Mark H. Chilton | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Mark H. Chilton

Carrboro - Mayor and Board of Aldermen


Name as it appears on the ballot: Mark H. Chilton

Date of birth: September 27, 1970

Home address: 203 Ashe Street, Carrboro, NC 27510

Campaign Web site:

Occupation & employer: Starting Oct 1, I will be working in affordable housing development for a non-profit community development corporation


1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Carrboro? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

A. Transforming Carrboro into a community that is less reliant on petroleum through building an infrastructure and a culture that supports bicycling and pedestrianism, expanding public transportation through the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax, and planning and implementation of compact land use development.

B. Diversifying our tax base by growing the commercial sector - i.e. careful downtown re-development, appropriate commercial development north of Homestead Road and exploring commercial redevelopment potential at Carrboro Plaza.

C. Controlling the Town's budget to limit the impact of taxes on residents of Carrboro.

2) 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.

I humbly submit that six years on the Chapel Hill Town Council, two years as a Carrboro Alderman, and six years as Mayor of Carrboro makes a person well qualified to be Mayor. But more seriously, I think I have done a good job of keeping the Board of Aldermen focused and moving forward on a variety of fronts. This election cycle marks twenty years that I have been involved in local government, which amounts to almost half my life. It is difficult to pick out one single thing that I am most proud of because there are so many things I am proud of such as the Carrboro Small Business Revolving Loan Fund, Chapel Hill Transit, our recycling and waste reduction programs among others. However, I guess I would say that I am most proud that the League of American Bicyclists recently recognized Carrboro as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community - along with Gainesville FL, we are one of only two at the Silver Level in all of Dixie! This is undoubtedly a strong reflection of Carrboro's commitment to transforming into a truly sustainable community - independent acknowledgement of completed and planned/funded bike/ped improvements on Estes Drive Extension, Main Street, Greensboro Street, Jones Ferry Road, Old Fayetteville Road, Smith Level Road, north of Homestead Road and along Morgan Creek. But all of that is just the beginning.

3) 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 would define myself as a citizen-activist advocating for the environment and civil rights, but I'll let you put your own label on it. Please see my answer to #2 for examples of specific achievements.

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

Probably the best recent example is my leadership on the Smith Level Road issue. Even though neighbors opposed moving forward with the project because of automobile access and internal circulation issues, I persuaded the Board of Aldermen and NCDOT to move forward with a compromise that will soon bring us new and badly needed bikelanes and sidewalks on Smith Level Road while adding no new motor vehicle travel lanes. It would have been easier to bow to the pressure and further delay this project (already literally 20 years behind schedule), but I believe it was better to address the needs of pedestrians and cyclists now - even if at the expense of the convenience of automobiles.

5) 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?

I think what makes Carrboro unique is its acceptance of non-conformity. For example, the community response to Carr Mill Mall's prohibiton on dancing on the Weaver Street Market lawn was an expression of our love for Bruce the Dancing Man - a person who would no doubt be ignored (if not pilloried) in 99% of communities in America. Likewise the recent news coverage and community response to the death of Robert Harman shows how our community values even a homeless disabled (and soemtimes cantankerous) man in a way that few other towns would. Folks like Bruce and Robert are what make our town interesting. As I said at Robert's memorial service: "If there's a lesson in Robert's life, it's the value of accepting people for who they are rather than who we expect them to be." As Mayor I have always tried to bring that value to the decision making process and I continue to work for creating deeply subsidized affordable housing to ensure that there will always be a place in our community for even the lowest income people.

6) 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?

I believe we did what we could to mitigate the impact on local businesses, but it is clear that the impact of the project has nevertheless been significant - and even grave in some cases. In retrospect, I am beginning to think that the project should have been delayed another year or two giving the economy more time to recover. Still the reality is that the project had to get done at some point and unfortunately it was already significantly overdue when we finally started it.

7) 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?

My overall opinion is that Carrboro should carefully continue to grow taller, rather than wider. Growth should be focused on present (and to a lesser degree future) public transportation corridors, making efficient use of existing infrastrucutre and constraing the amount of new impervious surface. I believe this is the right direction to head because suburban/strip-mall development is the largest source of water pollution in America (pollutants from cars are washed by rain into our creeks and rivers) and because the private passenger automobile (a necessary consequence of sprawl) is the largest source of air pollution as well. While the Carrboro Board of Aldermen commonly expresses its opinion on political issues which are far beyond its control (gay rights, abortion, the Global War of Terror), the issue of how our community will work as petroleum becomes less available in the future is actually something that we DO have a lot of control over. Bike/pedestrian/public transportation oriented land use planning and development is the single biggest opportunity to transform our community into a place that can survive and thrive with far less petroleum. And making that transformation is the biggest challenge that our entire planet faces - not merely because of the implications of Global Warming, but because of the Law of Supply and Demand.

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

I support the 1/4 cent sales tax for schools and economic development. The proposed 1/2 cent sales tax for public transportation (to be considered in 2012) is probably the single most important issue facing the entire Triangle region. Transforming our present local bus systems into a regional multi-modal public transportation system (ie including ligth rail or simlar technology) is a crtical and transformative step in making our region less reliant on private passenger automobiles. This transformation will take 20 years or more to fully implement, but as I remarked to our County Commissioners and the Durham Chapel Hill Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization: Because it takes a century to grow a huge oak tree, we must plant the acorn right away.

9) 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?

The revolving loan fund ahs been a tremendous success, spawning businesses such as Acme Restaurant, Weaver Street Market, Elmo's Diner, and the Cat's Cradle among many others. Some changes are warranted however, as I believe that we need to beef up our loan underwriting process a little. We cannot afford to make bad loans and we do no one any favors by lending money to prospective businesses which do not have a suitably promising business model. Also, I believe that we need to consider whether the fund should be available for job retention (as opposed to merely new job creation) - particularly in light of the difficult and changing business environment that we all find ourselves in.

10) 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?

Carrboro has an outstanding level of public participation from homeowners and other middle class residents of town. This can and will be further improved through internet-based initiatives. I think there are significant opportunities for the Town government to interact via social media - an avenue of communication which we have only begun to explore. Chapel Hill does a far better job of using social media to communicate than Carrboro does, for example (although even so Chapel Hill's communication could be more two-way). At the same time, we have been working hard to reach out to Carrboro residents who may be less traditionally involved, such as students as well as Latino and Karen families. I am proud of the start we have made through meetings between residents of Abbey Court and the Police Chief and other Town department heads, for example. We need to do more of that sort of work, especially at apartment complexes where there are serious quality-of-life challenges. Abbey Court remains the most glaring example, but there are a number of other apartment complexes where illegal activities, bedbugs, and poor housing quality are a serious barrier to childrens' education. Opening up communication and involvement between these communities and local government (both Town and County) will be one essential part of improving the qaulity of life in these neighborhoods.

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