Candidates for NC State House District 6 (currently held by Paul Tine) are Judy Justice of Manteo and Warren Judge of Kitty Hawk, both on the Democratic ballot. Republican candidates Ashley Woolard of Washington and Beverly Boswell of Kill Devil Hills did not respond to our requests to be a part of this guide. While the print edition of the Ocracoke Observer did not have room to include answers to questions 3 and 4, we include them here.
- What do you see as the biggest challenges Ocracoke’s residents, businesses and many visitors face that you as a representative can have a positive impact?
Justice: I am not a professional politician. So I will tell you what I see as a regular citizen, although as a teacher I taught government for many years so I am very familiar with how the legislative process works.
The main challenges facing Ocracoke Island residents, businesses and visitors are in the areas of education, the environment, equality for all citizens, access to healthcare for all citizens through the acceptance of the Affordable Health Care’s Medicaid expansion and the downturn in the local economy over the last few years because of the problems with ferry transportation due to the continued shoaling in Hatteras Inlet.
I will have a positive impact because of my extensive background in education, government and leadership and because I am committed to working so all residents of NC House District Six have the opportunities to have successful futures, not just the select well-connected few currently supported by those in control of the General Assembly.
Judge: Maintaining a modern, efficient NCDOT Ferry fleet to ensure access to the island is the most important issue facing the residents of Ocracoke.
The aging fleet, shoaling channels and the General Assembly’s proposal to toll the ferries is more than a challenge, it is a threat to the very life and safety of the residents and visitors of Ocracoke.
I stand for no tolls and I will work to ensure NCDOT maintains the channels so the ferry system can operate without interruption. As a vacation destination,
Ocracoke relies on the thousands of visitors who come to the island every day to be the economic engine for both Hyde County and the island.
A toll on the Hatteras/Ocracoke Ferry will have a devastating effect on the economy and way of life of Ocracoke.
Maintaining a well-funded school system for the children of Hyde County is critical. The state must provide equal opportunity for the children of Ocracoke to a world class education.
I stand strong on state funded public education for all children and nationally competitive salaries for our teachers. Maintaining access to the beaches and safeguarding the water quality of the ocean and sounds for the protection of our environment is vital. I strongly oppose offshore oil drilling.
My experience in the efforts to maintain access to the National Seashore uniquely qualifies me to help Ocracoke work with the NPS to increase access and use of the beaches.
- What is your view on tolling the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferries?
If passenger ferries are approved for the Hatteras-Ocracoke route, can the Hatteras car-ferries remain free while a fee is required for a passenger ferry?
Justice: This actually sounds reasonable but further study needs to be done before I would make a decision on the passenger ferry. So far, what studies have been done show that the cost of administering a fee system would negate any profit derived from the passenger fees. Also, there are issues of parking and implementation that need to be answered. Until those questions are answered I am not going to commit to an answer.
Justice: I am against tolling. My competitor in this race, who has been a professional politician for 16 years, just voted as recently as last October for ferry tolling as a Dare County Commissioner. After watching the meeting on video where he made that vote I would like to say I would never have voted as he did with the evidence presented at that meeting. He went along with the Republican majority on that board, ignoring his one fellow Democratic commissioner, who as a resident of Hatteras Island, spoke passionately against taking action without further study. He voted yes to tolling anyway, although he later decided this was a mistake. He has since tried to “take back” his vote, but the other county commissioners will not allow a re-vote. If he had made that vote in the legislature there would be no “take-backs” either.
- Do you think the NC Ferry system should be privatized?
Justice: No. I grew up in Swansboro and have used the Ferry System since I was a small child traveling between the mainland and Emerald Isle. To me it is and should always be part of the North Carolina transportation system used by all citizens and maintained by our taxpayer dollars.
The NC Ferry System needs to replace several very old ferries. Where should the funding come from?
Justice: From the same funding that pays for our current highways, road and bridge maintenance. The money is there but the McCrory administration, with the approval of the legislature changed the way money was apportioned to our state’s transportation system several years ago.
If I am elected to the legislature I will fight for a return to yearly appropriations for ferry replacement and maintenance. At the same time using private investment, such as a public/private partnership in using the ferries in the area of advertising, should also be pursued in order to raise added money in those areas.
Warren Judge answered all four ferry questions in one answer: I absolutely oppose tolls on the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferries. No I do not support privatizing the NC Ferry System. The Toll is a tax, a tax on our hard working people, there is nothing fair or equitable about having to pay a tax to leave your home and to return home. NC12 runs north on Ocracoke Island ending at the Inlet; NC 12 runs south on Hatteras Island ending at the Inlet.
NCDOT has chosen to use a Ferry System instead of a bridge to cross Hatteras Inlet. We must treat the Ferry System as a bridge; keep the ferries in good repair and operating productively.
When a ferry needs to be replaced, NCDOT should replace the ferry just as it repaves roads and builds new roads and bridges across the state. The funding should come from NCDOT funds as the ferry system is part of the NCDOT transportation system. Secretary Tennyson will be receiving a recommendation to move forward on the passenger ferry, which will have a round trip-charged. Yes, the car ferry should remain free. It is the extension of NC 12 on both islands.
- The average salary for NC public school teachers and principals is among the lowest in the United States. Do think they should be better compensated? If so, by what percentage? Where would the funding come from?
Justice: Until I retired in 2011, I served as a teacher and school administrator for the state of North Carolina. So I am an expert on this subject. The legislature has radically cut education spending and teacher pay has dropped to 47th in the nation. We are 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending. While Ocracoke has a small but excellent school, the Hyde County school district overall has been negatively impacted by these cuts. They have affected all the district’s students and staff. As someone who worked with Hyde County schools for two years as a school administrator, I will be a knowledgeable and powerful advocate for education in this very small district. Out of the 178 legislatures in the assembly, there are only 17 members who have any background in education, although 50 percent of the state budget goes to education. We need more teachers in the legislature. Teachers’ salaries should at least be equal to the national average, which is where we stood in 2008 before the state legislature started making systemic cuts to education. We need to return to that level. We can do this by returning to a progressive taxation system and re-apportionment of budget allocations.
Judge: All citizens of North Carolina should be outraged as to what our General Assembly has done to our school funding and teacher salaries. Our goal should be to be in the top tier of states as measured by student achievement and teacher salaries. Is there anyone who doesn’t support and want every child to receive the best education possible to prepare them for the jobs of the future and to compete successfully on a global, national and state level? We must work to keep our great teachers and to provide our children the best education opportunity possible. The General Assembly needs to make school funding and teacher compensation a top priority. Only as a top priority will the General Assembly make the financial commitment to support education and teacher salaries. We are a growing state and to meet this growing student population we need great schools and we need to graduate our students so they are among the most prepared in the nation. When elected, I will work to set a goal to be in the top tier of states based on teacher salaries and student achievement in the next five fiscal years. To fund this investment in education I will work with leadership and the members of the General Assembly to use a significant percentage of the revenue surplus that our economy is now generating each year until we reach this goal.
- Do you support offshore oil drilling? If you do, should there be a buffer zone and how many miles offshore should it be?
Judge: No, I opposed off shore oil drilling, exploration and testing. I have had been opposed to offshore drilling since the late 1980s. I remember when our communities formed LegaSea and how hard everyone worked to oppose Mobil Oil. The risk reward factor is so skewed against any value to our district we must continue to stand united and strong against this effort. I will support legislation and policy in the General Assembly to oppose all the offshore efforts. To allow offshore oil drilling with a buffer, regardless of how many miles offshore, only opens the door to the future when arguments will be made to reduce the buffers as any exposure already exists. Simply, say ‘no’ to offshore oil drilling.
Justice: I am absolutely against offshore drilling. The threat to our wonderful, clean and healthy coastline is too great and there would be no economic benefit to North Carolina residents. If we had an offshore spill it could devastate our coastline, sea life and our tourism and fishing industries. If offshore drilling was to take place any actual jobs created would go to surrounding states. With the booming growth of the alternative fuel industry and the cheap price of oil there is no actual financial reason for offshore drilling. One of the other main challenges facing Ocracoke and all of North Carolina is the destruction of our all-important natural environment through deregulation by our current legislature of the rules protecting it along with the threats of offshore drilling and the consequences of their support of fracking. If elected to the General Assembly,
I will fight as your representative to protect our shores, water, land and air from destruction and pollution.