BY Molly Horak
Racial bias in police, school fees discussed at Chapel Hill Town Council meeting
The Chapel Hill Town Council discussed efforts to reduce bias in policing as well as several petitions and other items Monday night.
The meeting opened with an update after Hurricane Matthew from Barry McLamb, emergency management coordinator for the town of Chapel Hill. An emergency operations center was opened on Saturday, and crews worked to remove downed trees, clear roads and restore power lines.
Chapel Hill Town Council Member Michael Parker brought the council a petition in support of a $120 million bond for school repair across Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools and Orange County schools and a $5 million bond to create affordable housing in the county.
After several community members spoke in favor of the bond, the town council voted seven to one to pass a resolution supporting it.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue presented new efforts to reduce racial police bias. Initiatives such as quarterly reports of traffic stops for the town council, mandatory written consent-to-search forms in traffic stops, dashboard and body cameras on officers and mandatory racial equity training for all officers will be introduced.
“Our officers take pride in their work, and they genuinely believe in what they do," Blue said. "Right now, there is no book on how to do this work to inform us."
More than 10 members of the community spoke in favor of the efforts. Blue said the larger community discussion needs to continue.
“We’ve been considering these issues and working on them for some time now, because we care about it and how the discussion is styled,” Blue said. “In the last few months, I’ve received a lot more calls and emails from people in our community who want to know what policing is doing and talking about racial issues in the community.”
The motion to continue efforts to address racial bias in policing was passed unanimously by the council.
Orange County Planning Director Craig Benedict then gave a presentation on school impact fees, suggesting an amendment to the fees that would affect new residential development and help finance the cost of adding capacity to schools.
Chapel Hill Town Council Member Nancy Oates said the focus needed to be on the affordable housing element.
“There are factors that push up the cost of housing, and we do need to be very intentional about creating places for people who hold low-income jobs to have a place to live,” she said.
The final item of the night was a public hearing for a proposed economic development incentive agreement for Carraway Village on Eubanks Road.
Dwight Bassett, the town economic development officer, presented plans for multi-family apartments, affordable housing and commercial space for the property, as well as a grant from the town to support roadway improvements.
After much debate and changes suggested by the town’s lawyer, the town council passed a motion under the conditions that affordable housing be completed within the next 10 years or land would be transferred back to the town and that there is at least 8,000 square feet of commercial floor area.
“This is really confusing and hard to follow,” said Jessica Anderson, a Chapel Hill Town Council member.
The town of Chapel Hill issued a proclamation stating that October is Cyber Awareness Security Month.
“Saturday morning it was raining cats and dogs, and it wasn’t supposed to be raining cats and dogs,” McLamb said in response to the heavy rain on Saturday.
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