Sharon Cook | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Sharon Cook 

Candidate for Carrboro Board of Aldermen

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Sharon Cook
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth:
Home address: 1610 Claymore Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: www.SharonCookforCarrboro.com
Occupation & employer: Homemaker and Community Volunteer
Home phone: 919-933-2105
Work phone:
E-mail: SharonCookforCarrboro@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?

Carrboro is a great community. Unfortunately, for many people it is becoming too expensive to move here, or to remain in our town. A top priority for me will be to see where we can more efficiently and more effectively use our town resources to meet the needs of residents without taxing them out of their homes.

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

As a member of the Carrboro Planning Board for the past two and a half years, I've reviewed and made recommendations about many town projects and proposals before they come before the Board of Aldermen. My working experience with town issues and familiarity with town processes and staff will be an asset to being an effective board member. As a citizen advocate for a wide range of issues over the past decade, including pedestrian and bicyclist safety, neighborhood preservation, environmental protection, and farm preservation, I understand the frustrations that are often felt by residents who come before the board to address issues of concern. I will work to balance addressing individual and neighborhood concerns with meeting the needs of the community as a whole. In addition to serving on the Planning Board, I've served as that board's representative to the Greenway Commission, and as citizen representative to the multi-jurisdictional Homestead and High School Road Safety Task Force which resulted in sidewalks, bikelanes and traffic signals being installed to serve the Chapel Hill High School community. This experience gives me the framework for being effective in addressing the Smith Level Road pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues.

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

As an Independent I look at each unique issue and judge it on its own merits, not along any party lines. I've worked with people from all walks of life in the community on a wide range of issues. Our town elections are non-partisan. Developing and maintaining a safe, well-functioning, vibrant community is a goal that unites rather than divides us as residents of Carrboro.

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

This, of course, is my continued commitment to the Eubanks-Rogers Road community. The longtime residents of this historically African-American neighborhood have borne the burden of the greater community's trash, which has been dumped adjacent to their families' lands for almost four decades. It is well past time to relieve them of this burden. As we look for ways to reduce the cost of government during the current economic downturn, there will be many who believe that the cheapest solution is the best solution. It would be immoral and unethical to ask the Eubanks-Rogers Road community to once again bear the cost of hosting future waste facilities to save the greater community from paying more for trash management.

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?

I love the eclectic and small town feel of Carrboro's downtown. We will need to be careful in approving new developments up to five stories high if we are to maintain the current human scale of downtown. Carrboro has limited building heights to five stories with setbacks to reduce the visual impact. I support the limits set in place by previous boards, and the goal of maximizing accessible greenspaces in new developments. Including residential development will help to keep our downtown vibrant. We need to be careful not to lose our town's charm in the process. We will also need to be proactive in addressing increased traffic and parking issues.

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?

High density housing should be placed as close as possible to employment and reliable transit corridors to reduce the negative impacts of traffic throughout our community. For example, more of the housing and support facilities to support Carolina North employment should be built on-site to reduce the need for frequent short trips within the community. The Village Project highlighted features that would place high-density housing in an appropriate location to support the future workforce of Carolina North. However, any high density residential development must be balanced with adequate infrastructure, including roadways, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, sufficient water supplies, schools and trash management. The Bolin Creek and Morgan Creek corridors must also be protected. Current residential development is outpacing our ability to keep up with providing adequate infrastructure.

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?

Neither the town of Carrboro nor Chapel Hill has adopted a resolution to remove the Eubanks Road area from consideration as the site for a new waste management facility. If a waste transfer station is placed on Millhouse Road, the Eubanks Road community will be burdened with the garbage truck traffic for the facility in addition to other negative impacts. Eubanks Road is the gateway to northern Carrboro, and should instead be developed with appropriate commercial development. Keeping the Millhouse Road option open amounts to "saving" it as a fall-back solution. I would "cut" that option from the town plans.

8. 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?

Mr. Dowling is to be commended for acknowledging that the program is not working, and for his efforts to work with the towns to identify and address the problems with the current policy. I live near several Habitat for Humanity neighborhoods which have proven to be a successful model for home ownership for low income residents. I would like to see Carrboro spend our tax dollars in a way that encourages independent home ownership to the greatest extent possible. This will in turn reduce the need for us to maintain private residences. However, there will always be a need for rental housing for low income residents. We should work across town lines to find the most efficient way to effectively manage public housing community-wide.

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

Carrboro's commitment to the arts, great restaurants and shops, and the town's efforts to preserve the natural environment make it unique. The environmental impacts of any new development proposals need to be carefully considered. For example, our current land use ordinance that allows unbuildable land to be counted in the 40% open space requirement has inadvertently pushed high-density development up against the Bolin Creek buffer. We need to review our land ordinances to assure that they are not leading to unintended consequences that threaten the protection of our unique environment. I will continue to work to preserve the Bolin and Morgan Creek corridors for future town residents, and support the greenway connection from the northern end of town through the southern end.

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?

I'd like to see us fully support the departments which provide essential services including police, fire and maintenance. If elected, I will look carefully at each budget proposal to assure that we are managing taxpayer dollars wisely in consideration of the every increasing cost of living in Carrboro.

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?

While some communities have adopted a pay-as-you-throw trash system, we need to be careful about disproportionately increasing the burden on low income families. It is also difficult to manage such a system in apartment complexes where some residents throw out very little trash, and others produce a great deal. It's important to consider whether the cost of administering the program outweighs the benefits. Instead we should make sure that recycling containers are easily accessible and well-maintained in public community gathering places and high-density residential areas.

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?

The Farmer's Market is a great asset to our town. Making locally produced products available in Carrboro is a good policy, and the number of available products is expanding. Small businesses can be supported by ensuring that the cost of doing business in Carrboro does not prevent them from being successful.

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?

While citizen participation in Carrboro is generally good, town leaders can do a better job of publishing Board of Aldermen and advisory board agendas prior to public meetings, along with promptly posting the approved minutes from those meetings. The agenda for weekly board meetings is often distributed late on Sunday evenings, and not received by residents until Monday morning. I would like to see our Board of Aldermen meeting agendas published by close of business on Friday afternoon to assure that residents have every opportunity to participate in the discussion of issues that concern or interest them. Students have the same access to online agendas and town information, and are encouraged to participate in local town government. I would like to see us develop a student intern program similar to the one that is in place in Chapel Hill.

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?

I support the community members who are working hard on this initiative. Through my church I have coordinated outreach at the IFC Shelter on Rosemary Street and Project Homestart, the Durham Urban Ministries Community Kitchen, and the Durham Rescue Mission. The Durham Rescue Mission has had the greatest success in changing the lives of homeless individuals and families. We should continue to learn from other communities' plans and adapt ours to be as successful as possible.

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?

Any plan for the improvement of Smith Level Road should put pedestrian and bicyclist safety first through the use of pedestrian islands, bike lanes, and traffic signals or roundabouts. It is unfortunate that so many of the students who attend Carrboro High School are unable to safely walk or bike to school. Widening Smith Level Road will lead to increased traffic as residents of Chatham County use the route as a shortcut to Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Transit routes to park and ride lots in Chatham can help relieve workday traffic. As a member of the Homestead and High School Roads Safety Task Force, I worked with elected officials and staff from Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Orange County, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and NC DOT to address some of the same issues near Chapel Hill High School.

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