What do you think about the ongoing discussions over turning the Dix property into a park and how would you help resolve the issue?
The mental health purpose of the property has been somewhat replaced by, in Wake County, the Wakebrook facility, now serving as both a triage and also an acute care facility and an evaluation facility, which has greatly relieved some of the pressure that exists locally on the need for hospital beds and also relieving some of the emergency room parking that was going on with people with mental health issues actually being houses in emergency rooms awaiting bed placements. That relief of the problem in regard to closing Dix in Wake County has been somewhat lessened. I’m still listening to the lease discussions although they are essentially being held in private, they are ongoing and it will be a matter of the best use of the land, the buildings for the most part are not up to any hospital standards and a great deal of money would be required to get them back to the standard from the standpoint of hospital use. I had hoped at one time that might be possible, but I don’t see that as likely at this point. So I think that the use for the property as a park or for some other public use will be probably what will happen.
How do you feel the relationship between local government and state government can be improved?
The tension arises when people at the local level cannot get their problems resolved at the local level and they go to the state legislative level to try to get us to help them. Sometimes that’s a valid route to take but it’s not, ultimately, most of the time, the best route, because we don’t usually make things better when we impose a state solution to a local problem. So we encourage those things, and should encourage those things not to happen. They do inevitably every session and we saw some of that this year. The matter of handling local taxes, how or what kind of taxes will be needed. Local government on a local basis is a local decision. I think local solutions should be encouraged and the default is always the state and that’s not usually the best way to go.
The General Assembly has followed the nation into big partisan divides. What do you think about the political situation in the legislature and what would be your approach to lawmakers with opposing views?
This session I was able to cross the aisle on many issues. The nature of politics locally is not up to the level of the national basis. There may be disagreements on the national basis; I’m not up there. The people in North Carolina do legislation with our ability to get along. You going to church with some of these people in the same community, you have family or relieves in the opposite party. The hyperbolic political rhetoric that causes people to be insulted and angry and uncooperative and I see that at the national level all the time. But the local level, you’re obligated because you’re in the position to get things done. It takes the ability to reach across the aisle with whom you may agree or disagree on a number of topics. In North Carolina things are working better.
How do you view the Moral Monday protests?
The Moral Monday protests were a well-done political standpoint. The organizers were a very effective. From the standpoint of effective policy influencing, it was a failure. Few if any of these people who were participating in the Moral Monday protests took the effort to make appointments with those of us in the House or Senate to sit down to talk about their policy differences and try to benefit them, accommodation and some agreement to how we can help them and how we could understand. So I’m disappointed that didn’t happen. At least in my time, during the session, we respect their right to gather, voice their grievances to the extent that they are done respectfully and within the law that should continue.
What is your position on a Medicaid expansion in North Carolina?
Medicaid expansion in terms of us taking the federal money, which is 100 percent for the first three years under the current system, should not be done. I voted yes; I will continue not to agree to it unless our ability to manage the responsibility of doing the Medicaid program properly, that means making sure the care is delivered properly, making sure that we are actually getting the care that we’re paying for in the cases of patients in the Medicaid program, the matching part of the arrangement is ⅔ federal and ⅓ state even though the federal expansion would involve a higher degree of funding there are other things that have to be done to make sure that these patients, no matter whether they are in that program, the 64year old, the 85 and disabled are … in the program along with pregnant women, all these patients need to be treated with respect and in turn that they get responsible and effective care. That cannot be done to the extent that it should be done at the present. Until that’s improved, we should improve the program so we can spend the money responsibly.
Other than what we’ve already talked about, what is the biggest issue facing Raleigh and Wake County in the state legislature?
Raleigh and Wake County have a tradition of good government, but at the city and county level there is a local solution, that should be solved, should be accommodated but still the boards, whether or not that involves transit or other things, the local levels have effective governments. The challenges facing the legislature and Raleigh and Wake County is the fact that the legislature is here, and we’re close to the situation as far as the city and county government in terms sometimes its convenient for either party to get in each other’s business and to the extent that we stay out of each other’s business, I think we’ll have a happier time.