Our governments have a vital role to play in our lives. A strong, effective government connects people with each other and strengthens ideas and communities through targeted investment and expanded opportunity. Good governance levels the playing field so those who have the least access to resources can take advantage of what those with more resources already have.
Not everyone shares this vision for the role of government.
In the past decade, we’ve seen forces like the Tea Party argue for and enact policies that cripple government’s ability to invest in our future. States like Kansas have slashed tax rates, handicapping their ability to fund education, highway projects, and pensions for public employees. Multiple states – including our own – have considered Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) policies in recent years, which would write arbitrary spending caps into state constitutions.
Fortunately, at the local level, we have the opportunity to say yes to a government that invests in the people it serves and actively works to lift communities up. There are many races on the ballot I’m excited to vote in this fall, but as an Orange County resident, I’m especially excited to vote for the two bonds on the ballot. One of these bonds will provide critical funding to repair, renovate and expand infrastructure in our schools. The other will direct much-needed money to build in-demand affordable housing in our community.
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Keeping Chapel Hill and Orange County an affordable, welcoming, open community for everyone has been a continual conversation throughout our community. Innovative solutions like the partnership with DHIC on town-owned land in Chapel Hill are helping, but without more money to invest in affordable housing, we simply will not be able to provide enough housing for people who want and need it. Our county commissioners have an ambitious goal of adding 1,000 new affordable housing units to our stock – a goal we cannot achieve without passing our affordable housing bond this November.
A community’s greatest responsibility is to educate our next generation of leaders and thinkers. Our county’s schools are known as some of the best in the state, and if we want to maintain that reputation we must make desperately needed repairs to old and dated facilitates. The bond funds will benefit both school systems, and will support reconstruction of Chapel Hill High School, increased capacity at Cedar Ridge High School, and new, centralized Pre-K classrooms in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system that will free up needed classroom space. Other schools in both systems will benefit from needed upgrades and replacements.
I would be remiss if I also didn’t note that our neighbors in Durham and Wake counties are making decisions about public investments that will benefit our entire region. As a new member of the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees, I’m thrilled that Durham voters will consider a bond that includes funding to support new facilities and campus improvements for Durham Tech’s main campus. This money, if approved, will enable Durham Tech to better train future generations for cutting-edge jobs. And Wake County residents will have the opportunity to vote yes for a strong regional transit system that will connect families to jobs, goods, and each other.
Our region is stronger when our governments invest in infrastructure that works for everyone. I want to live in a community that provides the best classrooms to prepare our children to be great adults and thinkers. I want to live in a community that provides the best housing for all, regardless of the size of your paycheck.
Do you share the same kind of community? You have an opportunity to help invest in seeing that community at the ballot box. Vote yes on both Orange County bonds this November.
Lee Storrow is a former member of the Chapel Hill Town Council and a resident of Chapel Hill. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.