Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kurt Naas announces run for Cornelius Board of Commissioners

The first time I saw Kurt Naas speak was several years ago when the Red Line commuter rail project was making one of its numerous attempts to get off of life support.  Naas was giving a presentation for the Cornelius Town Board exposing flaws in the plan put together by a highly paid group of consultants.  Naas presented information that was professional, well thought out, and as thorough as anything the consultants brought to the table, and he had done it for free.

Since then, Kurt Naas has become a household name here in North Mecklenburg.  His is a name synonymous with citizen advocacy and leadership, a name of someone willing to fight for the public's best interest.   Tuesday, Kurt Naas put that name in the ring for the next contest for Cornelius Town Board.

Here is the press release put out by his campaign.

Citing The Need for a Strong Voice for Cornelius, Leader of Widen I-77 Anti-Toll Group Says He Can Be More Effective Representing Citizens and Businesses as an Elected Official

Kurt Naas, leader of the citizens group WidenI77 that opposed the I-77 toll project since 2012, announced his candidacy for Cornelius Commissioner. According to Naas, years of fighting the I-77 tolls emphasized the need for elected officials who will listen to the people, carefully research the issues and stand firm on convictions. When he formed the group in 2012 most elected officials in the region were convinced tolls were the only answer and largely ignored warnings from Naas and others who had thoroughly researched the plan. Today all North Mecklenburg towns and Mecklenburg and Iredell counties have passed resolutions opposing the project.

“Back in 2012 I realized that it was going to take a community-wide effort to stop try and stop this project. It clearly is not in our region’s best interests,” Naas says. In response he formed the group WidenI77. The organization grew into a prominent grassroots movement, eventually reaching thousands of citizens through several town hall-style presentations and Naas’ hundreds of blog posts. For his efforts the North Carolina Open Government Coalition named him their 2015 “Citizen of the Year”, and last year the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce recognized his organization with a Distinguished Service Award.

In addition to fighting the toll project, Naas has served the community in other ways. He served on Cornelius’ Transportation Advisory Board for five years and currently serves on the DDI Landscaping Design Committee. Recently Naas was instrumental in stopping a NC Senate bill aimed at making it virtually impossible for citizens to sue the NCDOT. Senate Bill 613 would require the legal firm of a plaintiff suing the NCDOT to post a bond to cover NCDOT’s legal fees, and NCDOT would set the amount of the bond.

“If S613 had passed, the net result would have been no lawyer would ever take on a transportation-related case in North Carolina,” Naas says. He learned about the bill after receiving a tip and sprang into action. “I urged the Charlotte Observer to cover the issue, and suggested to a couple of television journalists that they contact the bill’s sponsor. Thankfully, the bill died in committee.”

Another cause for Naas has been encouraging town officials to install Adaptive Signal Control Technology (ASCT) on traffic lights. The technology adapts signal light timing to changing traffic conditions and typically increases the number of cars through an intersection by 10-to-30 percent.

“As crowded as our intersections are, it really makes sense,” Naas says. “There are thousands of installations throughout the Southeast but none in North Carolina.” After individual meetings with board members were ineffective he eventually found a receptive audience with town staff.

“Since then they’ve made great progress with the plan for ASCT lights,” he says. The West Catawba corridor is slated to be the first North Carolina installation in early 2018. NCDOT is sharing the cost and the vendor is cutting its price to gain a foothold in North Carolina. If it proves effective, NCDOT will look at rolling out the technology to other areas of the state.

“While the town leadership of Cornelius does well with most tactical issues, more attention needs to be given to broader strategic issues and opportunities that can impact the day-to-day life of residents. I’m running because I can be more effective representing our citizens and businesses as an elected official. It’s really that simple.”

Naas has already lined up the endorsements of a dozen elected officials including Republicans and Democrats from across the Lake Norman Region. “The breadth of endorsements demonstrates I can work with people across the political spectrum on local and regional issues,” he says.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett agrees. “As we face the challenges of a growing community we need principled leadership to ensure our quality of life,” Puckett says. “Over the past four years, no citizen has worked harder to that end than Kurt Naas.”

Naas began his career as an aerospace engineer with General Dynamics Space Systems Division where he worked on the guidance platform for the Atlas and Centaur rockets. After graduate school he worked for AlliedSignal where he led the global product support launch for their microturbine business, and subsequently held executive positions with Honeywell and Ingersoll Rand.

He owns a manufacturing business in Cornelius, lives in the Peninsula neighborhood and attends Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte. He’s been married to Maria for 28 years and they have one son, Stephen, 19, who is a two-time Golden Gloves state boxing champion.

Naas holds an MBA from the Kellogg School (Northwestern) and a Master’s in Engineering Management, also from Northwestern. He completed the dual-major, six-quarter program in five quarters while undergoing chemotherapy and he graduated at the top of his class. He is a member of Sigma Gamma Tau, a national aerospace honor society, and Beta Gamma Sigma, an honor society for collegiate schools of business.

For more information about Naas’ candidacy for Cornelius Commissioner can be found at www.electkurtnaas.com.

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