Name as it appears on the ballot: Michael Fiocco
Full legal name, if different: Michael Angelo Fiocco
Date of birth: October 1, 1962
Occupation & employer: Partner at Civil Consultants Inc. and Co-Owner of Flyleaf Books
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'm an owner of two small businesses and have been a member of the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners for the past four years. These have not been years without substantial fiscal challenge, challenges that test one's resolve and creativity. Throughout, I have maintained a steadfast commitment to certain goals and objectives while recognizing and accepting those instances when a change of course was necessary.
2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am registered Unaffiliated. I do not limit my consideration for quality ideas to a specific paradigm. I am able to work effectively with people of many different affiliations. I believe that my work in the past four years on the Town Board has illustrated this position and I believe this approach has helped establish a more cordial working relationship with the County. I initiated a monthly Board liaison meeting between Town and County for discussing current and upcoming priorities to help recognize opportunities for cooperation. Another important reflection of this working partnership to which I contributed is exhibited by the Hillsboro Street water main replacement project wherein the County and the Town shared in the cost to remove and replace the antiquated 1920's era water system with a new water main. This new water main serves as the backbone for delivering a much improved water supply and fire protection system to downtown and beyond.
3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
The voting public is the farthest thing from monolithic and I expect that every position taken on a given topic costs one popularity points with voters. It has been my experience over the past four years.
4. The INDY's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I will continue to advocate for and practice open and transparent government; I will continue to support the recognition and consideration of all voices in the community; I will continue to support equal rights for all citizens; and I will continue to advocate for responsible environmental stewardship.
5. Pittsboro is facing enormous growth issues if Chatham Park is approved and fully built out. What is your opinion about the necessity and appropriateness of this development? How do you propose Pittsboro should accommodate the infrastructure and public safety needs of Chatham Park?
Full build out for Chatham Park is estimated to be on the 30 year horizon. It is a great opportunity for Pittsboro to partner with a development team that has invested so greatly in the future of Pittsboro. Given that the developer has committed to rezone the property to a Planned Development District that requires a Master Plan as opposed to developing the assemblage in a piecemeal fashion is an affirmation of the partnership that can be exercised in creating smart growth in the community that both reflects and contributes to the values of the community. Pittsboro's population has just exceeded 4,000. It is clear that issues of infrastructure development and long term management is a part of the growth proposition that will require a thorough analysis and vetting to be successful. I will require that the Town and Developer invest the time required to structure and enter into a Development Agreement that addresses these critical financial, functional and environmental issues.
6. What is your position on fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, in Pittsboro and Chatham County? Please justify your position.
I'm not convinced that fracking can be performed without substantial, and possibly irreversible, negative impacts on the environment and the communities in the region. The risks associated with water supply contamination, possible increase in seismic activity, and the degradation of the state, county and municipal character and infrastructure is unresolved and needs to be better understood. Far more research needs to be undertaken to enable an informed decision to be taken regarding the risk benefit equation in the region. At present, given what appears to be a relatively small amount of resource in the region, the risks seem to be significantly imbalanced. If it is demonstrated that it can be undertaken safely and standards for fracking operations can be established that preserve the public health, safety and welfare, and mitigate the negative impacts of fracking, it is imperative that local zoning authority remain intact, as with any other land use within a community's jurisdiction, and that compulsory pooling be rescinded. I do not support the idea that communities should be homogenous without a voice in the standards by which legal uses within the community address the community's values and issues of health, safety and welfare. As a member of the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners, I advocated for, and the Town adopted, zoning requirements that require potential fracking operations to establish the findings of a Special Use Permit, which requires a more rigorous and substantial burden of proof regarding the safety of and benefit to the community.
7. In analyzing the Pittsboro Town budget, what services need more funding? What could be cut? Assess the financial health of the Town.
The Town's financial health is good. The Town has fund balances that far exceed statutory requirements. That said, we have made substantial investments in much needed deferred maintenance related to the enterprise fund for water and sewer infrastructure. These investments have returned greatly improved systems from a health and safety perspective and have also provided opportunity for economic development within the community. This investment has also nonetheless placed a debt burden on the fund that must be keenly considered and carefully managed.
8. Pittsboro has received a Retire NC designation, which could make the Town appealing to senior citizens. What is Pittsboro doing to attract and retain younger residents as well?
Pittsboro is investing in downtown revitalization for an active community. Pittsboro is investing in parks and recreation facilities for a healthy community. Pittsboro is investing in smart growth standards and policies to promote a more walkable, bikeable and sustainable community and partnering with Chatham Park to develop the economic opportunity of a smart growth community.
9. If you are incumbent, please share some self-reflection about the pros and cons of the job the current mayor and council are doing leading the Town. If you are a challenger, critique the job the incumbents are doing.
The past 5 years have been difficult economic conditions; the severity of which has not been seen since the depression. The Town has been able nonetheless to leverage its resources and secure grants and low interest loans to continue to make crucial investments in the health of the Town.
Much of the Town's water and sewer infrastructure is aging and is approaching, if not exceeding, its useful life. The just completed Hillsboro Street transmission water main project is a project that has already delivered substantial improvements in both water quality and reliability and forms the backbone for future improvements throughout the heart of Town. Improvements to the water treatment plant have solved a long standing water quality issue and the plant is now producing some of the highest quality water in the region. Improvements to the sewer treatment plant in the form of containment tanks and the lining of a substantial portion of the sewer transmission mains has been a great success. These improvements have made a more robust and environmentally secure network that has produced a substantial return on investment in enabling the Town to remove a six year development moratorium and realize an increase in economic development opportunity.
The Town has created several new high-quality parks and recreational facilities; one of the key amenities that individuals and families look for when choosing a community as home.
The Town was successful in its bid to become a member of the Small Town Main Street program and through incentives of matching grants seen several façade improvements downtown (one of which is receiving national media attention; the "bookshelf" mural by local artist Michael Brown). The Town has seen the placement of attractive benches throughout downtown and is poised to provide a public green space in the form of a pocket park next to the historic London House.
There have been many challenges in the last four years. There was the trauma of the near loss of the crown jewel of the Town and County in the historic courthouse fire. There was the bankruptcy of Townsend and Omitron. There have been substantial expenditures (investment) in infrastructure, and there have been many inconveniences associated with rebuilding and reinvesting. The Town has seen the retirement of many key members of the administrative leadership; the Town Manager, Planning Director and Police Chief have transitioned in the last four years and I'm pleased that the Town has maintained continuity in its level of service to the citizens.
Through it all, the Town has remained steadfast and the challenges have been met with resolve and creativity. Good investments have been made that have kept the Town in good standing, moving in the right direction and more appealing every day.