Here is a commentary I contributed to WCHL last week (it ran last Friday, but I can't find links to their recordings anymore). It was a little too long so the bit in gray was not on the air.
Much has been said about the abrupt departure of Bill Strom from the Chapel Hill Town Council. Whatever frustrations we may have had with him, at least we can take comfort in the fact that Strom will no longer have any influence on Orange County politics.
As they have done with all other mid-term vacancies in recent history, the Town Council will appoint a replacement to finish Strom's term. The Town Council also has a long-standing tradition of using the appointment process to ensure that there is at least one African-American sitting at the table.
The Council has wisely opted to wait and make this appointment after the newly-elected members are seated. This will help to ensure that the voters are well-represented when the Council votes on this appointment. Some would like the Council to appoint the candidate who came 5th, but when we went to the polls last week, we picked our top FOUR candidates, not FIVE. We can speculate about what the outcome would have been, but the fact is: voters didn't get a chance to express our fifth choice. We have to trust our elected representatives to fill this vacancy through the Council's normal process, and I expect them to consider the diverse skills and perspectives that each member contributes to make up an effective governing body.
Given the current opening left by Strom, and the fact that the Council will become all-white when the new members are sworn in on December 7th, I think the Council's direction should be clear. They have an opportunity to take the sour taste left by Strom's resignation and make lemonade by using the opening to meet an important need on the Council.
Several of the dozen people who applied to fill this seat have the basic qualifications to serve on the Council, but there is one candidate that stands out among them. She brings experience serving on Town Boards, has a background in public service, is rooted in the community, AND can bring a much-needed African American perspective to the Town Council. Her name is Donna Bell.
The are plenty of white males at the table already. In fact, I seem to recall that it was one of them that got us into this appointment discussion in the first place. I hope the Council has the will to do the right thing, and appoint a qualified African American like Donna Bell to fill Bill Strom's seat.