Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: Is Chapel Hill becoming a bedroom community for the affluent?

From staff reportsOctober 18, 2013 

A report suggesting ways to increase affordable rental housing in Chapel Hill sparked a lively debate this week about whether the town is becoming a bedroom community for the affluent.

The town watched for years as new developments and higher rents reduced the number of affordable rentals. A committee worked through the summer to come up with ideas for meeting the need, including working with nonprofits to build on town land.

Council member Matt Czajkowski said he struggles to understand why the town would let developers destroy existing affordable rentals with new projects priced even higher – and then spend millions to replace that housing.

The town hasn’t been clear about what it wants or made it easy for developers, council member Donna Bell said. That leaves residents with a choice of investing in diversity or in a bedroom community, Bell said.

“If the citizens decide that they want to create a bedroom community, they should let us know so that we can start making policies, and so I can pack up my family and move someplace else,” she said.

It’s “sheer and utter nonsense” to think residents want or expect the town to become a bedroom community, Czajkowski said.

“I invite you to go out and talk to a thousand citizens in Chapel Hill and ask them whether they think this is a bedroom community or is there any risk of it,” he said. “It is an incendiary way to argue for proposed policies which are not necessarily based in fact or reality.”

McFarlane shares pharmacy expertise

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane got a chance this week to put her decades as a pharmacist to work for the city.

The City Council voted to start contract negotiations for a new pharmacy benefit manager serving city employees. McFarlane joined city human resources staffers in combing over proposals from five companies for the service.

The contract with OptumRx is expected to save the city $4.2 million over three years. McFarlane also requested that employees be permitted to use local pharmacies instead of a mail-order service, a provision that should help local businesses while also cutting costs.

“I’m just trying to save the city some money,” said McFarlane, who owns a specialty pharmaceutical business, MedPro Rx.

Board thanks bond supporters

All nine Wake County school board members, even those who weren’t present, took time at this week’s meeting to thank voters for passing the $810 million school construction bond issue.

Final election results show that the bonds passed Oct. 8 by a 57.7 percent to 42.3 percent margin.

“On behalf of the students, teachers, faculty, staff and this board, we are grateful for your support and your trust in us for that vote,” said school board Chairman Keith Sutton.

Board member John Tedesco wasn’t present, but Sutton said Tedesco wanted him to publicly express his appreciation to the county, and especially the residents of Garner, for supporting the bond referendum.

Becoats’ spending goes before board

The Durham school board will discuss records Monday night that show Superintendent Eric Becoats spent $20,158 on a district credit card from July 2012 to June 2013 for out-of-state conferences, dinners and lunches with colleagues, travel, flowers recognizing employee achievements and gifts to a host family in Mexico.

There were three months in which Becoats racked up more than $2,500 on the credit card. The October 2012 and November 2012 statement show Becoats spent $3,230 and $3,021 on the card, respectively.

One Sept. 18, 2012, receipt shows a $586 bill at the Angus Barn in Raleigh. According to the receipt, 12 people attended the dinner, most ordering $40 meals on the card.

Receipts also show a trip to New York for NBC’s News Education Nation Conference, where Becoats spent $1,077 at the DoubleTree Hotel for a two-night stay.

He spent $30 at a minibar at a hotel in Chicago while attending the SUPES Academy for new superintendents.

Monday’s meeting will be public but will immediately shift to a closed session for the purposes of discussing confidential personnel matters and consulting with the board attorney, Chairwoman Heidi Carter said.

Political events

• Beth Briggs, former executive director of the N.C. Council on Women, and Cheri Beasley, associate justice on N.C. Supreme Court, will speak to the Democratic Women of Wake County on Thursday, Oct. 31 at the NCSU University Club, 4200 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Program begins at noon; buffet lines open at 11:30 a.m. Program is free; lunch is $20. For reservations call 919-319-8375 or email Cindydwwc@yahoo.com.

Compiled by staff writers Colin Campbell, T. Keung Hui, Jonathan M. Alexander and Tammy Grubb

Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send e-mail to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Send items by noon Thursday.

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