CARRBORO- Candidates running for a seat on the Orange County Board of Commissioners outlined their top environmental priorities Wednesday night at a forum hosted by the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club.
Barry Jacobs, who has served on the board for four terms, said he wants to make sure the Lands Legacy program continues to protect natural areas, watersheds and agricultural land.
“We’ve acquired a thousand acres for parks and natural area protection, and we have conservation easements on more than two thousand acres,” said Jacobs. “We have drawn down grant monies so that land has cost us half, as Orange County taxpayers, what we have had to lay out.”
Earl McKee currently represents District 2, which covers Hillsborough and the rural portions of the county. He touted the success of the voluntary agricultural district program.
“If we’re going to focus on open space preservation, we’ve got to work with the people who own most of the open space in Orange County, and that’s the agricultural community,” said McKee. “The voluntary agricultural districts, having that program and the increase in acreage over the past few years, has done a lot to encourage farmland to stay in the farming community.”
Mia Burroughs is a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board looking to win a seat on the Board of County Commissioners. She said she’d like to see more collaboration between the county and the school systems in planning recreation areas.
“I think we’ll want to continue to do co-locations the way that has been done with the Gravelly Hill school and West Ten Soccer Complex,” said Burroughs. “I think there’s a lot of good, cooperative programming and use of resources that can go on.”
Burroughs faces Gary Kahn for the District 1 seat representing Chapel Hill and Carrboro. As the only Republican in the race, Kahn stressed that he too values conservation.
“I am pro-conservation. As much as our legislature in Raleigh is anti-conservation, I am pro-conservation, so I want to make that point perfectly clear,” said Kahn. “I’m the Teddy Roosevelt kind of Republican.”
When asked how to reduce the county’s carbon footprint and tackle climate change, District 2 challenger Mark Marcoplos said the region’s local food system is key to increasing the area’s resilience.
“The price of food is going to sky-rocket as global warming wreaks havoc around the country,” said Marcoplos. “Food prices are going to go up; local food is going to be highly valuable.”
Bonnie Hauser, who is challenging Jacobs for an at-large seat on the board, said the county needs to do more to help residents prepare for natural disasters.
“Climate change is here. It’s time to be prepared for disaster. The county does have a disaster plan, but no one in the community knows about it,” said Hauser. “So we need to get it out to the communities, especially our affordable communities who are being stuck in places with no heating, no cooling. That needs to be fixed.”
Early voting begins April 24. Both the District 2 and at-large races will be decided in the May 6 Primary, while Burroughs will face Kahn in the November 4 General Election.