Foushee town halls spark dialogue

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 12:10 PM

Newly appointed state Sen. Valerie Foushee held the first of several town hall meetings last week and learned firsthand the concerns and frustrations of her new constituency.

Foushee now is representing residents in Orange and Chatham counties in District 23, following the resignation of former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird in August who left the state Senate over frustrations with trying to work in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Foushee is using the informal meetings as a chance to hear what’s on constituents’ minds.
“This is an opportunity for me to meet with new constituents and reconnect with persons I’ve met before,” Foushee said. “There are a litany of things that we do not need to see to move North Carolina forward. We (state lawmakers) are there to say enough is enough and that this is not what we want for our state.
“I want to take back to Raleigh exactly what your concerns are,” she continued.
Participants had questions and concerns mostly in the arenas of education, health care and the role of the Democratic Party in the state. More than once, accurate, targeted and widespread communication was cited as a way to bring about change.
“We (the Democratic Party) have to make sure that we have people who can win elections, people who are willing to put themselves out there and who can raise the money,” she said. “We need candidates who will stand up and say what needs to be said and keep saying it. If we can’t get our message out, if our message is not good … we have to be supportive in ways that allow us to get the message out.
“We all want people representing us in those chambers,” Foushee said. “All of us have a responsibility to make that happen.”
When asked if the Democratic Party had polled members to see how they usually receive information, Foushee said that to her knowledge it had not happened but is a good idea and a suggestion she’ll take back to her colleagues.
Foushee offered that it’s more than an ideological difference that separates the state’s two primary parties but also the new configuration of district lines.
“We have to find those candidates in those districts that can win because there are some vulnerable districts,” she said. “The voter ID law doesn’t go into effect until 2016 but we can’t wait until 2016 to get candidates running and winning elections.”
With recent legislation, Foushee said that “it only took 10 months to erode progress that took 50 years to make” and that “if you’re angry enough, you have a responsibility, too.”
One of the people attending the town hall told Foushee that a  co-worker was fired after being seen at a Moral Monday protest in Raleigh while on vacation, highlighting that others may want to support many of these causes but fear retribution.
There is growing concern that younger North Carolinians are becoming apathetic after seeing that their voices aren’t making the difference they expected.
“Your responsibility is to hold us accountable,” said Foushee. “If you have voted me into office you have some authority and responsibility to remove me if my actions are not reflective of your values.”
Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee was at the town hall to support Foushee in her current role.
“It is critical to keep Sen. Foushee in her position,” he said. “You don’t know how an election will end until about seven o’clock that night. We do not want to have a surprise on Election Day at seven o’clock.
Foushee’s remaining town hall meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Chatham Community Library, Nov. 6 at the Chapel Hill Public Library, Nov. 14 at the West Chatham Senior Center and Nov. 18 at the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.