Even showing up for church became difficult after Maria Palmer started speaking from the Town Council dais.
While she expected some people to disagree with her, the first-year council member said she wasn’t ready for the number of fellow Binkley Baptist churchgoers who stopped to tell her they were upset about something she had said or how she had voted.
“I need to do a better job of telling the public how much they don’t know,” she said. “Like at church, when they tell me, how could you vote for this? I start telling people, and they say, ‘I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that.’”
“I have thought of keeping a blog, and then I think – and this is going to sound really bad – people pick one little thing you said, and sometimes you didn’t mean it the way that it came out,” she said. “I hate to say this, but I think I’ve become a little defensive over the last six months.”
After spending the summer in Peru caring for her mother, Palmer sat down Aug. 27 to talk about her experience and the council’s controversial rezoning of the Ephesus-Fordham district, which will speed and expand development in the area and take the council out of future project approval there.
The district is in one of six areas the Chapel Hill 2020 Plan identifies for future development. Palmer said she had spent years helping to develop the plan, which prepared her to make the decision. She admits she took a lot of heat for her vote, especially from supporters who said she had betrayed her social justice and affordable housing roots.
“One thing I think that saddens me is that I would like to lower taxes. I understand what it means to not be able to meet your obligations, but what do you cut? Whose job do you eliminate? People think that because I have the right politics, I can work miracles. It doesn’t work that way. ... Chapel Hill is unaffordable for the lower-paid working people. To be able to change that, I have to make decisions as part of Town Council and vote on things that those same people – the ones who want me to change Chapel Hill and make it more affordable – don’t want changed.”