Business Today/Cornelius Today organized a Newsmakers Breakfast featuring newly elected N.C. Senator Natasha Marcus (District 41) and N.C. Representative Christy Clark (District 98) held at the Peninsula Club in Cornelius, N.C., on January 24, 2019.
“Ask what you want.”—Dave Yokum, Editor, Cornelius Today
Master of ceremonies Dave Yokum presided over an open forum question-and-answer session from an audience of approximately 60 business people and local dignitaries.
Maria Reese, the community benefit director from Atrium Health and the presenting sponsor for this event, asked the first question. She noted that in America’s 50 largest cities by the Equality of Opportunity project, Charlotte is last because economically disadvantaged people have only a 4% chance of escaping poverty. She wanted to know what the legislators would do to change that.
Representative Clark spoke about more support for pre-kindergarten programs and birth to age 3 programs. She stated that education is her number one issue. Senator Marcus agreed and added that poverty was a multi-layered problem. For working families, healthcare and health insurance are big issues. Marcus said, “There is a portion of these families that earn too much for a subsidy and not enough to afford insurance,” she said. “Affordable housing is another issue. Where can these working families afford to live?” She is in favor of preserving the affordable housing that already exists and to work toward adding more.
When asked about environmental toxins, both legislators spoke about Duke Energy’s coal ash problem and the incidence of cancer clusters in their districts.
“Polluters need to be responsible for paying for it [cleanup], not the State.”—N.C. Representative Christy Clark
“We don’t know if there is a connection [between coal ash and the incidence of cancer], but we cannot continue to look the other way. The DEQ’s [N.C. Department of Environmental Quality] budget has been cut by one-third. We should be doing more, not less.”—N.C. Senator Natasha Marcus
When asked if they could work with Republicans, Representative Clark said the freshmen class in the legislature is committed to finding common ground and to avoid the use of inflammatory language. Senator Marcus spoke about agreeing with N.C. Senator Vickie Sawyer (Republican) on coal ash issues. She said they will be meeting and intend to work together to find solutions.
When asked about their priorities when the legislative session starts next week, Representative Clark said she had been assigned to the Medicaid expansion, gun reform, and environment workgroups. While Senator Marcus has not been placed on the education committee, she is still committed to improving public education, and her other priority is obtaining successful changes to the I-77 tolls project. When asked about previous lack of progress in the senate on this project she said, “The senate has changed. We have more negotiating power now. The supermajority has been broken. Now his [Governor Roy Cooper] veto matters.”
The most surprising moment occurred when someone asked, “What is your stance on the legalization of marijuana?” That prompted a spontaneous poll by Senator Marcus to see who was in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. A majority of the audience was in favor. She then asked who was in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Less than half of the audience was in favor. As a parent, she was uncomfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana for recreational use but definitely thought North Carolina was behind the country in legalizing it for medical use.
The event was well-received. Audience members had a chance to speak with Representative Clark and Senator Marcus afterwards.
“I thought it was excellent. I was so excited to hear about the bipartisan [cooperation]. I was happy. They seemed open-minded and responsive.”—Cindy Michael, President, The M Company
Atrium Health was the presenting sponsor of this Newsmakers Breakfast. Breakfast sponsors included Piedmont Plastic Surgery & Dermatology and The Knox Group Commercial Real Estate. Coffee sponsors included Lapis Financial Services, Green Key Property Management, and Davidson Wealth Management of Wells Fargo Advisors.