Community leaders react to Inter-City Visit to Boulder and Denver
On Sept. 25, leaders of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community traveled to Boulder and Denver, Colo. to spend three days learning and discussing key issues to ultimately improve their community back home.
Every two years the Chamber of Commerce puts together an Inter-City Visit for community leaders to explore the policies and ideas of other similar cities.
Leaders participated in workshops and panels, where Boulder’s leaders would come to have conversations about civic life, economic development and university life. Boulder was chosen specifically because Chapel Hill-Carrboro was interested in what they had done with transit and transit investment.
The travelers were impressed with Boulder’s ability to think ahead through a land bank strategy for economic and housing development. This strategy entails the city buying pieces of land that are to be used in the future for things like affordable housing and transit locations.
Michael Parker, Chapel Hill Town Council member, said Boulder’s ability to think ahead and have a consistent vision for their community was something worth replicating. He also admired Boulder's Pearl Street Mall downtown.
“The attention to detail, such as street sculptures and flowers, made the downtown seem like a family friendly place,” he said.
Overall, there was little disagreement between the two towns. However, Board of Aldermen Member Bethany Chaney said the one major difference between Boulder and Chapel Hill-Carrboro was Boulder’s lack of diversity.
“Boulder is not a very diverse place,” Chaney said. “Two percent or less are people of color. As a result, they don’t naturally or deliberately look at what they are doing through a racial-equity lens.”
Chaney said a lot of the people on this trip recognized that and were alarmed by the language that shrugged off diversity. She said in Chapel Hill it is vital for community members to talk about the barriers that entrepreneurs of color face. They do not want to create a culture in which people of color are not taken into account.
“No matter what we learned from Boulder, our conversations are harder and more meaningful,” Chaney said.
Lee Storrow, former Chapel Hill Town Council member, said he had a great time visiting Front Range Community College on his trip to Colorado.
“It’s time to build a second building on the Orange campus of Durham Tech,” Storrow said in a tweet.
The town pays for city council members and staff to go on the trip, but, all community leaders and entrepreneurs are invited to go. Businesses and the University have to pay for themselves, but the chamber also offers scholarships for those who are interested in attending.
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