The morning after

Dear Friends,

Yesterday Deb McManus won the Democratic primary race in NC House District 54. We have sent her our congratulations and wishes for success in the fall general election contest.

With your help we ran a positive grassroots campaign that focused on critical issues. But we underestimated our opponent’s powerful political and financial resources. The McManus campaign raised half of its funding from large donors we didn’t have access to, including Lillian’s List (for women candidates only) and gambling proceeds from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (of which she is a registered member).  Her campaign hired a professional political consultant and had under-the-radar support from well-connected district party leaders, who shifted her get-out-the-vote campaign into high gear at the eleventh hour.

I have no regrets about our efforts.  We do not know exactly what role Amendment One played in the results, except that an unprecedented surge of voters came to the polls with no knowledge of our race or the distinct differences between the candidates.  I have never experienced anything like this before.

I am forever grateful to everyone who supported our efforts through personal contributions, volunteer hours and votes. The most rewarding aspect of the campaign was the opportunity to work with an extraordinary team of friends, and to meet so many new people, who share a commitment to strengthen our community through progressive and forward-thinking policies.

We attracted early support from a slew of current and former elected officials, and won endorsements from all the major organizations that compared both primary candidates. And we received generous support from more than 150 individuals.

We put together a talented team of volunteers who did amazing work. Together, we produced excellent materials, and executed effective strategies. We knocked on hundreds of doors and got tremendous responses.  And we had a series of inspiring neighborhood gatherings where I had a chance to listen to our supporters’ hopes, dreams and concerns.

My family made many sacrifices to support my candidacy. That starts with Dee, whose love kept me going and whose effective communication skills strengthened every message.  I’m proud of my daughter Emily Tinervin, who turned out to be a formidable campaigner. She and her husband Scott, and our granddaughters Ryan and Emery, inspired us every step of the way.  As always, among our most generous volunteers and supporters, I’m pleased to count Linda Starkweather and her husband Ned Kelly. And my parents’ values, support and love influenced this campaign throughout.

The last eight years of grassroots political campaigning have been rewarding in many ways but most of all because of the opportunity to get to know and work with so many selfless citizens. Now I look forward to quality time with family and friends, and enjoying life in this special place, while we figure out what the next adventure will be.  I am deeply honored to have taken this journey with all of you.

With warm regards,

Jeff

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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.

Sierra Club endorses Jeff Starkweather for State House

The N.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed Jeff Starkweather for NC House District 54 because of his lengthy track record promoting environmental protection, 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. 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 Sierra Club stated in its announcement.

Jeff has now received endorsements from every major organization that has compared his positions and track record with his opponent’s. He is endorsed by: The Independent Weekly, the State Employees Association of NC, the Sierra Club and the NC AFL-CIO.

He is also endorsed by 17 current and former elected officials on county, municipal and school boards in Chatham and Lee counties.

And he has the support of Women for Jeff, a campaign advisory committee comprised of more than40 active women in Chatham and Lee counties.

Vote Early April 19-May 5

You can register and vote at the same time, during the one-stop early voting period at the following locations:

Chatham County

  • Pittsboro:  Board of Elections, 984 Thompson St. (in the office complex on US 64 Business across from the Post Office): M-F 8 am–7 pm, Sat. 10 am–3 pm
  •  N. Chatham: at Chatham Downs, near the Harris Teeter: M-F 10 am–7 pm, Sat. 10 am–3 pm
  • Siler City: Earl B Fitts Center, 111 S. Third Ave:M-F 10 am–7 pm, Sat. 10 am–3 pm

*For more info: Chatham Board of Elections 919-545-8500

Lee County

  • Lee County Board of Elections,  225 S. Steele St, Sanford: M-F 8am-5 pm; Sat. May 5, 8 am-1 pm
  • McSwain Agricultural Center, 2420 Tramway Road, Sanford: M-F 8-5; Sat May 5, 8 am-1 pm

*For more info: Lee County Board of Elections 919-718-4646

On Election Day, Tues. May 8, you must vote at your precinct polling place*.

What I wanted to say

I was so impressed and moved by the statements made by so many local people testifying at the fracking hearing at Fearrington last night.  They did their homework and they spoke from the heart and the head. And the message was heard loud and clear all the way to Raleigh.

I wasn’t permitted to speak at the hearing last night because I had already spoken at the Sanford hearing ( in fact, I’ve been speaking out about this at every opportunity for months). But here’s what I had planned to say.

First, I want to thank my friend Chatham Commissioner Sally Kost, who pushed and prodded DENR to have a fracking meeting in Chatham County.  And of course I want to acknowledge former House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senator Bob Atwater for assisting Sally in making this happen.

I also want to thank the DENR staff who worked so hard on this report with so little time and so little staff resources.

Finally, I want to “thank” the DENR administrator, who gave us an unexpected gift by ignoring the substance of the report, and writing the now famous conclusion from nowhere.

Despite the fact that:

●  methane gas  has been found in nearby fracking wells;

● EPA recently found fracking fluid in nearby wells;

● no significant longitudinal studies, laboratory,  or animal studies have been conducted about water contamination by fracking;

● the shale gas deposits in North Carolina are significantly shallower than those in other states whose experience DENR was relying upon;

●  the consumer protection section was blank;

● the Department of Commerce declined to conclude that fracking would have a positive impact on our economy;

● and on, on, on…

Nevertheless, the conclusion said that fracking could be conducted in North Carolina safely IF it was properly regulated.

That insulting finding clearly did not fool anyone.

The only thing the conclusion accomplished is to help energize what is clearly the largest grass-roots environmental movement in this area in a long time.

I want to thank  leaders like Elaine Chiosso of the Haw River Assembly and Colleen Kendrick of the Deep River Clean Water Society, among many others, who have spearheaded this awesome grassroots movement here in Chatham County. I feel fortunate to have been able to play a small role in this movement and to be able work with and listen to such amazingly intelligent, diligent, passionate, poignant and humorous allies.

Clearly, the case has not been made in this report or anywhere else that economic benefits of allowing fracking for shale gas in North Carolina outweigh its costs.  Given Speaker Tillis’s statement that those proposing or opposing legislation must make the “business case,” I do not see why North Carolina should waste any more time and resources to determine if fracking can be done safely with the proper regulatory regulations and resources, unless and until the economic case can be made.

Based on my experience and research over the last eight years on community economic development strategies, I sincerely doubt that this case can be made in Chatham or anywhere else in the Triassic basin.

All this was predicted when energy experts said some time back that we had reached peak oil – the point where more than half of the total supply of potential oil has been exploited. Those experts predicted that the attempts to extract hard to reach oil and gas deposits would be more expensive and  require new experimental  and risky technologies.  Does the 5-mile-deep BP oil spill ring a bell?  Recall that oil engineers and federal regulators assured us this technology was incredibly sophisticated and safe. Fracking presents the same risky story.

We need move to away from fantasy of energy technological utopias and toward a more pragmatic and sustainable energy strategy – energy conservation and alternative energy. This is where the jobs of the future are, not  in the temporary positions filled mostly by outsiders that fracking might provide.

This is the energy strategy the people of Chatham and Lee are telling me they prefer.  And like my friends Joe Hackney and Bob Atwater, I will listen primarily to people who live in these communities, not the outsiders who just want to exploit us.

–Jeff Starkweather

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

Candidate kicks off campaign March 4

From the Chatham News Record, March 1, 2012:

Jeff Starkweather is officially launching his campaign for the open seat in NC House District 54 with a free, public kick-off party on Sunday March 4, from 4 to 7 pm in Pittsboro. The festivities are free and open to the public and will feature live music, light refreshments and a chance to exchange ideas with the candidate. The location is 697 Hillsboro Street, the former Pittsboro Chevrolet showroom just north of Chatham Mills.

Starkweather, a long-time community advocate and retired newspaper publisher and attorney in Pittsboro is running in the May 8 Democratic primary. The new district covers all of Chatham County and a portion of the Sanford area in Lee County.

“We’ve been so fortunate to have Joe Hackney and Bob Atwater fighting for our vital needs over the years,” Starkweather said. “It will take many strong advocates working together to fill their big shoes when they step down from their legislative posts at the end of the year. But I am eager and ready to do my part, and I will work tirelessly for our district and our state.

“I spent my entire career fighting for fair treatment for all people and communities,” he said.  “Now I want to bring fairness and civic responsibility back into the public debate.

“We need to strengthen our public schools from pre-K through community college and university levels  — not starve them,” he said.

“We need to work strategically to support local businesses and attract clean industries — not simply wait for the jobs to show up. And we need to protect the natural environment that makes our state a stellar place to live and work, considered one of the best locations in the nation,” he said.

“Above all, we need to restore the promise of upward mobility for all,” he said. “The American Dream is not just for the privileged few.”

“If we do these things by working with each other– not against each other– our economy and our democracy will thrive again now and for future generations.”

It’s A Party: Campaign Kick-Off March 4

You’re invited to help the Jeff Starkweather for State House campaign blast off in style.

We’re having an open-house party on Sunday March 4 from 4  to 7 pm at the former Pittsboro Chevrolet showroom, 697 Hillsboro Street. That’s on US 15-501 just north of Chatham Mills in Pittsboro.

Everyone is welcome. Admission is free and donations to the campaign are always welcome.

We’ll have plenty of live music and light refreshments.  And there will be time to ask questions and share your ideas for how we can strengthen our community and our state.

Do you want strong schools, good jobs and clean air and water?  I do, too. That’s what we need for an economy that’s built to last.

Are you worried about the rush to authorize hydraulic fracking for shale gas in Chatham and Lee counties? I am, too. Given the fracking track record elsewhere, it seems the environmental and health costs far outweigh any short-term gains.

I hope you’ll stop by on March 4 from 4 to 7.  It’s a chance to see old friends and make some new ones. Feel free to bring friends and family. And spread the word.

Thanks,

Jeff

Learn more about the campaign on our web page, blog and Facebook.

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……