Of the nine members of the Chapel Hill Town Council, including Mayor Pam Hemminger, seven of nine have been endorsed by CHALT — the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town. But who — or what — exactly is CHALT?
CHALT is a progressive grassroots organization founded in 2014 by over 75 Chapel Hill residents interested in creating what they consider to be a livable future for the Town. It runs a newsletter with 2,000 subscribers and engages in community outreach and education.
“We began a group who wanted to set out some goals for the Town because we didn’t feel that our elected leaders — we’d worked really hard on various town issues and felt that our elected leaders weren’t being responsive,” said Julie McClintock, a member of CHALT who was present at the organization’s founding.
McClintock, a former Town Council member herself, said in the years before the founding, many Chapel Hill residents felt they were not being heard in regards to development projects like the Obey Creek Development Agreement, the Central West Small Area Plan and the Ephesus Fordham, now known as the Blue Hill district, development.
Del Snow, another founding member and a former member of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission, said the organization grew out of a concern for development projects they did not see as logical.
In the 2015 Town elections, CHALT endorsed council candidates Nancy Oates, Jessica Anderson and David Schwartz, as well as Pam Hemminger in the race for mayor. Oates, Anderson and Hemminger all won their seats. In 2017, CHALT endorsed four more candidates who won seats: Hongbin Gu, Allen Buansi, Rachel Schaevitz and Karen Stegman.
Snow said in the past, endorsements for candidates have come after CHALT separately interviewed each candidate and made decisions based on the qualities in an endorsed candidate that members share, which include commitment to the environment and affordable housing, as well as commitment to using facts and data in decision-making.
Snow said CHALT endorsements contribute to candidates’ successful elections.
“You know, you just have to look at who’s been elected and pretty much mostly CHALT-endorsed candidates have been elected,” she said. “They’re not CHALT candidates, these are people who have their own minds and they’re not beholden to us at all. But that’s why we ask, you know, thorough questions to make sure that people have similar concepts that we have. We’re very much based on using fact in making decisions as opposed to things that just sound good.”