OP Live Candidate Forum 2017: Chapel Hill Town Council

The 2017 OP Live Candidate Forum for Chapel Hill Town Council candidates was held on October 1, 2017. View the recap here.

Welcome to the OrangePolitics 2017 candidate forum for Chapel Hill Town Council! Our moderator is Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina. Six candidates will participate in tonight's forum. Candidate Carl Schuler is unable to participate and sends his regrets.

This year, for the first time, we are implementing a new feature that will enable the moderator's questions and the candidates' responses to appear as soon as they are posted. If all goes well, no refresh will be required.

We'll get started at 7:00 pm. Feel free to post your thoughts and observations on the open thread. Thanks for joining us.

Good evening and welcome to the OrangePolitics Chapel Hill Town Council candidate forum!

My name is Chris Brook and I am the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. I have the pleasure of moderating the forum this evening.

Tonight we will be joined by six of the seven candidates for Town Council here in Chapel Hill: Allen Buansi, Hongbin Gu, Ed Harrison, Maria Palmer, Rachel Schaevitz, Carl Schuler, and Karen Stegman. 

I'll post a new question every 8-10 minutes; candidates will receive approximately 10 questions. I'll then ask for closing remarks and any edits to posts. 

Candidates, we'll start with five minutes for opening statements in which you identify your top priorities. Ready, set, go!

I am running to add a fresh perspective as a civil rights lawyer and homegrown leader. I served as the legal redress chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. I assisted the Historic Rogers Road Task Force with research on extraterritorial jurisdiction and served as a member of the Town Grievance Hearing Board. I also served on a town subcommittee to more appropriately recognize the enslaved people that built the university. I have also volunteered in our school system as a coach and mentor. My service has required me to listen well and to be thoughtful and reasonable on serious issues.

My top priorities include the following: affordable housing, diversifying our tax base and engaging young people in our local political process.

I want to start by thanking Orange Politics for the forum tonight and you, Chris, for moderating.

I’m Karen Stegman and I’m excited to be launching my first campaign for Town Council. I am proud to be a product of this community and to be working and raising my family in this wonderful town.

I have a long record of public service to Chapel Hill. For example, I have served as a longtime member and Chair of the Chapel Hill Public Housing Advisory Board. Additionally, I was an Advisory Board Member for the Town’s HUD Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency (ROSS) program. I have been a mentor for the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program, which provides leadership development and college preparation for students of color in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. I have received recognition for my public service, including the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, the Orange County Key Volunteer Service Award, and the Neighbors United Community Service Award. In summary, I have a history of engagement in local, state, and national issues and demonstrated leadership on issues of social and political justice that impact residents of Chapel Hill.

Inclusivity is the most critical, overarching issue Chapel Hill is facing. Will we choose to be a community with policies of including people who might otherwise be marginalized, or will an increasing lack of affordability erode our long-held values? What does it mean to be a town where all are welcome, and what is the role of local government in ensuring that we meet that goal? As Chapel Hill becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, work, and operate a business, we jeopardize the very character we have always cherished as a community. For example, we risk driving away independent business owners, musicians and artists, teachers and service providers, and so many others who contribute to making Chapel Hill a unique and vibrant place to live. I am glad to see that the Town Council has already taken some positive steps to address this concern. There will be many more opportunities to act and I want to be part of a forward-thinking approach that maximizes new partnerships and resources in a way that will benefit all residents of our town.

I am looking forward to answering questions about this important issue and others tonight.

I am running for re-election because...

1. I want to use my experience! I have invested the last 4 years into learning how to solve municipal challenges. I love Chapel Hill and believe we can make Chapel Hill better than it’s ever been—for ALL our residents!

2. Social Justice requires proactive government. We must continue investing in Black neighborhoods, youth empowerment, and affordable housing. We must promote a Living Wage and minority representation in boards and commissions. We must also keep Chapel Hill’s taxes from rising so we don’t lose the middle class. 

3. Progress must continue! We must implement the Greenways and Bike plans, move forward with Stormwater Improvements, revise the Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO) and build the Orange-Durham Light Rail. We need a Teen Center and a Farmer’s Market and enhanced recreational access and opportunities.

I am running because I believe better is possible. 

(1) Above all, to continue my excellent record of constituent service: working daily to keep the full range of citizens informed about town affairs, some of which are complex even for long-time followers of government. I've been told dozens of times over the years that I was the only council member to respond to an email -- although staff has ramped up their efforts to respond in recent years. I also try to attend a wide range of community meetings and events to stay in touch with folks on the ground. (2) For a specific issue -- continue my decades of work to connect CH better to itself and to neighboring communities, by working on the full range of transportation options, mostly focused on getting around without the use of an automobile, but also including street improvements. Funding for transit and for sidewalks are what has occupied much of my time in recent months. (3) Continuing to increase the amount and kinds of affordable housing in Chapel Hill: my efforts have focussed especially on supporting the donation of town owned land -- community-owned! -- for AH projects, and I'm very prodn to have done that, and plan to continue supporting it. I also strongly support moving cash towards our many meritorious non-profit AH providers. Affordability in housing applies only to the end user -- for all others, the costs are market-rate. (5) To continue to offer the expertise on environmental issues important to CH and to the region that I've developed over four decades as an environmental profile -- expertise that is constantly increased by what I learn from constituents of all ages and backgrounds.

I am very excited to run for Chapel Hill Town Council 2017! I look forward to working with everyone to have a more inclusive, prosperous, and beautiful Chapel Hill, built on our strengths and values!

I have been a resident of Chapel Hill for 22 years. I am married with two lovely daughters, one a graduate and the other a current student at East Chapel Hill High, and we LOVE Chapel Hill! It is a community that has given so much to us and I am eager to give back to my adopted home. I ask you to give me the opportunity to serve.

I will bring a new voice, an open-minded spirit and analytical skills to town's policymaking and reach out to ALL communities in shaping our shared future. If you share my vision for a more inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable Chapel Hill, I invite you to join my campaign and I ask for your vote on November 7.

Please feel free to explore around the website to learn more about my platform and me. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and join us by signing up as a supporter, a volunteer or make a campaign donation!

Let’s make our community better and stronger, together!

Hi everyone!  Thanks OP for hosting & thanks Chris for moderating.  My name is Rachel Schaevitz.  I'm a mom, I teach film at UNC, and I am ready to serve our town as a member of Town Council.  I bring a spirit of collaboration, creativity and practical problem-solving to every challenge I face, and would bring that with me to Town Council. 

My top four priorities are: 

 Making Chapel Hill more affordable for residents of all income levels, including housing, but also transit and shopping options

Championing local businesses and new ventures, which in turn will help diversify our tax base

Advocating for equity, inclusion and diversity in large and small ways, 

and turning Chapel Hill into a leader in energy-efficient development and renewable energy use.

The majority of Chapel Hill residents are 30 years old or younger. Do you believe this largest segment of our town's population is adequately represented in current decision making processes? If not, what would you do to change that? 

The median voting age in Chapel Hill is 56. The voting rate among 30 and younger is below 10%. However, many decisions made by town council directly impact the lives of young people. We need to do more to outreach the voters in this age range. We need to hold forums, voter registration sessions on UNC campus and reaching out to high school seniors. We should expand the use of social media, facebook, twitter to broadcast what issues the town is working on and what the impact will be to impact people's lives. We should use the town venues that frequented by youth and hold town hall meetings there. 

I

We are doing better than we were 4 years ago. With fewer advisory boards and more streamlined review processes, we have been able to engage UNC students better. However, we have A LONG WAY TO GO. Young people--much like busy young parents, or immigrants working two or three jobs-- need to know that they are not wasting their time, If they are asked to attend endless meetings which have little impact on the final decision, they will not stick around for long. We need to create opportunities for participation in specific projects and for limitted time. Not everyone can serve on an Advisory Board! Better integration of technology and taking some of our meetings "on the road," to schools and to the UNC campus would also help.

The majority of Chapel Hill residents are 30 years old or younger. Do you believe this largest segment of our town's population is adequately represented in current decision making processes? If not, what would you do to change that? 

I think we can do a better job of involving more young people in our decision-making processes. I maintain strong connections with high schools, undergraduates and with graduate student organizations. I will use those connections to regularly inform organizations like UNC Student Government and student newspapers like the East Chapel Hill High School Observer on the kinds of issues the Town is facing. I will be proactive in asking students about their issues of concern. I will invite students to share those with Town Council during Public Comment. And I will encourage students to look at our list of town commissions and advisory boards. I have had the experience of serving on the town-appointed Grievance Hearing Board and being involved in our town for years. I will eagerly lend advice to people my age and younger on how to apply to boards and then to effectively participate on this level. In short, I will leverage my longstanding connections with young people to proactively engage them with our decision-making processes. We need their input not just because they consist such a large part of our population. But we also need to make sure they're armed with the skills of effective self-advocacy and participation going forward into our 2018 elections and beyond.

Great question!  And of course, no, I do not believe this segment of our town's population is well represented in our current decision making.   I teach undergrads every day, and if we want to engage folks under 30 - we really need to meet them where they are -- which is online.   Two concrete things we can do to better reach them is to overhaul the Town's website and refresh our presence on social media.  Our town's website is dense, filled with jargon, and very difficult to navigate.  I am not advocating that we restrict access to minutes, agendas, or documents -- transparency is critical -- but I do think we can offer a "layman's" approach to local government that presents information in a user-friendly way.

Also, high school and college students are always in pursuit of experience for their resumes and applications.  Mentorships and internships with town boards, committes, and nonprofits will link young people in with our community in meaningful ways and help them become invested much earlier.

Based on who shows up to speak at Council meetings on the full range of issues, yes, there is *adequate* representation in current decision making processes for residents under 30.  Persistence helps!  What I love seeing is when folks keep coming back with new ideas and information on vitally important issues. The best example for me is the Community Empowerment Fund's efforts this year to seek affordable housing funding -- using both musical and factual approaches to the max. The Council could not possibly dismiss their case because it pushed all the buttons and was intellectually flawless. What it took was showing up more than once and making a solid case. It doesn't matter at all that they were way younger than I -- they were obviously right and could not be refused. 

No.  This segment of our community is not adequately represented in the decision-making process.

There are a number of steps we need to take:

  • We need to go a better job of reaching out to the young people in our community.  We need to start meeting young people where they are.
  • There is a tendency in Chapel Hill to love our young people until they move from high school to college.
  • The young people in our community are already leading on important issues like trans rights, Silent Sam, Black Lives Matter and other issues.  I have seen them there when I’ve joined them in important protests and in speaking out on these issues.   We need to follow this leadership and invite them to then participate at a local level because this is the place we can make the most direct impact on the quality of individual lives.
  • We should also recognize and celebrate how many great non-profits in this town were started by undergraduates such as the Community Empowerment Fund and continue to rely on and recognize their energy and expertise.
  • We need to go where young people are: they are online, they on Franklin street, they are on campus, and in our neighborhoods.
  • We need to make sure the youth positions on our boards are filled – in the past there have been wonderful energetic members on these boards who have lead the town on important issues.
  • We need to hear from our young professionals about what a livable town looks like to them.

Great answers, Karen. I hope to support you when you get elected. Young people are leading in all kinds of ways--we just don't give them enough credit or space!   

One note before we get to our next question: candidates, please answer each individual question by clicking reply. That will make it easier for those joining us to follow along. 

What is your position on Silent Sam? Do you think it should be removed from the campus? Why or why not? If so, how would you pursue that end?

Silent Sam needs a new venue. A true memorial to the Civil War should present the public with the horrors of slavery, the brutality of the war itself, and the long struggle towards equality that has not been won yet.  Silent Sam, presented not as a hero of a noble cause, but as a the symbol of later generations of white supremacists can take his place in such a venue.  As he stands today, Silent Sam is a reminder to all who fight for equality that we need to be afraid. It is a reminder that men with guns will enforce white supremacy in our streets, our universities and our courts. 

Q. What is your position on Silent Sam? Do you think it should be removed from the campus? Why or why not? If so, how would you pursue that end?  

A. Yes, it should be removed. Having said that, my four terms of Council experience tell me that there are limits all over the place to the influence that the Town Council has over what UNC-CH does or doesn't do. So the Council's opinion can have limited effect on the University's decisionmakers. The statue is the last thing I would suggest a friend visiting CH go out of his or her way to go visit, because what it represents is so far from what I believe our community stands for and represents to the rest of the state, nation and world. I wish that UNC's leadership would find a way soon to get it out of our lives, but, again, my experience tells me that they don't have to comply with the Council's wishes on such matters.  It would be appropriate to put it elsewhere than Chapel Hill if that's what the university concluded, but I don't know where that would be. 

I believe that we should turn the Silen Sam into a learning opportunity for the community. We should build supporting art pieces and outdoor museum with context information for  people to understand when the statue was built, and why. The symbolic meaning of the statue to people around different communities and the country. Most importantly, we need to have a reflection space, a reflection wall for people to post their thoughts, emotions and ideas how to move us from the historic dark era and to build a more inclusive community and promote equity together

Silent Sam has to be removed.

The reason it was erected is in complete opposition to the values of our community. We need to be very clear as a community about our position and we need to provide support to the University and to the Governor, and other political allies to find a timely way to remove it from its central position.  But we must keep in mind that the mere removal of a statue is not going to remove the reality of racial injustice that the university and our town were built on.  The local government has a responsibility to provide leadership on the crucial conversation of how to document and acknowledge this history and start to redress the imbalances that are still in place.

I believe the Town should be willing to participate in litigation and other advocacy efforts to secure Silent Sam’s removal.

I strongly support any opportunity we have to erect an educational contextual counterpart on our property .

 

My family on my mother's side is from Richmond, Virginia, the former seat of the Confederacy. Monuments and statues dedicated to Confederate generals and soldiers populate the city, especially Monument Avenue. The twisted irony is that for many years, Richmond has been a predominantly African American city.

We should not forget the context in which these statues were constructed. So the first thing I think about is history, and the need to contextualize Silent Sam. My position on Town Council would be to invite more critical discussions about Silent Sam, because we cannot forget that history. I certainly don't think the statue should be up given the context it was constructed. It was constructed during the Jim Crow era in response to the reclaiming of government from African Americans. I appreciated the Mayor’s letter. It recognized the limitations that the town has with respect to Silent Sam, since it is on University property. I think it would be wholly appropriate for the University to remove it.

One needs only to read the dedication speech made by Julian Carr when the statue was first installed to get a very clear picture of why it was erected and what it was meant to do.  Therefore, it has no place on a university campus that aims to be a welcoming place for all students and faculty.  An argument for "protecting history" only serves to protect and advance a very specific, one-sided history, not the multi-faceted history of our campus and our town. The best way forward to getting it removed is to keep it at the forefront of our conversations.  To be the squeaky wheel.  To be comfortable making people uncomfortable.  To continue supporting our students who diligently protest at its base for its removal.  To engage people, civilly, as we did at CHPL recently, to grapple with what Confederate monuments mean for them, and for others in our community.  At the event at CHPL, a veteran of our US armed forces made a public comment that he had passed by Confederate statues many times and always viewed them as symbols of patriotism.  But after hearing the powerful, emotional statements made by others in the room, for whom the statue was a symbol of hate, fear, and violence -- he was looking at it differently.  These shifts are possible and they are critical.  We cannot bulldoze folks into changing their minds.  But we can change minds.  And we should never stop trying. 

 

 

This past spring, the Council voted to endorse the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project.  If you had been on the Council how would you have voted and why? If you were on the council at the time, how did you vote and why?

I’m a strong supporter of public transit. It has tremendous economic and environmental advantages when planned out well. That's why I take buses whenever possible around the town. However, I also believe in good stewards of taxpayers’ money to make sure that our investments meet their stated goals. 

 

I would NOT vote for the DOLR as it is now proposed for the following reasons:

  1. It has very limited coverage, connecting mainly only UNC and Duke Hospitals and NC Central University, while leaving out key points of interest in the region. With only 4 of the 18 stations inside Orange County, it leaves the majority of Chapel Hill and Orange County uncovered. The rail doesn’t go to CH downtown, DPAC, let alone Raleigh, RTP or RDU airport. 
  2. Counting inflation and interests, the light rail system will cost a total of $3.3 billion. The federal government has not committed its 50% share of the cost, while the state has reduced its share from 30% to 10%. The financial burden for the Chapel Hill and Orange County is too high.
  3. We are facing significant technology breakthroughs in the next 20-30 years. According to the Census Bureau, nationwide car and public bus use has been on a steady decline due to increased internet and wireless connectivity, allowing for people to work and connect remotely. In addition, all major automotive companies have announced their launch date for automated cars to be 2020. The construction of DOLR will barely be breaking ground by that time, and by completion, light  rail technology may have become obsolete.

Yes.  I would have joined the majority on the Council and voted yes in support of the light rail project.

My position has been consistent on this issue and I will therefore share with you my response to this question from the Independent Weekly:

A fixed-guideway transportation system such as the light rail corridor is one of the best tools we have to guide growth along a predetermined corridor, rather than sprawling out unplanned into our cherished green spaces.  The rail line will provide an important link with our sister city of Durham, connecting our universities, hospitals and businesses, as well as connecting with the expanding system in Wake County so that our larger community can thrive in a way that is strategic and well-planned.

The stations along the light rail line will provide important development opportunities for our Town.  I envision rich pockets of dense vibrant development where our Town’s residents can work, shop, live, dine, recreate and enjoy art all without the use of an automobile - a future that will allow our local businesses to thrive and help Chapel Hill residents live healthier, more sustainable lifestyles. These aims must be coupled with our commitment to affordable housing. As the value of land along the corridor begins to rise, we must ensure that there are solid policies in place to ensure that the project can provide benefits to everyone in our community.

The Town Council’s role is to plan for the land use surrounding the Town’s portion of the Durham-Orange Light Rail (DOLRT). The challenge will be to maximize the opportunities it presents for economic development, connectivity with other modes of transit, and affordable housing. The Council must be forward-looking as it explores zoning, incentive, and subsidy options for creating station area stops that include a full range of housing options. The Town is already working with the County and GoTriangle to consider options for a new zoning plan for the area around the Gateway station that will be located near US 15-501- and I-40 to optimize opportunities for light industrial and mixed use development. This will be an important effort for the Council to study and evaluate moving forward.

While the project is an ambitious one, half the cost will be shouldered by the federal government, with the remaining share taken up primarily by the State of North Carolina and Durham.  Orange County’s share will be paid out of the transit sales tax, which passed by referendum with overwhelming support in 2012. I am also committed to ensuring that the planned Bus Rapid Transit corridor along MLK becomes a reality as soon as possible.  I look forward to working with partners at the local, state and federal level to secure sufficient funding to move the project forward. 

Finally, while it is true that President Trump has voiced his intent to de-fund a whole host of public transit infrastructure, so far the Republican-led Congress has flatly rejected his plans and continued the same level of support for public transportation present during the Obama Administration.  North Carolina's Congressional delegation on both sides of the political aisle remain supportive of the project, and Trump’s Federal Transit Authority recently approved the DOLRT to enter into the engineering phase.  As with almost all topics, it is unpredictable what the Trump Administration might seek to do in any given week.  In the meantime, however, we must move forward to plan for the light rail line and make sure we maximize the opportunities it offers for our Town.

The federal government has NOT committed to shoulder the 50% of the light rail cost, and in the letter from Department of Transportation Authority, it stated explicitly that there is NO money from the new government's budget proposal to support new light rail proposal as DOLR. We are proceeding at our own risk.

I am committed to Light Rail and to transit-oriented development. I have been advocating for an integrated mass transit system since long before I was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council. We cannot continue to add to the commuter count, not only have we run out of room to park more cars, but the pollution and congestion they create is impacting our quality of life. Light Rail will free significant numbers of busses to better serve the community, and will expand the types of jobs available to many of our poorest and most vulnerable residents.  The development of transit-oriented affordable housing and market-rate housing in the station areas will bring good jobs and commerce to Chapel Hill and help us address some of the big issues we are grappling with.  

I strongly believe the investment in Light Rail we make in the next 10 years will be our biggest legacy to Chapel Hill. 

With a price tag of about $3.3 billion dollars, there have been serious questions about the funding mechanism. Over a billion dollars is estimated to come from local resources, including a voter approved half-cent transit sales tax, vehicle registration fees, and private donations. Meanwhile, there have been doubts about whether the Trump administration will sustain a commitment to help offset project funding. The final resolution in May did involve a decrease in Orange County’s share of construction costs from about 23 percent to 16.5 percent, and it included checkpoints triggering review when costs increase or revenue drops past certain levels.

I appreciate the stated goals for reducing carbon emissions and congestion on our roads, especially between Chapel Hill and Durham. I also appreciate the goal to connect employees to a few of the area’s largest employers—UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Hospitals and Duke University. I also welcome Councilwoman Sally Greene’s stated desire to see affordable housing develop along any light rail line.

We must now focus on how to make this project successful and work for everyone. For example, Charlotte has struggled to locate affordable and subsidized housing close to its light rail lines, in part due to the resistance of property owners who do not want to see such developments near their own homes. If we are to be intentional about creating affordable housing options near the rail line, and we need to be, the Town must work closely with any property owners along a proposed route.

People who rely on transit are often from marginalized demographic groups. For example, in 2016 over half of GoTriangle’s ridership was African American, Asian American, Hispanic or Native American, and 57 percent of riders earned $50,000 or less annually. Ridership between Orange and Durham counties will certainly consist of many students and University employees, but we need to thoughtfully plan stops that also serve those who are elderly, poor and have disabilities that may keep them from driving.

The Durham-Orange Light Rail line project offers the potential to be a crown jewel of our region if we carefully plan rail lines and stops, encourage density along the lines, and invite and collaborate with affected property owners.

In theory, the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit (DOLRT) project is an exciting and attractive concept. As a community, we are in clear need of a mass transit option that serves more than just our student population. In addition, the opportunity to obtain funding from the federal government that greatly offsets the cost of the project makes the prospect of DOLRT all the more enticing.  However, had I been on Council, I would not have voted in favor of THIS version of the DOLRT plan because I do not think it will ultimately be worth the community’s investment. Here’s why:

●      Current stops and routing are inadequate. Because the current plan does not include Raleigh, RDU, RTP and many of the other destinations for our community, I do not think the light rail will be incentive enough to actually get folks out of their cars. 

●      The emergence of more nimble and less expensive alternatives. As recently as five years ago, transit-oriented development was very trendy. However, advancements in autonomous car technology (aka self-driving vehicles) and the emergence of bus rapid transit (BRT) have turned the tide.  These more flexible—and far less expensive—modes of transportation don’t require the significant infrastructure and maintenance costs associated with rail lines and stations. In fact, experts are now predicting that the need for light rail transit will evaporate within 20 years—far before our town’s debt on the project will be paid off.

●      Direct conflict with other town priorities. Another reason light rail used to be a popular method of mass transit was that developers viewed the areas around the station hubs as commercial “hot spots.” While this may be true, we can also expect the value of the land around the stations will appreciate to such a degree that our chances of building affordable housing units on that land will disappear.  If affordable housing is not close in proximity to the stations, light rail will be harder to access for those who could potentially benefit from this type of mass transit system the most.

While I believe the current light rail plan falls short of what I'd like to see, I intend to work hard to make it the best system possible—which means generating as much economic benefit as we can from the few stations in Chapel Hill that don’t fall on UNC’s property, strongly encouraging ridership, and advocating for as much affordable development near stations as possible. 

Q. This past spring, the Council voted to endorse the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project.  If you had been on the Council how would you have voted and why? If you were on the council at the time, how did you vote and why?

A. Actually, Council majorities have voted for a number of years to endorse the DOLRT, and I've voted in that majority every time.  These are endorsements that I've taken to the GoTriangle Board of Trustees and to the Metro Planning Organization (the regional transportation policy body for the Western Triangle). I represent CH on the GoTriangle Board, and I represent GoTriangle on the MPO Board.   Unless our largest employers -- UNC and UNC Health Care -- stop growing, the planned LRT is an essential component of CH's approach to moving people around. Those two together are by far the largest employers in Orange County, and are responsible for much if not most of the auto and bus traffic on major and minor roads. Historically, over the past 15 years of fare-free transit (for which UNC is the major funder) bus transit has reduced this traffic. CH Transit director Brian Litchfield, staff to the Public Transit Partners Committee of which I'm chair, is now saying regularly -- "the buses are maxed out."  Almost 90 buses an hour cross the campus boundary in the morning and evening "peak hours."  Even our largest buses can carry barely 1/4 as many as a two-car train. And all of these depend on existing highways with little prospect for widening without devestating side effects. The large cost of the LRT is due above all that it literally moves away and *above* the highway system, being bridged for many miles in CH and in Durham, but leaving the highway to maintain its own capacity. As someone who began studying the alleged alternative to LRT, Bus Rapid Transit, in 1999 (as a paid consultant to a corridor landowner), I can't see BRT matching the ability of LRT to move a large number of people into a small intensely developed area (the UNC campus station areas) in a very short time.  To construct a similar route for BRT would cost at least 70 percent as much; operating it would cost even more than LRT, because *public* transit vehicles can never be unstaffed, even if they end up being autonomous transport -- the public needs caring for, not just transport, and we try to run caring transit systems. 

Right now, the LRT project is in the hands of the Federal Transit Administration, which gave it a rare approval to move into the Engineering process. Along with other GoTriangle board members, I am carefully and critically monitoring our own regional agency's work on this, and demanding great care in expending funds.  Because I chair our CH Public Transit Partners Committee, I'm deeply involved in the CH BRT project, which is an earlier stage, and has received much less endorsement so far from NCDOT, because, frankly, BRT simply can't do nearly as much as LRT.

In 2015, the Chapel Hill Police Department announced a program to reward good behavior, for example, safe pedestrian, bicyclist and driving conduct, by giving "tickets" in the form of coupons for local businesses. After negative public feedback, the CHPD postponed the plan stating they would potentially re-visit it in the future. Would you support CHPD moving forward with this "good ticket" program in the future? Why or why not?

Our CHPD is involved in so many initiatives that I'm not sure I'd recommend that we add any more responsibilities such as monitoring and rewarding "good" behavior.  While I support trying new programs that reinforces good behaviour, it is hard to imagine that being stopped by the police would be welcomed by our citizens, even if they get a pat on the back. There are very good reasons why we scrapped the plan. 

No.  While I appreciate the intent of this program and the idea that government can nudge people to engage in positive behaviors, this is not a good role for the police, in my opinion.  Inherently there is a power imbalance between armed uniformed police officers and the residents of our community and any encounter on the street may be inherently stressful for some resident of our community.  As a council member I will support ways to improve this relationship- I support community policing and I was fortunate to witness a number of positive police interactions when I worked in our public housing communities - for instance playing sports and otherwise engaging in trust building activities.      

Thanks for mentioning some of the ways our CHPD is trying to build community. This year we also have the most diverse class of recruits that we've ever had!

This is a novel idea. In many parts of the country, the relationship between communities and police has been rife with tension and antagonism. I think CHPD is right to seek ways to ameliorate any tensions. Older residents in the Northside neighborhood have told me about the times they grew up in where police officers lived among them and would play basketball and do other recreational activities with the youth. It was important for youth to see the police then not just as authority figures but also people. 

I would want to engage more with CHPD about what their thinking is behind "good tickets." Other municipalities have had police forces give such tickets. One of my questions would be whether this kind of activity might unnecessarily delay folks from getting to where they need to be. I would also want to know what kind of criteria an officer would use to stop someone to give them a good ticket. What kind of standards would they use? Would the decision to give a good ticket be largely subjective? Could a search follow the stop or issuance of such a ticket? I want to find out more before I say whether I would or would not support such a program.

I'm not aware of this. But this sounds silly to me. As a psychologist, I know the key in modifying behavior is consistency in feedback. I don't know how the policemen will have the capacity to reward good behavior in a consistent way. If not, it only sets wrong expectations to people about safe driving/walking/biking.

Enforcing safe driving/walking/biking behavior is a life/death issue and the law-enforcement agency should focus on what they are committed to do, enforcing laws in a consistent way and ensuring road safety for all travelers.

While I'm sure this plan was well-intended,  I think the potential "negatives" of this plan outweigh the potential "postiives." Other local police departments have initiated similar "feel-good" plans, such as pulling folks over and giving them popsicles on a hot summer day.  Unfortunately, these ideas fail to consider that for many in our community, being stopped by the police, for any reason, would be a stressful or even frightening situation.  And though it may seem, in theory, that giving a "good ticket" or a popsicle would mitigate the fear or stress -- I'm afraid that is misguided logic.  The police would still be using their authority to stop someone.  There are still power dynamics at play.  To improve community-police relations, we have to create opportunities for folks to engage with police officers on their terms and on their turf.  I enjoy seeing the Coffee with a Cop opportunities in University Place, where community members can interact with police officers as they choose, in a comfortable, neutral zone, and begin to build that relationship of mutual respect that is so very necessary in our world today. 

Chapel Hill has a police chief and police officers who tend to be more sensitive to community issues than some of the larger police departments in the area. The program got a negative response because it didn't appear to be a good use of either the police department's or public's time.  CHPD tends to prioritize well, and this is not a priority. I don't expect it ever to be carried out again.  The department's priority right now is "community safety" -- which is now in the job title of the police chief. They are teaming well with other departments in implementing useful approaches, and that's where their energy should go.  As someone who has driven a bicycle around CH for years, and who stays in touch with our "bike and ped action team" about on the ground issues, I did not support the "Good Ticket" approach, and heard from cyclists who did not as well.

What roll will infill play in Chapel Hill's housing strategy? Do you support the addition of duplexes and/or accessory dwelling units in existing neighborhoods? If so, how would you encourage their construction?

I proposed, lobbied Council, and voted to approve ancillary apartments throughout town. I believe this will create many affordable units without cost to the taxpayers, provide a source of income to folks struggling with high property taxes, and create infill that will prevent sprawl and support more public transit.

As we revise the LUMO, we can make it easier for folks in all areas of town to redevelop with more density. Some properties could accommodate duplexes, or even six-unit age-in-place homes for empty-nesters. We need to be more creative and flexible to encourage infill... and to help those who want to stay in Chapel Hill and can't afford to maintain big homes or move into Carol Woods. 

Creating viable affordable housing options is going to require a combination of methods. I will look to create incentives for repurposing existing property as affordable rental housing. I will also look into using our limited surplus government properties to help increase our housing stock. I also support the renovation of town-owned public housing units that are in disrepair, once the Public Housing Master Plan is finalized. 

Additionally, I support the Town’s facilitation of the construction of tiny homes through its funding and partnership with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. In the past year, the Town has provided funding to community partners such as Church of the Advocate, to build affordable tiny homes. Two other partners, Habitat for Humanity and Self Helping are constructing, a tiny home, a duplex, in Northside. 

Yes.  This needs to be a focus of future to revisions to our Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO).  It is the best reflection of our commitment to our rural buffer and the Town’s commitment to prevent sprawl.  The LUMO needs to provide us guidance on how infill should take place in a way that provides clarity, that respects the character of our existing neighborhoods and our environment, and that also provides a way for us to accommodate our expected growth and to increase the vibrancy of our community.   

This is especially important when we talk about affordable housing. Duplexes, triplexes, and other multi-family land uses are an important part of realizing our affordable housing goals.  To the extent that this approach  is not already part of our Town’s affordable housing strategy I want to make sure that it is moving forward.

I think creative infill is a great option for adding more moderately-priced and affordable housing options in Chapel Hill in a way that does not require major development and does not require sprawling into the rural buffer.  ADU's are also an ideal way for empty-nesters and retirees to stay in their home and supplement a fixed income by renting out a portion of their home.  Another positive outcome from adding infill is that it diversifies neighborhoods.  The process needs to be streamlined to make it easier for folks to add these extra apartments, and we also need to streamline the inspections process.  Tiny houses are also an excellent example of creative infill that can add affordable housing options, as Habitat for Humanity is currently initiating.

I actually think this is a creative idea worth pursuing. I can see that 1) it could add new housing units to existing units at a much lower cost. This could help to release pressures for affordable housing. 2) The duplexes/accessory dwelling may provide mutual support to young people for affordable housing and seniors for safety and daily assistance. If done properly, it could be a win-win solution.

However, I do see the safe and legal challenges that this may present. There will be additional challenges to town services, parking, schooling etc. We will need input from different neighborhoods on this as well. HOA should play a role in deciding whether to allow this in their own neighborhood. 

I am the only candidate in this race who was in place to consider and vote for the Chapel Hill Affordable Housing Plan adopted in June 2011.  The first of three goal statements in this plan is: Support solutions and programs that offer affordable housing options along the entire continuum of housing need;  the strategy (among 8 we adopted) to implement this is: Support the reuse and redevelopment of property that can be developed into affordable housing. 

Some are under the mistaken impression that "addition of duplexes and/or accessory dwelling units in existing neighborhoods" hasn't been legal in CH. There are hundreds of legally constructed duplexes and accessory dwellings in existing neighborhoods.  Modifying what was allowed for accessory dwellings was an issue in my first months on Council in 2002; I was very supportive, but not of ADs larger than the 1500 square feet where my wife Pat and I live -- some demanded that. We regulate duplexes more carefully than anywhere in the state -- something of which I'm aware from my experience as a longtime member of the NC League of Municipalities' Planning and Environment Committee. That's because we have more pressure and more requests to build them. 

The "rewrite" of our Land Use Management Ordinance has just started, and I believe the LUMO needs to be "remade," not just rewritten. Infill is now the major option for any scale of development in CH, because we share a Rural Buffer law with Orange Co. and Carrboro that limits our expansion of urban land use. Figuring out how to make infill *desirable* to existing neighborhoods, not just do-able, needs to be a priority for this process, and I intend to make it one.

Chapel Hill's trailer and mobile home parks provide a significant amount of affordable housing. Because of their location along major thoroughfares, many of these communities are likely to become candidates for redevelopment. What can the Town do to respond to this challenge and maintain an important stock of affordable housing? 

I know that this is a serious problem for the mobile home parks located in the Weaver Dairy/ MLK area.  I am glad that the Town, in cooperation with the County, has already taken a proactive position in engaging the residents of these communities and begun to take steps to understand their needs.

Should any redevelopment occur on a mobile home park, the equivalent amount of affordable housing should be required of the developer – preferably on site.    

I realize some of our trailer parks provide affordable housing in convenient locations, and some are even well-maintained. Some of our trailer parks, however, are a disgrace.  If affordability comes at the cost of having a decent place to live, then we are failing our residents.  I have visited families in our trailer parks that had trailers with holes, but they could not move or complain because the owners' response was "feel free to leave." A couple of years back, friends from United Church paid for a family to get the trailer they were renting patched before Christmas--there was a whole on the side wall and the family could not heat the living room above about 50 degrees! 

Perhaps with some creative partners, (such as Self-Help Credit Union, Community Home Trust and UNC?), we can help the families who live in mobile-home parks buy the land and create affordable housing.  This is one HUGE challenge that needs a creative solution. 

The land value that current trailer and mobile homes sit on is becoming increasingly attractive for possible redevelopment. Meanwhile, these homes are one of the few areas for affordable housing. We need to engage with our neighbors who reside in these parks, and we have to engage in a way that is sensitive to their concerns. Some of the residents in these parks are Latinx and some are immigrants with legitimate fears for their well-being and for their safety.

In short, we need to involve residents in these parks. Though developers have been acquiring such properties, we need to seek the input of the residents who remain and then, act from there, either by an ordinance guaranteeing or incentivizing that land for affordable housing (housing available to households making 60-80% of the area median income) or by another method.

Luckily for Chapel Hill, our phenomenal nonprofits such as EmPOWERment and Habitat for Humanity have seen this writing on the wall and are already organizing.  Through other nonprofits who already have boots on the ground in these neighborhoods, our affordable housing advocates are working with many of these families to learn more about their situations, and begin developing a plan to stand up for them.  Charlottesville, VA is an exemplar of what a community can do to stand up for its residents.  The Habitat branch there was able to buy a mobile home park, before developers did, and work together with the community, the city, and many other collaborators to ensure that not one of those families were displaced as they rehabbed and redeveloped portions of the property.  They did this by ensuring that the residents were empowered to be leaders in the redevelopment process.  If Chapel Hill is committed to affordable housing, here is our chance to prove it with action and work with our own Habitat for Humanity, and our own neighbors, to make sure they are not displaced.

I visited these trailers and found most of them are in dire situation. Affordable housing should be safe, decent housing for it residents, especially children. I believe the town should have a comprehensive affordable housing plan to incorporate affordable housing in a mixed-use community, with easily accessible schools, marketplaces, and public transit systems and biking/pedestrian paths. The goal must not be ANY affordable housing, but affordable housing in a connected and healthy community.

I would restate this to say that the mobile home parks in CH -- which are just about entirely on one part of one major thoroughfare, the northern part of MLK Jr Boulevard -- provide a significant percentage of the affordable housing currently available in CH.  Council members have known for years that those tracts are candidates for redevelopment. There's no "likely" about it. Given that they are entirely on private land, usually owned by companies outside CH, and can be appraised by Orange County at values higher than what's there now, it would be a huge challenge for the town to buy the land. But if landowners come in for a change of use, they need a rezoning. At that point the Council can extract *at least* the 15 percent affordable percentage of the total number of dwelling proposed - IF the applicant is proposing residential. Because of our Concept Plan process, applicants who bring in an initial approach of non-residential use replacing these affordable mobile homes, a clearly-thinking Council can respond negatively as a body, and conceivably force a change in approach. Other than that, my four terms of experience tell me that we have a hard time preventing the loss of this AH from these tract themselves.  But we can see other visions -- in particular bringing in the same partners with whom we've been working in Northside and Pine Knolls (Self-Help, of which I'm a 26-year member, Habitat, CASA, Empowerment, possibly Community Home Trust) to see if there are ways to leverage funding to buy the land. I support this approach before we have to confront the coming requests to change the land use. 

As a member of the Town Council, what kind of development will you seek in the Gateway Station area?

I'm excited about bringing mixed development to the Gateway station. I think our consultants (paid for by a federal grant!!) helped us envision a walkable community where residents can work, live and play and be connected to the rest of Chapel Hill via transit.  Gateway gives us the opportunity to attract a major technology company/knowledge-economy business that will create good jobs for our UNC grads and home-grown millenials who want to stay in the area and value a more urban environment. Gateway is also an ideal location for integrated affordable housing that allows residents to save on transportation costs.

Gateway Station remains an underdeveloped part of Chapel Hill, and it has been discussed as a possible site for one of the stations for the proposed light rail line. I would love to see more affordable housing and more opportunities to expand our tax base via retail or office space. But first, we need to seek the input of the public. Whether we decide to build a station or not, we need to think about possible uses for that area as a neighborhood, as a green space, as a commercial area or as some combination of each. The public will be a key factor here in determining how this space will be used.

 

Given it is on the site of proposed light rail station, I believe we should take advantage of the location to make it easy for everyone to get from home to work, shopping or entertainment without a car. It should include affordable housing in a mixed-use complex. We should make it into a transportation hub that link with existing public transit systems. 

 

But we do need to attend to the fact that the area is flood-prone and how to manage the stormwater runoff will be  one of my major concerns. We need incorporate green spaces, roof gardens, public park and gathering places  in our consideration as well. 

Development of Gateway Station at 15-501 and I-40 should include affordable housing options mixed with market-rate residential and commercial space.  If there is not affordable housing within walking distance of the stations, then I will have real concerns about who this light rail will actually serve.  I will always advocate for mixed-income development as I believe that affordable housing should not be lumped together in the same areas or buildings of town, but integrated throughout our community.  It will also be a good opportunity for businesses in those commercial spaces to benefit from the foot traffic that a train station should attract.  First and foremost, whatever we build there should have biking and pedestrian connectivity be foregrounded.  We want to make it extremely easy for folks to get to this station without a car -- and so connectivity will be absolutely critical. 

The Gateway Station is one of the most exciting opportunities the Town has, not only to create a fabulous entryway to the Town but to put our values right up front.  We have the opportunity to create a vibrant, dense, transit-oriented , mixed-use development that would be the first of its kind in our region.  This station will be half way between Duke and UNC and provides a wonderful opportunity to draw more people to our Town.

I was thrilled to attend Go Triangle’s meeting on the Gateway Station last week and I applaud the work of Go Triangle’s Transit Oriented Development initiative in helping create a bold vision for this station. I fully support the decision to move the station closer to Chapel Hill towards the old Blue Cross Blue Shield building. The expansion of the walk zone into our County and Town offers substantial opportunity to expand our tax base with important economic development opportunities and create quality jobs.

The Council has a key role in ensuring that affordable housing plays a key role in this new development. We don’t yet have a transit-oriented development zone in our LUMO.  On the Council I will make sure that this is included and require significant affordable housing at a level above that required in other zones.    

I have lived within a mile of the Gateway Station area for my entire time as a CH resident, now over 27 years. Development plans for Gateway date back longer than that, and using it as a station for *high-capacity transit* date back over 20 years. (I can show you the maps!)  So, it's *neighborhood* to us in eastern CH, and we'd like to maximize its value to this neighborhood as well as to the community at large. The station area boundaries are considered to take in the entire State Employees Credit Union (formerly Blue Cross) property, so it now has major potential benefits to Orange as well as Durham Counties.  I've been part of the discussions which are very likely to result in moving the transit platform itself to the north and west, closer to the Orange County part of the property -- and closer to US 15-501, therefore reducing the neighborhood impact of auto access to the station. I have already been working to get residents over a wide area to get involved in planning the station area -- the most important station area by far in CH in terms of private, fully-taxable development. Because of my background as part of the planning team for the nearest Durham station area, Patterson Place, I've also been involved in coordinating transportation connections with the lead developer there, a longtime transit advocate. My hope is that the natural features of the Gateway station area can be converted into the backdrop of a substantial multi-use path (bike and ped) connecting all the way from the western end of the SECU tract to the station itself, so that access to the future mixed-use development on the property and to the transit itself can happen without road travel (Although my 23 years of work to get bike-ped facilities on adjoining Old Durham Road is finally paying off with construction).  Town staff are now involved in thinking about how to create a partnership for building affordable housing immediately next to the station itself, which confirms my belief that transit stations do not have to result in exclusively luxury housing.  I look forward to continuing this discussion with all interested parties, especially whoever asked the question -- I mean it!

In 2015, then Governor McCrory signed legislation outlawing "sanctuary cities." What steps, if any, would you propose to take to support undocumented members of our community?

I am the child of an immigrant. My father is from Ghana, and he came to the United States because of the promise of bettering himself and his family. I am committed continuing to maintain our schools and other public arenas in Chapel Hill as supportive spaces for undocumented immigrants. 

I would support CHPD and the Orange County Sheriff's office in their stance that it will not set up check points to check for individuals' driver's licenses. I would also continue to support CHPD working with local organizations like El Centro Hispano to have services for undocumented immigrants. 

I'm proud of what the Chapel Hill Town Council has done to support undocumented members of the community and want to say THANK YOU to all the other elected boards in Orange County, as well as the CHPD, Carrboro PD and the Orange Co. Sheriff. They have all supported the Faith ID program, which allows folks to get an ID that is recognized in the County for the purpose of law enforcement. I have worked as a volunteer with this program, and hundreds of residents have been helped by our local government agencies recognizing this alternative form of ID. 

CH Town Council has also committed resources to the non-profits working with immigrants and refugees (as have other elected bodies) and we have directed our staff to help DACA receipients/ "Dreamers" who are in the process of renewing their papers. 

I believe we can do more. We can work with the county and UNC health care to provide health clinics in our schools to relieve some of the burden of families who are not eligible to even buy insurance.  We can provide more technical/vocational training opportunities to high school students and adults; we can push our schools and community colleges to offer more and better ESL classes; we can hire more bilingual town employees; we can continue to support the summer food program (thanks, Mayor Pam, for your leadership); we can support culturally inclusive celebrations and programs.  There is no end to what we can do. We just need to elect leaders with a heart that recognizes our common humanity. 

First, I would support the Town engaging in litigation to challenge Governor McCrory’s legislation.  This is one of many areas of overreach into local government control that has been pursued by our current legislature. 

I support many of the actions the Town has already taken, for example not engaging ICE unnecessarily when they are conducting their law enforcement activities.  I will not put our residents at risk and I will not encourage our residents to fear engagement with law enforcement.  I will continue to support any efforts along these lines.  Being true to our value on diversity requires that we create a community where everyone feels safe.  

The necessity of sanctuary cities is unfortunate. illegal immigrants live in the country without legal status and as a result, no legal protection. They are consistently being abused and paid below minimum wage with no social benefits or legal protection. Their unregulated, unprotected status also creates safety issues to the community. We need systematic immigration reform to ensure there is a lawful pathway for the immigrants to obtain their legal status. That's the long-term solution for the problem.

I'm the son of someone who came to the US as a student in 1939 just after World War II had started in Western Europe, who married my father soon after Pearl Harbor Day because she was in danger of being declared an "enemy alien" (France was occupied by Germany), and who made a life for 77 years in America. I still have her "green cards," which weren't called that in the 1940s.  I feel fortunate that America (mostly) welcomed her (although the first few hours were hard), and have great sympathy for anyone who comes here to seek opportunities and a new life.  CH was first a "sanctuary city" just after I moved here in 1990, and we would still be one if the Republican legislative majority hadn't taken it away from us and other inclusive localities in our state. I would support affected local governments banding together to seek a change in the law. I'm continually impressed by the graceful way in which CHPD has handled the challenges placed on it by this unjust law, and how our whole community has managed to be welcoming to people who may not have the status they have by their own personal choice. 

There are many things that we can do to support undocumented members of our community.  We have many strong advocacy groups on campus and in our community who have been actively doing the work of supporting immigrants and refugees for decades, and the Town can best serve the needs of our undocumented friends and neighbors, by partnering with and supporting, our existing nonprofits such as El Centro Hispano.  These groups have built the trusting, respectful relationship necessary to supporting folks concerned about deportation, and any initiatives undertaken by the Town needs to include these groups from the very nascent stages.  That being said, there is a lot that Chapel Hill can do to prove its commitment to being a sanctuary, a safe place, a welcoming place for all immigrants.  In volunteering with several local Syrian families I have learned that the things which make them feel most welcome are not the clothes drives or the English classes, though of course those help.  What truly makes someone feel home, is when my kids play with her kids.  When I sit beside her, and just enjoy the sounds of kids laughing at nonsense.  We can't speak each other's languages, but we don't really need to.  I am happy to have her here, I am happy to have our children play together.  This small act says: you are welcome here.  There are a thousand ways that our Town can help make that sentiment felt throughout our undocumented community, the key will be working with our nonprofits to help reach the people who need to feel this the most.  

 

What efforts have you taken to advance racial equity in your current job or position?

I have always felt a responsibility to do my part in working towards a society that treats each person fairly and justly. I am proud to be an attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. For the past 15+ years, the Center has been fighting/targeting institutional racism in North Carolina. Under the guidance of the Center's leadership, I advocate on behalf of predominantly African American, Latino and Native American communities across North Carolina that have been marginalized or excluded from basic services like water and sewer. 

Since I graduated high school at East Chapel Hill High, I have been working to help improve the academic outcomes of our students of color through mentorship and tutoring. I am also a proud member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP and until just a few months ago, served as its Legal Redress chair. In that role, we provided connections to attorneys for workers and tenants who suffered from racial discrimination. These are just a few of the ways that I have tried to advance racial equity in my current position. 

 

In my current job/position, we have put in extra efforts to outreach to underrepresented minorities to apply for graduate schools and faculty positions in the math, science, and research area. We go to college fairs and using social networks and alumni connections to make encourage minority students to consider the career path. We offer special scholarships to attract minority applicants to our institution. We have equity training every year to raise sensitive to conscious and unconscious discrimination among our workforce.  It is an ongoing effort and we are continuously working on it.  

I have fought for racial equality all my life.  From advocating for indigenous peoples in Peru as a teenager, to becoming one of the plaintiffs in the Voter ID case against Gov. McCrory in 2015.  I received the "Trailblazer Award" from Rev. Dr. William Barber at the NAACP Convention in 2014 for my role in Moral Mondays and in the Voter ID case. As a Latina leader in NC, I have joined in national actions, including protests and marches and visits to Washington DC, to demand justice for farmworkers and for other oppressed groups. 

I have just celebrated my first anniversary at a new job, as Family Support Coordinator for Carolina Donor Services.  I am a combination pastoral counselor/social worker who helps families make the decision to give the gift of life through organ donation and then helps them navigate the process. The way I fight for racial equality on this job is by demanding that all the families I work with are treated with the same respect and consideration, no matter where they come from, their race or creed, their ability to pay, or what hospital they happen to be at. It has been incredibly rewarding to see that when I have worked with Spanish-speaking families, medical professionals are eager to collaborate and thankful for the opportunity to serve their patients better by using me as a language and cultural interpreter. 

I've continually supported racial equity within town government, through the structures of our personnel ordinance -- greatly improved in the last two years in terms of grievance procedures, in particular, and in terms of compensation for employment. Unlike some past councilmembers, I supported the ability of the employees of the large department I know best, Transit, to unionize. The rights which union members seek to strengthen are almost always linked in some way to racial equity issues.  I've also been a consistent advocate for strengthening the stability for long-term residents of our historically African-American neighborhoods of Northside and Pine Knolls, in all the ways advocated for by the grassroots organizations there, with which I have close working relationships. 

In my current work with Intrahealth International I work daily to provide greater access to healthcare for underserved communities around the globe – which is an important global equity issue. On a smaller scale, just last week I was educating our leadership around the issues and challenges associated with post incarceration re-entry and obstacles to employment and advocating for a ban-the-box policy.  This issue is inextricably tied up with race in light of the overrepresentation of minorities in the criminal justice system and in prisons in the United States.

Much of my work at the local level in Chapel Hill has been focused on poverty issues.  Again, in light of the history of institutional racism in this Country minorities are disproportionately living in poverty. In my roles on the housing board, with PORCH, and my previous job working in as a program manager in Orange County public housing I have worked with low income communities to address issues of oppression sourced in the criminal justice system, and seek to enhance access to economic opportunity and address educational disparities.

I have two roles in my current professional life: postdoc with Carolina Public Humanities, and adjunct professor of film at UNC.  In both of these roles, I am consistently planning and teaching to promote equity.  Carolina Public Humanities plans 200+ public events for the College of Arts and Sciences.  This means helping the College bring its scholarship and research out across the town, the Triangle, and the state.  I work diligently to ensure that our topics reflect a broad range of racial, ethnic, and religious heritages and that we recruit and promote a diverse group of faculty speakers.  We worked very hard to co-organize the Confederate monuments event in collaboration with CHPL and were extremely proud of the compelling and articulate perspectives that our panelists brought to this conversation. Civil dialogue is all but extinct in our world today, and we try tirelessly to bring diverse people into conversation with each other, to challenge their assumptions, and to open their minds to new ideas.  Similarly, in my teaching, I challenge my students to consider representation, especially racial representation, in every single scene or shot they create.  Too often, mediamakers fall back on tired stereotypical representations that only serve to continue to reproduce stereotypical understandings of people.  It is my duty to help foster the next generation of filmmakers and image producers.  These are the young people who will shape how race is presented on the screen.  Therefore my job, of helping them check their assumptions at every stage, and consistently approach filmmaking with a critical awareness of racial represenation, is an important component of building a more equitable future. 

 

First, please post a closing remark touching again on why you are running for the Chapel Hill Town Council.

In addition, all candidates will have until 9:15 to edit, supplement, etc. any of their previous answers before the forum is locked.

And, finally, thanks so much to OrangePolitics for this opportunity to moderate and to each of the candidates for participating this evening. It's been wonderful and illimunating to hear from y'all!

Some folks have cast this election as a fight between those who love our Town’s Charm and want to protect nature and those who have sold their soul to developers and business interests. I think this is a FALSE dichotomy.  Without the Town’s charm, beautiful trees and parks, trails and old neighborhoods, nobody would want to live or work in Chapel Hill. But without redevelopment we won’t be able to bring new jobs or provide adequate and affordable housing, and we would soon become a retirement community for rich people.

An example of redevelopment and good stewardship of our “Chapel Hill Charm” is Obey Creek. We now have a beautiful 80-acre preserve, and will soon have amenities, affordable housing and a (hopefully) iconic bridge, as well as commercial development to contribute to our tax base.

I am proud of the decisions the Council has made in the last four years, including the approval of Obey Creek, the creation of the Blue Hill district, the development agreement for Fire Station II, funding youth empowerment programs, partnering with HDIC to develop affordable housing, developing and approving a Greenways Plan and a Bike Plan, and the Stormwater Masterplan, and many, many  more. 

Balancing social, environmental and economic priorities is the hallmark of good government. I am committed to good government and would appreciate your vote.  Forward Together!

Maria Palmer

Again, thanks to Orange Politics for the opportunity to participate once again in this online forum.

I have been a community activist for progressive causes for almost 35 years, since organizations based in central Durham recruited me to research and work on environmental and transportation issues. I was a leader on those issues at the regional and statewide level for 15 years before I ran for CH Town Council. Once on that body, I was placed in a leadership role on the Metro Planning transportation policy organization by Mayor Kevin Foy immediately, and began my education in the complexities of funding and implementing so called "alternative" transportation modes, the ones that progressives believe are the most important to quality of life. But I've to develop an understanding of every issue with which the Council deals, and to work hard in all cases. 

In addition to the reasons I've already given in question (1) : I am running to represent the entire community by continuing as a public servant. I was brought up to respect public service, and have found it very rewarding in this Council position and in a prior elected position.  I work for the public, not the other way around -- something that we all wish more visible public officials would practice.  I try to respect the full range of opinions that I hear. I encourage people with whom I disagree to come speak to the Council, and I don't argue with them when they express those opinions. I hope that my years of public service will justify re-electing me. 

Once again, thank you so much to Orange Politics for this great opportunity.  Chris, you did a wonderful job and I appreciated your thoughtful questions. 

I love Chapel Hill. I grew up in Chapel Hill and have spent most of my adult life here. One thing I know is that it is a dynamic and ever-changing place.  The steady influx of new people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideas keeps our town vibrant and exciting.

I am a true progressive who strives to put my values into action. My entire career has been dedicated to the public interest; from local initiatives in Chapel Hill’s public housing communities to global work to improve health care in developing countries. I am proud to be the only candidate for Town Council to have earned the endorsements of Equality NC and Victory Fund.

Government has an important role to play in creating an excellent quality of life for all residents. However, at present, many people in our community feel a sense of alienation from state and national leadership.  I believe that local government has a leadership role to play in demonstrating that public officials can be responsive to the issues that affect residents every day, such as neighborhood traffic calming, adequate bus service, water quality, and solid waste management. This leadership also requires the vision and ability to form effective partnerships. Collaboration across government, business, non-profits, and individual citizens – such as we see in the Downtown Partnership and the Northside Initiative - is the best approach to building our future in Chapel Hill.

An elected official’s job is to make decisions for the future. I will approach that responsibility with a deep commitment to an open and transparent process and careful, reasoned consideration of issues and diverse viewpoints.

Website  Facebook  @stegman4ch on twitter  

Thanks Chris and OP!  I am happy to participate in any forum where I can wear my pajama pants, and in all seriousness, I found these questions challenging and thought-provoking.  I hope this format allows new and different folks to learn about us and what we want to fight for.  As a filmmaker, of course I wanted to make a video for Why I'm Running, so here it is: https://vimeo.com/235547811/60c8eea7b3  

I have always been engaged in my community, but after our national election I felt a new sense of urgency to serve—specifically as a woman and the mother of a young girl. I hope to bring the spirit of creative, collaborative and practical decision making to the town council.  As I've mentioned, I teach film at UNC and this semester I have paired my students up with Chapel Hill nonprofits, groups you all know like TABLE and  Community Empowerment Fund.  The students will create videos that help the nonprofits expand the great work they are already doing.  I share this with you now because it illustrates the way I approach challenges and my motivations for running for a seat on our Town Council.  Our nonprofits do important work, have no budgets for marketing and need help.  Our students need professional experience to be competitive on the job market, and they need help.  this course provides solutions to both problems - creatively, collaboratively, and practically.  It also reflects what is possible when town-gown collaborations are at their best -- when the resources of the university are leveraged to provide a service to the Town and when the students of UNC are truly engaged with and benefiting from their community. Whether as a Cultural Arts Commissioner or the chair of the American Legion Task Force -- I think creatively, act collaboratively and work toward solutions that are practical and achievable.

This 36 acre  property on Legion Road is like a microcosm for our Town.  What we do with that land, with this amazing opportunity will send a clear message about what we value. When forces at the Federal and state and local levels keep making decisions at odds with our values, it is even more crucial that we are clear about what we stand for and showing our values in the decisions we make.  Paris Accord or no Paris Accord, Chapel Hill is committed to sustainable future and green construction.  Travel Ban or no Travel Ban, Chapel Hill is committed to building a town that is welcoming and highly values our immigrant residents. I have energy, I am committed to our Town and I want to serve.  This is why I am running.  To learn more, please visit rachelforchapelhill.com.

 

 

 

 

 

First, thank you OrangePolitics for the opportunity to answer these challenging, but necessary questions. I appreciated the unique style of this forum and I hope it reached new voters. Second, thank you to everyone who participated as an observer. 

I am homegrown. Since childhood, I've envisioned Chapel Hill as an inclusive, welcoming community that works for everyone. I can remember from a young age, being plugged in locally, speaking during public comment and registering voters to now, representing clients and connecting aggrieved individuals to affordable, adequate legal assistance. I am anxious to lend the skills and experiences that I have developed in law, to Town Council. I am also eager to use my longstanding connections in Chapel Hill and with young people to build a more politically involved community.

You can count on me to be independent, open-minded, thoughtful and reasonable. I hope that I have earned your vote on November 7th. Please feel free to look at my website: allenbuansi.org or to email me at [email protected]if you have any questions. Thank you.

Thank you, OrangePolitics for organizing the online forum. This is a new and interesting format, and I'm hoping we have reached more voters, especially underrepresented voters to the process.

I was born in the year of the Culture Revolution in China. My parents were sent to labor camps when I was barely 1 month old. I witnessed tanks roll into Tian-An-Men Square toward students on June 4th 1989...

I came to Chapel Hill 22 years ago as a graduate student with $50 in my pocket. I'm now married with two daughters and work at UNC School of Medicine doing research to help children with autism and developmental delays.

I count my blessings everyday to live in this country, and I understand the sacrifices made by our founding fathers to bring the freedom and opportunities that we enjoy today. I share the struggles that people going through in our community. I am running for Town Council to give back to my community and to my adopted country. I am living the American Dream and I will work tirelessly to create opportunities and make Chapel Hill the best place to live for all.

Many issues the town faces, from affordable housing to economic revitalization, require processing of complex data, balancing pros and cons, and understanding the social, environmental, and economic impacts in a holistic way. I believe my expertise in scientific research and complex data analysis will add a valuable asset to the council.

Chapel Hill needs a strong economy to support other priorities that we care about. I would like to encourage collaboration between UNC and Chapel Hill to support the creation of an ecosystem for innovation. It will encourage the transfer from cutting-edge researchers into startups and high-tech companies that will bring high-paying jobs and tax revenue in town. 

I will champion art, cultural programs, and public spaces to create attractions for people and businesses to town, create opportunities for people to come together and share experiences. That's how we build a strong community together.

But most importantly, I will outreach and listen to people from all different backgrounds in the community, to respect and understand their concerns and ideas, even those that I don't agree with.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve you and build a strong, vibrant & inclusive Chapel Hill together.

Thanks! 

Go vote!

 

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