If only every town in the Triangle faced as difficult a decision as Carrboro does in picking its next mayor. If they were running against virtually anyone else, either of these candidates would be a slam-dunk. This is one of the closest calls we've ever had to make. The good news is, Carrboro wins either way, since whoever doesn't win will stay on the board of aldermen. Here are the choices:
Mark Chilton began his political career in 1991 as one of only two UNC undergraduate students to be elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council. He showed a quick grasp of issues and performed as an able council member until 1997, when he resigned to move to Washinton state to be near his wife, Quaker, who was studying medicine. The couple moved back to the area, to Carrboro, in 2000. Since then, Chilton has served on numerous boards and is director of the EmPOWERment project, which addresses the housing needs of low-income residents in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. He also has a small nonprofit real estate company based downtown. He was elected to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in 2003 as the top vote-getter in the race.
Alex Zaffron has been on the Board of Aldermen for 11 years. While he works at the ArtsCenter by day, Zaffron seems to make a full-time job out of his work on the board, relishing the details of everything from stream protection to housing design. His special expertise is transit, and he's spent many hours on regional boards dealing with the issue. He seeks out creative solutions to the intractable problem of affordable housing, and has lobbied the state legislature to push for inclusionary zoning. His input and energy on the town's effort to reshape work on downtown development will have an enormously positive impact for years to come. A Carrboro native, his experience serving the town is unparalleled and his longstanding ties and steady efforts have rightly earned him admiration.
All things considered, we're endorsing Chilton--an excellent communicator who has built strong relationships and has shown a willingness as a board member and in his campaign to reach out to northern neighborhoods new to town as well as spend time in the living rooms of longtime residents. Like Zaffron, Chilton loves the nitty-gritty of policy decisions. Chilton's knowledge of housing dynamics, environmental issues and his political skills will be crucial as Carrboro and its neighbors tackle issues like Carolina North and a booming northern Chatham. We believe Chilton has what it takes to lead Carrboro through a tumultuous period of encroaching growth.
Board of Aldermen
In the races for Carrboro's Board of Aldermen, six candidates are seeking three spots. It has been a strong, effective board in recent years, and we're supporting the two incumbents in the race.
Jacquelyn Gist has been on the board for 16 years and has become a strong voice for neighborhood protections, which has sometimes put her at odds with fellow board members. She has a solid record of listening to constituents and pushing efforts to support and underline the diversity of the town.
John Herrera is best known for helping create the Fiesta del Pueblo and expanding it to become an important advocacy organization for the state's Latinos. But he doesn't have any similar accomplishments to show in his first term on the Carrboro board. He's stretched thin by his job as a vice president of Self Help Credit Union and other personal commitments. That's too bad, because he has the potential to be an extremely important community leader.
As the only Latino board member in a town where the Hispanic population is growing, Herrera is in a unique position to serves a community that needs a voice. While solidly progressive on environmental issues, Herrera is realistic about the town's financial situation--with little revenue and a budget reliant on property taxes, the town's got to think creatively to expand its commercial base and hold on to the diversity that makes it such a wonderful place to live. We sincerely hope Herrera will be able to take a strong leadership position in his second term.
Among the challengers, we support Randee Haven-O'Donnell, a middle-school science teacher and leading environmentalist who's been on the town planning board since 1999, worked on committees for parks and recreation, sidewalks and greenways, and Carolina North. As an educator, her skills at bringing people along on complex issues are strong. She has earned the support of many town leaders, and she has earned ours as well.
Catherine DeVine is also a strong candidate and longtime resident who helped found the Carrboro Music Festival. She's served on the downtown appearance commission to make sure new developments will blend with the town's character. We hope she'll become more involved in town governance, particularly in efforts to expand the commercial base, which she has emphasized in her campaign.
Newcomer David Marshall is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and a single dad who's getting a master's degree in public policy at Duke. He hasn't been around long, but he's made a good impression on many people in this campaign. Marshall has immersed himself in the town's issues, offering thoughtful answers to complex problems such as affordable housing and growing the commercial base. He's a policy geek, which means he'd fit right in to local government. We hope he'll continue to play an active role.
Katrina Ryan, also new to Carrboro politics, is openly distressed by the way the town handled recent annexations and feels citizens there have been shortchanged. That's sure to be an issue as more land is annexed, and it's good that Ryan has injected the issue into this campaign. Beyond that, however, she has not presented a thoughtful understanding of issues facing the town, and has often made inflammatory comments about current town policies that are, in fact, working well.