CARRBORO – The environment and economic development were the key themes which hopeful candidates tackled Wednesday at the Carrboro Board of Aldermen Forum, hosted by the Sierra Club and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.
The candidates competing for three open seats include incumbents Sammy Slade, Jacquelyn Gist and Randee Haven-O’Donnell.
The challengers are Kurt Stolka, Vice-Chair of Carrboro’s Transportation Advisory Board, and Al Vickers, a former member of the Solid Waste Advisory Board with a Ph. D. in environmental science.
Each candidate was given time for opening statements, and then moderator, Margot Lester, asked the candidates questions on topics ranging from solid waste disposal to storm water management.
Current Alderman Lydia Lavelle, who is running unchallenged for Mayor, said that the hardest decisions she had to make in her position were finding the balance between the environment and development. She said the Carrboro 20/20 plan, designed in 2000, was a good plan that needed to be revisited and revised.
“If you look at that plan and read over it, it is very well done, and it is the essence of a community that values sustainable development,” Lavelle said.
Vickers said his reason for running was to offer an “alternative viewpoint” to the Board.
“[Carrboro] is a mono-thinking town, and I don’t want to insult anybody, but one thing I did learn in industry is that when everybody thinks the same way, you walk off a cliff, and you make a big mistake,” Vickers said. “You need to listen to your opposition. They will keep you on a straight path.”
Gist said she was proud of the work she had done with Board to encourage environmentally friendly initiatives. She dispelled the myth, which she said was circulating in State politics, that protecting the environment was “bad for business.”
“Together, that has helped to create a thriving, healthy community where people live and do business,” Gist said. “It is not perfect, and it still needs work. But if anybody can do it, Carrboro can do it.”
When the candidates where asked if they would support town programs to address residential and commercial food waste, Slade said that issue was one of the main reasons he chose to run again.
“We have this huge opportunity to do some composting and we are in the middle of a conversation with the County and Chapel Hill trying to figure out what they are going to do,” Slade said. “An opportunity that we have in Carrboro is that we have these brown bins where people their twigs and yard waste and those brown bins can also accept food waste.”
Stolka outlined his three goals for running: addressing the equality gap, increasing transportation safety, and supporting progressive family values.
On the subject of economic development, he said he believed it would be advantageous for the Town to grow its commercial tax base.
“I think helping to grow the commercial tax base through mixed-use development [would be beneficial], and increasing some commercial outlets in our Northern zone so people don’t have to drive such long distances for their goods,” Stolka said.
Lester quoted the statistic that every morning 7,658 Carrboro residents drive out of the town limits to work in another community, whereas 4,466 drive into the town, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means that only 622 people wake up and work in Carrboro, which does not include cottage industries.
Lester asked the candidates to address the “in-and-out” challenge in Carrboro.
“I make the commute,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “I know that one of the things that I am looking to is increasing multi-modal transit light rail to make alternative energy the fabric of what we do.”
Haven-O’Donnell told WCHL News this summer that highlights of her time on the Board included improving conditions for day laborers and economic development across the town.