Carrboro Campaign Trail

Alright, let's talk about Carrboro! This was written by a Carrboro resident who would like to remain anonymous:

The campaign trail has been fairly quiet in Carrboro, but much could be at stake for the Paris of the Piedmont. Four candidates are running for three seats: Incumbents Joal Hall Broun and Alex Zaffron will meet challengers Mark Chilton and Steve Rose in this election. First let’s run through the Alderman candidates:

Joal Hall Broun, the Board’s only African-American member, has been an Alderman for four years. She’s an attorney and mother of two. Chapel Hill observers will recall the unusual spelling of Joal’s last name; her father-in-law is former Chapel Hill Mayor Ken Broun. Joal’s vote against the Pacifica Development at the end of Hanna Street is no doubt going over well with folks in that area of Town. The Sierra Club snubbed Joal in its endorsements, which helps neither her campaign for Alderman, nor the Club’s lily-white reputation. It seems unlikely that this will affect her chances much, however.

Alex Zaffron is the current Board’s most vocal advocate for taller buildings downtown, the Town’s connector road policy and the Village Mixed Use zone that was employed in the Winmore development off Homestead Road. Alex also voted for the Pacifica development. If community residents are indeed in an uproar over recent real estate developments, they will show it by taking out their frustrations on Alex at the ballot box. For what it is worth, however, Alex is a survivor. He’s been elected twice before (although by narrow margins) and he has survived a frivolous recall election.

Mark Chilton is a former Chapel Hill Town Council member (1991-97), turned Carrboro resident. Mark was the first UNC undergraduate to be elected to the Council and is the youngest person ever elected to office in North Carolina (barely 21 years old at the time). Apparently unsatisfied with fifteen minute of fame, Mark is now seeking a sixteenth minute of fame by becoming the first person to have served in elected offices in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Although he is talking less about the environment now, than he did when he ran in Chapel Hill, he (like Alex) did get the nod from the Sierra Club. If Mark wins, it will be as much because of his tireless campaigning as because of his platform.

Steve Rose is a former member of the Board of Alderman (1979-83) who has been working for the N C General Assembly as an attorney for the last 20 years. Steve’s campaign came out blasting on the approval of Pacifica, which would be built at the end of his street. He is one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Town of Carrboro regarding that development. Steve can’t be totally dismissed as a NIMBY candidate, however. His dissatisfaction with the current Board is resonating with voters who are upset with building heights, Winmore, connector roads and perhaps even taxes. If Rose wins, the Board of Aldermen will definitely have to sit up and take notice of growing voter discontent.

Turning our attention now to the on-again-off-again Mayor’s race, four-term incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson was seeking re-election, opposed by Bob Glosson, who turns out to live outside the Town limits. Once the Board of Elections straightened the matter out, however, the deadline for filing to run for office had already passed, so the Mayor was left unopposed. Angry Chapel Hillian, Todd Melet (who seems to be more distressed about the fate of Carrboro than anyone who actually lives in Carrboro) called on the Mayor to withdraw from the race, so that the Board of Elections would be forced to re-open the filing period for the Mayor’s race. Mike declined and Jeff Vanke, a political newcomer, declared that he would run as a write-in candidate. I hope we have all got that straight. Now let’s meet the candidates:

Mike Nelson, the South’s first openly gay Mayor, is seeking his fifth term despite former announcements that he would call it quits this year. Mike decided to stick with it two more years in order to help smooth the transition from the former Town Manager to the new one. Mike’s biggest accomplishment as Mayor has been the establishment of the Century Center downtown. He has also managed to hold the often fractious Board of Aldermen together for the last eight years. Mike would be the favorite to win this race even if his opponent’s name were on the ballot. Still, he would be wise to take note of the results in this race, even a modest showing by his opponent should be seen as an indication that there is some genuine discontent out there.

Jeff Vanke, a history instructor at Guilford College, is on something of a suicide mission here. It’s not that the Mayor is unbeatable, but it seems like having your name on the ballot would be a critical minimum element of the formula for success. Vanke brushes off criticism about his failure to file on time, explaining that he had thought that he would be teaching a heavier course load this fall. He did not find out that he would be more available until after the filing deadline had passed. Vanke also denies that he has any connection with or draws any inspiration from would-have-been candidate Bob Glosson. This story is plausible because Glosson is a right wing crank, whereas Vanke is more of a middle-of-the-road crank. Vanke has criticized the Mayor for increasing tax bills, endangering pedestrians and having poor taste in art. This last accusation is, of course, ridiculous; we all know that gay men have great taste in art.

Election day is November 4, 2003 and early voting is available at Carrboro Town Hall now during business hours. Carrboro voters may vote for up to three Alderman candidates and one Mayoral candidate.

by Anonymous.



Jeff did not make the claim your taxes will go up if Nelson is re-elected, Nelson's five year plan does:

So you support the Anti-Racism Curriculum, Jeff?

Jeff did try to blame Mike Nelson for the existence of Home Owners Association dues (or something - it really isn't clear what Vanke's point was). Here is the passage from the Chapel Hill Herald article on 10/27/03:

"Vanke also took issue with newer developments in Carrboro that require membership in a dues-collecting homeowners' association.

'Mayor Nelson's leadership is creating increasingly privatized neighborhoods, with privatized taxation systems that add to the tax burden,' the candidate charged.

Vanke said he pays homeowners' association dues where he lives, in Weatherhill Pointe. " End Chapel Hill Herald quote.

My HOA dues are Mike Nelson's fault? Does this sound 'eccentric' and/or 'unduly zealous'?

see for a copy of the entire article.

I think letting Vanke speak for himself does a fine job of explaining what bad ideas he has, as in this e-interview with Todd Melet:

I think anonymous posts should not be allowed. It provides ample oppty to spread untruths and inuendo. This is part of the reason why newspapers don't allow anonymous letters to the editor.

This posting is not just off the mark, but squarely false, on a host of points in demonstrable contradiction with objective facts. (A lighter example: it's 31%, not 38%.) The posting is irresponsibly false in its accusations, in a very, very serious way. I will not subject myself to a further list of anonymous false charges, and I welcome anyone genuinely interested in disagreeing with me (as opposed to falsely vilifying me) to contact me at


Jeff Vanke

In all fairness, Jeff Vanke is not a crank. defines a crank as (among other things):

An eccentric person, especially one who is unduly zealous.

Jeff Vanke is not an eccentric person and he is therefore not a crank. I do think, though, Jeff, that if you were being honest with yourself, you would have to admit that you have said some things that are unduly zealous in this race.

You have asserted or implied in your mailings and newspaper quotes that:

1) The Board of Aldermen is endangering children on the streets of Carrboro.

2) The tax rate will go up 38% if Mike Nelson is re-elected.

3) Mike Nelson is insensitive to the Holocaust.

All of that is hyperbole (at best). And you know it.

Now let's turn to the question of Guilford College. In my opinion, you are barely avoiding being fired from Guilford because of your disruptive opposition to the Anti-Racism Curriculum at Guilford. Which of your 'progressive ideals' are you advancing by opposing an Anti-Racism Curriculum?

-The Carrboro Voter who wrote the original post

Please allow me, Jeff Vanke, to correct some misperceptions or errors.

I have invested ten years of my life in an academic career. I would still like to pursue that in some capacity. But it took serious out-of-the-box thinking for me to fit even part-time political office into my professional, and personal, life. My particular schedule this fall semester was set last March, and there was nothing about changing it that was related to my broader life's changes -- to go part-time at (or to leave) Guilford College after the current academic year, because my family is firmly planted over here, not in Greensboro. My teaching schedule already allows me to pursue this office. It was the broader question of the next two years that I had to consider before entering the Carrboro mayor's race.

It is interesting to be called the crank of the race -- what's with the ad hominem attack? I adhere to a lot of progressive ideals, and a lot of very progressive people in Carrboro are supporting me.

If you believe in democracy, then you believe in a challenger's right to question how to improve the status quo. Surely you don't expect a challenger to dwell only on popular aspects of life and governance in Carrboro? I am an optimistic person, I've enjoyed the campaign, and I look forward to working with everyone in Carrboro if elected.

If you are interested in giving more consideration to this political newcomer, please email me at, and I'll respond. Even if you think you're going to support the incumbent, I urge you to approach me and my campaign with an open mind, which is how I will respond to you.


Jeff Vanke

I actually disagree a little with the anonymous author about Mark Chilton's campaign. I think that if he wins (and I hope he does), it will be more on the strength of his work in the community as Executive Director of EmPOWERment, long-time environmentalist, creative thinker, and all-around man-on-the-scene when it comes to speaking up for the least fortunate people in our community.

By the way, have y'all seen Todd Melet's website? He seems to be a very angry man.

PS: Incognito, you wouldn't have the problem of people usurping your handle if you used your real name...

Well, it seems that another anonymous poster has also adopted the Incognito moniker, so I guess I'll affix the 1.0 tag to my forum name in light of my posts re: newspapers and candidates about a week ago — just so there is no confusion between myself and my fellow unidentified friend.

Just a little quick note on this Vanke thing: It's a little bit strange to me that he's criticizing Nelson for endangering pedestrians. Didn't Nelson push harder than anyone else for the sidewalks bond that's on the ballot this year? He has also assaulted Nelson over sprawl issues related to Winmore and Pacifica, but only one person voted against the much larger Winmore development: Nelson.

One more tidbit: Vanke held a press conference where he said Nelson was failing in his duty to residents by not speaking out against the potential merger. Well, we do have this thing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro called a school board. The board is an established, legal governing body that allows the town to separate the oversight of civic and educational issues. Vanke's right, someone should speak about the merger. And they are. That's why we elected these eight people to be on the school board. Don't trash Nelson about a job he is not elected, expected, nor necessarily wanted, to do.

I don't know if this post's writer is correct about Vanke being middle-of-the-road or not, but he hit it on the head about Vanke's uber-Crankness.


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