Chapel Hill

Traveling the right road

October 24, 2007

Chapel Hill's greatest challenge may be to co-exist with UNC without becoming consumed by it. Navigating these town-gown relations, particularly regarding the proposed Carolina North campus north of downtown, requires leaders who are diplomatic, not sycophantic, and who can stand up to the university without seeming obstructionist.

As more people move to Chapel Hill looking for a culturally cosmopolitan yet small-town feel, town leaders must be attentive to where new developments are located: Their environmental and traffic impacts and affordability are paramount. Critics are concerned about the financial ramifications of the controversial downtown redevelopment initiative: The town's in for a lot more money than it originally planned. Yet the commercial-residential project holds promise for additional tax revenues and would provide a sorely needed anchor for Franklin Street. The town's main drag holds the essence of Chapel Hill. Students and soccer moms, people in business suits and panhandlers: All walks of life converge in this public space, and it is vital that the town's quality of life speak to everyone.

Mayor

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Incumbent Kevin Foy receives our solid endorsement. Since he was elected in 2001, Foy, who has a strong environmental background, has worked hand-in-hand with council to negotiate with UNC regarding Carolina North, the university's gi-normous research/mixed-use project near Estes Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard that, when finished, will be six times larger than Durham's Streets at Southpoint mall. To mitigate the impact of thousands of people who will work and live there, Foy is focusing on mass transit, environmental protection and the impact on the town budget. This includes working with the General Assembly to fund fire protection for the campus, which is state-owned property.

Foy served on the 10-year Plan to End Homelessness Committee, and if re-elected, he plans to locate and build a new, expanded men's shelter. Foy also has been among the leaders to require developers to set aside as much as 30 percent of their projects for affordable housing.

Challenger Kevin Wolff ran for mayor in 2005 as an unknown; little has changed in the past two years. At a League of Women Voters forum he said he was for "smart growth" but spoke only in generalities. He didn't turn in an Indy questionnaire.

Town Council

We firmly endorse incumbents Sally Greene, Cam Hill, Bill Strom and Jim Ward. They are successfully steering Chapel Hill through this critical period of rapid growth, and intelligently shaping the town's development: They've pushed for strong environmental, land use and future zoning standards at Carolina North (only 25 percent of the land may be built upon), established a temporary moratorium on building in the northwest study area, advocated for the Rogers Road neighborhood, supported downtown projects and set strong affordable housing standards.

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Greene, an adjunct professor at UNC's law school, was elected in 2003. Her platform is based on inclusiveness, tolerance, open and participatory government, and social, economic and environmental justice. If elected, she plans to continue working on the homelessness initiative, tree protection and affordable housing. She favors a constructive approach to panhandling, working with social services to get people off the streets.

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A town native, Hill has served on numerous council committees including those over budget review and inclusionary zoning, which sets affordable housing requirements for developers; before he was elected to council in 2003, he sat on two Carolina North committees. A self-described liberal, he wants to preserve the quality of life and environment in Chapel Hill, "no matter how it clashes with the vision that the legislature and board of trustees has for UNC." He opposes a crackdown (beyond the existing ordinance) on panhandlers, stating, "the police have better things to do."

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Seeking a third term, Strom's recent focus on reducing the town's carbon emissions has been manifested in a law allowing town leaders to require an additional energy efficiency in new developments. He was an outsider on an 8-1 vote on whether the town should appoint representatives to UNC edge committees to review certain plans for Carolina North and main campus. He says he was concerned that UNC would use the committees for public relations rather than for genuine input.

His vision for northwest Chapel Hill, currently off-limits to development, is that it eventually be "bustling," with transit, mixed-use projects and affordable housing—but only through careful zoning and oversight.

Strom has served on dozens of boards and commissions, including the Orange County Economic Development Commission, the Triangle Transit Authority and the council's Sustainability, Energy and Environment committee.

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Although in the last election we had reservations about Ward's environmental stance, he's since proven his meddle. He has asked hard questions of UNC and developers, has advocated for open space at Carolina North, and has helped establish 90 acres of conservation easement. He also isn't afraid to dissent, particularly regarding the Lot 5 project downtown, which he thinks is too expensive.

We have chosen not to support challenger Will Raymond, who received our endorsement in 2005. He served on the Horace Williams Citizen Advisory Committee, and although he has promising ideas, he has had several missteps, including his support for further development at Eastgate shopping center, which was built over Booker Creek in an environmentally sensitive conservation district. He has also been strident in public forums and council meetings. While dissent should be welcome on council, his divisiveness would not serve the town well.

Matt Czajkowski, chief financial officer at Aldagen, a health care company, is campaigning on his experience of working in a corporate environment. He is concerned Chapel Hill won't be able to pay for social programs; he also supports cracking down on loiterers and panhandlers, especially on Franklin Street. He contends Chapel Hill has lost "its natural leadership position" it held in the 1970s, although many of the town's environmental and growth stances have since spread to other parts of the Triangle.

Penny Rich, who is completing her six-year term on the Orange Water and Sewer Authority board, also served on the town's Technology Advisory Committee. While she seems knowledgeable about water issues, her views on downtown give us pause. If elected, she would propose that commercial property owners downtown be taxed if they did not fill their storefronts in two years.

Editor's note: Managing Editor Jennifer Strom, who is married to Councilman Bill Strom, did not participate in the Indy's Chapel Hill endorsements.

Comments (7)

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Brian, your statement about the dissolution of the Technology Board is not supported by the facts. We don't know why the Technology Board was dissolved, the Council didn't say. I understand your and Ruby' frantic desire to bolster the folks you support by trying to smear my character. I believe it's not a very effective tactic and not one I'd expect from you guys. You both told me that I shouldn't run and since I signed up you've been quite consistent in your condemnation. If you have something substantive to say about my defense of the environment, call for increased energy efficiency standards, the Town's out-of-kilter budget, the spiraling cost of the Downtown development project, why not lay out your arguments here so that we can engage and educate the wider community? Otherwise, why don't we let the voters decide tomorrow?

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Posted by CitizenWill on 11/05/2007 at 3:43 PM

Lots of people endorse Will in 2005 - including Brian R and myself - how many of them do you see supporting him this year? There's a reason.

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Posted by ruby on 11/05/2007 at 3:04 PM

I am not employed by any of Will Raymond's opponents. Nor have I collaborated with any of them to share MY thoughts about Mr. Raymond. I do so independently. My comment above was not motivated as a personal attack. But to share with citizens that Mr. Raymond has burnt all his bridges though his own actions. We must have positive relationship with those we wish to collaborate with. The Chapel Hill Town Technology committee was disbanded in part because of Mr. Raymond's actions. He and several others former members made each and every meeting I attended extremely uncomfortable and uneffective. I don't want my Town Council to devolve to that level.

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Posted by BrianR on 11/05/2007 at 2:58 PM

I did work with Brian on the Technology Board but it should be noted that he works on behalf of my opponents. Gregg Gerdau, the Chairman of the Technology Board endorsed my candidacy in 2005 saying "Will is one of the brightest people Ive ever met, ever. Where hes strong, hes an expert, and where he doesnt know, hes able to figure out very quickly and understand. Gregg was in a better position to evaluate my effectiveness than Brian. In spite of Chapel Hill's long inattention in improving our Town's use of technology, the Technology Board was abolished early 2006 by the Town Council. Here's what I said then: http://youtube.com/watch?v=1KPk_nbs5cY

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Posted by CitizenWill on 11/04/2007 at 2:56 AM

I served on the Chapel Hill Town Technology Board with Will Raymond. People who run for office often learn how the process of local government works by serving on committees and boards. It is one deeply rooted in consensus and collaboration. Mr. Raymond has clearly demonstrated his inability to work with others there by participating in petty arguments with several others on the board. Unfortunately his style CAN BE divisive and unproductive. You can do all the research in the world but if you can not work with others then you can not govern well. Its simple math. The Town Council is 8 people plus the Mayor. You need 5 people to pass something. How do you get those five votes? By working closely WITH your fellow council members. How do you work with your colleagues? You get to know them and build trust among them. This is not a description of a "good ole boy" network but how our democracy works. If Mr. Raymond can not work within that system then he should not be elected. I voted for him during the last time he ran but will not be doing so this time.

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Posted by BrianR on 11/02/2007 at 2:15 PM

"He has also been strident in public forums and council meetings. While dissent should be welcome on council, his divisiveness would not serve the town well." I regularly read Will's blog. It is insightful and he regularly cites sources. You can see what he is thinking and why he is thinking it. He has shown more transparency than any current or past council member. Like your school board endorsement, you need to cite real facts and support them. Your position regarding dissent is quite hypocritical, given that Will has kept his cool and argued his position quite clearly in every case that I can recall. I would be interested in exactly what kind of dissent the indy would advocate or tolerate. No dissent at all? The Booker Creek statement appears to be a complete red herring.

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Posted by MarkP on 10/26/2007 at 10:26 PM

I'm baffled by the Indy's comments and wonder how they square what I said with what they wrote. More on their comments here: http://www.campaign.willraymond.org/2007/10/25/indyweek-endorsement-booker-creek-and-the-incumbents/

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Posted by CitizenWill on 10/26/2007 at 8:30 PM
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