Town Council Delays Vote on Filling Vacancy

At Monday’s meeting, Council Member George Cianciolo argued for a delayed vote as the Chapel Hill Town Council considers appointing someone to fill the vacant seat.

“I’d like to see that we have a full council when we vote. We’re missing one council member tonight, and that’s why my motion is that we take the vote next Monday,” said Cianciolo.

Donna Bell was the council member absent from the meeting. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt threw out Cianciolo’s motion, but the council did not pass a motion to take a vote.

The item will appear again on the May 11 meeting agenda so the council could appoint someone at that meeting.

To be precise, the Chapel Hill Town Council delayed deciding on whether to decide on a candidate to fill the vacant council seat, at Monday’s meeting. To explain, the council agreed on a two-step voting process.

First the council will vote on whether to select someone for the seat. If the council votes to select someone, council members will each cast a ballot to choose one of six applicants.  If one of the candidates gets five votes, he or she wins.

On Monday, the council delayed the first vote.

During the public comment period, a few people expressed support for applicant Amy Ryan.

“She is intelligent, rational and fair-minded,” said Laura Moore about Ryan. “She has the experience to understand Chapel Hill’s tough development issues. We need her expertise on our town council.”

Others endorsed applicant Michael Parker.

“He’s been at every meeting I’ve ever been to – committees, town council,” said Lynne Kane. “And some nights, when I’ve stayed home to watch the town council on TV, I saw that Michael Parker was in the audience. He really has a deep understanding of what would be good for all of Chapel Hill.”

The May 11 meeting will be held at 7 pm at Chapel Hill Town Hall. According to the town code of ordinances, if the council delays a vote again, the agenda item will come back at the next meeting. And it will keep coming back at subsequent meetings until the council appoints someone or citizens elect someone.

Applicants Vie for Chapel Hill Town Council Seat

Five applicants made their cases to the Chapel Hill Town Council for appointment to the vacant council seat, at Monday’s special meeting.

Member Jim Ward said the council should leave the seat open until the election in November.

“We are very close to the end of the fiscal year. And we are well into the development agreement process with East West Partners,” said Ward. “To bring somebody on at this point, to me, seems like it’s not the right decision.”

The seat became vacant after Matt Czajkowski resigned last month. If the council selects someone, the appointee would serve the remainder of Czajkowski’s term, which expires in December.

Member Donna Bell, who started on the council as an appointee in 2009, argued for appointing someone to the seat.

Some are concerned that selecting someone would give the appointee an unfair advantage in the November election. Bell said this person would be in the public eye, which could actually be a disadvantage.

“It is also a space for people to have vulnerabilities that you would not have otherwise,” said Bell.

The council decided on a two-part voting process for the May 4 meeting. First the council will vote on whether to select someone for the seat. If a majority of the council decides to appoint someone, the council will vote on candidates. If one of the candidates gets five votes, he or she wins.

Applicant Amy Ryan serves as the vice chair and community design champion on the town’s planning commission.

“By profession, I’m a book editor, a solitary job where you spend your time with texts that don’t argue back,” said Ryan. “When I got involved in town affairs, no one was more surprised than I was, how much I enjoy working with diverse and sometimes oppositional groups to create a space where everyone can be heard, to facilitate open and productive debate and to resolve the views of the many into a single decision for the good of the town.”

Applicant Kevin Hicks serves on four boards in The Triangle that focus on youth, bicycling and greenways.

“In addition to the youth initiative, I am passionate about funding for the Rogers Road sewer plan, solid waste issues for the town, implementing a bike plan and initiating a pedestrian plan,” said Hicks. “I would like to apply the same energy and focus I have working with youth to the duties of town council.”

People can voice support for candidates during the public comment period early in the May 4 meeting at Chapel Hill Town Hall.

Applicant Paul Neebe did not come to Monday’s meeting. In addition to the three mentioned, Adam Jones, Michael Parker and Gary Shaw also applied.

CHTC Accepting Applications for Vacant Seat

The Chapel Hill Town Council adopted a resolution on Wednesday night which lays out the timeline to fill a vacant seat.

This vacant seat came after Matt Czajkowski’s recent resignation from the council.

“The first item on the agenda is one required by our town charter and code of ordinances,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt at Wednesday’s meeting. “It is my duty to declare, there is a vacancy on the council. There I did that.”

Kleinschmidt came up with the schedule, which sets April 22 as the deadline for submitting applications for the position.

“I think the council could fairly reach the conclusion that they don’t need to appoint anyone,” said  Czajkowski in an interview with WCHL .

Council Member Jim Ward reflected this sentiment at the meeting.

“As I thought about how to move forward with that vacancy, my conclusion was that we’d be better off to not fill it,” said Ward.

Ward said the new member would be coming near the end of a session of complicated discussions and critical votes. The council, Ward said, should fill the seat in November’s election.

Ward said the new member would not be adequately informed on the issues. He also argued that the appointee, after serving the remainder of Czajkowski’s term, would have an unfair advantage as an incumbent in the November 2015 election if he or she chooses to run.

Mayor Kleinschmidt replied that town code requires the council to set a deadline to receive applications for the vacant seat. But the council doesn’t have to select anyone.

“When the council has the opportunity to fill the appointment, there may not be five votes to appoint anybody,” said Kleinschmidt.

Matt Czajkowski announced his resignation from the council in late February. Czajkowski said he and his wife will move to Kigali, Rwanda, to work for a non-profit to promote clean drinking water and economic development.

After the April 22 submission deadline, the council will review applications and make nominations. Applicants will be invited to make comments at a 6 pm special meeting before the council’s business meeting on April 27.

In Kleinschmidt’s proposed schedule, the council would consider making an appointment on May 4. If the council appoints someone to the seat, the new member would be sworn in on May 11.

You can email comments and questions to the mayor and council here:

15 Apply For Vacant CHCCS Board Seat

Fifteen applicants have put their names forward to fill the vacant seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

School board member Mia Burroughs is making the move to the Orange County Board of Commissioners after easily winning the race to represent District 1. The school board will appoint a replacement on December 4 to serve until the 2015 election.

Among the fifteen applicants, two have sought public office in the past.

Ignacio Tzoumas ran for a seat on the school board last year, finishing fourth with 14 percent of the votes cast.

Theresa Watson ran for a seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in the special election held last May. She came in second with 27 percent of the vote.

All applicants will answer board questions at an interview session Monday night scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Center on South Merritt Mill Road. The session is open to the public.

Here’s the full list of applicants the board will interview:
Anne DiBella
Desiree Cho
Gary Winzelberg
Greg Dye
Ignacio Tzoumas
Jennifer Clark
Jennifer Marsh
Joanna Cleveland
Katherine Worley
Kulwadee Yung
Mary Ann Wolf
Mary Litsilas
Rani Dais
Theresa Watson
David Saussy

Burroughs’ BoCC Win Leaves Vacant Seat On CHCCS School Board

Now that Mia Burroughs is making the move from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board to Orange County Board of Commissioners, fellow school board members will be looking to fill her vacant seat.

Burroughs won Tuesday’s District 1 race for a seat representing Chapel Hill and Carrboro. She’ll take her new oath of office in December.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members will discuss and approve the process for naming a replacement. The vacant seat will be filled by board appointment on December 4. The new member will serve until the next election in 2015.

The board will also receive the 2014 Opening of School Report, an extensive overview of what the school district looks like this year. Board members and administrators will discuss staffing, new hires, teacher turnover and school capacity.

The school board meets at 7 o’clock at Chapel Hill Town Hall. You can read the full agenda here.

Aldermen Opt For Special Election to Fill Vacancy

CARRBORO- By a 4-2 vote, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday opted to hold a special election to fill the seat left vacant when Lydia Lavelle stepped up to serve as mayor earlier this month.

“It is the principle of democracy,” said Alderman Jacquie Gist. “But it’s also getting out there and figuring out what’s going on. We all learn so much when we are out campaigning. Even though [the board] could do a perfectly great job of it, I’d rather turn it over to the electorate.”

The election will be held concurrent with the May 6 primary next year. The cost to the town will be $1,500. That’s a far cry from the town’s first special election held last March, which cost the town $11,000. In that election, Damon Seils ran unopposed and won with 232 votes.

He urged the board to consider the appointment process instead.

“Having a special election for what will effectively be an eighteen-month term, out of a four-year term, just seems like overdoing it a little bit,” said Seils.

Michelle Johnson also supported the idea of a board appointment. She argued changing the process each time creates uncertainty for the public.

“I think it is important to have a clear process and not change it based on whatever we want to do at a given time,” said Johnson.

Most municipalities in the state fill vacancies through appointment, but in 2006 Carrboro leaders requested the General Assembly grant the board the power to call a special election. This came after a contentious appointment process that lasted six weeks, resulting in the appointment of Dan Coleman.

However, following March’s special election, Aldermen reversed course and asked that the board’s power to appoint be reinstated.

During Tuesday’s discussion, several board members seemed split on the question of which to choose. Though Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she initially supported an appointment, she worried the process could prove divisive.

“I have said in the past I support appointment, but I would not want this decision to erode the trust that we have between us on this board,” said Haven-O’Donnell.

In the end, Haven-O’Donnell, Lavelle, Gist and Sammy Slade voted in favor of a May election, while Seils and Johnson were opposed.

Carrboro Aldermen To Pick Election or Appointment December 10

CARRBORO- Carrboro Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday to schedule a special session December 10 for the purpose of deciding how to fill the upcoming vacancy on the board.

When Lydia Lavelle is sworn in as mayor on December 3, she’ll leave an empty seat on the board. The Aldermen must choose to fill the vacancy by appointment or at a special election held during the May primary.

Although they also have the option to hold a separate town-wide special election before May, board members last week ruled that out as too expensive.

Carrboro’s special election this past March to fill Dan Coleman’s seat cost the Town approximately $18,000. Damon Seils was the sole candidate; he won with 232 votes.

Prior to that, the last vacancy filled on the board was that of Mark Chilton, who, like Lavelle, left a seat open when he was elected Mayor of Carrboro in 2005.

According to the town’s charter, the board must launch the replacement process at the first meeting after a seat becomes vacant.

Carrboro Special Election Set For March 19

CARRBORO- Holding a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation ofAlderman Dan Coleman could cost the Town of Carrboro up to $18,000.

“It’s worth it, but just barely,” said Mayor Mark Chilton.

By a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the board of aldermen agreed to host the election on March 19, and open the candidate filing period for two weeks from February 1 though February 15. In an effort to keep costs down, early voting will only be available at the Board of Elections in Hillsborough.

The board does not have the option of appointing a new member, due to changes in the town charter put in place after the board’s last appointment, which happened to be that of Dan Coleman, in 2006.

That process proved so controversial that leaders were prompted to change the town charter to remove the option of board appointments. Alderwoman Jacquie Gist recalled serving on the board at the time.

“Our last appointment was really so contentious that it took a while for the community to heal afterward, and out of that came the commitment from this board that voters should decide who’s representing them,” said Gist.

Now vacancies must be filled by election, either during the general election in November, or during a special election held in the spring.

But Chilton said, seven years later, the decision to remove the appointment option seems shortsighted.

“I’m beginning to think it may be one of the silliest decisions I ever made, but it is the decision I made,” said Chilton. “I think we need to move forward with it.”

This will be Carrboro’s first special election under the new rules, but it might also be its last. Even as they agreed to set a date, board members called to reevaluate the appointment process.

“Now that a vacancy has actually arisen, I think a lot of us are wondering whether it is really worth spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on filling a seat through democracy, or whether it’s better to make a short term appointment and then let the regular election process fill it for the future,” said Chilton.

The board could ask the General Assembly to amend the town charter again to reinstate the appointment option, but board members agreed they would carry through with the special election before launching that process.

Whoever is elected to the seat will serve the remainder of Coleman’s term, which ends in 2015. So far, only Carrboro Planning Board Chair Damon Seils has announced he plans to run.