At-Large Commissioner Pat Cotham

What steps will you take (or have you taken) to ensure LGBTQ+ people are included in decision-making, including on advisory boards and commissions?

Beginning in 2013 when I was in my first term, I encouraged leaders in the LGBT (LGBTQ+ was not used at that time) to join advisory boards and attend other public meetings on non-LGBT topics to prove to people that they were our neighbors,  colleagues, relatives and friends.  I wanted they to show that they cared about our schools, seniors, veterans, safety, healthcare etc. I continued to say “you voice matters if you will please use it!”  At that time MeckPac was a strong influence and they were great and more applications for committees came from the LGBT community!  As the years passed, I have continued to encourage my LGBTQ+ friends to be “proud out loud” and participate in committees and to reach out to me with any questions. I am happy to report that they do! Plus, they give me a “safe space” to ask my questions and I am grateful for that.

How would you rate the County's efforts in addressing rising cases of HIV/AIDS in Mecklenburg County? Please provide a rating of "Very Poor", "Below Average", "Average", "Above Average" or "Excellent", and why you provided this rating.
Do you support expanding the"Getting to Zero" Campaign for Mecklenburg County?

Years ago, I was a leader with the county providing PrEP and at that time, I rated the county Excellent. As the years passed, I think we have slipped to Above Average or even Average. We don’t talk about it as much and we don’t receive updates on the numbers of people using it or any breakdowns of categories that are increasing or decreasing. We can do better. I think COVID shifted the emphasis but we need to “shift back” to more information and possible strategies in 2024. I support any campaign to reduce HIV/AIDS including Getting to Zero, however, that is a nationwide initiative and would be great to get updates on counties and states that have participated. I feel we just “checked the box” on Getting to Zero as opposed to fully embraced it. We can and should do better. I need to do more!

What actions do you support (or have you supported) to ensure people have equitable access (including transportation and housing) to jobs that provide a living wage, including supporting minority-owned businesses? How are you addressing the Leandro ruling to ensure equitable access to education? 

I would rate Mecklenburg County's efforts as Average. There are several contributing factors for my rating of "Average". The county's Getting to Zero campaign planning stage began during an unfortunate time--the COVID 19 pandemic. Despite that fact, I believe the county did an admirable job of pivoting to Zoom meetings to keep conversations about the strategy from being dormant. However, it does not appear from current reporting, which I believe is lacking in transparency, that the county is on track to hit their self-imposed goals of the four key indicators by 2025. There should be clearly communicated benchmarks for each of the goals in the key indicators to diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond to the HIV pandemic. I do support the Getting to Zero campaign, but a good strategy is always flexible enough to pivot on areas where forward progress is not being made. In this case, I do not believe there is enough data to support whether the strategy has made forward progress.

What will you do (or have you done) to maintain equitable access to green spaces and parks in Mecklenburg County? What plans do you have to ensure affordable housing is accessible to Mecklenburg County residents?

As for the second part of your question, the city carries the main responsibility for housing but I have supported the county being an integral partner to the city. However, we are woefully behind. I hate the term affordable housing because we don’t talk enough about the real need which is the 35K plus people in the 30% AMI (Average medium income). By far, that group has the biggest need but the city and the county focus more on the 60% and 80%. Developers tell me we have a glut of the 80% AMI , around 2016-2017, when the county was planning for Brooklyn Village (not a shovel of dirt has turned on this project), I was only one who voted no four times because we fell extremely short of planning for the 30% AMI group, PLUS, we sacrificed Marshall Park and its five acres when we were LAST in the country in Urban Parks. My only plans are to find candidates who will address this concern. 

What actions do you
support (or have you supported) to ensure people have equitable access to jobs that provide a living wage, including supporting minority-owned businesses? How are you addressing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities to ensure equitable outcomes for students in our public schools, including through adequate funding?

Around 2016, I worked with the NAACP (Corine Mack) and Action NC (Robert Dawkins) to successfully bring “Ban the Box” to the county for persons who have paid their debt to society which you did not mention but is about 6% of the population. I supported increasing the minimum wage at the county and publicly asked CMS Board to raise their minimum wage to the county’s—they did not . I have 40 years of recruiting experience and a big part of the problem is many people including minorities and women, accept a wage without asking for more. I often speak to groups and I tell them “to know your worth!” I am very proud that after nagging Atrium for eight years , they finally started hiring people with records. They even called me and asked for my advice. We have more work to do on hiring and giving a great wage and helping with childcare. We need more accountability for student results so they can provide for themselves. We need to bring more people together especially retired executives  to mentor individuals and small minority businesses. Complex problems need strategies that are broad and deep.

In 2020, the County Commission declared racism a public health crisis. What steps do you support (or have you supported) to address the racial inequities that exist in Mecklenburg County? These include but are not limited to environmental racism, overpolicing, and healthcare access.

In 2014, previous Health Director, Marcus Plescia MD declared VIOLENCE a public Health crisis. Subsequent Health Directors have their own passions as do county Boards. Racism has been a public health crisis for hundreds of years. I have spoken passionately about environmental disparities in African American communities. Policing is a city issue but I have supported and walked in marches and gone to rallies and to court about violence and over policing and under policing. But, that is a city issue so they take the lead. Healthcare access has improved but we need to “ meet people where they are” to give them information on available services.. Having it on our website is not adequate. We did well with ambassadors for Covid vaccines. We need more of that to get information out to the people.

Any other accomplishments or priorities you'd like our Scorecard Committee to consider?

I am a long time member of the LGBTQ Chamber beginning in 2013 when it was The business Guild. I participate in every Pride Parade and attend numerous galas, functions, weddings, events supporting and hosted by LGBTQ+ neighbors. I have spent time with transgender residents to learn more so I could better represent them. I have reached out to parents of LGBTQ/transgender children and connected them into the community. A parent  I referred to Time Out Youth is now leading their volunteers. I helped Time Out Youth receive funding including a social worker from the county. After the terrible mass shooting in June, 2016 at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida , I attended the Memorial here in Charlotte. I was asked to speak to the huge crowd and I mentioned my joining them in grief and also offered myself to them as their “Aunt Pat” -a “relative “ who would always accept, respect  and love them. Many times since then, someone stops me and calls me “Aunt Pat.” I am so proud of that title and my lesbian niece in Austin tells me she hopes to meet her “cousins” in NC! LOL