Name as it appears on the ballot: Gene A. Pease
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: August 28, 1950
Home address: 208 Glandon Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: www.genepease.com
Occupation & employer: CEO and President, Capital Analytics, Inc.
Home phone: 919-969-7460
Work phone: n/a
1. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.
For more than a dozen years, I have served in various leadership positions in our community:
•Citizens Budget and Finance Committee, Chair, 2004 – 2005. We advised the Council on ways to control expenses and keep tax increases to a minimum.
•Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation, President, 2006 – 2009. Under my leadership, the Foundation raised more $300,000 for books, DVDs, and other library materials.
•Chapel Hill Public Library Building Committee, Member, 2006 – 2007. We developed the plans for the library expansion approved by the voters in 2003.
•Orange Water and Sewer Authority, Board Member, 2007 – 2009. Strategic Planning Committee Chair, Community Outreach Community Chair, Budget and Finance Committee member.
•Gimghoul Neighborhood Association, Board Member and President, 1998 to present. By working with the Town and the University, we changed the development ground rules so that neighborhoods surrounding campus receive better protection from UNC growth.
•Planning Board, Member, 2004 – 2007. I proposed forming the Tree Protection Committee, which drafted a more comprehensive tree protection ordinance.
•Horace Williams Citizens Committee, Vice-Chair, 2005 – 2006. Council adopted our final report as the guiding principles for the development of the Carolina North property.
2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Within the current legal constraints, I would support modifying the Town's panhandling ordinance to be more restrictive of the locations where people may panhandle in the downtown.
4. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
Don't understand the question.
5. 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?
There is nothing that the town cut that should be reinstated.
Serving on Town Council should be for public service, not for a career. I would propose eliminating medical benefits for Council members. In addition, town employees enjoy a benefit program that is more generous than University employees. I would support evaluating our benefits program each year.
There are currently 18 town boards and commissions, but not a Budget and Finance Committee. I support the creation of a permanent committee that focuses on the town budget, operating overhead, capital programs, and monitoring our bond ratings. The committee would be a valuable asset for town management and the council in maintaining fiscal responsibility.
In 2004 I was Chairman of the Citizens Budget Committee. Through hundreds of hours of committee work, the committee's final report recommended more than $2.2 million of savings from the general fund, and more than $400,000 savings from the transportation fund, in addition to the sale of a underutilized town property for an estimated sales price of $2.2 million. If the Council had adopted our recommendations, Chapel Hill citizens would have had a significant reduction of their tax bill that year, rather than an increase, with no reduction in town services.
6. What's your approach to growth in Chapel Hill? Where should the town grow? How do leaders manage it?
Chapel Hill's population will reach 81,000 in 2035. Land is scarce. The best way to provide new housing and commercial space is through mixed-use projects along our transit corridors. This environmentally friendly approach allows people to take transit to work and to walk to stores and restaurants. Excellent design is critically important.
7. Do you think recent efforts to revitalize Franklin Street, such as adding welcome flags, using new parking rules, implementing Touchdown Carolina, etc. have been effective? What more needs to be done downtown? What would you do to increase occupancy rates and make Franklin Street a more vibrant and economically successful entity?
In discussions with the University leadership, University student leadership, and downtown merchants, all agree that improved lighting, and more crosswalks (particularly in the west end) would dramatically improve downtown safety. The recent cross jurisdiction areas of University and Town policing is a very good first step.
Short-term parking issues - I believe the current downtown-parking problem is more of one of perception, rather than a real problem. If you know downtown well, one can almost always find a parking spot. However perception is reality, and the problem would be dramatically improved if better signage was installed and a public education program initiated that included print advertising, internet, and direct mail communications.
Long-term parking issues - The downtown parking policy and management decisions should be made to facilitate economic development and downtown business success rather than as a means of generating general fund revenue for the Town. As downtown is redeveloped and grows, I would support increasing the inventory of parking. University Square would be an excellent central location for this increase.
8. While Greenbridge has been lauded as an environmentally friendly housing development, there are also concerns that it threatens adjacent lower-income neighborhoods. What do you think the town's strategy should be in regards to gentrification?
First a quick note: Greenbridge is a neighbor of Northside, but is physically located in the central business district. It did not displace any homes. The general meaning of gentrification is the demographic and social changes created when people of greater means buy housing or build new housing in an area that has traditionally been a neighborhood of less affluent people -- in effect, poorer people are pushed out. It is difficult for zoning policy to address the economic means of a neighborhood's residents, but the Northside Neighborhood Conservation District does provide protection to current property owners in that area. It is important to note that Chapel Hill's traditional African American neighborhoods, Northside and Pine Knolls, have been challenged by the influx of college students for at least 25 years.
Glen Lennox is an area where the town might well have to craft a "gentrification" strategy. I would suggest that any redevelopment proposal for Glen Lennox include an affordable rental component, so that residents who rent in the Glen Lennox area are not forced out of their community.
9. 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?
The town's affordable housing policy has created important housing stock in Chapel Hill. The policy deserves credit, and so do Robert Dowling, his staff and the many citizens who have served on his board. I see two problems. There is no source of revenue for longer-term maintenance costs at Scarlette Drive, Rosemary Place, etc. I believe it is also unrealistic to insist that every project include affordable housing units. In pricey condo developments, buyers of the affordable units can't afford the condo dues. I would propose that the town revisit its payment in lieu policy, and make payment in lieu a reasonable alternative to providing units in some locations.
Another housing "challenge" we have in this community is lack of affordable housing for folks who are at 80-90% of the median income. (The Community Home Trust serves folks at 65-80%.)
For many years, the town has made good use of federal funds to keep public housing stock in good repair. Recently the town received some stimulus money for this purpose. We need to urge our federal elected officials to preserve this federal support.
10. What makes Chapel Hill unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it?
Two of our unique assets that contribute so much to the Town's beauty are our trees and unique neighborhoods. While I was a member of the Planning Board, one of my neighbors clear-cut a lot prior to applying for a building permit for a house addition. I proposed forming the Tree Protection Committee, which drafted a more comprehensive tree protection ordinance.
During my period as President of my neighbor association, I spearheaded working with the Town and the University, and changed the development ground rules so that neighborhoods surrounding campus receive better protection from UNC growth.
11. With that in mind, the town's comprehensive plan emphasizes regional planning and cooperation. How should this collaboration take place? On what kinds of issues? And, what strategies would you borrow from your neighbors that could work in Chapel Hill?
Solid waste management and disposal is now in the county's purview, but I believe this is an area where regional collaboration could benefit us all. The regional efforts to protect Jordan Lake watershed are very important and should be kept strong.
The most obvious regional service is transportation. Orange and Durham counties perform transportation planning together through the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Orange, Durham, Wake and all their municipalities should place a high priority on taking the Triangle Transit Authority's service to a higher level.
Projections are that our region will grow by 1.2 million people over the next 20 years or so. To make this growth a benefit rather than a nightmare, we must create a regional transit service that is reliable, runs frequently and serves new, transit-oriented mixed-use developments. All three counties must work together to get our citizens to approve a half-cent sales tax for transit.
12. How do you view UNC's relationship with the town? What's the state of it, given recent Carolina North developments? How will you help further that relationship in the future?
Current Town-Gown relations are excellent. With my long history of community work, I have developed excellent relations with a multitude of University officials, including several Vice-Chancellors, planning and facilities staffs, real estate development executives, and community relations officers. I had a good relationship with Chancellor Moeser, and am developing one with Chancellor Thorp.
13. The 10-year plan to end homelessness is underway. How will the town monitor progress on the plan? 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?
Municipalities are not charged with social service provisions, so it is very important that our citizens belief that this is a good use of town resources. The Partnership that was formed will be coming back to the Council for funding each year so it is very important that they track progress against agreed upon metrics. Without demonstrated progress against these metrics it will be difficult to continue this initiative in the current economic environment.
It's unfortunate that due to the national and state budget issues, that local governments are being put in a position where they have to spend on this problem. Given the lack of external funding, it is the right thing for Chapel Hill to do, but again, demonstrated progress must be made for the Partnership to receive local funding.
14. 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 town departments or agencies have been overfunded?
The only Town department that is underfunded is the office of economic development. In year 2008, approximately 80% of the Town's tax base was residential and 20% was business and commercial. A town our size should be over 30% business and commercial to have a healthy tax base that doesn't rely so heavily on homeowners.
Increasing our commercial tax base would boost property tax revenues and keep sales tax dollars here at home. Office/retail uses at Carolina North and University Square present excellent opportunities; I support constructive town-gown relations to achieve this goal.
An effective strategy to attract new businesses would also strengthen our commercial sector. As a Council Member, I would encourage my colleagues to consider:
1) A zero-interest revolving loan fund to assist new businesses;
2) Incentives to encourage new businesses (and employers) to locate in Chapel Hill;
3) Clearing away unnecessary regulatory barriers that make it difficult to open businesses here;
4) Adequate funding of the town's economic development function, so that our ED officer can be effective in bringing more commercial enterprises to the community;
5) Strong support of our local Visitors Bureau, to support continued growth in our tourism industry.
See answer #5 for the answer to sentences three and four.
15. Many of the town's workers live in outside communities due to the high cost of living in Chapel Hill and the lack of what some term "a living wage." What would you do to address this? Should it be addressed? Is it important for our police, firemen and public works officials to live in the community that they serve?
It is regrettable that some town employees who would like to live in Chapel Hill cannot do so because of the cost of living. Many others are happy living elsewhere -- nearby rural areas and downtown Durham, for example. There is no one solution that works for everyone.
I do believe that town employees are compensated at a level that is highly competitive for our labor market, and that the town's benefits package is excellent.