Chris Heagarty: Wake County’s Newest Representative

November, 09, 2009, by Khaner

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Wake County received its newest representative in the General Assembly last week in Chris Heagarty. The former director of the NC Center for Voter Education, Heagarty was tapped to fill Ty Harrell’s vacant seat and was sworn in by Gov. Perdue last Wednesday.

Known as an avid election reformer, Heagarty brings an intimate knowledge on the inner-workings of the Legislature along with a passionate voice for western Wake Co. New Raleigh had the chance to catch up with the newly-appointed representative last week and ask a few questions.

NR:  What made you want to fill Ty Harrell’s vacant seat?

Some people say that it is a bad time to be in the legislature, but I grew up in House District 41 and I care about the people here. I’ve worked in or around the legislature for the better part of two decades and I knew that I could step in and help the district from day one. I have a proven track record as a reformer who can help clean up some of the mess in government and get people working again.

NR:  What is your stance on net neutrality, especially as states start taking individual positions on the issue?

Chris:  I am not an expert on net neutrality and need to learn more about the issue. On one hand, the concept seems to promote fairness and equal access for all Internet users, but on the other hand well-meaning reforms can often have unintended consequences, such as removing the economic incentive for investment in improving broadband infrastructure. The very architecture of the Internet is changing as mobile networks are replacing the traditional cable and telephone line systems that some opponents of net neutrality defend. This evolution makes it difficult to distinguish between possible legitimate claims by the major service providers and claims that are just anti-competitive rhetoric.

Because Internet communications are global services and the Internet is a growing instrumentality of interstate commerce, this kind of policy should be developed at the federal level via the FCC. State-based solutions, however, might be subject to legal challenges as unconstitutional exercises of state power that violate the dormant commerce clause.

NR:  As you know, Dix Hospital is slated to close in the next 1-3 years. Do you support local and statewide efforts to turn the campus in its entirety into a destination/central park?

Chris:  I strongly support those efforts. The availability of such a vast area of open space and potential park land so close to the city core is an opportunity the city and state would be foolish to throw away. Raleigh has an unfortunate history of squandering opportunities that could have beautified the city or made it a more popular destination for tourism in favor of making a quick buck. This dates back all the way to the days of its founding, when the city was chartered on land that belonged to a member of the legislative committee responsible for building the new capital, rather than on the banks of the Neuse River a few miles away as originally planned.

NR:  As a long-time player in local and state politics, what do you hope to realistically accomplish in your first year in the NC General Assembly?

Chris:  Realistically, if, at the end of the day, I can simply make the lives of the people in my district a little bit better than they were before I got here, I’ll have been successful.

Specifically, although I am entering the legislature half-way through a two year term, I am not a novice and I will still have some good opportunities to help shape state policy. To be effective as a freshman you have to work with the senior members, pick your fights, and dedicate yourself to just a few issues. For example, while I could not single-handedly reform the tax code or health care, I can help initiate study committees that would investigate major issues and present formal legislative proposals for the following year. I can also help champion several of the small, but important, programs in the state budget that, if fully funded, could help create more jobs.  Likewise I can help find waste that might save scarce tax dollars. There are local government issues that need legislative sponsors.  In District 41, many people are upset about road work that hasn’t kept pace with the growth of their communities. I can help them with these projects. 
NR:  Any new music that has caught your ear lately?

Chris:  With two young kids, most of the new music I hear is about one cartoon character or another. I usually listen to Internet-radio stations I’ve customized on Pandora, a great free service that lets me put together my old school favorites, everyone from Johnny Cash to A Tribe Called Quest.

homepage image from Cary Citizen

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