Encore continues its election coverage by interviewing Patricia Spear, a candidate for the New Hanover County Commission. All the candidates received the same questionnaire and will be provided the same opportunity to discuss their platform and its potential impact on our community.
encore (e): When and why did you decide to seek this office?
Patricia Spear (PS): It happened as I was working with the public for many years through nonprofits. I saw so many people in need in NHC, and I felt like I could make a difference. [I solidified my decision] when I saw the needs of this county were big: loss of jobs, underpaid teaching staff, the need for more schools, the infrastructure to repair existing schools, low-economic development, and low pay, to name a few. I started to think of what the future would hold for our families, including our children and their children. What quality of life would they have? Could they continue to live here without a good education system, with high taxes and a decreased quality of life, and with no jobs or no creation of jobs? We already have young people leaving here to other areas for jobs. We need individuals of all ages to keep the financial structure in place and keep this town vibrant and alive. At this rate, that might be questionable.
e: What is the central issue of this election for you?
PS: In my volunteer and professional work, I have seen and addressed many of the issues that come under what I hope will be my new responsibilities as NHC commissioner. These include constructing policies for the administration of our county government, as well as addressing health, social services, community education, and the public-school system. I also feel that with economic growth, we need a full job incentive program. We need good paying jobs—not simply minimum-wage jobs—to avoid growing homeless and marginal populations. These issues affect all of us at all levels of government: city, county, state, or federal. They start from the bottom at the local government level and work their way up. We need to be able to take care of our issues here at home first, but we also need to be mindful of their far-reaching effect.
e: Tell us where you stand on fracking?
PS: I am not in favor of fracking. There are a lot of risk factors with this process, such as uranium and other radioactive material. It brings them to the surface in wastewater, and [they’re] laced with carcinogenic industrial chemicals, heavy salts, and other contaminants. Fracking is harmful to not just the environment, but to all of us. There are other avenues for clean energy.
e: How does your platform support small business?
PS: We as county commissioners need to create a bridge and alliance with small-business owners to accomplish goals for growth within our community. We must create and look for opportunities to assist with economic development, and stand as leaders in our community. We need to work together with the business sector to find key issues for their needs and determine a strategy/goal for economic growth, looking at all challenges and providing a solution on common ground. Both the business owner and county commissioner will need better communication skill sets to push beyond the current situation and to grow this community by looking “outside the box.”
e: How do you plan to generate income for our local economy?
PS: I feel that with economic growth, we need a full job-incentive program. We need good paying jobs—not simply minimum wage-paying jobs—to avoid growing homeless and marginal populations. We need to promote for more companies to come to our region—[specifically,] those that can sustain the continuous growth of the economy and provide affordable living wages. In return, it will provide economic growth at all levels of industry. Having a plan for job-incentive programs for companies that want to come to our county.
e: Do you support the film incentives? If not, what plan do you have to replace the lost income in our economy?
PS: I totally support the film incentives. If we do not have the film industry, and they relocate to another state, the affect will be devastating. We will lose over 4,000 jobs—not including jobs from hotels, restaurants, housing, local [sales] taxes they pay, and much more. There are a lot of people who work full-time in the industry [and small businesses that] rely on the film industry. Overall, our economy will suffer. A loss of jobs is what we need to try to prevent. Aren’t we trying to create jobs here in NC?
e: What are your thoughts on the proposed sales-tax cap?
PS: I feel that we should not cap the sales tax at this time; however, there should be provisions and limits on sales taxes.
e: What about a national minimum wage?
PS: I believe in increasing minimum wage. There are a lot of the working poor here in NHC. They only make enough to eat. [They] sleep in shelters, tents or in public areas, etc. They cannot make enough to have affordable housing or increase their quality of life. In Wilmington, you need about $12 an hour to barely have an affordable living wage. I support increasing the wage to at least $10.10 per hour. At least this [would be] a start. [It will help decrease] homelessness through jobs and education, and increase skill sets for better job placement.
e: How do you feel about the at-large elections we have for council and commission? Would our citizens be better represented by ward-style elections?
PS: I feel that at-large elections are a better way to go. I feel that the candidate [will] be more impartial, rise above the limited perspective area, and assist in the concerns and problems of the whole community. The county [will be able to] obtain better-qualified individuals to be elected because the candidate pool is larger.
e: What is your vision for our community in two years? In five years?
PS: In two years, my vision would include: better planning with goals for economic growth and expansion programs, with an increase in the needs for better communication with small business owners; continued work on promoting economic development with different types of industry and increased employment; continued investment in education, our teachers and the infrastructure of our schools; and increased minimum wage, to assist those in poverty. This will decrease the need for welfare and entitlement programs by saving tax payers money. [I also advocate] increased collaboration and partnership between county and city governments. [I seek to] decrease crime by setting goals for early-task intervention and [through the] safety and collaboration of law enforcement. [Hopefully, it will keep] everyone on the same page. Decisions [need to be] made regarding the landfill issue. [There should be] an increase in public transportation.
[My vision for five years:] Having a better relationship with small-business owners and the county commissioners, with better business retention, jobs and a thriving environment; and continue to work on promoting economic development. This will always be ongoing. As the county grows in population (over 50,000 in 10 years), more jobs, schools and a solid infrastructure will be needed.
We need increased public transportation, and with an increase in population, traffic will be a greater issue. We will need to have a plan, and it should start today. [We should] continue to invest in education, our teachers, and the infrastructure of our schools. More and more children will come to our county, and they will need somewhere to go to school. [We should foster] collaboration and partnerships between county and city governments. They [should] work more together; almost all of New Hanover County is Wilmington. [We need to] decrease crime by setting and reaching goals for early-task intervention, safety and collaboration of law enforcement. [We should] implement new and updated programs for the safety of our county.