengthen our communities.
My experience is unmatched in this election. I’ve served on the county Economic Development Commission and on the Orange County Planning Board. The county commissioners spend a large amount of their time on zoning and land-use issues. No other at-large candidate has paid their dues in this arena.
I was twice the commissioners’ appointee to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority Board, serving two terms as the elected chair. In response to the great drought of 2001-02 that brought us within a few weeks of closing UNC, I helped craft the most comprehensive water conservation plan in the state. During my tenure as chair, we negotiated a partnership with UNC to sell them partially treated graywater for use in their chiller plants and on athletic fields. The community is now saving 600,000 gallons of treated drinking water per day, deferring the need for more expensive treatment facilities while making us more resilient in the face of future droughts.
Currently I serve on the Orange County Housing Authority as part of my commitment to better understand how to provide more affordable housing. We are working to enlist more landlords in the housing choice voucher program to help meet the need for affordable rentals.
A key issue that I am focused on is making sure that our school systems are properly funded and that teachers get the raises they have been denied. Both of my parents were teachers and I grew up with a great appreciation for the value of an excellent education and the work that they did. The success of our school systems is central to the health and future of our children as well as the economic health of the county. I will work with the school boards to provide the best education for our young people that we can.
Recently I’ve been working on the steering committee for the non-profit Orange County Living Wage which is having a very positive impact by highlighting businesses and organizations that pay a living wage. We have certified over fifty businesses so far and our work has resulted in a total annual wage increase for local employees of $387,000. Not only is this making a difference in their lives, it is channeling more money into our local economy.
I am offering my experience on a wide range of local and regional issues in order to strengthen our local communities. My decades of involvement have prepared me to hit the ground running and immediately contribute to the welfare of Orange County.
Mark Marcoplos is running for Orange County Commissioner – at large.