Name as it appears on the ballot: Ed Harrison
Full legal name, if different: Edward C. Harrison
Date of birth: 10/15/50
Home address: 58 Newton Drive, Durham, NC 27707-9744 (address assigned by U.S. Postal Service)
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: www.edharrison.org -- under construction at this time
Occupation & employer: Self-employed environmental planner and educator, specializing in conservation biology; part-time temporary Town of Chapel Hill employee, as Council Member.
Home phone: 919-490-1566
NOTE FROM THE CANDIDATE: With the large number of multi-part questions, I have divided answers based on subparts of the questions. Also, where I have concrete proposals I will work to get enacted if re-elected, I have put them in all caps.
1. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.
Going back a quarter of a century, I've been alerting my fellow citizens to the importance of breaking issues, informing a wide range of people with the media available at the time, I led the NC Sierra Club's movement into transportation activism, into increasing sensitivity to land use issues, and into lobbying for statewide wetland protection. The Club gave me two statewide Distinguished Service Awards as one result; NC's environment benefited, as another. After being elected a Soil and Water District Supervisor for Durham County, as the first environmental professional in the position in anyone's memory, I led the District into a contemporary and progressive agenda, involving urban constituents and academics in ways seldom seen before in a NC district.
As a CH Council Member, I've led effectively on highlighting some of the huge transportation challenges facing CH and the region, via petitions to my colleagues asking them to commit Council and staff time to participating in major efforts at re-planning our systems. Even before getting on Council, I spearheaded the creation of the largest freestanding on-road bike/ped project in the Triangle on Old Durham-Chapel Hill Road connecting major retail areas in Chapel Hill to New Hope Creek and beyond, picking up several miles of residences on the way. I've persisted for 17 years to get that done.
In recent months, as increasing density became a pressing and controversial issue in CH, I protested the Council's getting presented a developer-written "high density residential " zone without public discussion -- or, most importantly, without a decision as to the public purposes of the zone. The Council adopted my approach.
One aspect of leadership, especially in as "small-d" democratic a place as CH, is making government work for the people. I am proudest of my assertively taking on individual complaints and concerns --in many cases, being the only council member to contact a citizen or respond -- and bringing our town's resources to bear on issues, no matter how trivial they might seem to colleagues, staff or the media.
In an area of activity which falls between the cracks in media coverage, I've organized neighborhoods along the Durham-Chapel Hill boundary to deal with troubling development proposals for all three jurisdictions (incl. Durham Co). I've used long-standing political contacts with my leadership counterparts at the highest levels in Durham City and County to re-shape or reduce the impact of growth here at the edge of the municipalities, and have organized folks in three jurisdictions to work with Durham leaders on specific development issues.
(See response to (11) below).
2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
During my decades as an activist and as a progressive elected official -- inspired at the start by Independent founder Steve Schewel, among others -- I've defined myself politically by working to increase and maximize the public's full participation in government, and to maximize cooperation among stakeholders on a wide range of issue.
It's often conceded that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have little relevance to the CH political scene; at least one candidate this season may be heard to say that the current Council has been "too progressive."
Since local races are non partisan, party labels are relatively unimportant; one's personal strengths and interests are more important. I've consistently demonstrated that I'm very interested in and care about the public process and in making Town Hall accessible to its citizens.
In terms of a specific major issue area and its relationship to my political philosophy s transportation. Few citizens and most Council members don't understand the regional transportation planning process and its implications for our local quality of life. For eight years, I've been a CH representative at the table at monthly meetings of the regional transportation organizations. This is the table where funding and priorities are decided -- who gets money for what road or bike lane. You can't take a university course to learn how this process works; you have to be there in the room, you have to believe sincerely in full collaboration with the officials of other jurisdictions whose interests are not always yours, and you have to stay in touch with your constituents and colleagues to know what their best interests are.
3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
This might seem the inverse of what you'd suspect, but the principled stand I might be willing to take would be to support a major development of the "right kind" in the "right place" in spite of significant opposition from immediate neighbors and others to the very end.
I will borrow text from a response to another questions: CH should grow in the form of "developments that maximize the usefulness of those strategic locations for support of local and regional transit, that maximize the continuing safe movement of vehicles, both motorized and human-powered (my preference), that are highly connected by non-auto transportation to like developments elsewhere, and that are truly walkable in all reasonable respects."
So the principle for which I would be taking a stand is that our community should do its best to get people around without the use of the automobile, and that those who are using cars should do so in the safest ways thanks to design improvements in our street space. My judgment would have to be that the transportation and other improvements committed to by the developer would not be obtained in any other way in a timely manner (and I mean, in years).
I'd take this stand, and cast the vote(s), only if the development plan met the criteria I've shown above. That might well cost me "popularity points" with voters.
Some of the negative effects which a major development of this scale could bring would be -- to borrow ideas from my favorite neighborhood organization: changed Town character, environmental damage, the loss of affordable housing, increased traffic, and the migration of small scale retail from present locations. I've been working with and within neighborhoods in Durham and Orange Counties for over 20 years and citing just such effects with full sincerity, because they were valid.
I've already voted this year against one development in a transit corridor which I found to do environmental damage and remove affordable housing (see response to (14)). If I had found it to deal successfully with the issues I outline above -- maximizing the usefulness of its strategic location -- I could have supported it. It did not, and neighborhood groups saw that it didn't.
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?
We help to build a just community where we are each most able to help.
Because of my lifetime experience being involuntarily "car free" -- from age 6 to age 26 -- I'm especially aware of the day to day, on the ground issues of people who have to get around without the "freedom" of the automobile. For years, going to back to my being a charter member of the City of Durham's first "urban trails commission" in 1983, I've spoken out for those who don't have cars to travel.
At the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee, both before and after I served there as an elected official, I've worked to create and foster projects with the goal of making both my town and surrounding counties accessible without cars, and connected without cars. My original involvement in the issue came from my work as an environmental planner and educator, in which trail systems were the way to get outdoors and away from urban life. It's evolved to where I'm a constant part of efforts to keep transit running, to fund greenways, to get sidewalks into neighborhoods, and (as an advocate for a non-profit) to get bicycle facilities and safe riding into all parts of NC society.
On issues in which I am personally less invested -- although I'm interested in plenty of things -- I've backed the efforts of my colleagues and my constituents on affordable housing and on racial justice (which we shouldn't need to work for anymore!).
5. In the midst of a difficult economic situation and a tough budget year, what's one thing that the town is cutting that you would save and what's one thing that's been saved that you would cut?
The overall across the board departmental spending cut (5 percent) wisely imposed by Town Manager Roger Stancil last fall adds up to "the one thing that the town is cutting."
I've been continually concerned about the impact of that on one small, already under-resourced section of government, Information Technology. With all that's important in Chapel Hill government and to Chapel Hill's citizens, there's hardly anything more important in terms of our making progress into the 21st century.
There hasn't been much saved that I'd cut. In spite of its conversion to a formal department under the Town Manager, there continues to be much public concern over the relatively high funding for the Public Arts program compared to other programs whose increased functionality could potentially generate revenues for the town. I haven't yet concluded that this program should be cut.
6. What's your approach to growth in Chapel Hill?
My approach is to maximize the role of all of the public in consideration of development proposals, and overall management of development. I use the term "development" instead of "growth" because the former by its nature includes improvements to the community as whole.
"All" of the public means all of the stakeholders, including applicants and staff -- but the Town's residents are the most important stakeholders. My past professional background in environmental planning and related land use and transportation issues, means that I will always pay attention to adopted plans and policies, and ask for complete information of all kinds. In recent years, I've been the most insistent on Council in requesting sets of comprehensive maps for all to see: unlike in Durham, until I asked in the past few years, CH applications were never showing the adopted land use map(s) which related to projects -- that is the land use which the community agreed upon for the land in question.
Where should the town grow?
The simplest answer to that is the one that we're beginning to arrive at as a community: on the major transit corridors, but only with developments that maximize the usefulness of those strategic locations for support of local and regional transit, that maximize the continuing safe movement of vehicles, both motorized and human-powered (my preference), that are highly connected by non-auto transportation to like developments elsewhere, and that are truly walkable in all reasonable respects. When I say "on" the corridors, I mean at "nodes" -- at meeting places with other major corridors -- not plunked down in pristine woodlands near major highways but not near transit, as proposed in recent years.
How do leaders manage it?
The immediate former planning director for CH described our approach as "aggressive management of growth." We have the reputation of being "tough on developers." My analysis is that our emphasis on robust participation by residents and others means that growth is managed in public for months on end. Given the complexity of some of the projects being brought to the Council -- and the conflicting principles that can come into play -- we can expect that long and onerous public processes are here for the long run. The "aggressive" aspect comes into play when all stakeholders raise questions, including applicants, questions which the Council has to answer or get answered. We manage growth by not holding back anyone's questions, and by making sure they get answered.
7. Do you think recent efforts to revitalize Franklin Street, such as adding welcome flags, using new parking rules, implementing Touchdown Carolina, etc. have been effective?
The "efforts" cited in the question, with the exception of the gradually unfolding revised approach to parking, are relatively superficial. Far more significant are a couple of projects, one town initiated and rolling out already and the other just taking its first steps in a long process.
The "arts coop" -- a project staffed initially, and still helped along, by Town Economic Development Director Dwight Bassett. As a member of the Council Economic Development Committee, I joined with colleagues Kleinschmidt, Strom and Ward in instructing Bassett several months ago to proceed with the project, to help fulfill our goal of diversifying customer opportunities in downtown.
The redevelopment of University Square (now known as "123 Franklin") -- unlike other UNC-related real estate in downtown, this will be fully taxable and will have a heavy retail component whose sales tax can go to CH.
Both these hold the promise of helping us move to a 52-week downtown -- one that doesn't depend only on UNC students for prosperity.
The Council-generated initiative to convert a surface parking lot to "vertical mixed use," with public space and retail on the ground and residences above -- known now as 140 West -- has this all-year downtown as a major goal. Likewise, the much-criticized Greenbridge has this goal, and
that aspect was more important to some of us on Council than the "green building" aspects.
What more needs to be done downtown?
My "platform" includes the statement that I'll keep working for "a Downtown that's easier to visit and enjoy." One thing I always keep in mind is that Franklin Street is in competition with retail outlets having "free" parking and internal "security" personnel -- basicly, the strip mall culture of suburban America.
Parking: We need to push for implementation of the parking recommendations adopted by Council this Spring -- and I intend to do that. It helps greatly to have a town manager who believes in parking as an enabler, as a tool, and not as a source of revenues alone. The most important symbolic act so far is the "forgiveness" of first offenders for parking tickets. I've received dozens upon dozens of complaints in eight years about the style of enforcement downtown -- "rude" would be the summary term. The "forgiveness" policy really helps with that.
Street atmosphere: There is continued, and increasing, citizen pressure to deal with "loitering" and "panhandling" -- two different activities. My interests here include: encouraging efforts (see response to (13)) that will make citizens less likely to "commit" these, working with staff to deal with enforcing the rules we have, and changing the combination of attractions that make these behaviors more likely (relocate the Men's Shelter and possibly Community Kitchen from one block away from Franklin Street). My focus is on reducing the amount of uncivil behavior, not on getting rid of people.
What would you do to increase occupancy rates and make Franklin Street a more vibrant and economically successful entity?
It's not well known that current occupancy rates -- once the Walgreens at Franklin and Columbia opens -- are near or over 95 percent. There's not a downtown main street in the Carolinas of our size (for Franklin alone, close to 500K square feet of space) that wouldn't envy us for that. However, the maximum achievements aren't there in terms not only of retail success but also serving the wider public. In terms of increasing occupancy rates, I'd say we need to keep on doing what we're now doing right: having both our economic development director and the Downtown Partnership help potential new businesses navigate the process -- and taking their advice on how the process might be made easier with no negative effect on the public welfare.
I believe that the reason the public believes there are higher vacancy rates on Franklin Street than there are, is that the small number of vacant properties are highly visible and have stayed vacant for long periods. The prime example nowadays is the former Chrysler dealership on West Franklin, owned by the quirky Joe Riddle of Fayetteville, who tends to leave properties unused until he sees the "right" development. With Walgreens, apparently he saw it.
In the view of many who run businesses on Franklin Street or shop there, the street is too "messy" and chaotic to compete effectively with the enclosed and strip malls in other parts of CH or surrounding it. I tend to agree. This can discourage potential lessors of property . The efforts of the Downtown Partnership and of interested citizens in monitoring appearance issues on the Street is beginning to have an effect.
In the past, candidates have proposed that the town fine landlords for having space unleased and apparently unused. As the Downtown Partnership staff said then and will say again, that is apparently not legal in NC nor would necessarily be effective.
8. While Greenbridge has been lauded as an environmentally friendly housing development, there are also concerns that it threatens adjacent lower-income neighborhoods. What do you think the town's strategy should be in regards to gentrification?
Gentrification in Northside, the immediately adjacent neighborhood, started many years before Greenbridge's approval and construction. What gentrification generally has involved, here and elsewhere, is the effectual eviction of long-time low income residents because of higher property taxes (in particular), due to newer owners ("investors") building larger and more "valuable" dwellings. In the case of Northside, these houses were built to be off-campus dorms for upper middle class undergrads, who brought speeding SUVs and three-day beer parties to a neighborhood characterized by middle class, relatively well educated, African American families of long tenure.
Before Greenbridge was even an application, the Council had initiated two programs on behalf of Northside: the town's first Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD), in large part to counter the building trends imposed by the outside investors; and the Northside Pedestrian Plan, designed in part to bring safe walking conditions back to streets which formerly had few motor vehicles, but now have heavy use by student drivers.
Both these efforts were enacted before Greenbridge went to hearing. The entire Town Council voted in the end for Greenbridge, a number of us not happily. There was almost no public comment against it. I forced a change in the relationship they proposed to the local street system (see above). It's outside of the NCD boundary and inside the Town Center zone, so it took only a small adjustment by Council to grant the height for which they made the case they needed.
The town's strategy in regard to gentrification needs to focus on strengthening neighborhoods undergoing its longtime effects. We can't tell Orange County how to appraise property, although we've considered doing so recently, very briefly. We can decline to approve more high density residential development in downtown, where it may or may adjoin a vulnerable neighborhood. But mostly we need to focus on the needs of what remains of our threatened lower-income neighborhoods. We can't decide for these places what they need; the long-time, non-investor, non-student residents need to tell us, and we may have to actively ask to find out.
9. Do you agree with Community Home Trust Executive Director Robert Dowling that the town's affordable housing policy is not working? If so, what needs to be done to correct this?
I don't agree with Robert's saying that because I know that's not what he said, in any context. My understanding is that the source of this statement was an article in another newspaper in late July concerning the Community Land Trust's apparent difficulty in selling units in the first phase of East 54. Robert's report to the Town Council for September 14 states: "We have been very busy selling condominiums in the East 54 development."
If so, what needs to be done to correct this?
What's needed is a revision of the "model" for the approach taken by the Community Land Trust, and the elected boards which it serves have to be a part of the revision.
CH's inclusionary zoning "procedure" is currently a carrying out of the long-stated expectation that applications to Council will provide 15 percent of the units as affordable housing (80 percent of the median income). Its intent is clearly to provide home owning opportunities for people who would normally not be able to afford to purchase in this expensive area. This can have the added benefit of providing "work force" housing, and augmenting the diversity of our fulltime population.
If these are "the right people," then they're being served by it.
A separate issue is the type of property being provided. The Council has to work with the content of the applications it receives. If they are for condo developments, then the affordable housing is in that category. In recent years, that's frequently been the case.
I believe that payment-in-lieu should be accepted, and have voted repeatedly to do so. Going back to the need for a revised model, the P-I-L provides a source of cash for the land trust, which it can try to direct toward maintenance needs for home. In terms of long-term success for residents, maintaining their homes is absolutely essential.
Therefore, IF RE-ELECTED, I WILL SEEK THE CREATION OF A TOWN-MANAGED MAINTENANCE FUND FOR COMMUNITY HOME TRUST DWELLINGS, AND OTHERS IN WHICH THE TOWN HAS A DIRECT FISCAL INTEREST, TO HELP ENSURE THE LONG-TERM SUCCESS FOR THESE "RIGHT PEOPLE" LIVING IN OUR COMMUNITY'S MOST AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
The Indy would like to provide some clarification of question No. 9, given its vagueness. Please refer to the below question when providing your answer:
What [is] your opinion [of] Chapel Hill's inclusionary zoning procedure and its intent? Are the right people being served by it? Are the right types of properties (ie) condos, single-family homes, etc) available through the program? Should payment in lieu be accepted? Is the program, as it stands now, in a position to provide long-term success for residents?
As for public housing, how should the town continue to manage these developments in light of reduced federal funding?
The reduced federal funding, which appeared to many of us in Chapel Hill to be directly linked to monies being diverted war in Iraq, has not changed our public housing department's systematic approach to maintenance. The Council has come with an annual line item to support this approach in every year that the federal funding has dropped.
9. What makes Chapel Hill unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it?
As I mentioned in other responses, public participation in town affairs is vitally important to me. While the amount of participation is now being matched by other neighboring communities (in part because activists like me now serve in office there), the sheer quality of participation in CH is unique in my experience. The amount of deep and intelligent thinking brought to bear on issues before the Council can be a source of joy, even late into the night. So that's not really a physical feature of CH which can be preserved in the conventional sense of using tree ordinances to save a vegetated street scape, for instance. I'd preserve this quality of public participation by working to have a Council that finds it as wonderful as I do, and by continuing to work, as I have for eight years, to improve the quality of information available to citizens.
10. With that in mind, the town's comprehensive plan emphasizes regional planning and cooperation. How should this collaboration take place? On what kinds of issues?
Here's one elected official's history of the last two decades of regional planning and cooperation. This describes how the collaboration has taken place, and on what kinds of issues.
Traditionally, Chapel Hill thought of itself as only an Orange County community. Close cooperative planning with Orange and with Carrboro resulted in the Joint Planning Agreement, a cutting-edge document for the state, and consequently the joint urban services boundary and the Rural Buffer. Associated with this (and prior to it), OWASA was formed as a joint but independent agency of the three governments; the Authority plays a critical role in maintaining the boundary and the buffer. Formal meetings between the joint planning partners and between Orange County and three of its municipalities occur a few times a year. My colleagues and I have been encouraged in recent months by Orange County's increasing willingness to let other governments share in setting the agenda of the latter meeting, the Assembly of Governments.
Few if any attempts were made to coordinate with the large, immediately adjacent neighbor, the City of Durham, or with Durham County, which included parts of Chapel Hill starting more than four decades ago. With the impending completion of I-40 in the mid-1980s, a war started between Chapel and its larger neighbor over jurisdictional (annexation) boundaries in Durham County. The lawsuit was settled with a court-ordered "truce line" which I can see from my house's front yard (and it's a whole lot closer than Russia to Sarah Palin). CH and Durham elected officials agreed to set up the Durham-Chapel Hill Work Group in the late 1980s. This was about the same time as the two municipalities and the two counties jointly initiated the New Hope Creek Open Space Master Plan, for which I was the field scientist and inventory specialist. Also in the late 1980s, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), through its policy body, the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) commissioned the first regional transportation plan for the western Triangle (covering all of Durham, much of Orange, and northern Chatham Counties). The TAC members worked hard to change it into the state's first multimodal plan. Out of that came the US 15-501 Corridor Plan (1992), and successive Major Investment Studies for the 15-501 area, all of which were cooperative efforts between CH and Durham.
It's generally acknowledged that I became the most active citizen participant in the Durham-Chapel Hill Work Group in the early 1990s. In mid-2001, I petitioned our Council to ask the Work Group to start a Courtesy Review system between the governments, which soon came to include Orange as well. A few years back, Mayor Kevin Foy gave me public credit for "jump-starting" the group as a significant player in this part of the region, due in large part to my initiating the Courtesy Review process, which has been working for several years now. What's most outstanding to me about the work group is the frank and informative conversations between elected officials, staff and citizens about how respective governments approach issues.
Another way in which the Work Group played a pivotal role on a high-profile issue was in getting governments together in 2005-06 to work on preservation of what is now known as the Hollow Rock Preserve regional park (the "Erwin Road property" of Duke Forest).
None of this emphasis on cooperation with the Durham governments is meant to diminish at all the continually remarkable achievement of joint planning between the Orange governments, or the related achievements of OWASA.
And, what strategies would you borrow from your neighbors that could work in Chapel Hill?
I'm not sure I would borrow "strategies" as much as "procedures" from neighbors. Sorry to say, none are visible in Orange County governments to borrow. The Durham governments have been meeting (partial boards) in the Joint City-County Planning Committee and Joint Planning Committee for several years now. I would want our parallel Joint Planning meetings to take up the sort of truly weighty issues that the DJCCPC has done in recent years, in particular examining each others' ordinances (in the case of Durham City and County, the ordinances need to be consistent but not identical). Another set of "procedures" I'd like us to borrow at the level of staff operations -- but also of public access to information -- is the availability through Durham Planning websites of significant amounts of information associated with development projects and land use planning in general. I expect that the sheer volume of development in Durham made the bureaucracy acquire and organize data much more comprehensively than our relatively small government has been able to do. Until barely 72 hours before a development application arrives at the CH Council, it's hard for a citizen to find out much about it. That's changing; I've asked for it to change, and in the meantime have aggressively aided residents in getting information on projects.
11. How do you view UNC's relationship with the town? What's the state of it, given recent Carolina North developments?
I consider the current relationship to be as good as ever -- the best we've seen in many years.
I was in the thick of the Council-level negotiations on Carolina North, including receiving the most in-the-face anger of anyone from BOT Chair Roger Perry -- for having the temerity to politely suggest that a major environmental research university should permanently preserve a few small tracts of open space. Thanks in large part to great attitudes on the part of Roger Stancil and Holden Thorp, the "NOs" from UNC were "surrounded with YESes" -- Roger Stancil's term -- and a superb agreement was worked out. With those two players (who know each other from their past lives in Fayetteville), and with the good attitudes both Council and the public brought to consideration of the Development Agreement, I think we've got a excellent foundation for progress on other fronts, notably downtown.
Since then, I was the leader on the Council in ensuring that both of UNC's development entities -- the health care system as well as UNC-CH itself -- are represented on the Town's Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force. Both parts of UNC are by far the largest developers in CH. (Then councilman Strom never explained his opposition to including the health care system).
On a monthly basis, I'm part of the "negotiating team" which CH brings to the table at the Public Transit Partners Committee, which jointly sets fiscal and operational policies for CH Transit. UNC is the major funder of CHT, and occasionally needs to be reined in terms of its dominance. I work hard at collegial relations with UNC in that arena, and believe we succeed every month in maintaining an excellent relationship.
How will you help further that relationship in the future?
If re-elected, I hope to keep representing CH on the Partners Committee. I also hope to maintain my good working relationships with Chancellor Thorp (whom I know outside UNC), and with administrative staff, high-ranking or not, who deal with the Town on critical matters. I WILL WORK TO INSTITUTE THE LONG-TERM PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PLAN INITIATED BY THE COUNCIL WHEN IT PASSED THE CN DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT, AND WILL WORK -- AS I DID DURING THE COMMUNITY'S CONSIDERATION OF THE DA -- FOR MAXIMUM PUBLIC INFORMATION AND PARTICIPATION IN ALL PARTS OF THE BUILD-OUT.
12. The 10-year plan to end homelessness is underway. How will the town monitor progress on the plan? What accountability measures are or should be in place? What are the hurdles to accomplishing it? How can the town overcome those obstacles? What is not in the plan that should be?
The town is only one partner in the 10-year plan, but is a far more engaged participant than one might expect. Sally Greene of our Town Council has led the effort for a few years now. We haven't been advised how the town will monitor progress, but reports to the Council on its achievements certainly serve as a monitoring of its progress to me. The most notable achievements for me are Project Homeless Connect, chaired by Jamie Rohe of CH Planning, and Real Change for Spare Change, an important factor in improving downtown. Ms. Rohe is now the Plan's coordinator and reports to the Council at least annually. The hurdles to accomplishing the Plan are that it's multi-jurisdictional, in a way a part of Orange County's social service bureaucracy, and balancing that status carefully with CH, a major funder, and Carrboro. As one participant, the town can overcome those obstacles in one way that it's doing, in lending an employee (Rohe) to coordinate the Plan among the jurisdictions. I haven't seen anything missing in the Plan, given the prominence now of Real Change for Spare Change.
13. What important town departments or agencies have been, in your opinion, chronically underfunded? What have been the ramifications of that shortage? If elected, where would you find the money to more fairly fund these areas?
The town department that may come to the minds of many as chronically underfunded is the Library: we've done our part to fund what is probably the only municipal library in the Triangle; Orange County, whose non-CH citizens are up to 40 percent of the borrowers, has not raised its contribution in almost 15 years. With our drive to expand the library, we're facing much higher operating costs in the future. OC has been unresponsive, except to concede that the sole topic of the next Assembly of Governments will be library funding.
Along with colleagues, I'd look to OC to give us equitable treatment, so that one of our residents is not spending 4 times as much to borrow that book as his friend from Carrboro.
Another department which is similarly underfunded by OC, and by others, is Parks and Recreation, some of whose programs are used by a majority of non-residents (source, a budget paper to Council a couple of years back by the P and R Commission). I can say I will join with colleagues to seek more equitable funding from OC, but it may not work.
As I mentioned in my response to (5), one department which is chronically "under-resourced" is information technology, surprising given the importance of the area, and what the employees do for the town, both for its employees and for folks trying to know the town better. A combination of grants (done in someone's overtime) and user fees are the most feasible fund sources I can see.
In its short existence, economic development—ironically, no designated revenue source for a department whose success might be measured by its ability to bring in revenue-generating businesses. IF RE-ELECTED, I WILL SEEK TO GET THE COUNCIL TO WOULD WORK TO GET COUNCIL TO DEDICATE PERMANENTLY ALL FUNDS COLLECTED FOR LOCALLY-REQUIRED PRIVILEGE LICENSES TO THE TOWN'S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICE.
Conversely, what town departments or agencies have been overfunded?
It's hard to say, in the fiscal environment of the past 8 years, that any department has been overfunded: many residents would say public arts. Three years ago, when $400k of sculpture was placed where almost no members of the public saw it, I might have agreed. But in the current arrangement -- with the department reporting to the Town Manager, and led by a grantseeking expert hired away from running the NC program -- I would not agree.
14. Many of the town's workers live in outside communities due to the high cost of living in Chapel Hill and the lack of what some term "a living wage." What would you do to address this? Should it be addressed?
Chapel Hill Town Council did adopt a living wage this past Spring, which applied to significantly fewer employees than the petitioning group, Orange County Organizing Committee, might have expected -- in large part because entire sizable cohorts of employees asked to be excluded.
We're severely restricted in how well we can address the fact that many town employees live outside CH because there is so little developable land left in CH, although redevelopment appears to be a viable option to "greenfields." One really can't compare CH to the City of Durham (for example) in terms of available housing, because the City is now at least six times the size of Chapel Hill, and is considerably less dominated by land given to academic uses.
I believe that the issue should be addressed, but believe that we need to be realistic given
I was one of a minority of Council Members who voted against a project that plans to replace an apartment complex of low- and moderate- income students and long-term renters -- heavy transit users -- with a high-end condo development likely to be filled with wealthy in-migrants who can afford to keep cars around for discretionary travel. This is not a trend I like to see, nor one I wish to support. While the development will be (if built) on a major transit corridor, I don't believe that the likely demographics of owners will add to our transit system.
Is it important for our police, firemen and public works officials to live in the community that they serve?
As the only former local government employee on our Council, I pay much attention to employee sentiments (and have changed course as a result several times). My sense is that the many workers who live outside CH are highly committee to serving our residents and are pleased to be town employees. In that way, it is not critically important that police, firefighters, and public works officials live in Chapel Hill. As it happens, some do.