OP Live Candidate Forum: Conversation With the Mayors


Hi Lydia, Tom, and Mark C.!  Glad to be here tonight.  Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

Hi everyone....

 Good evening everyone and welcome to OrangePolitics.org’s 2013 Conversation with the Mayors. Ordinarily this would have been a Mayoral Candidates Forum, but we have uncontested races for all three Mayoral offices in Orange County. So instead of a formal forum, we are having an conversation.  I’m going to try to have some fun with some of these questions and in some cases, I may try extra hard to pin you down – because I know you don’t have an opponent.

Hello all - happy to be here.

All right, now it is time for a special welcome for the person who holds the oldest elected office in the entire November 2014 election the Honorable Mayor of Hillsborough Tom Stevens. Please also welcome the Honorable Mayor of Chapel Hill Mark Kleinschmidt. And also please welcome the Honorable Alder[wo]man Lydia Lavelle.

Now here’s the deal. I am going to ask questions – some for all three of you – some for each individually. I want you to give a single (or at most two) paragraph answer to each question. In some cases you answer could easily be a single sentence. Please don’t write at length, as we have a number of questions to get through.

Everyone, do you intend to complete the term of office for which you are now running?

yes, absolutely

Of course. Absent some unforeseen development, I plan on completing my term.   Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

Yes, if elected as mayor of Carrboro, I intend to complete the two year term of office.

Everyone, what have you done to make walking to school more feasible in your community? What – specifically what - will you do to continue that work?

We've worked closely with CHCSS to improve walk zones for more than a decade.  We worked closely with Carrboro and the county to make improvements around Chapel Hill High; we demand complete streets with sidewalks and bike paths throughout town, etc. I don't anticipate that work ending  To that end, we have been working more closely with CHCSS to include direct conversations between the boards.  I'm looking forward to our first such meeting later this month.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

I also expect this issue to come up during our Chapel Hill 4 YOUth initative which kicks off this week.  Getting direct input from young people will certainly help since being able to safely walk to school is one of the most important livability issues a young person faces in our community. Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

I was a big supporter of the Nash St sidewalk project, that connected Fairview, Hillsborough Heights, West Hillsborough, the Historic District, and Gold Park (Riverwalk) - including sidewalks to two schools, Hillsborough Elementary and Central Elementary.Hillsborough has a long term connectivity plan....and we're working the plan.And pedestrian safety got PERSONAL lately - I'm committed to making our downtown, our neighborhoods, and schools safe places for walkers (bikes and other modes too). 

The Board of Aldermen has made walking safely throughout the town a priority, and particularly through our Safe Routes to Schools program, we have emphasized this demographic.  We have been working to improve our sidewalk infrastructure, and striping our nearby roads to make walking safe and attractive. We also have programs at many of our schools on the benefits of walking (and biking) to school in conjunction with the Safe Routes to Schools program.    Our newest elementary school (Morris Grove) has a greenway leading up to it from several neighborhoods which some students walk and many bike.  I would like to work to see this greenway extended so that more school children can use it to get to school safely.  With a few small connections, this could happen.

Tom, with a train station coming to Hillsborough, what should the Town do to ensure the success of the station and to capitalize on this new resource? Lydia, do you support the concept of Bus Rapid Transit in the Martin Luther King corridor? Is that project in Carrboro’s interest? Mark, what sort of development will be appropriate for the parts of Chapel Hill along the Light Rail Corridor (i.e along NC-54 East)?

Well, already the NC 54 corridor has the traffic and transit use that would support LRT.  I hope that we'll see the Woodmont (AKA Hillmont) project come out of the ground once the LRT plan for the region is settled.  I suspect that the plan we approved will need to be modified though.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

I do support the concept of BRT in the MLK corridor, and it is in Carrboro's interest.  This is a major (if not the major) bus line in our towns, and many connections are made off of it.  It is a short bike ride from northern Carrboro via Homestead Road, and it terminates at Eubanks Road, only a mile or so from northern Carrboro.  Estes Drive Extension is a major connection to this line.  My point is that even though a MLK BRT will not even run through Carrboro proper, it will help the overall system run better (for all partners), and that is reason to support it.

As Hillsborough is bounded roughly by US70 on the N, and I-40 on the S, the train station will be right in the center of town. There's some 60+ acres of undeveloped land, and lots that could be re-developed (i.e. Daniel Boone). This will be the core of Hillsborough in the century to come, so getting this development right is critical. We're thinking transit oriented development, mixed use.Walkable to downtown - compatable with downtown, development with character and sense of place, but not trying to recreate 18th or 19th century historic look. And given the core, central location, and the congestion the town experiences with traffic - connecting the station with multi-modes of transport is essential. A good public transportation bus service, both circulator route, and connecting Hsbo to other places is important.

Everyone, what does the future hold for public parking in your downtown? Do we need more public parking in downtown Chapel Hill? How would that happen? Will public parking always be free in Carrboro? Does Hillsborough need more public parking or merely better parking info?

We've mapped and studied every single parking space in downtown Hillsborough. If a development was proposed the equivalent sq ft as downtown, the parking required would be about the same as already exists downtown (thanks to the deck). We generally have enough parking, so most of our effort needs to be on managing what we have - and we are challenged by the location of the parking, and that much of the parking is in so many private hands.

We're always looking for ways to make parking easier in downtown.  I'd like for us to begin discussions around a more demand oriented process for determining pricing.  We've added scores of new spaces on the West End, and the 140 W project. Demand pricing would adjust the price on those lots when they are under-utilized and increase the price of spaces in the most high demand areas during their peak hours.  This kind of program would require new use of technology, but could point to alternatives to parking directly in front of your prefered destination.  Demand-based pricing would allow us to make parking a more productive economic development tool.  Imagine not wanting to pay a premium for parking on the 100 block of E. Franklin, so you drive 2 blocks and park somewhere cheaper.  The walk takes you by places you forgot, or never knew existed! This could generate new business and point to less expensive, and abundant parking options during peak times.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

I feel pretty good about parking in Carrboro right now.  We just opened the new parking deck beside the Hampton Inn which gave us 300 new public parking spaces, and we purchased the property at Roberson and South Greensboro where we currently have a surface parking lot.  As someone who (unfortunately) has to drive to Carrboro often, I never have trouble finding a parking space within a few blocks of my destination. We do, however, need to work on a parking plan for downtown Carrboro, one that can shepherd us through the coming years. We have lots of surface parking, and we need to think through whether we want to have so much of our downtown remain asphalt.  For the immediate future, I want to continue to have free parking in Carrboro.  We hear from visitors and residents that this is an attractive feature of our town.

Tom, what does the future hold for the Fairview neighborhood? Over the last five or ten years, crime has gone down and the quality of life has gone up in Hillsborough’s least-privileged neighborhood – much of the change coming as a result of Town of Hillsborough, Orange County and Habitat for Humanity investment in the neighborhood. Do you see more changes in the future for Fairview? Mark, what do you foresee in the Northside neighborhood? With even fairly modest homes selling for notable prices, have we passed the tipping point for Northside? Lydia, is downtown redevelopment a threat to African-American homeownership in neighborhoods near downtown Carrboro? Can/should the Town do anything to protect the Lloyd Street and Carr Court neighborhoods?

 We have not passed the tipping point in Northside.  Demand for housing in Northside isn't likely to go down any time soon, but our partnership with the Jackson Center, UNC, and the Self-Help Credit Union is about to reap great benefits.  There is much that we can do to help long-term residents and their families retain homes in the neighborhood.  An announcement will be coming soon with specifics. I'm not at liberty to provide a lot of details now, but it is obvious that a substantial investment will be necessary to bank existing homes and make sure they remain available to families.  All this said, Northside, like all Chapel Hill neighborhoods will see change, our task though is to help it change in a direction that stabilizes the neighborhood.  That may mean some changes to the residential mix and changes along Rosemary. The good news is that residents of the neighborhood are the primary drivers in defining how that change can occur. Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

Neighbors always get nervous when nearby development happens, especially when this occurs downtown.  Any development along the north side of E. Main Street will have to be carefully thought through and vetted.  Carrboro has been committed to keeping development in scale with nearby neighborhoods, and I know that the BOA would carefully consider comments and input from nearby neighbors in considering re-development in this area.  As we on the BOA examine our overall development plans for downtown, this is a part of town that we should carefully look at and discuss.  We also need to be cognizant of Carr Court, and how we might provide safe access for both of these neighborhoods to a public library we and the County want to locate on the Butler Property near the Hampton Inn.

There's a saying, 'Change comes from gentle pressure relentlessly applied.' As applied to Fairview, we've seen the benefits of the persistent effort to reduce crime and enhance the neighborhood - an effort that is as much from the residents as it is from outside. We need to persist going forward, and I see Fairview as continuing to shift from being a least-privileged neighborhood to one that is a desirable place to live.Related, anything we can do to move forward the Cornelius St plan (US70 corridor) will make Fairview more appealing.

If you want to suggest a question, please post it here: http://www.orangepolitics.org/2013/10/mayors-open-thread or tweet it @orangepolitics 

Everyone, what was the most recent book you read in its entirety?

The Asylum on the Hill by Katherine Ziff.  It is about the history of the Athens Lunatic Asylum in Athens, Ohio which was created right after the Civil War. 

I just finished Of Dice and Men, the story of the development of Dungeons and Dragons.  (Should have remembered it was campaign season and realized I'd be forced to reveal my total geek-dom before I picked it up.) Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

...by Tim O'Brien I'm 3/4 through Vietnam, A History by Stanley Karnow

Jake Gellar-Goad asks: “How do the Orange County mayors see their roles in standing up to an increasingly aggressive and hostile state legislature that has proven an unwillingness to show deference to municipalities in setting local policy and control of municipal assets.”

Those who know me, know I'm not afraid of standing up for Chapel Hill's values and interests.  In my next term I will continue to be a frequent visitor to Raleigh, and I believe there is room for some success.  At the end of the last session I had a brief meeting with Rep Moffit and explained to him how many of the provisions of HB 74 affected our ability to meet the special needs of our community.  I was taken by his willingness to talk and his receptiveness to my overtures. Working with the Metro Mayors, I think we'll see some changes that will benefit cities in North Carolina during the short session, but we all know substantial change won't come until we change the leadership of the chambers.  Even when the Dems controlled we had problems with legislature respecting cities.  I believe the Democratic Party understands these issues better now and we'll get better responses when they re-gain control, but even then I'm convinced we shouldn't ease the pressure.  Short answer is that there aren't enough former municipal officials in the legislature.  That needs to change soon, right Mark C.?Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt



It is a frustrating time to be in local government, especially in communities that seek to work creatively within the bounds of existing law to create good law.  The absence of home rule and further deterioration of any local power is frustrating.  I plan to join the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition and work with that group to advocate for the return of local control we have lost.  But this is a problem broader than just working with the Coalition - we all need to work to make certain people across the state understand how important it is to be able to have a degree of local decision-making authority, even in a state like North Carolina where we do not have "home rule" per se but have had a great deal of authority until recent years.  Every town is different (just as every state is different) - it just makes sense that for many areas of policy, local government should be able to govern.  It is the government closest to the people.

Mayors have a powerful role in shaping the "narrative" of their communities - so one thing we can do is be more focused in countering the right-wing narrative that municipal governments are running amuck and need to be reeled in - when actually we have some of the most efficient, effective, and innovative initiatives in NC, the US, and the world. 

Mark and Lydia, what’s your position on providing sewers and a community center for Rogers Road. Lydia, do you support the Town of Carrboro’s commitment of $900,000 to the project? Mark, are you committed to getting the sewers built to Rogers Road – yes or no?

Yes. I'm of two minds right now regarding extending ETJ vs. creating a water and sewer district.  Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

ETJ is a tool used primarily to help transistion neighborhoods for eventual annexation.  If annexation laws don't change, or the neighborhood doesn't want annexation, then a more narrowly defined tool may be best.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

Yes, I support and voted for $900,000 to go toward sewers and a community center in Rogers Road (as did the rest of the BOA).  I also have stated on a few occasions that I would like to see the governing boards figure out a way to recoup this sewer infrastructure money from future developers.

Over on Facebook, a commenter on Mark Kleinschmidt's wall submitted this question: "In this month's Money magazine, Raleigh was named one of six US cities to retire. What are Chapel Hill, carrborro and Hillsborough doing to make themselves attractive to newly retired or the aging. Especially in light that two of the three are focused on the younger, university community."

Frankly, one of the ways to make sure Chapel Hill remains a great place to retire is to continue to appeal to the broad interest in creating a community that is walkable, where there is diversity in the retail market (still lots of work to do there), and generally maintaining a Town that offers folks the ability to remain engaged in community, social and intellectual pursuits.  The "focus" on young people, is actually a focus on "people" period. Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

I think we're sensitive to various demographic groups - singles, families with young children, older adults, etc. - but aren't necessarily 'targeting' specific groups. Hillsborough's ammenities appeal to a wide range of folks.That being said, we have approved a couple of developments (e.g. Eno Haven) specifically relevant to late-middle-age and seniors.

As one who has dealt with elderly parents in recent years, I believe our community would be immensely popular for seniors who want to be able to get around without having to drive - by walking, taking the bus, or biking.  Our downtown is not overwhelming, yet we have so much to offer retirees who want to have nice places to eat, be able to stroll about, have a small town feel, and have all of the amenities of a world-class university nearby.   I know a few of our board members have talked about being able to "age in place"  - when we talk about affordable housing, we often think of young people or families, but we need to consider our seniors as well.  I believe some of the projects we have considered for downtown (Shelton Station, for example) could provide housing for seniors.  This demographic is one that we need to consider as we continue our affordable housing discussions.

Everyone, many other municipalities including some in other parts of the Triangle have made open government a big priority. What have you done or do you plan to do to make your town's data and decision-making processes more accessible to more people?

The pace of opening gov't in Chapel Hill has frustrated me as much as it has anyone.  We've made strides at opening our data - but there's still much to do. But outside the open-data part of this question, let's be frank -- Just a few years ago, many said that Chapel Hill was run by just a few hundred people.  In contrast, during the 2020 process, more than 10K made their voices heard. We were as successful as we were because we went to where the people were.  We were on buses, at bars, at workplaces, in neighborhoods -- all to solicit feedback on what Chapel Hillians wanted their town to be.  This increase in participation may have frustrated some, especially if they were part of the few hundred, but we're better for it.  Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

I think we do a great job in Carrboro of having accessible government.  Our meetings are scheduled in the evenings so that they are easier for citizens to attend, and they are available online and on TV.  All of the members of the BOA make themselves available to the public, in person and by e-mail and phone.  We also are working on a new Town web design that will allow for menu type notifications about items of relevance to interested residents.  Our BOA members are strong believers in community meetings, and we encourage developers to meet with neighbors about prospective projects well before an idea comes to us or even our advisory boards.  In the near future, we are hoping to launch a review of our Carrboro Vision 2020 document where we will work to engage all demographics and people of Carrboro.

Persistence in upgrading technology and citizen engagement. In recent years, getting all materials in pdf and posted to the web so anyone can review them. We've recently partnered with the News of Orange to do a video after each town board meeting that summarizes key actions (thank you NoO!). We aren't in a position yet to video our town board meetings - I do hope this is something that we can do before I leave office. "Strengthen Citizen Involvement" is the first top level objective in Hillsborough's Strategy Map (one page strategic plan/top level scorecard). We take it seriously.

Mark and Lydia, do you support the Joint Planning Agreement? Should we change the Rural  Buffer boundaries? Tom, how big do you envision Hillsborough becoming?

Yes, I support the agreement, and no we shouldn't change the boundaries.  Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

Hillsborough will grow significantly - by significantly I mean a few thousand residents. Our growth is constrained to this by water supply and traffic/transportation.We've grown by about 1000 people/decade for the last three decades. This will be bumped up a bit in the near future, but I believe we will continue to be a small town with a small town feel for decades to come.

I support the Joint Planning Agreement, and do not believe we should change the rural buffer boundaries. The Agreement is a proper mechanism for us to know what our neighboring jurisdictions are doing, and it has worked well.  I show our Agreement to my State and Local Governmental Law students as an example of jurisdictions properly planning together (it is not done this way everywhere). The rural buffer boundaries have helped us grow in a way that has encouraged us to grow up, not out, and study ways to stay on our current footprint. 

Everyone, is your town going to continue in partnership with Orange County’s recycling program? Are you looking at Pay-as-You-Throw? Is PAYT appropriate for your town? If you think your town should look at PAYT, what would be some of the challenges in moving to PAYT?


For Hsbo, it would not make much sense to do our own recycling so it's likely we'll continue to partner with OC.Likewise, we would be glad to look at a PAYT partnership, and see if it makes sense for Hsbo.


We may continue with OC. I suspect we will.  But we need to keep in mind that the mechanics and economics of recycling are different in rural and more urban parts of the county.  CHTC needs to do what's best for CH.We are looking at PAYT. At least PAYT came to us as part of what we received from our recent RFP soliciting solid waste proposals.  I'm supportive.  I've heard concerns about the impact on lower income households, but that issue can be addressed through alternative distribution methods for trash bags.  This kind of program has worked all over the country for many years and is actually in place in downtown Raleigh.  The increase in recycling skyrockets and we become better managers of our waste-stream.  Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

I would like to see our Town continue in partnership with the County's recycling program, but if other options come forward, I am sure our BOA will  debate the merit of whether it makes sense to change our system of recycling.  Whatever happens, I believe the success of the County's recycling program has been in large part due to participation by the towns, and I would want to study whether our participation (or not) would help or hurt overall recycling in the county.  I also think we should reexamine PAYT in the context of recycling discussions.  A few years ago, it was not feasible ($$ wise and truck-wise), but it may be something to consider in the current climate.  Challenges would include how to address multi-family homes and lower income residents.

Everyone, the Peak-Oil theory holds that we can no longer expand production to match the growth in demand for oil and that this will cause sharp spikes in the cost of gas. How seriously do you take that possibility? What will you do as mayor to mitigate such risks?

We've been on this path for a long time.  Investments in transit, both locally and regionally have, in part, been inspired by this. But the numbers showing how many people live in Chapel Hill and work elsewhere, and vice verse, tell us that we're not fully meeting our goals.  We must keep our shoulder to the wheel on affordable housing and increasing diversity in retail and office space.  In addition, Chapel Hill must improve it's position as a leader on the use of alternative fuels and the vehicles that use them and support our citizen and business leaders who have adopted alternatives.  Also, we must continue to be strong advocates for regional transportation since we won't be able to eliminate the need for many to commute to other parts of the Triangle.  We are part of a region and should act like it.  That means working with our neighbors on transit AND sustainable economic development.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

Our BOA takes the Peak Oil theory seriously and has tried to plan and govern accordingly.  We have an intensive Town GHG Reduction Plan that encourages less use of gas by town vehicles (purchasing hybrid vehicles, for example) and the use of transit to cut down on multiple individual automobile trips.  We have worked to make our town more walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly so as to lessen dependence on gasoline.  We support regional transit connections so that we can get to our neighboring towns and cities with less automobile impact, and we supported the transit tax in the hope that we might have light rail in our region someday.  We also have encouraged our developers to think through ways that residents can be less auto-dependent (car share, electric car charging stations, covered bike parking, etc.)

Hsbo Town Government has three assets to help us mitigate this risk - and any number of other major challenges that could arise:

  • a 7+ year financial planning horizon, updated every year, so we would respond to the financial implications quickly;
  • a staff culture that encourages innovation (what do we need to do differently - because we can't sustain doing things as we do them now)
  • and both a staff and elected officials have a pre-disposition for environmental and community sustainability, including less dependence on oil.

I don't know exactly how we'd deal with this kind of change - but do feel we're nimble as things come our way.  Very proud of our staff! http://www.ci.hillsborough.nc.us/content/hillsborough-honors-29-employee...

Thanks for participating Mayors! And thanks for reading, readers.Please take a few minutes to make any sort of closing statement you'd like to share about your vision for the future of your town etc. 

Thanks for the good job moderating!

Thank you Mark for moderating.  This has been great, both here on OP and on my Facebook page where I've been doing double duty answering questions.In my four years as Mayor of Chapel Hill, I've never been so excited to be part of this community.  The level of engagement and participation has never been higher, and I'm so grateful for the wisdom and advice the people of Chapel Hill have given me over the years.  I look forward to continued high involvement in our Design Chapel Hill process and look forward to seeing everyone at CH4YOUth this week.Here's a treat for you: While it may be this for this forum:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGytDsqkQY8  It's this for Chapel Hill:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlCS-qf7yaMFollow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/91222152476?ap=1 or http://www.facebook.com/mark.kleinschmidt

Thanks to Orange Politics and thanks to my mayor, Mark Chilton, for moderating this forum.  We covered lots of ground!I am excited about the future of Carrboro.  We are seeing the fruition of years of good planning and decisions by the BOA with the East Main Street project getting underway and the hotel opening.  We have been presented with a preliminary plan by the ArtsCenter that looks to be a very exciting one for downtown, and a proposal to define a Cultural Arts and Entertainment District which could help catapult our economic upswing.  We also just hosted a statewide Bicycle Summit where we showcased our silver-level bicycle community, and I am excited about the prospect of working to implement more of our comprehensive bicycle plan to make our town an even better place to live and bike.  We have lots of residents in our town - not just downtown, but all over our 6.487 square miles. Having a successful and vibrant downtown is key to helping keep our tax rate where it is, and relieving the burden on our residential taxpayers.  In closing, if elected as mayor, I will promote the values and ideals that have helped Carrboro become one of the most progressive and forward thinking communities in North Carolina.

This forum will remain open until 9:15 PM tonight for candidates to revise and/or extend their answers to questions above.  After 9:15 PM the page will be locked for editing and archived on this website.  Thanks again, everyone, for participating!


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