I’m running for Mayor with an amazing coalition of Town Council Candidates – Here’s Why to Vote for New Leadership!

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Nov 5, 2023

More great folks out at the polls this week! Mike Tornero and Alicia Vila-Geis; Linda Brown and Abel Hastings

Breckany Eckhardt, Renuka Soll, Adam Searing, David Adams, and Elizabeth Sharp

When I joined the Town Council two years ago, I hadn’t realized how much we have lost our way in Chapel Hill.  Just look around at what the last decade of leadership has created. Multi-story cookie-cutter luxury apartment buildings. No new parks in 15 years. Traffic and endless construction projects. Leadership that listens more to an expensive consultant from Canada than a retired teacher living in a modest neighborhood.

Change is needed. That’s why I decided to run for Mayor – but not alone. I built a team of four other great candidates to run with me for Town Council – restaurant owner Elizabeth Sharp, parks leader Renuka Soll, scientist and community activist David Adams, and technology expert Breckany Eckhardt. Together we share a commitment to a different way of doing business in Chapel Hill. And together our team is so inspired by the hundreds of volunteers, local business owners and residents, new and old, who have joined us in our coalition for new leadership and a new vision for our community.

This election is about two different visions for Chapel Hill’s future. There is a group pushing Chapel Hill into extreme urban density and making a high-risk bet on wet-lab developments to boost tax revenue. And there is our group – a group that wants Chapel Hill to grow thoughtfully as a green, modern college town with trails and local businesses that people flock to.

Members of the first group have already voted to eliminate single-family zoning, which will erode this community without providing the benefit of more affordable housing. Our group believes a healthy community is one where neighbors connect, share, and care for each other. Based on the writings from the Urban Institute, and even according to Town staff, infilling our family neighborhoods is unlikely to result in more affordable units. Who wins? Developers. If elected, our group will push to restore single-family zoning, especially since many of the neighbors affected are some of Chapel Hill’s more affordable neighborhoods.

Chapel Hill is getting paved over, and the Complete Communities plan pushed by our local government is accelerating this. Drive down 15-501 by Trader Joe’s and see the many ugly, concrete luxury high-rise apartments, multi-story parking garages, and traffic. In a warming world, residents will suffer from the excess concrete and asphalt. Growth doesn’t have to look like this.

We can grow as a charming, modern town that meets the needs of our people. We can build the right kind of housing — affordable housing, designed for families and students. We can work with UNC and the UNC Health system, both critical stakeholders that need to accommodate growing staff, student, and faculty needs.

Our Town budget is in bad shape. We can’t fix our roads, buy the police cars we need, or afford to build a much-needed police station. We’ve nearly maxed out our ability to borrow money to invest in Chapel Hill’s future. What is the first step in fixing the budget? Eliminate the millions spent on consultants who deliver expensive, jargon-filled plans we can’t afford to execute.

Parks, recreation, and greenspace have been underfunded for over a decade. We have seen massive growth in apartments and housing but have not built a single park in 15 years. We can’t maintain our existing facilities – tennis courts are in disrepair, park benches are rusting out, and the Cedar Falls bathroom facilities are (precariously) still on a septic system. We certainly don’t have enough playing fields or pickleball courts.

We have so many park repairs, upgrades, and other needs that it will take 25 years of the “Pennies for Parks” funding — promoted by my opponent as the solution — to address the current list. Pennies won’t cut it. We need to prioritize parks.

We need sincerity and transparency from our leaders. Our current Town leadership eliminated single-family zoning requirements through a “text amendment,” which means they didn’t have to inform the residents of the change (unlike a zoning change that requires notice.) Citizen petitions, like those signed by 1,000 residents to preserve Legion Park, are ignored. Current Town leadership even stripped power from citizen boards. The reason? To streamline development.

Over the last months my team and I have talked with thousands of residents who share our concerns. We have stood up to a political establishment resistant to the change we need. We have made clear where we stand, where we need to go, and the change necessary to get there.

Look around you as we have done. Do you like the recent “progress” you see? Do you like the streamlined development occurring with no real input from citizens? If you like the vision of a green, modern college town better, help us enact it by voting for our team of candidates.