Polk commissioner attends state leaders conference

Published 8:00 am Friday, January 18, 2019

Local official stresses broadband, internet growth as main goal

RALEIGH — Polk County Commissioner Jake Johnson attended the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Legislative Goals Conference in Raleigh last week as the county’s voting member for the next round of legislative sessions.

Johnson said the main thing he addressed was improving broadband infrastructure and internet access to all parts of North Carolina.

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“I went in with the belief that we must pick a certain number of things that we want and really focus on those, as opposed to spreading out efforts too thin and not achieving anything we set out to do,” Johnson said this week. “The main thing I wanted to address while I was there was improving broadband infrastructure and internet access to all parts of North Carolina. I stood up in front of all our county delegates across the state and made my case that this could possibly be one of the most important issues we would discuss.”

Johnson said he argued that access to internet has a direct effect on the quality of education that could be achieved, and that would determine a county’s potential workforce. He said he also spoke on how important internet access is for medical facilities and how many people who now work remotely need internet access to be able to relocate to Polk County.

The NCACC’s goal agreed on regarding Internet is GG-1: “seek legislation, funding and other efforts to expand digital infrastructrure/broadband capability to the unserved and underserved areas and residents in the state.”

Johnson said he also promoted the legislation goal that would keep decisions of education at the local level.

“I am a strong believer, and I believe many on our board would agree, that education is at its best when the decisions are made close to home by the people who know our students,” Johnson said. “So my votes on education issues were focused on promoting early childhood development and making child care accessible; while also promoting local decision-making authority on things such as classroom size.”

Johnson said he also kept in mind the huge agriculture industry in Polk County and statewide and voted to lobby for more funding for agriculture research and assistance through cooperative extensions. Johnson said he hopes that will keep the agriculture industry alive and thriving in the state.

“I wanted to do what was best for our county as a whole and give us the most representation as possible in decisions being made with your tax dollars,” Johnson said. “So, I voted consistently to make sure that our county government remained in control of our budgets, not those in Raleigh or Washington.”

Johnson said he opposed provisions where he saw potential for local government losing its seat at the decision-making table and anything with the potential to benefit some areas disproportionate to how it would benefit Polk County.

“I believe, overall, the counties across this state came together to achieve some great goals, and I look forward to seeing what comes of them in the future legislative sessions,” Johnson said.

Johnson will give a presentation at Tuesday’s county commissioner meeting. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the R. Jay Foster Hall of Justice, located on the second floor of the Womack building in Columbus. He invites anyone who would like to learn more or ask questions about the NCACC conference to attend.