Elections » Candidate Questionnaires

Dan Coleman

Candidate for Carrboro Alderman

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Dan Coleman
Full legal name, if different: Daniel Alan Coleman
Date of birth: January 31, 1952
Home address: 106 Hanford Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Mailing address, if different from home: Coleman for Alderman, PO Box 434, Carrboro, NC 27510
Campaign Web site: www.alderdan.com
Occupation & employer: develop database software for nonprofits; self-employed
Home phone: 919-960-6720
Work phone: n/a
Cell phone: n/a
E-mail: dan@alderdan.com


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

Strengthen Carrboro’s tax base by encouraging commercial development and fostering local entrepreneurship (more under #10 below).

Update northern Carrboro planning to provide appropriately located mixed-use, transit-oriented development that fits with neighborhood character (more under #6&7 below).

Work to ensure that the projected 15-20,000 jobs at Carolina North do not overwhelm Carrboro’s housing market and transportation and civic infrastructure.

Bring a free-standing public library to downtown Carrboro.

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 effectiveness is best shown through my work on the board in my current term. In addition to my week-to-week contributions to policy deliberations, here are some of my activities:

  • worked with staff to develop a proposal for an affordable housing trust fund and a payment-in-lieu process for developers, since adopted by the Board of Aldermen;

  • helped Carr Court neighbors prepare to address a neighboring rezoning;

  • worked with Roberson Place neighbors on addressing a road connectivity issue;

  • advocated for a commitment to transit-oriented development, maximum open space preservation, and mixed-income housing for Carolina North as a member of Chancellor Moeser’s Leadership Advisory Council;

  • met with Rogers Road neighborhood leaders and NAACP leaders to strategize on the county’s planned solid waste transfer station;

  • traveled to Madison, Wisconsin with the Chamber of Commerce to learn about progressive initiatives in that city (continuing to meet monthly with the Inter-City Visit Sustainability Work Group);

  • organized a delegation of elected official from six local governments to successfully lobby Congressman Price to call for a GAO study of Shearon Harris fire safety concerns. That study is now under way.

  • called for focus on waste reduction at community events leading to new procedures just implemented for the Carrboro Music Festival.

  • attended the annual conference of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies to bring cutting edge economic development ideas back to Carrboro;

  • jump-started town discussion of solid waste source reduction (more under #9 below);

  • responded to a personal request from the owners of Carr Mill Mall to negotiate a resolution to community issues involving use of the Carr Mill lawn (availability of the lawn for the League of Women Voters’ registration drive currently underway is a direct result of my involvement);

  • met with town staff to discuss establishing a “housing wage” as a standard for Carrboro (more under #4 below);

  • met with advisory board members, town staff, and school system officials to discuss road safety issues for Carrboro High School;

  • resolved an impasse between the town and the Really Really Free Market by engaging the participation of a local non-profit;

  • worked with members of the Orange County Partnership for Young Children and the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition to develop a community garden on the site of the future Martin Luther King Jr. park.

As alderman, I have had nine board assignments and, over the 16 years prior to becoming an alderman, I served on eight advisory boards in areas such as development review, affordable housing, transportation, solid waste, economic development, and Carolina North.

In addition, I have for over twenty years been a strong advocate for progressive public policy with numerous initiatives which I can detail on request.

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

I believe that to be a political progressive means combining a forward-thinking approach to policy with an understanding that, in many cases, structural and non-governmental solutions must accompany public policy work. Thus, while leading the Board of Aldermen to embrace a “think local first” economic development policy, I met with business leaders to talk about the importance of developing a living local economy business network. Along these lines, I was an early advocate for the community land trust as a mechanism to get continuing benefits from public investments in affordable housing.

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 may object to my focus on paying fair wages to town employees. After all, there are those in our society who believe in paying workers as little as possible. I have worked with town management toward the goal of paying a housing wage to town employees. That represents the income needed to afford housing in the community, currently around $15/hour or $30k/year. I see this as both an ethical issue in terms of fair treatment of other people (i.e. “do unto others… “) and as a pragmatic matter in terms of offering a quality of life to our workforce commensurate with our expectation of quality work from them.

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. What is your vision for the town’s long-range development? What are the pros and cons of commercial and residential development?

Previous boards have embraced the goal of a residentially and commercially denser downtown. I support that goal which is now bearing its first fruit. I believe our current policies protect existing neighborhoods while encouraging the kind of growth that will continue Carrboro’s vitality and strengthen our tax base. In June, I called on the board to review downtown parking, essential at this time given the developments just approved. It is also important for us to take a fresh look at the downtown circulation plan.

I prefer to look at growth from a different perspective than residential vs. commercial. I believe the idea of community should be fundamental. Growth should sustain and strengthen existing communities, linking them to new communities characterized by as much economic and social diversity as can be achieved.

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?

I am a long-standing advocate of transit-oriented development having supported Southern Village in the early 1990s and organized a public forum in 1994 to discuss that kind of development for Carolina North.

High density housing should be placed in mixed-use neighborhoods convenient to employment and transit. Downtown is ideal but additional nodes of higher density may be identified in north Carrboro.

7) How should development be handled in the Northern Study Area, and would you support any future moratoriums there?

I believe we should identify location(s) for mixed-use development and implement appropriate rezoning and Land Use Ordinance changes to achieve that type of development. Otherwise, I would like to see development slow down in north Carrboro so that we have time to learn more about how to do it right. Our thinking about sustainable development has changed radically in the past decade or so and will likely do so in the future. I want Carrboro to be in a position to take advantage of future innovations as our understanding of the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability improves and particularly as transportation finance priorities shift in the years ahead.

The state legislature provides municipalities with a narrow scope of justifications for a moratorium. I do not believe another moratorium is on the horizon for our NSA.

8) What important town departments or agencies have been, in your opinion, chronically under-funded? 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?

Our planning department has been understaffed in the time I have been on the board. To some extent this is because of the ambitious program the Board of Aldermen has imposed on that department. My goal is for the board to work more sensitively and proactively with the town manager on this.

If we had budgetary funds for additional personnel – a big if – I would like to add a staff person to economic development. This was recommended by our economic development consultants and, although I might define the position somewhat differently than they did, could be a big boost to our efforts.

Operationally, Carrboro town government is quite efficient. Necessary future savings will come primarily by making adjustments to the Capital Improvements Program, as we did this year.

Let me add that one of my opponents has in the past suggested cutting town support for the Carrboro Music Festival. This is a wrong-headed idea considering that at a cost of a few thousand dollars the town leverages the efforts of scores of volunteers and the participation of a twenty or so of our businesses to bring a big crowd to downtown Carrboro for a hugely popular event. Town events like the music festival are important not just for community building but for economic development as well.

9) 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?

The pay-as-you-throw concept has been in the Carrboro 2020 Vision since it was written. It is an idea that has saved money in communities across the country while significantly reducing waste (check out the EPA web site for reports on this). Knowing this and based on my long-standing belief that source reduction is a neglected piece of our solid waste efforts, I took the initiative to ask staff for a preliminary assessment of PAYT for Carrboro. Their report indicated that, due to unfavorable economies of scale and our high proportion of multi-family housing, PAYT does not appear feasible for Carrboro at this time.

The resulting discussion led to staff initiatives on three cost-effective waste reduction efforts in the areas of reducing recyclables going to the landfill, reducing junk mail received in the home, and increasing opportunities for composting.

10) 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?

Carrboro has embraced and supported locally owned business for two decades primarily through our revolving loan fund and the efforts of our economic development department. However, these efforts have been limited, focused mainly on storefront businesses and failing to engage other sectors of the economy.

I advocate the “local living economy” approach with a commitment to creating dynamic business networks, fostering entrepreneurship, plugging leaks in the local economy, and engaging the buying public through a dynamic, on-going “think local first” campaign. These efforts may be furthered by creating mechanisms to mobilize local investment capital and through supportive public policy initiatives.

I view the local living economy as the embodiment of economic sustainability. Local business keeps consumers close to home and brings productive activity into the community, reducing environmental impacts of transportation. Import substitution eliminates the likelihood that we are buying products manufactured where environmental, worker, and health protections are weakest. Local owners are more likely to hold an ethic of stewardship of the local environment. Unlike non-local firms which may depart unpredictably for perceived greener pastures, locally-owned businesses are as rooted in the community as the local entrepreneurs who own them and the families who frequent them. And, of course, local businesses themselves buy local, further improving the local economy, and studies show that they contribute more tax dollars as well.

11) Carrboro is participating in the Jordan Lake Stakeholder Project to help manage this resource, which is polluted and threatened by growth and development. What is Carrboro’s responsibility in mitigating these threats? What policies should the Board of Aldermen enact to help protect water quality and quantity in Jordan Lake?

Carrboro has been very proactive in preparing for the Jordan Lake Rules. The board of alderman approved a long list of ordinance changes in June to control construction run-off. We are expecting additional proposals on stream protection later this year. We have made numerous past policy advances in this regard, a good example being our fare-free transit system which added over 3 million riders to Chapel Hill Transit, taking countless automobile trips off the streets. Fewer car trips means fewer toxic fluids running off our roads and into our streams.

One important change, which idea I borrow from Mayor Chilton, is that our current standard – that a property have no worse stormwater impact than it did prior to any new development or redevelopment – is inadequate. This is particularly problematic as we are seeing redevelopment of parcels where the current standard of stormwater treatment is archaic. We need strong minimal standards that apply to new development and redevelopment alike.

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