Early voting is underway now for the 2016 primary election, with a number of key races on the ballot. There’s the presidential race, the Senate race, and the “Connect NC” bond proposal – and at the local level, there are also four open seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners, with nine candidates in the running. (All nine candidates are Democrats, so the BOCC races will be decided in the primary: whoever wins the Democratic nomination will be running unopposed in November.)
Two of those nine candidates are competing for a seat representing Orange County’s District 2, covering Hillsborough and unincorporated Orange County. Incumbent Renee Price is seeking her second term on the board; challenging her is Bonnie Hauser.
Which candidate should get your vote? What do the candidates have to say about the future of Orange County?
On Friday, WCHL’s Aaron Keck welcomed Price and Hauser to the studio for an informal, hour-long conversation about Orange County’s biggest issues. Part 1 of their forum focused on education and economic development; Part 2 focused on housing, transportation, firearm safety and solid waste.
Listen to Part 1.
Listen to Part 2.
Tune into WCHL on Monday at 3 pm, as Aaron hosts the three candidates vying for an at-large seat on the Board: Mark Marcoplos, Matt Hughes, and Andy Cagle.
Earlier this week, Aaron hosted the four candidates running for two open seats representing District 1: Mark Dorosin, Penny Rich, Jamezetta Bedford, and Gary Kahn. Listen to that forum here.
Early voting runs through Saturday, March 12; primary day is Tuesday, March 15.http://chapelboro.com/featured/2016-election-price-hauser-vie
Last week – following the most recent craziness in the General Assembly – I posted a long piece on Chapelboro calling for redistricting reform at the state level.
(Upshot: rather than letting state legislators draw our legislative district lines every 10 years, we should take the power out of their hands and give it to an independent, nonpartisan commission. State legislators have a personal and partisan interest in drawing the lines to favor themselves and their party – so let’s put the power in the hands of people who don’t have a personal interest, so they can focus on what’s best for North Carolinians as a whole.)
The state legislature hasn’t acted, naturally – doing so would require them to give up some of their own power, and that’s a hard thing for anyone to do – but there is definitely widespread support for redistricting reform across party lines. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all favor it by wide margins.
It’s something we ought to do.
But while we’re on the subject…
How about redistricting reform at the local level too?
We’ve got an election this year for four open seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners…and if you don’t know, we’ve got a pretty complicated system for electing them.
Time was, all of the seats on the Board were at-large seats, meaning everyone in the county voted for every seat. (This is still how we do it for our town boards.)
But that was unfair to residents of northern Orange County: because most of Orange County’s population was concentrated in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, the entire board invariably wound up being comprised of Chapel Hill/Carrboro folks who represented Chapel Hill/Carrboro interests and weren’t as concerned with rural issues. Agriculture? Solid waste? Rural bus routes? Residents in northern Orange didn’t have much of a voice.
So last decade, the county changed its election system. Orange County divided itself into two districts, split along roughly the same line as the county’s two school districts: Chapel Hill and Carrboro in District 1, the rest of the county in District 2. Now we have seven county commissioners: two of them are still at-large, elected by everybody, but there are three commissioners who specifically represent District 1 and two who specifically represent District 2.
Thing is, the county didn’t go all the way when it split into districts. Residents of District 1 and 2 get to choose their own party nominees in the primary election – but in the November general election, it’s still all at-large. Everybody votes in all seven races, regardless of where in the county they live.
Why is this?
It’s better today than it was before: once upon a time the entire board was Chapel Hill/Carrboro, and today folks in northern Orange do have two spots on the board reserved for them. It’s a step in the right direction. (And this year it doesn’t really matter: since all the candidates are Democrats, all of this year’s races are going to be decided in the primary anyway.)
But should Orange County go all the way? Let District 1 and District 2 elect their own representatives in the primary and the general election? There’s something to be said for the at-large system – our elected officials really ought to be considering the needs and interests of everyone in the county, no matter what – but it’s undeniably true that certain issues affect northern and southern Orange County differently, and that will be the case no matter how we elect our representatives. Should both districts have their own independent say?
I spoke with Orange County conservative Ashley DeSena this week, and both of us agreed on the need for state and local reform. Listen to our conversation.http://chapelboro.com/featured/redistricting-reform-state-and-local
Two candidates are vying for the one seat up for election to the Orange County Board of Commissioners from District 2.
District 2 covers most of rural Orange County north of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Incumbent Renee Price is running for reelection, and community activist Bonnie Hauser, who ran for the at-large seat on the board in 2014, is challenging Price for the District 2 seat.
Listen below for introductions from each candidate:
Listen back to the District 1 candidate intros. WCHL will run introductions for the at-large seats through the rest of this week on the morning and afternoon news. The introductions will be posted to chapelboro after running on 97.9 FM/1360 AM.
The Primary Election will be held on March 15. Early voting will run from March 3 – 12.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/meet-orange-county-commissioner-district-2-candidates
The Board of Orange County Commissioners is currently looking to fill two positions on the Chapel Hill Board of Adjustment.
The Board of Adjustment reviews variances to the zoning regulations of the town.
It may also serve as an appeals board for other matters assigned to it under the town code of ordinances and occasionally serve in an advisory capacity to the Chapel Hill Town Council.
Applicants must reside in the Joint Planning Area or the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction of Chapel Hill.
Those wishing to apply, click here.
To see if you reside in one of these areas, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/three-seats-open-on-chapel-hill-board-of-adjustment
The Board of Orange County Commissioners appoints representatives to fill two positions on the Chapel Hill Planning Commission.
The planning commission develops a plan for orderly growth and development in Chapel Hill.
It reviews plans for buildings, projects and facilities in the town.
Volunteers must reside in the Joint Planning Area or the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction of Chapel Hill.
To apply, click here.
To see if you live the in proper area, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/county-commissioners-look-to-fill-chapel-hill-planning-commission
Four candidates will be on the March 15 primary ballot for two seats up for election out of District 1 on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.
District 1 covers the southern portion of Orange County, including Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Inucmbents Mark Dorosin and Penny Rich are running for reelection. They will face a challenge from longtime Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School Board member Jamezetta Bedford and Gary Kahn, who has ran for Chapel Hill Town Council, Orange County Commissioner and, most recently, Chapel Hill Mayor in recent years.
WCHL has compiled introductions from each candidate:
WCHL will run introductions for candidates from District 2 and the at-large seats over the next week on the morning and afternoon news. The introductions will be posted to chapelboro after running on 97.9 FM/1360 AM.
The Primary Election will be held on March 15. Early voting will run from March 3 – 12.http://chapelboro.com/featured/meet-orange-county-commissioner-district-1-candidates
There will be a race for the at-large seat on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.
Matt Hughes currently serves as the chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, a position he has held since 2011, and he announced his intention to run for the at-large seat in the 2016 election.
Hughes is a native of Hillsborough and currently lives in Chapel Hill.
Hughes says he believes his past work with the Democratic Party as well as his work with non-profits will provide him with the basis to launch a campaign and serve on the Board of Commissioners.
Hughes spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about his decision to run. Listen below:
Bernadette Pelissier announced last week that she would not run for re-election to her at-large seat on the County Commissioners.
Seats on the Board of Commissioners from District 1, currently held by Mark Dorosin and Penny Rich, as well as a seat from District 2, held by Renee Price, will also be up for election next fall.
Filing for the 2016 election begins on December 1 and runs through December 21. The primary will be held on March 15, 2016.http://chapelboro.com/featured/matt-hughes-running-for-orange-county-commissioner
Mark Marcoplos has announced that he will be running for the at-large seat up for election on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.
Macroplos said in a press release that, “My decades of experience with county issues, my forty-plus years living in Orange County beginning in 1971 when I came to attend UNC, and my service on key county boards and OWASA have prepared me to represent the diverse communities that share our county.”
Marcoplos spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about his decision to run. Listen below:
Bernadette Pelissier was elected to the at-large seat in 2012 but announced earlier this month she would not be seeking re-election.
Seats held by Mark Dorosin, Renee Price and Penny Rich are also up for election next year.
Filing for the County Commissioner seats begins on December 1. The primary will be held on March 15.http://chapelboro.com/featured/mark-marcoplos-running-for-orange-county-commissioner
County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier says she’s ready to take on a new challenge.
After two terms on the Orange County Board of Commissioners, Bernadette Pelissier announced she won’t be seeking re-election next year.
Instead, she’ll pursue a long-time dream, running a farm with her family in Cedar Grove.
“Between my children and myself, we have four acres of blueberries,” says Pelissier. “I’m considering things like kiwi and blackberries. We have plans to do a cidery with blueberries and apples. I have no idea yet what it will evolve into.”
Pelissier was first elected to the board in 2008. Looking back on her years of service, she says she’s most proud of her work to encourage economic development.
“We had the half-cent sales tax for economic development and schools. I campaigned a lot for the half-cent sales tax for transit. We have seen increased bus service both the Chapel Hill Transit area and we’re now having rural routes. We have done some changed to our Unified Development Ordinance to allow more enterprise related to agriculture and food in rural Orange. Those are the three things that stand out to me.”
She’ll serve the remainder of her term through December 2016. In this last year, she says she’d like to focus on improving the way the county delivers mental health services.
“I would like to see a more integrated service system related to mental health to keep people out of jail.”
And as county commissioners look ahead to the future, Pelissier would like them to keep the neediest in mind.
“We have a tremendous demand for services and there are a lot of unmet needs out there. What people don’t realize is how much poverty we have I this county, how much inequality we have.”
The filing period for the 2016 election starts in just a few weeks, so those considering a run for office next year must make up their minds soon. The filing period runs December 1 through December 21.
Next year’s primary will be held March 15.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners took another step toward issuing the largest bond in county history Tuesday night.
The board unanimously approved a motion to move forward with a bond that would be worth $125 million. The commissioners decided that $120 million of the bond will go toward repairing school buildings in the county and $5 million will go to affordable housing. When the bond was originally discussed, all of the money was expected to go to the schools. But, due to public outcry for funding for affordable housing, some commissioners changed their mind, including Chair Earl McKee.
“I’m one of the folks that originally thought, ‘schools only,’ because the needs of the schools were so great,” he says. “But I think that, possibly along with some other commissioners, we realized that schools and affordable housing do go together.
“They actually compliment one another.”
Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA member Jill Simon told the board the issues of affordable housing and the school repairs are interrelated.
“I also want to add that at Frank Porter Graham there are almost 50 percent of families who are in economically fragile situations,” she says. “And so that’s a really good example of how I am not asking for the money for the schools to be against money for housing.
“Our families and buildings need help in both situations.”
Commissioner Barry Jacobs said he thought it was important to include both issues in the bond.
“I would like to suggest that we think of this bond package as the Goldilocks bond,” he says, “and that we’re trying to get it to be just right. I think it’s important that we get it to be just right. And I think that it’s important that it be as inclusive as we can possibly make it.”
Jacobs, along with commissioners Penny Rich and Mark Dorosin, pushed to raise the total of the bond to $130 million in order to give another $5 million to affordable housing, but lost the vote. Dorosin said he thinks $10 million should be committed to see the affordable housing progress the commissioners want.
“I think it’s critical both politically and legislatively to have that money in the bond,” he says.
To go along with the bond, the board also unanimously approved a change in the budget allocation for affordable housing and school repair. The board agreed to commit at least $1 million out of the budget each year for the next five years to both issues.
The board will have to formally introduce the bond to the public before April. Once the bond is introduced, the commissioners must have a separate meeting to take public comment before they can vote on whether to put the bond on the ballot.http://chapelboro.com/featured/orange-county-commissioners-move-forward-with-125-million-bond