Matt Czajkowski | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Matt Czajkowski 

Candidate for Chapel Hill Mayor

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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, NC 27517
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: retired
Home phone: 919 932 4789
Work phone: N/A

Note: This questionnaire was filed with the Indy Oct. 16, after our endorsements were published.

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 a consistent and strong voice for transparency in Town Government. There is a sense today in Chapel Hill that the Town Council is intent on being self perpetuating and self serving -- based on events such as the attempt to vote itself lifetime health care benefits using a procedural approach which effectively hid it from public view -- and the unwillingness currently to commit to an approach for filling the vacancy created by Bill Strom's resignation. We need to restore confidence and trust in our town government and I am broadly perceived as the voice insisting that we do so. Trust is what makes effective leaders.

2. 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 as a centrist who believes that imbalance on either end of the political spectrum is unsustainable over time.

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

I voted against taxpayer subsidized campaigns.

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?

What is a just community? To me a just community is one in which the interests and needs of all the citizens are balanced. I have consistently displayed -- both through the questions I have raised, the positions I have taken and my voting record -- that I seek balance.

5. In the midst of a difficult economic situation and a tough budget year, what's one thing that the town is cutting that you would save and what's one thing that's been saved that you would cut?

I don't believe we have cut anything which has shown any meaningful effect on town services. The delay of the library expansion is vexing but we have to get an equitable funding arrangement with Carrboro and Orange County before we proceed. In regard to cost reduction we have to look at Town benefits in their totality and find ways to mitigate the 17% increases in annual costs.

6. What's your approach to growth in Chapel Hill? Where should the town grow? How do leaders manage it?

Of course we have to grow primarily along the gateways because that is where the remaining developable and re-developable land is. The question is how and in what form. We need to reexamine the mixed use approach. It requires developers to put hotels, office buildings, retail and residential all in one tract. It hasn't worked in terms of two of its stated goals -- people don't live and work in the mixed use communities we have built -- and the retail is struggling. We need to allow higher density residential without requiring mixed use. We need to have a simplified approval process for developments which provide "workforce" housing and we must foster larger retail developments in order to have fiscal sustainability.

As for how leaders manage future growth -- we have to do it through a dialogue with the citizens rather than telling them what is right. Since joining the council I have been the primary advocate for creating a visioning task force because it was clear to me that the citizens of Chapel Hill didn't feel as though they had a voice in the Council's vision for implementing growth. Only after a forum sponsored by a citizens group did my fellow council members agree to create such a task force. Now we have a dialogue -- and eventually we will have a collective vision.

7. Do you think recent efforts to revitalize Franklin Street, such as adding welcome flags, using new parking rules, implementing Touchdown Carolina, etc. have been effective? What more needs to be done downtown? What would you do to increase occupancy rates and make Franklin Street a more vibrant and economically successful entity?

The residents of Chapel Hill don't think they have been meaningfully effective. We have heard it a million times. We need more and easier parking downtown. People demand that they feel comfortable downtown or they just won't come. Until we get serious about addressing those two issues we will only make marginal improvements. We need to make Franklin Street fun again. We need to draw on our vast creative community -- give them space for performing art -- not just on a highly structured basis -- but on a smaller scale as well -- string quartets in front of the post office on Thursday afternoons. Small street fairs on a side street on Sunday afternoons like other towns. If we nurture our creative community they will come up with all sorts of entertainment and activity opportunities. As a town we need to let them know we are committed to making those kinds of things happen rather than imposing road blocks. We also need to add destinations that draw more people downtown. The proposed artists collaborative is a great first step. We have more artists per capita in Orange County than Asheville. With a vision and commitment we can make downtown Chapel Hill a major arts destination -- and we will do so by having the arts community lead the way with the Town facilitating.

8. 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?

We had an opportunity to help the Northside neighborhood by using payment in lieu funds rather than insisting that the developers put tiny little apartments in that do not serve the target demographics for affordable housing. As recently as six months ago we could still have reversed that decision. We have to think not only in terms of creating more affordable housing but also preserving what we have.

9. Do you agree with Community Home Trust Executive Director Robert Dowling that the town's affordable housing policy is not working? If so, what needs to be done to correct this? As for public housing, how should the town continue to manage these developments in light of reduced federal funding?

Of course -- he runs it. For almost two years I have been questioning the assumption that families will want to live in very small condominiums. As a result I have been told by one council member that I am "stuck in a fifties mentality". Some of my fellow council members claim they have the ability to see into the future and that ten years from now families will want to live in small apartments. That's a bold assumption on which to build affordable housing today. We can take payment in lieu and buy other affordable housing which already exists in Chapel Hill which will be much more attractive to families today.

I am not aware that federal funding has been materially reduced for public housing in Chapel Hill.

10. What makes Chapel Hill unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it?

It is diversity broadly defined. We are in serious jeopardy -- indeed it's already happening -- of losing many of the academics and creative people who have made Chapel Hill much of what it is today. We are losing them because of the unsustainable property tax burden. For years Chapel Hill has blithely assumed that is could exist with a very low contribution from retail sales taxes. If we are to preserve the broad income diversity of Chapel Hill we better reverse that -- or we will end up as a community that only has people who are highly affluent -- or qualify for affordable housing.

11. With that in mind, the town's comprehensive plan emphasizes regional planning and cooperation. How should this collaboration take place? On what kinds of issues? And, what strategies would you borrow from your neighbors that could work in Chapel Hill?

We have to understand that Chapel Hill does not live in a vacuum. North Chatham and northern Orange County are effectively becoming residential areas that house many of the people who work at UNC and UNC healthcare. At some point we have to accept that -- and focus on transportation options for those people. We can only do so in the short to medium term by extending our interregional bus system. The Pittsboro Chapel Hill route is a great start -- but we need to be committed to extending interregional bus transportation. This will require cooperation between Chapel Hill, Chatham and Orange County -- and compromises will have to be made. If we start with the position that Chapel Hill has the only right way we will fail.

12. How do you view UNC's relationship with the town? What's the state of it, given recent Carolina North developments? How will you help further that relationship in the future?

It has improved thanks to the collaboration on the Chapel Hill North development agreement. It was completed because we set a deadline -- for which I was the primary advocate. Going forward we need to treat the university staff with respect -- and start with the assumption that they share the same objectives as the town. That will foster collaboration rather than confrontation.

13. The 10-year plan to end homelessness is underway. 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? What is not in the plan that should be?

There is no way to monitor it because we don't have a finite homeless community. For every homeless person we are able to help another may very well arrive in our community from somewhere else. The accountability measure should be how many we have helped have permanent residences. The hurdle to accomplishing it is not having an explicit measurement procedure. The hurdles to accomplishing the town's goal are that we facilitate homelessness by allowing panhandling. The spare change for real change program has not reduced it.

14. 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?

Parks and Rec has been chronically underfunded. Our parks have fallen into disrepair and need at least four million dollars to bring them back to good condition. Sadly we chose to build an aquatic center instead of maintain our existing parks. If we are going to credibly claim that we have great parks in Chapel Hill we are going to have to borrow funds to make the required improvements. In order to that we must find other areas where we can reduce costs. We need to look at our public art program and ask which should take higher priority for now.

15. Many of the town's workers live in outside communities due to the high cost of living in Chapel Hill and the lack of what some term "a living wage." What would you do to address this? Should it be addressed? Is it important for our police, firemen and public works officials to live in the community that they serve?

Clearly it is preferable to have our police etc. live in our town. The sad economic truth is that when they prefer (as so many do) to live in a relatively large house on a relatively large piece of property -- they cannot afford it in Chapel Hill because we have not focused on work force housing. If we truly are committed to providing them with the type of residences they prefer we have to have a workforce housing plan.

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