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Council Applicant Profiles: Schuler, Pedersen, Marsh

By Aaron Keck Posted January 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm
CHAPEL HILL – Later this month, Chapel Hill Town Council members will appoint one person to fill the seat left vacant by Penny Rich when she joined the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Eleven residents applied to be considered for that spot on the Council.

All week long, WCHL will be profiling each of those eleven applicants. We continue today in Part 3 of our series, with Carl Schuler, Bjorn Pedersen, and Jennifer Marsh.

Read Part 1, with Gary Kahn, Maria Palmer and Aaron Shah.

Read Part 2, with Loren Hintz and Paul Neebe.

See the full list of applicants here.

Carl Schuler is a registered nurse at UNC who broke onto the local political scene as a Town Council candidate in 2011; he currently serves on Chapel Hill’s Board of Adjustment.

“We have a lot on the agenda for 2013,” he says. “First (is) the prioritized budget that will be due for the next fiscal year; another issue is the implementation of the Chapel Hill 2020 plan; and the third issue is dealing with trash–and what Chapel Hill will do with (its) refuse as it’s shipped out of town limits to Durham.”

He says the future of Chapel Hill’s trash needs to be one of the top issues the Town Council tackles in the coming months: for now, the town will ship its waste to Durham after the county landfill closes in June, but Schuler says a better solution is needed.

“We need to look at some additional issues, including cost-saving measures–and really explore what alternatives we do have within the town of Chapel Hill and Orange County to dispose of refuse,” he says.

Also running is Bjorn Pedersen, a first-time candidate and the youngest of the eleven applicants: he’s a 22-year-old junior at UNC, majoring in physics.

This time around, he says he’s primarily running for the experience.

“I’ve been reading things about urbanism and city planning–and that interest has sort of peaked, especially recently, and then this came up,” he says. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I just thought…filling something out and going to a council meeting or two would be a good way to dip my toes in the water and see what it’s like.”

But Pedersen is bringing a number of ideas to the floor as well—particularly when it comes to Chapel Hill’s existing zoning ordinance, which he says inhibits the town’s ability to achieve its stated goals.

“In the development that’s about to go up on West Franklin, the developer had to put in a few affordable living units–but at the same time, having the zoning ordinances we do really elevates the price of housing, for everyone,” he says. “(It) also decreases the density at which we can build, which means the buses have to run longer, people have to drive more–and I think that, especially as the town continues to grow, that’s going to become a much greater issue.”

Pedersen says he’d like to promote higher-density development to address some of the problems that result from Chapel Hill’s continued growth.

Like Pedersen, civil rights attorney Jennifer Marsh has spent her entire life in Chapel Hill. She’s a UNC graduate, a UNC Law School graduate, and she currently works as the Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs at the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

“I think we need representation on the Council of natives to the area,” she says.

Affordable housing is also one of the items at the top of Marsh’s agenda. But she says it’s not enough just to talk about ‘housing’ in a vacuum without considering other key issues—issues that affect not only affordability, but also the town’s larger commitment to social justice.

“The other issues that I see are development, transportation, and solid waste–and those are all interconnected, and they directly impact each other,” she says. “So going forward, I’d like to see those three issues to be considered in a group, not individually.”

Marsh’s resume is among the longest of the eleven applicants: in addition to her role at the Center for Civil Rights, she’s also a member of Orange County’s Board of Equalization and Review, and in 2012 she served as deputy executive director of the North Carolina NAACP.

“We need to keep social justice issues in the forefront of our decision making,” she says. “The needs of, and the impact on, our low-income and minority neighbors need to be considered when decisions are made–and I feel like I can be that voice.”

Jennifer Marsh, Bjorn Pedersen, Carl Schuler, and the other eight applicants will have the opportunity to address the Council at a special meeting on Monday, January 14, at 6:00 p.m. in Town Hall. The Council will then meet on Wednesday, January 23, to consider making an appointment. Whoever is appointed to the seat will serve out the remainder of Penny Rich’s term, which expires in December.

WCHL and Chapelboro.com will continue profiling each of the eleven candidates throughout the rest of the week.

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