11 vying for the Rich seat: an introduction to the applicants

Erin Crouse's picture
Filing has now closed for Penny Rich’s vacated Town Council seat. There will be a special public hearing January 14th where the applicants will be allowed to speak. The Council will consider making an appointment to fill the vacancy on January 23rd.

There are 11 applicants to the seat. I believe that this applicant pool is more diverse than in past appointment processes. There are 4 women, one student, one Latino candidate, one African-American applicant, one candidate who identifies (per her voter registration record) as multiracial, and a Republican. Below is a brief introduction (in alphabetical order) to each candidate:

Sally Greene- Sally is a former Council member, having served from 2003-2011. She did not run for reelection because of job commitments, but has a new job now that will allow her the time to serve again. She has written about her candidacy here on OP. In that thread, there is also a copy of the resolution Council passed honoring Sally when she stepped down, which details her accomplishments as a Council member.

Loren Hintz- Loren is a long-time OP reader and commenter. He is a high school teacher, former Transportation Board chair, and has held a variety of positions in the local Sierra Club group. He applied for a vacant seat fifteen years ago, and also applied for Bill Thorpe’s seat in 2008, which was eventually filled by James Merritt. He has posted on OP about his candidacy here.

David Jackson- David is a newer citizen of Chapel Hill, having moved here 18 months ago from Denver, Colorado. He is a real estate broker working for his family business. In his application, he says that he has been active in Chapel Hill 2020 and the Friends of Downtown group.

Gary Kahn- Gary is a relatively recent transplant to Chapel Hill, having moved here in 2011 from New York. According to this WCHL article, he is on the Board of Directors of the Copperline Square Homeowners Association, and wants to be on Council so he can be an advocate for residents in the Southern Village area.

Jennifer Marsh- Jennifer is an attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. She is a native of Chapel Hill, and has worked for the NAACP and Disability Rights North Carolina. She also serves on the Orange County Board of Equalization and Review, which hears appeals of tax assessments.

Paul Neebe- Paul is a Julliard-trained freelance professional musician (trumpet) and a real estate broker. He currently serves on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. He grew up in Chapel Hill, and said in his application that if appointed, he would seek election when the term expired.

Maria Palmer- Maria is a long-time community activist. She is a former member of State Board of Education (1998-2005), and she served as co-chair of Chapel Hill 2020’s Getting Around theme group. She has also done a lot of work with the County’s Human Rights and Relations Committee. She has expressed interest in running for Council in 2013 regardless of her potential appointment.

Bjorn Pedersen- Bjorn is another Chapel Hill native. He is an undergraduate student at UNC, studying Physics. In his application, he calls for increasing density to expand our tax base and allow for more affordable housing.

Amy Ryan- Amy is a member of the Planning Board and the Central West Focus Area Steering Committee. She is also a former member of the Community Design Commission, and served on the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force. This is her first time applying or running for a seat on the Council.

Carl Schuler- Carl is a well-known commenter and supporter of OP. He currently serves on the Board of Adjustment, and is past president of the Vineyard Square Homeowner’s Association. He ran for Town Council in 2011.

Aaron Shah- Aaron is a member of the Town’s Sustainability Committee, and lives in Northside. He ran for Town Council for about a week in 2005, but withdrew before the end of the filing period. He also applied for Bill Strom’s vacant seat in 2009, which was filled by Council Member Donna Bell.

What do you think of the candidates? Do you think the Council will be ready to make an appointment in 16 days? Continue to follow OP for additional blog posts and meeting live-tweeting as Council moves closer to a decision.

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20 Comments

CH Town Council would do

CH Town Council would do well to appoint someone who is new but not wet behind the ears and has been involved with the Town. Hopefully this is not a kiss of death but Ms. Maria Palmer would be a good selection in my opinion.

Barbara Crockett's picture

Maria Palmer, among many fine

possibilities. She's hispanic and female (the latter being less important than the former) and has a history of engagement. Don't know her positions on development or transportation so that's a big hole. However, tackling those with a sensitive ear to the needs of the fastest growing minority population in North Carolina would be a plus IMHO.

Maria Palmer on development and transportation

Thank you to those who support my candidacy. To clarify my position on the issues raised by Barbara: I believe in responsible and responsive development. That is, we have to become a model of sustainability--if Chapel Hill can't do it, nobody in NC can--and we should be clear in what we will allow and require from new construction. We also need to involve the community, especially those residents most impacted by the development, and come up with creative solutions that allow people to continue to enjoy their neighborhoods. The options for low income home owners cannot only be to go broke or sell out. We have the brain power to come up with alternatives.

Transportation solutions are available. We need the political will to do some hard things, such as we just did with the new tax that we passed to fund more buses, a train station and light rail. We need to increase bike and pedestrian options and safety. And we need to improve bus service so it reaches more neighborhoods and provides more hours of service. Right now it is a wonderful option for some, but not for all who need it or would use it.

Thanks for your support!

maria palmer 

question for Maria

Can you please clarify your position on the rural boundary? I heard you speak several times during 2020 and was never clear whether you were recommending that it be discarded or not. Thank you. 

mtpalmer's picture

Rural Buffer

Hi Terri,I do NOT recommend it be "discarded." I don't believe in urban sprawl. However, I don't believe in sacred cows either. I think we need to revisit the commitments and agreements that were made in order to PRESERVE a rural buffer. Simply saying you need to build on a large lot will not protect us from sprawl. It will mean McMansions on the rural buffer, eventually. Perhaps some of it could be a protected agricultural area (demonstration urban farm, like in Ottawa?) or perhaps parks, or perhaps be protected forest with trails. And MAYBE we want to consider a park-and-ride lot with permeable surfaces and community gardens... who knows. I advocate discussing what we WANT to see happen, not just what we fear. Maria T. Palmer

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Could be a busy fall!

I've never read a list of applicants and wished so many would run for office. I'm still convinced that Sally Greene is the best choice for this seat at this moment, but Maria Palmer, Jennifer Marsh, and Loren HIntz would all be good additions to the council. I do hope they run.

Barbara Crockett's picture

Power of incumbancy

I join Ruby and applaud the strong list of TC applicants. That said, I believe Sally Greene could easily win re-election should she decide to run again so if I had my druthers, I'd go with a fresh face. The power of incumbancy will give a new voice a decided advantage in the next election, an advantage that Sally doesn't need. In the interim, while she awaits the next election, Sally could continue to share her wisdom via boards, committees and TC meetings. 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Tonight!

The OP editors are trying to get this meeting covered, but I'm not sure anyone is available. I hope folks will post updates here when (if?) a decision is made tonight.

mtpalmer's picture

My four-minutes speech

I thought I would share my four-minute speech with those who could not make the meeting tonight. And thanks, Barbara, for suggesting that a new voice could benefit from the experience and be more competitive as a result. I would appreciate you making that point to the Council members!Here goes:

Good Evening Council Members,
I ask you to appoint me to that vacant position. I have invited some friends and neighbors from our community to be with me tonight. For the sake of time, I have translated my remarks in writing, so that those who speak Spanish can follow me. (ask in Spanish who needs a tranlated
copy)

I am proud to b  a Latina. I am thankful I grew up in the Land of the Incas, and that my first language is the language of Cervantes.

I am just as proud to be a Chapel Hillian. I enjoy our long deliberations, our tendency to listen to consultants, our peace vigils, our Franklin Street celebrations, our small but classy mall, and Vimala's Curry Blossom Café! I love that we have more civil rights attorneys here than the rest of NC combined.

I’m proud of my membership and service with the NAACP. And I am pleased that the Hank Anderson, Bill Thorpe, Yonni Chapman Breakfast Club has endorsed me for the open seat on the Council.

What can I contribute to the Council? I have shared with you my platform:
*better public transportation
*improved bicycle and pedestrian routes and safety
*sustainable development that attracts innovative enterprises that both enrich the community and expand our tax base without degrading our natural environment
*more and better collaboration with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to provide better outcomes for all children
*affordable housing

And I know you have read my Resumé and application. I will not use our time on this. But I do want to remind you that I have spent now 17 year of my life here, longer than anywhere else in my life, studying, conducting research and working. Mike and I have raised 3 children here. I have also represented this community on county and state commissions and on the State Board of Education after Gov. Hunt appointed me in 1998.

One thing I left out of my resumé was my service on the advisory committee of the Orange Campus of Durham Tech. I am proud of the work we accomplished; I convince the majority of our county commissioners, and of our county and city school boards, the two superintendents and several Council members to take a bus-ride to Greensboro to visit an exciting “Middle College” there, which is a national model. Dr. Phail Wynn, then President of Durham Tech, told me that our work on that Advisory Board was the catalyst for much of his dedication to relearn Spanish, to travel to Latin America, and to focus his energies at Duke on achieving greater success of immigrants in the public schools

Some people have said I should wait to run for office, because there is a more experienced candidate who could hit the ground running. I want to urge you to question that perspective.

First, what is so urgent that we need to be running for? If we were in the middle of some delicate negotiations and had no other people with the experience or institutional memory to complete the plan, maybe it could be the driving consideration. But we have vast experience and institutional memory in this council and in the professional staff.

Should previous experience on the Town Council be the most important consideration in
your choice? Making it so can exclude important new voices. Some of you have proven that new faces bring new ideas and energy. You may not know how to make coffee like the old member, but maybe you have your own brew that you have introduced.

In summary, I shall bring a wealth of practical, intensive experience in multi-cultural education, repairing the breach in God’s human family-- helping to bring us together as
one large, diverse family.

I will bring a strong new voice to the conversation. Many of my friends and neighbors want to contribute to Chapel Hill that has become their home. We may not be able to fix
our immigration system—President Obama is working on that—but by appointing me, you give them hope. And a strong voice.
Muchas Gracias. Thank you very much.
Maria T. Palmer

Impressive speech

I wish I'd been there to hear it, instead of reading it, but good nonetheless.  As a potential future constituent, I would like to ask where you stand on LGBT equality, on the amendment one fight that happened last year, and on marriage equality specifically.I recognize that the big decisions around those issues will be decided by state governments, and even by the Supreme Court later this year, but I do like to know where folks who represent me stand, and Chapel Hill has been a progressive leader on domestic partnerships and in having some official recognition of Pride events so there is some local relevance beyond just this potential constituent's interest.Thank you! 

Barbara Crockett's picture

Done

Here's the letter I emailed to the mayor and town council:Dear Mayor and Council Members,I write in support of Maria Palmer's application to fill the vacant town council seat. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in North Carolina and are underrepresented on the Chapel Hill TC. Because town council elections are city wide, it's much easier for white middle and upper class candidates to win a seat than it is for minorities. Appointing Ms. Palmer will give her the advantage of incumbency at the next election cycle, an advantage that an hispanic candidate could well use. Such an appointment would make the town council more representative of all Chapel Hill constituencies. I believe Sally Green, a worthy applicant, could easily win re-election. She could continue to share her wisdom and serve the town through attendance at town council meetings, boards or committees while she waits the next election cycle.Thank you for your consideration. 

mtpalmer's picture

Hi Jake, glad you asked. I

Hi Jake, glad you asked. I stand for marriage equality, as does my church, Binkley Baptist. I have just been authorized by Binkley to perform weddings (I was ordained by the UCC and pastored a Hispanic congregation, Iglesia Unida de Cristo from 1996 to 2004 in Chapel Hill). Although I have never been asked to perform a wedding for a gay couple, I would be glad to do so if the couple was committed and wanted to establish a home together. I have certainly attended many such weddings and have been moved by the courage of these couples to proclaim their love and committment to each other in the face of outright persecusion. At NC A&T, where I was the director of the Multicultural Center, I started an LGBT student group and also a Safe Zone program. I got a lot of pushback from the institution and it took several years to get it going, but it was transformative for the campus. I also helped transgendered students with issues of discrimination and housing.I believe CH Town Council can do a lot, despite the Republican-controlled legislature and Amendment One. We can make Chapel Hill a Safe Zone and we can offer all our residents all the rights and protections they deserve as human beings, regardless of sexual orientation. 

Thank you!

Thank you for the response, and for all that you've done to support equality!  While I'm a big fan of Sally Greene I'm also a fan of bringing new voices to the Town Council. I feel like your voice could be one that fills a void on the council, and as I said already your introduction speech indicates an impressive resume. Best of luck in this selection process! I'll be rooting for you!

11 Vying for Rich Seat

I have been following this with great interest and would hope that both participants in Orange Politics and present Council members would look carefully at the background and experience which Jennifer Marsh would bring to this seat.  Thanks.  Tom Minor

Geoff Green's picture

My question to any candidate

I'm assuming that everyone who is applying for the seat will run for re-election to the seat when the time comes. My question is whether the candidates would have run for election to an open seat if a special election were being held (as in Carrboro). Sally Greene's seat was open in 2011, and Carl Schuler ran. Five other non-incumbents ran, far fewer than the 11 seeking appointment here. Holding office requires a substantial commitment, and devoting resources to running an effective campaign in part demonstrates that commitment to the entire public. Because incumbancy provides substantial advantages, running for re-election is not the same as running for an open seat.I presume Carl would run again. And Maria has said so as well. To everyone else I ask — will you put your hat in this November even if you'e not appointed? 

mtpalmer's picture

Running for re-election

Hi Geoff,Of the candidates that I have spoken to, a couple have said privately that they don't think they have the time to run for re-election but might change their mind if elected. Only Aaron Shah has said publicly he will definitely not run.  I do understand why Aaron is running for office. He wants to spend the 9 months he would have on Council bringing attention to an important issue, affordable housing. While I've learned that you cannot acomplished much on any issue without long-term commitment and perseverance, sometimes one passionate advocate can make a difference by educating the rest of the group, even if just for a little while.    I did not run last time because I was working 60 hours a week in Greensboro. I now am working part-time from home.  If I am elected, I will budget my time accordingly, as I see the TC as a part-time job to which I must commit the necessary time. Maria T. Palmer