Candidate Questionnaire: Chatham Commissioners

Franklin Gomez Flores, candidate for Chatham County Board of Commissioners — Dist. 5

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Editor's Note: All candidates were sent two questionnaires by the News + Record. The first asked general questions about candidates and their goals; the second asked office-specific policy questions.

Questions are indicated in bold, any question left blank was unanswered by the candidate

Franklin Gomez Flores

How long have you lived in Chatham County? Since 1999, I was 5 years of age when my family moved to Chatham County, specifically Siler City.

Age on election day: 28

Occupation: County (Commissioner); self-employed (small investments, family business in naturally occurring affordable housing)

Campaign website/social media: Facebook.com/franklinforcommissioner

Party affiliation (even if your race is nonpartisan): Democrat

Current and previous elected offices held or sought & terms you served: 

2017 - Siler City Town Commissioner - at large (lost)

2020 - Chatham County Commissioner - District 5 (won)

2022 - Chatham County Commissioner District 5 (re-election)

Campaign manager (if applicable): Maria Gomez Flores

Campaign treasurer (if applicable): Self

Why are you seeking this office?

I believe it is important that we all have equal and fair opportunities, and that no community falls behind. We all are facing challenges: pressures of growth, the risk of losing resources, or the lack of resources.  I am involved in helping develop a Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan and in the task force focused on preserving our Maternity Care Center at Chatham Hospital. I supported our Bonlee community in their local commercial opportunities after a significant project had been stalled for years. I pushed forward the need to address our school gyms at Bonlee, Bennett, and Silk Hope.

What makes you the best candidate on the ballot?

I treat everyone with dignity and respect and have placed myself in the spaces necessary to address basic life necessities.  I am taking the steps in learning more about the challenges faced by our Agriculture community given the incoming economic opportunities.  I do not only focus on my district nor do I only focus on areas experiencing the pressures of growth. I am fair to everyone and every district, and I do not stand in the way of anyone receiving the resources needed in their community. I listen, I empathize, and I advocate for everyone.

Give us a job description you’d write for yourself if you’re elected to this seat:

As the representative of the most impoverished/low-income district, make sure that your community has the basic necessities of life: high-quality education, health and social services, safety and security,  internet access, and economic opportunities. Address the challenges regarding wastewater and water quality throughout Chatham county, in incorporated/unincorporated areas. Your district faces challenges, but make sure that you are also fair to everyone outside your district because there is an opportunity to address overlapping issues simultaneously. Get creative, and make sure you are putting in the time and effort to learn about the challenges and successes of each community.

What three specific, measurable and attainable goals would you pursue if elected?

Investments in school infrastructure throughout Chatham County

Investments in parks and rec programming throughout Chatham County

Access to fast and reliable internet access throughout Chatham County

What are the biggest challenges in Chatham and/or N.C. right now — and how would you address them?

Growth and the allocation of resources/funds -  Our tax base is increasing and diversifying. I am against budgeting any property tax from the mega sites into the county’s daily/yearly operations, and rather opt to address major one-time investments that can be paid off quickly, or pay off debt quicker to address the pressures of growth: schools, wastewater and water concerns, and safety and security. My thought is similar to a revolving door source of funding.

Chatham County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. What do you see as the major challenges/opportunities coming from this growth and how would you address them?

I am concerned about losing our agricultural economic base. I have heard the Board of Commissioners is not much appreciated by the Agriculture community. I have a genuine desire to change that. I treat everyone with dignity and respect and am interested in meeting with interested parties to ensure that we cater to their needs and that we are taking into consideration the challenges they face with any decision the board makes, so they don’t sell their farms. I will be interested in switching board committee responsibilities for Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization and the Agriculture Advisory Committee.

What’s your overall view of the role of the elected body you’re seeking to join? Is it fulfilling its mission now? If not, what needs to change?

I am a firm believer that we will never satisfy everyone with one sweep of a brush. But, we can coordinate and ensure that we all expect the challenges and are well prepared for the inevitable. We must be willing to listen to each other, especially if the other community has something that we wish to preserve/keep. This is a teamwork effort, no one will get exactly what they wish but we can coordinate to alleviate each other’s pain. Again, teamwork makes the team work.

Do you believe the 2020 Presidential election produced fair and legitimate results? (Please respond with a “yes” or “no” answer, then, if desired, you have 100 words to support your response.)

Yes, I believe the result was proper, but not to the extent that it should have been. I believe there was an attempt to steal the election by the former President. How many attorneys of the former president are in trouble with the law? Even those that were not yet affiliated with the former president during the 2020 election. It is 2022 and new attorneys are getting scrutinized because of the former president. What if it was your child or your spouse? I was critical of the business practices of the former president leading up to the 2016 election.

Fast facts:

Political/government hero: No one.

Favorite book: A Home on the Field by Paul Cuadros

Book most recently read: Getting More: How you can negotiate to succeed in work and life - Stuart Diamond

Favorite film: John Q

Hobbies: studying the economy and markets, and family time

Community/civic involvement: Chatham County Board of Health, Chatham Hospital Board of Trustees, Siler City Futbol Club Board of Directors

Favorite thing about Chatham County: the diversity and professional expertise 

Personal motto or one-line philosophy: Prepare for the worst, pray for the best

Strongest childhood ambition: Improving our collective quality of life

Most significant life goal you’ve accomplished: First in my family to be an elected official and hold a leadership role

Office-specific questions

Chatham County historically faces large socioeconomic divides between the eastern and western sides of the county. What can be done to mitigate that divide, and how do you foresee County Commissioners aiding in that process?

  • It is important for elected officials to appoint, to district-based appointments, individuals from within their districts to ensure that their communities have the representation they desire. Remember, prior to my election, a good amount of District 5 appointments on Chatham County advisory boards did not reside in District 5. I worked to change that. I am committed to identifying individuals from my district to serve as my district appointments. 
  • It is important to be aware of all the challenges and concerns throughout the county and to collaborate with one another.  And, for the board to consider how the decisions affect the community, for the good and for the bad because there is a difference between ideal and practice.
  • There is an idea of “only investing where the population is” from key individuals. And honestly, that gets under my skin. If anything has to change, it is that ideology. It is dismissive of the rest of the county, creating a divide. Anytime I get an opportunity to point out any inequities in decision-making I take it and I say it, whether it’s for my district or others. I am fair and supportive of everyone, not just my district.
  • I believe that an opportunity has been presented to western Chatham County, to build upon the minority business study. Western Chatham has a larger concentration of minorities, and I believe we must build the foundation based on the need of minorities and make the resources available to everyone in Chatham County.

Increased development in the county has put strains on its stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. What can be done at a county level to ensure residents have access to sustainable and clean water sources?

  • I believe the board must take the time to strategically plan to address the existing issues, such as clean water and sewage, especially given the economic opportunities coming to Chatham County. Our property tax from commercial spaces will increase dramatically in the incoming year. Between Vinfast and WolfSpeed, 9 billion dollars in investments will bring additional 10s of millions of dollars to our property tax base. The County should not budget these monies into the daily/yearly operations, and rather pay debt quicker or one-time major investments.
  • I also believe we can pre-negotiate sewage and stormwater control on future projects. We are currently under the development of our unified development ordinance and that is an opportunity to address the issues. We must operate on a give-and-take mentality if we want better than state minimum requirements on these infrastructures.

With major investments in the county from the likes of VinFast, FedEx and the CAM site, how do you believe the county should manage growth while ensuring the interests of existing residents are heard?

  • Our development of the unified development ordinance provides opportunities for community members to voice their concerns and opinions. I believe we must be cautious and not turn into Cary while protecting the property rights of our residents. I believe there is a difference in development for personal use and development for profit, and they must be treated differently. I also believe that we must be cautious with future development and the risk of they bring in competing for natural resources like water, and the risk of the water table dropping with the increase of wells.
  • I also believe we must work closely with the towns to help ensure they are able to provide the resources needed for the incoming growth. Whether it is for infrastructure or for programming, collaboration is key.

Increased economic growth is projected to cause a population boom as well, many of whom will need middle- to low-income housing. How do you think the county should address its looming affordable housing problem? 

  • Our article 46 sales tax has provided a boost in the allocation to education, parks, conservation, and affordable housing. Our commercial/industrial base is growing and that would further benefit us through the article 46 sales tax and our efforts in affordable housing. I support our affordable housing trust fund, I believe we must maximize the number of units per dollar spent, and opt in providing more loans than grants.
  • In regards to developments, I believe in give-and-take. To address affordable housing we must allow a bit more density, which brings up three methods: multifamily units, payments in support of affordable housing, and building up versus out. 
  • I am interested in getting rid of fees for county residents building a house for their personal residence, once per person, or once every 10 years. I am also interested in exploring ways to lessen or eliminate the burden of impact fees on our residents seeking to build their personal residence, once per person. I believe it is a huge blow to Chatham residents building one house for personal use, compared to developers who can pass on the cost to the buyer. 
Franklin Gomez Flores, Elections 2022, Chatham County Commissioners, District 5, candidate questionnaire

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