Name as it appears on the ballot: Jacquelyn M. Gist
Date of birth: 6/5/55
Occupation & employer: Career Counselor, UNC Chapel Hill
1. Why are you running for office and what are your top priorities, if elected?
I have made my home in Carrboro since 1976 and have had the privilege of helping to lead our town as an Alderman since 1989. During that time Carrboro has maintained our unique sense of place and community while growing and welcoming new residents and businesses. I am thankful for the role I have been able to play in the development of who Carrboro is today and in shaping our future. During my tenure on the board I have helped to maintain a balanced budget with limited tax increases, none in the past several years, while at the same time providing the progressive services and programs our community has come to expect. I have supported, worked on and served on a wide range of issues and committees during my service to our town including the initiation of facilitated forms to address community wide concerns, LGBTQ rights , protection of our water shed and natural areas, promotion of the Arts, economic development, housing, alternative transportation, neighborhood protection and recreation. I am, however, most proud of my daily work to respond to the concerns of individuals, local business owners and neighborhoods in a way that helps to build our community by respecting the needs and perspectives of all our citizens, leaving no one out of the conversation.
I am seeking re-election because this is a very exciting juncture in Carrboro's evolution. We are entering what I think of as Carrboro 2.0. The hard work and vision of many people in our community has created a town with a national reputation for its progressive human rights and environmental policies, great neighborhoods, open spaces, parks, a vibrant downtown centered on locally owned businesses and the Arts with wonderful celebrations and festivals connected by a growing network of bike and greenways. At the same time we have worked to preserve our heritage and historic neighborhoods. This wonderful combination has attracted new residents and businesses who add to our community. Recently we have seen the addition of new buildings and businesses to our downtown, a trend which will continue for years to come. With this comes the opportunity to expand our commercial base beyond retail. I believe Carrboro is uniquely poised to attract cutting edge organizations that are drawn to our vibrant downtown and progressive values; already we have seen FleetFeet establish their national headquarters and training center in our town as well as a new national hotel and the recent expansion of the Linberger Cancer Center's Carr Mill offices to include 40 additional employees. New enterprises and all they bring would not have come to Carrboro were it not for the community our existing residents and businesses have created. Carrboro is currently engaged in a new branding and economic development plan with the goal of supporting our existing businesses while attracting new none retail organizations to expand our none residential tax base and add local employment opportunities. I am seeking re-election in order to continue helping to lead Carrboro as it moves into this exciting new era in a way that respects existing residents and businesses while welcoming new ones.
Please include information on past public service, posts held, volunteer work completed and other examples of your leadership.
During my service to Carrboro I have worked to address our community's needs through initiating and supporting legislation, programs, work groups and services, a short list includes:
2. If you are not currently serving on the Board of Aldermen, what will you bring to the body that it now lacks? If you are an incumbent, what perspective have you brought that the town still needs?
As an incumbent with 23 years of experience and as a resident of 37 years I bring a deep understanding of our community. I understand that Carrboro is a multi faceted community whose members have a wide range of needs, opinions and values, all of which deserve respect and consideration. When I make a decision that impacts people's lives I take the responsibility very seriously and work hard to consider and value all view points. The best thing anyone ever said to me came from an older life long resident of Carrboro. He said "I don't always agree with you but I trust you and so do my neighbors." While Carrboro is fortunate to have a large group of very involved citizens who serve on town advisory boards and commissions and who attend public hearings we, like all communities, also have many members whose lives do include being involved in local politics but whose needs deserve consideration. In addition to listening to and valuing our involved citizens I also work hard to seek out and consider the needs and opinions of those who are not as directly involved. They are my friends and neighbors as well.
My experience also allows me to see the possible unintended consequences of a proposal. Town governance can be much like a Rubik's Cube, when you get one problem solved you may discover that doing so has messed up another side of the cube. Being able to anticipate the possible effects of one action on another seemingly unrelated issue often informs my work on the board. The question of "how will this effect our existing residents and businesses and move us closer to our other goals" plays a part in my considerations.
3. In the last four years, what do you feel are the three best accomplishments of Carrboro town government, and why? Conversely, what are three things you would have done differently?
The Town's Three Best Accomplishments in the last Four Years:
I am very proud of the work of our town staff, advisory boards and my fellow Aldermen so it is difficult to pick a Top Three. In picking the following I considered the impact on Carrboro residents and businesses.
During the past four years, and for several previous years, Carrboro has not raised taxes and at the same time has continued to provide the services and programs our community expects. During a period of economic strain not raising taxes has been a priority. The hard work of our staff has made this possible.
The addition of new sidewalks in many parts of town, including the Carrboro portion of the historic Rodgers Road community.
The town's work and economic development incentives which have allowed new downtown developments including the new hotel and FleetFeets' national headquarters which will add to our none residential tax base while adding to the vibrancy of our town.
Carrboro government is not perfect and there is still much that can be improved or changed including:
I think all elected officials and many citizens in our towns and county are disappointed that we are now shipping our solid waste out of county.
Carrboro needs to find a way of addressing the problem of salary compression which effects our dedicated town employees.
Because it was our first major large downtown project, when we approved the construction of the new hotel and parking deck downtown we did not give enough consideration to the impact the construction process would have on existing businesses and pedestrians. We have learned from that experience. I have initiated a new construction management plan process which is currently being considered and should be in place in the near future.
4. Indy Week's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
Working to build and support a just community is central to Carrboro's identity. I have worked hard over the years to address social justice issues and will continue to do so if re-elected. Some of my work to promote social justice includes;
During my first term in office I introduced Carrboro's first LGBTQ rights initiative, which resulted in the inclusion of LGBTQ employees in our non discrimination policies. I have also supported the inclusion of all families in our town health care benefits. I introduced the resolution which resulted in Carrboro's being the first town in NC to call for a moratorium on the death penalty in NC. My actions, and those of Mike Nelson, resulted in stopping the expansion of the landfill and started efforts to address the needs of the Rodgers Rd community. I have supported efforts to protect the rights of immigrants in our town. I literally stood with the residents of the then "Old Well" apartment complex to stop the management from towing their cars and work trucks which were seen as being unsightly. I have supported efforts to stop the exploitation of day laborers through wage theft. I supported efforts to create a permanent home for the Human Rights Center. I am a Social Worker by training which influences all of my work on the board.
5. How do you define yourself politically (i.e. conservative, moderate, liberal, third party, hybrid, etc.) and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a Liberal from a family of liberals. My uncles and grandfather were union workers, my mother was a social worker, my father worked in international development and education. I was raised to believe in the value of every human being and that we are all equal and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I work hard to bring those values to all of my decisions. To me the most important questions are always "how will this effect people's lives" and "is it fair".
6. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
It would be easy to answer the question of what principled stand would I be willing to take even if it cost me popularity points by pointing to my votes for LGBTQ rights, against the death penalty or to protect our environment. But truth be told taking a stand in favor of any of those good causes is more likely to win votes in Carrboro then to lose them! A stand that I am willing to take, and do take, that can cost me points is the protection of all neighborhoods throughout the town. When new projects or developments are proposed I firmly believe that the impact on existing neighborhoods must be taken into consideration and addressed.
7. Many of Carrboro’s most recent controversies centered around the clash of local businesses versus corporate businesses. What are your thoughts on this dynamic and how can a town official impact this?
Carrboro's commercial base is a mix of local and corporate enterprises. It has been for a long time and will continue to be so. When I first moved here I shopped at Cliff's Meat Market as well as the A&P. Today I shop at Cliff's, Weaver St and Harris Teeters, among others. Carrboro has done a good job of supporting and promoting local businesses through efforts such as our revolving loan fund, the Farmer's Market and our Economic Development Office. Local businesses keep dollars in town, provide employment and are responsive to the values of the community and we need to do even more to support them. It is also possible to have good corporate businesses as well if the town is thoughtful in it's recruitment. FleetFeet is a good example of how a corporation can have a positive effect on the local economy while holding to community values. Town officials can impact the potential clash of local and corporate business values by careful consideration of all project proposals and their impact. While FleetFeet's new building and the employees it will house will add to the quality of life in town the proposed CVS project would have had a negative effect on the residents who live just yards away. Each project must be considered on it's individual merits.
8. Affordable housing remains a key issue in Carrboro. What can the town do to ensure affordable housing remains an option?
Affordable housing has long been and remains a key issue in Carrboro. There is no one answer to this problem and addressing it must be a constant effort with many approaches. Carrboro's housing affordability is in part a result of the "SOHO Effect". All that Carrboro has done to become a great place to live has also resulted in our becoming a more expensive place to live, the more folks want to live here the higher the demand for housing and the higher the cost of buying or renting a home. I was a member of the founding board of the Orange Community Housing Corporation, and currently represent Carrboro on it's descendent The Community Home Trust, which has provided home ownership opportunities for many moderate income Carrboro families. Carrboro also financially supports the work of Habitat and Empowerment. But the Home Trust is not the only solution to all of our housing affordability needs nor is homeownership. There is a great need for affordable rental housing for moderate income families and individuals. As more students are attracted to life in Carrboro we have seen an increase in rental properties aimed at the student market with rents of up to $700 a bedroom, well beyond the reach of many families. Limiting the number of bathrooms in proposed projects can serve to limit the number of units being built specifically for the student market and hold down rents. Most families are not looking to rent a 4 bedroom 4 bathroom unit. Another growing group in need of affordable housing and/or ways of continuing to be able to afford staying in their home are the aging baby boomers now entering or nearing retirement and facing smaller incomes. Carrboro could take the lead in helping people to age in place by encouraging the creation of auxiliary units on or adjacent to existing homes. These units could be used as smaller more manageable homes for the homeowner while they rent out their old home or used as rental property to provide additional income while also adding to the stock of affordable housing, the town could support the creation of these units through a low interest revolving loan fund.
9. This year, Carrboro experienced damaging floods due to heavy rainfall. Town officials cannot control the weather, but they can be prepared. What can the town do from an engineering and planning standpoint to be prepared should future flooding occur?
The flood which hit Carrboro and Chapel Hill this past June had a devastating impact on many of our citizens and caused widespread property damage. The flood was caused by an intense amount of rain falling in a short period of time, an event we had not seen often before but may see much more often as a result of Climate Change. We no longer know what to expect and must prepare for the unexpected to become routine. During the first meeting of the Board of Aldermen after the flood I asked that the town begin preparing to respond to climate change in several concrete ways. I requested that we work with OWASA to identify problems in our existing storm water system, much of which was built many years ago and may have blockage or leakage problems, that we work make sure town owned culverts are free of blockage and that we try to determine if the amount and intensity of rain events has changed over the past few years. I also will propose that the town work with home owners associations to reinforce and strengthen their retention ponds, especially in older neighborhoods and that the town help property owners clean out the culverts on their property and then require that they keep them free of debris. These are the easy steps. The more difficult step, and one I have advocated that we take, is to determine if the pipes we now have are adequate to handle an increase in the intensity of rain events and if not to develop a systematic way of replacing them.