Opinion

Time for a full-time mayor in Carrboro – Mike Benson

Mike Benson
Mike Benson contributed photo

I am a Chapel Hill-Carrboro native, born in N.C. Memorial Hospital (1966), raised locally, and a product of the CHCCS public schools. I have a strong commitment to Carrboro as a former small business owner for 10 years in the heart of downtown, with a lifelong extensive network of personal and professional contacts in the region.

If elected, I will transition the mayorship into a full-time commitment, rather than having a part-time mayor who maintains substantial time commitments to another full-time position. I will become much more visible, not just during office hours but at events and social gatherings every week. I will try to ensure ordinary citizens have easy and direct access with the mayor, whether shopping downtown, at a show at the Cat’s Cradle or dining at a Carrboro restaurant. I will hold regular monthly “Lunch with the Mayor” events that rotate all around town. I will work much more closely iwith the economic development director (as the mayor will be working full time), proactively setting and implementing economic development goals. Speaking with businesses and residents directly on a daily basis will give them a better feel for how upcoming projects will impact them and will improve their implementation.

The mayor needs to continue to further enhance Carrboro’s strong and proud history of being welcoming and protecting to persons of ALL backgrounds, by actively reaching out and connecting the town government with all members of our community, welcoming their input, and clearly communicating respect, service and protection of all. We need to pursue partnerships with entities seeking to spin off from UNC research, in areas such as biotech and life sciences, public health, sustainability, population studies, and more. We need to encourage them to consider Carrboro for establishing offices and other facilities.

We should be working with the state and alternative energy manufactures to get MORE solar and wind projects going in Carrboro (like on our rooftops, out in rural farms and on top of parking garages).

I will actively seek input and partnerships from downtown businesses on creative traffic and parking solutions, assessing feasibility of public-private partnerships for creating new parking facilities while managing costs effectively. For example, we need to explore whether the town and Carr Mill Mall can find win-win parking solutions that maximize parking availability downtown in the most efficient manner possible.

I will work with Norfolk Southern to create a walking path (well lit) next to the railroad tracks (similar to what we have done from Main Street to the UNC power plant) from Main Street north to Estes Drive (and make the current short cut on the tracks safer).

We should improve the sidewalks and street lighting to make the central district much more pedestrian and bike friendly. While we also have to look at rural bike path possibilities (like along Old 86 by Hogan Farm to Calvander). We do not need to spend money paving a bike path along Bolin Creek through the woods while a walking path is currently available and should be better maintained.

We need to consider ideas for adjusting Weaver/Main Street traffic patterns to maximize parking and improve pedestrian/bike access by possibly converting the layout to a one way street in each direction, but not by closing Weaver Street and forcing traffic to clog a two-lane section through the heart of downtown (which is currently being looked at).

I will actively work with businesses to enhance the profile of and expand creative events (e.g., Carrboro Music Festival, Film Festival, Artwalk, and more) to attract many more participants. I will work to create more events similar to the Carrboro Music Festival (like a food festival, a beer restival, more festive holiday celebrations and a stronger Carrboro Day). These events bring in people from surrounding towns and are a huge boom for all businesses (and tax revenue for the town). Media exposure and social media need to be ramped up dramatically to help promote and attract people from around the Piedmont.

We need to rebuild the arts infrastructure to make Carrboro the true artistic hub of the Triangle that it once was. We need to collaborate with Orange County and state/national organizations on arts-related grants and actively seek input and expand partnerships with existing entities such as The ArtsCenter, Cat’s Cradle, and more.

I hope to get your vote for mayor. Thank you.

Editor’s note: Candidates in this fall’s elections are invited to submit one letter of 250 words per month and a total of two guest columns of up to 750 words between now and Oct 15.

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