Orange County

Voters will add at least 2 new voices to the Chapel Hill Town Council in November

Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 19, for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and municipal races in Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 19, for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and municipal races in Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7. File photo

At least two of the five challengers on this year’s Chapel Hill Town Council election ballot will join the board in December.

Council members George Cianciolo and Sally Greene are stepping down, leaving only council members Ed Harrison and Maria Palmer to seek re-election. Challengers Allen Buansi, Hongbin Gu, Rachel Schaevitz, Carl Schuler and Karen Stegman have joined them on this year’s ballot.

Early voting runs through Saturday, Nov. 4, in Orange County’s municipal and school board races. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 7. More information about the candidates in all the local races can be found at online at

Here is why each candidate wants to serve on the Town Council:

Allen Buansi: I want to engage communities in our political process who historically have been underrepresented and vulnerable.

Hongbin Gu: I’m running to join the effort to make Chapel Hill more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable for all people. I’m a Chapel Hill resident of 22 years. Chapel Hill is my adopted hometown. I love Chapel Hill and look forward to the opportunity to serve my community. I’m a faculty member at UNC, doing medical research on autism and developmental delays. I believe everyone deserves an opportunity. I’m a longtime community volunteer around our public schools and serve on the town’s Environment Stewardship Advisory Board. I’m an organizer of the highly successful Chapel Hill LIGHTUP event. I am passionate about bringing people in and working together to build our community.

If elected to the Town Council, I will ensure that Chapel Hill is a welcoming place for people of all ages, races, incomes, and immigration backgrounds, and help them to live and thrive in our community. This means that we will have affordable housing, connected public transit, safe bike lanes and walkways. We will have public spaces, marketplaces, schools integrated into our development projects. I will encourage arts and culture programs for people to come together and share their experiences. I will promote a balanced tax profile and build a strong economy. We will nurture an innovation ecosystem by collaborating with UNC, create incubators and shared workspaces, and provide training opportunities for our youth to learn leadership and entrepreneurship skills for the new economy.

Ed Harrison: To continue faithful and responsive public service to the community of Chapel Hill, and to the region and state on behalf of our town and all its diverse residents.

Maria Palmer: I am running because I want to continue working to make Chapel Hill better and want to ensure that progress will continue.

I have invested the last four years working with council on plans to address our municipal challenges. I want to insure the implementation of those plans! We must implement the Greenways and Bike plans, move forward with the Storm Water Improvements Master Plan, revise the LUMO [Land Use Management Ordinance] and build the Orange-Durham Light Rail. We must continue investing in our historically black neighborhoods, youth empowerment and affordable housing. We need a Teen Center and a Farmer’s Market and enhanced recreational access and opportunities. We must promote a living wage and minority representation on boards and commissions. We must also keep Chapel Hill’s taxes from rising so we don’t lose the middle class.

Rachel Schaevitz: The primary reason I want to serve is to encourage collaboration among stakeholders to address our shared challenges. I want to see our town:

▪  Work with LaUNCh to meet the demands for office or other space that our startups need and also improve communication with our established local and family-run businesses.

▪  Partner with CHCCS, Self Help Credit Union and Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing for teachers, similar to what has been done successfully in Asheville.

▪  Join with neighboring towns and the county and take advantage of funding streams so we can grow our solar infrastructure.

Carl Schuler: There’s numerous reasons to file for a Chapel Hill Town Council seat; however, a primary reason to serve in this office is to offer town residents a choice in this 2017 municipal nonpartisan election season and provide an energetic and fresh voice to further the pursuit of efficient and transparent local government.

Karen Stegman: I am proud to be a product of this community and to be working and raising my family here. Inclusivity is the most critical, overarching issue Chapel Hill is facing. Will we choose to be a community with policies of including people who might otherwise be marginalized, or will an increasing lack of affordability erode our long-held values? What does it mean to be a town where all are welcome, and what is the role of local government in ensuring that we meet that goal? As Chapel Hill becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, work and operate a business, we jeopardize the very character we have always cherished as a community. For example, we risk driving away independent business owners, musicians and artists, teachers and service providers, and so many others who contribute to making Chapel Hill a unique and vibrant place to live. I am running to champion policies that will increase access and reduce barriers to opportunity for all residents.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Quick answers

Q. Do you support giving development in the rural buffer another look?

Allen Buansi: No. The buffer has been effective in preventing urban sprawl and is necessary to preserve rural roadways, protect farms and our environment.

Hongbin Gu: Yes. I’m against urban sprawl, but I’m open to review the issue when presented with solid data and evidence.

Ed Harrison: No. It’s worked well in the 31 years that I’ve observed it; any changes need full concurrence from Carrboro and from Orange County (where the rural buffer actually is).

Maria Palmer: Depends

Rachel Schaevitz: No

Carl Schuler: Yes

Karen Stegman: No. I support the continuation of Chapel Hill’s urban services boundary and rural buffer to prevent sprawl and encourage our community’s growth in a dense, compact and sustainable way that will minimize negative consequences to the environment.

Q. Do you support economic incentives to attract businesses?

Allen Buansi: Yes. Successful businesses contribute to our tax base. It’s important to create economic incentives such as incubators and co-working spaces for those wanting to start and grow businesses.

Hongbin Gu: Yes, if the business aligns with the town’s priorities and strategic development plan.

Ed Harrison: Yes. We need this to compete on both downtown and less urban projects with the two Durham governments, which have put millions into incentives in recent decades.

Maria Palmer: Yes

Rachel Schaevitz: Yes

Carl Schuler: Yes

Karen Stegman: Yes. It is a priority to increase our economic tax base in order to create jobs and diversify how local government is funded; thoughtful and strategic use of incentives is one important tool to help meet those goals.

Q. Is the town doing enough about stormwater and flooding?

Allen Buansi: No. We have a Booker Creek subwatershed study underway to find ways to mitigate flooding in the area, but there’s more we can do to identify and employ strategies to mitigate against stormwater flooding caused in part by the increase in impervious surfaces.

Hongbin Gu: No. We need to be more cautious when it comes to development near flood zone. We can do more to control overall paving and impervious spaces, and incorporate green spaces and trees wherever possible.

Ed Harrison: No. We need to use the approved (stormwater) bond funds to add facilities and programs; this is both a decisionmaker and professional opinion on my part.

Maria Palmer: As much as we can afford, as quickly as we can.

Rachel Schaevitz: No

Carl Schuler: No

Karen Stegman: No. We need to modernize the regulations we use to guide land use in order to ensure new development and re-development is aligned with our environmental goals, including standards that ensure our community’s resilience by advocating for maintenance of sufficient stream buffers, prioritizing development outside of our flood zones, ensuring responsible stormwater planning and sufficient infrastructure.

Early Voting information

One-Stop Early voting in the Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough municipal races and in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board election begins Thursday, Oct. 19. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Eligible citizens can register and vote during the early voting period with an approved identification, such as a bank statement, drivers license or utility bill, showing their name and current address.

All early voting sites will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Otherwise, the following polls will be open:

▪ Board of Elections, 208 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough

Thursday-Friday, Oct. 19-20, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturdays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Carrboro Town Hall, 301 W. Main St., Carrboro

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturdays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, noon to 7 p.m.

Not open Saturday, Oct. 28, because of UNC football game

Saturday, Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Seymour Senior Center, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, noon to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.