Ford chats with residents about first-term thoughts

by Courtney Price

editor@mimonitor.com

CHARLOTTE – Senator Joel Ford, in his first term representing the Mountain Island area in the N.C. General Assembly, says he wants his constituents to be knowledgeable.

When he spoke to residents last month at Christ United Methodist Church, he handed out packets with contact information for many of the state’s agencies, such as the departments of insurance and transportation.

“We do not have a comprehensive resource guide for state government and state agencies,” Ford said. He put together a short, eight-page list of important state leaders and their contact information, “so you can interact with our elected officials.”

At the May 23 town hall-style meeting, Ford also discussed some of the major bills that remained following the so-called “crossover day,” the deadline by which one chamber of the General Assembly must pass legislation for it to be heard in the other chamber. Some of the major topics Ford touched on included:

• Senate Bill 243, the “Back to Basics” bill. Ford explained the bill would require students to learn cursive and multiplication tables, and he said he did not support it.

“I don’t have a problem with cursive, I just believe that’s a local decision. I’m very sensitive to local control, and I felt like it was disrespectful for legislators in Raleigh to make decisions like that.”

• Senate Bill 337, which would create a separate board to manage charter schools.

“I believe in choice, but I don’t believe in creating a separate education silo that’s not accountable to anyone except for those who are elected. We want to make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.”

• House Bill 589, the Voter Information Verification Act. Ford told residents he supports voter ID, but not in the way it’s been presented in the General Assembly.

He said he sponsored a bill that would have used technology at the polling sites to snap a photo of every voter when they check in. That photo would then be sent to a central database that all polling places could access. His bill did not make it past crossover day.

“I am a supporter of voter ID. But under this particular act, you have to go to the DMV (to get an approved ID). My concern is for the 88-year-old woman who lives in Strawn (senior Apartments). She should be able to cast her vote.”

One resident said she believes Bill 589 is appropriate, and that the argument that some people can’t get ID is a faulty one. She helps her neighbors by driving them to polling places, banks and other places.

“ID is power,” she said. IDs are used at the bank and many other places, and getting those IDs open opportunities to the elderly.

“I wish I had half a million people like you,” Ford told her, saying not every voter without an ID has such a kind neighbor.

• Senate Bill 76, which addresses “fracking” in North Carolina. “This was very contentious,” Ford said. “I am a supporter of fracking. We have the fifth highest unemployment (rate) in the country. And if this legislation can create the number of jobs the experts say it can, and if we can do it safely… I want to create a new energy sector in the state to get us off foreign oil.”

Airport authority on hold – for now

A bill that would create an independent authority board to govern the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport did not make it past crossover day.

Representatives from surrounding towns and counties would have a seat on the board.

The bill is dead for now, but Ford said it’s not going away.

“I did not support that authority. This is the City of Charlotte’s airport. The city made the necessary investments, and I am not happy with legislation that would give … surrounding towns a seat on the City of Charlotte’s airport.”

Ford said Mountain Island-area and other Charlotte residents are the ones most directly affected by the airport and its air traffic, and “if you’ve got somebody who is from Iredell or Gaston County, they have no consequences (like those) who live in this area by the airport.”

‘Be informed’

Ford said the most important message he had to bring to residents was citizenship.

It’s not politics that propels most of the issues in government, he said. “Lobbyists and special interests drive 98 percent of legislation.”

And that means looking at bills and reading between the lines.

“Be informed and govern yourself accordingly,” he said. “If public education is your deal … look at the legislation that we are passing.”

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in learning more about Joel Ford and his stance on key issues, visit www.votejoelford.com.

Share your thoughts and concerns with him by calling his Raleigh office at 919-733-5955, emailing Joel.Ford@ncleg.net, or mailing a letter to Joel Ford, NC Senate, 16 W. Jones Street, Room 1119, Raleigh, NC 27601-2808.

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