Joal Hall Broun | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Joal Hall Broun 

Orange Board of County Commissioners

Name as it appears on the ballot: Joal Hall Broun

Full legal name, if different

Date of birth: February 20, 1961

Home address: 107 Creekview Circle, Carrboro, North Carolina

Mailing address, if different from home:

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer: Attorney, Director, Lobbying Compliance Division, N.C. Department of the Secretary of State

Spouse's name: Jonathan E. Broun

Spouse's occupation & employer: Staff Attorney & Training Director, Center for Death Penalty Litigation

Years lived in Orange County: 17 years and four months

Home phone:919-933-7725

Work phone: 919-807-2172

Cell phone:919-357-3647


1, What are the three most important issues facing Orange County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

1. Sustainable Economic Development

2. Making sure our community is affordable for all

3. Adequate public facilities, including libraries, quality schools, and recreation facilities for all of county residents

The three top priorities in addressing the sustainable economic development are:

1. Creating a welcoming economic development and entrepreneurial climate that attracts a diversity of size and type of retail and commercial businesses that create jobs;

2. Providing technical business assistance services for new and existing businesses, maintaining a robust revolving loan fund, and providing the physical infrastructure such as water, sewer, and fiber optics so that current businesses can flourish or expand and new businesses will want to relocate to Orange County;

3. Identifying areas where Orange County government can collaborate with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to capture the spin-offs from the university and Carolina North, and other public-private partnerships to create businesses and jobs;

The three top priorities in making sure our community is affordable for all are:

1. Reduce the reliance on the residential property tax by increasing the commercial tax base and creating more jobs located in the county.

2. Examine county government to determine if there exist any inefficiency and where the County can reduce expenditures.

3. Create new policies that produce affordable housing for all income levels.

The three top priorities in making sure there are adequate public facilities, including quality schools, libraries, and recreation facilities for all county residents are:

1. A robust and healthy economic development program that provides the commercial tax base to pay for libraries, quality schools, and recreation facilities in all of Orange County.

2. The maintenance of the library and school funds to pay for the construction of a southwest branch of the Orange County library and for future repairs to older schools and construction of new schools.

3. A plan to maintain the existing recreation facilities and to identify the areas that need either new construction or renovation of old facilities.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County Board of Commissioners? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I consider myself a public servant, not a politician. My service to the community has been wide-ranging and diverse. I have acquired a unique set of skills and experiences that demonstrate my effective public service.

Member of the Carrboro Town Board for almost eleven years

Assistant public defender for Orange and Chatham counties

Assistant general counsel, Self-Help, a community development bank

Former Chair of the local NAACP chapter Education committee

Board member, Orange County Water and Sewer Authority ("OWASA")

These positions have provided me with the experience of working with people of different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Those working and community experiences have also given me the experience of resolving disputes and assisting in the operation of large organizations and be able to determine what has been successful in the past in the area of human services.

Additionally, the position at Self-Help gave me exposure to what it takes for businesses to succeed and as an OWASA board member I have knowledge with regards to the provision of a critical part of sustainable economic development, water and sewer. Such experiences make me uniquely qualified to help County navigate the challenges of increasing the commercial tax base by promoting sustainable economic development and to support our current businesses, including agriculture; maintaining our environmental stewardship; and to insure that the County maintains quality education.

3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I define myself politically as a progressive.

My past political achievements include insuring that the Town of Carrboro has a workable capitol improvements policy that resulted in the building of the new fire station and the purchase of two parks: Martin Luther King Park and the Adams Tract property.

I believe in practical solutions to real problems as illustrated by advocacy of and the passage of the changes in the downtown zoning to help Carrboro develop both commercial and retail space. For example, the 301 West Main Street project and other downtown developments are direct result of the policy of doubling the commercial square footage in Carrboro so that we can alleviate the burden on the residential taxpayer. Additionally, I have led the Board in scrutinizing the budget to keep tax increases to a minimum, holding the line on tax rates in these difficult times; and to be aware of those least able to pay while ensuring essential services.

Government should provide an equal opportunity to everyone so that they can thrive, not just survive in the county. I believe in setting high goals and measuring where an organization or individual is so that goals can be met. I promote the gathering of citizen input to insure that everyone has the opportunity to present their point of view to decision makers. I support the idea that government should be able to provide for the needs of those who cannot help themselves. I believe that education is one of the four most important functions that government performs. I believe that government should provide access to quality education to all citizens, including access for adults for retraining to obtain higher paying and higher quality jobs.

4. Provide a candid assessment of the county's waste transfer site location process, what went well, what didn't and what can be learned from the debate? Do you agree with shipping trash to Durham? How ultimately should Orange County dispose of its trash?

I acknowledge that dealing with solid waste is a difficult problem that the county has struggled with for years. Locating a waste transfer station is only the most recent manifestation. The county has done a good job on reducing some materials going to the landfill with the highest recycling rate in the state. It has, however, badly bungled the search for solutions for the rest. From promises made and broken about the current landfill, the search for a new landfill, and the search for a waste transfer site, the county has been too little, too late, and too indecisive.

The best thing about the most recent process is that, it finally eliminated sites near the Eubanks Road facility and Rogers/Eubanks community. The worst thing is that it has been reactive and has not produced a clear vision or practical solutions. The commissioners adopted a process and set criteria, and then they could not decide whether to abandon them or not in the midst of the existing, landfill fast approaching the closure date.

We need a serious commitment to further waste reduction and a plan for what to do with the remainder. Discussions regarding a waste transfer station were disjointed because there was no clear determination of the community will other than not locating a transfer station in particular areas.

What Orange County learns from the debate is if we portray ourselves to be environmentally progressive, then we are going to need another solution to waste disposal. We need a community discussion for both short term and long-term decisions. First, for the short term, how feasible is it to continue to send the waste to Durham or some other facility given the increase in transportation costs. Second, I think the County should seriously investigate are there any existing technologies or policies that will reduce the amount of waste that is generated by food disposal, packaging and construction waste materials. Similarly, the County should explore whether it is feasible to use current or future technologies to transform the County's waste to energy.

For the long term, we need to determine whether it is feasible or desirable to site a transfer station in the county or if we are going to export our waste. In either case, is the community willing to adopt policies and practices that would substantially reduce the amount of waste that is going to landfills and transfer stations? Such policies could include the separation of food from the waste stream for composting and limiting certain packaging to that which is recyclable. If we decide to keep all waste within the county, then where is it going to go and how do you compensate a community that becomes the new landfill neighbor? These kinds of decisions can only be made if the County embarks on a structured gathering of input and then comes to a final decision. If the community decides to send its waste out of county or if it remains in the county, it should avoid at all costs that, our garbage arrives and remains in an area with a substantial minority population or less affluent community.

I have considerable experience in helping with such conversations, gathering and sorting information, and forging consensus.

5. The county is culling, combining, and eliminating some of its advisory boards and commissions because of overlap and inaction. What types of advisory boards and committees are productive and useful to the board? Which boards should be eliminated? How will you work with these groups in office?

First, the Board needs to retain those Boards that are statutorily required, such as the Planning Board. Second, the Commissioners should determine that there are some subject matter boards where the issues and need for attention are ongoing, for example Economic Development Board, JOCCA, Parks and Recreation, and the Commission on the Environment,

The criteria for eliminating an advisory board should be whether or not the advisory board meets the needs of the citizens and if it has been effective. Then, the Board should determine what the priorities are for the County, communicate with clarity those goals to the remaining advisory boards and communicate the expectations for each advisory board.

6. What is your position on library services in Orange County? To what extent should the county pay for the Chapel Hill Public Library and how much money can the county reasonably afford to commit to this effort?

First, I think that the County should increase its support for all library services. The funding for library services over the past 20 years has been inadequate. In the long term there needs to be a unified system; in the short term, the Board should: 1) increase support to the Chapel Hill Public Library; 2)maintain the set aside funds for the construction and operation of a Southwest branch of the Orange County Library 3) increase operating hours at the Main Branch located in Hillsborough, the Cedar Grove branch, and the Carrboro branch of the Orange County Library system, particularly Sunday and evening hours.

7. Do you support the half cent regional rail tax? How do you envision regional rail working for Orange County. Where will it connect? When and how?

I do support the half cent regional rail tax; however, I think we should wait to hold that referendum when the economy has improved. I envision regional rail working for Orange County in the following manner: 1) first, that there is a connection from the southern portion of the county to both Durham and connections and to Raleigh. Ideally, it should connect near the greatest population or work centers, i.e. UNC-Chapel Hill and Carolina North. There also should be a connection from Hillsborough to Durham given the number of northern Orange county residents who work in Durham. Finally, there should be a connection from Hillsborough to Chapel Hill. All of these routes would alleviate the number of vehicle miles driven and thus improve air quality and reduce pollution.

8. As a commissioner, how will you provide effective oversight of the many county departments, sheriff's office, etc. while in office?

First, the Board of Commissioners instruct the county manager to examine each budget and operations to determine if there exist any inefficiencies and if more than one department is currently offering the same service. Then, when reviewing any budget during the budget season, commissioners must examine whether the expenditures match the priorities and missions previously identified by the community and the Board. Once, Commissioners with the assistance of the community have identified the greatest priorities, and then the funding is allocated in that fashion.

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

My election to office would mean that the citizens of Orange County would know exactly why certain decisions were made and how the Board came to those decisions. There would be transparency not just in word, but also in action. There would be an emphasis on insuring that everyone had several opportunities to provide input on an issue. Finally, there would be an emphasis on taking the initiative to obtain that input in various forms such as forums, surveys, and community meetings.

10. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.

During these constrained economic times, I would be willing to postpone some other funding priorities, such as land purchases to insure that education and human services needs are met.

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