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First, because everyone matters!
I have found myself giving voice to folks who don’t get many opportunities to speak to power, among them, immigrants and refugees and first-generation citizens born to Spanish-speaking, undocumented families. As a Town Council member, I have been able to speak for underrepresented communities when we make policy, as well as to advocate to businesses, employers, and organizations as a representative of Chapel Hill, the community that elected me and cares about all its residents.
Second, because Social Justice requires proactive government!
Chapel Hill has a proud history and is recognized as a progressive community. However, for decades, Black citizens have suffered discrimination, environmental racism, and have been deprived of opportunities for education, career advancement, home ownership, and wealth creation. As a consequence, the Black community is still disproportionately poor and disenfranchised. I have voted to make Chapel Hill a Living Wage Certified Employer—benefitting our lowest-paid workers; I petitioned the Council and voted to approve Paid Parental Leave for town employees (starting July 1, 2017!), and I have supported major investments in our historic Black neighborhoods, in youth empowerment, and in affordable housing.
Through initiatives such as A Penny for Housing ($784,000 next year) from our tax revenues, and partnerships with non-profits and UNC, Chapel Hill is poised to double the number of affordable units in the next 2 years, including:
- DHIC -Greenfield Place/Greenfield Commons : 149 units of affordable rental housing in the Ephesus-Fordham district (Total Development Cost: $23 million, made possible by an investment from CH of only $4 million).
- Homestead RD: 50+ units to be built in partnership with UNC’s Horizons Program for mothers in recovery and other low-income families.
- Northside Neighborhood Initiative (NNI): in partnership with UNC, Self-Help Credit Union, and the Jackson Center, uses a $3 million no-interest loan from UNC to maintain and develop low-income housing.
- Affordable Housing Development Reserve (AHDR): Established by the Town Council in March 2015, this money will support land banking, construction, rental assistance, and other much-needed programs in light of the loss of Section 8 Voucher units and the long waiting lists for affordable housing.
Third, because I want to see progress continue!
I am proud of what the 2013-15, and 2015-17 Town Councils have accomplished. While I am only one vote, some of our decisions for progress have been close, and we will need to re-elect progressive voices to continue moving forward, with the following initiatives,
- Major revision of the Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO),
We have made some changes to the LUMO, including allowing better commercial signage and Ancillary Apartments, a campaign promise I pushed for and fulfilled during my first term. Ancillary apartments will help families that want to have a mother-in-law apartment, or retirees who need to supplement their income. Ancillary apartments will provide density without changing the character of our neighborhoods, and create and maintain more affordable housing options. A completely revised LUMO can remove barriers to affordable housing, promote multi-modal transportation, connect neighborhoods, and encourage environmentally-friendly development. Those elected to TC in 2017 will play an important role in ensuring that the new LUMO works to make Chapel Hill a millennial-friendly, walkable, vibrant community.
- Light Rail. Already, Chapel Hill has benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in Federal grants to hire internationally-recognized station-area planners. We can bring new businesses and walkable, transit-oriented development to focus areas, protecting the environment and bringing economic investment to Chapel Hill without incurring unaffordable debt.
- Stormwater improvements. We have made huge investments and need to continue making improvements to ensure that water runoff is contained and flooding reduced as new development is approved.
Fourth, because I want to use my expertise and experience!
The learning curve is steep when you become a Town Council member, but in four years, having read thousands of pages of proposals and resolutions, and agonized over dozens of votes, I have become intimately familiar with our Town’s issues. As Council liaison to the Parks, Greenways and Recreation Advisory Board and the Transportation and Connectivity Board, I have acquired expertise in Chapel Hill’s transportation networks. I am committed to making our Town walkable, bikeable, and pedestrian-friendly. I have also spent four years working with our Parks & Recreation staff to ensure that all children and youth have affordable recreational opportunities. I will work diligently to support the construction of a Teen Center, a permanent Farmer’s Market and other much-needed community facilities.
I love Chapel Hill, its beautiful tree-lined avenues, its festivals and celebrations, its Tar Heel pride and progressive, forward-thinking residents. I am seeking a second term on the Chapel Hill Town Council because I believe even a great community can be better. I believe we can make Chapel Hill better than it’s ever been.