Live Blog: OC Democratic Women Municipal Candidates Forum

The Orange County Democratic Women are hosting the Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough candidates this evening in the OWASA Community Room. OP editors Molly De Marco and Erin Crouse live-blog.

The following candidates are in attendance: 

  • For Carrboro mayor: Mark Chilton
  • For Carrboro alderman: Dan Coleman, Braxton Foushee, Michelle Johnson, Lydia Lavelle
  • For Chapel Hill mayor: Mark Kleinschmidt
  • For Chapel Hill council member: Jason Baker, Donna Bell, Laney Dale, Jon DeHart, Lee Storrow, Jim Ward

Live-tweeting the forum: @orangecodems, @pennyrich



The forum is going to start in a few minutes, and there is already a good-sized crowd in attendance. This forum has an interesting format- there will actually be three forums happening cocurrently- one for Chapel Hill, one for Carrboro, and one for Hillsborough. Molly will be live-blogging the Chapel Hill forum, and I will be live-blogging the Carrboro forum. No offense to Hillsborough, but we only had two editors that were able to make it to the event!

Actually, the Hillsborough candidates backed out at the last minute, so it's just Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Renee Price is currently introducing the candidates in attendance.

Mayor Mark K, Jim Ward, Lee Storrow, Jon Dehart, Council member Donna Bell, Jason Baker, Laney Dale are in attendance.Renee Price introduced those in attendance and talked about the 1/4 cent sales tax. Format is that we will hear from Chapel Hill and then Carrboro and then break into groups to ask questions. Let's go 

Matt Hughes and Penny Rich are tweeting the forum at @orangecodems and @pennyrich, respectively.

What experience and skills will you bring to the position?

Mayor Chilton is running late because he is at another event, but all the Alderman are in attendance. Their answers to the first question are as follows:Foushee- 13 yrs as an alderman, and wants to come back. Nat. Kidney Foundation board of directors for 10 yrs, 42 years working at UNC. Doesn't keep record of what he does; serves because he cares about the boards he is working for. Long-time Dem activist, particularly w/ Rebecca Clark. Work he's most proud of: bus system, Anderson Park, and Carr Mill Mall.Coleman- Before he was an elected official, he was an activist- since 1996- pushed for a living wage. Worked on affordable housing and voluntary campaign spending limits since 1995. Work expresses values that Democratic party is about.Johnson- Lived in Carrboro since 2001, yogi, artist, social worker, and activist. Is a good listener, thoughtful and mindful about issues- good characteristics for elected official to have. Been on several nonprofit boards- OC Rape Crisis Center, and has worked on mental health reform. Worked with budget and staffing issues.Lavelle- Grew up in a family of strong Democrats, and has always wanted to work in public service. Worked for City of Durham, the became a lawyer. Now teaches law @ NCCU. Served as president of NC Association of Women Attorney. In addition to being on Board of Alderman, served as chair of DCHC MPO TAC committee.

Mark Chilton just showed up! His response to question 1:Mayor for 6 years, Alderman 2 years prior to that. His experience working with boards and officials has been helpful. Works hard moving through meetings and making sure people are heard. 

Mark K - pleased to be here as one of the OCDW, joined earlier this year. Been Mayor for about 2 years, council for 8 years, ability to approach problems with creativity and passion and now experience. Served on many committees, helped found the econ. dev. cmte to meet challenges of new economy, last 2 years worked hard to heal division from last election, met with those who had not supported him and have made progressWard - on the cusp of the 2020 Plan and want 10,000 people involved, you get what you vote for, I value the public process, on council for nearly 12 years, Asst. Dir. of NC Botanical Garden, Carolina North was an example of a good working relationship with UNC - set aside first ever natural area, was on Econ. Dev. CmteStorrow - day job as managing director of public health org., member of non-profit boards in NC and nationally, dues paying member of OCDW, engaged a lot to get folks to polls, state-level policy around tobacco and sex education and voter ID, experience with non-profits dealing with difficult budget realities, on board of the American Legacy Fdn and NC Adolescent Preg. Prevention, is a consensus builder - first doner was from College Repubs.Dehart - NC native, dad was methodist minister, bag boy at grocery at 14, knows a lot about ladies shoes from work are shoe store, work in mortgage industry, positive I know more about housing than anyone here, volunteer for YMCA, on T-Board, went through Citizen Police Academy, on finance cmte of HomeTrust, I have always been a Democrat, I was a gov. page in 1982 (Gov. Hunt), worked on the Sanford campaign, has 3 kidsBell - being in council for 2 years, there are no 'duh' answers - never that easy, I bring experience as a social worker, listening skills, develop answers that everyone can live with, willing to do uncomfortable things, I am an introvert, but I believe this is a great place to live and important to preserve and create opportunities, need to work with many people about affordable housing - homeless people, OWASABaker - my experience started with the Dem. Party, activist since age of single digits, officer on OCDP, worked with Young Dems, bridged UNC and town, works on town issues - T-Board, now Planning Board (4 years), learned a lot of issues I will face on the council, learned about application process, transit, environment, housing, Has worked with environ. and econ. dev., 2 years at Weaver St Market - chair of Hillsborough Downtown Business Assoc., also on Sierra ClubDale - moved here 4.5 years ago, chose CH from all others, great schools, cub scout leader, youth soccer referee, leader in business, left KPMG for own firm that built to 150 employees, had to balance a budget that fluctuated and then for to 4 million. dealt with issues of working with people overseas, doesn't want to be seen as the business candidate

It may be quientesstial.

Lynne Kane asks: a show of hands "do you support better lighting and tree trimming to make signs more visible"- all YES 

Given how some people react to issues of light pollution and energy usage, it was interesting that there's no disagreement on this.

We're now breaking into groups, and I'm going to try to keep the answers in the thread to keep it easier to followMary Hughes Brookhart asked about how much influence the Aldermen have influence over the Lloyd Farm property.Coleman & Chilton- We have broad descretion, since there is rezoning involved. Lavelle- Not unexpected that a development of that scale would want to be built in that location.Baxton- Still have room for input, because it is not a formal plan.Johnson- Plenty of time for public input.Coleman- Example of how we need to be proactive of what we want to see on key properties like that 

Economic and social inequalities (especially in regard to Universal Declaration of Human Rights)- how is Carrboro tackling them?Lavelle- Need  stronger affirmation of rights for LGTB citizens. Johnson- Experience doing anti-racism work. Thinks Carrboro could do more to walk the walk in this field. Examples- affordable housing, anti-lingering ordinance.Coleman- keeps a copy of the Declaration in his briefcase. Have a commitment to address these issues to the extent that we are capable. Will be important during future IFC expansion.Foushee- We don't preach what we say in terms of this issues. Anti-lingering ordinance degrades those who stand on that corner. Need to give all humans dignity.Chilton- Difficult to address grand inequalities on the local level. Worked w/ Club Nova to redevelop their housing. Should try to put together more of these types of development. Also, proud that Aldermen are trying, w/ Justice United to take up living wage.Follow-up about the idea of a worker center:Johnson- Discussion of lingering ordinance and worker center has been coupled in a way that might not be helpful. Need more input for day laborers.

Citizen question about the candidates' opinions on OWASA issues (Jordan Lake allocation) and urban services boundary. (All these questions are citizen-submitted, so they are not as well-formed as questions as more formal forums)  Coleman- Disagrees with OWASA's intention to break the agreement.Foushee- Disagrees that OWASA intends to break the agreement, but instead wants clarification of the agreement. Chilton- Gives background about the Jordan Lake allocation, and he believes that the data shows that we have an adequate water supply for the next few decades. Thinks the Alderman have done a great job of perserving the watershed, and that the Haw River and Jordan Lake water is not of as good quality. Town should grow within our water limits.Foushee- In droughts, the only water we might have is Jordan Lake. OWASA just wants to keep their allotment.Lavelle- Issues: the uncertainty of how long the allocation is available, and use using Jordan water when reaching 80% capacity. [Braxton disagrees, and says it will kick in at 40%]

Question: How would you vote if workforce housing (~$60-120k) came before the board?Foushee-  Our housing is more for higher-income people. We need more workforce housing.Coleman- Serves on a board (Home Consortium) that creates guidelines for afordable housing funds that come from federal government. $56,000 for a family of 4 or less is what qualifies.  Subsidizes so houses cost about $90k for those that qualify. Have discussed raising the cap for more people to qualify.Foushee- We need more affordable homeowners, not renters.Johnsons- Wants people to live in the community where the work, and develop a local living economy. Talked to Robert Dowling from Home Trust, discussed payment-in-lieu for affordable housing and lowering cap to 60% of median income.Lavelle- Our Home Trust is a model organization, and always trying to improve their service.  

Question to Michelle- what would you bring to the board as a relative newcomer?  Johnson- admits this is my first time running, but mentions diversive leadership experience, and that she has lived here for 10 years in a very transient community.

Question: Is the anti-lingering ordinance legal, and do you support rescinding it?Chilton- Thinks towns have right to pursue wide-ranging ordinances, but has some problems with the flavor of the anti-lingering ordinance. Idea of no-stopping zone for employers instead on no-lingering ordinance. If we repeal the ordinance, we need to do something else to deal with the issue.Coleman- Opposes the ordinance, and opposed it when it was first proposed. Doesn't care if it's constitutional, because it is wrong. Concern in the neighborhood that rescinding the ordinance would be detrimental- need to take into consideration their concerns. Need more input on both sides.Johnson- Would vote to rescind the ordinance, but need long-term plan about what is going to happen. Safety concerns need to be taken into consideration. Feels like a whole group is being targeted when just a few are causing the problems.Lavelle- Would vote for rescinding the ordinance. Need to work on solutions, but need to decouple it from the ordinance. Don't want future lawyers to look at law and see what Carrboro has been doing- not a good solution.Foushee- Opposed to the ordinance. Shelter should be provided to the group. Need to take into consideration nearby development (traffic on Alabama Ave)

Question: What would each of you identify as the major regional questions (w/ Chapel Hill, the County, etc.)? Lavelle- Transit. Making sure Carrboro is included, and that we all work together.Johnson- Agrees about transportation. Also library, and need increases communication with the county.Coleman- Economic Development, especially with building a local living economy.Foushee- Exonomic development and infrastructure. Need more jobs, and both lead to that.Chilton- Transportation. An example of future need for collaboration- Homestead Rd, Sewell School Rd, and Estes Dr Ext. Work with NCDOT and Chapel Hill Town Council to develop shared vision for what we want to see there. Estes will be the more urgent priority due to Carolina North development.

What happened to the library and park on Hillsborough St projects?Chilton- County commissioners put it on hold to due to budget and legal issues. Still open to working with the county commissioners to find a better site that is still central and walkable. As for park, Board has continued to push it back because the town does not have money. Need to meet with stakeholders to see what the Town can do in the short-term to make it more useable.Coleman- Will discuss park on Oct 4th meeting.

My wrists and fingers are tired, but thanks to the Alderman candidates and Mayor Chilton for a very candid debate about a wide range of issues! Readers, feel free to ask them (or me) for clarification if my notes were unclear.

but I do have the Universal Declaration in my desk drawer and I do refer to it.

Miriam Thompson: 2009 voted to be a human rights city, workforce housing vs. affordable housing - how to do it?Ward -  200 houses in the HomeTrust, great start but these homes need an infusion of capital with every turnover, need to create an endowment to support maintenance, need diversity of housing - rental and owned, need to fine tune size so not only 1-bedroom 'cuz families with kids need housingStorrow - three things - support work cnl already did, IZO, HomeTrust, need utilities and transportation that are affordable, acknowledge we live in a college town and look to other college towns that have done innovative partnerships between univ. and town, help students find housing that does not compete with familiesDehart - I have helped ppl buy housing for the last 20 years, look to ppl with experience, I work with HomeTrust, Habitat - sponsoring a house starting Saturday,  come and get a t-shirt, Empowerment, Inc helps people to maintain/sustain homesBell - one of things most passionate about, affordabe hsing study this past summer showed we need rentals, NC doesn't allow rental controls and supports, town needs to provide more rentals, affordability is larger than rent, need living wages - need to work with UNC on this, we need to preserve what we have where it is, need to help those being priced out of their homesMark K - Council adopted an affordable housing strategy with committee of community members, need to create measurement techniques to see how we are doing, we have a public housing program that we need to support, CDBG funding is going to decrease, Inclusionary zoning is creating a payment-in-lieu that can help with Home Trust maintenance, work with UNC on housing needs to reduce pressure on nbhds around UNC.Baker - dear to my heart, have a whole spectrum of needs, my wife and I still have trouble finding affordable homeownership options, not just ownership, but rental and need to get more control over it working with Leg., need transitional housing, good that IFC men's homestart was approved, need to work where you live, need a solid commercial base to allow for less need for cars to have more $Dale - a little different view of this, 20 years ago lived on a sailboat and was a musician, used to drive to Raleigh for work, need to build on what we already have, older people cannot afford property taxes - need to help them stay in their homes, my grandmother raised me and we were on public assistance, anyone can live in CH if they work really hard to get here. 

Ward - lack of diversity is a problem, not 1 solution, get rid of hurdles, VOE is one way, not participating in it, but helped bring it in, advisory boards need more diversity, help parents to be able to serve.Storrow - it is a problem, Sally is leaving and there will be less women, symbolic diversity is important, Lillian's List and OCDW are vital to grooming women, LGBTQ representation is important and we could end up with 2 on the council in a time when war is on against this group.Dehart - everyone should be invited and welcome, thought he was going to be the token pro-business candidate and now everyone wants to be like him, need to get Hispanic community rep'd.Bell - v. important to me, moratorium in Northside, for CH to be a diverse place ppl need to see ppl like themselves working on issues, working on boards can be intimidating, need to help those figure out how to make service work, need to provide those models, we have hired a community dev. staff member to have feet on the ground to connect with ppl face-to-faceMark K - I was going to bring up Jennifer (community dev.)! We used to just wait for ppl to apply for boards and got certain group that found it easy to serve, now we are seeking out ppl, 2020 Plan - we are providing daycare at every meeting, talked about which groups we want brought in, as one of the few openly-gay elected officials in the state I get calls from all of the gay/lesbian folks throughout the state because they are afraid of how they will be treatedBaker - as a straight, white male I am not going to bring much diversity so I think it is important for me to work hard to seek out diversity and a variety of viewpoints, Jennifer is doing a great job, we need to keep reaching out to communities that are not like us - civic groups, faith-based, more students, I was one of the only UNC students to serve on a board, it is not as onerous as it seems.I want to know how things affect you.Dale - I think Donna nailed this one, as a child you went to jail or military, my wife empowered me, I think we need to get into all nbhds in town, want to launch programs like at the Hargraves Center to help kids learn about starting a business, need to show ppl that we want them there. 

Dale - I serve on Parks and Rec Board and see cuts, we have to make tough decisions, cutting fireworks was hard, we are already taxing by dog so that can't be an option for raising taxes, only raise taxes on those who can afford it, Parks and Rec services are free for low-income, can treat transit the same.Baker - one specific area - cuts to largest employer, UNC cuts have been devastating, this will increase unemployment, and we will as a council have to pick up the slack in services. You can help by supporting the 1/4 cent sales tax this fall - we can put our money where our mouth is, to bring infrasructure where we need it.Mark K - CDBG is getting many cuts and when we allocate it this Spring it will mean cuts to the programs it funds, local school system - need to stay true to SAPFO to keep our schools strong so we need to work with the General Assembly to make sure funding is returned to previous levels, Yes, to 1/4 sales tax, regional transit plan relies on having funding available, don't want to charge ppl to ride the bus.Bell - hits to Section 8, transit - we can't afford to replace buses, we are taking on the 1/4 cent sales tax, which I support because of cuts at the state level we need to do this, we will need to provide some level of services, health and dental care - dental care is v. important - talk to Laurin Easthom. Changes are happening at fed and state due to difference in priorities and we need to let them know we do not agree.Dehart - 3 buckets to look at - fed, state, county, rough day today in the market, 1/4 cent sales tax will mean we do not have to raise property tax, need to build more retail here on traditional retail, every Saturday 60k people come and they should pay that more tax, we want to keep schools strong,  UNC pays a lot of transit costs along with fed grants.Storrow - we as liberals need to talk about solutions, I have advocated at the state more the tobacco tax to be increased, we have one of the lowest in the nation, this tax can fund services we need, UNC cuts are a crisis like Jason said, they live here and are not able to buy here.Ward - more bad than good news, we thought the downturn would only be 1-2 years, we have already trimmed all of the fat, bus system is very vulnerable, support for local non-profits is not going to be there - there just isn't money, towns are at the end of the trough in terms of responsibility, but hard to raise funds. 

Ward - I would want more info, I don't see how are DEA is making an inroads on this problem, makes sense to regulate it and get tax from it, not fill prisons with people smoking a little.Storrow - with Public Health hat on I have been working in tobacco, both grandparents died of lung cancer,  interesting that tobacco which costs death is legal, but marijuana with no effects but illegal Dehart - should be legalized and taxed, but need more info.Bell - super liberal, Social work answer - making something illegal does not reduce the use of it, reduce harm is betterMark K - as a criminal defense lawyer I have seen petty drug crimes destroy families, mostly young ppl and it affects whole life. I support a sane drug policy.Baker - let's be honest, current drug policy is a war on people of color, as a member of the council I will not likely have a chance to weigh in on this, my opinion is to regulate it.Dale - as a former lead signer of a heavy metal band, I am all for it, though seriously it wastes money and we could use the tax money.Ending question! Time to mingle! 

Carl Schuler and I were also in attendance.  Just not invited to speak.

Because you are registered as independent instead of as dems?

It seems they didn't allow any non-Democratic candidates to participate.

Also, Terri, it looks like I accidentally deleted Matt's response when I was trying to remove an anonymous comment. In response to your question, he wrote, "Apparently." Sorry, Matt! I'm off to bed before I do any more editorial damage.

This isn't a primary. All candidates should be included.

It would have set a nice tone if all the candidates who showed up refused to participate unless the excluded candidates were included.  The OC Democratic Women might need to consider renaming themselves.

I am always surprised how folks who champion diversity, tolerance, and inclusivity in certain areas (as well they should), are quick to openly exclude, discriminate and judge other subsets of citizens, sometimes without realizing what they are or are not doing. Sometimes I catch myself doing it. 

This is one of the reasons I wonder whether the Democratic Party should even be involved in local government issues.

This is one of the (many) reasons why I refuse to participate in the local Democratic party. For the Dems to deny participation to non-Dems is inserting partisanship into what are supposed to be non-partisan local elections. Lord knows we have more than enough partisanship at the state and national level. Forcing it locally is unacceptable. (Although I will note that during my very brief tenure as a precinct chair, it was decided to deny access to non-Dems through a vote of the chairs.)


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