Matt Czajkowski | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Matt Czajkowski 

Candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Matt Czajkowski
Full legal name, if different: Matthew E. Czajkowski
Date of birth: April 24, 1949
Home address: 1083 Burning Tree Drive Chapel Hill
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Chief Financial Officer, Aldagen, Inc.
Home phone: 932 4789
Work phone: Cell phone: 619 1221

1. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.

I have been in finance for my entire career and have been Chief Financial Officer of two healthcare public companies in the area. Chapel Hill and the Town Council clearly need an individual who has worked in a corporate environment where setting goals, establishing metrics to evaluate progress towards those goals are standard practice – unlike in the current Chapel Hill town government. Chapel Hill also desperately needs a Town Council member who has the ability to evaluate budgets and financial projections. For example, in a corporate environment the change from a $500,000 commitment for Lot 5 to what is now estimated at $8.5 million would be viewed as a massive failure! The Town Manger’s own budget projections show that interest expense alone will be 25% of total town expenses in 2010. The town is on its way to a serious financial crisis and yet the current town council members are touting the fact that tax rates have not been raised for two years. This is either a cynical position – in that they are relying on the forthcoming increase in appraisals to raise taxes by 25% without them having to raise the tax rate – or they don’t have an understanding of the projections. There is a great deal of focus on social issues in Chapel Hill – but unfortunately, as with all things, the ability to provide for social issues ultimately comes down to financing not sentiment. Without a massive increase in taxes in the next few years we will simple not be able to pay for many of the social programs Chapel Hill holds dear. The voters will have the current Town Council to thank!

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

I believe in straight talk – which I have found remarkably lacking with the current Town Council. At the League of Women Voters the candidates were asked a number of yes/no questions – to which none of the current incumbents were willing to give a yes/no answer. Ion the other hand I gave yes/ no answers to every question. It’s so easy to say “I am in favor of this” but it’s another to say where the money is coming from.

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

One of many principled stands I have already taken – that believe me are unpopular with some of the more vocal voters – is that the Town Council is negligent in not directing the police to aggressively enforce existing loitering and panhandling ordinances. Homelessness is a condition we must try to solve. Loitering and panhandling are behaviors which we have every right to prevent.

4. 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 definition of a just community is one in which we support the very people who contribute so enormously to making Chapel Hill a special place to live. We currently are failing in that regard. One example is EZ Rider. Many of our elderly are unable to take two buses and stand at bus stops for fifteen minutes for each bus when they want to go to the senior center which is mystifyingly located on the edge of town. Since they don’t drive they have no choice but to take EZ rider. Based on metrics – not opinions – EZ rider service has deteriorated significantly in the last year --- due to directives from the current council. The explanation given was to blame our senior citizens and handicapped. Ask my 87 year old mother what she thinks of that explanation. We need to prioritize what areas we focus on and spend money on. In a world of finite resources does a just community focus on its elderly or on itinerants who are not part of the community?

5. Carolina North could transform the look of Chapel Hill, as well as set precedents in town-gown relations. What zoning regulations and building standards should the city implement on the project? Explain the optimal process by which the town could work with UNC on this and future projects.

Sadly, Chapel Hill has become so inwardly focused and scared of any change to the status quo that it has lost the national leadership position it held in the 1970s. Carolina North offers an extraordinary opportunity for Chapel Hill to become a leader in life sciences and advances and sustainable energy technology. Finding cures to horrible diseases for which there are no cures or developing price competitive solar energy are exactly the values Chapel Hill espouses. Those things are happening as we speak in the area. But not in Chapel Hill! I know because I’m involved in both – sadly not in Chapel Hill. It is striking that those contributions are not a part of the current dialogue regarding Carolina North. Clearly we have to address the environmental impact of Carolina North and the traffic flows. There are always trade offs however – ALWAYS – and at least the dialogue should have a balance between the impact on Chapel Hill as it exists today and the contributions of Chapel Hill in the future!

6. Along those development lines, growth in northwest Chapel Hill is an issue important to the town’s citizens. What is your plan for growth in that sector? How will it be achieved?

Chapel Hill has one of the lowest sales tax contributions to its overall tax base. As a consequence, the bulk of the tax burden falls to property tax. The current Town Council is fond of saying that we have “one of the lowest tax rates in the area”. That is facile at best. The real impact of taxes is based not just on the rate but on the appraisal it is multiplied by. Using that measure, Chapel Hill has the highest tax burden in the area. Just ask anyone who pays property tax. It is a significant factor in making Chapel Hill unaffordable to so many people. (How many employees of the independent live in Chapel Hill. The only way to remedy this is to increase the commercial tax base. It may not be the answer we want -- but it is the reality. You can’t have affordable housing, great services and meaningful affordable housing based on property taxes alone. Northwest Chapel Hill is the last remaining undeveloped area of Chapel Hill. If we don’t make it a mixed use area with a meaningful retail component we will have only contributed to the unaffordability of Chapel Hill. That’s the real trade off we face – like it or not! Programs to keep Chapel Hill the way it was are specious as long as the property tax burden becomes more and more unsustainable.

7. While Greenbridge has been lauded as an environmentally friendly housing development, there are also concerns that it threatens adjacent lower-income neighborhoods. What do you think the town’s strategy should be in regards to gentrification?

First of all, what is the basis for the concern that Greenbridge will “threaten adjacent lower-income neighborhoods”. Nobody will have to move. Anyone who claims that Greenbridge will not make the overall area a better place in general hasn’t spent much time in the area (if any). So I don’t understand what the problem is. If what is meant by gentrification is that housing prices will go up in the area – surely you are not suggesting that the current residents would be opposed?

8. How should the town incentivize affordable housing? As for public housing, how should the town continue to manage these developments in light of reduced federal funding?

I go back to my fundamental premise that affordable housing should be for the people who make Chapel Hill what we all love. Young professors and their families: the retired people who have contributed so much to Chapel Hill over decades but are now faced with “downsizing” and moving to Chatham County; our teachers; and our police and firemen (3 of 113 policemen live in Chapel Hill). If we don’t provide affordable housing to those integral members of our community we have failed --- and by any measure we have! We must focus on the current affordable housing – and any increments – and find ways to make it attractive to the integral members of our community to whom we owe so much.

9. The town’s comprehensive plan emphasizes regional planning and cooperation. What are the most important issues in regional planning? What results are you looking for? How would you achieve them?

The current most pressing issue in regional planning is the proposed Waste Transfer. I am the only Town Council candidate who is willing to state that I will vote against it. It is an outrage to the Roger road community. Perhaps a better question for the Independent to ask instead of what effect Greenbridge will have on the surrounding community is the impact of the waste transfer station on the Rogers road community!

10. The council has debated obtaining contributions from developers to help pay for the operating costs of the town’s free bus system. What are the pros and cons of such a plan? What formulas should be used to assess the fee amounts? What transportation needs could be met with the additional funds generated by these fees?

First of all we need to be clear on how well free transportation is currently serving the community. Part of that assessment should by having Town Council members take the bus from my mothers house in Willow terrace to the Senior Center ) not Carrboro’s Century center. Then we should ask whether they still stand by their stated view that “we are at the point where people can go about their daily activities without owning a car”. As with all things, we have to find a balance between “free” transportation and serving the long standing members of the community. Forcing developers to pay for part of the costs of the bus system ultimately achieves one outcome – making the cost of housing even less affordable. We need to seriously consider charging fares for those most able to pay and giving passes to those who can’t – just as they do in most of Europe. Then we will have the funds to improve the service for thos who need it most.

11. The 10-year plan to end homelessness began earlier this month. How will the town monitor progress on the plan? What accountability measures are or should be in place? What are the hurdles to accomplishing it? How can the town overcome those obstacles?

A question which is never raised in this discussion is why Chapel Hill has a homeless population that is 5 times the size of other municipalities our size. The answer, of course is that we are a magnet for homeless people from a wide geographic range. A fair question – which is never addressed – is why the citizens of Chapel Hill must be compelled to support the 80% of the homeless that are not from our community? Chapel Hill should have a program that allows citizens to contribute to the costs of the program through a voluntary supplement to their taxes. That would allow those citizens who wish to make a contribution to solve the homeless problem of those who are not from Chapel Hill.

12. What important town departments or agencies have been, in your opinion, chronically underfunded? What have been the ramifications of that shortage? If elected, where would you find the money to more fairly fund these areas? Conversely, what town departments or agencies have been overfunded?

The issue is not which departments are over or under funded, it is which departments fulfill their functions effectively. Unfortunately, Chapel Hill has such a bad reputation among commercial and retail developers for having a protracted and fickle approval process. This is not constructive. The premise appears to be that if we make things difficult we will get the best results. It seems ironic that in a community where we value dialogue (which is a big part of why we choose to live here) that the approach to commercial development is confrontational rather than collaborative. It may feel good but it doesn’t serve us well!

13. Chapel Hill is participating in the Jordan Lake Stakeholder Project to help manage this resource, which is polluted and threatened by growth and development. What is Chapel Hill’s responsibility in mitigating these threats? What policies should Town Council enact to help protect water quality and quantity in Jordan Lake?

Clearly Chapel Hill shares its proportionate responsibility for mitigating the threats to Jordan Lake. The town currently already exceeds the surrounding communities in this regard. Our current policies are sufficient. There is a real concern that we will not get economic credit for our contributions already when the inevitable cost is apportioned. We should be mindful of this.

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