Jeff Starkweather endorsed by The Indy, Sierra Club, State Employees and AFL-CIO

News release/ April 23, 2012

Jeff Starkweather’s record of fighting for good jobs, strong schools, a clean environment and civil rights won him the endorsements of four major organizations comparing candidates for election to NC House District 54, representing all of Chatham County and a portion of Sanford.  The endorsements, based on questionnaires, interviews and candidate records, are from: The Independent Weekly, the State Employees Association, the Sierra Club, and the AFL CIO.

“I’m overwhelmed and honored by these endorsements and others I have received during the campaign from current and former elected officials, community leaders and supporters all over the district,” Starkweather said.

The Independent called Starkweather “a longtime champion of the environment, social justice and sound growth policies.” The newspaper said that the retirement of Rep. Joe Hackney, “leaves a need for a candidate who has a deep familiarity with the issues facing this district. We think Starkweather’s views on energy and growth could continue Hackney’s work; his willingness to defend public education and to stand up to social conservatives is also impressive.”

“[Starkweather] has the kind of fire Democrats need in the Legislature,” The Independent concluded.

The NC Sierra Club said it endorsed Starkweather because of his lengthy track record promoting environmental protection and renewable energy and sustainability, and his opposition to fracking.

Jeff Starkweather is a strong environmental advocate who has a long history of working for environmental causes in Chatham County and North Carolina as a whole,” the Sierra Club said. “His key environmental positions include promoting alternative energy and its use in North Carolina, strengthening North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standards, opposing changes in laws to allow fracking for natural gas until its economic benefits are proven to outweigh its environmental costs, and searching for ways to collaborate with citizens and environmental experts to make North Carolina a model of sustainability.”

The NC AFL-CIO and Triangle Labor Council based their endorsement on Starkweather’s answers to a questionnaire and interview on employment and economic development issues. The State Employees Association of North Carolina’s EMPAC endorsement was based on a questionnaire and interview about issues facing NC public employees. They endorsed Starkweather and other selected General Assembly candidates “because we feel they understand the importance of the valuable services our members provide,” the SEANC stated in its news release.

Starkweather has lived and worked in Chatham County for 40 years. He is the former editor and publisher of The Chatham County Herald and a retired attorney who specialized in civil rights and employment law. In 2009, the Western Chatham NAACP named him a Humanitarian of the Year and in 2006 he was a News and Observer Tar Heel of the Week.

He currently serves on the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation Board and the Triangle South Workforce Development Board. In those economic policy leadership positions he was instrumental in the development of the county’s economic development strategy and industrial incentives policy and in bringing a job link center back to Chatham. He has also served on Chatham’s Sustainable Energy and Green Building Advisory Board and he chaired the Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

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Restoring the dream for all

We had an amazing turnout out at our Campaign Blast-Off Party on Sunday with old friends and new ones. Everyone was enthusiastic and generous, for which I am most grateful. Here’s a copy of my statement.

Before I begin, I’d like us to take a moment of silence to remember three amazing women who inspired many of us, who mentored me in many ways: Margie Ellison, Loyse Hurley, and Margaret Pollard. Their legacy is all around us and their energy still influences us. ..

First, I want you to know how humbling it is for me to have this opportunity to seek this State House seat, held by former Speaker of the House Joe Hackney for 32 years.

I am so appreciative of Democratic Party Chair Randy Voller and other party and political leaders in our county who lobbied me to run for this office.

It will be an incredible honor and responsibility to represent you and all the residents of this House district.

I am overwhelmed by the support I’ve received already from across a broad political and geographic spectrum. And I am grateful to every one of you.

I’d also like to recognize my family: my wife Dee, my daughter Emily and her husband Scott, and our granddaughters Ryan and Emery. My son Sam, the poet, lives in New York and isn’t able to be here today. It’s amazing to me that we now have three generations of our family living right here in Chatham.

This campaign is not about me, it’s about you, about all of us. We’re facing hard times and difficult choices about what to do to strengthen our community and our state.

I want to use my four decades of local advocacy to keep fighting for all of us — in Raleigh — for the things we all cherish, the things we know we need to make our wonderful communities be more sustainable economically, educationally and environmentally, so that we all may prosper.

What do we need to do?

First and foremost, we need to support our public schools, from pre-K through community college and universities.

We should be investing in our public schools– not starving them.

Thanks to the Tea Party, the leadership in the General Assembly is doing the opposite of what is most needed at this time.They are slashing support for public schools– the very foundation of our economic and democratic prosperity.

The current legislative majority should be ashamed of our per-pupil expenditures, where we seem to be racing to the bottom of all 50 states — instead of to the top. Some of them want to privatize education, which means if you can’t afford to go to school, well “You’re on your own.”

That seems to be their platform in N.C. and in Washington.  That’s not what my campaign is about.

Second, we must support local businesses and work strategically to attract good jobs for all North Carolinians.The right-wing leadership in Raleigh thinks the government’s role is to do nothing and somehow hope the jobs will materialize. Except of course when it comes to public jobs, then they want to cut them. So instead of creating jobs, they’ve actually been eliminating them.

I guess Sarah Palin might say, “How is that job-cutty thing working out for you here in North Carolina?” We know the answer to that one.

I believe in strategic economic development, that emphasizes our local strengths and our premium location. I’ve been working hard on that here through the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, and I will continue to do that in Raleigh for both Chatham and Lee.

Third, we must protect our clean air and water, our parks and natural beauty, because this is what makes this a stellar place to live and locate a business. This is why we need to stop the fracking frenzy.

Good businesses don’t want to locate in a place with polluted drinking water and smog.

We don’t have enough information about underground hydraulic fracturing in NC. So, let’s do our homework first, and don’t rush into something that could destroy what makes us strong.

Making us strong– that’s what my campaign is about: Strong schools, good jobs, clean air and water.

These are the keys to restoring the dream of upward mobility for all.

The American Dream is not just for the privileged few, it’s for the rest of us, too –all of us

It’s also time for us to pull together. The right-wing conservatives, Tea Party sippers, seem committed to a social agenda designed to divide us. They’ve launched a war against women, minorities and gays.

They want to take us back to the 1950s when people didn’t think women should have access to contraceptives.

Like you, I was appalled that Rush Limbaugh could stoop so low to have made that indecent attack on a law student who had the courage to challenge the attempt to deny contraceptive insurance coverage to college women attending religious affiliated schools.I promise you today that nobody in the General Assembly will fight any harder than I will against these attempts to turn-back the clock on women’s reproductive rights.

Instead of talking about jobs, these reactionary forces have been hyperventilating about social issues designed to keep us divided and distracted. That’s wrong. It’s got to stop. We deserve better.

I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a place and during a time when job opportunity, security and wages rose along with our increased productivity.

Democrats, Republican and independents came together and supported government investment in the G.I. Bill, education, highways, other infrastructure, and parks – what we call the commons. That was indispensible for making the American Dream possible for the average working person, like my father, a plant foreman and late maintenance director.

Granted, it was not as good for minorities and women back then –but the principle of public investment for a growing economy is valid today.

My view is that now it’s time to work together again and to include everyone in the American Dream.

If we work with each other not against each other, and if we work hard and we remember to give back to our communities for the common good, we will all prosper together and our communities will remain vibrant places to live, play and work.

That’s what my working-class Baptist parents taught me to believe. And that’s why I’m stunned to see people who describe themselves as conservatives working against that most fundamental notion of the golden rule.

Finally, politics is also personal for me, as I bet it is for you, too.

I’ve got two grandchildren whose hopeful faces remind me every day that we must work together for the future, for the long-term, for an economy built to last.

That’s my vision. That’s why I’m running.

That’s why I want to work for you in Raleigh.

–Jeff

Thumbs up for Dist. 54 mayors’ support for public education

My letter to the editor published in Chatham News and Record, Feb.1, 2012:

I want to applaud Siler City Mayor Charles Johnson, Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller, Goldston Mayor Tim Cunnup, and Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive for supporting Governor Bev Perdue’s proposal to restore some $800,000 in state funds for our public schools.  While I am not generally a supporter of increased sales taxes because their impact is “regressive” (lower income households pay a higher percentage), I would support restoring a 3/4 cent increase if that was the only politically feasible way to adequately fund our public schools. Obviously, I would prefer those who can better afford it to pay a higher percentage burden of any tax increase than the numerous retirees, blue collar workers and unemployed in Chatham and Lee counties.

Since the 2008-2009 budget year approximately 6,108 NC public school employees have lost their jobs, 76% of whom were teachers or teacher assistants.  Although our local schools have done a good job of keeping those numbers down, we still have lost a significant number of positions, including completely eliminating Chatham’s middle school Spanish program. And while the Chatham Board majority did not actually cut their dollar contribution, they also did not provide sufficient funds to maintain the same per pupil funding, based on increases in student enrollment. Commissioner Sally Kost and I lobbied for these funds because we both considered not providing them as a funding “cut”.

I also support President Obama’s American Jobs Act, in large part, because it will provide North Carolina sufficient funds to restore or retain a total of 13,400 education jobs.

Any increased educational funding should be focused on classrooms and direct educational services.

Research clearly shows that the most important factor in improving a state’s and local community’s economic development and prosperity is public educational quality. Thanks to our state legislature’s misguided cuts to education, North Carolina has dropped to 46th in per pupil state funding. We are now below Mississippi and South Carolina. That is embarrassing.

It is time we put our future – our children and grandchildren – first.  I don’t have all the answers to the best way to fund education but I am willing to do my part and pay my share to make it happen. I hope you feel the same.

UNC study lauds importance of early education

Thumbs up to UNC researchers for their study showing the importance of investing in early childhood education. That’s what it’s all about and why I’ve made enhancing public education, from pre-school through community colleges and universities, an important part of my plank. Here’s an excerpt from Jane Stancill’s excellent article in The News and Observer, and a link so you can read the full story.

Poor children who get high-quality day care as early as infancy reap long-lasting benefits, including a better chance at a college degree and steady employment, according to a UNC-Chapel Hill study that followed participants from birth to age 30.

The latest findings, published this week in the online journal Developmental Psychology, are from one of the longest-running child care studies in the United States.

Conducted by the Frank Porter Graham Development Institute at UNC, the research is widely cited in a body of evidence that early childhood education can change the trajectory of young lives.

The findings may be cited in a court battle looming over state-funded pre-kindergarten for low-income children. For months, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and Republican leaders in the legislature have been at odds over funding for preschool for 4-year-olds.

The UNC study, known as the Abecedarian Project, began in 1972 with 111 babies from low-income families who were randomly assigned to two groups.

Half were enrolled in quality early childhood education from infancy to kindergarten; the other half, the control group, received what ever care their families arranged.

Researchers have followed the children since then. Along the way, the child care group posted better scores on reading and math tests in school.

They were more likely to pursue education beyond high school and less likely to become teenage parents.

College and beyond

The latest data from the participants, at age 30, show that those who received early education were four times more likely to earn a college degree – 23 percent graduated from a four-year college, compared with 6 percent in the control group.

There is little question that such early education can improve the odds for poor children, said Frances Campbell, a senior scientist at the institute and lead author of the study.

“That’s the take-home message, that you must not ignore the early years,” she said, “because what you do to enhance a child’s development when he is very, very young has very long-termimplications.”

The children in the early-education group also were more likely to have consistent employment and less likely to have used public assistance.

Seventy-five percent had worked full time for at least 16 of the past 24 months, compared with 53 percent of the control group……