Randee Haven-O'Donnell | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Randee Haven-O'Donnell 

Candidate for Carrboro Board of Aldermen

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Randee Haven-O'Donnell
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: May 3, 1951
Home address: 106 Fairfield Ct, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Mailing address, if different from home: Randee Haven-O'Donnell Campaign, PO Box 252, Carrboro, NC 27510
Campaign Web site: http://randeehavenodonnell.org/
Occupation & employer: science educator, Durham Academy
Home phone: 919-967-9677
Work phone: 919-489-9118 ext 4318
E-mail: havenod@gmail.com



1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Carrboro? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

The deeply interrelated issues of economic development and housing affordability are critical for Carrboro. Carrboro is a diverse hub of creative local retail; services and trades; technology and emerging digital/Web-based businesses. Through numerous town efforts—exemplified by initiatives like Carrboro's long-standing revolving loan fund, small business training workshops, developing opportunities for green-collar jobs and businesses, and supporting community-led efforts such as the "Walk Carrboro" project—Carrboro has shown an authentic commitment to supporting local economic and community development. We strongly encourage new and emerging entrepreneurs to share in our view of Carrboro as a top destination. It is noteworthy that established Web-based businesses like Blogads and Newfangled Web Factory deliberately sought out Carrboro for our creative environment and vibrant community. The town further supports these efforts with the help of a volunteer advisory board of community members, including local business owners. Additionally, the Local Living Economy Task Force has been appointed to advance and further infuse a local-first approach in our efforts. As one of the aldermen who helped initiate and promote this task force and who currently serves as one of the Board's liaisons to the group, I look forward to helping launch a substantive local-first campaign, reducing dependence on distant markets and dollars, and keeping our money circulating locally.

To ensure an economically, culturally, and generationally diverse community, we need to support and expand affordable housing by continuing to promote and work with successful models like the Community Home Trust (formerly the Orange Community Housing Land Trust) and EmPOWERment. It is critical that we continue to support the Community Home Trust in its efforts to address our community's need for affordable housing stock, financial accessibility, and home maintenance costs to its clients. EmPOWERment's commitment and flexibility reach the community in many nontraditional ways. EmPOWERment puts new homes on the ground while also owning and operating the Midway Business Center, a small business incubator, providing professional office space and resources to individuals growing their local businesses. Affordable housing programs such as these anchor families within the community, providing the important planks in the framework of a diverse, solidly built community. Achieving these economic and community development goals should occur in the context of sound environmental stewardship. One way promote these efforts is to pursue public-private partnerships similar to the solar lighting demonstration project I initiated on the Town Commons this year. Projects of this nature introduce the community to practical uses of alternative energy and promote environmentally responsible practices while underscoring the skills of local tradesfolk, the sustainability of local green businesses, and new opportunities for workforce training.

2. What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the board? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.

My work during four years on the Board of Aldermen and before that on the Carrboro Planning Board show that I know how to effectively engage and collaborate with fellow Board members, convey a vision, do the groundwork, bring stakeholders into the process, and get results.

• Through co-hosting the Greenways Summit and initiating the Greenways Commission, I have worked hard to foster dialogue, elicit community input, and enact the comprehensive greenway plan for Carrboro.

• I have sought to ensure that Carrboro has a prominent voice in activities at the county level. For example, I worked with our county commissioners to reconstitute the Orange County Library Services Task Force to advance the cause of county branch libraries in general and a southwest branch library in downtown Carrboro specifically.

• I have continued to advocate for the preservation of Bolin Creek, serving as one of the town's representatives on the Leadership Advisory Council to UNC for Carolina North, where I advocated for the preservation of the Carolina North tract in Carrboro for the next 50 years.

• I have sought new ways to promote the community's businesses and workforce as a member of Carrboro's Economic Sustainability Commission, the Local Living Economy Task Force, and the emergent Greater Carrboro Business Community group, and in the town's ongoing efforts to locate a site for day laborers.

• Additionally, I am proud to have played an instrumental role in promoting the inclusion of Carrboro's newly incorporated neighborhoods through the New Horizons Task Force.

These are just a few of the important projects I have worked on during the past four years. I've also had the pleasure of doing perhaps the most important job of the aldermen--meeting with many, many neighbors and community folks to listen to their concerns and help address their specific needs. In all of these activities, I have sought to make clear what I value and to develop a vision of how to make Carrboro an even stronger and more vibrant place to live and work.

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

I identify myself as a progressive. My political philosophy focuses on how government works with and for people at a practical level. I believe in bringing people together; meeting with people in the community is a priority for me. I rely on community members to inform and participate in problem solving and decision making. Three examples immediately come to mind.

• First, in helping to reconstitute the county's Library Services Task Force, various groups needed to be engaged on the local and county levels. Meeting with the Friends of the Carrboro Library, local branch librarians, and interested community members began a new process of thinking through potential scenarios to meet our branch library needs. While library services remain a concern for us in Carrboro, it has been important to bring community members directly into the process.

• Second, in initiating the Greenways Commission. I brought together community folks, promoted the vision of trail connectivity, open and natural spaces, and alternative transit in new and existing neighborhoods and with our neighboring communities. While serving on the Carrboro Planning Board, the Recreation and Parks Master Plan Committee, and the Friends of Bolin Creek Steering Committee, I reviewed the town's future greenway plans with an eye toward greenway development. The timing was right for Carrboro to create a greenways commission dedicated to the development and interconnectivity of its greenways.

• Third, with the creation of the Town Commons solar demonstration project, I brought together local students, Communities in Schools of Orange County, the Town of Carrboro, Duke Energy Carolinas, and Solar Tech South in a public-private partnership to promote alternative energy and local economic development.

In all three examples, I considered the available resources and the interests and needs of the community and worked closely with folks who were enthusiastic about working on the practical issues. I threaded together the vision, encouraged individual and community responsibility, and shared in the recognition.

In my campaign platform, I emphasize continued work on current economic development efforts to fortify our local economy, expand the commercial tax base, and think carefully about how people are spending their dollars and what kind of businesses are being attracted to Carrboro. The more individual participation from the community we have in these efforts, the more resilient our community and local economy will be.

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

Some community members may disagree with my support of the anti-lingering ordinance specific to the intersection of Jones Ferry and Davie Roads. This has been a thorny issue for a community hoping to maintain and improve the integrity of a neighborhood positioned near an area that has evolved into an informal gathering place. Carrboro Police have had to deal with reports from neighbors who have been harassed and threatened. As a strong supporter of civil liberties, I found this a difficult decision to make. However, I also feel that our sense of community depends on our neighbors not being threatened. In the short run, we need to clarify the stark difference between folks who are seeking and awaiting work at the intersection and those who are not. In the longer term, we need to identify more appropriate formal spaces for workforce pickup. The anti-lingering ordinance should be reviewed regularly for its effectiveness and repealed immediately when no longer addressing this very specific need.

5. Large building projects like that under way by Main Street Partners and the Greenbridge development just across the line in Chapel Hill will change Carrboro's landscape and it character in the near future. The project at 300 Main Street also will alter the status quo. What is your vision for the town's long-range development? What are the pros and cons of commercial and residential development?

Long-range development in Carrboro should consist of mixed-use projects clustered around transit-oriented hubs. We need to be mindful of ensuring that new developments resonate with the existing character of the town and with residents' sense of place here. When multistory designs are appropriate, they should favor step-backs, layering, and terraces that maintain breathability and embrace the warmth that is Carrboro.

Residential and commercial spaces should be interwoven. This is especially important in light of the town's goal of substantially increasing the commercial tax base to offset the burden of residential taxes.

Finally, this question seems to be focused on downtown commercial and residential development. However, one of the greatest challenges facing the town is finding possibilities for commercial development in northern Carrboro rather than simply leaning on further residential development. Thus, the pros and cons of residential and commercial development look different depending on where you are in town.

6. How will you deal with growth in Carrboro given its limited physical boundaries? By extension, what are your viewpoints regarding high-density housing and its placement?

Growth in Carrboro will be best planned and managed with a hub-based urban form that integrates housing, commerce, and public transportation. For example, the existing public transportation corridor in downtown Carrboro should serve as a hub for mixed-use development. Growth can be accommodated by building that is right-sized and human-scale, with the flexibility to adapt to new growth patterns as they emerge. Community open spaces, pocket parks, promenades, and community and roof gardens can provide green areas in such hubs.

Higher-density housing can be appropriate within these kinds of hubs, depending on the adjacent neighborhoods, the layout of the surrounding urban form, and the natural constraints and topography of the land. For example, the town recently approved The Butler, a residential development sited behind the 300 East Main Street property. The development is centrally located and sites residents near goods, services, and public transportation. Just as important, it is right-sized to the surrounding areas and is within scale of the neighboring homes and community amenities. This kind of high-density residential project is suited for downtown but should not be shoehorned into a suburban setting or into areas not served by multimodal transportation.

I support maintaining the rural buffer and the quality of life that this physical boundary affords Carrboro. Carefully designed and sited open spaces and greenways within the town can provide alternative transit modes within the town and natural links to our rural buffer.

7. 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?

Carrboro has made wise decisions in a difficult fiscal year. The town has continued to be financially responsible and maintains its excellent credit rating. Our new budget is intelligent and sound at a time that demands delicately balanced priorities. If we were going to make a trade in this new budget, I would already be on the record as requesting it. Having said that, I would have loved to have provided the matching funds for the watershed restoration project. Given this extraordinary moment in our nation's economic history, we were determined to maintain town employees' benefits and to stand by the town's commitment to an annual increase in the Human Services Grant Fund. I am most proud that our Board recognized and acted on the importance of increasing funding for this program.

8. [NEW QUESTION, 08/28/2009] What your opinion of inclusionary zoning procedure and its intent? Are the right people being served by it? Are the right types of properties (ie) condos, single-family homes, etc) available through the program? Should payment in lieu be accepted? Is the program, as it stands now, in a position to provide long-term success for residents?

I support inclusionary zoning as one strategy for increasing the availability of affordable housing in Carrboro. The Board of Aldermen is currently working on modifying the affordable housing provisions of the town's land use ordinance so that the ordinance serves the community members most in need. Community Home Trust has recommended that the town consider lowering the percentage of affordable units in new developments in tandem with lowering the price of those units. The goal: to meet the needs of people at a lower median income. This modification will also maintain the diversity of Carrboro's housing stock, which has become increasingly limited for low and moderate incomes. These should include various types of properties. Payment in lieu should also continue to be accepted in some cases, as long as this approach meets the needs of our community partners. Payment in lieu also provides flexibility and long-term sustainability as the Community Home Trust has evolved to include homes that require maintenance.

9. What makes Carrboro unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it?

Carrboro is a mindset. Folks immediately pick up on it when they're here. Carrboro feels inviting, it feels like community. It feels like what we envision as "home." Carrboro is an active, engaged community that attracts people on a community- and family -oriented level. Whether it's Saturday mornings at the Farmers' Market, Sunday brunch gatherings on the Weaver Street Lawn, Johnny's on Friday, dinner with family and friends at Elmo's, meetings at Open Eye anytime, or standing in line at a taqueria truck, Carrboro feels welcoming and comfortable. Carrboro is small enough to know your neighbors and other community members and to feel like they know you.

It's also easy to be close to the natural landscape in Carrboro. In Carrboro, the natural and open spaces embrace and unify us, such as along Bolin Creek. The upper Bolin Creek area is a gateway to Carrboro, a unique treasure that deeply attracts people to our community. Preservation of the Bolin and Morgan creeks, the Adams Tract, Carolina North, and our other natural spaces contributes greatly to that attraction.

We can preserve this unique sense of place in Carrboro by caring for and expanding our natural and open spaces and by maintaining and broadening the treetop canopy in downtown and neighborhoods. We can also continue to improve public transportation and our sidewalks, pedestrian paths, bikeways, and greenways, because these reinforce connections between and among neighbors. In Carrboro, we resonate with our sense of place. And so we will continue to nurture the Carrboro mindset that attracts creative and vibrant people and innovative businesses to our town.

10. 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 department or agency budgets could be cut?

Given our economic situation, I believe the town has done an excellent job of balancing its budget priorities. There are several projects and town services that would benefit from greater funding and more resources. For example, the Carrboro Police Department's Community Services Division provides invaluable programs for our neighborhoods and schools that, with additional funding, could address deeper needs and strengthen the community. I believe the Planning Department would benefit from having its own town engineer. Although Carrboro has a solid relationship with its consulting engineers, an in-house engineer could help to streamline the town's development review process. Also, in the Planning Department, with the fiscal constraints of this year, we have been unable to set aside local match funding for our watershed restoration grant. I also believe the community would benefit from opportunities to fully fund Carrboro's comprehensive greenways plan. As it stands, the town will be largely dependent upon NCDOT funds and guidelines, potentially constraining our creative use of materials in trail design and building.

11. Earlier this year, the board heard a fiscal presentation about a pay-as-you-throw trash system. What do you think of the system from a financial, environmental and practical standpoint? If you approve, how would any additional costs be covered? If you disapprove, what are some alternatives?

Countywide waste reduction options that include pay as you throw (PAYT) are well worth exploring. A PAYT system is designed to promote waste reduction by directly rewarding less waste generation. The environmental, financial, and practical concerns about PAYT raise several challenges.

• Environment: Rewarding reduced waste generation is a primary component of any community's efforts to promote environmental sustainability, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency supports the consideration of PAYT programs. PAYT furthers personal responsibility by encouraging individuals to rethink their own contributions to the waste stream.

• Financial: Given that Carrboro's solid waste management and recycling are part of a larger multijurisdictional program, Carrboro's costs and savings would be predicated on the costs and savings of the Orange County system. For Carrboro herself, the additional costs for PAYT at present would be substantial. Included in these would be added administration and equipment, personnel, and enforcement costs. 

• Practical: The practical concerns of a PAYT system present specific challenges for Carrboro. For example, Carrboro's demographic includes a large number of multifamily residences. The role of multifamily residence administration is pivotal in a PAYT program. Communities have worked with the management of these properties to develop incentive and rebate programs for waste reduction. In other communities with PAYT, multifamily residences are a formidable enough challenge to cause them to be exempt from the program. I would not support a PAYT program that would not defray the costs to low-income and fixed-income residents. We would also need to build a deep, broad, and sustained educational component into such a program, especially given Carrboro's large number of students and other short-term residents.

In summary, whatever we choose to do in Carrboro will need to happen in the context of Orange County's waste reduction programs, as the two are interdependent and Carrboro faces challenges that make a go-it-alone PAYT program unwise.

12. Carrboro emphasizes locally owned, import-substituting economic development. What is your opinion of that policy? Has it, in your view, succeeded? How can it be improved? What is the town doing and what more should it be doing to support small business during the economic recession?

I have long advocated for and supported live-local, buy-local economic development. As I described in a Chapel Hill News article two years ago, we have long understood that dollars spent in local businesses tend to recirculate to other local business, supporting and increasing the resilience and wealth of the community. Beginning with Michael Shuman's presentation to the Board, I worked with Alderman Dan Coleman to promote this approach to economic development in Carrboro. Alderman Coleman and I attended the Business Alliance for Local Living Economy in Boston, furthering our knowledge base and resources in developing the Local Living Economy Task Force for Carrboro. Both Alderman Coleman and I are the Board's liaisons to the Local Living Economy Task Force. Late this spring, the Local Living Economy Task Force will present a report to the Board identifying strategies that the town can adopt to help launch a Think Local First campaign and fortify our local economy.

In addition to the new, vitally important Local Living Economy Task Force, the Town of Carrboro has a revolving loan fund that is active and engaged in the community, and pursues community outreach through the office of the economic development director.

Encouraging the county to join us fortifying local economic development will be crucial. I advocate for these principles as Carrboro's representative to the Orange County Economic Development Commission.

13. Do you believe there is enough citizen participation in Carrboro? What would you do to improve it? How can leaders make government more accessible and responsive to citizen needs and concerns? How do students fit in?

It is an essential responsibility of elected officials to invite dialogue and to be responsive and accessible to the community. I believe that the Board of Aldermen has a solid commitment to reaching out to the community, working with residents and business owners, and proactively engaging with the community. Most of my time on the Board of Aldermen has been spent meeting with individuals and groups to address their needs and interests.

We are fortunate in Carrboro to have many opportunities for community members to participate in government. The creative mindset of Carrboro's residents is such that at any time people can and do present new and innovative ways to become involved. We have active, engaged members of many town advisory boards and task forces. One aspect of my role on the Board of Aldermen is my close work with the members of our volunteer advisory boards. Beyond town government, community members have found innovative ways to participate. One recent example is the Carrboro Parks Project, a local nonprofit organization that recognized the potential to fill a role in support of our Parks & Recreation programming. The Carrboro Parks Project's shade sail for the Town Commons, their Frisbee golf course with the assistance of Zach Ward and DSI were unique contributions that grew out of citizen-directed participation. This is evidence of the tangible sense in Carrboro of the fluid relationship between town government and the community.

The student population of Carrboro is a big part of what makes us Carrboro. Students complement the forward-looking vibrancy of our intergenerational community. Students are interested and involved in, among other things, the town's advisory boards, community gardens, and other groups.

14. The 10-year plan to end homelessness is underway. Do you think it's been effective thus far? 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 are basic human dignities that the 10-year plan is attempting to address. The goals of the plan are to reduce and prevent homelessness, increase employment, increase access to services, and increase public participation. At this early stage, it is premature to judge the project's effectiveness. As recently as June of this year, the Board of Aldermen received the first annual report from the project's coordinator. Numerous community members have received services, including permanent housing, and the project has partnered with community organizations to provide services throughout the county and the Triangle. Homelessness has become more critical with the downturn in the economy. Even as we work to address homelessness, the problem escalates in importance. This moving target presents one of the major hurdles. Enhanced funding sources for the plan's programs are critical, and the Board of Aldermen has explored options for enhanced funding, such as a payment-in-lieu approach similar to the town's affordable housing provisions.

15. What's your vision for Smith Level Road? Will it eventually need to be widened? How can the town move forward with adding bike lanes and sidewalks to this Carrboro High artery?

Our focus as a town should not be on widening roads. I do not believe we need to add lanes to Smith Level Road if we can build the bicycle and pedestrian pathways and infrastructure that will support and promote a safe, human-scale set of transportation options for the surrounding schools and neighborhoods. What we are trying to promote is walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. This will only be made more difficult if we promote more complex and extensive roadway systems. The challenge with achieving the town's vision has been in convincing NCDOT to broaden its constrained interpretation of what types of improvements may be funded. We would like NCDOT to explore a level of flexibility with us in interpreting community needs and ways the town and the state can partner to meet those needs effectively and efficiently. Transportation priorities, responses to transportation needs, and expectations about vehicular use are changing. Our discussions with NCDOT should reflect and address these changes.

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