For the first time in eight years, the Pittsboro mayoral race does not include an incumbent. Mayor Randy Voller is stepping down after four terms to focus on his chairmanship of the North Carolina Democratic Party.
That leaves the seat open for one of two conservative candidates, Bill Terry or Bill Crawford, either of whom could take the town in a much different direction.
We endorse Bill Terry, the former Pittsboro town manager, who served from 2007 to 2012, when he retired. His government experience includes working as internal services superintendent for the Town of Chapel Hill and chairing the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition. Terry has also served on the board of the Chatham County Chamber of Commerce for five years.
His questionnaire reflects a deep knowledge of the town's fiscal health, which includes the money-losing utility enterprise fund. While he describes himself as a conservative, Terry is unafraid to raise rates and taxes if it is necessary to keep the town solvent. In fact, Terry recommends a tax increase while cutting any town waste.
We are pleased that Terry is skeptical about the necessity and benefits of Chatham Park, the 7,000-acre development planned for eastern Pittsboro. He writes: "The Town should table their rezoning request until such time as they have fully answered the question of how they will support the development with water, sewer and storm water management. Under no circumstances should the Town consider annexing any property within Chatham Park that we cannot serve with water and sewer services."
The other Bill—Bill Crawford—ran for mayor in 2009 against Voller. Crawford, who works in the food service industry, supports Chatham Park, calling it "a well thought out plan for a development that can bring many positive things to Pittsboro and Chatham County."
Crawford's questionnaire is skeletal and cranky. He noted at the top, "If these answers are insufficient for you, feel free not to accept the rest of it."
Again, we endorse Bill Terry.
Four candidates—two incumbents and two challengers—are running for two seats on the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners.
We endorse incumbents Michael Fiocco and Pamela Baldwin for another four-year term.
Baldwin earned our endorsement in 2011, and we see no reason to change our recommendation. The first African-American woman on the board, Baldwin is also mayor pro tem. She has worked to improve drinking water in Pittsboro; in 2007, the state fined the town $20,000 for water quality issues. She also supported the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. A financial adviser with the UNC School of Dentistry, Baldwin has consistently voted in favor of improving growth and well-managed development.
Fiocco is the owner and land development manager of a land planning and civil engineering firm; he also co-owns Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.
He touts the town's solid financial health and its water and sewer improvements, the cost of which was borne by the town and Chatham County. He is cautiously optimistic about the Chatham Park development, writing in his questionnaire: "It is clear that issues of infrastructure development and long-term management is a part of the growth proposition that will require a thorough analysis and vetting to be successful. I will require that the Town and Developer invest the time required to structure and enter into a Development Agreement that addresses these critical financial, functional and environmental issues."
On the issue of fracking, Fiocco is unconvinced that it "can be performed without substantial, and possibly irreversible, negative impacts on the environment and the communities in the region. The risks associated with water supply contamination, possible increase in seismic activity, and the degradation of the state, county and municipal character and infrastructure is unresolved and needs to be better understood."
Linda Bienvenue, a conservative and a retired paralegal, is running on a slate with fellow Republican mayoral candidate Bill Crawford. Their slogan is "Stop Endless Tax Increases." That's catchy, except the tax increases in Pittsboro have not been endless. They haven't even been consistent. In 2008, Pittsboro passed a 1-cent decrease, followed by a 4-cent reduction in 2009. In 2012, the board voted to reinstate the rate to 2008 levels. Property owners pay $63 more a year for every $100,000 of assessed value.
Max Cotten has had his turn on the board, having been appointed in 2001 after the death of commissioner Cassie Wasko. He was elected to the board in 2003 but did not seek re-election in 2007, instead running for mayor. (He lost to Voller.) He had six years to accomplish his goals; we see no reason to unseat an incumbent to give him another chance.
During his various political activities, Cotten took a controversial stand against the land transfer tax, which was put to a referendum in 2007. An anti-tax campaign funded by the N.C. Realtors political action committee tanked the ballot measure. Had it passed, counties could have levied a 0.4 percent tax on real estate transactions for new development and existing homes to help pay for necessities associated with growth.