Carrboro candidates face off

Guest Post by Tom Jensen

The Carrboro Sierra Club Candidates Forum is tonight at 7 PM in the Board Room at Carrboro Town Hall. The forum will start with 75 minutes of questions for Aldermen candidates, and conclude with 45 minutes of the Mayoral candidates.

We will be taking questions from the audience, so if you have anything you want asked but can't be there feel free to post here and I will add it to the pool of possible questions.

This is the first opportunity to see the Carrboro candidates face off, so you should all either come or watch it live on the People's Channel!

Tom Jensen is a Senior at UNC on the Sierra Club Political Commitee. He is also the chair of Students for a Progressive Chapel Hill.




What the landlords put out in their brochures isn't always the actual rent. Case in point, I live in a townhouse of 1500 square feet, three bedrooms. It lists for $1215. I was able to negotiate it down to $899. Though I have excellent credit and took a negotiations course in law school, I very seriously doubt they would have rented this place to me for that amount unless they really needed tenants.

Landlords are desperate, I believe. There are numerous units in my building that are vacant and in my experience, that has been unusual in the past five years.

The apartment complex I live in is a great one: woods surround me, maintenance is always prompt, the office personnel are professional, the swimming pool is huge, two tennis courts.

That's my anecdotal two cents worth.

According to the Town's Data Book 2005, the average "apartment rent in Chapel
Hill in 2004 was $720 down from $779
in 2003. " This is close to the 1998 average rental rate.

The Date Book offers some possible explanations including low interest rates for home purchases (which made it possible for me to buy 2 1/2 years ago) increased student housing on campus, and an increase of 200 rental units over between 2002 and 2004. Owner occupied housing in Chapel Hill is higher now than in either 1990 or 1980.

David, the reason there has been no "uproar" about your proposal to set aside a portion of new developments to be affordable is because Carrboro already does it. Chapel Hill, too. The only debate is one the tchnique (small houses vs. payment-in-lieu vs. inclusionary zoning)

By the way, no-one is shutting Katrina or anyone else down. Some people are wondering why she hasn't weighed in to clarify her position herself. but like everyone else, she has no obligation to participate on OP if she doesn't care to.

This morning I saw the first campaign signs on our roads.
My devilish little mind went to work, and I composed a new
question to ask at Tuesday's Chapel Hill forum. It is:

If elected, what would you do to reduce litter on our highways?

ban yellow and black signs..

just kidding.

Local media hasn't picked up on this as yet.

Cross-posted from

Regretably, Catherine DeVine's denial of owing old taxes (2000 and 2001)to Orange County are false. She does owe them, according to Jo Roberson, Director or Orange County's Revenue Department. When I corresponded directly with Catherine, she said she was suprised that I "would rely on such an unreliable source" (the County's online records). "Those taxes are paid," she declared.

Well, they're not paid. According to Roberson, there is a payment plan now in place to resolve the debt (with interest) but the fact is that this alderman candidate owes the county money that was due five years ago.

So, there are two problems here. First is a candidate for public office with years-old unpaid taxes who hopes to be spending the people's money. That part is up the the people of Carrboro to resolve for themselves.

The second, however, is her response to the information itself ... declaring, falsely, that the taxes were paid and impugning the tax office's recordkeeping to boot. I have some experience with the Orange County tax office, both as a taxpayer and as a reporter. I have always found their staff to be helpful, knowledgeable completely professional. Our Revenue Department is rated as among the best in this state. I don't appreciate Catherine's describing the office or its online records as "such an unreliable source."

It seems to me that beyond the money, Catherine DeVine owes the people of Carrboro and the county taxpayers an explanation.

Jean, if this a real story I think local journalists will address it. Otherwise it just seems like sour grapes or something.

I have followed and reported on this issue as a columnist and do so now as a citizen. In my humble opinion, When people run for office, they should pay the taxes they owe just like the rest of us.

As for "sour grapes," as reported on my blog, I did check the tax records of all the candidates. Catherine's was the only one showing back taxes due. This isn't personal. These are public records and it's the publics money. I'm surprised you don't see it that way.

Let me be clear ... I'm not suggesting that Catherine is unfit for office. I'm suggesting that she should explain herself, but hey ... if the voters don't care, that's up to them.

Jean -

I'm sure you've seen the herald and N&O's stories about the candidate for mayor in durham with a long sordid past including dropped charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor (although in the article they were not dropped for lack of evidence eg. there were taped recordings.)

If this is true it will be in one of our papers soon I'd guess.

Yes, Helena, I have. Wow ... he's a real case, huh? Surely that one will put Durham on the national media stage closer to November. If not CNN, maybe "America's Most Wanted."

I have everything I've represented here in writing from Jo Roberson at the tax office and thus it is easily verified by local reporters.

It sounds to me like there is a misunderstanding.
This feels like muckraking.

As things turn out, I do owe the Orange County Department of Revenue approximately $500. Registration and title transfer of my car went unchallenged in June of this year, and again when I sought to clear things up last week. Jo Roberson (Orange County Department of Revenue) will confirm that I have made arrangements to pay the overdue taxes.

The local newspapers have already determined that this story registers a zero on the Richter Scale. I'm told that WCHL reported it with a "case closed" finale.

I'm always perplexed with why people think this is some personal issue or muckraking. It's just a question of disclosure. Thanks for your post Catherine. I'd say that does it.

I have a question for Katrina Ryan:

Before announcing your candidacy for alderman, you frequently suggested here on OP that Carrboro should merge with Chapel Hill. Yet in today's DTH story, you say that Carrboro is "a unique space in Southern American life" implying, to me, that merger with Chapel Hill would be a loss for everyone. Was that your intent and if so, can you explain what changed your opinion?

My fantasy is that Katrina is growing soft on Carrboro. It seems likely to happen. Once Katrina starts spending time in Carrboro, she starts to meet great people; she makes friends; she feels a sense of community; she gives up her outsider, contrarian ways....
I know, you want Katrina's answer, not my fantasy.

Mary, I prefer your "fantasy" to the more sinister, Machiavellian interpretation. Which is more likely?

I don't know, but my feeling is that Katrina began this race as a cynical single-issue candidate. Early in her campaign she developed a grudging respect for town values, and now, IMHO, has evolved into a full-fledged candidate with a first-hand sense of the priceless nature of this town's earnestly held progressive aspirations.

I mean, it's hard to stay mad at a town that values profound inclusiveness.

I'm very pleased with the Daily Tar Heel article. It very clearly articulates my position. I do like Carrboro, and have thouroughly enjoyed the campaign season spending a lot of time going door to door talking with people who've been in Carrboro for 30 years, and one whove moved in within the last 30 days.

That said, I think the two Carrboro planning documents, the small area plan, and "vision 2020" are almost diametrically opposed. The idea of doubling the number of residents in the Northern Transition Area will force the issue of merger. Downtown Carborro residents are almost always surprised when I tell them where the "country house" is.

"That's Carrboro ? I thought that was Chapel Hill," is the almost universal response.

And there in lies the problem. Northern area residents, for the most part, didn't move to Carrboro because of it's downtown. Most of them have moved here from somewhere else in the country and think of themselves as living in Chapel Hill. They like their 1/2 acre lots, their 2 car garages, and moved here for the school system. If you tell them that they pay 20% higher taxes than Chapel Hill and yet they still pay more in home insurance because Carrboro has a higher crime rate and ISO( fire service) rating, they will begin to ask why they're not part of Chapel Hill.

I'm the only candidate who has attended the forums for both towns. Especially in the Sierra Club forum, it was VERY clear that Carrboro and Chapel Hill are very different towns. If Carrboro keeps aggressively growing into Chapel Hill, then it makes perfect economic sense that the towns merge.

I happen to like Carrboro small. I'm not a fan of the 5 story building idea, and I think the "go-go growth" is going to be the end of Carrboro as we know it. I think it is in Carrboro's best interests to limit growth and take the time to focus on getting the tax rate under control and diversifying the economy. Of current board members I think only Jacqie really gets it.



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