CHAPEL HILL – With election season for local government underway, residents are starting to apply for the four available seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council.
Two residents filed on Monday: Paul Neebe, a real estate broker and university instructor, and three-term incumbent Ed Harrison, mayor pro tempore of Chapel Hill.
Neebe says his private sector experience gives him skills that will help run the town’s affairs effectively.
“As a real estate broker, you have to know basic business, as far as budgeting and looking at the market and how things are,” Neebe says.
Harrison says he created a good name for himself through his communication with town residents during his past terms in office.
“There are a lot of folks who say that I’m the only person who answers their e-mail, that I’m the only person who calls them,” Harrison says. “That’s just the way I was brought up.”
Neebe is also a member of the town’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Board, which he feels gives him insight into working on the town council.
“Boards work more or less in the same way,” Neebe says. “I think it helps to be a part of a board and see how quickly things can happen, how slowly things can happen and ways to make things happen.”
Neebe says his time on the advisory board let him see one of the ways he’d like to change the Town Council.
“One thing I’ve been disappointed in is the communication between the different boards and the town council,” Neebe says. “That would be one platform I think I would really push for: better communication.”
Beyond the relationship between the town council and other sectors of Chapel Hill’s government, Neebe aims to tackle an issue that affects a larger swath of local residents.
“The tax burden is getting close to unbearable, I think, unless you’re super wealthy. Even for the middle class,” Neebe says. “That’s something I’d like to see: more efficient government and a more commercial tax base to lighten the tax burden for regular property owners in Chapel Hill.”
Harrison says he’s worked on many large projects to improve Chapel Hill’s accessibility to walkers and bikers, both in Chapel Hill and through the Triangle Transit Authority, where he is the vice chair.
“It’s slow-going and it’s expensive and I’m one of the people who tries to make the people understand how the processes work,” Harrison says.
For Harrison, one of the challenges that Chapel Hill faces in the future is the cost to provide services to its residents.
“When we buy products and services, we’re in the same market as everybody else, as the private sector,” Harrison says. “We have some significant budget challenges.”
Three other candidates have filed for the four town council seats: Gary Kahn, Maria Palmer, and incumbent Council member Sally Greene. Elsewhere, Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board chair Michelle Brownstein filed for reelection on Tuesday.