The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill community organizations hold Town Council and mayoral races forum for debate

A Chapel Hill Transit bus driver buckles their seat belt on Sept. 15, 2021. The candidates at the forum agreed that something needed to be done about problems with the Chapel Hill Transit system.

Community organizations held a Chapel Hill mayoral and Chapel Hill Town Council candidate forum on Sept. 19. at Binkley Baptist Church.

The forum aimed to provide voters with insight into candidates’ positions on local issues such as affordable housing. 

Community Empowerment Fund Executive Director Donna Carrington served as the moderator for the forum. She asked candidates questions about their perspectives on transit equity and affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

“You will notice a theme of equity throughout — because it is the most vulnerable and underserved populations among us [who] are the most susceptible to its impacts,” she said.

Many candidates agreed that something needed to be done about community affordability, issues associated with urban sprawl and problems with the Chapel Hill Transit system. However, they disagreed over the implementation of policy. 

Jeffrey Hoagland, who is running for Town Council, suggested bringing in outside ideas, and believed that Chapel Hill would benefit from a plan similar to the strategy used in Salt Lake City to provide homes. 

Town Council candidate David Adams said that Chapel Hill should consider Wake County’s hotel strategy, in which the town has converted motels into affordable housing. 

Breckany Eckhardt, another Town Council candidate, said it is important to rely on local ideas and work with experts at UNC.

“Why can’t we use local talents such as UNC to help us build and design where needed?” Eckhardt said.

Delores Bailey, the executive director of EmPOWERment, Inc. said she does not think UNC takes the responsibility that it should regarding housing. 

“We have employees that work for the University who cannot afford to live in this city — not even in Orange County,” she said.

In June of this year, the Chapel Hill Town Council enacted the Land Use Management Ordinance Text Amendments. The amendments were designed to increase the opportunity to build various types of housing. Every candidate at the forum agreed that it “doesn’t do enough” or that the ordinance “needs work”

Candidates, community members and organization representatives alike emphasized the need for Chapel Hill to be a safe and walkable community. 

Town Council candidate Jon Mitchell said the Town should create “complete neighborhoods,” which he described as walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with a variety of housing choices. He said that in a complete neighborhood, residents can meet a lot of their daily needs within the walkshed. 

Other suggestions made during the forum were to enforce speed limits to promote safety, improve sidewalks throughout the town and create a new greenway system. 

“We’ve advocated for getting those [greenways] connected across all our communities so we can bike and walk to all different places and kids can get safely to school,” said Allison De Marco, a representative of NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro. 

The candidates also spoke about campaign finance during the forum. When moderating the forum, Carrington said there have been reports of an unprecedented flow of money in this election from political action committees adding up to $120,000.

She said that this outside influence would decrease the voices of marginalized communities in Chapel Hill politics. 

Every candidate at the forum said that they either didn’t take donations or that the only money they received was from door-to-door campaigning. 

“Our campaign can’t and won’t coordinate with these groups in any way," mayoral candidate Adam Searing said. "We will not take money from them. We will not work with them. That is the bottom line."

Chapel Hill municipal elections will take place on Nov. 7. Bailey said community members should come and hear from their potential representatives in more forums.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

“People need to come out to as many forums as they can make,” she said. “That's the only way you’re going to find out about these candidates.”

@DTHCityState |

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023

More in Chapel Hill

More in City & County

More in The OC Report

More in City & State