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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: The Editorial Board's endorsements for the 2023 municipal elections

opinion-municipal-elections-endorsements-2023
Photos courtesy of Theodore Nollert, Jess Anderson, Grant Lyerly, Jon Mitchell, Eliazar Posada, Amy Ryan, Catherine Fray, Jason Merrill, Barbara Foushee and Adobe Stock.

This November, voters will choose their municipal representatives in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The Editorial Board, composed of 15 undergraduate students, has made its endorsements for the upcoming mayoral and town council elections. 

A large part of this election has seemed characterized by tensions such as a potentially illegal candidate forum and PAC interference.

The Editorial Board strove to look past this as we began the endorsement process. The board came together and decided on the policy interests that we felt were important to us and the greater Chapel Hill and Carrboro community, including:

  • Affordable housing
  • Sustainability 
  • Transit
  • Collaboration with UNC
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion

We reached out to all candidates for interviews, and based our questions on candidates' policy plans in regard to those issues. We held interviews with candidates who were able to speak with us and researched the platforms of those who were unable to be interviewed. Whether or not a candidate was able to interview had no influence on our endorsement decisions. 

After careful consideration of this year’s pool of candidates, we decided on those who we felt would make strong officials to represent the community. 

The pool of candidates for this election has shown the dedication people have to serving our community. Through our interviews, it became apparent that many candidates seemed to hold similar values and proposed comparable solutions to issues such as affordable housing and transit. With this in mind, we are confident that the candidates we have chosen will best serve the interests of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

We encourage voters to do their own research on all of the candidates before heading to the polls on Nov. 7 or before. Early voting began on Oct. 19 in Hillsborough, and Chapel Hill and Carrboro early voting locations open on Oct. 26. Voting ends on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. 

Chapel Hill Mayor

Candidates: Jess Anderson, Adam Searing

Jess Anderson 

Jess Anderson has had a formidable tenure on the town council, where, among other successes, her leadership was key to the adoption of the Complete Community Strategy, which Anderson envisioned to include introducing diverse housing types and access to shopping and job opportunities without car use. 

In addition, given her career as a professional policy analyst and position as a professor in UNC’s Department of Public Policy, we feel that Anderson is well-qualified and prepared to lead public policy in a mayoral position. 

Anderson also spoke of collaboration with the board as a whole and wants to work with every player possible, including the University, to combat real town issues. She doesn’t believe in “people or environment,” but rather a solution that promotes positive outcomes for both. 

We particularly favored her attitude surrounding affordable housing. She acknowledged the discriminatory practices around Chapel Hill’s “legacy of redlining” and how they led to high prices which drove specific demographics out of town. She said when looking for solutions, she was not willing to just say no to ideas because of fears of change or being scared of people "who maybe don't look like us living near and with us.” We thought this was a sentiment that embodied exactly the kind of leadership this Town needs. 

Chapel Hill Town Council

Candidates: Theodore Nollert, Erik Valera, Jon Mitchell, Amy Ryan, David Adams, Breckany Teal Eckhardt, Jeffrey Hoagland, Melissa McCullough, Renuka Soll.

Theodore Nollert 

As a Chapel Hill Planning Commissioner and former UNC Graduate and Professional Student Government president, Theodore Nollert seeks to bring a young, insightful perspective to the council that promises to champion small businesses, affordable housing and transit. Nollert looks upon the UNC community and its students as an asset, not a scourge, and will be a much-needed advocate for young renters in the town. Nollert’s experience as a graduate student leader at UNC, with successes like achieving a pay raise for graduate students, also makes him the best liaison for working with the University.  

Erik Valera

With two decades in nonprofit management, community leadership, and public health, Valera brings a diversity-focused viewpoint to the table. A second-generation immigrant of Cuban and Mexican descent, Valera served as the COO of El Centro Hispano, the oldest Latino organization in North Carolina, as well as on Governor Roy Cooper’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino affairs and Chapel Hill’s Town Planning Commission. Valera plans to make inclusion a cornerstone factor in considering in any and all decisions, connecting the community by prioritizing art and culture and eliminating structural inequalities. 

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Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell emphasizes the alignment of Chapel Hill’s growth with the values of livability, affordability and environmental sustainability. He contends to take a measured approach to development that puts ideas into action, which is shown through his stated commitment to implement the Complete Community framework. Mitchell has also served as the chair of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission, giving him valuable experience in local government and making him suitable to be part of addressing the issues of affordable housing and sustainable development. We appreciated his discussion of historically discriminatory practices associated with single-family rezoning in our interview and hope he will bring similar nuanced insights to discussions of development and housing if elected to council.

Amy Ryan

As the only town council member running for re-election, Amy Ryan adds a level of experience to the ballot that other candidates do not offer. While we do not agree with Ryan’s vote against the Housing Choices text amendment, we believe that she will still work to address the issue of affordable housing, as evidenced by the record 435 units of affordable housing that Ryan helped to create and preserve during her time on the town council. Ryan has also had a hand in increasing park and greenway funding and adopting the Complete Community framework, which demonstrates her involvement in a wide breadth of issues.

Carrboro Mayor

Candidates: Barbara Foushee

Barbara Foushee 

While Barbara Foushee is running unopposed, we felt we should still voice our support for her mayorship. With her long-standing commitment to public service both on the Carrboro Town Council and through community organizations such as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Foushee brings years of experience that will help her lead Carrboro towards goals of housing affordability, community safety, equitable transportation, and sustainable development. 

Carrboro Town Council

Candidates: Catherine Fray, Jason Merrill, April Mills, Eliazar Posada, Stephanie Wade. 

Eliazar Posada 

As a Carrboro Town Council incumbent, Eliazar Posada has already demonstrated his commitment to creating a more diverse and equitable community by improving funding for affordable housing, implementing a language equity plan and supporting Carrboro Connects, Carrboro’s comprehensive plan. In addition to his experience in the Carrboro municipal government, his work as the acting president and CEO of El Centro Hispano, a nonprofit that aims to increase engagement and representation of the Hispanic and Latino community, further shows his dedication towards advocacy for underrepresented communities. 

Catherine Fray 

Fray has over a decade of experience on the Carrboro Planning Board, which makes them a great candidate to help further address issues of affordable housing and sustainability. Their platform includes initiatives such as revising the land use ordinance, strengthening stormwater infrastructure, and improving diversity in community engagement, such as representation on the town’s advisory boards. Given their expertise and these specific goals, Fray is a knowledgeable candidate who will help lead the town council in effectively addressing specific issues.

Jason Merrill 

While the Editorial Board did not feel as strongly about a third choice for Carrboro Town Council, we felt that Jason Merrill’s platform aligned the closest to what we were looking for in a third candidate. Merrill’s background as a small business owner and six-year member of Chapel Hill Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board will bring insights about the needs of local businesses and municipal government functions to the table. In addition, Merrill’s support for multimodal transportation and equitable community engagement through the Comprehensive Plan, are two priorities we can get behind.  

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com