The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 20th

Editorial: 2021 showed progress is possible in Orange County

Melissa McCullough, co-chair of the precinct for the Orange County Democratic Party, waits to speak with voters outside Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2021.
Buy Photos Melissa McCullough, co-chair of the precinct for the Orange County Democratic Party, waits to speak with voters outside Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2021.

From electing diverse, prominent community leaders to new developments creating housing and resources for residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, this year was defined by a slow, yet definitive march toward progress.

Elections and local politics

Orange County elected progressive new candidates in its municipal elections, including former secretary of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Paris Miller-Foushee and former Community Home Trust President Camille Berry to the Chapel Hill Town Council along with Democratic Socialist Danny Nowell in Carrboro. These new candidates, along with the elected incumbents, will bring fresh ideas to their respective local governments and help bolster our community efforts toward affordable housing and sustainability.

While the newcomers offer fresh faces and new ideas, 2021 also saw staples of our political scene announce their retirement. U.S. House Rep. David Price, D-N.C., who has represented Orange County in Congress on and off for nearly 30 years, announced his retirement in October. Longtime Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, also announced she would not seek reelection in 2022.

We have already seen several young progressives announce their bids to fill these seats, and perhaps a new public official offers opportunity, but the legacies of these longtime representatives will certainly be missed by many throughout Orange County.

Development and housing

Along with new candidates, the approval of several local development projects also aided in the affordability effort this past year, including Aura Chapel Hill and 2200 Homestead Road. Both of these projects will bring more housing units to a town in desperate need for increased housing supply and affordability.

Development in Orange County this year was about more than just housing. There was also progress made on the major redesign of East Rosemary Street and the 203 Project in Carrboro. Both projects have promised community amenities such as pocket parks on East Rosemary and a long-desired community library in Carrboro. While both are far from completion, construction and continued development throughout the area are indicators of long-term economic viability.

Social justice

No moment was the slow arc of justice more prevalent this year than in late September, when Chapel Hill Police revealed a 28-year-old suspect was arrested and charged in the murder of Faith Hedgepeth, who was found beaten to death on Sept. 7, 2012. It was a moment friends and family of Hedgepeth had waited nine years to hear, but it was also indicative of how long the fight for justice can be, even in our own community.

We also saw the importance of education in the fight for social justice. Even as legislators in Raleigh failed to meet the needs of K-12 students by not funding the Leandro Plan in the new state budget, educators took matters into their own hands to create equity in Orange County. For example, Orange County Schools created an honors Native American studies course at the high school level. North Carolina Central University also launched an initiative to increase Black male teachers in the classroom.

These education initiatives, along with efforts from individual teachers to enhance learning in our schools proved the necessity of implementing the type of schooling marginalized communities have long advocated for.

So as we move into 2022, let’s not forget about the moments of this past year that will define our community for years to come. Those coming and those leaving the local political scene, the developments that will become destinations of our towns and most importantly the long struggle towards social justice cannot be forgotten.

@dthopinion

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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