County Commissioner Candidates share views with Carrboro

Candidates for the Orange County Board of County Commissioners seats are gearing up for primary elections, which are less than a month away.

District One candidates Penny Rich, Pam Hemminger and Mark Dorosin — who are competing for two seats on the board — met Wednesday night at Carrboro Town Hall to share their views.

The candidates are competing for spots in District One, which represents much of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Candidates Renee Price, Steve Yuhasz and Chris Weaver have filed for the District Two seat, which represents Hillsborough.

Carrboro resident Amy Sayle said she came because she thinks it is important for residents to be engaged in local issues.

“I think it’s my duty as a citizen to come see the candidates and hear their positions on the issues,” she said.

Sayle said enjoyed the forum because she has a better understanding of what the issues surrounding the county are.

Here is what the candidates had to say:

Transit

All of the candidates said they would like to see the half-cent transit tax — which would fund bus expansion and an eventual light raily — on November’s ballot. Dorosin, previously a Carrboro Board of Alderman member, said county commissioners missed their opportunity to pursue the tax earlier.

Hemminger, an incumbent County Commissioner, and Rich, a member of Chapel Hill Town Council, said county officials need to take a more proactive approach to alternative transportation.

”We don’t want to get in the back of the line again,” Rich said.

Hemminger said she thinks state and federal funding will determine development of the county’s proposed light rail. She said county officials need to prepare for obstacles to this plan by looking at increasing bus routes.

“If that does not happen, we’ll continue evaluating what our options are,” she said.

Environment

Dorosin said he thinks the county needs to handle its own solid waste disposal as opposed to sending it to Durham, which all candidates agree is a bad idea.

“Some neighborhood is going to be angry about where the waste goes, but it has to go somewhere,” he said.

He said he thinks the county needs to educate the public on how different environmental issues are interrelated.

“I think we need to do a better job thinking about the county as a whole,” he said.

Hemminger said she would like to emphasize recycling and focus on improving air quality.

And Rich said she would like to see the county adopt a composting program.

“We’ve tried over and over again to compost in the town,” she said of Chapel Hill.

Education

Dorosin said one of his priorities is to close the achievement gap in public schools.

He also said he wants to discourage the addition of charter schools.

“I think they actually function as private schools with public money,” he said. “I think they harm students.”

Hemminger, who has served on the school board previously, said she thinks introducing new technologies into schools needs to be a priority.

“We need to keep getting more technology into the schools so that the kids of today can have the jobs of tomorrow,” she said.

Rich said the schools are in need of repair, and the physical quality of the schools should reflect their good quality of education.

Intergovernmental Communication

Dorosin said he thinks a county fair would bring together the diverse backgrounds of Orange County residents.

“That’s something else where real engaged leadership can make a difference,” he said.

Hemminger said intergovernmental communication needs to improve.

“We need to let go of this bad history we’ve had before,” she said.

Rich said as a Chapel Hill Town Council member she has been frustrated by the lack of dialogue between the county commissioners and council members.

“I felt the communication lines were not always open,” she said. “Our staffs need to do a better job of working together.”

Rich also emphasized that she wants commissioners to encourage more residents to get involved in county issues.


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