Carrboro Mayor & Town Council Candidates Questionnaire

ELECTION 2021

Barbara Foushee, Jaqueline Gist, Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Aja Kelleher are candidates for town council. Damon Seils is a candidate for mayor.

1: Suppose you could have one of the following two superpowers: the ability to fly or the ability to make yourself invisible. Which superpower would you choose and why?

Damon Seils: What makes you so sure I don’t already possess those superpowers?

Barbara Foushee: I would choose the ability to fly because it would allow me to reach multiple spaces quickly for work, service or pleasure.  Also, flying allows a wonderful kind of freedom.

Jacquelyn Gist: I would fly. I love birds. It would be amazing to be able to glide like a hawk on the currents. My mom always talked about wanting to fly. When I was a little kid, she and I would pretend we were flying and tell each other what we were seeing as we soared. I would love to fly to feel close to my mom. 

Aja Kelleher: I would choose the ability to fly, although being invisible is tempting too. I think I would find flying exciting, exhilarating, thinking of all the places I could reach. Imagine being able to travel, emission free! 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: I would choose to fly because it is important to get the 3000 ft. view of the community, its diversity, concerns and interests can only be seen and realized from the broad, panoramic aerial view. The 3000 ft. view is a key perspective in systems and design thinking and problem solving. The ability to fly would also give me the opportunity to “land” in different places and get to know those places as part of the fabric or the larger landscape.

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2: What do you consider the 2-3 most important actions the town government can take to address the challenge of climate change? Explain your answer.

Damon Seils: Local governments should adopt and implement policies and plans that reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions. In Carrboro, these efforts should include implementation of the town’s climate action plans, including but not limited to energy efficiency upgrades to town facilities and updates to land use policies to promote more compact, walkable, transit-oriented development. We should work with other jurisdictions to advocate for changes in state laws and policies, because much of the work we would like to do — to address everything from climate change to affordable housing — is blocked at the state level by regressive lawmaking and preemption of local authority.

Barbara Foushee: I recognize the urgency of taking actions to address climate change. We must interweave climate change mitigation into all of our solutions. Globally, we’ve seen the dire impacts of climate change and we need to act urgently to create policies and take actions to reduce energy usage, conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As I set policy and make decisions, I consider the environmental implications of every choice.

The town government should focus on actions that are more within local control and have the greatest potential to mitigate climate change impact. 

One important action is to advocate and educate our community on how climate change/environmental justice impacts all of us. Then support that education with policies that promote development of affordable compact, dense communities, and protection of our water sources and neighboring water sources by managing stormwater runoff. Our comprehensive plan will also establish stormwater management as a priority reflected across our town operations and land use rules. We should also increase collaboration with other communities to work on underlying climate change mitigations issues.

Jacquelyn Gist: I sometimes hear people say “Carrboro is just one little town. What real impact can one little town have?” My answer to that is our little town can and does have an impact out of scale with our size. Carrboro has never been afraid of being the first town to take action, whether that action is opposing the death penalty or passing an ambitious Community Climate Action Plan Carrboro’s “being the first” can lead the way for other local governments to take similar actions. I support our Climate Action Plan and applaud the actions recommended in the Comprehensive Plan Task Force report. As a Council, our most important actions should be the implementation of the report’s climate action recommendations.

A few early next steps should include:

  • Increasing access to public transit to include greater service to our northern neighborhoods
  • The strengthening of our tree protection ordinance to better preserve, regenerate and increase both our in-town tree canopy and the trees in our forests and natural areas. Trees play an integral role in combating and mitigating climate change.
  • Advocate for changes in the state code to allow the town to require greater energy efficiency in new buildings and elect state representatives who work with us.
  • Expand our Rain Ready program to include low income and multi-family communities to provide support and resources to enable greater participation.

Aja Kelleher: Create a carbon offset program; find ways to innovate transportation or encourage electric vehicle ownership; support low-carbon building. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell:

  • Carrboro must advocate energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions:
  • “Complete Streets”: Complete Carrboro’s plans for Complete Streets and connect it with Chapel Hill enhancing the safety of walking and biking. Re-ignite the public discussion of Safe Routes to School, establishing bike-safe routes and complete streets that began in 2014, when the Town of Carrboro held a Complete Streets Summit: https://www.completestreetsnc.org/summit/
  • Multi-modal public transit:  Fund local bus, BRT, and local microtransit: flexible, on-demand, demand responsive, mobility on-demand. Scale-up targeted service through public-private microtransit partnerships. Develop a robust bike and car-sharing network that links to bus transit on-demand programs such as the former Sandbox Program (now IMI): https://www.transit.dot.gov/IMI  
  • A local example of a use of a microtransit system in a rural area is the City of Wilson program,  launched in 2020 with RIDE in partnership with TransitTech leader, Via.
  • Green building and infrastructure in homes and businesses: energy efficiency, weatherization, stormwater resilience and mitigation, investments in localized solar and geothermal power. Advocate the development of electrification and energy microgrids and microgrid neighborhood link-sharing based on renewable, regenerative energy. 

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3: What do you consider the 2-3 most important actions the Town government can take to encourage more use of public transit, cycling and walking in Carrboro?

Damon Seils: We should complete the implementation of Chapel Hill Transit’s Short Range Transit Plan, which has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan is bringing seven-day-a-week bus service to Carrboro and Chapel Hill, and its goals emphasize equity and access for transit-dependent community members, increasing ridership, and making transit a better option for more people. We should complete the high-priority projects identified in the town’s recently updated bike plan, as well as already approved pedestrian and bicycle projects like sidewalks on S Greensboro Street, Jones Ferry Road, Barnes Street; the redesign of E Main Street; and pedestrian safety improvements on N Greensboro Street, Hillsborough Road, and Jones Ferry Road. We also should update land use policies to promote more compact, walkable, transit-oriented development.

Barbara Foushee: Carrboro already has comprehensive bicycling and greenways plans and we continue to work on more infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians.  Funding should be allocated in a way that is supportive of increasing transit services, improvements to current infrastructure and support for new projects, community engagement in reference to different modes of transportation and collaboration with community groups/partners to develop sustainable solutions.  I am also supportive of continuing to look for ways to increase connectivity in Carrboro and to seek funding for greenway development.  Given the small scale of Carrboro’s budget, we have to partner with larger counties and municipalities to support an integrated mass transit system throughout the Triangle area.  There should also be a deep community engagement process before making any decision about integrated mass transit to ensure that we would be moving toward a viable and sustainable solution for everyone. 

Jacquelyn Gist: I have and will continue to actively support Carrboro’s sidewalk, ped and bike infrastructure improvements and the capital improvement funding that makes them possible. I am excited about the new sidewalk that will soon added to South Greensboro St and the bike lane on Seawell School Road.

I believe that working with neighboring counties and cities is vital to meeting the transportation needs of our residents in an environmentally responsible manner. I would like to see Bus Rapid Transit serve the entire Triangle seamlessly and will support efforts to do so.

We need to work to make public transit more accessible to our senior population. Bus routes and times need to be increased to better serve those living in senior apartment complexes as well as service to the senior center and the hospital.

While our bus system is good, and I am a regular user, we still have many community members including local high school students who do not take advantage of our free buses or the public school buses. Many high school students drive themselves to school alone or with a few friends. When I ride the bus, I rarely see high-school-aged riders. I have been told that buses are not cool. I would like to collaborate with our local high school environmental groups and our own Youth Advisory board to make bus riding a first rather than last transportation choice for students. A Make Buses Cool Campaign (although I am sure they could come up with a better slogan!) spearheaded by students could create life- long transportation habits and reduce the emissions from hundreds of students driving to school. If we are to truly become a green roads community, we must inspire the next generation to make cars their last not first choice for getting around.

In addition to our streets being jammed during the week with school traffic, weekends in Carrboro also bring a lot of car traffic as people shop, go to the Farmers’ Market or hang out at our many coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Once our new library opens there will be even more people drawn to our downtown. While many Carrboro residents use our bike and ped facilities to get to and around downtown, others may live too far from downtown to make biking or walking a practical. Other Carrboro residents may find biking or walking to do their errands difficult due to age, physical limitations or the need to bring young children with them so they feel they have no alternative but to drive. At the same time, Carrboro is actively encouraging new small business startups. I plan to propose that the town encourage, through small business loans and training, local entrepreneurs to launch an electric shuttle service to bring residents who live outside of downtown to and from our downtown for a reasonable fee or subscription. The shuttles are much smaller than buses and can easily run continuous loops through neighborhoods on weekends and evenings.

Aja Kelleher: To encourage the use of public transit we would need more frequent service on the main roads through town that run later on the weekends. To encourage walking and bicycling the Town would need to work on creating and improving the current bicycle lanes along the main roads in town and through the green spaces and trails. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell:

  • Complete plans for Complete Streets to enhance the safety of walking and biking – Carrboro must follow through with its “complete streets” program to ensure safety and orienting mobility on a human scale, by freeing up the roadway to fully accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. We need to free up the roadway and expand access to downtown with complete streets, sidepaths, safe bike and pedestrian shared use paths, formal and informal community paths and trails. Streetscapes must be redesigned and aligned from the perspective of pedestrians and cyclists with protected street side paths that increase safety.
  • In 2019, the Town of Carrboro established a bike “neighborway” identifying a bikeway through linked neighborhoods. We must expand the neighborway model. I recommend neighborway mapping as part of the Carrboro Comprehensive Plan to interconnect walkways and bikeways. Doing so will reignite the public discussion of Safe Routes to School which establish and support bike-safe routes and complete streets that began in 2014, when the Town of Carrboro held a Complete Streets Summit. We can do this now. 
  • Explore the opportunities to incorporate microtransit to meet on-demand and mobility on-demand needs; continue to chase any and all federal assistance funds that can provide additional support or as a local match. This may include and is not limited to funds from:

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4: What would you do to help existing local businesses in downtown Carrboro survive and thrive as the pandemic lingers? Explain your answer.

Damon Seils: Early in the pandemic, the town met immediate needs by dedicating $1.3 million to emergency housing assistance and more than $300,000 to local businesses. As we begin to allocate $6.8 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, housing security and support of local businesses and nonprofits should continue to be budget priorities.

Barbara Foushee: Continue to listen to and assess the business community’s needs.  The pandemic put a spotlight on the needs of our local business community and while the town has worked to support them, there is more to be done.  We are looking for ways to use American Rescue Plan funding to expand our support. We also established a BIPOC business roundtable to help connect members of our business community to resources, mentorship, and opportunities to help their businesses flourish.  Carrboro is moving toward a more inclusive business community where the town can help businesses and businesses can also support one another.

Jacquelyn Gist: I am proud of our town and business community’s response to the pandemic. Our businesses formed Carrboro United to keep restaurant staff employed and feed local residents. The town administered emergency business loans of $296,000, which allowed our local businesses and nonprofits to stay afloat. We are currently administrating additional fund distribution. As we continue to slowly emerge from the pandemic, we will continue supporting our local businesses. One nonobvious way that the town helps is by mandating that masks be worn inside-this takes the pressure of individual businesses-they can blame the town. I support allowing restaurants to continue using and expand outdoor space including sidewalks. 

Aja Kelleher: The Town needs to help local businesses survive and thrive during the pandemic and encourage growth into the future. For one thing, they need to come up with a comprehensive plan to resolve the parking problems for visitors. The other is to provide incentives for businesses to relocate or open up in Carrboro. We need to plan town events to support businesses and the arts. It’s a win-win for residents and visitors. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: What we have done and will continue to do as the pandemic circumstances demand: With a pandemic upon us, in March of 2019, at the last in-person Economic Sustainability Commission meeting, we requested Council approve shifting revolving loan funds to support loan/grant opportunities for our local businesses. Our aim was to address the critical needs of our small businesses that did not receive SBA grants (PPP and EIDL). The Small Business and Non-Profit Emergency Loan/Grant Fund addressed the survival needs of our small local businesses. The loans/grants have been administered in two rounds, in the spring of 2019 and the second in April of 2020. 

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5: Under what circumstances, if any, would you support offering tax incentives to attract new businesses to Carrboro? Explain your answer.

Damon Seils: In general, I would be wary of offering tax incentives to attract businesses unless the incentives were tied to local hiring, good wages and safe conditions for workers, and providing critical amenities and services that are lacking in the community.

Barbara Foushee: I would consider supporting tax incentives to attract businesses to spur economic development and to attract and retain good jobs, for businesses that are making environmentally-sound choices to reduce their environmental footprint or to support minorities or disadvantaged business owners.

Jacquelyn Gist: None. 

Aja Kelleher: I would support offering tax incentives to new businesses in Carrboro that are in great demand. I think it would be ideal to do this for minority-group owners who are typically underfunded. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: Tax incentives designed to attract new businesses to Carrboro do not fit our model of a local living economy. Carrboro is dedicated to fortifying the local living economy.  Carrboro has two well established Revolving Loan Funds that support the growth and retention of local businesses, job creation and up-fitting existing business energy efficiency. Carrboro’s work to uplift and expand Black and BIPOC businesses is a critical component of focusing on and undergirding localized small business. Carrboro established a Black Business Roundtable as part of our commitment to race equity and access to business opportunities. We must encourage local investors to invest in our local business economy and develop public-private partnerships that will intentionally support non-traditional entrepreneurial enterprises and emergent Black and BIPOC businesses in particular. Carrboro can engage with investors to create micro-lending partnerships with local lenders. Two examples of the success of Carrboro’s local living economy are our two top economic engines: the Carrboro Farmers Market and Weaver Street Market. Both of these businesses reflect the deeply held values and sound economic framework of living, working, buying local, advocating a living wage and recirculating dollars locally.

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6: Property values and sale prices in Carrboro have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Property taxes have also just increased steeply. Given this trend, what can the Town do to increase the availability of housing that low- and moderate-income households can afford?

Damon Seils: The Triangle region is in a housing crisis characterized by a few main drivers, including lack of supply to meet high and growing demand, lack of variety in types of housing, and a suburban form of development that exacerbates the lack of supply and promotes a monoculture of single-family homes that are largely accessible only by single-occupancy vehicles. This is a recipe for unaffordability. Priorities for moving forward include: (1) Allocating funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to further bolster the town’s affordable housing special revenue fund, and continuing to use the affordable housing fund strategically to support new affordable housing projects. (2) Continuing our partnership with Orange County and the Town of Chapel Hill to plan for affordable housing on the Greene tract, and identifying other publicly owned land and evaluating its suitability for affordable housing development. (3) Adopting and implementing the Carrboro Connects comprehensive plan, including the use of zoning strategies that will make it easier to build more and different kinds of housing. We need land use policies that promote more compact, walkable, transit-oriented development and that result in greater variety and quantity of housing opportunities.

Barbara Foushee: We need to increase options, across socioeconomic statuses, particularly for low to very low wealth and the missing middle class, (i.e. housing for our extremely low-income community members about $19,000 for an individual and about $27,000 for a family of four in Orange County).  I would start with engaging local elected officials to activate land use policies that would allow for this housing. I would also work with community leaders and developers to identify funding sources for the effort. In considering suitable land for this housing, we must keep in mind critical factors, such as proximity to public transit which enable people with low access to financial resources to engage in the community as well as minimizing environmental impacts.

Jacquelyn Gist: Working to create and maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing is an on-going challenge, one that has recently increased as the cost of both homeownership and renting has soared. The town of Carrboro, through our density bonus to create smaller units in new developments and our Affordable Housing Fund and the nonprofits we support, such as Empowerment, Home Trust, CASA and Habitat, have worked for years to provide affordable housing and yet many find affordable housing beyond their reach. As we move forward with our new Comprehensive Plan I support zoning changes to allow for building auxiliary dwelling units as well as additional homes on existing lots, pocket neighborhoods and the use of underutilized properties such those along the Jones Ferry and HWY 54 corridors for affordable housing.

Many older Carrboro residents have lived here all of their lives or moved here many years ago and want to age in place. They built our community and contribute to it in many meaningful ways. Our retired residents make up the core volunteer base of many of local nonprofits. The taxes our senior residents have paid over many years have allowed to us to provide the services and programs, which draw new families to Carrboro and have supported our schools long after their own children have graduated. Our senior community has a strong desire to age in place and continue enjoying the community they built. Recent property tax revaluations have hit our senior homeowners particularly hard in all of our neighborhoods particularly those where recently sold or built homes can be far more expensive than the homes of long-term residents. By basing valuations on recent sales of nearby properties, taxes can skyrocket for long-term residents as we have recently seen. To counter this before each new valuation, neighborhood meetings should be held to explain the process and allow homeowners to request individual valuation inspections before receiving their tax bill to avoid having to ask for reconsideration, which can be a difficult and cumbersome process.

Aja Kelleher: The Town can look at land trust or Town-owned land and work with nonprofits to build affordable housing. For example, the Town owns land near the Westwood Cemetery. Instead of spending 1.7 million dollars to expand the cemetery, why not donate that land and work with a nonprofit to develop low density affordable housing? That saves the Town money and they’ll be able to collect property taxes and provide the type of housing we desperately need. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: To meet the demands of affordable housing we must work in partnership and unison with Orange County, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.  We must tackle and secure dignified housing for the folks in the community who are homeless, need rapid rehousing and are housing insecure at or below 30% AMI. We can do this in partnership and alignment with the field experts with whom we are currently working: Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition, the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, IFC, EmPOWERment, the Home Collaborative-Consortium, CASA, the Community Home Trust and our Town of Carrboro Human Service Grants.

  • Fortify the work with the non-profits, implement the recommended plans to expand a diverse stock of affordable housing. Expand housing stock serving the most vulnerable and housing insecure at or below 30% AMI. 
  • Conserve and preserve the current stock of affordable housing; expand housing stock that serves the 30% AMI community and the housing voucher programs.
  • Consider “lifetime housing” providing housing security that meets individual and family needs which expand and contract over the course of a lifetime and ensures community can age in place. Meet affordable housing stock needs at or below 30% AMI with the inclusion of PeeWee, Tiny Homes, auxiliary dwellings designated for 30% — 50% AMI, modular homes, to provide dignified housing for the housing insecure. 
  • Rigorously pursue varied financial opportunities to enhance funding and further public/private partnerships. Reimagine the possibilities of affordable housing incentives for developers including and not limited to; the density bonus, payment in lieu, open space redesign, density bonus-linked size limited requirement waiver.  Raise the bar on payment-in-lieu that supports our Affordable Housing Special Review Fund.
  • Provide resources for maintenance and to sustain and upfit the affordable housing stock. Address utility cost needs by providing heating/cooling energy efficiency, weatherization resources and subsidies. 

Consider our big sister neighbor, Durham, and how well compact, dense housing has proactively revitalized downtown Durham and freed up spaces that are dedicated to amenities that enhance downtown urbanized living on appropriate square footage, right sized, human scale. Durham Council overwhelmingly supported an Affordable Housing Investment Plan that will use a municipal bond to provide housing security for low-to-moderate income residents. 

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7: What does Carrboro’s slogan, “Feel Free,” mean to you?

Damon Seils: For me, the slogan evokes both a live-and-let-live attitude and a commitment to fostering an inclusive community where all people can thrive. I hope it also reflects a willingness to embrace change when circumstances call for rethinking old habits.

Barbara Foushee: It means simply to be yourself in this community where everyone is welcome.

Jacquelyn Gist: I love our slogan. It came about after a lot of community input — a very Carrboro way of doing things! To me it means you can be true self and all are welcome.

Aja Kelleher: I think it means you can feel free to be whomever you want to be, meaning we don’t discriminate. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: “Feel Free” means be free. Carrboro’s sense of place makes one feel the verve of freedom within themselves. Feel Free perfectly succinctly synthesized all of the slogans that were generated in our community branding activity.  

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8: What do you consider some of the strengths of Carrboro Town staff? What changes or improvements would you like to see in the work of Town staff?

Damon Seils: Carrboro’s hardworking town staff packs a big punch for its small size and has a tight-knit and welcoming community. I support adding capacity and providing resources where they are needed to enable town employees to be successful and gratified in their work.

Barbara Foushee: We have a talented team of folks working for the town of Carrboro; they are also very service-oriented within the community.  As I am sure is the case with most municipalities, our current staff could use some additional staff to support all of the great work that they do every day.

Jacquelyn Gist: I am proud of Carrboro Town staff and honored to work with them. They are knowledgeable, innovative and responsive to the community. Our staff truly care about the town. Many of them applied for their jobs specifically because they wanted to be in Carrboro. We have many long-term staff members who are directly responsible for making Carrboro the town we love. One improvement I would like to see is for our staff to improve their presentation and public speaking skills. Staff presentations at public meetings are sometimes full of jargon that laypeople do not understand. I often think the problem might be that they are so smart and so well versed that they forget that the public does not have their depth of understanding. 

Aja Kelleher: I think the Town staff are nice and hardworking individuals. However, I see a disconnect between the leadership of the Mayor and Town council. Part of the issue in my opinion is having a part-time mayor and Town Council. If there is a lack of leadership, the Town staff must do the best they can to run the town and they do that on a full-time basis. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: The nearly two years of pandemic living has highlighted the outstanding strength, resolve and resilience of the Town of Carrboro’s staff. The Town administration and staff’s Covid-19 pandemic response has been proactive, modeling the way for our community and our businesses. In Carrboro we rapidly exercised our municipal authority and our capacity to unify our response with our sister municipalities and our county to the extent possible within our local control. A few examples of Carrboro’s solid staff rapid response include and are not limited to: widespread, clear communication, shifted economic funds to support grant opportunities for our local businesses, thorough emergency response team health, safety and well-being protocols, Covid-19 data and updates that continue today.  Carrboro’s emergency response in the face of uncertainty was thoughtful, steady-handed and dependable. In the dire unpredictability of the times, we knew we could trust our administration and staff and so did the community.  

We are welcoming home a former assistant manager as our new Town Manager. Town management is an exciting period of change. The pandemic generated other employment changes. As the new manager and thought leader takes hold, we look forward to the new perspective and how it will inform us of improvements that can be made. 

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9: Describe a characteristic of Carrboro that you value and would like to like to preserved. What can the Town government do to help preserve it? Describe a characteristic of Carrboro that you would like to see changed. What can the Town government do to help change it?

Damon Seils: To echo my response to question #7 above, much of what I value about Carrboro is its commitment to fostering an inclusive community where all kinds of people can thrive. We need to make a similar commitment to embracing change so that we can make adapt to regional pressures like declining housing affordability and global pressures like climate change. I am hopeful that our Carrboro Connects comprehensive plan, currently in development, will reflect this openness and adaptability.

Barbara Foushee: The vibrancy of the Carrboro community is something that I value and want to preserve.  Town government can help to preserve the vibrancy by continuing to engage community members about what they want the community to look and feel like.  Vibrant communities also attract investments and entrepreneurs as well as create a town where folks want to live, work and play.

Jacquelyn Gist: A characteristic I value is our sense of community and place we can preserve it by ensuring that as we grow no one is left out. A characteristic I would like to change is that many people feel left out of our community. Families who live in our northern neighborhoods often feel ignored and disconnected. Carrboro is much more than our downtown. The Town government can help to change that by holding more community events and meetings in our northern neighborhoods.

Aja Kelleher: We decided to live in Carrboro because of its small town, walkable, friendly, progressive and quaint feel. Nothing like the suburbs or a big city. I want to preserve that. In order to do that we need more thoughtful planning for how to maintain our character and how to support what we have. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: 

  • One of the characteristics that gives Carrboro a special hometown feel is the central open space at Weaver Street and the vibrant dynamic it conveys. Having open space like this and Town Commons in the downtown are key to providing a sense of shared and green space. East Weaver Street begs the implementation of a pedestrian-preferred, shared street, a woonerf (Dutch term). For ages I’ve looked longingly at Asheville’s Wall Street in hopes we may one day see this kind of a street fronting Weaver Street Market. 
  • Plans to complete the “complete streets” proposals will help preserve and foster creative ways to design and incorporate pocket parks and linear open spaces.  
  • I would like to see a vehicle slow zone and zero zone (woonerf) on East Weaver Street downtown.
  • It is hoped that the Comprehensive Plan – Carrboro Connects community engagement will yield significant interest in completing the complete streets and establishing both a vehicle slow zone and woonerf on East Weaver Street. 

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10: Infrastructure has been a big topic at the national level this year. What significant infrastructure investments, if any, should the Town of Carrboro make in the near future and why?

Damon Seils: As I summarized in response to a couple of questions above, the town should continue implementing its climate action plans, including but not limited to energy efficiency upgrades to town facilities. We should complete the high-priority projects identified in the town’s recently updated bike plan, as well as already approved pedestrian and bicycle projects to improve safety and accessibility. We should also make strategic investments in stormwater infrastructure and programs from the town’s now up-and-running stormwater utility to address both new and longstanding flooding issues and to protect water quality.

Barbara Foushee: Upgrading our town facilities, increasing stormwater infrastructure to tackle climate and environmental justice issues and building more affordable housing.  It is time to upgrade our public buildings and bring them more in line with our climate change goals related to energy efficiency.  Stormwater management and flooding continues to be a problem across our community; our Stormwater Utility fund continues its work and we hope to expand these resources.  Affordable housing is infrastructure and our community needs more of it, people are moving out because it is too expensive which changes the demographics within the town.

Jacquelyn Gist: The most important infrastructure investment for Carrboro is the upgrading of our stormwater management system. I have spent a lot of my work as a Council Member recently focused on stormwater. Climate change has brought an increase in the number and intensity of storm events which has led to a marked increase in flooding and strained our outdated stormwater infrastructure along with causing further erosion of our creeks As a member of the Council I have worked to address and mitigate the impact of increased stormwater in Carrboro. I advocated and voted for the creation of the Stormwater utility fee, which supports the work of our stormwater management program. I serve as the council liaison to the Stormwater Advisory Commission. Since its recent inception, the Stormwater utility has supported projects such as replacing the culvert on Broad St, restoring and protecting the stream by our public works facility, improving drainage on High and Main Street and work to restore Bolin Creek and prevent its further erosion.

The Stormwater management staff has also worked with neighborhoods to decrease the impact of flooding through measures such as conducting outreach and education, the creation of a flood report hotline, increased inspection and maintenance of town owned drainage systems, increased inspections of public and private Stormwater Control Measures and the planting of trees along intermittent streams. The Stormwater Management program is new and there is much work to be done, the work is expensive. In order to pay for the repair and replacement of drainage systems at a faster pace I recently proposed that the town investigate using Powell Bill funds to improve our drainage systems. The Powell Bill is traditionally used solely for road repair but it also allows funds to be used to upgrade/repair drainage.

The Stormwater management program is a strong tool for addressing the problem of increased flooding and the degradation of creeks but the town must also upgrade and strengthen its stormwater control regulations. The Stormwater Advisory Commission, on which I serve, will soon begin working to draft recommendations to strengthen the town ordinance to eliminate the impact of run off from new development. The new stormwater utility has been effective in its early years and is increasing our town’s ability to effectively mitigate the impact of the increased intensity of storm events on both our neighborhoods and natural areas.

Aja Kelleher: People often talk about infrastructure in terms of chasing growth. There is only so much growth we can do within our Town limits, so you have to build out and go up to gain more density. We need to be able to maintain our infrastructure and not chase growth that may not be good for the Town in the long term. Someone has to pay to maintain the infrastructure and anything the Town commits to do in the future. Sustainable growth is key. 

Randee Haven-O’Donnell: Carrboro must invest in green infrastructure.  As mentioned previously, the energy and transportation sectors of infrastructure are two of the most significant investments. The goal is to have a more sound, energy efficient, gentler footprint on our ecosystem. Our policies must reflect and support downtown density, which adds to the robust vibrancy that bolsters the local living economy and is an efficient land use. Infrastructure project priorities that protect the environment include:

  • Transportation Demand Management helps communities know and use all of the transportation options available, offsetting the need to drive, park and build massive road systems. Scale up on-demand and mobility on-demand programs that reduce single vehicle use and emissions.
  • Stormwater infrastructure directly addresses climate change: Carrboro’s Stormwater Utility is designed for mitigation and resilience services; examples inlcude: drainage, flooding, erosion, run-off, promoting Carrboro’s neighborhood RainReady Program.
  • Green infrastructure and building that is energy efficient, advances electrification, solar, geothermal (and NC wind power) in the development of local energy micro-grids.
  • We must move to electrification; promote the siting of EV charging stations and plan to be a microgrid renewable, regenerative energy efficient community. Town facility improvements must be green planned, designed and built.

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11: What other question do you wish we had asked?

Damon Seils: I wish you had asked about other superpowers, so I could tell you about finding the flour chips in the Carrburritos bag.

Jacquelyn Gist: How can we increase community engagement in local government?

In order to increase citizen participation in making the decisions that affect their lives I would like to increase community engagement by:

  • Increasing participation on advisory boards and commissions. There are many reasons why people find it challenging to serve on town boards and commissions including family obligations, mobility issues, work schedules and transportation. By continuing to hold meetings remotely after the pandemic citizens will be able to participate from home without needing to rush home rush through dinner and arrange childcare or transportation. iPads can be provided to those who may not have access to a computer.
  • Holding town council listening sessions and meetings in neighborhoods throughout the town, including our northern neighborhoods. Installing kiosks around downtown and in neighborhoods to allow people to share ideas give feedback and request services. Holding pop up events in the town parks, neighborhood common areas and at the Farmers’ Market to get community feedback and vision.

Aja Kelleher: What projects do you think our Town should prioritize or not do at all? When I look at the Town budget and think about all of the priorities, I often hear about affordable housing, pandemic relief funds, local businesses, infrastructure, etc. It makes me wonder why remodeling two Town Buildings and a new library are on our list of priorities. They are not well aligned with Town needs in my opinion. 

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2 Comments on "Carrboro Mayor & Town Council Candidates Questionnaire"

  1. Glenn "Buzz" Floyd | October 20, 2021 at 3:25 pm | Reply

    I agree with Aja Kelleher — The planned spending of our citizen’s money for the construction of a brick and mortar style town Library is not well aligned with any 21st century view of what Carrboro should be prioritizing in its needs of our fine town of Carrboro!

  2. Glenn "Buzz" Floyd | October 20, 2021 at 3:30 pm | Reply

    Again I agree with Aja Kelleher — Downtown Carrboro parking should remain plentiful. It’s one of the reasons Carrboro has flourished while Chapel Hill sees tumbleweeds rolling down Franklin street, thus leaving many businesses to fail because of a hassle to find a convenient place to park.

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