Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of occasional columns about the Nov. 5 municipal elections in Orange County.
Matt Neal, owner of Neal’s Deli, is no longer vying for a Carrboro Board of Aldermen seat.
“I think I can be more helpful and productive in the areas I am most concerned with in Carrboro by working as an individual and with small groups,” Neal said in a Sept. 20 Facebook post.
“My name will still be on the ballot,” he said. “Please vote, but don’t vote for me. A lot of good people have given me encouragement and support.”
Neal is the third candidate to drop out of local races since the July filing period closed.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board candidates Carmen Huerta-Bapat and Louis Tortora also have dropped out of that race. Both still will appear on the November ballot.
Chapel Hill issues
A standing-room only crowd attended a recent Chapel Hill candidates forum hosted by the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town.
The CHALT event featured two-term Mayor Pam Hemminger and her challenger Joshua Levenson, plus three incumbents and four challengers vying for four Town Council seats. Council member Donna Bell is not seeking re-election.
Watch the full forum video at vimeo.com/359848109.
Transit and traffic
Council member Michael Parker and challenger Sue Hunter promoted transit investment as the key to easing congestion in the town.
Chapel Hill already is using its share of a half-cent transit sales tax and vehicle rental and registration fees to support about $2 million a year in new bus services, hours and amenities, Parker said. More money also is coming for the North-South bus-rapid transit project.
“If we’re going to make a meaningful dent in traffic, we need to invest in regional transportation solutions,” said Parker, who represents the town on GoTriangle’s Board of Trustees and the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro regional transportation planning board.
Hunter, a transit user, said the Amtrak station coming to Hillsborough will open up commuter rail options from that town.
“I strongly believe we need to do a better job tying in with GoTriangle’s service and be an enthusiastic partner in making that happen, because we do have so much through traffic from the areas around us that are growing much faster than we are.,” Hunter said.
Fewer cars queued outside schools also could help, challenger Amy Ryan said.
“I don’t know about y’all, but when I grew up, I walked three-quarters of a mile to school, and I lived to tell the tale,” she said.
The need to reduce carbon emissions while increasing energy efficiency was a common theme.
Challenger Renuka Soll said reducing asphalt and other impervious surfaces also could help lessen flooding and stormwater runoff..
“I think we need parks, things to mitigate and to absorb the rainwater. There are rainwater collections, there are other ways that we can do it,” Soll said. “I think the town is taking it very seriously and looking at ways to deal with this, and they are finding ways to get developers to try to choose use higher standards for stormwater.”
The town is growing slowly but still needs housing, especially for families with modest incomes, incumbent Jessica Anderson said.
She suggested making it more affordable to add accessory dwelling units, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes to existing neighborhoods. That also creates economic opportunity for local builders, instead of developers, she said.
“High-rise luxury apartments is not going to do it; there is no trickle-down affordable housing,” Anderson said.
Incumbent Nancy Oates agreed, advocating dense housing along major transportation corridors.
“But we run the risk of deciding that there’s only one type of housing, and if somebody comes and wants to move into Chapel Hill, they will have to live in an apartment,” she said. “I don’t think that’s what we want to do for our town.”
Challenger Tai Huynh also called for balance, and mixed-use developments that create sustainability, vibrancy and affordability.
“Not just looking at the cost of housing, but trying to expand that to affordability and cost of living,” he said. “Looking for ways that we can innovatively cut out living expenses for people.”
Multiple candidates mentioned apartment construction in the town’s Blue Hill District over the last five years and supported changing the district’s form-based code, which guides development there.
Ryan noted the previous council did not accept Planning Board suggestions in 2014 that addressed affordable housing, green space and other concerns. The code’s implementation “was very flawed,” she said.
“Because we didn’t figure out the parking, we’re getting these giant, two-acre, big buildings in the district,” Ryan said. “We need to figure out a way to uncouple the parking for the building size, so that it actually becomes human scale and walkable, so I think there’s great potential there.”
Support for Buttigieg
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle joined more than 50 mayors nationwide to endorse Pete Buttigieg for president of the United States.
The announcement came as Buttigieg’s campaign Pete for America launched a “Mayors for Pete” program last week.
“I support Mayor Pete for president, because he is smart and serious, honest and humble,” Lavelle said. “He understands the honor and responsibility of serving as an elected executive. I trust him to look out for all generations, particularly with regard to our challenges around climate change, health care, racial equity, and equality.”
▪ CHALT has endorsed Pam Hemminger for mayor, and incumbents Jessica Anderson and Nancy Oates, and challengers Amy Ryan and Renuka Soll for Town Council.
▪ The N.C. Sierra Club’s Orange-Chatham Group endorsed candidates Tuesday in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough municipal races:
Carrboro: Mayor, Lydia Lavelle; Aldermen, Sammy Slade, Damon Seils
Chapel Hill: Mayor, Pam Hemminger; Town Council, Michael Parker, Sue Hunter, Amy Ryan, Tai Hyunh
Hillsborough: Mayor, Jennifer Weaver; Board of Commissioners, Mark Bell, Matt Hughes, Evelyn Lloyd
▪ Saturday, Sept. 28: Chinese School at Chapel Hill will hold a forum for Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board candidates. 2 p.m., Smith Middle School, 9201 Seawell School Road.
▪ Monday, Sept. 30: First Baptist Church will hold a forum for Chapel Hill’s Town Council and mayoral candidates. 6:30-8:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 106 N. Roberson St.
▪ Thursday, Oct. 3: The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and League of Women Voters will hold a forum for Carrboro Board of Aldermen and mayoral candidates. 6-8 p.m., OWASA Community Room, 400 Jones Ferry Road.