Editorial: The Editorial Board's endorsement for Chapel Hill Mayor
The Daily Tar Heel's Editorial Board is endorsing Pam Hemminger for Mayor. She performed well on nearly every issue we evaluated her on, and we believe Chapel Hill would do well to elect her to another term.
Pam Hemminger: A
Affordable housing: A-
Hemminger said the Town is committed to building 400 units of new affordable housing and rehabilitating 300 units of existing housing over the next five years. She emphasized the importance of working with community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity in order to stretch and leverage the Town’s dollars. She said the Town will continue to donate unused parcels when possible to reduce the cost of building affordable housing.
Supporting marginalized communities: A
Hemminger understands the need to reach into marginalized communities to connect them with local government. She recognizes the lack of trust between certain marginalized groups and the Town and is actively working to repair that. Hemminger hopes the Town will continue its practice of implementing family restrooms (effectively gender-neutral restrooms, which are technically prohibited by state law) in town facilities, participating in the Building Integrated Communities project and connecting residents to the town through the Peoples Academy.
Quotable: “Embracing (diversity) and learning from it and including those voices at the table. That means we have to communicate and go and reach them where they are instead of waiting for them to come back through our formal process.”
Incorporating student interests: A
Hemminger understands there is a significant disconnect between the Town and its student population, and is working to overcome that by improving accessibility, particularly when it comes to voting. She hopes to encourage more students to join advisory boards, but also understands the importance of reaching in to the student body to hear their thoughts.
Sustainable development: A-
Hemminger says environment is her “schtick” — and we agree. She pointed to the Town’s new website, Sustainable Chapel Hill, as a plan for how the Town intends to address climate change moving forward. While Hemminger is determined to make town-owned infrastructure more environmentally friendly, Hemminger said the Town needs to encourage residents to do their part, too. Also notable was Hemminger’s commitment to diversifying the tax base so Chapel Hill can have a more sustainable source of revenue in the long term.
Quotable: “Chapel Hill's facilities are only 2 percent of the pie. So even if we do everything absolutely right on all of our facilities here, and went completely renewable energy, it doesn't shift the needle much.”
Hemminger believes the best way to keep residents safe is to improve the lighting downtown and increase the number of feet on the street (police). She has also sought feedback from the community — including students who live in Shortbread Lofts — about where they don’t feel safe. When it comes to Confederate protests, Hemminger believes the best strategy is to contain the protesters as much as possible to keep the situation from escalating.
Quotable: “We absolutely respect the right of free speech — but that doesn't mean hate speech.”
Josh Levenson: B+
Affordable housing: B+
Levenson intends to curb the destruction of existing affordable housing by focusing on inclusionary zoning. Levenson said he would like to see more housing targeted at people making 40 to 50 percent of area median income. He also wants to see more energy-efficient and space-efficient housing by increasing density along public transportation corridors. Specifically, Levenson supports tiny homes and building taller residential buildings in certain cases.
Supporting marginalized communities: C+
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While Levenson seems to care about minority residents, he doesn’t fully grasp the importance of reaching into diverse communities to make sure their needs are fully met. Levenson did point to higher wages, language assistance and special liaisons as potential policies, but failed to outline specific plans that acknowledge the differences between minority groups and lead to action.
Incorporating student interests: A-
Levenson wants to make local government more accessible to students. He supports paying members of advisory boards to hopefully increase the number of students and low-income residents serving on these boards. He also proposed holding some Town Council meetings on campus to make it easier for students to attend.
Quotable: “I hope they come to see Chapel Hill as a place that they would even be interested in continuing to stay after university or coming to later.”
Sustainable development: A
We think this is where Levenson performs the strongest. Though his desire to disincentivize parking downtown might not be in the Town’s best interest, Levenson is committed to alternative methods of transportation such as bus rapid transit and electric bikes and scooters. Levenson also wants to preserve green spaces around town and transition to more energy-efficient infrastructure that will reduce carbon emissions.
Quotable: “All of these things together — the bus rapid transit, protected bike lanes, electric alternative scooter solutions to find that last mile — could work together really well to nurture a more bikeable, walkable, alternative transportation focus.”
Levenson supports a zero-tolerance policy for weapons at protests. We like that Levenson acknowledged that the police aren’t always the “most effective direct way to increase student safety in the context of a protest” — he pointed to community policing as a potential solution. However, his response to recent incidents in town and policy responses weren't particularly robust, which is why his grade isn’t as high as it could be.