In Chapel Hill, if you see a pothole or a traffic light issue, you can use SeeClickFix to request that the town fix it. It’s a great solution for hazards and issues that don’t rise to the level of 911 or a Town Council request – and it’s usually pretty efficient and fast. You don’t need to know how to route an issue because the software takes care of that for you.

SeeClickFix in Chapel Hill
SeeClickFix in Chapel Hill

In Carrboro, it’s more difficult to report a problem. You can report issues with solid waste, streets, and stormwater through a form on the town website, but it’s not clear where to report issues like parking, dead animals, unmaintained vegetation, utility issues or other things that may not fit a box.

Here’s an example:

Earlier this week, I combined several errands with lunch, and since three of the locations border the parking at 300 Main in Carrboro, I went to park my bike at the rack in front of 310 Main (the building with Fleet Feet on the ground floor corner) only to find the above-pictured hurdle: a construction van with no disability tags or stickers parked in one of two accessible spots, and a construction trailer blocking the accessible ramp between the two accessible parking spaces.

This is not an issue that rises to the level of 911, but it is something that needed to be addressed.

As a cyclist with no significant motor restrictions, this was merely an inconvenience for me. For any wheelchair user arriving at this parking lot alone in a van, it would have blocked the only reasonable access to all the businesses at 310 East Main.

When I had finished my errands, the van was still there, and the trailer had significantly more construction detritus (electrical conduit, HVAC ductwork). The entirety of the lunch hour had gone by with both accessible parking spaces blocked.

I found this frustrating, and after venting about this to a friend and getting the gentle response of asking if I had reached out to the building owner, I realized that my frustration was less about this particular nuisance, and more that for any given small problem in Carrboro, it feels like even a well-resourced and educated individual is more likely to decide “not my problem” and go on with life than engage with the power structures that could resolve the problem.

Many towns about our size have taken advantage of tools like SeeClickFix which lower the barriers to identifying problems with easy remedies and flagging them for the town. Yes, I could go to the Staff Directory on the Carrboro town government official website and then call the phone number for the town manager’s office. That’s three steps, and involves a phone call, and I’m making another human direct me to the right person to fix the problem.

We could (and should) make it simpler to go from seeing a problem to having that issue in a queue for prioritization and assigning the right staff to handle it.

There are benefits for the town as well. Having a one-stop portal like SeeClickFix would reduce individual emails and phone calls to staffers to manage.  And having a single source of resident concerns allows for some better data analytics – what’s happening and where, and are different resources needed to address the issues.

The next time you get frustrated about something small (pothole, missing or defaced road sign, etc)  in Carrboro, maybe send a link to this blog post to the Carrboro town council as a whole or one of the individual members with both your problem and request for an easier way to express it.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Cristóbal Palmer is a Carrboro resident, new parent, graduate of the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and loyal attendant to the two cats who...