People can take only so much of the Kardashians before the drama and bickering become tedious. Chapel Hill residents have reached that point with Town Council. Voters want a change. They want the pragmatic, down-to-earth, even-keel leadership of Adam Searing for mayor.
Since he was elected to council in 2021, Searing has stayed focused on the issues that constitute town business. His leadership shows in the way he looks at what needs to be done to achieve town goals. For instance, he wants the town to thrive as we grow, yet the town budget his opponent voted for doesn’t include money for more fire trucks and buses, and doesn’t have funds to repave streets in disrepair. Rather than spending millions of dollars on out-of-state consultants as his opponent supports, Searing sees a better use of that money: Put it toward infrastructure.
Searing understands that the money from the budget comes mainly from people who live here — including renters. Their rents go up to cover their landlords’ property tax increases. While Searing’s opponent shrugs off the town’s nearly 10 percent tax hike this year, saying the town still has a triple-A bond rating, Searing knows the bond rating means only that Chapel Hill residents are wealthy enough to repay municipal debt through tax increases. The bond rating matters only if the town borrows money to pay for its $10 million of unfunded projects. Searing sees ways to fund some of those needs without borrowing more money that taxpayers have to repay.
In the recent debate over townwide rezoning that would make it easier for developers to tear down modest family homes and replace them with million-dollar duplexes for luxury rentals, Searing listened to town staff, who underscored that the rule change wasn’t meant to increase housing affordability. In fact, towns that had tried it saw housing costs increase. As a strong advocate of affordable places to live for people who hold modestly paying jobs in town, Searing recognized the rezoning would move the town away from that goal.
Instead, Searing looked at the main driver of high-priced housing — UNC’s plan to grow enrollment while reducing on-campus residences. He has good relationships with university leadership and will bring them to the table to work on win-win housing solutions. He’s talked with elected officials in other college towns to find out what has worked for them.
None of this is catchy or “fun,” but we need a mayor who understands the un-fun work that must be done to get us where we say we want to go. Searing, a public interest lawyer and social justice advocate, has the experience and motivation to do the numbers-crunching and coalition-building and listening to get the job done. Voters don’t want entertainment. We want Searing’s integrity and leadership capability.
Join me in voting for Adam Searing as mayor of Chapel Hill.
Nancy Oates is a former Chapel Hill Town Council member.