The filing period for our 2007 municipal and school board elections started Friday and lasts through July 20. In the early going, the pickings were slim. In Durham, Republican City Councilman Thomas Stith filed for mayor, presumably pitting him against incumbent Democrat Bill Bell. Stith says he'll be tougher on crime. At least he's giving Durham a choice. In Raleigh, Cary and Chapel Hill, respectively, Mayors Meeker, McAlister and Foy are likely walkovers—which is odd, regardless of their popularity. Council seats, too, remain uncontested.
It's not like there aren't any issues to debate, after all. The No. 1 issue: growth and how to pay for it. Raleigh and Cary both asked the General Assembly to let Wake County enact new revenue sources—in lieu of soaring property taxes—for public schools. These might include impact fees on new development, a transfer tax on real-estate sales, or that old regressive standby, a local sales tax. Wake voters would get the final say. But if you're watching the news, you know the Realtors and homebuilders organizations (both major campaign contributors to state lawmakers) are screaming bloody murder about impact fees and transfer taxes, and they've got the Senate's leaders a-scared. If the General Assembly throws up its hands and goes home, does that mean Raleigh and Cary should put the brakes on growth?
And if they don't—and surging Knightdale, Apex and Holly Springs with them—where does that leave the Wake school board, whose travails—and five of its nine seats are on the ballot in October—figure to be at the heart of the '07 elections?
It's time for serious talk about Adequate Public Facilities ordinances in Wake County.
And then there's public transit. Mayor Charles Meeker is shocked, shocked to learn that Raleigh's sprawlville strip malls aren't bus-friendly, after unhappy mall workers spoke out. Well, he's running, anyway.
The Triangle desperately needs to start tying its far-flung parts together with a rail-and-bus system before we choke on our clogged roads and foul air. But that's easier said than done. "Triangle" is a great brand, but contained within are four counties and a dozen municipal governments—not to mention five school systems with, however, no taxing authority of their own.
Lots of squabbling jurisdictions, in other words. And a crying need for regional leaders to bring them together.
No offense to Meeker, McAlister, Foy, Bell or their council mates either, but it's not like we have too many people vying for a leadership role on the critical issues of growth and sustainable development. Truth is, we have too few.
The good news: You don't have to win to raise these issues in '07. But you do have to run.