Matt Pohlman | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Matt Pohlman

Candidate Chapel Hill Town Council


Name as it appears on the ballot: Matt Pohlman
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: 11-20-1974
Home address: 104 Colburn Point, CH 27516
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: CPA, Division Head at Franklin Street Partners
Home phone: 919.929.6401
Work phone: 919.403.3010

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.

I have held leadership positions in a variety of organizations.

Professional Leadership:

• Director of Finance for a start-up company in Seattle Washington

• Director of Program Services at the Center for International Education in Chapel Hill, NC

• Currently I am the Head of the Middle Office at Franklin Street Partners and Vice President of the Franklin Street Trust Company

Community Leadership: President of the Board of the Mental Health Association in Orange County, Treasurer of the same Board of Directors.

2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

My political philosophy is to make thoughtful, rational decisions based on relevant information. I have held leadership positions in virtually every organization I have been affiliated with. As a leader, I have learned that gathering information, engaging impacted parties, bringing those parties together in a collaborative way and formulating a decision plan has proved to be a winning strategy. My campaign platform and the issues I have addressed publically are all founded on this style of decision making.

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

I believe strongly in the responsible stewardship of the taxpayers' dollars. In order to help ensure financial sustainability of our town, we must rethink how those dollars are utilized. For example, areas like health and retirement benefits have crippled many municipalities. We need to actively seek out solutions to provide appropriate benefits to town employees without over burdening the citizens.

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?

In order to have a just community, decisions have to be made in an open and transparent way. In order to maintain transparency, the town council must be willing to have an open and honest dialogue with the citizens of our town. If elected, I will ensure that the council works in an open and honest manner. In addition to pushing for open discussion with town citizens, I want measurable outcomes so that our town council can be held accountable.

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?

I would not spend a single cent of taxpayer money on consultants in the upcoming budget year.

After having reviewed the recent budget, I am not aware of a budget cut that I would reverse.

6. What's your approach to growth in Chapel Hill? Where should the town grow? How do leaders manage it?

The town must grow in a thoughtful manner with an eye to keeping Chapel Hill unique. Preservation of our historical monuments and greenways is crucial to maintaining the character of our town. Real estate growth must be balanced with the resources our community has available for that growth. One example of this limited capacity is our water supply. We should not allow growth that strains this resource.

Traditionally, people associate growth in this town with real estate development. We must also encourage new business development. Growth in businesses and jobs can have a tremendously positive impact on the commercial tax base.

Above all else, managing growth is about understanding the needs of the town and its citizens. Once we understand that, managing growth becomes a matter of achieving near term objectives in a timely manner and holding ourselves accountable.

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?

I applaud any positive effort to revitalize downtown and appreciate the hard work of those individuals and organizations who continue to fight for a vibrant community center. The list of things we should consider are too numerous to mention. However, a few ideas are: actively market our town to bring new, appropriate business; provide reasonable incentives to attract new businesses to relocate to downtown; clean-up our downtown; and increase downtown parking.

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?

I do not share the concern that Greenbridge "threatens" the adjacent neighborhoods. The town must be aware of, and responsive to, the possibility of gentrification in all parts of town. The town has addressed gentrification with zoning and organizations like the community home trust. In terms of ongoing strategy with regard to housing, development and the concern of gentrification, I would look to the citizens who are impacted most and let them have a voice and a seat at the table.

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?

I agree strongly with Mr. Dowling. As such, we should follow the lead of Mr. Dowling and recognize that payments-in-lieu can be appropriate for developers to pay to support the operations of the Trust.

Public housing is a complex issue with many moving parts. To pretend anyone could address this topic in a few sentences is not doing the issue justice. I can say with certainly, that I would rely on those who work with public housing, study public housing and live in public housing to begin tackling the issue at the local level.

10. What makes Chapel Hill unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it?

Chapel Hill is unique for its blend of university and town and old and new. Chapel Hill embraces its diversity. The town is very deeply rooted in a sense of community and that is what I love about it and will fight to preserve. As a town council member, I would focus on preserving our way of life, our way of work and our way of play. Historic residences and landmarks must be preserved. A thriving business community is essential and our downtown must maintain, and preserve, its vibrancy.

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?

Collaboration on transportation, greenways (the Tobacco Trail), and other green spaces with Durham and Orange County is essential. The work that Durham has done on the Tobacco Trail is to be commended. Also, environmental issues are best tackled when multiple jurisdictions collaborate on a solution. As is addressed in the town's comprehensive plan, a strong focus on our green spaces and on cross-municipality transportation is an area that the town council must continue to set goals to achieve – and hold themselves accountable for those goals.

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?

The recent development agreement for Carolina North between the University and the town marks a new beginning in relations among the two parties. The town and university can further that relationship by continuing to work closely on projects like University Square. It will be my priority to maintain an open and respectful dialogue between the town and the university to ensure that that relationship continues to prosper.

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?

There are not enough accountability measures in place under the 10-year plan to end homelessness. The shelter is only one piece of the homeless puzzle. Timelines for action and specific impact metrics needs to be put in place. In my view, any hurdles that are in place are entirely self-created. It is paramount that we work more closely with Orange County to be successful as human services are predominately a county function.

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?

Chronic underfunding can undermine the success of a town. Chronic overfunding can prove even more devastating. Every dollar of taxpayer money should be spent judiciously. We have chronically underfunded activities that if properly funded, could have had a positive impact on our downtown. For example, despite a great deal of discussion, parking continues to be an area within our town governance that goes unresolved and, consequently, underfunded. The ramifications are the suffocation of our downtown corridor. An area of our town budget that continues to be a massive burden for the taxpayers is the generous benefits packages that our town employees receive. I believe our town employees do a wonderful job serving our community and I want to be certain they continue to have outstanding benefits. However, the current benefit structure is unsustainable and must be addressed. If elected, I will make certain that I am a voice for a more fair and equitable use of taxpayer money.

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?

This is an issue that must be addressed by working with neighborhoods, developers and business owners to make appropriate decisions about planning for affordable housing. A living wage and affordable housing are very closely linked and must be discussed together. Along the same lines, the Town needs to work closely with community organizations and groups, like the Community Land Trust, to create a strategic plan to ensure long term success. It is important for those who serve the town to be part of the community.

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