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The Daily Tar Heel

Waldorf's Challenge To Mayor

"Thank yous," handshakes and standing ovations filled the Chapel Hill Town Hall as hors d'oeuvres circled around Monday night.

Chapel Hill held its changing of the guard as the new mayor and Chapel Hill Town Council members took their place and three political veterans departed from town government.

Kevin Foy was sworn in as Chapel Hill's new mayor, replacing Rosemary Waldorf, who held the role for six years.

Waldorf chose not to run for re-election this year, saying that local government needed some fresh faces and new blood.

And after six years, Rosemary deserves a break.

She was first elected mayor at a time when Chapel Hill was experiencing its own version of a spike in crime rates.

Though we aren't talking Detroit, residents were concerned.

Waldorf was a strong advocate for modernizing the town's police force, making Chapel Hill a little safer for residents as well as students. (Though recent armed robberies and break-ins are worrisome -- especially as students leave their apartments for break.)

She has also overseen a revitalization of the downtown area, including widening the sidewalks.

But there's still room for improvement in this area, as some residents advocate turning parking lots into public squares.

Making Franklin Street more "European," or community-friendly, is not such a bad idea. It's a unique piece of property whose potential still hasn't been fully realized.

Rosemary also was a strong supporter of regional mass transit throughout her three terms -- even though it has only recently become a hot political issue in the Triangle as a whole.

Though the political climate in the Triangle has not always heavily favored regional mass transit issues, the new leaders in Chapel Hill, Durham, Cary and Raleigh appear to be a group of pro-mass transit politicians.

But again, there's still a lot of uncertainty. Regional rail with the Triangle Transit Authority seems to be chugging along ...

... but speed bumps could derail the process. Federal funding for part of the project is still dangling. The state cannot afford to foot a huge bill for a transportation project with all the belt-cinching legislators have been forced upon it.

And where will the sites for the rail system be? This problem will be most visible in Chapel Hill, where residents will howl if a foot of train track is laid near their property.

Our town can preach about the environment all it wants, but when it comes down to it, Mayor Foy will have a lot of cajoling and pleading to get a rail system put down in the town.

But regional transit is an issue in which Waldorf has made great headway. With the favorable political climate in surrounding towns and cities, it's now Mayor Foy's job to continue with her same vigor.

As this part of the state expands, it's ludicrous to ignore mass transit as an absolute necessity to help alleviate some of our crippling traffic problems.

During the last two years, Waldorf had to deal with University expansion and its effects on the town. She and Chancellor James Moeser, along with other University and town officials, came together for several town-gown meetings.

Town growth, especially relating to the University, will be the most contentious issue for Mayor Foy's term.

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In her parting words, Waldorf said something important. "Remember that you are representing everyone in town, including those who don't pay attention."

Students at this University have a lot of competing interests for their time -- and following town politics isn't high on their list. Whether it be development plans or noise ordinances, officials must keep their interests in mind.

As Mayor Foy begins his term, it's important he remember that students at UNC are not Chapel Hill's adversaries.

They are 24,000 of his constituents.

Columnist Jonathan Chaney can be reached at jhchaney@email.unc.edu.

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