Tom Henkel is one of the founders of the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, or CHALT. He says the grassroots organization was formed to channel the voices of those critical of the town’s planning process.
“Many of us have volunteered our time and expertise to take part in the Chapel Hill 20/20 planning exercise,” says Henkel. “To our surprise, not only were we ignored by the mayor and his supporters on the council, we were portrayed as that noisy minority that complains about everything.”
That dissatisfaction is reflected in the group’s endorsements, which favor challengers over incumbents.
In the 2015 municipal election, CHALT is backing mayoral challenger Pam Hemminger as well as council candidates Jessica Anderson, Nancy Oates, and David Schwartz. Though there are four seats open, the group only opted to endorse three council candidates.
CHALT supporters say the current mayor and council have given developers too much leeway to build high-end residential projects while ignoring public input on development plans.
“CHALT has been instrumental in documenting some of the excesses and poor judgment of the incumbent mayor and council,” says Schwartz. “CHALT has shown and called for us to move beyond the current polarization of our politics and move forward, together, toward a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable future for Chapel Hill.”
Schwartz helped organize CHALT prior to running for office. The group has formed a political action committee to promote their agenda for a “livable and leafy” Chapel Hill, raising more than $2,000 so far.
Two other groups have made endorsements in the Chapel Hill races. The North Carolina AFL-CIO supports Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, incumbent council members Donna Bell, Lee Storrow, Jim Ward, and newcomer Michael Parker. The Equality NC Action Fund, an LGBT rights advocate group, is backing the same slate.