Mayor Rosemary Waldorf will not be seeking re-election this year, and Chapel Hill Town Council members Kevin Foy and Lee Pavao are battling for the seat.
In Carrboro, we'll know if Mayor Mike Nelson, who has been in office since 1995, will get a chance to finish up "one last term" to see several projects come to completion.
What's the low down on Local Elections 2001? First, Chapel Hill:
Style Over Substance
There are some issues where the two Chapel Hill mayoral candidates -- Foy and Pavao -- differ, but only to a small degree.
Both men see value in the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which would control school overcrowding by linking residential development to open space in schools.
However, Foy fully endorses it, saying he would make its passage a priority if elected.
Pavao, while working on the ordinance for 2 1/2 years in committee, worries about its detrimental impact on affordable housing and says that getting all the governing bodies needed to sign on will be difficult.
Both men talk about "smart growth."
Foy believes in a stricter development philosophy, while Pavao favors more give-and-take with developers.
This slight schism is reflected in Meadowmont, the mega-development project that Foy abhors and Pavao believes is turning out exactly as planned - which is far from perfect, but not a disaster. After all, the town managed to get a school site, park land and land for 32 affordable housing units from its developer (i.e. give-and-take).
In the end, I think that Chapel Hill will be in good hands, whether they be Foy's or Pavao's.
Sitting at the candidate forum Monday night, I was struck by the lack of strong disagreement on issues between the two candidates. I heard a great deal of "I agree with ..."
That's reflected in the general consensus that this is a close election. Though there isn't any real polling for local races, most seasoned town politicos believe that the race is still a toss-up.
That's not surprising, in my opinion.
There are three keywords in Chapel Hill politics: environment, smart growth and transportation.
Neither candidate has given radically different opinions on them that veer from the status quo.
The two candidates differ in style, not substance. So pick the personality you like best -- the town will progress the same either way.
Now, on to Carrboro:
One More Term?
Mayor Mike Nelson is running for a fourth term. He wants to have a chance to finish up three main projects: preserving the Bolin Creek Corridor, keeping an eye on affordable housing and renovating the Century Center.
His challenger is Stacy Smith. She's held no Carrboro office previously and admits jumping into the race because no one else did. She didn't want to see the race go uncontested, as it did two years ago.
Though a political newbie, she has gained a great deal of knowledge and has become quite a formidable politician. Her fiscal ideas are especially interesting. Citing the exorbitantly high taxes in Carrboro, she promises to closely look at the town's spending and see if there are any ways to lower residents' taxes without lowering the quality of the town.
Hmm ... Could there actually be a Republican living in Carrboro?
All kidding aside, her appearance in the race has heightened the public debate on Carrboro issues, and I believe that though she lacks formal experience, she would make an excellent mayor.
It will be very difficult to unseat the incumbent, however. Nelson has a lot of successes under his belt, as well as six years of experience.
I hope that Smith remains an active part of Carrboro town government if not elected. Her viewpoint is a breath of fresh air that could be extremely useful as Carrboro expands into the future.
Columnist Jonathan Chaney can be reached at email@example.com.
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