Candidates for the District 1 and at-large seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners gathered at the Lake Hogan Farms Club House to answer questions from the public.
Candidates for District 1 include incumbents Penny Rich and Mark Dorosin and challengers Jamezetta Bedford and Gary Kahn. Matt Hughes, Mark Marcoplos and Andy Cagle are running for commissioner-at-large.
Mary Bushnell, a teacher from the area who is a member of the Democratic Women’s group, moderated the forum. The group co-hosted the event with the Orange County Democratic Party. Bushnell asked questions written by the audience, and every candidate was given one minute to respond.
The first question asked candidates to name their top three spending priorities if elected. The answers were almost entirely a combination of education, infrastructure, affordable housing, economic development and tax base diversification.
“Well, I want to start with how we’re being defunded by the General Assembly, not just in schools but our social services, our environment,” Rich said. “The General Assembly wants our schools to fail. As commissioners we can not allow that to happen.”
Kahn, a former Republican candidate who switched back to the Democratic Party and ran for mayor of Chapel Hill in 2015, said he wanted to work on the current budget.
“We should work with the budget we got, and shouldn’t raise property taxes,” he said. Kahn did not offer a second or third priority.
Marcoplos said he wants to accelerate the creation of more affordable housing.
“I was instrumental in getting some of the bond payment into affordable housing," Marcoplos said.
The candidates were also asked questions concerning an ordinance about the construction of gun ranges on public property, their thoughts on another raise in property taxes, the idea to merge the school systems of Orange County and their beliefs in sustainability.
There will be another forum this Monday for commissioner candidates, hosted by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA Council.
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