Hear WCHL’s Mayoral Forum Monday

CHAPEL HILL – WCHL is bringing you the three mayoral candidates from our local municipalities Monday on Election Day Eve.

From 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., we’ll host Chapel Hill’s Mark Kleinschmidt, Hillsborough’s Tom Stevens, and Carrboro’s Lydia Lavelle–all running unopposed for mayor–for a special conversation about the future of the three towns in the next two years and beyond.

The forum will be broadcasting live on 97.9 FM WCHL and streaming-live on Chapelboro.com.

Following the forum, you’ll also be able to listen to the discussions in their entirety by visiting Chapelboro’s 2013 Election Central page. You can also check out articles and audio from previous forums featuring the Chapel Hill Town Council hopefuls and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education hopefuls, as well as candidate profiles.

And stay tuned to WCHL on Election Day.  We’re hosting our Election Night special, beginning at 7:00 immediately following the  Tuesday Evening News, as we track the polls and bring you all the latest as results roll in.


Should Carrboro Charge For Parking Downtown?

CHAPEL HILL – Quite often it’s hard to find parking in downtown Carrboro. With new development coming to the area, it might grow scarcer, and there are only a handful of free public lots. Some think Carrboro should charge people to use the lots, but some think parking should remain free.

It’s an issue that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen hopefuls tackled during WCHL’s Candidate Forum on Monday, though all were not in agreement over a solution to this complex parking problem.

The five 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. Vickers was absent from the Forum Monday due to a prior engagement out of the country.

***Listen to WCHL’s 2013 Carrboro Board of Aldermen Candidates Forum***



Stolka was the lone candidate fully in favor of charging for parking. He said it could generate revenue for the Town to use for other projects and would encourage people to use alternative methods of transportation.

“I think when we start charging for parking, that will pay for someone to enforce the parking,” Stolka said. “It will be a continuous revolution of feeding that system. That will discourage car use, and we will become a real livable city for the next generation. Cycling won’t become known as an alternative means anymore; it’ll be the main means.”


Slade, who is on the fence about the issue, said that the Town staff was currently assessing the parking situation downtown—that study is expected to be completed sometime next year.

“There’s an opportunity to really understand what the reality is about parking downtown,” Slade said. “In the same way that we were talking earlier about solid waste, [we need to] set goals for finding measures that we can implement to start ratcheting down our dependency on cars in Downtown because our ultimate goal is to get off of cars.”

Gist and Haven-O’Donnell were firmly against charging for parking and agreed that free parking helped the local economy.

Gist said that much has already been done to address the parking situation, including the Town’s purchase of the lot on the corner of Carr St. and Greensboro St., as well as the addition of 500 spaces as part of the parking deck in the 300 East Main development.

“I am not saying turn downtown Carrboro into a parking lot. I’m not saying no bikes, no buses, no feet,” Gist said. “I’m saying this has to be addressed as a whole. Our downtown businesses would be devastated if we started charging for parking.”

Haven-O’Donnell said she feared that if the Town began charging, it would decrease accessibility to residents who can’t bike or walk to the downtown area.

“We need a plan that hears the voices of the folks that live beyond the two-mile parameter. One of the things that is really important to folks that live beyond that two miles is to be able to make multitask stops,” Haven-O’Donnell said.

You can check-out our 2013 Election Central page featuring articles and audio from all the candidates, as well as forums for the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.


Hear WCHL’s Carrboro Board Of Aldermen Candidates Forum Monday

CHAPEL HILL – Early voting is in full swing, and we’re kicking off the week by bringing the candidates to you.

Monday from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., you can tune into WCHL for a forum featuring the five candidates for Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

We’ll also have a full recap on the WCHL Morning News Tuesday.

You’ll be able to listen to the discussions in their entirety by visiting Chapelboro’s 2013 Election Central page, where you can also check out articles and audio featuring the Chapel Hill Town Council candidates and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education hopefuls.

Our final forum comes to you on Election Day Eve, Monday, November 4, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., when we’ll host Chapel Hill’s Mark Kleinschmidt, Hillsborough’s Tom Stevens, and Carrboro’s Lydia Lavelle–all running unopposed for mayor–for a special conversation about the future of the three towns in the next two years and beyond.

All forums take place here at WCHL Studios in Chapel Hill. We’ll carry all the forums live on 97.9 FM WCHL, streaming as always on our website, Chapelboro.com.

And stay tuned to WCHL throughout campaign season for our ongoing one-on-one interviews with the candidates, plus all the latest on the 2013 election.


BoE Candidates On Closing The Achievement In CHCCS

CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System is one of the top-achieving districts in North Carolina, yet closing the achievement gap is a urgent issue that has proven hard to solve.

The four candidates competing for three open spots on the CHCCS Board of Education spoke to this problem during WCHL’s Candidate Forum Monday.

Michelle Brownstein and James Barrett are the two incumbent candidates in the race, and the challengers are Ignacio Tzoumas and Andrew Davidson.

**Hear WCHL’s full CHCCS Board Candidate Forum below**


Brownstein, who was elected in 2009 and currently serves as Chair of the Board, said she believes that illiteracy is the one of the main factors contributing to the achievement gap.

“Interventions that we are providing for students also have to be evidence-based and be consistent. We have to look at our instructional time and how we are using those minutes,” Brownstein said. “There are children that need catch-up growth, and those children are the ones who are a part of this achievement gap. We have to follow them vertically as they go through the curriculum K-12.”

Barrett, who was elected to the Board in 2011, said the District needs to focus on improving the quality of instruction.

“We have pockets of really good instruction going on, but I think Dr. Forcella is clearly focused that every teacher, every classroom, has great instruction every day,” Barrett said. “And then the other thing that she [Michelle Brownstein] touched on is growth. Every student should be growing a year, and those that are behind should be growing a year.”

Tzoumas said if he were elected to the Board, he would work toward implementing sound policies as soon as possible.

“I think we’ve gotten to the point where it is rhetoric versus reality,” Tzoumas said. “We want to close that gap and start executing on the ideas as opposed to constantly bringing up the problem that is at hand.”

Davidson said one of the biggest challenges that disadvantaged students face is the “summer gap” in their education.

“Wealthier students show better academic progress during the summer than poorer students do, and that is one of the ways that the district has fallen short,” Davidson said. “And through no fault of their own, I think it is an innovation that we have to take on to focus on summer learning. We need to make that change so that when they get to the third grade, they make the change from learning to read to reading to learn.”

Early voting for the Nov. 5 municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board elections is underway now.


Early Voting In Orange County Kicks Off Thursday

CHAPEL HILL – Early voting for the Nov. 5 municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board elections kicks off on Thursday.

Though changes are coming soon to election laws in North Carolina, Tracy Reams, Director of the Orange County Board of Elections, says that the policies will be the same for this election season.

“Most of the changes are coming into play on January 1 of 2014,” Reams says. “One of the things is that they will be eliminating same-day registration.”

Reams explains that anyone who shows up for early-voting this year can participate in same-day registration. The early voting period lasts until Saturday, Nov. 2.

“Additionally, we do have a very low turnout in the municipal elections, and we are hoping with these sites, and hours we hoping folks will utilize these early voting sites,” she says.

The four early-voting sites in Orange County are:

– The Board of Elections Office at 208 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough

– Carrboro Town Hall at 301 West Main St., Carrboro

– Rams Head Dining Hall at 320 Ridge Road, Chapel Hill

– Seymour Senior Center at 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill


All sites will be open Monday through Friday. Rams Head Dining Hall and Carrboro Town Hall will be open during the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Board of Elections will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Janice Tyler, Director of the Department of Aging, says that the Seymour Center will be open on weekdays, noon to 6 p.m.

“One of the best things about being an early voting site is that we get community folks into the Center that might otherwise never get to come in, so we get to share with them about things that happen at the Center and what the Department of Aging does,” Tyler says.

All four early voting sites will be and all will be open on November 2, from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m.

Click here for more information on the 2013 Election.


Aldermen Candidates On The Environment & Development

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.


CHTC Candidates Talk Growth, Engagement and Sustainability

CHAPEL HILL-Sustainability and citizen engagement were the key themes raised by candidates for the Chapel Hill Town Council at Thursday’s forum hosted by the Orange County Democratic Women.

Cuts to state and federal funding, as well as the persistent drain of retail dollars to surrounding counties have many in Chapel Hill looking for ways to grow the local economy.

Maria Palmer, who served on the Transportation Committee during the Chapel Hill 2020 process, said implementing the vision laid out in the new comprehensive plan will be the key to drawing new commercial development to the area.

“I don’t think any of us realize that the level of services we receive in Chapel Hill is unsustainable,” said Palmer. “We either pay a whole lot more in taxes or we cut services or we create new income, and that is one thing I really want to do.”

And 2020 co-chair George Cianciolo agreed. He said the town needs to focus on streamlining the development process and revising the town’s land use ordinances to provide guidance to developers to attract new business.

“There should be no reason that any applicant should have to wait more than a year to either get an up or down vote on their application,” said Cianciolo. “If we do those [revisions], I think we can get new growth, we can get thoughtful new growth, we can get well-designed new growth that will not only increase our tax base, it will bring in increased revenue from sales tax.”

D.C Swinton said he’d like to see new growth focused on job creation to help the approximately one out four Chapel Hill residents who live in poverty.

“There are a lot of people who are still in need of full-time jobs and I’d like to bring jobs through sustainable practices to Chapel Hill,” said Swinton.

Candidates also discussed ways to get the public engaged in town affairs. Loren Hintz said he wants to foster a proactive approach among town officials.

“So much of what local government does is complaint-driven,” said Hintz. “I want to create a new attitude where employees are going around town, council members are going around town noticing what the problems are and then pointing those out so they can be addressed rather than waiting for someone to complain.”

Current Council Member Ed Harrison said educating residents about the role of local government is one of the best ways to get the public involved.

“The more the town publicizes what the town actually does on a day-to-day basis, and what solutions the town can offer to people, the more people will understand that the policies of the town should matter to them,” said Harrison.

Only Democratic candidates were invited to Thursday’s forum. Cianciolo, who had previously been unaffiliated, recently registered as a Democrat, allowing him to participate.

Five of the nine candidates for town council were in attendance. Incumbent Sally Greene was out of town on a family matter, Planning Board member Amy Ryan was across town at the Central West meeting, and challenger Paul Neebe was absent. Gary Kahn, the ninth council candidate, was not included, as he is a registered Republican.

Election campaigning is well underway, with a slew of forums scheduled in the next six weeks. The local chapter of the League of Women Voters will host a forum for the Carrboro municipal candidates this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Carrboro Town Hall.


State Budget Cuts Pose Challenge For Mayoral Candidates

CHAPEL HILL- Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s mayoral candidates are running unopposed this year, but they say the real challenges will come from state leaders in Raleigh.

Lydia Lavelle hopes to make the jump from the Carrboro Board of Aldermen to the mayor’s seat, and given that she’s the only candidate, it seems like an easy win. But Lavelle says the actions of the General Assembly are likely to make her job, and that of other local elected officials, much harder in the coming months and years.

“It is going to be a tremendous challenge,” says Lavelle. “Not only the policy and laws that are coming from the General Assembly, but also in terms of financial cutbacks we might get. We have got to be on our guard and be communicating with other towns and counties about this.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt agrees. As he anticipates his third term, he says reductions in funding from the state could be a major issue.

“It’s going to be a community-wide challenge and it is one that I don’t think is on everybody’s radar at this moment,” says Kleinschmidt. “I hope during this campaign folks will become more aware of these challenges and we can work to address them in this next term.”

Chapel Hill Transit and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system have already begun to wrestle with cuts to transportation and school budgets during this past budget season.

Lavelle worries the hands of local governments are being tied by lawmakers in the General Assembly in other ways as well.

“Not only the North Carolina General Assembly, but our Supreme Court seems to be seeking to curtail our authority to really do anything at the local level,” says Lavelle. “I think it is really important that we try to keep a gauge on the different laws that they are trying to pass, to try to speak up when some of the bills they’re debating can affect local government in a way that a lot of the General Assembly doesn’t understand, and that they really wouldn’t want their town and their constituents to be faced with.”

The legislative session just ended, and though the full impact of the new laws remains to be seen, there are at least two bright spots for the towns.

Kleinschmidt says Chapel Hill was recently granted the authority to pursue new public/private partnerships outside of the downtown area.

“Famously you know we engaged in a public/private partnership to create 140 West, but our downtown was the only area that we were authorized to do such agreements,” says Kleinschmidt. “Now we have the authority from the General Assembly to do these kinds of projects outside our downtown core.”

And thanks to a bill sponsored by Senator Ellie Kinnaird, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen now has the option of appointing a new member to fill a vacancy, instead of holding a special election.

Passage of Senate Bill 128 is especially relevant now, as Lavelle has two years left in her term on the board. When she’s sworn in as Carrboro’s new mayor in December, aldermen will likely begin the process of filling her seat by appointment.


Full List of 2013 Election Candidates

Here’s the full list of filings in the 2013 municipal and school board elections:

(* denotes incumbent)

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, three seats open:

*James Barrett, 43, 100 Morgan Bluff Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 919-593-0592

*Michelle (Shell) Brownstein, age withheld, 105 Glenhaven Dr, Chapel Hill NC 27516 919-932-3695/ 919-966-4131

Andrew Davidson, 39, 110 Westbury Ct, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-370-9303

Ignacio Tzoumas, 39, 116 Milbrae Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 828-675-8883

Carrboro Mayor:

Lydia Lavelle, 52, 8107 Kit Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-942-5640

Board of Alderman, three seats open:

*Randee Haven-O’Donnell, 62, 106 Fairfield Ct, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-306-2080

*Jacquelyn Gist, 58, 206 Maple Ave. #A, Carrboro, NC 27510, 919-880-9326

*Sammy Slade, 38, 100 Crest St, Apt. E, Carrboro, NC 27510,  919-951-5200

Kurt Stolka, 32, 207 Robert Hunt Dr, Carrboro, NC 27510, 703-581-3742

Al Vickers, 68, 151 S. Fields Cir, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-929-0502

 Chapel Hill Mayor:

*Mark Kleinschmidt, 43, 102 Boulder Ln, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-260-2488/ 919-240-7089

 Chapel Hill Town Council, four seats open:

Gary Kahn, 57, 703 Copperline Dr. #306, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, 919-240-7435

*Sally Greene, 57, 406 Morgan Creek Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 919-260-4077

Maria T. Palmer, 52, 303 Forbush Mt. Dr, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-933-0259/ 919-260-4361

Paul Neebe, 51, 1002 Highland Woods Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 919-929-9394/ 919-967-1554

*Ed Harrison, 62, 58 Newton Dr, Durham, NC 27707, 919-490-1566

George Cianciolo, 64, 7704 Amesbury Dr, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-489-8539

Loren Hintz, 57, 804 Kings Mill Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-933-8987

Amy Ryan, 53, 209 Adams Way, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, candidate requested phone number not be published

Jonathan Riehl, 37, 2 Mt. Bolus Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, 919-923-2558

D. C. Swinton, 25, 116 Hamilton Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, 864-631-6817

 Hillsborough Mayor:

*Tom Stevens, 59, 213 W. Tryon St, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-245-1026

 Town Commissioner, two seats open:

Jenn Weaver, 39, 323 W. Queen St, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-619-6065

Kathleen Ferguson, 50, 517 Central Ave, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-998-2153

Meighan Lela Carmichael, 37, 229 W. King St, Hillsborough, NC 27278, 919-590-8059