Loren Hintz | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Loren Hintz

Candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council


Name as it appears on the ballot: Loren Hintz

Date of birth: Sept. 2, 1955

Occupation & employer: Biologist; retired science teacher Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools

Campaign website: www.lorenhintz.com

Email: hintzforcouncil@gmail.com

1. 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 love Chapel Hill and want to preserve our best features. I will be an advocate for the environment, social justice and public transportation. I will help town government to be proactive rather than reactive. I will strive for better implementation by Council of the advisory boards' recommendations.

I served as chair of the Chapel Hill Transportation Board, on the Bike and Pedestrian Task Force and the Fordham Blvd Safety Task Force and am now on the Orange County Commission for the Environment. While a science teacher at Chapel Hill High School I was a member of the Apoyo Latino team, which worked with Latino parents and students. I was president of the Morgan Creek-Kings Mill Neighborhood Association and Co-chair of the Orange Chatham Sierra Club and am now on the board of the Morgan Creek Valley Alliance. My Peace Corps work in El Salvador and Honduras and my Central American solidarity work gives me a unique perspective of working with many different people and making progress with limited resources. I have always worked well with others on committees. I presented to Chapel Hill Town Council our recommendations and advocated for their implementation.

2. 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?

My volunteer, academic and professional background has brought me in contact with Carrboro, Orange County, UNC and the School Board. This enables me to work with other jurisdictions. Having taught for nineteen years at Chapel Hill High School and having a son in CHCCS system gives me understanding of families in Chapel Hill and their needs. My science background in biology and ecology will enable me to analyze numerous environmental issues the town must address. The boards and task forces I served on worked well, as did our advocacy for our recommendations. I will bring these board experiences to the Council and make sure the work done by volunteers on boards is utilized.

3. 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?

Three best accomplishments: a. Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive plan because the process involved a large number of citizens and created the framework to address a number of community problems b. Maintained almost all town services without raising taxes or laying off employees while still being able to initiate new projects. This is especially important as the state and federal government have reduced funding for many services. c. Downtown 140 West. This is a good example of public-private partnership. It created downtown public space; it helps with the downtown parking issue, increases the vitality of the downtown and over the long run will increase town revenues.

Three done differently: a. Several neighborhoods have loss public transit service due to the budget. I believe public transportation is very important for Chapel Hill and would have looked for means to preserve and expand transit services. b. The town has spent too much money for various consultants and facilitators. Judging from the cost, it would be more effective to hire an additional planner with the needed skill sets. This individual might also be able to facilitate the permitting process. c. Since adopting the 2020 plan the town has had a number of meetings. The overall goal of these meetings and the specific objectives and time lines need to be made clear in one easily accessible place.

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

I am a progressive candidate. I support the past resolutions of the town council on various state, national and global issues. I will encourage residents to bring new issues to the Council for action. As part of a local government I will work to make sure we provide a living wage for our employees, create and follow fair grievance policies and encourage public participation in local government.

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

I a progressive liberal on the political spectrum. Last month, I received the endorsement of the NC State AFL-CIO and the Triangle Labor Council. I was active in the Central America Solidarity Movement and have made numerous trips to Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. I have been involved in various environmental groups including Sierra Club and Audubon and community organizations such as CITCA and Kings Mill Morgan Creek Association. As a teacher I helped numerous students and their families. My campaign platform focuses on the environment, social justice and public transportation. These topics are important for everyone. I believe that Chapel Hill government can be more proactive meeting the community's needs. Chapel Hill council can better implement the recommendations of the various boards, and be responsive to our citizens.

6. Chapel Hill has a reputation as a town that is anti-business. Is that fair or not? What would you do to change that reputation, if at all?

This is not a fair reputation. There are many businesses in Chapel Hill and the occupancy rate is high. The community is supportive of local businesses. It is true that some developers have been frustrated by the approval process that they must go through and that rents are high. However most development projects are approved and most businesses are able to make a profit in spite of the higher rents. I agree with the goal of making town regulations easier to follow, and the rewrite of LUMO will help.

The town should make the permitting and development process clear by having a good summary chart detailing the steps of the process. For example a friend (and small business owner) thought she got the run around when she had her fire safety inspection.

We should also reduce the amount of time it takes to process permit requests. Businesses need a good public infrastructure and Chapel Hill provides that with public schools, greenways, public transit, police and fire departments.

7. What is your view on the town's recent moves to support high-density, mixed-use developments in downtown Chapel Hill? What can be done to revitalize and support downtown?

I support high-density, mixed use development in the downtown for example 140 West. The town and businesses need to increase efforts to explain how to visit the downtown using public transit. We must make it easy to avoid the private/no parking/ tow lots (I hope the town predatory towing ordinance is upheld). We must continue positive PR encouraging UNC students and visitors to enjoy the downtown. Given the recent increase in downtown crime statistics there should be more police foot patrols in the area. However, the Town Government cannot do everything. The downtown community should encourage all businesses to clean up their sidewalks and plantings near their storefront, and to keep an eye out for potential assaults and other safety hazards.

8. What are your thoughts on the town's panhandling ordinance and its enforcement by Chapel Hill police?

The current ordinance prohibits panhandling near bus stops, banks and ATMs and prohibits intimidating behavior. I don't believe the town should enact a more restrictive ordinance. As a practical matter enforcement should be warnings rather than arrests since the resources do not exist for those arrested to spend a long time in jail or to pay a fine. My impression is that the level of panhandling has been about the same over the years. The general public should be made aware of what the ordinance means and should be encouraged to donate to social agencies rather than panhandlers. I think we need to look at the big picture. First we should dispel the fear that the panhandlers are responsible for the recent increase in crime plus we should realize that in general they are not the same population as those labelled "homeless". We need to use panhandlers as a teachable moment to discuss with our children issues such as poverty and unemployment. There are a number of town, county and volunteer agencies already involved in addressing unemployment, drug addiction, homelessness and health care and I, of course, would work through Council to support those efforts.

9. What do you think of the town's comprehensive plan, Chapel Hill 2020? What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? As a council member, how would you go about implementing the plan?

The Chapel Hill 2020 is a great ambitious plan. Its strengths includes the large number of people who participated in its development. It includes many important topics (the six themes) and that it outlines action items to achieve its goals. The weaknesses are that its implementation will require increased revenue that may be difficult to obtain, that some action items conflict with other items and that already there are complaints that the public input process for implementation is not working.

As a candidate and as a citizen I have been attending meetings, reading documents and listening to people involved in the processes of implementation. First as a Council member I will clarify how the various recent initiatives fit into the comprehensive plan. I will listen carefully to participants in the Central West and Obey Creek focus groups and see how to address the concerns of the participants. A complaint I have already heard is that needed data related to storm water, traffic congestion and general building plans are provided too late in the committee input process. I want to ensure that if some of the advisory boards are consolidated, then the types of input that all these boards have provided in the past are incorporated by other means. For example, the town may create a task force on a specific topic rather than maintaining a standing advisory board.

10. Chapel Hill continues to struggle to offer affordable housing. As a council member, what would you do to push affordable housing in the town?

This is a difficult issue to resolve. A number of task forces and groups have made recommendations and I want to implement their ideas. Affordable housing options must include a mix of both individual and multiple family homes, both home ownership and rental. It is very important to encourage the School Board and UNC to look for ways to create affordable housing for their employees. I want to encourage and, when appropriate, require developers to create affordable housing with their projects. The town should continue to apply for housing grants. As the university and private developers create new housing for students, the pressure on existing housing will decrease so it will return to a more affordable status. The town should use some of the land it owns to provide partnerships that create affordable housing. Town and school services such as fare-free public transit, after school care for young students and energy saving features that lower utilities can make Chapel Hill more affordable. Finally, town government needs to continue to pay a fair salary to employees.

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