At a Carrboro Town Council meeting on Tuesday, three individuals draped in red, with only their white-painted faces visible, filed into the council chamber. The room quieted and the individuals handed out purple flowers, first to the town council and then to the audience.
They were the Red Rebels, the performative activist group seen at demonstrations worldwide alongside the Extinction Rebellion movement, and they were there to make a statement about climate action.
The Carrboro Town Council opened the floor to speakers from the audience to discuss its potential 10-year Annual Climate Emergency Budget Proposal.
Before the entrance of the Red Rebels, Laura Janway, the Town’s environmental planner, gave a report on a possible 10-year annual climate emergency budget, which would fund various projects and efforts to combat climate change locally.
Carrboro is the only jurisdiction in Orange County to have adopted a climate action plan. The Town has adopted two — the Energy and Climate Protection Plan, which is the municipal plan, and the Community Climate Action Plan, which focuses on engaging the community to take steps to lower emissions and reduce waste. The core goal of the CCAP is to reduce Carrboro’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, compared to emissions in 2012.
The proposed budget totals more than $204 million over 10 years. The current annual general fund budget of Carrboro is $25 million — 60 percent of which accounts for staff and administrative costs. To add an additional $20.4 million each year would require nearly doubling taxes in the Town.
“It’s really hard to imagine us doubling our tax, that people would be okay with that,” council member Sammy Slade said. “They prefer the end of the world.”
Slade said for many items on the budget, Carrboro typically matches 20 percent of the cost, receiving 80 percent of the funding from federal and state partners. He stressed the importance of 2020 as an election year, saying the results of state and federal elections will determine whether or not the budget proposal could be manageable.
The council opened the floor to a long line of speakers from the audience, all of whom agreed on one thing — action on the climate emergency is essential.