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Candidate for Chatham County Commissioner

Diana Hales 

Candidate for Chatham County Commissioner

Name as it appears on the ballot: Diana Hales

Full legal name: Diana Hestor Hales

DOB: January 20, 1947

Home Address: 528 Will Be Lane, Siler City, NC 27344

Campaign website: www.ElectDianaHales.com

Occupation and employer: Retired, NC state government, Center for Geographic Information & Analysis

Spouse: Cheyney M. Hales

Occupation & employer: Retired, NC state government, Department of Cultural Resources

Years in Chatham: 28

Home phone: 919-663-2372 Cell phone: 919-545-4164

Email: dianahales4commissioner@gmail.com

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

(a) Quantity and quality of surface and groundwater resources. Explore and use any official action, including moratoriums, zoning and stream buffers to resist fracking in order to protect Chatham’s ground and surface waters.

Rigorously fight for our County’s share of Jordan Lake waters in the 2015 state reallocation.

Review buffer requirements in ordinances; restore them on ephemeral streams and wetlands.

(b) Growth and Infrastructure. Work cooperatively now with Chatham Park developer and Town of Pittsboro to plan for infrastructure, especially schools and emergency services, water and wastewater systems, transportation corridors and transit strategies, and other impacts to county taxpayers.

Work cooperatively with the Town of Siler City and Chatham Economic Development Corporation to plan for the expansion of county services triggered by development in and around the industrial megasite.

Update the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The current Board refuses to update the 2001 plan. A subgroup of the Planning Board, without citizen input, is nibbling around the edges. The County should have a full discussion about zoning, where we grow and what we protect.

(c) Government in Full View. Citizens are best served when issues are discussed in public. The current Republican majority appears to make their decisions before each meeting. The evidence: limited discussion on agenda items, they never disagree, and always vote together.

It is time to revitalize the advisory committee process to encourage experts and remove barriers to participation. Remove ideological restrictions put in place by the Republican majority. Committees should be deliberative. Their advice will be sought and respected, again.

To increase public access to local government, we should revive the first- and third-Monday monthly meeting schedule. The current Board usually meets one day per month, squeezing public business into an afternoon “Work Session” (where important decisions are made) and the “Regular” evening session. This sharply restricts citizen participation.

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

This is the first time I am seeking office. Now retired, I had the good fortune to work in public service for 20 years, including the UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School of Business, UNC-TV, and the Center for Geographic Information and Analysis in state government. Every position focused on team work, building consensus, and promoting policies that benefit citizens by providing services and access to information. My career relied on the power of research, the ability to communicate, and sharing of information. Retirement provided an opportunity to attend almost every meeting of the current Board of Commissioners, since their election in 2010. To inform citizens on how the Tea Party majority conducts the people’s business, I write meeting notes and issue alerts that are published and widely disseminated throughout the county.

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 a Democrat who believes in government by the people. What happens in local government directly affects everyone in the county. This is where citizens should be engaged to help direct Chatham’s future. Unlike the current Board, I welcome that conversation. My history of working collaboratively in teams and groups to reach common goals is a strength that I bring to the table. Unlike the current majority, I promise to be engaged and to spend the time to understand issues.

4. Do you support adding a fifth school district representative to the Chatham County Board of Education? What are the biggest challenges facing Chatham County public schools and what steps, if any, will you take to address them if elected?

Chatham County already has five school board districts. In 2012, Deb McManus, then Chair of the Board of Education, was elected to NC House, District 54. Her seat is still vacant. There could have been a special election in fall 2013, but the Chatham Board of Commissioners asked the NC Legislature to withdraw a “local bill” that would have allowed that election. The Commissioners’ interfered because they did not want that fifth seat filled, which would have broken tied votes, nor did they want to spend money on an election to give voters a choice.

There are numerous challenges facing Chatham public schools. The Republican majority on the Bd. of Commissioners does not appear to be a fan of public schools, and they have consistently squeezed the annual budget. Their priority was clear in 2012: A resolution supporting charter schools was passed first; their resolution in support of public schools followed months later.

If elected, I would: First, increase teacher supplement pay to retain our teachers. Second, fund the much-needed technology upgrade so teachers have the instructional delivery tools they need. Third, build an adequate school bus maintenance facility. The existing facility is substandard and so small mechanics must work outside all year. There should not be a budgetary choice between teacher pay OR a bus garage, but that is how this Commission operates.

5. What is your vision for development of Chatham County and if elected, how will you propose to fund it?

Chatham has a unique blend of three small towns, traffic corridors along Hwy. 15/501, Hwy. 64, and Hwy. 421, large rural areas with farming and timber operations, open space, two river watersheds and Jordan Lake. Individual property owners pay the majority (91%) of property taxes; only 9% are paid by commercial and industrial enterprises. That imbalance needs to change. The 1,700-acre megasite west of Siler City is being promoted for large-scale manufacturing, and the 7,500-acre future Chatham Park, situated to the north, south and east of Pittsboro, promises a new commercial center.

Last year Chatham’s Economic Development Corp. presented five conceptual scenarios showing how we “could” develop. We must go further. I support a full citizen-centered process to revise the 2001 Chatham County Comprehensive Land Use Plan and consider our infrastructure needs, resources and costs. What attracts people and business to Chatham is quality of life. To ensure that for our future we must invest in vibrant downtowns, natural recreation areas, great schools, and a diverse arts culture. The current Commission majority is not interested in having that discussion.

6. What is your stand on the proposed Chatham Park? What advantages or disadvantages could the park bring to the county? If elected, would you support more funding going to parks and greenways in Chatham County?

Chatham Park can be an asset and job creator. A traffic impact study and transportation plan, sadly, are not addressed in the current plan and should be. To become a 21st century development Chatham Park must build within a new reality of decreasing water supply. For this enormous project to be sustainable…and make it to the 50-year build-out…the developers should consider treatment and reuse of wastewater; storm water capture in cisterns for reuse; integration of non-toxic building materials, such as hemp, into construction; generate and use their own solar power; install broadband; minimize impervious surfaces, and use paving materials that reduce runoff. They have a unique opportunity to conserve a major natural area for recreation that also directly benefits water and air quality for the surrounding area. Chatham Park could set a national benchmark for exciting and sustainable development.

I support parks, trails and greenways. Chatham is fortunate to have a stretch of the multi-county American Tobacco Trail, trails around Jordan Lake, and a network of trails in Pittsboro. Trails provide an outdoor connector in urban and suburban neighborhoods. The parks in rural areas of Chatham are an asset evidenced by increasing community usage. I am a regular walker at the southwest park.

7. What is your position on the ICE resolution? Do you support or oppose the decision to rescind the resolution in 2011? How has that decision affected relations between undocumented immigrants and police and what steps, if any, will you take to improve relations between undocumented immigrants and the larger community if elected?

In 2009 the former Board of Commissioners passed a resolution opposing local government agency assistance in enforcing federal immigration laws, or ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). In March 2011, the new Republican-led Board rescinded that resolution, stating the County Sheriff should enforce all laws, even immigration. This vote delivered a strong message to the Hispanic community that they were not welcome in Chatham. I do not have direct information on whether ICE had been implemented in Chatham as in other parts of the U.S. However, although local governments voluntarily participated in ICE, another federal 287(g) agreement, called S-COMM, now requires mandatory sharing of information, including Chatham County. When a person is “booked” into jail their immigration status in now checked. Driving infractions in Chatham County can land a person in the ICE deportation network. This creates friction between the police and Hispanic community.

I was stopped at a law enforcement blockade in Siler City and asked to show my driver’s license. I could see that the three cars pulled to the side of the road were all driven by Hispanics, frantic on their cell phones. For a long time Hispanics avoided going to the hospital and community college on this road because of those stops. The larger question is how to improve trust between police and the Hispanic community, which includes everyone, legal citizen or not. North Carolina driver’s licenses should be available to anyone who can pass the written and driving test. The license is about learning and following rules for driving safely on our roadways, and should not be a deportation tool.

8. The state is on track to begin hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the coming years and energy companies have targeted Chatham County as a potential drilling site. What is your position on fracking and what steps, if any, would you take to ensure the Deep River and its watershed are not harmed?

I am opposed to hydraulic fracturing. Three Chatham County residents and I have attended every study group and committee meeting of the Mining and Energy Commission since 2012. The rules making procedure is fast-tracked so permits can be granted next March. Although there are plenty of words about “getting it right” and seeking best practices from other gas-producing states, in reality the risk of accidents, injury, and long-term health consequences are byproducts of this industry. A well failure, and there will be multiple failures and accidents, could contaminate our water and land forever. This is a heavy industry with a track record of environmental contamination and human health problems that are being reported in local media across the nation. You will not hear about it on Fox News.

The Deep River is the main target encompassing both Lee and Chatham counties. This area experienced several coal mine explosions (caused by methane?) in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including one of the largest coal mining disasters that killed 53 miners in a gas explosion on May 25, 1925. And, the shale formation is at shallow depth and even protrudes out of the river. Chatham County commissioners do not appear to be engaged in seeking information about this industry, or planning for emergency response. If elected, I would pursue any available strategy through local planning and zoning powers, or a moratorium, to stop the fracking juggernaut.

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

I believe that government should, as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution, “promote the general welfare” of all citizens. That means providing equal access to education, healthcare, and infrastructure, as well as environmental protections for clean water and air.

10. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it could cost you popularity points with voters.

I will advocate for countywide zoning. Chatham’s future will depend on how we adapt to changing weather patterns, conserve and protect our resources, and work together as a community. Zoning is a tool to help build those protections for our future.

  • Candidate for Chatham County Commissioner

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