OP Live Candidate Forum: Chapel Hill Town Council

OP Editors's picture

Reminder to candidates

Candidates: Remember, you must respond using the reply button directly underneath the question or comment to which you are responding -- both to keep the conversation threaded and to avoid losing your words when the page refreshes.

 

Kirk Ross's picture

Question 1 — Good evening eveyone

Thanks for participating in this election forum. Chapel Hill continues to change. We’ll touch on some of the drivers to this change and the consequences of previous council decisions.I want to know what you think are important values to keep in mind as we evolve as a community. What will guide your decision making? And how can voters trust you to reconcile your values with the challenges the town faces?

Ed Harrison's picture

My decision making will be

My decision making will be guided, as it has been for all my terms of service, by a fairminded evaluation of what information comes to me. As someone whose elected career was preceded by years as an activist (which hasn't ended), I try to judge carefully how power is affecting decision making.Am not sure what's meant by "trust [me] to reconcile [my] values with the challenges the town faces. "  Ed Harrison

Kirk Ross's picture

Take a shot at it

As in can you call youself and environmentalists and still allow for growth? Or a transportation advocate and not expand bus ridership? How do you balance things?

George C's picture

Yes, you can do both.  The

Yes, you can do both.  The ultimate metric will be a successful balance and growth will be necessary to generate the revenue streams necessary to protect the environment.  Likewise, there may be a point where increases in bus traffic will have an adverse effect, either directly on the environment or through increased costs by affecting our financial caopability to protect the environment.  Good transit protects the environment

mtpalmer's picture

Part of the problem in

Part of the problem in Chapel Hill is that we like to call ourselves progressives and environmentally-minded, and justice-seeking, but then we make decisions based on how they will affect our own neighborhood or house value or our child's class rank. We have to vote and act according to our values or they don't mean much. I do respect our Town Council folks and think they are very clear on their values and vote accordingly. Perhaps we just need better information and more connections to those who are not usually taken into account. Maria T. Palmer

Ed Harrison's picture

Actually, I got called an

Actually, I got called an environmentalist before ever calling myself one. I'm an environmental professional whose training originally focused at looking at the effects of growth, so some level of growth was always implied. I brought my training, experience and values with me to the Council, and have "allowed" for growth as a decisionmaker -- somewhat less than my colleagues, on the average. I have voted to cut bus service because the realities of advocating for the pre-paid, fare-free transit system made it necessary to re-position the system temporarily. I'm generally the Council member who explains (and will keep explaining) cuts, and expansions as well, because they have real meaning for my friends, associates and household.  One value I do hold that's particular to elected office is that there are few, if any, simple answers. The values I have of fairness in government, believing that I am elected to represent everyone in Chapel Hill, and full public participation (with lots of labor on that front on my part) I believe serve me well in the "reconciliation" at issue here.. Ed Harrison

swinton4towncouncil's picture

Yes, you can do both!

 I firmly believe you can grow sustainably. We must build up more than build out for the future. We do not want create more urban sprawl. Within this growth, we must create buildings that are energy efficient and diminish stormwater runoff.  We also must find ways to establish more funding for our transit system so as to improve frequency and expand access to future developments. A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

It's how you grow that's important

As long as our population grows, we'll need to provide places for people to live and work.  The challenge for an environmentalist is to find ways to grow that do the least harm to the environment (or that build on -- and remediate -- already damaged sites).  It means putting new development near transit, to encourage less dependence on automobiles.  And it means accepting some more height than we're used to, so that we can use the land we do have most efficiently and protect our waterways and provide for green natural spaces. Amy Ryan

mtpalmer's picture

I respect that our elected

I respect that our elected officials strive to be fairminded, but part of the problem is this reliance on "what information comes to me." I don't think the Town Council is getting all the information it needs to make the best decisions for all our residents. Many voices and ideas are not heard. I hope to help bring more information to the table. I hope it is ok to reply to someone else's comment. If not, please let me know Maria T. Palmer

mtpalmer's picture

My Values

The values I think Chapel Hill should keep in mind are justice, inclusion, care for the earth and making this community a place where all residents can aspire to live in peace, with dignity and respect, and with hope that their children can receive a great education. I think voters know me from all the columns I have written and all the work I have done in the community, so I think they know my values align with what they want Chapel Hill to really be--they trust me to keep calling us to be our better selves.

George C's picture

The values I think are

The values I think are important are: providing affordable housing of all types to all segments of the community, especiallt the people who serve us as teachers, public safety personnel, town & university staff, etc; sustainability, both in terms of natural resources and fiscal sustainability;  environmental protection, including land, water, air, light and sound; and maintaining and increasing diversity.I will guide my decision making on maintaining the values I have observed in the community over the last 24 years and working with the next few generations to identify the values that they feel will be important for them in the Chapel Hill of 2030, 2040 and beyond.The voters will hopefully know something about my 23 years years of experience on Town advisory boards and the fact that I listen, learn and then make the best decision I can based on my judgment.  Hopefully voters who support me will be doing so because they trust that ultimately, any decisions I make will be based on using the best judgment I can bring to the process.

ldhintz's picture

values

We believe in diversity, protecting the environment, helping others. I want to make sure that advisory boards have an important role in government and will ask staff and council to look at their recommendations.

Important values

Thank you, Kirk, for moderating this forum. Looking forward to sharing my views.

Chapel Hill is changing, but our values remain constant: inclusiveness and equity, environmental sustainability, fiscal responsibility, and I think now we have even a greater commitment to regional sustainability: our long-term transit goals are part of a sustainable region and state. My record of service suggests that I have the ability to balance these sometimes conflicting values in ways that work so that the solutions benefit all of us.

Sally Greene

Values

I think it's important to listen to everyone's opinion and look at the facts.  Once this has been done then the solution should be clear.  It may end up being a compromise.  I have seen Chapel Hill grow over the last 40 years.  This helps me see where it's been and where it may go.

ldhintz's picture

reconcile

I will not be able to agree with everyone and everyone will not accept my conclusions but I will carefully look at different points of view and make a decision. It is a myth that environmental rules is what is destroying jobs.

Consistent values: comprehensive planning, sensible growth

The  values I'd bring to the Council would be the same ones that have marked my 10 years of service on town advisory boards and committees.  These include planning new growth carefully, making sure that we weigh impacts on existing neighborhoods and businesses; advocating for comprehensive planning; and looking carefully at context to make sure that new development makes sense as part of the whole we're trying to create.Voters can trust that I'd adhere to these values because I've consistently advocated for them and voted according to them through my years of town service with the Community Design Commission and Planning Board. Amy Ryan

swinton4towncouncil's picture

My Values

 I value inclusiveness. As a low-income resident, it is important that *everyone* is heard when it comes to our town's plans, be it housing, jobs, transit, bikes, all of it. I have my opinions on how to move the Town forward, but I definitely want the people to assist as much as possible.  A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

Kirk Ross's picture

Question 2 — What happened to Chapel Hill?

I’m thinking of starting a business that would employ some tech geniuses and creative class types. Most of the people I know who fall into these categories in Chapel Hill are moving to Durham because they can’t afford to rent or to buy a house here. They also seek a more vibrant culture. When I talk to people from out of state interested in moving to the Triangle they mention Raleigh. Why should I start this business in Chapel Hill?

Chapel Hill as an Incubator for start ups

Chapel Hill can become a mecca for starting a business that employs tech geniuses and creative class types.  The town is working towards being a business friendly incubator.  Rosemary imagined is what first comes to mind.  Chapel Hill needs to make sure it stays business friendly so that these companies want to stay here.  We can do it!

mtpalmer's picture

We need new businesses and tech geniuses

We need new businesses and tech geniuses, but I understand why they would go to Durham. We need to do better. We need to attract the type of partnership with Google Durham just announced. We need to invest in start-ups, with small loans like Carrboro has and with help for the people willing to take these risks. We are doing better in the last year, but we need to do more. Carolina North needs to have incubators as well.  I would tell you to invest in Chapel Hill because it is changing. It will not be a sleepy little college town for long, and being here and ready to take advantage of the explosion of innovation that is coming (especially when we get rid of the current legislature) will position you to grow your business in the very near future. Maria T. Palmer

George C's picture

At this point in time it is

At this point in time it is difficult to tell someone to start a business in CH when they can get office space at half the price in Durham.  We need to increase our affordable office space downtown which is the best spot for a new business.  The Town should look into additional ways (besides Launch and 1789) to create accelerator space and true incubator space.  We should continue to partner with UNC and private interests to look for ways to build/redevelop space that can be used to recruit new businesses and we should work with the Chamber and other parties to identify what businesses are missing and what businesses might synergize with either existing businesses or the University. We should extoll the value of having one of the world's best universities within walking distance of downtown and the fact that we have many seasoned executives here to help develop new businesses. If we increase office space downtown we will support existing businesses, especially during the day, and this will ultimately help to increase the vibrancy needed to attract and keep the tech classes and others.

Vibrant and business-smart Chapel Hill

No other city or town in the region has the relationship that Chapel Hill does to the flagship public univesity in the state, one that our past chancellor did much to promote and re-envision as a center of innovation. He even wrote a book about it, with Buck Goldstein: Engines of Innovation.We have the intellectual resources and the energy that the campus population provides and renews each year. With LaUNCh and now the university students' own 1789 start-up we have ways to jump-start businesses. The next steps are to develop new spaces into which these growing new companies can thrive and expand, and the Town is actively working on that. Clearly housing is a problem, which is why, as many folks already know, I have been working on affordable rental solutions, and I'm sure we will talk about that before the evening is over. Sally Greene

ldhintz's picture

businesses and moving to Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill has great public schools and university. There are many qualified potential employees in Chapel Hill. Encourage them to visit Chapel Hill and Carrboro and listen to the music and hangout.  Parks, greenways and public transit are great and getting better. I think careful analysis of town policies will show that we do want new businesses.

mtpalmer's picture

I think that is what we

I think that is what we would like to think, Loren, but I am afraid people looking to build a business here who really look at our track record of building permits, business climate, taxes, etc., would probably not agree.  Maria T. Palmer

CH is working to become the place to build a business

You're not the only person who has raised this issue -- there's been a lot of talk lately from people wondering whether Chapel Hill has lost something to its Triangle neighbors.The good news is that we're starting to do something about it.  I was part of the Planning Board/Sustainability group that drew up the 2020 "Big Ideas," one of which was promoting an entrepreneurial enterprise hub along the Rosemary Street corridor.  The town and its partners are working to implement this idea with enterprises such as the new LAUNCH incubator. Over the next few years, I think we'll see more such efforts in town to build an entrepreneurial community here that will help new businesses thrive in town.  Amy Ryan

Ed Harrison's picture

As the only candidate who is

As the only candidate who is a member of the Council's Economic Development Committee (at least six years now), I've been part of many discussions of this. A challenge for Chapel Hill re "tech geniuses and creative class types" is that this employment demographic now expresses a strong preference for a walkable work environment and walkable residential environment. With LaUNCh and 1789, and a scattering of others (Three Birds), CH is beginning to get a critical mass in terms of work environment. Without the *millions* of square feet of adaptive re-use that downtown Durham can offer -- downtown Raleigh as well, but I know the former much better -- it's hard to compete. I think you should start this business in Chapel Hill because if you do it downtown you will be much, much closer to a great university than either Durham or Raleigh can offer in similar contexts, and because we are very likely to publicize and celebrate your starting this business.  Ed Harrison

swinton4towncouncil's picture

Chapel Hill is wonderful, but has a LOT of work to do!

There are so many persons that work hard in Chapel Hill, but can't afford to stay here. There are thousands of students that have graduated or are on the verge of it that want to stay in the Town, but they can't afford it. These problems are massive.  We have to have mixed-income developments and neighborhoods. In order to do it, we definitely should jump on the DHIC plan, as well as finding developers that understand the need for affordable housing in our town to keep our workforce here. It would be great to increase the required percentage of affordable housing per new development. A Piece of the Future - D.C. Swinton

OP Editors's picture

Apologies

We just realized that a few of you did not have the correct permissions to post in the forum, but have rectified that now. Let us know if you have other problems.

Kirk Ross's picture

Question 3 — Affordability

Here's a question I asked your neighbors in Carrboro last week: We continue to struggle with having enough affordable housing and growing our community in a way that maintains a diverse stock of housing. What are strategies you favor? Should the town itself initiate new projects? 

mtpalmer's picture

We should continue

We should continue supporting the Community Home Trust, but we need to push UNC to provide housing for its employees--perhaps developing something as part of Carolina North that uses the CHT model. We are subsidizing sub-standard wages by providing public housing to UNC and Hospital employees. It is shameful. We also need to initiate programs, including the proposed partnership with a DHIC on Legion Rd. I would work diligently with Sally and with non-profits to increase the stock of affordable housing.  Maria T. Palmer

Affordabilty from many angles

The town should definitely initiate new projects. We should ask the town council to move forward with the DHIC Housing Proposal for the Legion Road Cemetery Property.  DHIC Inc is a non-profit affordable housing developer based in Raleigh North Carolina. This could support about 140 Units of much needed rental housing.  Letterof intent is needed by November 1st, 2013.We need to also keep supporting other programs that are working such as Community Home Trust, Empowerment, CASA and Habitat for Humanity. 

mtpalmer's picture

We need an affordable community not just housing

I want to mention that we need more than just affordable housing. We need to be an affordable community. Our town programs and projects need to be accessible and benefit all our residents. For example, some of our art money could go to having artist-in-residence working with our youth in developing young artists among those who cannot affort the Art Center classes. Or we can offer summer camps and tutoring and recreation that is accessible to working parents. We can push CHCCS to offer programs like Rainbow soccer to its after-school kids, the list is too long to put here.  Maria T. Palmer

Yes!

I agree with Maria that the issue goes beyond housing.  I remember when my daughter was a student at Glenwood Elementary, the principal had a policy that teachers could never ask families for money to support special projects, field trips, etc.  This was part of helping to create an environment where no child had to feel left out because his or her family was struggling financially.  It opened my eyes to what creating an inclusive community really entails.Amy Ryan

mtpalmer's picture

Thanks, Sally. I do think we

Thanks, Amy. I do think we need to ask those difficult questions ("how will this decision affect the poor/low income in our community?") about all our decisions. I admired that Glenwood principal tremendously. It was a shame we lost her, in part because the administration did not support her efforts. But that's a topic for another group of candidates. Maria T. Palmer

Affordability

I just returned a couple of weeks ago from a national affordable housing conference where, to my delight but not surprise, Chapel Hill's incluisonary housing policies were held up as a model. Many communities nationwide are trying to achieve what we have been able to do. I am proud of the Home Trust's 200+ homes in our combined Chapel HIll-Carrboro communities. But it is not enough.With the market so much turned to rental housing today, as a result of a number of factors including the housing crash, we need to work strategically on improving rental housing options. This is the kind of housing that your tech entrepreneurs are going to want, especially at the start of their careers. And we have many others who need it.I look forward to Wednesday's Council meeting when the draft affordable rental strategy that Council Member Bell and I have worked on with a dedicated group of folks on a mayor's task force is presented to our colleagues. First on the list is a proposal that has, in fact, already been presented once to the Council: a low-income tax credit housing project by DHIC, Inc., a great regional affordable housing provider. This would be around 140 acres of rental units for seniors and families on Town-owned land.Other strategies that we will be recommending include dedicating an income stream of our tax dollars to affordable housing. We need to find all types of creative solutions, and I think many of them will involve partnering with our own housing nonprofits and others. This is a problem that will not solve itself. It is going to take all of us.You can find a copy of the draft strategy document on our Council agend for Wednesday, online at the Town web site. Sally Greene

mtpalmer's picture

Transportation is part of it

Part of affordability is transportation. We need better bus service, bikeability, and connectivity. We also need to protect pedestrians. Supporting zip cars and a shared bike program would really help. Maria T. Palmer

George C's picture

I believe that the Town is

I believe that the Town is going to need to get actively involved in the affordable housing issue, much as is now being discussed regarding the partnership with DHIC to develop affordable housing on Town-owned land by the cemetary.  As Chair of the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force process and Co-Chair of CH2020 I consistently heard from the public that they wanted more affordable housing for Chapel Hill.  I believe that we can no longer rely on developers alone to provide that housing but that the community needs to stop "talking the talk" and begin "walking the walk".  We need to invest our own resources (such as the Town-owned land that we might invest in partnership with DHIC) or our revenue that comes from taxes.One possibility would be to invest a fixed amount of our annual tax revenues into affiordable housing.  This would provide a reliable revenue stream but if this was taken from existing tax revenues it would also cut into existing services.Another way would be to take a fixed percentage of net tax revenue (after the cost of services is deducted) from all new development going forwsard.  Since this would not affect the funding to existing services it would generate a steady revenue stream without impacting those other services.Given that new development might be years in coming we might consider a hybrid of the two models.A third option would be to work with the County to look for additional sources of revenue, perhaps even a bond since CH cannot issue another bond for at least 4 years unless it pays off existing debt service.Affordable housing is not just a CH or Carrboro problem, it isa problem for all of us.  As CH/Carrboro goes, so goes the County and vice versa.  We need to work together to solve our problems.

Pages