Kurt Stolka | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Kurt Stolka 

Candidate for Carrboro Board of Aldermen

Name as it appears on the ballot: Kurt Stolka

Date of birth: March 1, 1981

Campaign website: kurtstolka.com

Email: kurtstolkaforalderman@gmail.com


Web Editor's note: Mr. Stolka has submitted a second set of responses to our questionnaire; these immediately follow. His original responses are below.

1. Why are you running for office and what are your top priorities, if elected?

There is a drastic inequality gap of both local quality employers and affordable median income housing. A great deal of improvement is needed in order to make it safer for our children and seniors to get around by foot and by bicycle. I have a two year old son and want to improve the safety of our streets so he can safely travel by foot or bike back and forth to school and friends' houses around Carrboro. Public space, including parks and publicly owned land, need to be better maintained and utilized to engage our citizens through more community interaction, play and fitness activities.

I want to increase Carrboro's visibility state-wide and regionally, as one of the best communities that support progressive family values. Carrboro is locally known as a place that welcomes all lifestyles, religious views, and types of families. My wife and I chose to live in Carrboro precisely because we knew it was an open-minded community of people who shared our beliefs and values. In order to build on our vibrant and creative community, we need to encourage more families and entrepreneurs to put permanent roots down in Carrboro as we did.

Please include information on past public service, posts held, volunteer work completed and other examples of your leadership.

I have been a member of the Carrboro Transportation Advisory Board since 2010 and prior to that I was an active volunteer for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. I am currently changing careers from a security clearance investigator in the Washington DC area to a position in planning/economic development to promote active, sustainable, and livable communities.

2. If you are not currently serving on the Board of Aldermen, what will you bring to the body that it now lacks?

The Board needs a fresh vision and someone with knowledge of community and economic development principles. I want to combine robust sustainable mixed use growth with the values and character Carrboro holds dear. I recently attained a Graduate Certificate in Urban and Economic Development from UNCG this past May, and believe Carrboro has unused potential as a result of a lack of long term vision. Carrboro also lacks someone to represent its young residents and families. There need to be play spaces in every neighborhood, regardless of income level, to make our town more equitable and not reserve them for the few who live close by to Wilson or Anderson Park. There are currently 8 acres of town owned land without any playgrounds or fitness areas on Hillsborough Rd in between James and Dove streets that is labeled "Multi-purpose Field". I enjoy being outside and just discovered this space which was devoid of people. This amplifies the need for the town to tout its public and green spaces by creating ways to attract people to them.

3. In the last four years, what do you feel are the three best accomplishments of Carrboro town government, and why?

  1. The 300 E. Main St hotel development added needed commercial space to our downtown and a more central location where tourists can park and leave their cars as they walk or bike around town.

  2. The Open Streets event that pedestrianized West Weaver Street allowed the community to experience the town at the human level while highlighting local active living programs.

  3. The implementation of a road diet on West Main Street added bicycle lanes and reduced four lanes down to two, making our downtown a less anxious place for people to walk and cycle. This is something that needs to be down on East Main Street as well to allow people to safely cross the road.

Conversely, what are three things you would have done differently?

  1. I believe the town lost an opportunity to impress local businesses with the value of pedestrianized streets by not investing in a greater public outreach campaign to encourage people to access Weaver Street businesses during the piping construction. Instead, the businesses have the impression that car access is the most important form of mobility for their customers. The Vision 2020 document adopted in 2001 specified a desire for a pedestrianized public plaza. I would have pushed to use this time as a pilot period for making Weaver Street a pedestrianized only street. Social and print media need to be used to greater effect to get people excited and create a buzz about upcoming events.

  2. Carrboro needs to concentrate on attracting quality job employers that allow us to walk, bike, or take transit to work. This will not only create greater economic mobility, but also provides jobs for young professionals, reduces our CO2 emissions, and increases our quality of life by adding 60-90 minutes of free time saved from out-commuting. Over the past 25 years, Carrboro built up its entertainment and arts businesses, but neglected technology, manufacturing, and research sectors. We are two miles from UNC, but lack the deep relationships new and existing businesses need to collaborate and grow.

  3. Similar to our out-commuting jobs crisis is the lack of affordable housing. Many of the residential developments that occurred over the past 25 years are decidedly single family high income homes inaccessible to the downtown core except by automobile. We lost the chance to build mixed use walkable developments that allow people to access their community by walking, biking, or transit. The northern areas and outskirts of town deserve the same walkability and bike-ability as the downtown. Had we established this practice sooner, our residential property taxes would not be nearly as high and our town would be on a path to long term sustainability.

4. INDY Week'smission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

I define a just community as one that welcomes all lifestyles and provides opportunities for economic mobility for all citizens by providing a living wage and quality jobs.

A just community makes plans for the future of all its citizens and not just the high income ones and not short-sighted decisions that lack a long term vision. I want to establish a regularly updated comprehensive land use plan that utilizes community input and gets our residents invested in their future. Once this is in place, our community values and character will be preserved and also allow developers to reduce the red tape of starting a new business in town. Carrboro is socially unequal. Public spaces are one of the few places people from different income levels can meet as equals, and Carrboro has not invited people from all corners of our community to participate as equal citizens.

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 define myself as a liberal social democrat. My past achievements as part of the Carrboro TAB we focus on providing social equity opportunities for all residents, regardless of income, to access multi-modal transportation. My policy stances seek to address the housing, income, and social inequality crises in our town and our Town is in dire need of a new Alderperson who seeks to seriously address these issues.

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

I believe that the CVS development should have been approved with the conditions the Carrboro Transportation Advisory Board set. CVS was willing to reduce parking adjacent to the neighbors and reduce business hours in order to satisfy the noise and ambient light spillover concerns from neighbors. Had we approved their development, our residents would have more products to choose from which would reduce the need to drive to Chapel Hill and Durham shopping centers. It would be better for the environment by reducing polluting car trips and road congestion, and would improve our streetscape by eliminating the blighted abandoned bank which still sits on our busiest intersection.

7. Many of Carrboro's most recent controversies centered on the clash of local businesses versus corporate businesses. What are your thoughts on this dynamic and how can a town official impact this?

Carrboro values its local businesses due to the spillover dollars that stay in our community. At the same time we have national corporate businesses which are attracted to our community due to our quality of life and highly educated workforce. A town official can mitigate these controversies through dialogue which takes into account the positives and negatives of each type of business. A policy maker must take into account what will benefit the town in the long term and what best helps our residents succeed. It is not an all or nothing proposition on having only local businesses or corporate businesses. To further enhance our local businesses long term viability, we need to collaborate more with Chapel Hill's economic development team and build the capacity of local entrepreneurs through small business incubator programs. This will help keep graduates from UNC in the area and get more young people invested in our community.

8. Affordable housing remains a key issue in Carrboro. What can the town do to ensure affordable housing remains an option?

We need to encourage more cooperative housing complexes and establish mandatory inclusionary zoning. This will not only create affordable housing, but also enhance our density as a town. The town should work with established organizations like the Weaver Coop Housing Association and create additional properties not only for low income singles but also 3 bedroom properties for families. There are many town-owned surface parking lots which are walkable, bike-able, and public transit accessible which provide opportunities to expand our affordable housing network. A house is not affordable for someone if they have to purchase a car, insurance, gas, and assume maintenance costs. Savings from reduced transportation and housing costs can instead be invested in local community businesses.

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 engineering and planning standpoint to be prepared should future flooding occur?

Over the past few decades the town allowed construction of countless properties directly in or abutting the flood zones. What town officials can do now is attempt to manage what is already there through close inspection of proposed developments which increase impervious square footage. The town can also incorporate more bioswale planters along our roads and parking lots which absorb excess runoff and immediately drain instead of flowing to our stressed storm water sewage system. Bioswales not only reduce rainwater runoff but also beautify our streets and provide protection from motor vehicle traffic.


1. Why are you running for office and what are your top priorities, if elected?

There is a drastic inequality gap of both local quality employers and affordable median income housing. A great deal of improvement is needed in order to make it safer for our children and seniors to get around by foot and by bicycle. I have a two year old son and want to improve the safety of our streets so he can live without fear while going back and forth to school and friends' houses. The public space to include parks and publicly owned land need to be greater utilized to activate our community and provide more spaces for people to engage in play and fitness activities. I also want to create an advertising campaign to put Carrboro on the national map as one of the best communities that support progressive family values. Carrboro is a place that welcomes all lifestyles, religious views, and families. Carrboro is a community that allows you to live your life without judgment. In order to build on our vibrant and creative community, we need to encourage others to put roots down and move here as I did from the Baltimore/DC area.

Please include information on past public service, posts held, volunteer work completed and other examples of your leadership.

I have been a member of the Carrboro Transportation Advisory Board since 3/2010 and prior to that I was an active volunteer for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. I am currently changing careers from a security clearance investigator in the Washington DC area to a position in planning/economic development to promote active, sustainable, and livable communities.

2. If you are not currently serving on the Board of Aldermen, what will you bring to the body that it now lacks?

The Board needs a fresh vision and someone with knowledge of community and economic development principles. I want to combine robust sustainable mixed use growth with the values and character Carrboro holds dear. I recently attained a Graduate Certificate in Urban and Economic Development from UNCG this past May, and believe Carrboro has unused potential as a result of a lack of long term vision. Carrboro also lacks someone to represent its young residents and families. There need to be play spaces in every neighborhood to make our town is equitable and not reserve them for the few who live close by to Wilson or Anderson Park. There are currently 8 acres of town owed land that sits without any playgrounds or fitness areas on Hillsborough Rd in between James and Dove streets that is labeled "Multi-purpose Field". I enjoy being outside and just discovered this space which was devoid of people. This amplifies the need for the town to tout its public and green spaces by creating ways to attract people to them.

3. In the last four years, what do you feel are the three best accomplishments of Carrboro town government, and why?

The top three accomplishments are making the 300 E. Main St hotel development come to fruition. This added needed commercial space to our downtown and a more central location where tourists can park and leave their cars as they walk or bike around town. We successfully held Carrboro's first Open Streets event that pedestrianized West Weaver street and allowed the community to gather and experience the town at the human level and provide active living programs. The implementation of a road diet on West Main Street added bicycle lanes and made a four lane road dissecting our downtown into a less anxious place for people to walk and cycle around town. This is something that needs to be down on East Main street as well to allow people to safely cross the road.

Conversely, what are three things you would have done differently?

I believe the town lost an opportunity to impress local businesses with the value of pedestrianized streets by lacking public outreach to encourage people to access Weaver Street businesses during the piping construction. Instead, the businesses have the impression cars are their only means of access to customers. The Vision 2020 document adopted in 2001 specified a desire for a pedestrianized. There should have been plans made ahead of time to make the best use of the construction period as a pilot for a pedestrianized street. Social and print media need to be used to greater effect to get people excited and create a buzz about upcoming events.

Carrboro needs to concentrate on attracting quality job employers that allow us to walk, bike, or take transit to work. This will not only create greater economic mobility, but also provides jobs for young professionals, reduces our CO2 emissions, and increases our quality of life by adding 60-90 minutes of free time saved from commuting.

Over the past 25 years, Carrboro built up its entertainment and arts businesses, but neglected technology, manufacturing, and research sectors. We are two miles from UNC, but lack the deep relationships new and existing businesses need to collaborate and grow.

Similar to our out commuting jobs crisis is the lack of affordable housing. Many of the residential developments that occurred over the past 25 years are decidedly single family high income homes inaccessible to the downtown core except by automobile. We lost the chance to build mixed use walkable developments that allow people to access their community by walking, biking, or transit. The northern areas and outskirts of town deserve the same walkability and bike-ability as the downtown.

Had we established this practice sooner, our residential property taxes would not be nearly as

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?

I define a just community as one that welcomes all lifestyles and provides a living wage to its citizens to encourage economic mobility. A just community deserves decision making that plans for the future and not through short sighted decisions that lack a long term vision. I want to establish a regularly updated comprehensive land use plan that utilizes community input and gets our residents invested in their future. Once this is in place, our community values and character will be preserved and also allow developers to reduce the red tape of starting a new business or factory in town.

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 define myself as a liberal social democrat. My past achievements as part of the Carrboro TAB

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

I believe that the CVS development should have been approved with the conditions the Carrboro Transportation Advisory Board set. CVS was stated they were willing to do what it took to make their relocation happen. They were willing to reduce parking adjacent to the neighbors and trim back their business hours in order to satisfy the noise and ambient light spillover concerns neighbors have. Had we approved their development, our residents would have more products to choose from and reduce the driving and time required to purchase products in Durham shopping centers. It would be better for the environment by reducing polluting car trips, reduce road congestion, and improve our streetscape by eliminating the blighted abandoned bank which still sits on our busiest intersection.

7. Many of Carrboro's most recent controversies centered on the clash of local businesses versus corporate businesses. What are your thoughts on this dynamic and how can a town official impact this?

Carrboro values its local businesses due to the spillover dollars that stay in our community. At the same time we have national corporate businesses which are attracted to our community due to our quality of life and highly educated workforce. A town official can mitigate these controversies through dialogue which takes into account the positives and negatives of each type of business. A policymaker must take into account what will benefit the town in the long term and what best helps our residents succeed. It is not an all or nothing proposition on having only local businesses or corporate businesses. To further enhance our local businesses long term viability, we need to collaborate more with Chapel Hill's economic development team and build the capacity of local entrepreneurs through small business incubator programs. This will help keep graduates from UNC in the area and get more young people invested in our community.

8. Affordable housing remains a key issue in Carrboro. What can the town do to ensure affordable housing remains an option?

We need to encourage more cooperative housing complexes. This will not only create affordable housing, but also enhance our density as a town. The town should work with established organizations like the Weaver Coop Housing Association and create additional properties not only for low income singles but also 3 bedroom properties families can also benefit from. There are many town-owned surface parking lots which are walkable, bikeable, and public transit accessible which provide opportunities to expand our affordable housing network. A house is not affordable for someone if they have to purchase a car, insurance, gas, and assume maintenance costs. Many thousands of dollars can instead be saved for retirement or invested in community businesses.

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 engineering and planning standpoint to be prepared should future flooding occur?

The town allowed construction of countless properties directly in or abutting the flood zones in the past decades. What town officials can do now is attempt to manage what is already there through close inspection of proposed developments which increase impervious square footage. The town can also incorporate more bioswale planters along our roads and parking lots which absorb excess runoff and immediately drain instead of flowing to our stressed storm water sewage system. Bioswales not only reduce rainwater runoff but also beautify our streets and provide protection from motor vehicle traffic.

  • Candidate for Carrboro Board of Aldermen

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