The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 on Tuesday to include on its 2011 legislative agenda a push to elect a majority of Wake County School Board Members at large. Currently each school board member is elected by district, but the proposal would make some school board elections county wide.
The idea would need approval from the state legislature to move forward.
The two dissenting votes came from Commissioners James West (District 5) and Stan Norwalk (District 4). West motioned to have the item pulled for discussion, saying that he wanted more time to consider the possible “unintended consequences” of switching to a majority elected at large, including a lack of racial diversity. “I’m afraid that without thinking this through, without further analysis, this could be exclusive or prohibitive to some, with fundraising and a number of things.”
Commissioner Phil Matthews (District 2) responded. “We all know it’s a little more expensive to run countywide, but it’s that office we seek.”
Commissioner Tony Gurely (District 3) also countered West’s reservations by saying that the choice to elect a majority rather than the entirety of school board members in a countywide vote was a compromise. Commissioner Betty Lou Ward stated her preference a school board elected entirely at large.
There were a few other items the commission added to its legislative agenda:
- Accessory farm building exemption from NC Building Code requirements in municipalities
- Community well construction administration and enforcement given to the county
- Funding formulas at DHHS, especially school health nurses and LMEs
- Access to acute psychiatric beds for Wake County residents
- Repeal of office space provision for Department of Corrections Probation
- Opposition to ABC system privatization
The board voted to participate in the Travelers Aid Grant for Homeless Individuals and Families, entering into an agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to match $5000 in state funds. This money, already budgeted in the Affordable Housing Program, will help travelers stranded in Wake County return home. Many stranded travelers are impoverished individuals and families who visit Wake County during a work search but become stranded when they can’t find work..
Preping for the worst
The board voted to appropriate $75,300 from Progress Energy for off-site emergency preparedness activities in support of the Shearon Harriss Nucleear Power Plant. Wake County and Progress Energy had previously agreed that the utility would continue to fund such activities in the amount of $147,000 for fiscal year 2011. This vote gathers the remainder of the money after the $71,700 already budgeted. These funds will pay for county and municipal personnel, equipment, and maintenance. Training and record keeping are large components of this program.