Newcomers Paris Miller-Foushee, Camille Berry and Vimala Rajendran recently announced their run for Chapel Hill Town Council, joining incumbent Karen Stegman in vying for the four open seats on the Council.
Paris Miller-Foushee said she has lived in the Northside Neighborhood for over 20 years and is raising her son with her husband Gerald in their family's ancestral home in the historic neighborhood.
She said she believes in the importance of purpose-built communities and setting long-term goals for healthy, thriving neighborhoods and developments that have centers of opportunity.
“We need an intentional approach to equity and development steeped in history, inclusion, and culture,” Miller-Foushee said. “We have to look beyond just building housing, but instead building communities that address people's needs."
She wants mixed-income, affordable housing and essential services in Chapel Hill, she said, in addition to community centers, health care and transit. She said these efforts must be done in a way that addresses both racial equity and preserving the environment.
Pavani Peri, a 2020 UNC graduate and Miller-Foushee’s campaign manager, said Miller-Foushee noticed gentrification, beautification and increased taxation in Chapel Hill, which inspired her run for Town Council.
“She wants to make sure environments are not just about rich people being able to bike from place to place, but about people in our community really having the green space and the resources they need to grow families,” Peri said.
Peri said Miller-Foushee aims to create affordable housing and make room for businesses to come to Chapel Hill so that young people, parents, people of color and entrepreneurs can afford to live, work and play here.
Camille Berry said she experienced housing insecurity shortly after she separated from her former husband, and she wants more voices from that perspective to be amplified.
She has worked with Community Home Trust, which addresses housing insecurity to strengthen the community with affordable housing opportunities, she said.
“This community is so special for a number of reasons, and there are three that I really appreciate,” Berry said.
First, she said the community has a universal desire to increase the availability of affordable housing.
Berry secondly said small business is very important to Chapel Hill, and she enjoys supporting these businesses. She said she wants to look at how creative locals can be in supporting these business owners in the future.
Lastly, Berry values green space, she said, because she started walking daily during the pandemic and visited most of the greenways and greenway trails in town.
Berry volunteers with multiple organizations in the community, including Hope Renovations, which empowers women to pursue living-wages jobs in construction trades.
"Construction is an opportunity for women to pursue something that historically has not been open to them," she said.
Jaimie Lee, a Community Home Trust homeowner and small business owner in Chapel Hill, said Berry is deeply passionate about the Chapel Hill community.
Lee said Berry is well-known around town and establishes important relationships with locals.
“She's not afraid to go out there and raise awareness and raise energy going towards a certain cause or mission, so I think those are the ingredients you would need to have in any type of leadership," Lee said.
Vimala Rajendran said she has lived in Chapel Hill for 36 years. She said she founded Vimala’s Curryblossom Café after 18 years of hosting a community dinner out of her living room in Chapel Hill that eventually outgrew its space.
Rajendran said she is running for public office because civic engagement is her calling, and she has served as a leader in the community for years.
“I want to be a voice for small businesses, for downtown revitalization, restorative racial justice, inclusion and diversity," she said. "I believe in livable wages for all workers, and I've set an example for 11 years as a successful business paying living wages.”
Faisal Khan, Rajendran’s campaign manager, said the entrepreneur places deep emphasis on community service, inclusion, diversity and racial equity. He also said she has worked to help refugees and immigrants coming to Chapel Hill.
“She's been supported heavily by Congress for the enterprise – she was very much in support of the Care Act, and she spoke to President Biden about this and concerns and how he was focused," Khan said.
Rajendran said national chains continue to establish themselves in Chapel Hill, and small businesses are closing down, especially those owned by people of color, which she wants to work to change.
She said she hopes to be a voice for all people, especially disadvantaged communities.
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