District 2 Commissioner Vilma Leake

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

I have encouraged all people to participate in our process and apply for boards and committees.  We do not discriminate.

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?

I am aware that the rate of positive testing for HIV is on the rise. I work closely with Kathy Ireland and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation where we discuss this and how to address these concerns.  There are several reasons including: the effects of the pandemic and the difficulty in offering tests, availability of testing, and lack of focus on specific communities seeing an increase. It is important that the county work with local community groups(people of color, different cultural groups, religious organizations) to provide opportunities for testing and programs oriented towards prevention. I believe that we have to expand access to PrEP particularly for the underserved and uninsured. 

As a first-time candidate, I am committed to making HIV testing/programming a priority in my service to Mecklenburg County. I am not 100% comfortable in offering a rating at either end of the spectrum. Today, I believe Mecklenburg County is average in their services/outreach. I am doing my homework and will possibly offer a different rating once I am more comfortable in my knowledge and my ability to effect change.

Do you support expanding the "Getting to Zero" Campaign for Mecklenburg County?

In doing my research about this campaign, I do support expanding it if the program is operated with focused and committed leadership. Our positive testing rate is higher than before the pandemic but we now cannot use excuses of funds being tied-up in other areas. With any program or effort, goals must be met, the ongoing program must be monitored for effectiveness, and that staffing must be skilled and committed to the program. The BOCC must be held accountable for its administration and ultimate outcome.

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? 

Around 2016 the county led the way to distribute PrEP and the LGBTQ community applauded our leadership. However , COVID , got all the attention since 2020 and we really need to get updates at least twice a year about HIV/AIDS from the Health Director. So we have slipped from Excellent to Above Average. 

Regarding the”GETTING TO ZERO” national campaign, I believe we support it but we have not had much information about it. I will ask the Health Director for a report. 

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?

We are flourishing on parks, land, and greenways. There is a serious problem about safety and we need more lighting on greenways for women,  senior citizens and for those who have a disability.

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?

We need to review the taxing process and the availability of taxes to adequately provide for care for all residents.Fifteen years ago I introduced a major effort called the Small Business Consortium, to help minority entrepreneurs to learn the process to be vendors for the county  with contracts. All of this is free of charge and we meet monthly. We have had 400-500 attend our meetings at Valerie Woodard Center. No other commissioner has done anything of this magnitude. We also sent nine women to Ghana/Nigeria for contracts that lasted 12 days! This was a major endeavor and I am proud of positively affecting the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs and their families. COVID interrupted the second phase of nine women from Ghana/Nigeria coming to Mecklenburg County for a similar experience. Many thanks to the County Manager and Staff for their support. 

I have encouraged CMS to offer more technical and vocational programs which would entice  our children in school to become entrepreneur to increase the tax base for Mecklenburg County. Communication between the Board and the CMS Board to see what we could provide would be helpful and exchange of ideas. We are still pursuing that goal. 

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.

All of your previous questions and my answers is helping to improve the movement for racial justice. CMPD is under the auspices of the city and their budget. I have supported an aggressive plan by our health director, Dr. Raynard Washington and his staff, to improve healthcare access for all. We have made great progress and that was especially evident during COVID. We are bringing that successful process back .

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

For decades, I have been an active parent supporting all parents who have children suffering. As you have walked this journey of HIV/AIDS i have lived this journey and my son did not have a long life because of the lack of knowledge and healthcare at the time he was living. As a Commissioner I have been extremely involved with all HIV/AIDS issues , again, I have lived it and have grieved for my dear son. I have shared with other elected officials, especially Pat Cotham,  my HIV/AIDS journey to help them better understand.