The throne is up for grabs.
Rosemary Waldorf, Chapel Hill's mayor for the last six years, is not seeking re-election. But the mayor of Chapel Hill also holds another title: King of the Liberals -- or in this case, Queen of the Liberals.
So on Nov. 6, the town will choose her successor.
Let's face it: Even in the best circumstances, local elections garner little public interest and participation. Just as campaigning season was gearing up, terrorist attacks rocked the nation on Sept. 11. News outlets have covered the story 24/7 ever since.
Campaigns ground to a screeching halt. After all, in the wake of mass destruction and loss of life, debating issues like smart growth and the environment seemed a little inappropriate. Local politics pale in comparison to the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
That's unfortunate. The town is at a crossroads. The Chapel Hill Town Council approved UNC's Development Plan 8-1 last week. The town and the University are going to have to deal with unparalleled growth.
How Chapel Hill deals with the influx of students and faculty -- not to mention buildings and infrastructure needs -- will impact our lives more tangibly than the threat of an anthrax attack. It may not be a sexy topic like terrorism, but smart growth is important.
Why should you care? Well, if you live in the town, the decisions made by the mayor and the Town Council directly impact your life. Whether it be the town's decibel limit keeping you from pumping Lil' Kim full blast at your next kegger or the Town Council trying to keep students from renting houses in family-dominated neighborhoods by stipulating the number of "nonrelated persons" living together -- the mayor and council members warrant your attention.
Even if you live on campus, the town still plays an integral part in your life. It decides what happens to Franklin Street. It can be a bane or a blessing to the University as it embarks on the Master Plan.
Most of us are transitory. In four years -- or even less than a year -- we'll probably no longer be Chapel Hill residents. But right now, we are. We represent the University. Imagine how politically powerful students could be if they banded together and took the simple step of voting in the local election.
It's not hard to get the information to make an informed vote. Scan The Daily Tar Heel for the candidates' platforms. Keep an eye on the editorial page for endorsement letters. Also, watch for the paper's endorsement by the Editorial Board.
So as Queen Rosemary steps down, who could take her place?
There's Kevin Foy, a 45-year-old lawyer and member of the Town Council. Foy ran unsuccessfully against Waldorf in 1995 for mayor. He was elected to the council two years later. He's taken a more hard-line approach to development. He's less inclined to approach development decisions on a case-by-case basis. And he favors standard (and strict) zoning rules. He's a big environmentalist as well.
Then there's fringe candidate Cam Hill. Interestingly enough, Hill is the only of the candidates to be born and raised in Chapel Hill. Ideally, Hill wants to stop all growth in the town. A pipe dream to be sure, but Hill promises to fight it and slow it as much as possible.
Foy's main challenger is Lee Pavao. The 68-year-old won his first term on the council in 1993. He's finishing up his second term. Pavao tends to think more in terms of give-and-take with developers. He considers himself a skilled negotiator -- something he says will be crucial if he is elected mayor. He's also retired, and his supporters point out he will be able to focus more time on the job than Foy, who works as a lawyer.
I hope to look more in-depth at the candidates and their platforms as Election Day draws nearer. For now, I hope I've piqued the interest -- if only slightly -- of some of you.
The Town Council has made decisions in the past that I feel were unfair to students. But if we don't make our voices heard now, they'll have no reason to listen to us in the future.
Columnist Jonathan Chaney can be reached at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.