Our justice system is complicated, and for most citizens, navigating it themselves is not an option. Having an attorney is necessary for accessing justice, but for too many North Carolinians they are unable to obtain the legal counsel necessary to protect their rights.
According to a report from the LSC organization (http://www.lsc.gov/media-center/publications/2017-justice-gap-report), roughly 3 out of 4 low income households will have at least one civil legal problem in the upcoming year. These include problems with health care, housing conditions, disability access, veterans benefits, and domestic violence, the seriousness of which could be the difference between someone receiving medical assistance, being homeless, or in some cases protection from bodily harm or death. For many of those families North Carolina legal aid programs such as Legal Aid of North Carolina, Pigsah Legal Services and the Legal Services of Southern Piedmont provided lawyers at no charge to work on behalf of low income individuals, but these programs have been woefully underfunded. As of the 2010 census there was 1 Legal Aid attorney for every +19,000 North Carolinians who qualified for Legal Aid service. State appropriations to Legal Aid have been cut from $5.4 million to $1.1 million since that time. This will result in several thousands of vulnerable individuals unable to get help each year. having no legal assistance.
The General Assembly has also cut the Department of Justice's budget by 40%. This will prevent the Department of Justice from adequately prosecuting serious criminal cases on appeal, including those of sex offenders, enforcing environmental regulations against air and water polluters, ensuring that parents get the child support that’s due them, or investigating and returning money lost through scams and fraudulent business practices.
North Carolinians are entitled to equal justice. Yet for too many people, courts are where they will lose their children, their homes, their life savings and their freedom — outcomes that should not be considered just, nor justly obtained. When elected Antoine will provide resources to organizations which expand access to justice to vulnerable populations.
Gentrification is the forced displacement of lower income renters or homeowners individuals due to economic growth. It is prominent in knowledge hubs, urban communities and superstar cities. Nationwide, cities are growing population-wise faster than suburbs for the first time in nearly a century as a new generation of workers try to move closer to job centers. This nationwide trend has appeared in North Carolina in cities such as Durham and Charlotte, as well as right here in Southeast Raleigh. We are witnessing low and middle income residents struggle to afford to live in the growing metropolis and the lack of affordable housing units. As these citizens get pushed out the neighborhood loses its authenticity, and those low income residents are moved further away from public services and job centers.
While no one would argue against economic growth, it is important that North Carolina municipalities do not pay for the economic gains with the loss of social capital and manages their growth in a manner that benefits all their residents.
Currently, municipalities are handicapped by the General Assembly from passing policies that would allow them the flexibility to implement policy to provide equitable housing. When elected, Antoine plans to authorize municipalities with the ability to implement potential solutions such as impact fees, inclusionary zoning and create state incentives for municipalities to create community land trust and rent stabilization vouchers in order to protect vulnerable residents from being developed out of their communities.
Gun violence remains an important threat to public health and safety. The increasing occurrences of mass shootings have raised the media profile of the issue of gun violence, but it fails to portray the true scope and impact of the 1,200 North Carolinians we lose each year. Firearm-related criminal violence and suicides are often overlooked but are preventable with the implementation of smart sound policy. With such policies we can save lives while ensuring law-abiding citizens the ability to purchase firearms for hunting, self-defense, and sports shooting.
By rejecting Medicaid expansion offered through the Affordable Care Act, our state has foregone billions in federal dollars that would have been used to provide health care coverage to our neediest of residents. In providing health access to our fellow North Carolinians it would have bettered health outcomes and expanded our economy. It is well past time to revisit that decision and bring the health coverage and jobs North Carolina is due through the expansion of Medicaid
Partisan fighting has dominated our state legislature. Actions have been taken to settle past partisan grievances rather than concern of what is in the best interest of North Carolinians and residents of District 33. This is in part because the composition of our elected officials do not reflect the varied viewpoints and demographics of our great state. The current make-up of our political system creates safe seats and near unaccountable governing bodies who can implement policy that is adversarial to the best interests of our citizens and only endorsed by a minority of our population without fear of repercussion.
Representatives should not choose their voters, voters should choose their representatives. Representatives should be elected off of the strength of their ideas, not the depths of their pockets. The most valuable thing to a representative should be their connection to voters not their connection to deep pocketed special interests.
When elected, Antoine will seek structural changes to ensure a representative democracy. This includes establishing a non-partisan redistricting body, campaign finance reform, and an option for public financing. It is through such changes will our General Assembly as a whole advocate for the constituents they serve focusing more on evidence based policy and less on ideological/partisan warfare.