Council should appoint a woman to fill open seat

leahjosephson's picture

Unsurprisingly, names have started to surface as possible applicants for Penny Rich's open Town Council seat once she leaves her post to join the County Commission in January. Today I heard via Twitter that George Gianciolo and Jon DeHart likely plan to apply for the position.

While I'm sure either of these men would provide a thoughtful voice for Council, the unpleasant reality is that if either were appointed, the gender breakdown of CHTC would be just two women and seven men (including Mayor Kleinschmidt). Council would be comprised of just 22% women, exactly the same representation as the NC legislature.

It's embarrassing that a municipal government we proudly consider to be a model for progressivism in our state could possibly have the same gender breakdown as our backward-thinking General Assembly.

I'd like to point out that 22% women isn't an atypical statistic for Chapel Hill Town Council. Men have made up the majority of the council for 48 of the past 58 years, even though women comprise 53.4% of the population of Chapel Hill. The only years in which the council has been comprised of more women than men throughout its entire history were 1998 and 1999.

As progressives, we work deliberately to improve the diversity of our businesses, schools and legislative bodies because we know diverse groups make more informed, creative and nuanced decisions. Being exposed to diversity has only positive effects on our children. And quite simply, we know that making an effort to have balanced and truly representative elected bodies is the right thing to do.

It's a very scary time to be a woman in North Carolina. Aside from the anti-women's health legislation that's come down the pipeline in the General Assembly and nationwide, the right wing has also tried to silence women's voices at all levels of government by gerrymandering and pouring money into statewide and local elections, targeting progressive women officeholders because they know women are the most willing to fight for their families' jobs, health care and education.

Chapel Hill must make it a priority to improve women's empowerment within our community, especially as it is constantly threatened statewide. I've seen little girls in the audience at public meetings before, brought by their parents. They shouldn't have the experience of looking at a sea of white male faces to define how they envision public leadership - at least, not in our community. We can do better.

Please join me in encouraging council members to appoint a woman member to its open seat by continuing the conversation in this and other public spaces and by contacting them directly.

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Total votes: 6

10 Comments

Precedent

I remember watching the 2009 appointment process and hearing many calls to continue our commitment to diversity and choose an African American to fill the vacancy. I hope the same folks will speak up again this time. 

OCDP Delegates to the DNC

White 100%, Female 25%.  Different standard ?  Any of the white men willing to resign so another woman can be added ?  Can't seem to get anyone to talk about it!  Go figure. More Dharma .....

Actually Matt

The State Democratic party has rules that govern diversity. At the district level, there MUST be an equal number of men and women. Obviously this means at the county level there might not be. 

mghughes's picture

There is no Orange County

There is no Orange County delegation as no county receives a guaranteed allotment of slots. People are elected at the congressional district and state levels, however there is only 1 delegation and that is for North Carolina.

On the whole, the state met or exceeded all of it's diversity goals for our state delegation.

mghughes's picture

50% of our delegates applies

50% of our delegates applies to the district and state conventions and is taken on the whole. Even if one of us resigned, the persons who were elected to be alternates would not even be from Orange County. This process is outlined in the state delegate selection plan. I'm not sure who you have tried to speak with, but it wasn't me because I would've been more than happy to do so.

Just want to clarify one thing: Orange County contingent is not 100% white.

Barbara Crockett's picture

At a municipal level this doesn't

resonate for me. I don't judge a city's progressive pedigree by council gender ratios..... unless of course we could find a woman with mixed Asian, Latino and Occaneechi heritage. A little levity, folks. I think it is important that there are three women supreme court justices when it comes to reproductive rights, equal pay, marriage equality, etc. I don't see it playing out the same way when it comes to zoning, solid waste collection, water quality, public transportation, affordable housing, bike lanes, etc. Should be fun to see who steps up to the plate. An interesting post. Thanks.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

There are qualified women ready to serve

I completely agree with Leah. Fortunately, I know of at least one very qualified candidate who is already interested in the seat: Maria Palmer. If you know her, please let her know that you would support her applying for this seat on the Town Council. Here's Maria's bio from the Chapel Hill 2020 web site (she served as a co-chair of the transportation theme group):

Maria Palmer moved to Chapel Hill with her husband Mike and two young boys in 1994 to complete a doctoral degree in Education Administration while Mike was on a research sabbatical at UNC. They fell in love with Chapel Hill and returned permanently in 1996 -- this time with three kids. A former high school teacher, counselor, pastor, and school principal, Maria considers herself first and foremost a community educator. She has served the state of North Carolina as a member of the State Board of Education (1998-2005) and continues to be involved in advocating for students and their teachers at the policy level. She has presented continued education seminars for teachers at the school, district and state level. Her goal is to bring together students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community leaders to work together to support the success of all students. To this end, she has presented her research on immigrant students' schooling at national and international meetings and helped communities apply its lessons in workshops in schools, small churches, PTA meetings and anywhere she's invited. - http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=1825 

No way to lose with those candidates

I don't think women need special consideration for appointment in Chapel Hill. The bigger challenge is to find qualified women who are willing to do the job. If council members have to choose between George C and Maria P, there's no possible way for the community to lose. Both would do a great job and would take the broader view rather than one of gender or ethnicity.