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Candidate for Chatham County Commissioner

Patrick Barnes 

Candidate for Chatham County Commissioner

click to enlarge Patrick-Barnes.jpg

Name as it appears on the ballot: Patrick Barnes
Date of birth: April 4 1936
Years lived in Chatham County: my entire life
Campaign web site: www.Barnes4Chatham.blogspot.com
Occupation & employer: General contractor, self employed, County Commissioner


1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Chatham County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

In response to the 2004 Independent questionnaire I stated that Chatham County needs to dictate its own future. To do so, we need to proactively seek economic development opportunities to bring business into Chatham County. The guiding tools we would use would include the already adopted Land Conservation and Development Plan. I am happy to report that the EDC has been successfully restructured and a new President has been hired. We are about to complete Chatham’s first economic development strategic plan. Discussions have included the public, municipalities, businesses, and our community college among others.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Chatham County Commission? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have owned and operated a successful general contracting business for over forty years. The business of running the county is very similar to running any successful business. You need a vision, and you need to implement a plan, using the right tools, and the right people.

My public record shows consistent support of a balanced approach to growth, including seeking sufficient water and waste water infrastructure and targeting that infrastructure towards our municipal centers, supporting environmental protections of our Jordan Lake and rivers, opposing developments that threaten the environment, support for our community college, the development of the Chatham County business park in support of western Chatham and overall economic development, and support of our adopted strategic plans, among others.

3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am not sure you can put a label on it. I am a Democrat and my philosophy is to involve people in determining Chatham’s future, to protect the environment, and to ensure a vision for Chatham consistent with the adopted strategic plan for growth in this county.

4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

I am unsure of the question, but if you refer to fairness, I totally support the notion that the citizens of Chatham should determine their future, not outside interests, not Cary, not outside money. The people of Chatham deserve a constructive voice. This is what I ran on in 2004, this is how I have participated as a commissioner, and this is what I hope to continue for another four years.

5. What specific steps should the county commissioners take to preserve and protect Chatham’s environment and natural resources In the face of its booming residential growth? State specific initiatives or policies you would introduce and support to accomplish this goal.

I have not deviated from my stand in 2004. I believe we need to use our adopted strategic and land conservation plans as our guide. These two documents were compiled after many-many years of discussion. They are the vision of Chatham’s future.

For the first two years in office, I and Mike Cross had to stand up to the majority that did not support this approach. It was not an easy two years. It is only since 2006, that the BOC found a majority voice for these principles. The record shows that with this majority, much progress has been made, from the restructured EDC, to a one year moratorium which allowed us to get ahead on our guiding regulations, to our determination to protect our waters, to making progress in our schools (while trying to catch up to the unbridled growth voted on by the past majority), to moving deliberately to build sufficient infrastructure to support economic growth.

The current board does not always agree on every vote. However, you will see that for the majority of the time, the new members of the board now vote in the same manner as Mike and I have since we were elected in 2004. This is a refreshing and progressive change from our first two years on the Board. The citizen’s voice wanted change, and they now have it.

6. Define “economic development.” What does that term mean to you? Given the state of the national economy and local job losses such as the closing of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant, what specifically can you do as a county leader to strengthen and support Chatham’s economy?

Economic development the attraction of new businesses and the support of existing businesses that permit our citizens to live and work in Chatham. The businesses should be a net asset to the county and offer decent wages and benefits. Currently our EDC is wrapping up a year long strategic plan initiative which will be used to target businesses that meet our criteria and fit within the strengths of our region. Manufacturing and processing is subject to downturns in the economy so we need to look at businesses that are recession resistant. We need to change the way in which we attract businesses … we need strong schools, a strong community, and a strong quality of life.

7. The county enacted a one-year moratorium on new residential developments that expires in June 2008. Should this moratorium be lifted or renewed this summer? If it is lifted, what growth-control measures should be enacted to ensure infrastructure such as schools, roads, etc. can keep pace with the population?

I supported the one-year moratorium for large scale development while our board and our committees got ahead of the curve in guiding such growth in accordance with the strategic plan. The moratorium was established with specific objectives,

www.chathamnc.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid

Many committees have been working hard on these objectives and it is anticipated that most will be met. Therefore, unless there is a major need to extend it, I believe the moratorium will have done its job. Our major development deliberations will have more definitive regulations on impact (environmental and financial), and will include expectations for funding infrastructure and schools.

8. Give your assessment of the major corridors task force proposal.

The proposal has not been submitted to the BOC for discussion as of yet. I do support an ordinance for many reasons, including that which was stated in the moratorium ordinance: ‘With over 55 per cent of Chatham workers commuting out of the County to jobs in the Triangle and Triad metropolitan areas and with the build-out over the next decade of the already-approved large scale residential developments containing approximately 12,000 approved or planned residential units, including lots and units within municipalities, Chatham County needs a comprehensive transportation plan and strategy to encourage alternatives to increased road building, clogged commuter highways, and over-burdened rural roads’.

9. With the failure of the land transfer tax last fall and the county’s schools impact fee now at its maximum, what are your suggestions for finding new revenue for the county to keep up with its expenses, particularly school additions and renovations?

I do support the Land Transfer Tax as an option to help fund our growing school needs. But ultimately that is a decision that is purposely left up to the voters. Unfortunately the public was not sufficiently educated on the choices that we have for funding schools. In addition a blitz by the North Carolina Homebuilders and Realtors Associations (nearly $60K in Chatham alone) misled the citizen on the intent and value of this alternative.

There are five sources of funding; property taxes, business taxes, sales taxes, impact fees, and the land transfer tax. At some point in time, sooner rather than later, Chatham County needs to determine how it will pay for its schools and infrastructure. Currently, the burden is mainly on property taxes. As these taxes increase, we hear of the burden it puts on fixed income families. As impact fees increase, we hear about the burden it places on low-income families. Retail sales tax is regressive, plus over 55% of retail sales leaves our county, mainly because approximately 55% of our workforce works outside of Chatham.

We need to also seek grant monies and be creative in our construction. We need to be energy efficient and plan for expansion. We need to become proactive on school growth, not reactive. Unfortunately we need to catch up for the unbridled growth ushered in prior to 2006.

10. Please state your general philosophy on what role citizens should play in government decision-making. In general, do you think Chatham residents have enough opportunities to make their voices heard? If so, state some examples. If not, what are your ideas for improving and incorporating citizen input in county government decisions?

Citizens should not be on the sidelines but rather be involved. There are over 400 Chatham citizens on existing boards. This nearly equals the number of full-time staff in the County. This very is impressive. There is also ample opportunity for input, either through emails, phones, public hearings, and open forums such as our current County wide discussions on the Major Corridor Ordinance and the Economic Development strategy plan. I do believe that citizens not only have more opportunities now to speak out and provide input, but frankly you now have a Board that listens to what citizens have to say. I ran in 2004 on a platform of having a citizen’s voice. I believe that voice is now being heard.

11. If you are a challenger, how would you rate the job the incumbents are doing? Be specific in criticisms and compliments. If you are an incumbent, how would you rate the job you and your colleagues are doing? Be specific about accomplishments or challenges.

In short, I’ve kept my promises to the voters of Chatham County.

I promised to work for proactive economic development and job education to prepare Chatham for the future. For a number of years very little had been accomplished. I made sure we restructured the Economic Development Corporation and hired a new director. Currently the EDC is in the midst of completing the County’s first strategic plan for economic growth, http://www.chathamedc.org/. Working with Commissioner Mike Cross and others, I made sure we established the Chatham County Industrial Park in Siler City with plans for a new regional hospital and community college branch at this location. I am particularly proud of the new environmental biotechnology wing at the Pittsboro community college where we offer training in emerging technologies.

I promised to insist that the County implement its existing and already approved plans. While commissioner, we established a one-year moratorium on residential development to allow us time to review and update our ordinances and procedures. We have added staff to the planning department, hired Chatham’s first erosion control officer, restructured the Planning Board, and passed key ordinance updates to lighting design and stream buffers. Ordinance development committees were established and new and improved policies for commercial development and other standards are almost complete. We have included all interested parties in this work. We are implementing the Land Conservation and Development Plan as promised.

I promised to bring the citizen’s voice back to Chatham government. Getting our fair share when dealing with regional governments such as Cary was one of the main reasons I wanted to be a commissioner. Other regional governments have too long dictated their terms to Chatham on issues of water, sewer, highway construction, land use planning, and annexation. Most recently, along with BOC Chair Lucier, I insisted on Chatham County’s participation in Western Wake County’s design meetings for a large wastewater treatment plant planned for the New Hill area. While Chatham was not initially invited to these meetings, we are there anyway to ensure Chatham’s interests are represented.

Improvements to county services and the development of a capital improvement plan are among the successes of the last three years. A full time county attorney position has been created as promised. The position has begun to serve us well, particularly in our dealings with Cary and other regional governments. Immediate improvements have been made to the Dunlap building to provide the access and delivery of county services (including the health department). Our capital plan calls for a new elementary and high school in NE Chatham, a new library, and a new judiciary building.

12. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take even though it cost you popularity points with constituents.

I am committed to ensuring that Chatham County has sufficient infrastructure, water & sewer, quality schools and services. Past board decisions have led to growth that cannot sustain itself. Funding of these services is required, even if this may result in an increase in property taxes. I supported the Land Transfer Tax as an alternative revenue source but that was heavily defeated through a highly financed lobbying campaign.

  • Candidate for Chatham County Commissioner

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