Jacquelyn Gist | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Jacquelyn Gist 

Candidate for Carrboro Board of Aldermen

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Jacquelyn Gist
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: June 5 1955
Home address: 206-A Maple Ave, Carrboro, NC 27510
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: NA
Occupation & employer: Career Counselor at UNC-Chapel Hill
Home phone: 919-929-6252
Email: jgist@townofcarrboro.org



1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Carrboro? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

The most important issue facing Carrboro is how to maintain the unique character, sense of place, and progressive identity as we continue to grow. My top priorities will be working to help guide Carrboro through the current economic crisis. Assuming that the new approved projects for our downtown happen in a manner that respects the existing community, moving forward with our sidewalk and greenways project and continuing to promote environmentally responsible policies.

2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the board? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have served on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen for twenty years. During those twenty years Carrboro has continued to evolve into a unique vibrant progressive community where life is lived on a human scale. I like to think that my service has made a small contribution to Carrboro becoming what we are today.

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 registered Democrat leaning strongly to the left. I suppose that defines my approach as citizen voter to state and national issues. As an Alderman and in my daily life as a resident of Carrboro I am a strong believer in community and democracy (small d). Over the years I have come to believe more and more in the importance of community and that true participatory democracy works best, if not exclusively, on a local level. I have lived in Carrboro since 1976, it is where my husband and I plan to spend our lives. I know many of my fellow Carrborites as friends and neighbors. When people have a concern they call me or talk to me while I am out walking or shopping. I truly care about their concerns because they effect the community we all have chosen to make our home. My belief in the power of community and local democracy is reflected in much of what I have done in my twenty years as an Alderman. A few examples are listed below:

Over 15 years ago, out of frustration with the limits of Public hearings, I initiated what has come to be the Carrboro tradition of holding open community facilitated meetings to address large controversial issues.

I have stood by and advocated for many neighborhoods on issues as wide ranging as unwanted connector roads and the expansion of the Orange County Landfill.

I co-founded Carrboro Day as a means of bringing long time and new residents together.

When the predominantly Hispanic and African American residents of Abbey Court were being harassed by a new policy banning less than perfect cars and were subjected to predatory towing practices I stood by them. Literally and sometimes late at night, residents would call me and I would go to the scene, along with Mark Chilton and Dan Coleman. We helped calm tensions and helped the residents to organize to over turn the management's towing policy. We also changed our ordinance concerning towing to decrease the cost to car owners, which discouraged predatory towing. I will continue my commitment to community if re-elected.

4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

Many years ago I suggested to then Independent reporter Taylor Sisk that all candidates for office be asked what issue they would be willing to lose votes over. If they can't give a non BS answer I wouldn't vote for them.

I have taken many stands over the years that I am certain have cost me votes. I introduced Carrboro's first ordinance in support of Lesbian and Gay rights early in my first term and have supported others since then. But, in Carrboro, that is really not risking many popularity points.

The stand that has cost me some popularity points and most likely some endorsements, is my opposition to five story buildings. I lost that battle. I continue to believe that with the exception of the Main Street project-see # 5- five story buildings are not in the best interest of our community. The visual impact will be jarring, the increase in parking demand will be problematic, and the cost of both the retail and residential units in the new buildings will be exceedingly high.

5) Large building projects like that under way by Main Street Partners and the Greenbridge development just across the line in Chapel Hill will change Carrboro's landscape and it character in the near future. The project at 300 Main Street also will alter the status quo. What is your vision for the town's long-range development? What are the pros and cons of commercial and residential development?

The Main Street Partners project location is the only parcel in the downtown that I feel is suited to the taller more massive buildings allowed under the new ordinance. It does not directly abut historic neighborhoods and will incorporate the Art Center and Cat's Cradle, both long standing institutions which are deeply embedded in our town's identity. Carrboro is a community. It is not SIM City. Our vibrant downtown is what many other small towns, according to economic development experts, dream of becoming. The preservation of our historic character, including Carr Mill and the old mill houses laid the foundation for making our downtown a place where people want to be. Our challenge now is to not kill the Goose that laid the Golden Egg.

As much as people identify Carrboro with the downtown area, the reality is that most of Carrboro is not downtown. In addition to the new commercial development slated for downtown we need to make sure that commercial development occurs in other areas as well in order to meet the daily needs of our residents. The Homestead Community Center is currently for sale by Orange County. Rather than residential development on that property, I would like to see neighborhood commercial. A small Weaver Street Market style grocery store and a community gathering space would be ideal in meeting the needs of north Carrboro. I also believe that we need to redouble our efforts to have new developments follow the Village Mixed Use plan laid out in our Small Area Plan.

6) How will you deal with growth in Carrboro given its limited physical boundaries? By extension, what are your viewpoints regarding high-density housing and its placement?

Carrboro will reach build out of available land within twenty years, if not before. Like all living systems we have a finite carrying capacity. Carrboro's capacity to accommodate the growing number of people who want to live in our community must be expanded. The trick is to maintain our character and protect the environment while adding population. High density housing has a place in the solution. Apartment complexes for moderate income families help to address the problem. At the Board's urging the new Winmore development will include truly affordable rental apartments for families, not students. Other mixed use developments will be encouraged to follow suit. High density mixed with moderate density helps to maintain our sense of place.

Downtown several approved projects will provide high density housing. Another tool to increase density is infill development. In many of our downtown neighborhoods infill has been effective in adding housing while maintaining neighborhood character. Mark Chilton and I both live in houses built on infill lots in historic neighborhoods.

7) 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?

This year has been an exceptionally tough year and next year does not look much better. Our town staff did an extraordinary job of presenting the board with a zero tax increase budget that still met the needs of our community. As a result of my initiative the only program increase in this year's budget was for town funding to human service non-profits. I pushed for this increase in order to help our NPOs meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents while facing draconian state funding cuts.

8) 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? As for public housing, how should the town continue to manage these developments in light of reduced federal funding?

The goal of inclusionary zoning is to provide housing opportunities to moderate and low income individuals and families. For many years Carrboro has worked with the Orange Community Housing Corporation, now the Home Trust, to meet this goal. Twenty three years ago I served on the steering committee and founding board of the OCHC. I now serve as Carrboro's representative on the board of the Home Trust. The Home Trust has provided hundreds of rental and home ownership opportunities to moderate and low income families.

As the number of units has grown so has the cost of maintenance and repair and subsidies. This has strained the organization's budget. HUD income regulations have greatly narrowed the window of qualified buyers for the home ownership program. Developers required under Carrboro's ordinance to include affordable units choose to build one bedroom condos further limiting the pool of potential program beneficiaries. These issues have converged to create a new obstacle to reaching our goals.

I have been an advocate of payment in lieu for many years. The Carrboro board now has the option of accepting payment in lieu. The monies go into an affordable housing fund.

Last year at the Assembly of Governments meeting I was able to convince the other governing bodies in Orange County to form a work group to address housing funding needs. The work group recommended that all local municipalities adopt payment in lieu. If this happens there will be enough funding to help build units for the End Homelessness projects and to address the funding needs of the Home Trust and help other housing organizations. This will result in a broader range of moderate and low income housing options.

In addition I support Alderman Dan Coleman's initiative of the option to developers to lower the number of units required in exchange for eliminating the need for Home Trust subsidy.

9) What makes Carrboro unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it?

I fell in love with Carrboro at first sight when I came here in 1976. Carrboro's true sense of community and life lived on a human scale offer a way of living that is becoming rare. I am very proud of Carrboro's progressive tradition as well and have worked to contribute to it, as with our first lesbian and gay rights ordinance, The French Resolution in response to the Freedom Fries nonsense, our concern for immigrant's rights, and our protection of the environment. For over twenty years I have contributed to all of these and more and will continue to work to keep Carrboro a unique progressive community.

10) 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? Conversely, what department or agency budgets could be cut?

All of our town departments have been struggling for several years to provide excellent services to the people of Carrboro within tight budgetary restraints. I am proud of town staff; they work very hard for our community. I would like to see our Police Department able to reinstate and expand our community policing program. When fully staffed, community policing has a proven record of preventing crime. As the new downtown buildings which have been approved come on line I will advocate for using part of the resulting additional revenues for new community police officers.

11) Earlier this year, the board heard a fiscal presentation about a pay-as-you-throw trash system. What do you think of the system from a financial, environmental and practical standpoint? If you approve, how would any additional costs be covered? If you disapprove, what are some alternatives?

If, my husband and I had a large party or more likely our kids had a large party, which generated more garbage than usual, we would simply incorporate the cost of the trash into the cost of the party, perhaps offset by cutting back on other party supplies. If, the retired UNC house keeper who lives two blocks from us wanted to have a large family reunion on a tight budget, the extra charge for trash pick up might be prohibitive and I am sure would be seen to be unfairly penalizing those on fixed incomes. If some unscrupulous sort of person had a large party and did not want to pay the extra trash fee, they may very well take their trash and throw it in a dumpster at a condo or apartment complex or even dump it along a country road. I don't think pay as you throw is fair and I think it will create new problems.

We currently ban cans and cardboard from our trash containers. It is past time to ban all recyclables including glass, newspapers, magazines, and paper. Additionally, we need to advocate for state and federal regulations to cut product packaging to the bare minimum needed of health and safety.

12) Carrboro emphasizes locally owned, import-substituting economic development. What is your opinion of that policy? Has it, in your view, succeeded? How can it be improved? What is the town doing and what more should it be doing to support small business during the economic recession?

One of the reasons why Carrboro is fairing better, although by no means unscathed, during this economic crisis is our emphasis on a local economy where practical. Many of our businesses do business with each other, keeping both work and profits local. Johnny's sells sandwiches from Neals, local restaurants buy meat from Cliff's and fish from Tom Robinson's, local builders buy there supplies from Fitch, a Carrboro builder rebuilt Jessee's. The list goes on, each transaction helping to sustain the local economy. Not perfect, but much better than having all profits go out of town or out of state to a corporation that barely knows where Carrboro is.

Since last winter I have been working to take this a step further by having the town move some of our accounts to a locally owned bank. It is a long process due to existing banking contracts. I want the Town's money, the tax payers of Carrboro's money, to serve people of Carrboro instead of a large national bank. Local banks have faired better in the economic crisis and as a rule treat small businesses and individuals much more fairly. I want our local tax dollars to be used to support Carrboro not Wall Street. I expect to accomplish this goal in 2010. I have the support of my fellow board members and am having conversations with local banks.

13) Do you believe there is enough citizen participation in Carrboro? What would you do to improve it? How can leaders make government more accessible and responsive to citizen needs and concerns? How do students fit in?

Carrboro works hard to encourage citizen participation. During my first term in office I initiated what has now become a Carrboro tradition of holding facilitated community meetings to deal with large issues. These meetings regularly attract well over a hundred people, sometimes several hundred depending on the issue. We have used this tool to plan for our northern area, our downtown, our sidewalks, the future MLK Park, and our greenways. I also initiated facilitated meetings to address the concerns of both landfill and quarry neighbors. I would like to see this tool used to help the community address social issues as well.

While I am proud of our tradition of facilitated meetings, there are people who come to meetings and many more who do not. In order to reach out to those who do not attend town meetings, I would like to see the town institute a new tradition, Board Walks. Each quarter the members of the BoA would walk through neighborhoods and talk to residents about their concerns.

Students of all ages are an important part of our community. During second term on the board I initiated Town Hall Day to introduce Middle and High school students to local government and encourage their involvement. This continues to this day.

I work with college students and often encourage their involvement in local government as a way of both helping to contribute to the community where they are living and to gain experience. Several students currently serve on town advisory boards.

14) The 10-year plan to end homelessness is underway. Do you think it's been effective thus far? 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?

I serve as Carrboro's representative on the Executive Committee of the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness. The name "10 Year Plan to End Homelessness" is unfortunate and comes from the title of the federal HUD program which in large part funds the project. Since 2005 over one million dollars has come to Orange County from this HUD program to address homelessness.

The problem of homelessness is complex and has many causes. It will not, obviously be "solved" in ten years. The recent cuts to the mental health system have only added another sad layer to the problem. But, giving up is not an option. The Orange County partnership has had some positive effects on the lives of the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. A coordinator has been hired to oversee and facilitate the program. As of May 2009 27 people with disabilities have been housed. Through the New Hope Housing Support program 32 people have received help in maintaining housing. This is all a good start.

For several years I have advocated for the use of payment in lieu monies from new developments to be used to fund the creation of SROs for people who are homeless as well as to support other housing programs. See question #8.

15) What's your vision for Smith Level Road? Will it eventually need to be widened? How can the town move forward with adding bike lanes and sidewalks to this Carrboro High artery?

DOT's rational for wanting to broaden Smith Level Rd is based on their assumption that twenty years from now individual cars will still be the norm. We have learned in the Triangle that if you plan and build roads for ever increasing car traffic, that is what you will get.

As the population of Chatham County grows DOT would like to funnel part of the resulting increase in traffic down Smith Level to the 54 by-pass. Instead more and better public transportation systems should be developed using resources now spent on more and bigger roads. Any increase in automobile traffic should be directed to 15-501 instead of passing two Carrboro schools and residential areas.

Smith Level Rd needs safe bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides, not more lanes for cars. The town on its own can not afford to build them. Citizens of Carrboro are North Carolina taxpayers and as such have a right to have their state tax dollars spent in a manner that respects their desire for safe efficient and environmentally sound transportation corridors. We will continue to work with the state to advocate for sidewalks and bike lanes on Smith Level Rd.

Much of the morning rush hour traffic on Smith Level is school related. Parents drive their children to Frank Porter Graham and Carrboro High students drive themselves to school. Working with the CHC schools to promote and expand the use of school and city buses instead of individual cars will help alleviate the congestion on Smith Level.

  • Candidate for Carrboro Board of Aldermen

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