OP Live Candidate Forum: Chapel Hill Town Council

Candidates: Remember, you must respond using the reply button directly underneath the question or comment to which you are responding -- both to keep the conversation threaded and to avoid losing your words when the page refreshes.


Thanks for participating in this election forum. Chapel Hill continues to change. We’ll touch on some of the drivers to this change and the consequences of previous council decisions.I want to know what you think are important values to keep in mind as we evolve as a community. What will guide your decision making? And how can voters trust you to reconcile your values with the challenges the town faces?

My decision making will be guided, as it has been for all my terms of service, by a fairminded evaluation of what information comes to me. As someone whose elected career was preceded by years as an activist (which hasn't ended), I try to judge carefully how power is affecting decision making.Am not sure what's meant by "trust [me] to reconcile [my] values with the challenges the town faces. "  Ed Harrison

As in can you call youself and environmentalists and still allow for growth? Or a transportation advocate and not expand bus ridership? How do you balance things?

Yes, you can do both.  The ultimate metric will be a successful balance and growth will be necessary to generate the revenue streams necessary to protect the environment.  Likewise, there may be a point where increases in bus traffic will have an adverse effect, either directly on the environment or through increased costs by affecting our financial caopability to protect the environment.  Good transit protects the environment

Part of the problem in Chapel Hill is that we like to call ourselves progressives and environmentally-minded, and justice-seeking, but then we make decisions based on how they will affect our own neighborhood or house value or our child's class rank. We have to vote and act according to our values or they don't mean much. I do respect our Town Council folks and think they are very clear on their values and vote accordingly. Perhaps we just need better information and more connections to those who are not usually taken into account. Maria T. Palmer

Actually, I got called an environmentalist before ever calling myself one. I'm an environmental professional whose training originally focused at looking at the effects of growth, so some level of growth was always implied. I brought my training, experience and values with me to the Council, and have "allowed" for growth as a decisionmaker -- somewhat less than my colleagues, on the average. I have voted to cut bus service because the realities of advocating for the pre-paid, fare-free transit system made it necessary to re-position the system temporarily. I'm generally the Council member who explains (and will keep explaining) cuts, and expansions as well, because they have real meaning for my friends, associates and household.  One value I do hold that's particular to elected office is that there are few, if any, simple answers. The values I have of fairness in government, believing that I am elected to represent everyone in Chapel Hill, and full public participation (with lots of labor on that front on my part) I believe serve me well in the "reconciliation" at issue here.. Ed Harrison

 I firmly believe you can grow sustainably. We must build up more than build out for the future. We do not want create more urban sprawl. Within this growth, we must create buildings that are energy efficient and diminish stormwater runoff.  We also must find ways to establish more funding for our transit system so as to improve frequency and expand access to future developments. A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

As long as our population grows, we'll need to provide places for people to live and work.  The challenge for an environmentalist is to find ways to grow that do the least harm to the environment (or that build on -- and remediate -- already damaged sites).  It means putting new development near transit, to encourage less dependence on automobiles.  And it means accepting some more height than we're used to, so that we can use the land we do have most efficiently and protect our waterways and provide for green natural spaces. Amy Ryan

I respect that our elected officials strive to be fairminded, but part of the problem is this reliance on "what information comes to me." I don't think the Town Council is getting all the information it needs to make the best decisions for all our residents. Many voices and ideas are not heard. I hope to help bring more information to the table. I hope it is ok to reply to someone else's comment. If not, please let me know Maria T. Palmer

Yes, replying to other candidates is welcome and encouraged.

The values I think Chapel Hill should keep in mind are justice, inclusion, care for the earth and making this community a place where all residents can aspire to live in peace, with dignity and respect, and with hope that their children can receive a great education. I think voters know me from all the columns I have written and all the work I have done in the community, so I think they know my values align with what they want Chapel Hill to really be--they trust me to keep calling us to be our better selves.

The values I think are important are: providing affordable housing of all types to all segments of the community, especiallt the people who serve us as teachers, public safety personnel, town & university staff, etc; sustainability, both in terms of natural resources and fiscal sustainability;  environmental protection, including land, water, air, light and sound; and maintaining and increasing diversity.I will guide my decision making on maintaining the values I have observed in the community over the last 24 years and working with the next few generations to identify the values that they feel will be important for them in the Chapel Hill of 2030, 2040 and beyond.The voters will hopefully know something about my 23 years years of experience on Town advisory boards and the fact that I listen, learn and then make the best decision I can based on my judgment.  Hopefully voters who support me will be doing so because they trust that ultimately, any decisions I make will be based on using the best judgment I can bring to the process.

We believe in diversity, protecting the environment, helping others. I want to make sure that advisory boards have an important role in government and will ask staff and council to look at their recommendations.

Thank you, Kirk, for moderating this forum. Looking forward to sharing my views.

Chapel Hill is changing, but our values remain constant: inclusiveness and equity, environmental sustainability, fiscal responsibility, and I think now we have even a greater commitment to regional sustainability: our long-term transit goals are part of a sustainable region and state. My record of service suggests that I have the ability to balance these sometimes conflicting values in ways that work so that the solutions benefit all of us.

Sally Greene

im here

I think it's important to listen to everyone's opinion and look at the facts.  Once this has been done then the solution should be clear.  It may end up being a compromise.  I have seen Chapel Hill grow over the last 40 years.  This helps me see where it's been and where it may go.

I will not be able to agree with everyone and everyone will not accept my conclusions but I will carefully look at different points of view and make a decision. It is a myth that environmental rules is what is destroying jobs.

im in favor of more buses less rail. rail not eco feasible  

The  values I'd bring to the Council would be the same ones that have marked my 10 years of service on town advisory boards and committees.  These include planning new growth carefully, making sure that we weigh impacts on existing neighborhoods and businesses; advocating for comprehensive planning; and looking carefully at context to make sure that new development makes sense as part of the whole we're trying to create.Voters can trust that I'd adhere to these values because I've consistently advocated for them and voted according to them through my years of town service with the Community Design Commission and Planning Board. Amy Ryan

 I value inclusiveness. As a low-income resident, it is important that *everyone* is heard when it comes to our town's plans, be it housing, jobs, transit, bikes, all of it. I have my opinions on how to move the Town forward, but I definitely want the people to assist as much as possible.  A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

I’m thinking of starting a business that would employ some tech geniuses and creative class types. Most of the people I know who fall into these categories in Chapel Hill are moving to Durham because they can’t afford to rent or to buy a house here. They also seek a more vibrant culture. When I talk to people from out of state interested in moving to the Triangle they mention Raleigh. Why should I start this business in Chapel Hill?

Chapel Hill can become a mecca for starting a business that employs tech geniuses and creative class types.  The town is working towards being a business friendly incubator.  Rosemary imagined is what first comes to mind.  Chapel Hill needs to make sure it stays business friendly so that these companies want to stay here.  We can do it!

the town council  is looking a various ordinances to look at this problem

We need new businesses and tech geniuses, but I understand why they would go to Durham. We need to do better. We need to attract the type of partnership with Google Durham just announced. We need to invest in start-ups, with small loans like Carrboro has and with help for the people willing to take these risks. We are doing better in the last year, but we need to do more. Carolina North needs to have incubators as well.  I would tell you to invest in Chapel Hill because it is changing. It will not be a sleepy little college town for long, and being here and ready to take advantage of the explosion of innovation that is coming (especially when we get rid of the current legislature) will position you to grow your business in the very near future. Maria T. Palmer

more retail more job s

At this point in time it is difficult to tell someone to start a business in CH when they can get office space at half the price in Durham.  We need to increase our affordable office space downtown which is the best spot for a new business.  The Town should look into additional ways (besides Launch and 1789) to create accelerator space and true incubator space.  We should continue to partner with UNC and private interests to look for ways to build/redevelop space that can be used to recruit new businesses and we should work with the Chamber and other parties to identify what businesses are missing and what businesses might synergize with either existing businesses or the University. We should extoll the value of having one of the world's best universities within walking distance of downtown and the fact that we have many seasoned executives here to help develop new businesses. If we increase office space downtown we will support existing businesses, especially during the day, and this will ultimately help to increase the vibrancy needed to attract and keep the tech classes and others.

No other city or town in the region has the relationship that Chapel Hill does to the flagship public univesity in the state, one that our past chancellor did much to promote and re-envision as a center of innovation. He even wrote a book about it, with Buck Goldstein: Engines of Innovation.We have the intellectual resources and the energy that the campus population provides and renews each year. With LaUNCh and now the university students' own 1789 start-up we have ways to jump-start businesses. The next steps are to develop new spaces into which these growing new companies can thrive and expand, and the Town is actively working on that. Clearly housing is a problem, which is why, as many folks already know, I have been working on affordable rental solutions, and I'm sure we will talk about that before the evening is over. Sally Greene

Chapel Hill has great public schools and university. There are many qualified potential employees in Chapel Hill. Encourage them to visit Chapel Hill and Carrboro and listen to the music and hangout.  Parks, greenways and public transit are great and getting better. I think careful analysis of town policies will show that we do want new businesses.

I think that is what we would like to think, Loren, but I am afraid people looking to build a business here who really look at our track record of building permits, business climate, taxes, etc., would probably not agree.  Maria T. Palmer

You're not the only person who has raised this issue -- there's been a lot of talk lately from people wondering whether Chapel Hill has lost something to its Triangle neighbors.The good news is that we're starting to do something about it.  I was part of the Planning Board/Sustainability group that drew up the 2020 "Big Ideas," one of which was promoting an entrepreneurial enterprise hub along the Rosemary Street corridor.  The town and its partners are working to implement this idea with enterprises such as the new LAUNCH incubator. Over the next few years, I think we'll see more such efforts in town to build an entrepreneurial community here that will help new businesses thrive in town.  Amy Ryan

As the only candidate who is a member of the Council's Economic Development Committee (at least six years now), I've been part of many discussions of this. A challenge for Chapel Hill re "tech geniuses and creative class types" is that this employment demographic now expresses a strong preference for a walkable work environment and walkable residential environment. With LaUNCh and 1789, and a scattering of others (Three Birds), CH is beginning to get a critical mass in terms of work environment. Without the *millions* of square feet of adaptive re-use that downtown Durham can offer -- downtown Raleigh as well, but I know the former much better -- it's hard to compete. I think you should start this business in Chapel Hill because if you do it downtown you will be much, much closer to a great university than either Durham or Raleigh can offer in similar contexts, and because we are very likely to publicize and celebrate your starting this business.  Ed Harrison

There are so many persons that work hard in Chapel Hill, but can't afford to stay here. There are thousands of students that have graduated or are on the verge of it that want to stay in the Town, but they can't afford it. These problems are massive.  We have to have mixed-income developments and neighborhoods. In order to do it, we definitely should jump on the DHIC plan, as well as finding developers that understand the need for affordable housing in our town to keep our workforce here. It would be great to increase the required percentage of affordable housing per new development. A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

We just realized that a few of you did not have the correct permissions to post in the forum, but have rectified that now. Let us know if you have other problems.

Thanks for fixing the problem so quickly.  Amy Ryan

Here's a question I asked your neighbors in Carrboro last week: We continue to struggle with having enough affordable housing and growing our community in a way that maintains a diverse stock of housing. What are strategies you favor? Should the town itself initiate new projects? 

talk about it does not work  action is needed to be taken

yes town start new projects

use land owned by town to build on

We should continue supporting the Community Home Trust, but we need to push UNC to provide housing for its employees--perhaps developing something as part of Carolina North that uses the CHT model. We are subsidizing sub-standard wages by providing public housing to UNC and Hospital employees. It is shameful. We also need to initiate programs, including the proposed partnership with a DHIC on Legion Rd. I would work diligently with Sally and with non-profits to increase the stock of affordable housing.  Maria T. Palmer

I would work with  ED. gary k

The town should definitely initiate new projects. We should ask the town council to move forward with the DHIC Housing Proposal for the Legion Road Cemetery Property.  DHIC Inc is a non-profit affordable housing developer based in Raleigh North Carolina. This could support about 140 Units of much needed rental housing.  Letterof intent is needed by November 1st, 2013.We need to also keep supporting other programs that are working such as Community Home Trust, Empowerment, CASA and Habitat for Humanity. 

we must at fast or the offer will disappear gary k

I want to mention that we need more than just affordable housing. We need to be an affordable community. Our town programs and projects need to be accessible and benefit all our residents. For example, some of our art money could go to having artist-in-residence working with our youth in developing young artists among those who cannot affort the Art Center classes. Or we can offer summer camps and tutoring and recreation that is accessible to working parents. We can push CHCCS to offer programs like Rainbow soccer to its after-school kids, the list is too long to put here.  Maria T. Palmer

I agree with Maria that the issue goes beyond housing.  I remember when my daughter was a student at Glenwood Elementary, the principal had a policy that teachers could never ask families for money to support special projects, field trips, etc.  This was part of helping to create an environment where no child had to feel left out because his or her family was struggling financially.  It opened my eyes to what creating an inclusive community really entails.Amy Ryan

Thanks, Amy. I do think we need to ask those difficult questions ("how will this decision affect the poor/low income in our community?") about all our decisions. I admired that Glenwood principal tremendously. It was a shame we lost her, in part because the administration did not support her efforts. But that's a topic for another group of candidates. Maria T. Palmer

I just returned a couple of weeks ago from a national affordable housing conference where, to my delight but not surprise, Chapel Hill's incluisonary housing policies were held up as a model. Many communities nationwide are trying to achieve what we have been able to do. I am proud of the Home Trust's 200+ homes in our combined Chapel HIll-Carrboro communities. But it is not enough.With the market so much turned to rental housing today, as a result of a number of factors including the housing crash, we need to work strategically on improving rental housing options. This is the kind of housing that your tech entrepreneurs are going to want, especially at the start of their careers. And we have many others who need it.I look forward to Wednesday's Council meeting when the draft affordable rental strategy that Council Member Bell and I have worked on with a dedicated group of folks on a mayor's task force is presented to our colleagues. First on the list is a proposal that has, in fact, already been presented once to the Council: a low-income tax credit housing project by DHIC, Inc., a great regional affordable housing provider. This would be around 140 acres of rental units for seniors and families on Town-owned land.Other strategies that we will be recommending include dedicating an income stream of our tax dollars to affordable housing. We need to find all types of creative solutions, and I think many of them will involve partnering with our own housing nonprofits and others. This is a problem that will not solve itself. It is going to take all of us.You can find a copy of the draft strategy document on our Council agend for Wednesday, online at the Town web site. Sally Greene

must act fast sally

Part of affordability is transportation. We need better bus service, bikeability, and connectivity. We also need to protect pedestrians. Supporting zip cars and a shared bike program would really help. Maria T. Palmer

I believe that the Town is going to need to get actively involved in the affordable housing issue, much as is now being discussed regarding the partnership with DHIC to develop affordable housing on Town-owned land by the cemetary.  As Chair of the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force process and Co-Chair of CH2020 I consistently heard from the public that they wanted more affordable housing for Chapel Hill.  I believe that we can no longer rely on developers alone to provide that housing but that the community needs to stop "talking the talk" and begin "walking the walk".  We need to invest our own resources (such as the Town-owned land that we might invest in partnership with DHIC) or our revenue that comes from taxes.One possibility would be to invest a fixed amount of our annual tax revenues into affiordable housing.  This would provide a reliable revenue stream but if this was taken from existing tax revenues it would also cut into existing services.Another way would be to take a fixed percentage of net tax revenue (after the cost of services is deducted) from all new development going forwsard.  Since this would not affect the funding to existing services it would generate a steady revenue stream without impacting those other services.Given that new development might be years in coming we might consider a hybrid of the two models.A third option would be to work with the County to look for additional sources of revenue, perhaps even a bond since CH cannot issue another bond for at least 4 years unless it pays off existing debt service.Affordable housing is not just a CH or Carrboro problem, it isa problem for all of us.  As CH/Carrboro goes, so goes the County and vice versa.  We need to work together to solve our problems.

act fast

The strategies on which I'm particularly interested in working are those that help make more locations available for affordable housing, and to make those locations easier for non-profit organizations to develop for this purpose. I chaired the Council meeting in June when we responded without delay to a petition to allow multi-family housing on much smaller tract sizes than we had allowed for many years. I led that discussion to make sure that we moved quickly on it. I'm particularly in seeking collaboration with UNC to see if the location of the town's largest employers (by far) can provide land. As well, the town is on record as wanting to use the Green tract for that use. And we need to continue examining the town's own properties (subject of a Council-ordered Asset Study) to see if any more are as suitable at the Legion Road tract now proposed for development of workforce and senior housing by DHIC of Raleigh. The town asked for a proposal in that case, but could initiate more directly. I want to examine how we best do that -- in some cases by land trades in the development process, I suspect.  Ed Harrison

Because Chapel Hill is such a desirable place there is going to be high demand for housing and thus high prices. The town has created several boards on this topic. We need to implement their recommendations. Yes, Chapel Hill needs to take the initiative. We should consider using town owned land to help with housing. We need to continue to urge the university to create work force housing for employees. University and private developments for student housing will reduce the demand on other housing. We need support rental and home owner properties. We need to continue to work with developers, non governmental organizations and the university and school system.

This is a very tough one to solve -- as a candidate at today's Justice United forum pointed out, one of the downsides to creating a great place to live is that everyone else wants to be there too and prices shoot up.This issue is very much on the town's agenda and it has been one of the topics most discussed at candidate forums.  I second many of the comments of my fellow candidates and want to add the reminder that affordability isn't only about house price -- it's about access to transit, so a family can save on automobile expenses; it's about realizing that rising taxes create an insurmountable burden for many of our families; it's about bringing jobs to our town that pay a living wage and encouraging the university to do the same. Amy Ryan

it should be a dialogue between town and unc gary k

 ...As the fellow that is interested in starting a business. Mixed-income developments and neighborhoods would be conducive to a stronger, more diverse community, and would attract even more businesses with better paying jobs to the Town. :-) A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

Here's another question from last week that I think every municipal and county official in the state should mull:Having spent a good deal of time at the legislature in the past few years, I can tell you there’s a real chance that next year they’ll be a movement to end almost all municipal Extraterritorial Jurisdictions (ETJ).That, coupled with the changes in recent years making annexation extremely difficult, is going to have a big effect on Chapel Hill. How would you respond to that move? And if it is successful, how should the town handle a transition to turn zoning and permitting in the current ETJ over to the county.(Disclaimer: I live in Chapel Hiil's ETJ.)

that's what I ve been saying people gary k

I think the folks living in the ETJ will have to work with the town to see what they want for their area. Annexation may be preferable to being left out completely. I am not sure what the solution may be, but I think we will spend a lot of the next year or two trying to work around or fix problems created by this legislature. Which is why I was part of the first Moral Monday demonstrations...  Maria T. Palmer

state gov made annex more difficult in case some people don't know that gary k


Kirk, thank you very much for watching the Legislature like a hawk. It has been a very distressing past few months.If we were to have to give up our ETJ authority in the few areas where we do have it, then I believe we could still maintain voluntary joint planning agreements with the county, with their permission.This will create a problem for, say, the Rogers Road area, if we cannot create an ETJ that includes it. We would like to do that in order to make Town expenditure on the sewer line justifiable. Spending town money outside of town limits or ETJ would be very difficult.Perhaps one solution would be a water and sewer district with OWASA and the county, in order to provide this sewer and water service. That could be a way to overcome the inability to do an ETJ, but that too introduces new challenges across jurisdictions. Of course, the best solution would be annexation, which is not totally impossible even under the new rules. Kirk, perhaps you could organize Dogwood Acres for us? Sally Greene

Ha! Believe me, Dogwood Acres is highly organized.

let me I live in southern village gary k

Sally's comments about Rogers Rd. show that when there is a will there is a way. ETJ or not, the right people on Town Council will work to do what is right by the Rogers Rd. community.  Maria T. Palmer

I  brought up Rodgers road today. MARIA, GARY K

I think there is virtually no chance we will be able to annex the ETJs in the next decade or even beyond that.  They are already often built upon so there is very little we can do and we should not plan on utilizing them to solve our problems.There may be select areas in the ETJs that might be used to provide space for park and ride lots but if we do that we would probably encounter heavy resident opposition and if we ever did I would want to see structured parking in order to minimize the environmental impacts.  I would also like to see them have light retail thsat might generate some additional tax revenues.Any expansion into the ETJ where we have no urban services (water and sewer) would be very limited and park & ride is probably one of the few options that might work.An ETJ area is usually outside our urban services boundary and those residents, under the current planning regulations, are being governed by Chapel Hill without having any say (or benefit) in/from that government. While this is unfair to the residents there is an option (a very difficult one) available to them in that they can request annexation with a 100% vote. Not likely to ever happen. I would be willing to look at the possibility of turning the planning jurisdiction back to the County but we would need to look closely at what future impacts that jurisdiction might have upon our town.The ETJs were designed to be incorporated at some point into CH so changing the rules of the game requires that CH re-examine how it will grow in the areas adjacent to the ETJs and how it might protect itself from unwanted development or changes within the ETJ.  Essentially we would be giving up a buffer to our Town and this shjould not occur without carefully examing the potential consequences.


We will need to work with the county government. In the case of Orange County I think the local governments have a common interests and already work together on many issues. We will have to continue to do this. On the state level we have to form alliances with other towns and try to change the state legislation.

Having spent a great time at the legislature as well in the past few years -- from early 2011 in particular -- on just these two issues, my reading is that while we lost on annexation (except for petition and "legislative" ones, which is almost all that CH uses), the ETJ bills brought forth in 2011, 2012 and 2013 got less traction, generally because the legislators who filed them didn't understand ETJ benefits, and that ETJ (because it doesnt' bring taxation with it) was less disliked. Also, only a subset of land developers opposed it. I've spent all those years (and three previous) as a member and officer of the NC League of Municipalites Legislative Committee that sets League policy on these issues. Other than the current, County-supported, effort just starting for CH to get ETJ in the Rogers Road area, I see few if any other locations where the town would look for more ETJ. In the event, likely or not, that CH can no longer expand ETJ, then OC would simply take the lead on the planning and zoning in that area, assuming it was somewhere not covered by the Joint Planning Agreement (as is Rogers Road). The Manager, Attorney and Council have already agreed in recent months that it wasn't worth the trouble to annex part of the "Southern Area" in relation to fire service costs. Neighborhoods such as Dogwood Acres and Northwood have never been annexed because the calculation by town staff was that bringing the streets up to the town's (relatively high) standards would cost more than the additional property tax potentially produced by annexation.  Ed Harrison

I live in south Chapel Hill near the ETJ -- even though we live under different governmental jurisdictions, we're still neighbors who all feel the effects of change nearby.  I've been watching the Obey Creek process,  which is evaluating a proposal for 1.5 million square feet of new development on S15-501. This project will impact not only town residents, but also the many adjacent neighbors who live in the ETJ, and nearby ETJ areas like Dogwood Acres.I'm glad to say that the town has involved ETJ member as committee members and is considering them when evaluating project impacts.   Whether the ETJ areas eventually petition for annexation into the town, we are all connected and need to work cooperatively for our common good.Amy Ryan

Since y'all brought it up...Do you feel a personal commitment to resolving the longstanding issues in the Rogers Road-Eubanks Road area? What is Chapel Hill's responsibility toward the community?

Where's question 5?


I wish some of you could try this root-vegetable curry dish I just invented and am eating as I try to answer Kirk's questions. Maybe we should have a candidate cook-off? Maria T. Palmer

yes it is gary kahn

Yes I feel a personal commitment, and I'm grateful to Jim and Lee and other of my colleagues past and present who have worked diligently over the past few years on the issue. Clearly all three jurisdictions contributed to the landill and all of us owe the community for what we have put them through for four decades. The Rogers Road community deserves to be included into the larger community in every meaningful way possible.  Sally Greene

Rogers Rd. is an issue of environmental justice. We have to stay committed to resolving the issues created by years of having the city dump its garbage on their doorstep. We need to help with the community center. We need to support Minister Campbell and all the wonderful families of the Rogers Rd. neighborhood. Maria T. Palmer

Yes, I feel a personal commitment to Rogers Rd. I have taught students from the neighborhood and talked with some of their parents. I incorporated some of its lessons in my discusion of environmental justice while teaching Earth and Environmental Science at Chapel Hill High School. 

Yes, I believe that the Town has obligated itself to do right by the Rogers Road residents for the very lengthy period of time that they have had to put up with our landfill.  No community should have something like that thrust upon them and it is obvious that it happened because either promises were made (and broken) or the people living there at the time were misinformed about what was going to happen to them and their community. As a citizen of CH who has benefitted from this community's largesse for 24 years I do feel a personal responsibility to try to make things as right as possible.

Yes, I feel a personal commitment to resolving the longstanding issues for that area, not the least because they are so longstanding, and the good folks living there need some final answers. Those final answers are the responsibility that Chapel Hill shares with the other local governments who have a role there. Chapel Hill's role looms larger because even though the landfill is closed, it was Chapel Hill and its residents who "grew" it the most over a four decades. My colleagues Jim and Lee (and Penny before Lee) put much effort in coming up with answers that work for all parties,and I'm grateful to them for that.     Ed Harrison

that's what I said paul. gary

The town made promises to the Rogers Road neighbors as far back as the 1970s to ameliorate the negative effects on the community from the landfill.  For years, Chapel Hill benefited from having our own landfill near town.  We incurred a debt to that community, and we need to repay it by finding a way to provide the water and sewer improvements that they need and deserve.Amy Ryan

Yes, even though the neighborhood is not in the town limits I believe we must address the long term concerns and am glad the town is finally doing this.

hey people don't forget we do it all again at WCHL at 700 gary k

There is no question that the town should help resolve the issues for the Rogers Road area.  Since the landfill has allegedly contaminated the wells, bringing water and sewer there is the right thing to do.  I think the town is working in the right direction to resolve the issues. Safe drinkable water is of the utmost importance to this community!


Please answer these quickly.So, is Chapel Hill going to see a tax increase next year?Are town employees getting a raise? Roughly how much?

No tax increase, I hope, but we have to pay our bills. Town workers deserve a raise, but it needs to be reasonable, and it needs to be progressive, not the same percentage for everyone. We need to bring people who are underpaid up to what they should be making so they don't leave us. Maria T. Palmer

Can't tell yet if CH will see a tax increase. The 2013 raise in general fund was the first in 4 years, the transit tax raise the first in 7. Pay raise is 2 percent, just effective this month. It's really not possible to say this early if there will be another pay raise, since we have a major pay study on the way to the Council. Ed Harrison

We are very far from resolving or even analyzing the budget for next year. It seems likely that we will be able to avoid a tax increase next year, and even if we avoid a tax increase it is conceivable still that employees could see a raise. But this is not a promise or a prediction. Our budget is many, many moving parts, and many of them don't start to move until months from now.Sally Greene

After this year's increase, I hope that another tax hike won't be needed.  And if we can get the federal government functional again, we might even give the economy a chance to keep on the track to recovery and help boost our tax revenues and make sure our hardworking staff get the raises they deserve.Amy Ryan

I think it will be difficult not to raise taxes next year but I think Council will do everything possible not to since there is a good chance the County might.FYI, in the last 5 years the COL went up 10.7% (nationwide), but the Town budget only went up 8.7% (in spite of a 48% increase in health care costs).  But the tax rate only went up by 4% (only increase last year).  How did they do it?  By cutting wherever possible and perhaps, by the fact that the Town also has 4% fewer FTEs than 5 years ago. Not much ore room to cut so we better start increasing revenues by recruiting new businesses and allowing thoughtful, well-designed development where it can be tolerated.  And that also means revising our land use zoning and our review processes so that an applicant doesn't have to spend 4 years trying to get something approved.  You'll never see a bank lendiing money to someone who says that they expect to get started in 1, maybe 2, could be 3, or more likely 4 years.I think town employees will get a raise (COL perhaps) because they are being worked to death by the CH Design process and other communities will probably try to poach our best. Hope this doesn't happen. If we get a reputation that our employees can be lured away then it will happen more & more frequently.


If there is a reevaluation there may be a tax rate increase but the tax amount will remain the same. Employees will get a raise proportional to inflation. 

With all the talk about Taxes and Budgets, why doesn't Chapel Hill have a giving program?  This would allow residents to leave money to the town of Chapel Hill in their Estates.  They could dedicate the money to a cause that they were particularly interested in.  Orange County has a giving program. We need one too!

 I'd like to see a raise for the hard-working part-time workers, as well as those in Chapel Hill Transit. I do believe in taxes and feel that we will have to find more revenue somewhere if the commercial tax base does increase to the degree we'd need.  However, whenever those taxes may increase, I would work hard to make sure they're not drastic. A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

Should the town go it alone on recycling?

Collaboration in recycling and all waste issues is a must. Orange Co., Carrboro, and Chapel Hill are in this together.  Maria T. Palmer

 I couldn't agree more, Maria. I think there are ways we could even go in and recycle what we've tossed into landfills and either use it ourselves, or sell it off to businesses. It's 40 percent more efficent to reuse, and while Chapel Hill has done a pretty great job when it comes to recycling, I'm sure we can do even better with the help of Orange County and Carrboro. A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

No, and with the former County manager out of the building, possibilities of cooperation of CH with one or two other towns and particularly Orange Co. are vastly better than they had been in recent years. The will is certainly there in all the local staffs, and in the great majority of the elected officials, especially in CH and Carrboro.  Also, let me include Orange County Commissioners, so far as I know.Ed Harrison

Chapel Hill should try to work with Carrboro and Orange County to get the efficiencies of scale on recycling.  If this doesn't work then we can go it alone.

In the Carrboro forum you heard Randee mention that she and I had put our heads together to conceive of a way in which the county and the towns could hang together on recycling. Under our proposal, the county would impose a recycling district and it would invest in roll-carts for increased recycling results. The agreement would last several years, in order for the county to be able to absorb the costs of the new equipment necessary to manage the roll-out carts, etc. Experience shows that roll carts increase recycling results.The town manager has receive results from an RFP for various options, and these will be presented and discussed on Nov. 6, with a decision to be made by sometime in January.Sally Greene

We should be pursuing efficiencies wherever possible by cooperating with the towns and county wherever possible -- recycling could good be a good place to start.Amy Ryan


No, with need to work with the entire county

Not if they can help it.  I believe that CH needs to explore all avenues of collaboration with its neighbors (UNC, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Orange County and even Durham).  The city of Durham alone has 73% more citizens than all of Orange County.  If we expect to survive and thrive we need to explore all avenues og cost-sharing services (solid waste, public safety, inspections of various types, economic & business development).  We, and I'm including Orange County, are simply too small not to look for collaborative opportunities forcost savings.

Have you driven on South Columbia Street lately?When is it going to be finished?

I drive on S. Columbia almost every day. I wish I knew when it will be finished. A question, in answering Amy, I said "Thanks, Sally" instead of "Thanks, Amy." I know we are not allowed to edit our comments, but could one of you admin. people please fix that? thanks, Maria T. Palmer

You are welcome to edit any of your comments up until the forum closes at 9.  

Who knows, yes gary kahn

Traffic is going both ways on S. Columbia Street. It didn't necessarily have to be that way. It could have been tied up for much longer. Mayor Kleinschmidt deserves credit here for going to the DOT to say that the amount of time they were proposing originally for one-way traffic was unacceptable. Council has been told that it shouldn't be too much longer, but I can't give you a date. Enjoy your driving, both ways. Sally Greene

who  knows yes

Yes. At last week's MPO meeting, the representative for NCDOT Division 7 did not revise the printed agenda's statement of a completion date of "12/28/2014." That appears to be a Sunday, so I might let them slip a day or two. Is that close enough for you?Bus operations have returned to "normal." Given that half the weekday trips of CH Transit were in the project area, that's saying a lot. BTW,  It was not only Mark who expressed to DOT the contention that they planned to keep the road dysfunctional for too long. Nor was it he who alerted the Town Manager to file the complaint ASAP, so two DOT administrations would get it, pre-McCrory and then the Tata generalship. Just putting that on the record. Ed Harrison

After a summer in which my neighborhood had road construction on Smith Level to the west, trail construction closing Culbreth Road to the east, and South Columbia under construction to the north, it will be a relief to have all these improvements up and running. Amy Ryan

 have driven on it and biked on it. There needs to be temporary structures to provide a safe place for pedestrians. When will it be done? Quien sabe? Who knows. (I am typing this while I am attending a Peace Corps Honduras Conference so I get to use a bit of Spanish.)

No I haven't.  I didn't even bother going up it to put up a campaign sign (and that is saying something!). I don't know but it took about 3 years for Weaver Dairy Road.  Have you ever seen DOT use expedient contractors.  They bid (and get) multiple contracts throughout the state so they move personnel around just enough to convince folks that progress is being made.

pol signs what an  eyesore gary

I think my signs are a wonderful reminder that we are a democracy at work! Plus, I think they are cheerful and respectfully placed. I plan on having every last one of them picked up right after the elections. Maria T. Palmer

What will guide your thinking on solid waste?Do you favor developing a new county-wide solid waste agreement?

Definitely, I favor a county-wide solid waste agreement. I have been endorsed by Mark Dorosin (alias the Commish) and Renee Price, and both know of my commitment to work with the County on this issue. We need to continue on the great path of reducing our waste and increasing our recycling. I think we can do even more with educating folks on composting and making it easier for them to do so.  Maria T. Palmer

yes gary

Yes, I would favor a county-wide solid waste agreement provided that such an agreement could be achieved in a reasonably short period of time.  We were caught off guard by the closing of the landfill and we've had to make some expensive adjustments but our thinking going forward should be concerned with the potential costs savings to be achieved through collaboration and the potential reduction of adverse environmental impacts that might also be achieved by eliminating duplication.My thinking on solid waste is that we need to encourage greater reduction at the sources, minimize costs and environmental impacts, and maximize savings through collaboration.

Yes we should develop a county wide solid waste agreement. Here again the economics of scale should save us money.   A pay as you go idea has been circulated. This could reduce solid waste, but should be done in a way to not be a burden for lower income residents.

I start with the fact that we are responsible for our own waste. The ideal to my mind would be a new landfill in Orange County, but that seems like it is not going to happen. Failing that, we need to consider a transfer station in Orange County. This would give us some flexibility as to where the waste goes from there. Perhaps by sending our waste to Durham County, we would contribute to there being enough critical mass to support innovative waste stream technology, perhaps turning our waste into an energy source. There are possibilities that we don't even know yet.Our ultimate goal should be to reduce the volume of waste. Effective recycling (see above) is one strategy. Another is better handling vegetative and food waste by diverting it into community composting.As to new countywide solid waste agreement, no final opinion yet. We have so much in common with Carrboro that it makes not sense not to think about this question in combinatio with them. But as to the future, we need to really think about the differences between rural and urban waste collection. We need to make sure our solution is the most efficient, and that means financial as well as environmental sustainability.Sally Greene

I second the idea of investing in innovative technology that converts waste into energy. Copenhagen has done this. I know we are not a big city, but working with other jurisdictions we can pool our resources.Maria T. Palmer

A new county-wide solid waste agreement -- probably better called "multi-jurisdictional" -- is, as in the case of recycling cooperation, much more feasible now than it had been in recent years because of the departure of the former County manager. I personally know that OC and CH staffs have wanted to work on this for some time now. So, yes, I favor developing such an agreement, and am already in general conversations with some County Commissioners about it. Having established support for county-wide cooperation on solid waste, to the point of having a new agreement, folks have to understand that elected officials are not going to support agreements that fiscally penalize their governments in any way. Solid waste managemen is expensive, and one guiding factor will have to be fiscal fairness to the CH taxpayer. But at least as important to me is the critical need to divert materials from whatever landfill to which our trash is headed, via transfer station or out-of-town truck to another's transfer station.  I'd certainly like for a CH-based (with Carrboro partnership) transfer station alternative to be explored (as it's likely to be) but would also accept if that wasn't feasible for some reason. Ed Harrison

Given how difficult it is to site a landfill, can we realistically expect to take care of our own waste in county? Do we bear any responsibility to the place where we send it?

It's clear we need to do more recycling and have incentives for reducing our own waste. I'm sure we will have to pay one way or another for where we send it!

We cannot keep sending our garbage for somebody else to handle and consider ourselves fair-minded and progressive environmentalists. We have to come up with a solution that is respectful of the community that takes our garbage, making every effort to lessen the environmental impact AND compensating the residents through investments.Maria T. Palmer

I attended several of the solid waste trasfer station meetings. That makes me believe that it will not be posible to site a new landfill in the county. Perhaps we can create a regional landfill with near by counties. We do need to find out where our solid waste is sent and communicate that with the residents. We should make sure we are not creating an environmental justice issue some place else.

It is a regional issue and I would support a county wide agreement. I first would focus on reduce, reuse, recycle. I want to avoid us creating an environmental justice issue someplace else. I would encourage composting.

gee I don't have  a sign problem gary k

Realistically, probably not.  But that is even more reason why we need to reduce our wastes at the sources to the greatest extent possible before we transport it elsewhere.  But I think dumping our waste on another community is morally objectionable.  We wouldn't like it if a dog owner walked his dog over to our property every evening so that it could "deposit" its waste on our property.  So is that much different than we trucking our waste to some other county or state and "depositing" it there?We should explore all avenues which might allow us to handle our waste locally, including incineration and other, newer technologies that might be coming along in the near future.

I trust my previous answer was largely responsive to this follow-up. It troubles me that we apparently have no feasible location for a landfill in Orange County. Some years ago I worked on a lawsuit for citizens down in Greene County, where we successfully fought a regional landfill. It was a powerful influence on my thinking. So yes, I believe we have tremendous reponsibility as to where we send our waste. Given that so much is currently unknown, what I can commit right now is that I will make the best decision I can, given all the available facts, when the time comes.  Sally Greene

 We must increase recycling rates and diminish our waste stream. Moving trash to Durham - out of sight, out of mind - is not a great idea. Trash and landfills on the whole impact low-income communities almost exclusively.I would be happy to look at other cities and see how they have accomplished this. Not every city is the same, but I'm sure they have great ideas.A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

 And I do support a new county-wide policy.A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

I'm not assuming that a landfill can be sited in Orange County. Given the intense opposition to a potential transfer station at the I-40/NC 86 interchange last year, I'm not sure that approach can be taken. But the latter is likely to be explored at least by CH, and I assume there will be some level of cooperation in that exploration with Carrboro and OC.  We do bear responsibility to where we send our waste, but it may be hard to discern our specific level of responsibility at the mega-landfills that are now the recipients of so much municipal trash. Our responsibility is best carried out by sending as little as possible, by ever more recycling and other unexplored approaches.   Ed Harrison

I agree ed, gary

Was that the last question?Maria T. Palmer

How is the town doing in gathering input from citizens? How can the town broaden its input?

How do you go about gathering views and input on issues?

 Get on the buses, go to the neighborhoods, and ask questions. Not everyone can make the meetings, specifically low-income citizens - they either are working hard or taking care of someone. So it's best we bring government to them, as well as engage more online. A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

all interested parties should vote and attend town meetings

I believe that the town has a real desire to receive input from all its citizens, but as we were saying at the Justice United forum today, we've got to do a better job reaching the entire spectrum of our population.For example, we've done lots of outreach with the Central West small area plan process and have gotten great participation from many homeowners in the area but no/low participation from adjacent renters at Shadowood (primarily students) and local public housing residents. Broadening the input we get will require making it a priority and putting town policies in place that make sure we're doing all we can to be broadly inclusive. Amy Ryan

I would give Chapel Hill a C- on gathering input from the whole community. We were failing, but Chapel Hill 2020 got us up to a C. Lots of credit goes to Mayor Kleinshmidt. We have lost some of the momentum, and I hope to work hard on gathering steam again as part of Town Council. This has been my life's work: giving voice to those that are seldom heard. When I started Iglesia Unida de Cristo, the first Hispanic congregation in our area, in 1996, some people argued there weren't enough Hispanics here! One of my professors told me not to study the issues of the achievement of new immigrants, because that was "not on the radar screen." I knew differently. We need to go out to the community and also make it possible for all segments to be heard, not just a few loud voices representing very narrow interests.I teach an ESL/Citizenship class every Sunday that has people from 3 continents. I am committed to staying "connected" and bringing those voices to the table. I am also committed to working with Empowerment, with churches and non-profits, and with the people who are down in the trenches trying to make a difference. Maria T. Palmer

Chapel Hill 2020 was an unprecedented process of gathering community input, unlike anything in terms of community participation that I had witnessed since joining the Council in 2003. During this process, the Town employed a number of creative and successful new ways to gather input: on buses, in bars, in neighborhoods, senior centers and schools, etc.We need to keep up this kind of robust community outreach. The current year's budget includes money for a new social media person in Town Hall. This is added to other social media outreach, even by our police chief (who kindly alerts people as to where the next speed patrols are going to be). We need to do more, and your suggestions are welcome.I have consistently worked hard to be approachable to citizens and residents, in person, by phone, by email, through a Twitter feed and these days through my campaign web site, sallygreene.org. I welcome comments from everyone about ways to improve our quality of life in Chapel Hill. Sally Greene

The Town is doing better than it was a few years ago in gathering citizen input but it is still very far from where it needs to be.  Unfortunately, a lot of citizens don't subscribe to the email listserv and neither do they regularly check the Town's website.  Of course, that assumes that the citizens have access to computers and broadband.  With the decrease in print media it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the Town to inform citizens about what is going on and to solicit their input.  I think the Town needs to use other media (radio and social media) to try to broaden its outreach.  It also needs to try to utilize neighborhood associations to try to reach folks that don't regularly use these other sources of communicatiion.I favor trying to have small group meetings where it is easier to get someone engaged in conversation.  I really appreciate Council members that have set up regular "town hall" meetings so that they can meet citizens in a less formal, more relaxed environment.  However, even these strategies require that the citizens know about them and that means utilizing a wide variety of techniques to try to reach the largest audience possible.Of course, making your telephone number available means that folks can contact you if they can find the number since phones are one technology that a very large majority of our citizens do have access to.

hey George I see your 2020 plan works wonders for central west Gary

The best way to get input is to listen. I've listened to many people about the various issues of the town. It's important to talk to people with opposing viewpoints to be able to hear both sides and all the pro's and con's.I think the town can do more to receive input.  There should be an online feedback program,  live at all times for a town open forum/disscussion. 

The town is using lots of methods: focus groups, meetings, boards, surveys. Town employees and elective officials could attend more public (social, religious, neighborhood) gatherings and listen. People who volunteer on boards must feel that their work is used. I would insist that council and/or staff  use the recommendations or explain why they could not be incorporated in new policies or programs. I think paper and electronic surveys can generate some opinions and are useful.  We should identify  community organizations, clubs and associations and encourage them to join the town list serve so they will be aware of potential issues that they might be interested in.

In terms of the "traditional" public hearing process, as a veteran of speaking at public hearings in four, count'em, four jurisdictions (including CH), I'd say we're as good as it gets in that arena. When I've chaired such hearings, I've tried not to lecture speakers -- not always the case for some other chairs I've known.I'd say the town could broaden its input by using the internet, but I'd have to add that the commenters on OP who have consistently criticized many of those attempts are onto something. At this point I'd hope for as much constructive criticism as possibly, because it appears that the well-meaning staff people who work on this aren't hitting the mark and could use guidance. This needs work! Please help!I'm exceptionally pro-active in terms of gathering "views and input" on issues before Council. I generally do a mix of electronic (email request to lists) and selective phone-calling. At least one past Council colleague cut me off from doing this (with her) when I was "new on the job," and I found that not entirely reasonable. I've often accumulated a lot of views on issues before they ever come up with the TV cameras on -- and have also done a lot of public information work at the same time. In many cases, the email/phone contacts I've made are breaking the news of an issue. I think we owe that to our constituents if our government staff are slow to do it. Ed Harrison

Thanks for your thoughtful answers. Take another ten minutes and tidy up any comments you want or add a thought or two here.

Thanks Kirk.  This was fun.  I didn't know what to expect but it went smoothly, the questions were good, and hopefully folks learned a little more about each of us.

I had problems with this sorry, gary k

Thanks very much, Kirk, and the OP posse, and everyone who has been following along! Remember that early voting starts in four days. Looking forward to seeing everyone out in the community as the campaign continues. Sally Greene

Thanks to Orange Politics for this forum and for keeping the conversation going on the important issues affecting our community. Thanks to the other candidates for their thoughtful answers. I think we are all learning from each other and will be better Council members for having taken part in all these debates. Maria T. Palmer

...to Kirk, and to Travis and Jeff.  Travis handled my calls quite expertly.  Ed Harrison

Thanks for organizing this and I encourage everyone to vote.


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