11 candidates seek appointment to council vacancy

Jan. 11, 2013 @ 02:45 PM

The 11 applicants vying to replace former councilwoman Penny Rich, now an Orange County Commissioner,  will get the chance Monday to make their case for the seat before the Town Council during a special meeting at 6 p.m.
The applicant pool is comprised of a diverse group of residents, many of them with years of experience serving on town boards and commissions.
It includes four women and seven men, which could tilt the council selection process in favor of one of the women applicants.
In the past, several council members, including Rich before her departure, have expressed concern about the possible loss of female representation on the council.
When Rich left in December to serve on the Orange County Board of Commissioners, the council was left with two women, Donna Bell and Laurin Easthom.
“I really do think it’s important the council is diverse in terms of race and gender,” Rich said in a November interview. “However, that doesn’t mean that you put someone in there just because they’re a woman.”
Experience could also weigh heavily in the council’s selection.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt has said that the council needs a replacement for Rich who can “hit the ground running” because of the complex issues the council will face in 2013, including implementation of the Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive plan, the land use plan that will guide growth and development in town for the next 20 years.
The selection process calls for council to review applications and make nominations at its business meeting Monday.
Council could make an appointment Jan. 23 at a special meeting that would precede scheduled public hearings. If it does make an appointment at that meeting, the applicant chosen would be sworn in at the council’s Jan. 28 meeting.
The person appointed to the seat will serve the remainder of Rich’s term, which ends in Dec. 2013.
Here are the 11 candidates and excerpts from their written statements submitted with their applications to fill the vacancy:

Sally Greene
Greene is the only former council member in the applicant pool. She did not seek re-election in 2011 to the seat she first won in 2003.
Greene, who left her post at the Center for the Study of the American South in November, is believed to be the favorite in the search to replace Rich because of her prior service on the council.
“As you weigh what’s important, I ask you to consider the value of bringing on someone with a demonstrated ability to understand complex issues and make well-reasoned decisions; someone with a proven record of working collaboratively to accomplish community goals; someone who have won the confidence of voters,” Greene wrote in her application.
She cited ensuring adequate affordable rental housing, funding for the library at the “highest practicable level” and working on the town’s homeless problems as areas where she believes she could be most helpful.

Loren Hintz
Hintz, a UNC graduate, is a high school teacher who currently serves on the Orange County Commission for the Environment. He has also served as chairman of the Chapel Hill Transportation Board and worked on the town’s Bike and Pedestrian Task Force and Fordham Boulevard Safety Task Force.
He said in his application that he would bring an ability to listen to and work with others to the council and would support pedestrian, bike and public transportation infrastructure.
Hintz said that overall he is satisfied with the community’s efforts to assist the homeless, welcome immigrants, provide low-income housing and support downtown.
“However, we need to do a better job implementing the recommendations of various boards and task forces the town has created to address these and other issues,” Hintz said.

David Jackson
Jackson is a consultant and real estate broker who moved to Chapel Hill 18 months ago from Denver, Colo.
He said he has the leadership skills, experience and passion to represent the town as a member of the council.
Jackson said the town needs to adopt an asset management plan to identify assets and align them with future growth and development.
He said other important issues facing council include defining and championing downtown and aligning resources and delivery of community services with the Comprehensive plan.      

Gary Kahn
Kahn is a Southern Village resident who seldom misses council meetings. He said his professional experience as a Wall Street clerk and retail manager make him a good candidate to fill the vacancy.
Kahn said he has gained valuable insight into issues facing the town through his prolific attendance of council meetings.
“In closing, I hope you consider all the above mentioned and appoint me to the vacancy,” Kahn wrote.

Jennifer Marsh
Marsh, director of research, community services and student programs at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, is a Chapel Hill native who graduated from Chapel Hill High School in 1989 and went on to earn two degrees from UNC.
She said she understands the issues facing the town and has witnessed the history that has led the town to where it is today.
“We continue to face many issues including those addressing our continued growth, the development of Carolina North, the increase in traffic and alternative transportation options and the many issues facing our school system as a whole,” Marsh wrote. “As a minority from this area, I believe I would bring another perspective to the council.”

Paul Neebe
Neebe is a professional Realtor and freelance musician who said he would work to continue improving the quality of life in Chapel Hill.
A member of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Board, Neebe said improving bike and pedestrian access and increasing the supply of affordable housing are important issues he would champion.
“Chapel Hill should be a place where all can live and not just the wealthy,” Neebe said in his application. “The tax base needs to be increased in the commercial sector to reduce the burden on individual property owners but also on renters.”
If appointed to the seat, Neebe said he will work to encourage more cooperation between the town and UNC and advocate for improving communication between the council and advisory boards.

Maria Palmer
Palmer is a pastor and education consultant who served as co-chair of the Chapel Hill 2020 transportation theme group.
A Latino, Palmer said in her application that she hopes the council will chose someone who reflects the demographics of Chapel Hill in the 21st century.
“I want to help the Latino community – and other diverse groups – to participate in our town’s decision-making process,”
Palmer wrote. “Chapel Hill can become a model of environmental health, sustainable development, inclusion and opportunity.”
Palmer also shared her view on development, saying that the town must have a “balanced economy” and that “difficult choices must include more commercial revenue.
She added that development must foster entrepreneurship and protect “low-income home owners and historic neighborhoods.”

Bjorn Pedersen
Pedersen is a Chapel Hill native attending UNC.
He said in his application that Chapel Hill’s most apparent problems are the result of good governance rather than the lack of it.
“People know that Chapel Hill is a great place to live and want to move here, which means our biggest challenge is figuring out how to make that possible without worsening the experience for current residents or driving away families that have been here for generations as the cost of living rises,” Pedersen said.
He added that the town should loosen building restrictions to allow for more creative and efficient use of available space.
“Higher density building would lead to more affordable housing without the need to twist the arms of developers to provide special, low priced units,” Pedersen said. “Denser development also allows for more tax revenue to be collected, while allowing fewer buses to do more,” Pedersen said.

Amy Ryan
Ryan is freelance editor of fiction and nonfiction books who believes the next few years will be a pivotal for the town.
She said the council’s charge will be to protect those things citizens value most about the community as it evolves to meet future demands and capitalize on the opportunities identified in the Chapel 2020 Comprehensive Plan.
“It is vital that our next council be ready to engage fully in this effort,” Ryan said. “There are many different ways to be ready for such work; I believe my training and long record of active involvement in town affairs would allow my smooth transition into a new role as council member,” Ryan said.
She cited her qualifications as a master’s degree in landscape architecture, service on the Planning Board, Community Design Commission, Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force and extensive participation in Chapel Hill 2020.
If appointed Ryan said she will work to foster a comprehensive planning process, involve the community in planning for the future, improve development review and bring more data to the town’s decision making.

Carl Schuler
Schuler is a nurse consultant at UNC Hospital where he coordinates several clinical trials for faculty members in the N.C. Center for Heart and Vascular Care.
Like many of the other applicants, Schuler said he recognizes that 2013 will be an important year for the council as it considers a new budget, implements the Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan and addresses the costs and logistics of hauling the town’s solid waste to a transfer station in Durham.
“My past community involvement, including attendance at, and frequent speaking before Town Council on numerous issues, as well as my current appointment to the Board of Adjustment, have garnered me a solid understanding of the current fiscal and social issues facing our Town,” Schuler wrote.

Aaron Shah
Shah is an IT technician at UNC.
He submitted an application, notifying the council that he is applying for the vacancy on a “platform of affordable housing for town and UNC employees.”
Shah also sought to fill a council vacancy in 2009 created when Bill Strom abruptly resigned.
Councilwoman Donna Bell was appointed to fill that vacancy and was elected to the seat in 2011.