THANK YOU TO CITIZENS OF CHAPEL HILL

2008(2) 016I am glad to announce my re-election to the Chapel Hill Town Council for another four years, and to thank all of those who voted for me and encouraged me to run again. I am so grateful to the thousands of people who live here and took the time to vote, and vote for me!

Congratulations also to Penny Rich, who worked so very hard to get elected and proved that not only could she win a race, but be the first to have successfully used the first Voter Owned Elections program as a Council Candidate. Congratulations also to Ed Harrison and Gene Pease for their wins, and I look forward to serving with them.

I really appreciate all of the people who worked with me during the campaign and especially my campaign manager Rob Koontz and my treasurer Charlie Lancaster. Charlie worked hard for me in keeping my decimals in the right place 🙂 and getting my reports done on time. I know how wonderful his work has been…… whenever I have been in the Board of Elections office, they all know him and speak so glowingly of him!! He is the best. There were many people who worked throughout the community to get the vote out and let people know about my platform and experience, and I really appreciate all of that. Thank you also to those that officially endorsed me: The Sierra Club, The Independent, and the Anderson-Thorpe Breakfast club. I am truly honored to have received those endorsements.

I consider myself really lucky. The candidates all put forth great efforts, and truly the town would be served well by any of them. Each candidate brought forward a unique set of strengths and world view (or Chapel Hill view). The common theme was that everyone wanted very much to spend four years working on behalf of the community. I think that’s a noble pursuit, in and of itself.

I have had so many people congratulate me after the fact, and that has really been nice.
I look forward to the upcoming challenges, and believe me, they will be tough ones. I’m ready.
Keep up with this website for more posts than I have usually done, and my feelings on what is happening in town.

THE ANDERSON-THORPE BREAKFAST CLUB ENDORSEMENT

2008(2) 016I am thrilled to report that I have received the Hank Anderson-Bill Thorpe Breakfast Club Endorsement! This endorsement is very meaningful to me.

Here is a history of the Club as they have written:
“The Anderson-Thorpe Breakfast Club was founded by Hank Anderson, the first Black Recreation Department Director in the South in the 1970’s to help analyze and remedy the issues faced by African-Americans in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro communities. After Hank’s death, Bill Thorpe, who served on the Chapel Hill Town Council until his death in 2008, led the Club. The Breakfast Club spearheaded efforts to name Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, and to improve the pay and working conditions of African-American and Latino employees at the University, hospital, schools and municipalities. The Breakfast Club’s political agenda is a progressive and inclusive agenda that supports the State NAACP’s 14-point agenda, with particular emphasis on justice for young people in our schools, fairness in employment and housing, and dismantling institutionalized racism.”

Congratulations also to fellow council colleague Jim Merritt, Ed Harrison, and candidate Will Raymond! Also congratulations to Mark Kleinshmidt for the endorsement for Mayor.

Bill Thorpe and I ran for council together in 2005 and I greatly miss him, especially during these times that he loved probably the most, the campaign. While serving on council, he and I would get together for lunch and we would have lengthy discussions of the politics of the day, in addition to whatever else was showing up on our agenda. He would frequently tell me that I was “coming along” as a newcomer to Chapel Hill politics, and that I was doing a great job, BUT! I was still learning and he would give me whatever advice he had that day. He was a great mentor, friend, and above all else he had such a genuine concern and love for this town. We sat beside each other for most of the time we served together on council, and we had a good many offline discussions as a result, too. For the time that I served with him and got to really know him personally I garnered a feel for what he might be thinking about something and have been influenced every since. I believe that is what good mentors do….they educate, and they leave their mark. Bill left me with an extreme sensitivity and understanding to the issues facing the local African-American community. If I am elected again, I hope to remember Bill with my work for the issues that he cared most about.

Thank you again to the Anderson-Thorpe Breakfast Club for their endorsement.

INDY ENDORSEMENT

2008(2) 016I am very very happy to report that I have received the INDY endorsement! This endorsement historically has been very highly coveted by candidates, along with the Sierra Club’s, and I am truly humbled and happy that they have endorsed me.

I am also flattered and grateful for their statement about me: ” Laurin Easthom was the top vote-getter in 2005, and she has done nothing to dissuade us from supporting her since. She is a strong advocate for neighborhoods, and her well-reasoned, experienced approach is an asset. ”

That’s a lot to live up to! but I aim to do the same. The way I approach issues about town is not going to change, but I recognize that times are changing. As an experienced council member, I will have the historical perspective, institutional knowledge, and established relationships that will allow the Town to weather the storms (whatever they may be), allow growth in a reasonable manner, aesthetically increase our commercial tax base, protect neighborhoods, and protect and covet our natural environment. From where I would like to sit for the next four years, I would like to listen, look at issues from all sides, and decide in the best interest of the Town as a whole.

I am also happy for Mark Kleinshmidt who received the endorsement for Mayor, which is well deserved. Mark and I have not always agreed on issues (we mostly do), but he has always treated my opinion with the greatest of respect. He is a true professional, never judging me as a person and always listening and trying to understand my position. He will make an excellent mayor.
Congratulations also to Penny, Jim Merritt, and Ed for their endorsements!

I hope I can live up to the fine endorsement, and I also hope to serve the Town for the next four years in a manner that makes citizens feel their voices have been heard, their comments heavily weighted in my decision, and feel truly a part of their government.

SIERRA CLUB ENDORSEMENT

I am happy to report that I have received the Sierra Club endorsement! This endorsement means a great deal to me. Thank you to the Sierra Club. I was lucky to have received this endorsement when I ran in 2005, and I certainly do not take this endorsement for granted.

I have worked very hard for the last four years on the council to make sure that our environment is protected. One example: I convinced a large corporation, Duke Energy, to curb their practice of rampant spraying of herbicides in the power easements within the Town, which in my opinion, affected our citizens’ health, safety and welfare by contaminating our water and creating fire hazards of large dead trees. Chapel Hill has been the only city in the state in which they agreed to do this. This was such a big success that I was able to make a council legislative request to our local delegation of the general assembly to address this issue statewide, and sure enough there is a bill to curb the practice, with Verla Insko and House Representative Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) sponsoring the bill.

Things I would like to work on include a Champion Tree Program in town. Such a program exists in Wake County. Large trees are “nominated” and if they qualify (by a certified arborist), are awarded a plaque as a Champion Tree. The tree is assigned a GPS coordinate to ensure its location and alert developers as to its existence, and is given protection for its life. If such a program could be incorporated into our Tree Protection Ordinance, then we could truly preserve many old, historic and beautiful trees that do nothing other than connect us to magnificent nature.

Thanks again to the Sierra Club for their endorsement. Congratulations also to Ed Harrison, Penny Rich, and Jim Merritt, and Mark Kleinschmidt for Mayor.

CAMPAIGN NEWS AND EVENTS

NEWS: The candidates for Town Council have completed the Sierra Club televised forum and personal interview, the questionnaire for the League of Women Voters, the questionnaire for NRG (Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth), the Chamber of Commerce questions and personal interview, the CFRG questionnaire and meet and greet, and the INDY questionnaire. If there is more, then I have been so busy I have just forgotten to acknowledge, so forgive me! This is a very busy season….

What is coming:

Wednesday night, Sept. 23rd at 7 p.m. is the NRG televised forum at Town Hall (Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth)
Thursday morning, Sept. 24 9am-12pm Friends of Downtown Forum
Saturday, Sept. 26 from 2-4 p.m. Umstead Park, Colonial Heights Precinct Forum
Monday, October 5 from 7-9 p.m. League of Women Voters Forum, Town Hall (and televised)
Wednesday, October 6, 6:30 p.m. WCHL /Chamber of Commerce Radio Forum
Sunday, October 11, 2:30 – 4 CURB forum at Larkspur neighborhood clubhouse (northern neighborhoods)
Thursday, October 15, 7 p.m. WCHL forum
Saturday, October 17 8 am Orange County Democrats Legislative Breakfast
Tuesday, October 20 at 3 p.m. Carol Woods forum

That’s the current list, however things may change or may be added, and I will update that as soon as I learn of
any changes.

My fundraising and spending and my campaign finance philosophy:
I was lucky enough to have several hundred dollars in my campaign account from last election in 2005, so I will be using that money to beef up my campaign sign stock and handouts with my platform. This election cycle I am respectfully declining contributions, and I am not intending to spend much, if any, of my personal funds. This election, for me, is about the issues, getting to know people I don’t already know and hear their concerns, and discussing my vision for the Town of Chapel Hill. The campaign, to me, is not about how much money I can raise or spend. While I’m not sure this method is possible on a regional, state or national level, I believe this can be done in Chapel Hill as an incumbent. I wholeheartedly support the Voter Owned Elections program, but chose not to participate because I do not feel I need the funds, and I did not feel it appropriate for me to vote for a program that is funded by the Town, and then turn around and take those funds for myself. I feel the program definitely helps non-incumbent candidates and mayoral candidates (whose campaigns have historically been high dollar), and certainly levels the playing field. Last election cycle a candidate spent almost 20K of his own money on his campaign for a council seat, and I hope with this program out there, candidates are not scared off to run because they think a council campaign is so costly that they can’t afford to even begin. So when you see my campaign expense report come out at the end of the month, there won’t be much activity on it! I bought some signs and a button that I made myself by shrinking a picture of my sign and putting it on a piece of paper that I stuffed inside a “do it yourself” button. That’s it! I look forward to a positive, healthy, insightful campaign of the issues.

OTHER NEWS:
It appears that not all candidates for office are in agreement as to whether or not they would apply for the vacancy for Bill Strom’s seat. In fact, I only know of a couple of candidates that are interested. If that’s the case, then I believe the most democratic way to solve this dilemma is to have the new council in January make an appointment for the seat based on applications received by October 12. The citizens will have elected a council they want making decisions for the next several years, and part of that decision making will be made by the person that occupies Bill’s seat. The new council will be the one to work with that appointee for the next two years, not the current council. Those are my thoughts on this issue.

CAMPAIGN 2009

2008 130On 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.

BALANCED DEVELOPMENT/REDEVELOPMENT

• 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.

DOWNTOWN VITALITY

• 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.

IS IT SMART TO BECOME MORE DENSE?!

The Chapel Hill Town Council has been getting an earful lately from citizens about density in town.  There is also a perception that the Council is on a spree of approving dense, mixed use developments more than ever before, and people are worried about when the next huge condo building is going to go in their neighborhood, or dominate their view as they drive down a major road.   

Council is in fact getting more development applications that are large and dense, and these definitely get reported in the newspaper.  We obviously get smaller applications, as well, but they’re seldom written about.  One could argue that these smaller applications are not newsworthy because they don’t affect many people, but that is not always the case.    An example is the smaller Fraley project on Homestead Road that would be a dramatic change to the area with its commercial/dense condos set within existing neighborhoods.     

I do not feel the council is on some quest to turn the village into a city.  We are trying to balance what comes from developers and what is best for the Town.   If the Town never accepted more homes/units, then the county and region could see more sprawl.  Sprawl destroys natural open space and contributes to significant traffic from everyone driving in and out of town for work or services.   

The smart way to accept density in some places is to balance.  I do not see a future of large dense projects lined up next to each other all up and down Martin Luther King Blvd or Raleigh Road, for example, just because the council might accept density on major corridors or downtown.   I think there is great value in preserving landscape and trees on parcels that have to abut denser buildings.  The vista should be balanced with green at every opportunity.   I hear a lot about East 54 and how that has really transformed the look and feel of the area.   What would happen if Glen Lennox across the street developed similarly?  Visitors to Chapel Hill who hadn’t been here in a while might have thought they were lost when coming down that road.  I accept density with great caution and feel the smartest way to accept any further density is to have an environmentally balanced vision.