Kit Cramer talks Criminal Justice, Infrastructure, and more with NC Influencer Series

October 24, 2018

In an effort to elevate policy discussions and make sure candidates focus on the most important issues, the Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer, and the Durham Herald-Sun assembled a panel of 60 influential North Carolinians in advocacy, business, education and government to answer bi-weekly questions.

Our Chamber President Kit Cramer was selected and, of course, jumped at the opportunity to amplify the business voice of WNC and the greater state. For the past month, she has answered questions on the economy, political polarization, and healthcare–and will continue to speak about issues alongside NC’s finest and most prominent leaders.

In the past month, Kit has discussed Criminal Justice, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Balance of Power in North Carolina. Below are some of her responses.

1. Two of the proposed amendments to the state constitution (on judicial vacancies and elections board appointments) would transfer some powers from the governor to the General Assembly. Do you support them? Why or why not?

I don’t support the two amendments which would transfer more power from the governor to the General Assembly. The situation is already out of whack. We don’t need to make it worse. And that goes for whichever party is in charge.

2. Share any thoughts you have about any or all of the proposed amendments.

I think that amendments to the state constitution should be few and far between. I oppose the amendments that promote a further imbalance of power between the governor and the general assembly. We need them to work together more, not less. And I don’t support anything that discourages the public from voting. There is already a law regarding victims’ rights on the books and while I wholeheartedly support victims’ rights, I’m not sure what unintended consequences would be of an amendment. The hunting and fishing amendment seems to be there to encourage voter turnout. It’s not an issue that needs to be cemented into the state constitution. Capping the state income tax rate locks us into a situation when we have no idea what the future might hold. It’s just not necessary. Elected officials can simply choose not to raise rates. They don’t need an amendment to the constitution.

3. What vulnerabilities in North Carolina’s infrastructure — roads, power, water, sewage, dams, etc. — were exposed by Hurricane Florence? And what steps should NC take to address them?

From my vantage point in western NC, the flooding of roads seemed to be one of the biggest stories around Hurricane Florence. Wilmington was virtually cut off by roadway. Our Emergency Management folks and early responders will need to incorporate that potential into their thinking as they prepare budgets for consideration by elected officials.

4. How should North Carolina pay for these changes?

Payment will need to come from a combination of sources. The federal government should help with highways and dams, state and local municipalities with roads, water and sewer, and utilities and rate payers will cover power. That’s why we pay taxes and fees.

5. Storms like Hurricane Florence were once considered unusual. They may become so again. Do we run the risk of spending hundreds of millions or billions preparing for events that may never come? Is that OK?

I think our first priority should be recovery from the storm. Then we need to turn to improving infrastructure as it ages out or is being repaired.

6. Your Voice readers said roads and bridges across the state need repair, the Triangle area needs public transit, and eastern NC needs more and better roads. How should NC respond and what should it prioritize?

Your Voice readers need to add Western North Carolina to that list. There will always be more needs than available dollars. We need to maintain a fair rubric for prioritizing transportation and infrastructure needs and work to fund them as best we can. We also need to think about options we’ve been less willing to consider previously, like the use of tolls to fund road improvements or more public-private partnerships to speed up the process.

7. What is the single biggest thing NC policymakers could do to reduce crime?

The single biggest thing that would reduce crime would be addressing the lack of economic mobility and the root causes of poverty, and that means education and training. It will take time and patience but would pay the longest lasting benefit.

8. Should North Carolina decriminalize marijuana possession in any way? Why or why not?

Yes, North Carolina should make marijuana legal and then tax it the way we do alcohol or tobacco.

9. What is the single biggest thing NC policymakers could do to address the opioid epidemic?

North Carolina should address the opioid epidemic by approaching it as we have other public health problems, for example, AIDs. We need a comprehensive campaign to educate the public about opioid use and abuse as well as enforcement to jail illegal manufacturers, dealers and over prescribers.

10. Do you believe there is racial bias in the criminal justice system? If so, what does it look like?

Statistics show that there is racial bias in the criminal justice system. North Carolina leaders need to provide funding to make available training programs that address unconscious bias among police officers, particularly in situations where they would be inclined to use weapons.

11. Readers who used our Your Voice tool wanted us to ask: “What reasonable gun laws could be adopted that would actually help reduce gun crime?” If you think no gun law changes are needed please add that here.

I think it would be reasonable to require anyone seeking a gun permit to also take a required gun safety class. We require safety classes for driving a car, a boat or a moped, I think we should require them for owning a gun as well.