Dan Coleman | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Dan Coleman

Carrboro - Mayor and Board of Aldermen


Name as it appears on the ballot: Dan Coleman

Full legal name, if different: Daniel Alan Coleman

Date of birth: 1/31/1952

Home address: 106 Hanford Road, Chapel Hill NC 27516

Campaign Website: www.alderdan.com

Occupation & employer: software developer, self-employed

E-mail: dan@alderdan.com

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.

Carrboro must be a leader in alternative energy and environmental protection.

Address long-standing social justice issues on Rogers Road.

Find a more suitable site with needed services for day laborers.

Continue to connect our neighborhoods with greenways, sidewalks, and bike paths.

Bring a free-standing public library to Carrboro.

What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the board? For incumbents, what accomplishments are you most proud of? For challengers, what do you bring that the board now lacks? 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 addition to my week-to-week contributions to public policy deliberations, here are some of the accomplishments I am proud of:

-kudos mostly to town staff for three years of no tax increase with no layoffs or service cuts but this also reflects the value of stewardship of resources of myself and other board members.

-Carrboro has received federal stimulus funds for commercial energy improvements thanks to my raising the possibility and staff diligence in pursuing it.

-I pushed hard on the Chapel Hill Transit Partners Committee for bus service for Rogers Road. As a result, transit staff were able to find grant funds to make that service a reality.

-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.

-Initiated a successful process to move certain engineering review items from the permitting stage to the construction phase to speed up the development review process. This is probably the most significant improvement in the review process made in recent years.

-Urged developers of the Ballentine project to include a commercial component which has now been added.

-Worked the town's Local Living Economy Taskforce to create a strategy to support Carrboro's local economic development initiatives.

-Worked with the Transportation Advisory Board and my colleagues to support a high level of bicycling in Carrboro thereby achieving the status of Silver Level Bicycle Community (one of just two towns in the southeast to do so);

-Worked proactively with Main Street Partners to find a way for the town to participate in the 300 E. Main St. parking deck so that the project could move forward.

-Worked with Wexford and Roberson Place neighbors on addressing a road connectivity issues.

-Worked with members of the Orange County Partnership for Young Children and the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition to develop community gardens 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.

How do you define yourself politically (ie) conservative, moderate, liberal, third party, hybrid) 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, 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.

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 $16/hour or $32k/year. I see this as both an ethical issue in terms of fair treatment of other people 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. Although efforts have been stalled because of the recession, I still maintain the goal of improving the wages of our lowest paid employees.

What makes Carrboro unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it? Also, what's the biggest misconception about Carrboro and what would do, if necessary, to correct it?

Buddhist Monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh said recently that we need communities that "can inspire hope", places where "if people come to the city and see community, they have confidence, they have hope in the future." Carrboro is such a community whether seen through the preservation efforts of Friends of Bolin Creek, the runs organized by Fleet Feet, the community-based work of PORCH, the various community gardens, or the always inspiring urban farm tour. Our farmers market anchors one of the nation's leading farm-to-table success stories, as plentiful local food becomes the cornerstone of our commitment to a vibrant local economy.

Carrboro is a progressive enclave, a small town with a big heart and big dreams. Its hallmark is the incredible community spirit of its residents and their many initiatives to make the town a better place. The most recent example is the "Yarn Bomb" project which promises to decorate many public spaces around town. There is a misconception that what makes Carrboro great comes from town government. Really, it comes from our people. Town government has an important role In supporting and encouraging citizen efforts, providing resources, and looking for opportunities to partner with others to realize our shared goals. With the Yarn Bomb project, all the town had to do was say "ok" and provide some guidelines primarily to ensure safety.

What did you learn from recent construction on Weaver Street? Did town government do enough to support affected business owners? What would you do in hindsight?

The town has never before done a project of this scale and will not do another for the foreseeable future. Town staff and the Board of Aldermen thought we were very proactive on this project. Staff made a plan to ensure access to all businesses throughout the project and met with business owners to explain the project to them. However, no one anticipated the challenge that would be posed to customers and the businesses have suffered.

In the 11th hour we attempted to publicize the needs and vulnerability of the affected businesses but, with hindsight, this should have been done at the outset and with a more thorough approach including ongoing community outreach and advertising. Tangentially, the initiative of Carrburitos and other businesses who offered discounts to customers of impacted Weaver Street businesses is exactly the kind of community spirit that I alluded to in the previous answer.

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?

For many years, Carrboro has embraced the goal of a residentially and commercially denser downtown. I support that goal which is now bearing its first fruit with the imminent construction of our first hotel. 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. The current proposal for Shelton Station (at 500 N. Greensboro St.) stretches our understanding of where high density belongs and is receiving careful consideration. Any project, whether high or low density, needs to be reviewed in light of the particular conditions where it is sited.

What's your position on the cent sales tax and future ballot initiatives such as the transit tax?

Much more than municipal government, the county has been hit by cuts in the state budget. I support the county's efforts to find new sources of revenue. I am a strong supporter of public transit and serve on the Chapel Hill Transit Partners Committee. I fully support the proposed transit sales tax to provide an additional revenue stream for local and regional bus service and to fund a fixed guideway system.

Carrboro emphasizes locally owned businesses, economic development. What is your opinion of the town's revolving loan fund? 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. The RLF has been a great success, supporting numerous businesses that have become iconic to Carrboro. However, not every loan recipient has been able to stay in business. Though the track record is very good we would like it to be even better. Therefore, the Economic Sustainability Commission (on which I serve) is currently reviewing the loan process to ensure better support for applicants so that when granting the loan we will have high confidence in the success of the business.

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?

Public participation is a hallmark of Carrboro politics. Recent issues such as the Smith Level Road improvements, the Colleton development, the Claremont Connector, and the proposed Hillsborough Road library packed town hall with concerned citizens. Long-range planning processes are always well-publicized and well attended.

One area where the town can improve is in its use of the web and social media. When we hired a new town clerk last year, her ability to help the town move us forward in those areas was a key criterion. Although Carrboro cannot afford a public information officer, my goal is for the town to make better use of a wide range of means of keeping the public better informed

Students are very important to the economy and culture of Carrboro and students are respected as full participants in all town affairs. I have encouraged students to participate on town advisory boards even when their term of availability may be limited.

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