Gauging Carrboro political races

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday August 20, 2005

Political observers appear baffled by Carrboro's mayoral race. None seems willing to go out on a limb to characterize how the race may play out. But all agree that it will be tough to find clear-cut political differences between aldermen Mark Chilton and Alex Zaffron.

Current Mayor Mike Nelson told a reporter recently that he could not recall any time that Chilton and Zaffron were on opposite sides of the issue. He characterized their opposing votes on the northeast area annexation as a disagreement on timing and procedure rather than on outcome. Alderman Jacquie Gist, herself seeking re-election, said "they both come from the same progressive base."

Chapel Hill political veteran Joe Herzenberg concurred, offering that, "As far as the issues are concerned, there is not a great deal of difference between the two. It has a great deal more to do with style and what kind of person you want as your mayor." Nelson added that "as aldermen, their role is different from what their role as mayor would be."

Perhaps the race will find its fault line on the issue of lifestyle, the more mainstream vs. the somewhat alternative.

Zaffron works as house manager for the ArtsCenter and is single and a renter. On that basis, it is arguable that he would appeal more to Carrboro's singles, artists and grad students, to folks who hang out at Open Eye Café or the Orange County Social Club.

Chilton is a family man with children in day care and grade school, a homeowner, businessman and lawyer. His background might appeal to those Carrburators who are raising families, paying off mortgages and more career-minded, those more likely to be found at Southern States or Chicken Noodle Soup.

But there is another aspect of style, that involving how the candidates might pursue the big issues before the town even when they largely agree on the final outcome.

Zaffron is best known for his involvement in Carrboro's long-range planning efforts.

Those who want to push forward on those plans will be among his strongest supporters.

Many will expect Chilton to take a slower, perhaps more deliberative approach.

He could be more appealing to those anxious that the growth expected downtown and at the perimeter not arrive at the expense of what lies in between.

Another question surrounding Carrboro's mayoral race is why Katrina Ryan isn't in it. Instead, she opted to enter the race for alderman. To be eligible to run, she recently moved to an in-town apartment from her home in the northeast annexation area.

In 2003, Mike Nelson beat write-in candidate Jeff Vanke by a margin of 1,423 votes to 995.

It is simplistic but not unreasonable to think that if the two similar candidates, Zaffron and Chilton, split the Nelson vote, a candidate who could hold the votes of Vanke might win.

Instead, Ryan has given herself the much more formidable task of winning one of three alderman seats against two incumbents (Gist and John Herrera) and two better-known and more experienced challengers (Catherine DeVine and Randee Haven-O'Donnell -- David Marshall is the final and, like Ryan, inexperienced challenger).

There is the possibility that those four will split the votes enough to let Ryan in.

She may look optimistically at Steve Rose's close fourth-place finish in 2003. But Rose was a former alderman and an established Carrburator. Ryan is neither.

I don't recall if it was Ryan, her husband or some other annexation area resident who is on the record as speaking out so strongly about preferring to be annexed into Chapel Hill.

But it doesn't really matter: As part of the group that so vociferously protested the annexation, Ryan is tarred with that brush.

Thus, the activity she is best known for is not wanting to be a resident of the town whose government she now campaigns to join. It would seem an odd form of municipal masochism for Carrboro residents to now elect her to office.

The alderman race will require Carrboro voters to evaluate John Herrera's record on the board. I was astounded by Herrera's comment on filing: "These past few years, I have learned how the system works. It takes a while to learn and build relationships, not just with staff but with neighboring communities, state legislators and the county commissioners, to be able to deliver and get important projects done."

Most elected officials learn all that, at least enough to get comfortable, in the first few months. They have to in order to do their job.

Herrera will need to demonstrate that he's done more over the past four years than learn how the system works. Otherwise, he may find these challengers showing him the door on election day.



To update on one point: I thought Katrina's explanation of why she opted against running for mayor was a good one.

The Mayor can't make a motion. I have a lot of ideas I intend to introduce to the new board.

The above appeared on her website subsequent to the publication of my column (and, perhaps, in response to it).


Watch out for Hurricane Katrina! As much as I try to dicount her, I have to admit I get a chuckle out of her every time I run into her. She kills me. She is a shameless politician. Every time I see her, we're 'best friends' even though she knows I don't like her often negative and condescending approach/ attitude towards local politics.
(Sorry, Katrina... I know I said I was going to try to stay off OP!)

Also, Dan, about a week ago, I wrote a letter to your newspaper suggesting what I thought the salient differences in the Carrboro mayoral candidates might be. Since the CHH didn't print my letter, here's a brief list of differences:

1) Alex has a demonstrated long-term commitment to Carrboro: 15 years of service; alderman since 1995.
2) Alex has an impressive history of leading Carrboro in planning and goal-setting.
3) Alex offers a long list of accomplishments as Carrboro alderman, including: major contributions to Carrboro's alternative transportation system, affordable housing policies, the Small Area Plan, and the New Vision for Downtown Carrboro.

In the letter, I said that Alex has broad appeal (even families and Southern States shoppers--- like me--- are heavily represented in his group of supporters!)

Additionally, I said that Alex will support economic development that is neighborhood friendly and environmentally sound. Alex's record demonstrates a measured, deliberate approach to growth.

So there you have it. The idea that voters may be baffled and only have personality to go on, belies the fact that there are big differences in the two candidates' Carrboro records: differences in demonstrated commitment, demonstrated leadership, and demonstrated accomplishments.

Fhanks, Mary. You might contact the Herald to make sure they received your letter. I can't imagine why they wouldn't have run it.

You're right about Katrina. She is putting on more of a smiley face since becoming a candidate. It will be interesting to see if she develops a platform to match.

My earlier column on the mayor's race discussed some of the differences in background that you refer to.

Robert, anyone who followed the 2004 national elections among others understands that impressions are often more important than facts in politics. That was the point I made in the column and why, therefore, I did not "attribute a quote" to anyone. Sorry if the point was made too subtly.

Neither Mary nor I is calling Katrina a phony. Only pointing out that, while many of her posts here have had a more combative tone, her campaign is more conciliatory, and properly so. I imagine we will find the same to be true of Will Raymond, for example, someone else who tends not to pull many punches but whose campaign may focus more on the positive ideas he offers rather than on his more critical perspectives.

Okay, it looks like it's about time for me to chime in here. First off, thanks for the kind words, Robert. I really appreciate it.

Secondly, I'd like to expand a little on Mary's comments. We have "run into" each other exactly 3 times. Twice she invited me to have coffee with her so she could tell me how much she doesn't like me, or maybe just my political positions. That said, I fully expect that a vote for me and a vote for Alex would not appear on the same ballot. I never expected an endorsement from Mary, but that's fine with me. As I've said, I'm a big tent Democrat.

And, for the record, I did not speak at the annexation hearings. My husband did. As a member of the national fire academy and a recognised expert in public safety, he got up to point out that the town had not provided adequately for the safety of annexation area residents. They still have not.

And finally, Dan, I don't problem with your article. I think you make a good point that there isn't much difference in any of the candidates on the Carrboro ballot this fall. There's just me, and, of course, the Republican.

So, let me get this straight. In our current political climate, impressions are often more important than positions. To make that point, you left your readers with a generally negative impression of Katrina Ryan based on one issue and a quote that she might or might not have made.

Is that about it?

I would like to stick up for Katrina here. I met Katrina several months before she filed for office and she was extremely friendly, outgoing, funny, everything being described here as phony and for the sake of this election. I was new to an OCDP committee, she had no idea who I was, where I lived, or anything else. Later, Katrina included me in an email she sent to OC Dems asking for their support. Katrina has my support, although other commitments keep me from physically helping out much so far.

I was not around for the annexation, serving my exile time in South Carolina, so I can't comment on her attitude during that time. But, I would suggest that many a Southerner, especially those from Texas, might fail to stand by quietly while their land was annexed.

I don't recall if it was Ryan, her husband or some other annexation area resident who is on the record as speaking out so strongly about preferring to be annexed into Chapel Hill.

But it doesn't really matter: As part of the group that so vociferously protested the annexation, Ryan is tarred with that brush.

Thus, the activity she is best known for is not wanting to be a resident of the town whose government she now campaigns to join. It would seem an odd form of municipal masochism for Carrboro residents to now elect her to office.

Perhaps the public should get to know Katrina before their view is clouded by references to one contentious issue. By the way, I am sure it DOES matter whether or not it was Katrina, her husband, or Joe Baggadonuts that was on record as being against the annexation. Also, Dan, how else would you suggest ANY annexee fight for their rights, if not to run for office? While I initially posted this just to say that Katrina seemed nice to me BEFORE the political run for office, now I have to say that your article is a bit irresponsible. Perhaps next time you want to attribute a quote to someone, you should go ahead and do the research to find out if they made such a quote? You DO get paid for this don't you?

Like Mary, I don't find it at all difficult to distinguish the two Carrboro mayoral candidates from one another. Both candidates are good guys, and I like them both. But Alex has been an “active activist” in Carrboro for much longer and has a more extensive list of accomplishments. Anyone who attends or watches Board meetings knows that Alex has steeped himself in the business of Carrboro. He sits on the regional transportation planning board, works closely with the Triangle J, and was one of the initiators of the Orange County Land Trust. He also represents the Council on multiple citizen advisory boards, and he actually participates on those boards. In nearly every Board meeting, Alex contributes his knowledge of some crucial transportation or planning issue, or some position taken by one of the citizen boards, in a way that moves discussion forward or adds new options for consideration. I'm not implying that other Board members don't contribute--just that I learn more from Alex. To me, that is the mark of a leader. He takes what he knows and applies it broadly in creative ways to move the Town toward its goals. And those goals were set by citizens through public charettes, a public planning process instigated by Alex.

In no other area of leadership do I more highly credit Alex than in his advocacy for participatory planning. For newcomers to Carrboro, the public charettes that led to the creation of the Downtown Vision and the Small Area Plan for the northern transition area should be cherished. Alex didn't support the paternalistic, top-down decision-making attitude we so often see in politicians. He said let's ask the citizens. And it wasn't just cosmetic. He frequently describes his thought processes which clearly represent both his technical understanding of the issues and his respect for citizen opinions. This type of reflective leadership, steeped in an understanding of the political process, guided by citizen input, is what I want in a mayor.

Eloquently expressed, Terri, but I'm pretty sure you don't actually have a mayor.

Jeez, second day back and its already the Dan and Terri show again.

While I may not be able to vote for Carrboro Mayor Dan, I am governed by that individual so I do have a mayor---and am voicing my opinion as my only means of participating in the democratic process.

Well put, Terri.

Katrina, you are correct. We have only 'run into' each other twice. The other two times we met, I arranged to meet with you because I wanted to get a sense of your commitment to Carrboro and your feelings about the town government.

Apologies, too, for my judgmental words. No one should judge Katrina on my words. (Like most people, Katrina has many wonderful personality characteristics.)

All I know from Katrina is from this board, and while she may have toned down her rhetoric lately, I can't get past her earlier hostility towards Carrboro--its elected officials and people. Robert, you said, "Perhaps the public should get to know Katrina before their view is clouded by references to one contentious issue." But I think I know enough already.

Here are some of her comments from older threads:

"Why do Carrboro tax payers subsidize somebody's organic goat milk soap business ? I guess it's okay for government to subsidize business if its 'groovy' enough."

"I hear an awful lot about the environment from the Carrboro crowd, and yet their land use policies prevent any decent paying jobs from being created in Carrboro, so people have to get in their cars and drive to RTP or Durham to work. I guess they figure somehow, that pollution won't ever drift back and effect Carrboro air quality."

"As Carrboro reaches out and grabs more people who think like me and less that think like Dan, the 'groovy' factor in Carrboro will not be long for this world. We'll vote for lower taxes and road repairs over goatsmilk soap every election."

Her tone (usually hard to read online, but I think it's clear here) and hostility indicate to me that it's not just what she thinks, but how she presents her ideas. And, while the bulk of comments may have been directed at the alderman, it sure sounds to me like she's taking some swings at Carrboro residents like me.

Her hostility suggests that she doesn't share the same values that I do. So why would I vote for her? So she can be an obstructionist in town meetings? How will she work with people she clearly loathes? She clearly doesn't recognize someone like me (who appreciates the groove of Carrboro) as her constituency. Katrina is raising good issues, but it's hard to accomplish much when you're being sarcastic and nasty.

Here's the thread I quoted from:

Right on, Joan. I second that emotion.

As far as the mayoral thing goes, I have to say that both Alex and Mark have contributed tons to the community. They have both made Carrboro and Orange County a better place to live, and I commend them on their hard work. I personally think that Mark brings more crucial skills to the office, like problem-solving, organizing, diplomacy, etc. but I could totally see supporting Alex if his opponent was almost anyone else.

As I've said before, this race is a win-win for Carrboro because when you elect one, you get to keep the other on the Board of Aldermen. This really does come down largely to leadership style.

Joan, I apologize if you were offended. I was engaging in hyperbole and irony to illustrate several points. It is difficult to convey tone over the internet.

The original post by Dan pointed out that the allegedly progressive sent a proposal to the state legislature for two very regressive taxes, including a sales tax that would tax both food and medicine. I was merely pointing out that I don't find subsidies for the Orange County Social Club, for example, any more acceptable than corporate welfare programs for Halliburton. They are both onerous to working class Americans.

And I don't really loathe anybody, well Dick Cheney comes to mind, but I find many of the BOA decisions to be ill-advised and frivolous. And as I said, the Board's aggressive growth inot suburban areas will have Carrboro looking like Cary in no time, and Cary residents don't like takes of "grooviness".

Katrina, no offense, but it sounds like you have quite a bit of work to do before you can really understand what Carrboro is all about.

Also, the Orange County Social club wasn't "subsidized", from what I understand. They simply received a town micro loan, which is one of the best things that Carrboro has going for it's downtown. And if you can't see that giving small loans to downtown businesses doesn't help the town many times over, then I honestly think that you may be the wrong fit for Carrboro. (Of course, I could be completely wrong... it's possible that OCSC got a "subsidy" that I wasn't aware of).

I had one issue that I wanted to clear up - the idea that Katrina is only being nice because she is running for election. Looking at Dan's column several times, I also realized I had an issue with not verifying a damaging quote, yet attributing it (or its spirit) to a candidate.
One LAST thing. If my introduction to the Chapel Hill community was based on one topic, then depending on what that topic was, people might consider me quiet, boisterous, knowledgeable, ignorant, passionate, bored, and the list goes on and on.


I see you are a fellow Cole's Store precinct voter. I absolutely do get what Carrboro is about.
It's my opinion that the Board has failed to deliver the progressive utopia they espouse. I find it immoral to tax the working poor ( Carrboro's poverty rate is close to 30%) at some of the highest rates in North Carolina to pay for downtown " groovyness".
That's not progressive. It's just plain mean.

Katrina: The poverty rate is that level because of graduate students and farm workers (but mostly graduate students, I'd guess). I'm sorry if you don't recognize that Carrboro's downtown is already heads and tails above what most NC towns have to offer (compare to Hillsborough, Garner, Efland, Burlington, Fuquay-Varina, etc, etc.) The whole "walkable, friendly downtown" thing, while not a priority for everyone, is quite important to many people in this town. Also, a better downtown also leads to more, desperately needed tax revenue. Most importantly, many people live in Carrboro for quality of life issues, and downtown is a major part of that. If you're looking for a cheap, generic piece of land with a tract house, then Carrboro isn't for you.

Honestly, what you call "grooviness" is much more important to most voters than you must realize. Hence, my suggestion that you may not really fit as a Carrboro Alderman, unless your goal is to make Carrboro another bland, suburban, culturally empty North Carolina town.

While I don't live in Carrboro proper, I will say that I contribute more in tax money than most people in town, and I don't mind at all. I own one of those downtown "groovy" businesses that also benefitted from a town loan (NOT a subsidy, thank you). I also employ several full-time people at living wages.

It sounds like you may be picking an unwinnable fight...

Katrina--what's your data source on Carrboro's poverty level?


The US census is the source, and it lists the percentage of Carburbans living below the poverty level at 20% and those living just above it ( within 10%) at 9 percent.


Don't misinterpret what I said. I like downtown Carrboro. I like Austin. I like Portland. I like 9th street in Durham. I also realize that Carrboro property taxes are a huge issue in affordability. Then you need to factor in the choices the board has made in growing the town to include more suburban voters who don't share the "vision" of the BOA. By doubling the size of the town, the BOA has changed Carrboro forever. As to whether this is an unwinnable fight, only time will tell.

And BTW, your loan was giving at below market rate, and thus it was subsidized.


According to the state LINCS system, Carrboro's population in 2000 was 16,782 and the total number of persons living in poverty was 3,149. That's 19%. Still much too high but not quite as staggering as 30%.

For those who are interested, the poverty rate in Chapel Hill is 18% (8573 of 48715) and 13% in Hillsborough (702 of 5446).

Okay. My number rounded those below the poverty line to 20%, but the additional 9% living within 10 percent would qualify as in poverty based on the cost of living here.

I've said before and will say again that the Census poverty numbers for Chapel Hill and Carrboro have to be taken with a large grain of salt because they capture student "poverty" in both communities. As a general rule, college students don't have large incomes, and therefore fall below the federal poverty threshold. But they are not in any meaningful sense of the word "poor."

For an example, consult a Census Bureau thematic map of Durham that captures both the Duke U campus and North-East Central Durham. It reports that the percent of persons living in poverty on the Duke campus tops 90 percent -- a claim that, while it might be statistically accurate, is a poorly operationalized methodalogical absurdity. The parallel claim that 29 to 45 percent of the people in NECD are in poverty is most assuredly not an absurdity.

To repeat, there is poverty in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but throwing around the Census percentages is not the start of a serious discussion of the problem.

Actually, Ray, I asked Virginia Rougue, a 30 year veteran at the census bureau about that. Undergradutes are typically counted by the census "at their permanent home address" and thus don't affect the poverty numbers. Graduate students, if they are no longer dependants of their parents, do count.

I know the Census Bureau says they drop people living in college dorms out of the equation (see page 1055 of the SF-3 technical documentation), but it's pretty obvious from looking at the data that this isn't being done in practice.

The Duke U poverty cluster as mapped above is one example. Here's the mapping for central Chapel Hill; I challenge anyone to look at it and tell me that its claim of 79 to 98 percent poverty for the UNC campus is an accurate reflection of reality.

Hyperbolizing to make a political point might not be a good tactic, Katrina.

One thing that surprised me when running for office was the importance many people ascribe to how much time a candidate put into the job, or how much they "cared" (meaning, how much they "cared" about the same things?), as if policy positions didn't matter.

It will surprise approximately no one that I'm glad Katrina is running. Carrboro needs a healthy non-insider in its government, or a second one, if you count the literally marginalized Jacquie Gist, as I do.

Like I was, Ryan is already being painted as George Bush in sheep's clothing. Actually, she worked in the campaign against George Bush, for Democrat Ann Richards, in the 1994 governor's race.

Ray Gronberg said "But they [students] are not in any meaningful sense of the word 'poor.'"

Ray, I ceraintly understand your point, however it should also be considered that many, many graduate students (and some undergraduates) live in very real poverty and do not have significant family financial resources to back them up. There are of course many who do have significant financial resources, too. And some grad students are paid little now, but as the price of admission to much higher paying jobs later on, but few Philosophy grad students or English grad students will have a lucrative carreer path awaiting them.

So some student poverty is real. As just one example, many graduate students come here from foreign countries with little or no financial resources and must get by on the very low pay that they get from fellowships etc.

Some people apparently have no problem with this situation. For example, little regard for this issue was shown in UNC's decision to tear down Odum Village. The replacement housing will, I'm sure, be much nicer, but it will also be a good deal more expensive I imagine. [I would be happy to be proved wrong about this.] I wonder what Howard Odum would think of UNC's decision?

A significant number of unreported residents, some of whom are not citizens, avoid being counted in any census, but especially in Carrboro's where the Hispanic population grew by 2,291% between 1990 and 2000. Those who are not reported tend to be very poor (or criminal) and probably balance out the students who are not really poor. Since the county poverty rate is 14.1% (by the census), I think we can all admit that the Town numbers are too high, but even if we have a 'real' or corrected rate of 10% that's not acceptable.


At the time of the hyperbole, I was not a politician. I was just an ordinary gal, who thought that a tax on food and medicine was wrong. I still do.

BTW for all who listen, I am going to be on WCOM tomorrow on the show Events, Sex, and Politics. The show runs from 9-10

Katrina paints herself with her words. Read her letter in this morning's CHN: shame, criticism, assumptions, no dialogue.

I made an honest effort to get past Katrina's hyperbole. I met with Katrina twice because I wanted to let her know that I think she has some good ideas and some important things to say; however, I also wanted to let her know that her message was getting lost in her tone. I told her that she makes me feel defensive, and that she often doesn't sound like someone who likes Carrboro.

I know that many (including myself) play the shame, blame, and criticism game here on OP, which generally leads to escalating defensiveness, and more of the same, so I really am not very harsh on people for what they say here.

However, what people say to me privately in a noncombative setting is different. I really did not meet privately with Katrina to tell her how much I dislike her; rather, I was trying to find common ground, and evidence that Katrina deeply cares about Carrboro.

Based on these efforts, I have come to my own conclusions about Katrina's readiness for office. Katrina has many positive attributes. Unfortunately, I think she is still too angry about annexation into Carrboro to be effective in Carrboro government. I can't read Katrina's mind, I can only read her words and listen to her when she talks. What I hear is not what I want in an elected official. Perhaps, over time, Katrina will become less angry and she will become an effective community leader-- time will tell...


I was referring to the inflated census numbers on poverty you used.

My radial dial is on 103.5 as we speak. :)

You're taking me back to my grad school days. I worked at a bakery from 5am until 10am, then at the lab bench until 9 or 10pm, then in bed for the 4:30 wakeup to do it all over again. All that just to earn enough money to replace the regularly blowing engines in a long string of $1000 vehicles. I call that poverty.


Are you saying that 20% is wildly hyperbolic when the actual number is 19.4% ?
Every expert in socio-economics will tell you, that if you are within 10% of the poverty line, living in a high cost of living area, you are, in fact, in poverty, but I'm sure you knew that, and are just trying to make a political point.


I will agree with you that Carrboro's high tax rates have a negative impact on local poverty rates. But I do not agree with your insinuation that Carrboro's elected officials are insensitive to the situation. I suggest that you read the Vision 2020 document where you will find that bringing new business into town (downtown and the NTA) are high priorities for the current Board. You should also consider that Carrboro has an Economic Development officer, while Chapel Hill does not. Clearly the Board feels the imperative to bring new business into town or they wouldn't have committed funds for the staff position.

I hope that all candidates running for office, in both towns, recognize that the creation of infrastructure is a critical element to any type of growth. In Carrboro's case, they need to get the downtown traffic situation rectified before they successfully add the level of new businesses that are needed.

Should you be elected Katrina, you too will be held to the will of the full Board. How do you plan to work with these folks in the face of your full frontal attacks on their integrity and intelligence?


This is a point of fact completely divorced of politics. You stated that "Carrboro's poverty rate is close to 30%" while in fact it is less than 20%. The "poverty rate" is the poverty rate. You can't grab the next statistical grouping and conveniently conflate it. That's hyperbole by any definition.

Okay, David, you tell the people making 5% over the poverty line they're not poor. I won't.

Katrina, I have yet to read where you're interested in doing *anything* for Carrboro aside from lowering your own personal taxes. You've made it clear that you're very negative on Carrboro as a whole, and you're running so that that you can lower your personal taxes. You're making this a grudge match that you're willing to inflict on the entire town because you're upset that your mortgage payments may go up a few dollars a month. You clearly don't like Carrboro as a whole, and you seem to think that the current Board doesn't represent the majority of its citizens. I think that you're only going to attract other disgruntled voters such as yourself, and quite honestly, I doubt that there are enough to put you in office since I'd gather that, unlike yourself, most people live in this area because they want to. I have to say that I'm moderately impressed with most of Carrboro's government, since they all seem to be at least marginally interested in the future of the town. You, on the other hand, come across as somebody who is interested in tearing down what the people of this town have worked hard to create. But, come election time, we'll see what the people think. I, in the meantime, will work hard to make sure that at the very least, downtown business owners and their customers understand your platform.


Your points are entirely valid. I think there is a minority of members of the BOA who do "get it". I think Jacquie gets it. I think Mark gets a least some of it. And as James Carville once said to us "If you can't call a guy an (explitive deleted) one day, and cut a deal with him the next day, you don't belong in politics."

There is nothing wrong with any of Carrboro's "lifestyle" spending. The goal of a vibrant downtown is something worth working toward. It needs to be financed by those who benefit from it, though. There should be a CBD tax and entertainment taxes. It shouldn't be folded into the property tax rate or that egregious sales tax they proposed earlier this year. That's just fair. It's much more "progressive" to tax discretionary spending than food and shelter. Chapel Hill levys taxes on hotels and has proposed taxes on event tickets at UNC etc. Central district taxes and restaurant taxes fund the live music scene in Austin, the Portland waterfront, and until Sunday the raucous joy of the French Quarter.

My disagreement with most of the mebers of the BOA is that they tend to have downtown-centric myopia. Carrboro is more than Weaver St. As of right now, exactly one member of the BOA has extended a welcome to new the new annexation Carburbans. That's Jacquie.

I asked a question last night of the Economic Development dept. last night. I asked if they knew how many payroll dollars the revolving loan fund businesses had generated. They didn't. There is no provision for any business recieving money from the town to pay a living wage. Not very progressive, is it?

I am entirely content in continuing to say over and over "the Aldermen have no clothes", and let the voters decide.

Actually, there is a stipulation that you must create one job per $10K used. That's item #9 in the loan criteria, which is freely available at town hall, if you care to read it. I know that we've done it. I know that OCSC has done it. I haven't seen a list of other recent recipients of the loan.

I fail to see how you fail to see how downtown business is so important to Carrboro. Since you're interested in *your* bottom line, let me just mention that businesses tend to generate much more revenue per capita than property does. So in effect, my business is subsidizing the services provided to your house and your rapdily appreciating home value and your kids' top notch education.

Katrina is only telling part of the story. While James Harris did say that he could not give a figure for payroll dollars, he said he does know the number of jobs.

The text of the loan criteria is:

Project must create or retain at least one job per $10,000 of CRLF moneys. Fifty-one percent (51%) of the jobs must go to individuals in the low and moderate income category.

There is nothing in the criteria about these low income jobs paying a living wage but I would imagine that, in practice, the BOA is concerned about that. I'd appreciate hearing from any of the aldermen who might care to comment on that point.


Have you asked staff or Board members why they chose the sales tax rather than an entertainment tax? FYI, we don't have any hotels in Carrboro and I doubt that we have sufficient entertainment to generate the level of funding that is needed. Personally, like you, I disagree with the decision to pursue an additional sales tax, but I wasn't in the position of having to balance the budget.

I agree the Board focuses heavily on downtown but after speaking with a couple of developers, I understand that the focus is due to amount of driveby traffic and county ordinance. The county did not support the Board's desire to zone the NTA for business so all they can do is mixed use. But for developers, there isn't yet enough traffic or population in the area to make retail financially feasible. So my challenge to you is to quit criticizing and start suggesting ways to work within existing constraints (after you get a better grasp on what those constraints are).

I had an additional chat with James Harris later. He said they don't track the wages paid by subsidized businesses. he also said that the town relies on the university to create "high-tech" jobs. I'm guessing he is reffering to some joint program, but I haven't had time to dig into the details.

For what it's worth, Frank. Everyone should know that you live waaaay out in Orange County. So, I know you're not too concerned about property taxes. I'm more than happy to pay my fare share. So are my neighbors up north. They just wish they'd get a vote for their money.

I do think that business is important to downtown. I'd like to see incentives given to businesses that do small thermal solar installations, for example. ( Sierra Solar in Redwood California said you could open a viable business for about $130,000) I'd like to see somone come up with a community day care center. I just don't see a doggie boutique ( Frank's business) as a vital town need in Carrboro. Businesses like Frank's ( fun in spririt but not essential to the general welfareof the town), if given grants or loans by town at all, should come out of the funds generated by the CBD and entertainment taxes.

My economic development plan has real ideas, and will be rolled out in late September. We'll discuss creating good jobs and general economic health. I'm still working on some of the grants avaiable from the state and from the federal government.

Katrina, I'm not taking personal offense about what you said about my business in particular. It's in no way a boutique, but that's irrelevant. But I'm curious... by saying that a business such as mine or OCSC as not vital, who's going to generate much needed tax revenue if not businesses? Would you prefer that local people spend their money elsewhere (for pet supplies, that'd be Durham County right now), and raise property taxes instead? Money to pay for municipal services has to come from somewhere, and if it's not coming from businesses' taxes, it's gotta come from personal property taxes. Are you proposing raising property taxes some more?

Personally, I think having a local pet store is a much better alternative to shopping at Durham's Petsmart. Shopping locally keeps those sales tax revenues in Carrboro.

While I too would like to see alternative energy businesses recruited for town, I don't think we currently have sufficient office/retail space to accommodate them. Small businesses aren't likely to come in and build their own building until they have enough of a business record to feel they have long-term viability. That's why we need to attend to infrastructure first and foremost.

How would you recommend we pay for the downtown traffic study modifications Katrina? Do you really think we should be offering incentives to bring new businesses to town?

Hey, you don't have to go all the way to Durham for pet supplies. Southern States has pet supplies. Cat boxes, leashes, toys, bird food, guinea pig stuff, rabbit stuff, HORSE stuff. (CAVEAT--I am a Southern States Employee. In the Garden Center.)

So, Frank, not ENTIRELY true that people would have to go to Durham County for pet supplies.

Just sayin'.


Southern States sells FOOD for critters, as well.


My Australian Cattle Dog asked me to state emphatically that Phydeaux is the only pet store that carries his brand of dog food, and as such provides an essential service to the welfare of our canine community.


Governing is prioritizing. I would opt for businesses that serve a specific need ( day care & energy diversity) over "lifestyle" related businesses. The sales tax revenue generated by your business is a very small part of town's overall revenues. Take a peek at the budget. I'm also guessing you pay retail wages, as it would be the only way for you to stay in business. I'm guessing again, but you probably can't afford to offer health insurance to your employees. All in all, it doesn't sound like a very good investment.

There is merit to creating a fun and vital downtown, but it should be done with tax funds collected from other "fun" things, not people's homes and food. That is the reason I support CBD and entertainment taxes. I would even like to see a funky little B&B spring up somewhere downtown. There are a lot of people coming into town for football and basketball games, the new Memorial Hall is going to be a boon to restaurants and our mutual downtown with Chapel Hill. I think Carrboro should be getting a bigger share of those dollars. It only makes sense if you're banking on the " destination" theory of urban planning. A destination without a hotel seems kind of silly, doesn't it ?

If we were rolling in cash, it wouldn't be an issue. State and Federal cutbacks loom everyday. Costs for town services are going to skyrocket with the increasing fuel costs and raw materials costs in the wake of the other Katrina. Nobody knows what the additonal costs associated with infrastructure at Carolina North are going to be.We really need to get our financial house in order.

Aa a side note, My husband and I fully support the neighborhood effort to be annexed into Chapel Hill, so I'm all for paying my fair share. I'd just like to pay it where I get some actual benefit, like fire protection.

OK then, let's do the math.

Chapel Hill/Carrboro average house price: $332,000 ( Property taxes in Carrboro: $0.71/$100. That's tax revenue of $2357.20/year. We generate that much in just local/county sales tax (2.5%) in *one month*. With sales tax *alone*, we generate as much as 12 "average" (much larger than mine) residential properties do, all the while using only a fraction as much of town services as homeowners receive. We don't get garbage pickup. We rarely use police or fire services. Our sewage usage is the same as one house uses. Of course, we are sending exactly zero kids to school.

Plus, we of course pay business income taxes. Plus, our employees also pay income and property taxes (our employees are paid above average retail). Plus our landlord pays property taxes on our property (which we pay for, of course, through rent).

I fail to see how a "subsidized", 2 year loan at 6% with a return similar to the one that our business provides is a bad investment. If anything, the town should be doing *more* loans for downtown to make it not only fun and interesting, but to generate much more needed revenue for the town.

Very simple, very basic math shows that with a downtown filled with similar businesses, town revenue would simply not be an issue.



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