Lee Storrow | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Lee Storrow

Chapel Hill - Mayor and Town Council


Name as it appears on the ballot: Lee Storrow

Date of birth: 07/03/1989

Home address: 208 Barclay Rd. Chapel Hill NC 27516

Campaign website: www.leestorrow.com

Occupation & employer: Managing Director, North Carolina Alliance for Health

Email: lee@leestorrow.com

Why are you running for office and what are your top priorities, if elected? Please include information on past public service, posts held, volunteer work completed and other examples of your leadership.

I'm running for Chapel Hill's town council town council because I want to be a coalition builder in our community. I've been an advocate for progressive issues on the state and local levels, and through my experience I've learned how to bring diverse stakeholders together to get things done.

Currently, I work professionally as the managing director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health. I am proud to serve on the board of directors of the American Legacy Foundation, Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, and Youth Empowered Solutions. The leadership positions I have taken reflect my passion and commitment to the health and well being of my community.

As a council member, I will work to improve public transit, increase access to affordable housing, and support development to expand our tax base. Chapel Hill has one of the best public transportation systems in the region, but as the triangle expands, now is the time to invest in light rail and other forms of alternative transportation to ensure we remain a sustainable community.

Expanded access to public transportation ties in to another issue that needs to be addressed in Chapel Hill: increases in affordable housing. We need to pursue creative partnerships and work to provide housing that is not prohibitively expensive in order to ensure that Chapel Hill is a diverse and welcoming community. We need to follow a policy of responsible development that expands our economic tax base while being sensitive to residents' concerns.

If you are not currently serving on the Town Council, what will you bring to the body that it now lacks? If you are an incumbent, what perspective have you brought that the town still needs?

We live in a town where over a third of our residents are under the age of 24.The current council lacks a proper young perspective. Gerry Cohen and Marc Chilton were able to provide a fresh perspective to council, while still representing and understanding long-term residents' concerns and needs. I have close connections with student leaders at UNC and I believe we can motivate students to be more engaged in the local political process. As our town continues to grow, we face tensions between students and community members in historic neighborhoods, and Carolina North is on the verge of construction, student input will be key to tackling these challenges as a community. As a council member, I will be a bridge between student and long term residents, because I have a strong foundation and relationships in both.

In the last four years, what do you feel are the three best accomplishments of Chapel Hill Town Government, and why? Conversely, what are three things you would have done differently?

I applaud the town council for strategically working with the county government to ensure increased funding for library cards in Chapel Hill, while still providing library access free of charge to county residents. I oppose efforts to require county residents to pay for library cards. Council took the right stand in supporting a moratorium on development in Northside. The moratorium will allow the neighborhood and community leaders time to determine a plan to adapt and change their Community Conservation District to fit the neighborhood's changing needs. Finally, the Chapel Hill Town Council has made good faith efforts to streamline the economic development process.

Chapel Hill should be a town that supports new businesses, start ups, and entrepreneurs, and our lack of leadership on bringing food trucks to our community is disappointing. We have seen Durham and other major cities in the United States leading by example, and the town council has dragged it's feet to long in bringing them to downtown. We've arrived to the party late.

Chapel Hill should support retaining our water allocation from Jordan Lake. While conservation efforts should always be considered first, it is strategically important for our future growth to retain our allocation.

Finally, I was disappointed to see the lack of transparency in how the University, Board of Elections, and town selected early voting sites in Orange County. While some individuals worked hard to insure access to voting, only select individuals were kept in the know, and the public should have had more than 45 minutes to know about new locations before final decisions were made.

The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

Symbolic representation is important, and I'm proud to live in a town that elected the first openly gay man in North Carolina. As a gay man, I thought I grew up in a North Carolina than had progressed since Joe Herzenberg sat on council, one that has felt open and inclusive. Recent action by the North Carolina General Assembly have changed that perspective, and makes it ever more important that we elect openly LGBT officials in our state.

How do you define yourself politically (ie) conservative, moderate, liberal, third party, hybrid etc) and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

The word liberal has recently been stigmatized in our society, but I don't shy away from the term. I want to live in a just and progressive community, where all communities in Chapel Hill are given a fair say in their government and have access to the resources they need. As an undergraduate, I was president of College Democrats, and I've worked in the non-profit field for years, focusing on sexual health, tobacco prevention and obesity awareness. A strong commitment to affordable housing is critical to insuring a diverse community. As a liberal, I'm proud to live in a town that provides free public transportation, and want to increase the accessibility of our transportation system while building regional partnerships with the Triangle. My past political achievements are focused on public service, and part of being liberal means being a consensus builder, who listens to the views of all.

Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

Vital work is being done in our community around homelessness and panhandling. The Partnership to End Chronic Homelessness, along with the work of student leaders at UNC and others in the nonprofit community, should be applauded for their efforts to work with this community.

Some candidates believe that the way to fix panhandling and homelessness is by enacting stricter ordinances than are currently on the books. While these policies may be strongly supported by some in the community, I believe this would do nothing to solve our real problems. We should focus on enforcing the current ordinance, while finding creative solutions to provide needed services to the homeless population.

Do you support the cent sales tax referendum? Would you support future ballot initiatives such as the transit tax? What will you do to educate and involve the public not only in those decisions but in town affairs in general?

I support the cent sales tax and STRONGLY support efforts to place the transit referendum on the ballot in 2012. I started calling voters and knocking on doors of residents the day after I declared, and I haven't stopped since. You get a different feel from citizens when you take the time to ask them what issue they care about when you talk to them on their front porch or in their community center. We need leaders in our community who will reach out to ALL citizens, and get their input on our town's future, when they are running, and when they are in elected office.

This fiscal year saw the town make cut some bus routes and reduce their frequency, the town's July 4th celebration and Project Turnaroud, among other cost saving measures? Do you agree with the choices? If not, how would you have found the funds or what different cuts would you have made?

While we lost some important services and events this year, it is also important to acknowledge that our town staff is doing more with less. Staff have not received a raise in years, and positions that should be filled remain empty. Our firefighters, police officers, and civic servants deserve better. I support the choices to cut services that the town made, and in an age of austerity know that we will need to look critically at our budget in the future.

The town plans to write a new comprehensive plan this year to guide the next 20 years of development, what process should be used and what driving principles and strategies should the end result include?

I served on the Initiating Committee and currently serve on the Outreach Committee for the Comprehensive Plan, and I'm very interested in ensuring that we receive maximum participation from citizens during this plan. We crafted and created a plan that invites citizens to get involved in different ways and have guaranteed that it will be accessible to all.

I hope the plan will help us identify future locations for in-fill development, while also identifying locations that we want to environmentally preserve. A major focus of the plan should be strategic thoughts about what our future transportation infrastructure looks like. As the triangle grows, we need all voices at the table to insure that we have a vision for what our community will look like in the future.

What's your view of the recent and in-progress additions to downtown, Greenbridge and 140 West and what's your hope for UNC's University Square development plans? What else needs to be done to preserve and further a unique and thriving downtown?

The future for Chapel Hill's downtown is based in having citizens live downtown. The best way to fill our empty storefronts is by having a customer base that lives in close proximity to establishments on Franklin Street. I support denser developments within our downtown corridor compared to what we might see on the edges of town. I hope that University Square will be a development that is pleasurable to look at from the street, provides housing (some of which will be affordable because of our Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance), open space where the community can come together, and additional space for retailers, startup companies, and government services.

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