On July 14 I filed for reelection to the Town Council of Chapel Hill. I have worked very hard on the Town Council for the last four years and have the experience and knowledge necessary to keep the Town in good fiscal shape as we continue to face the challenges of our economy. I will continue to provide leadership on this council and seek to represent all in our community, with no particular interest group weighing in more heavily than any other. Many different people and many different groups have many different ideas, and I want to listen to all of them. I care very deeply about this Town, its history, its charm, and its place in the world. As a mom of two young girls, I want Chapel Hill to continue to be an environment in which they can thrive, learn, love and play, and pass on their love of their hometown to their children. That’s my bottom line.
BALANCE AND EXPERIENCE IS THE THEME OF MY CAMPAIGN
• The key to growth in Town, fiscal equity issues, working with the University, transportation choices throughout Town, protection of the environment in light of development, commercial versus residential tax base, police presence and protection, and a solid Town budget reflecting our values and providing needed services, and more items too numerous to list here, is BALANCE. Experience absolutely matters to understand the recent past as we look to the future.
• These economic times demand an experienced leader on the Council who is able to draw from that experience the tools necessary to move the Council forward in its balanced goals that are reiterated in every single business meeting agenda: Stewarding Organizational Development; being a Champion of Downtown; Continuing Focus on Land Use, Transit and Development; Maintaining and Improving Community Facilities and Services; Improving the Town’s Fiscal Condition; Planning ahead for Carolina North.
• Overall, my experience of four years on the Town Council, and before that, two years on the Transportation Board and other advisory boards, lends itself to understanding the BALANCE that our Town must constantly achieve in keeping it a great place to live.
CONTINUED PROTECTION OF NEIGHBORHOODS:
• I will monitor the initial years of Carolina North’s Development Agreement implementation and more specifically ensure that the traffic impacts of the development are mitigated per the Agreement. I worked very hard to make sure that traffic improvements are made prior to building occupancy, so we don’t suffer clogged intersections and traffic cutting through neighborhoods as development progresses. I have literally spent years working with the University and Town on how to best absorb Carolina North, with neighborhoods always at the forefront of my mind.
• As redevelopment occurs in Town, I will ensure that neighborhoods do not suffer (increased traffic, lighting, noise, etc.) in the name of mixed use or denser development along major corridors.
• My belief is that if a development has a certain intensity (like East 54), that areas surrounding that development are either natural open spaces or less intense with significant amounts of trees and natural areas. For more on this subject visit http://www.laurineasthom.wordpress.com under the heading “Is it Smart to Become More Dense?”
CONTINUE TO ENSURE TOWN’S FISCAL CONDITION IMPROVES IN TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES
• This past budget approval process for tax year 2009-10 was quite a challenge in this bad economic environment. However, I was able to ensure that unlike many other governments across the nation (including our own state government), the Town had no employees furloughed or laid off; we enjoyed the openings of huge capital projects like Southern Community Park and the Homestead Aquatic Center; we did not reduce our basic services, ALL with absolutely NO TAX INCREASE as we weathered the financial storm. We also expect to retain our AAA bond rating.
• How did we do the above? Curbed spending, saved money, streamlined government processes internally to increase efficiency.
• Could we do better? YES. Do we remain challenged in the coming years to keep our same services and look to a higher living wage for our employees? YES. But this past year we showed what we are capable of as we develop a strategic financial plan for the future.
CHAPEL HILL PUBLIC LIBRARY
• The taxpayers of Chapel Hill should no longer continue to disproportionately subsidize the operating expenses of the Chapel Hill Public Library. 40% of the users of our library do not live in Town or pay taxes to pay for the library. This is fiscally inequitable and simply not fair overall.
• I have a plan to ensure that Chapel Hill taxpayers do not have to continue to bear this burden and have others that use our Library pay their fair share.
• I have endorsed the Streetscape Master Plan which has finally come to fruition. Work will begin to provide better lighting overall, aesthetically pleasing mini-parks (two pilot projects to begin shortly), public art, interesting raised crosswalks, and other improvements to increase the downtown’s “curb appeal” and “feel.” I am excited and energized about what this plan can do for our Downtown and good things are coming to Chapel Hill’s downtown!
• I worked very hard for a way to increase communication between our Downtown business owners and the Town Council for accountability on solutions to problems within the Council’s control. As a result, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is now providing quarterly reports at Town Council business meetings to discuss these issues and report on suggestions for council involvement and an update on progress that has been made on previously reported issues. We all want Downtown to thrive, and it can if we all work together to make it happen.
RECOGNITION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION IN OUR TOWN
• Whereas the public school system is not within the Town Council’s purview, I recognize and respect the community values we have for being home to the best educational system in the State. That goes for elementary, middle, high schools and our University. So many people are attracted to our town and want to live here for the excellent schools and education. I never forget those values when I make decisions on the Town Council.
THE BEAUTIFUL ENVIRONMENT OF CHAPEL HILL
• One of my most important values that I hold in my life and in making decisions on the Town Council is how will x,y,z affect our environment. A beautiful and sustainable environment is what I can leave my children that will enhance their quality of life.
• One of my efforts to protect the environment this past year led all the way to a Bill before the House in the General Assembly. I worked with Duke Energy to have them agree to not spray herbicides in their easements within the Town of Chapel Hill. I convinced this large corporation that the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Chapel Hill and our environment was more important than their cutting costs and lack of oversight in their vegetative management program.
• I am working towards a program that is similar to a Champion Trees Program in some cities where large or special trees are nominated and given a special designation that would allow them to obtain a GIS coordinate and permanent protection for their location.
AFFORDABLE OR WORK FORCE HOUSING GOALS
• As council liaison to the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust, I have worked very closely with the organization to achieve its goals of permanent affordable housing for our community. I understand the financial challenges the organization faces and what that means for continuing to be the main provider for affordable housing here. I also convinced the council that having the flexibility to accept payments in lieu of affordable and difficult-to-resell condos was the right way to go to ensure the financial success and continued service this nonprofit provides.
• I strongly believe that more of our Town employees should have the ability to live here in Town, and hope in the next budget cycle that the Town will move to increase its hourly living wage.
THERE ARE MORE ISSUES TO DISCUSS DURING THE CAMPAIGN AND I LOOK FORWARD TO DOING SO. I ENTER THE RACE WITH THE DESIRE TO WORK VERY HARD FOR THE PEOPLE OF CHAPEL HILL AS I HAVE DONE IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS.