Last night, the Chapel Hill/Carrboro chapter of the NAACP held a candidate’s forum for the County Commissioner at-large and County Sheriff’s race.
The candidates present were: Clarence Birkhead, Lindy Pendergrass, Joal Hall Broun, Barry Jacobs and Joe Phelps. Alice Gordon also stopped by, even though she is uncontested in her County Commissioner race in District 1.
There was actually a lot of ground covered at the forum. Among the topics discussed was the 287g Program, overcrowding in county jails, funding for the Chapel Hill library and Google Fiber Optics.
Most notable was William Thorp, the NAACP chapter chair, giving an impassioned plea to the commissioner-hopefuls to fix the situation in Rogers Road. The plea came in the wake of a new report that found 9 out of 11 wells in the region were contaminated and a quarter of the septic tanks in the area were in disrepair.
Orange County Sheriff
During the Sheriff’s forum, Clarence Birkhead and incumbent Lindy Pendergrass discussed the 287g Program and over-crowding in the county jail.
Birkhead said he agreed with the county commissioners’ decision to not instate the 287g Program in the county. He said that instating the program would be a “poor use of local resources.”
Pendergrass echoed the sentiment. He said the county police “doesn’t have the time” to carry out the program. Pendergrass also added that the county currently does not have checkpoints, and that the county police doesn’t “go to construction sites checking green cards.”
I mean, I get that 287g is a waste of money—something people always dislike about bad public policy—but this is the kind of policy that is wrong for so many other reasons. Considering the NAACP hosted this forum, I was expecting more discussion about how OC is not taking part in a socially unjust program.
County jails were a bit contentious. Pendergrass mentioned that the county was only over its inmate limit by 14. He also said it has been profitable to offset the county budget with federal funds. Birkhead said that there is a problem with “running a jail for profit” and that the county’s contract with the Federal Marshalls needs to be examined. He said federal inmates should not be taking the space from county inmates. Pendergrass added afterwards that the jail is “not being run as a business.”
Orange County Board of Commissioners, At-Large Seat
During the library funding discussion neither candidate said they were against funding the library system. However, Phelps did say the libraries are currently understaffed and not enough people are using them.
I have to say, there was some awkwardness during the commish forum. Phelps seemed to single out Jacobs for a whole host of things. During the discussion about public and private partnerships in the county, Phelps brought up an old article from WRAL that discussed Jacob’s commitment to keeping commercial standards high. This had to do with a disagreement that Phelps and Jacobs have concerning Hampton Point. Phelps said Jacobs wasn’t doing enough to attract commercial development. Jacobs countered and said the development is a mess and he is proud that the county has “rigorous standards.” Broun said that there should be a more definite plan concerning what to do with interested private/commercial parties. Phelps also went after both Broun and Jacobs for seeking other offices while in office.
During the closing remarks, Thorp asked that he candidates comment on Rogers Road. Jacobs said there are plans to ask for federal money to fix the immediate problems. Phelps said the county should ask the state for money like Hillsborough did.
Broun said, “We need to be upfront that we owe [the Rogers Road community] a debt.” She said even though it will cost a lot if money, the county needs to do a better job.
Glad to see this issue came up.