ORANGE COUNTY – With the Chapel Hill town council and Carrboro board of aldermen elections coming in November, three more candidates have announced that they will be running for the available seats.
In Chapel Hill, Maria Palmer, former state board of education member and school principal, as well as a Christian pastor, filed to run for the town council.
George Cianciolo announced that he will file for town council on Thursday. Cianciolo was a member and chair of several boards and committees in Chapel Hill, including the transportation board and Chapel Hill 2020 where he was co-chair. Cianciolo is currently an associate professor of pathology at Duke. There are four available seats on the Chapel Hill town council.
In Carrboro, current alderman Sammy Slade filed to run for re-election. There are three seats on the board of aldermen available, including Slade’s.
Palmer says her work as an educator and a pastor has given her experience in community outreach and taking with groups around the area. In addition, she says her work as a teacher gives her insight into educational issues around the town.
“The education work has helped me to see some things that the town can do to help the schools that serve the community,” Palmer says.
For Cianciolo, he believes his participation in so many development boards has helped him learn to negotiate with differing sides of an issue.
“You had to deal with people who had a lot of different opinions and what we’ve had to look for is consensus,” Cianciolo says. “I think that’s going to be an important part of seeing Chapel Hill 2020 implemented.”
Among the issues Palmer sees in Chapel Hill are a lack of bus access for all citizens, which she worked on during Chapel Hill 2020, and a lack of focus on jobs in the town beyond those that require college degrees.
“We don’t have enough opportunities and training for folks to do skilled work and we import workers from other communities and then they don’t have anywhere to live,” Palmer says. “In fact, there are many professionals who can’t afford to live in Chapel Hill.”
But beyond local politics, Palmer sees the biggest threat to Chapel Hill coming from the state’s General Assembly. Palmer was arrested while protesting the cuts proposed in the state’s budget, which she calls “a tragedy.”
“What the legislature is doing is going to affect Chapel Hill tremendously,” Palmer says. “It’s cutting the education budget, it’s slashing funding for the university.”
Cianciolo says development of the Chapel Hill 2020 ideas should be one of the town’s biggest goals, to be make sure that the town also be mindful of rising residential tax rates. He says the goal of many to mitigate property taxes with more commercial taxes will never reach the 70-30 ratio that many want.
“We just don’t have enough buildable land, enough areas or enough of a public to support that level of commercial in Chapel Hill,” Cianciolo says.
Cianciolo says the dwindling supply of affordable housing in the town is one of the biggest challenges Chapel Hill will face in the future.
“The recent floods in Chapel Hill have even heightened the need for affordable housing, as some of the houses that were lost provide some of the most affordable housing in the town,” Cianciolo says.
In Carrboro, Slade says his work on the board of aldermen has focused on curbing climate change and lowering the town’s carbon emissions seven percent annually.
“We have been able to accomplish the WISE program, which retrofitted some homes and we have a revolving loan fund for retrofitting commercial buildings,” Slade says. “I count those as parts of my accomplishments.”
In addition, Slade says he’s worked to develop Carrboro’s downtown and tie it in with a communal economy and the town’s continued struggle for public parking.
“We’re pressuring toward reducing further the parking supply so that we’re encouraging people to bike, walk and use public transportation,” Slade says.
Slade adds that affordable housing is going to become an even larger issue in Carrboro’s future, with Section 8 funds, which are funds for low-income residents to pay for rent, no longer being accepted in parts of the state.
“A lot of apartments recently announced that they’re no longer going to be accepting Section 8, and that represents a big loss for affordable housing in our town,” Slade says.
Filing for local government seats in OrangeCounty ends July 19 at noon.
*Michelle (Shell) Brownstein
Board of Aldermen
Maria T. Palmer