Jim Ward | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Chapel Hill - Mayor and Town Council

Jim Ward 

Chapel Hill - Mayor and Town Council

Name as it appears on the ballot: Jim Ward

Full legal name, if different: James L. Ward

Date of birth: 28 March 1949

Home address: 112 Bolton Place Chapel Hill NC 27516

Occupation & employer: Associate Director for Horticulture, North Carolina Botanical Garden

Email: jimward@nc.rr.com


Why are you running for office and what are your top priorities, if elected? Please include information on past public service, posts held, volunteer work completed and other examples of your leadership.

Member of the Chapel Hill Town Council for the last 11 1/2 yrs (1st elected in 1999). Having a decade (+) of Council experience helps me be a more effective representative of and for Chapel Hill citizens. I've worked hard to gain a depth of understanding about many critical Town issues, and the community history behind them. Additionally, on a personal level, it is tremendously rewarding to serve the residents of Chapel Hill as a member of the Town Council. Prior to serving on the Town Council I was an active member (6 yrs) of the CH Park & Recreation Commission (2 yrs Chair), citizen member of the current (1999) CH Master Plan, and CH representative on the Orange County – Shaping Orange County's Future Task Force.

If you are not currently serving on the Town Council, 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, I bring to the Council a balanced, and experienced perspective with proven record, illustrating a strong commitment to environmental stewardship, a passionate commitment to social equality, and a growing awareness and support for issues that strengthen the economic vitality of CH. In my opinion, CH residents need representation that nurtures all of the above, without jeopardizing any. It's a matter of working to find win-win-win solutions. It does not have to be an either/or proposition.

While the end product or final decision is often seen as THE goal, as an experienced Council member, I know first-hand and embrace the importance of the CH process, one that works effectively to involve diverse opinions, in an open, and civil debate.

In the last four years, what do you feel are the three best accomplishments of Chapel Hill Town Government, and why? Conversely, what are three things you would have done differently?

1...No tax increase while maintaining high level of service, for the last 3 yrs.

2...Successfully negotiating the Carolina North Development Agreement with UNC.

3....With our partners, Carrboro and UNC, growing a more robust, fare-free transit system.

3a....Institutionalizing and making high priorities, 'sustainable thinking' and 'economic development'

1.....At East 54 – the Aloft corner is too close to street

2.....Become aware of the failing Northside Neighborhood Conservation District sooner.

3.....Acted sooner to establish a Town-operated fiber optic network.

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

For nearly 12 years I've been an unfailing advocate for Town initiatives which enhance justice for all CH residents, and if re-elected will continue to be supportive. Some examples include:

Peace and Justice Plaza – opportunity to honor individuals who spent their lives on social justice issues. (Original and current Council Committee Mbr).

Voter-Owned Elections – Town initiative which helps lower the financial requirements to run credible campaign, thereby increasing diversity of potential candidates. (Original Council Committee Mbr).

15% Affordable Housing Initiative – unwavering advocate for this program which begins to respond to the critical shortage of housing for low-middle class wage earners.

Fare-free CH Transit – viable, robust partnership with UNC and Carrboro to provide public transportation within our greater community, thereby lessening the need to be an automobile owner. (Current Chair of Transit Partners Committee).

Sidewalk & Bike Infrastructure – identify/secured funding to build a more robust and useful, alternative-transportation network throughout CH. (Current Council Liaison to Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Board).

Supportive of Town employees having the right to form trade union.

Ombuds Program – Program being developed which will be a resource for residents and Town employees to consult for solving conflicts and addressing work-related problems, providing information and mediation in a confidential, third-party environment. (Council Committee Member).

How do you define yourself politically (ie) conservative, moderate, liberal, third party, hybrid etc) and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

Liberal – I see the important role, I as a member of the CH Town Council Town has and will take to be part of the solution, to help improve the quality of life of CH residents. See related examples in answer to Question 4. and others.

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

Since the day I was first elected (1999), I made a promise to myself, that, after thoughtful deliberation, I would always speak and vote my mind - 'do what's right', regardless of potential to be received unfavorably by voters.

Past example - Decision to rename Airport Road to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Potential Example – If Town of CH gets re-involved with Orange County and Carrboro, to determine the long-term solution for how deal with garbage generated in Orange County, including CH, I will not close the door on finding a solution(s) within Orange County, and not in someone else's 'back yard'.

Do you support the cent sales tax referendum? Would you support future ballot initiatives such as the transit tax? What will you do to educate and involve the public not only in those decisions but in town affairs in general?

Yes, I support the Orange County cent sales tax referendum.

Yes, I would most-likely support future ballot initiatives such as the transit tax, though, without knowing the details, I'm unable to give an unequivocal –yes.

I would strive to educate and involve the public, by first educating myself, and then, I have and would publically show my support, to the extent permissible by law.

This fiscal year saw the town make cut some bus routes and reduce their frequency, the town's July 4th celebration and Project Turnaroud, among other cost saving measures? Do you agree with the choices? If not, how would you have found the funds or what different cuts would you have made?

I agree with the decision to cut the most inefficient and barely used routes, afer a thorough process was undertaken to identify them.

If given a 'do over', once the Town Manager communicated his intentions to cut Town funding for the 4th of July fireworks celebration, I would have encouraged my colleagues and others, to join me in finding alternative, private sources of funding.

It is my understanding that Project Turn Around is/was a supportive, cost-effective, deferred prosecution program, for non-violent drug offenders, but I don't recall the explanation behind the Town Manager's decision to cut its funding. I do know that after three years of no CH tax increases, and with a continuation of reduced revenues, next year's budget will include more very painful decisions, such as the PTA example.

The town plans to write a new comprehensive plan this year to guide the next 20 years of development, what process should be used and what driving principles and strategies should the end result include?

It is my understanding that a Town's Comprehensive Plan typically has a useful life of approximately 5-10 years, not 20 years.

In this case the process is as important as the end product, the 2020 Comprehensive Plan. The value of a CP is found in its ability to incorporate the best thinking/visioning by the greater community, so it can serve as a citizen-based 'road map' for how best, to grow over the next decade, or so.

The process needs to be robust, an innovative in terms of how to get enhanced involvement by Town residents. We need to go to them, we may need to supply food and childcare during public forums, and perhaps transportation. The process must not inadvertently exclude some because of the still present, 'digital divide'.

It is important that the driving principles and strategies come from citizen participation, and not predetermined by the Town Council... None the less, I hope we, as a group, come to the table with a generous spirit, and ability to see and evaluate 'change' with an open mind.

What's your view of the recent and in-progress additions to downtown, Greenbridge and 140 West and what's your hope for UNC's University Square development plans? What else needs to be done to preserve and further a unique and thriving downtown?

Greenbridge – Eventually it will be seen more clearly as an excellent example of a commitment to building greener. I believe the financial troubles it has/is experiencing are the result of the worldwide economic down-turn and not inherent in the project design... I don't have the answer(s), but I'm sure better communication and understanding, by everyone involved, would have lessened the unsettled feelings.

140 West – While I was the lone dissenting vote on the Town Council, I want to see this project succeed. I'm hopeful that the public space and public art elements will help to energize downtown CH, and that the additional residential units, including several that are 'affordable', will help downtown achieve a 'critical mass' for a move vibrant main street.

Univ Square (aka 123 West Franklin – I hope that 123 and 140 create a wonderful synergy, full of life, and opportunity for additional residents, office and retail efforts to prosper.

Other? – Let's see what comes out of the Comprehensive Plan.

  • Chapel Hill - Mayor and Town Council

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