Mike Gering | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Mike Gering

Candidate for Hillsborough Town Commission

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Mike Gering
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: January 13, 1956
Home address: 158 West King Street, Hillsborough
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Senior Software Engineer, IBM Corporation
Home phone: 919-644-8321
Work phone: 919-644-8321
E-mail: mike.gering@hillsboroughnc.org



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

The most important issues facing Hillsborough are:

1) Preserving Hillsborough's unique qualities: our small town nature, the diversity of our population, and our historical, natural, and cultural resources. Without careful control, new development could undermine these goals by driving up the cost of living and pushing out people of modest income, or by exhausting our limited water resources.

2) Improving the town's financial health and civic infrastructure. Though we have weathered recent economic storms relatively well and have not raised property taxes or water rates, we face difficult challenges in the next few years. One of the biggest is to plan, build and pay for a major upgrade to the waste water treatment plant. Also, to keep taxes at an absolute minimum, we have delayed important projects, such as relocating the fleet maintenance facility. These projects cannot be put off forever.

3) Improving the quality of life for all citizens. We still have traffic and parking problems. Although we have approved developments intended to offer more shopping and dining options, affordable senior housing and health services, we are still waiting for some of them to materialize.

The reason I first ran for office in 2001, and the reason I'm running again today, is because I wanted to help shape Hillsborough's future regarding these goals. I'm proud that we've made progress over the past eight years, and I feel I can take some credit for that progress. But there's more work to be done. To continue working on these issues, my priorities are to:

1) Complete our zoning ordinance rewrite consistent with the above goals; this is critical to guiding and controlling future development.

2) Continue improving our economic base, relying more on a commercial tax base and less on residential.

3) Complete the Riverwalk project.

4) Build a train station for passenger service in the Collins property.

5) Complete the Nash Street sidewalk project.

6) Acquire additional funds to help us complete the waste water treatment plant upgrade.

7) Minimize water and sewer rates with cost containment, modernizing our out-of-date system, and through increased efficiency.

8) Plan and promote additional economic development in areas such as the Cornelius Street corridor.

9) Continue progress in Waterstone by working with the developers to ensure that the mix of uses is optimal for Hillsborough.

10) Continue working closely with Durham Technical Community College and the county on the curriculum, transportation to and from downtown, and expansion of the college in the future.

2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Town Board? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.

Some of my accomplishments as a town commissioner include: initiating the town's purchase of the Collins property; organizing and co-chairing the senior housing task force; leading the effort against the proposed asphalt plant and waste transfer station; proposing work that led to the water rate assistance program; and leadership on numerous committees and task forces.

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

I am a social moderate and a fiscal conservative.

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

I make decisions only after studying the facts and hearing from people who would be affected. I can imagine a situation where I would oppose a popular development proposal that offers short term benefits, but would be detrimental in the long term by damaging our historical resources, our environment, or by dislocating people in an established neighborhood.

5) Why do you think there are so few candidates for Hillsborough office? What can be done to better energize the public into caring and serving?

I believe the public is energized. We are fortunate to have a community dedicated to public service. In the eight years that I have been a commissioner, I have seen interest in serving on our numerous boards and task forces increase, and this bodes well for our future.

Our current mayor and Town Board share the same vision and we all work well together, two important factors that explain our progress and success. I believe the public sees this synergy and cooperation, and trusts that its current elected officials are doing a good job and are making the right decisions.

6) What kinds of development projects would interfere with the town's plans for its future?

I would oppose developments that are inconsistent with our Vision 2010 plan, strategic development plan, and other small area plans. My overall concern when considering a proposed development is, "what are the benefits, if any, to Hillsborough?" I want to know how any proposal affects the environment, historic preservation, our small town nature, our finite water resources, traffic congestion, and reliance on automobiles, to name just a few questions.

7) What are your hopes for the Hillsborough Riverwalk project? Have they changed given the state of the economy?

The Riverwalk project remains one of my highest priorities. When completed, it will be a significant recreational amenity for our citizens, and will provide additional connectivity to downtown. As a part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, it will provide economic benefits for tourism and will help attract businesses to Hillsborough.

These claims are confirmed by our success in winning more than $1.2 million in grants from state and federal agencies.

The Riverwalk project competes with many other projects for scarce funds -- funds made scarcer as the economy suffers. However the economy's impact is reduced somewhat because a significant portion of Riverwalk is funded by grants.

8) How will you manage growth? What is the best strategy given this inevitability?

I would manage growth by starting with documented strategies and plans. These provide direction to developers and to our advisory boards so they know what kinds of growth are desired. We have completed a strategic growth plan, along with detailed plans for Churton Street, Cornelius Street, and Orange Grove Road. We are in the process of creating a design for a train station at the Collins property, along with related uses to complement it. We need to continue creating and revising small area plans like these. They also serve as economic marketing tools that advertise, "Hillsborough has a vision and knows what it wants."

We need modernized zoning ordinances that are derived from and consistent with our strategies and plans. These ordinances provide the legal framework for controlling what gets developed, where, and how. After five years or so of planning and budgeting, we are now about to begin completely rewriting our zoning ordinances.

We need to continue evaluating our capacity to accommodate growth in order to avoid depleting or damaging our natural resources or overwhelming our infrastructure (roads, fire and police protection, and the like).

When we approve a project, we need tools to ensure that it completes in a reasonable period of time.

With plans and ordinances in place, we need to continue attracting and appointing well-qualified people to the advisory and review boards on which we rely.

9) How does Hillsborough fit in with surrounding communities? How will you work with colleagues in those areas to promote and support each other?

Though I value and strive to preserve Hillsborough's identity and unique character, I recognize our role in the larger community. During my time on the Town Board, I am happy to see that we have forged strong ties to the Board of Orange County Commissioners, and the governing bodies in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. Our mayor, Town Board members, and staff regularly collaborate with our municipal colleagues to solve mutual problems, and we have been rewarded for it. For example, the Durham-Chapel Hill Transportation Advisory Committee on two separate occasions voluntarily redirected approximately $413,000 for Hillsborough's Nash Street sidewalk and Riverwalk projects.

Since my time on the Town Board, we have accrued a long series of collaborations with the Board of Orange County Commissioners. Most recently, we concluded a joint strategic growth plan and are close to solidifying the plan with joint agreements. We have worked together on the Fairview Park, the Cornelius Street Plan, and the Wayfinding Signage Plan.

10) What's your opinion of the town's incentivized retirement plan? Can the town afford it? How will you address replacing any or all of the14 department heads who are eligible for this option?

I'm not sure what town you're referring to. The Hillsborough Town Board has not discussed such a plan.

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