In a previous post, we examined the backgrounds and experiences of Carrboro’s Town Council candidates. This post delves into their policy positions.

Today, we are endorsing future mayor Barbara Foushee alongside the Better Together slate—incumbent Eliazar Posada, former Planning Board chair Catherine Fray, and former Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board Chair Jason Merrill. Broadly speaking, each candidate on this slate has committed to promoting climate resilience and racial equity, using the Carrboro Connects comprehensive plan as a guide. They will build on the efforts of outgoing Mayor Damon Seils and the current council to make Carrboro a more inclusive, thriving, and walkable community.

Barbara Foushee‘s commitment to Carrboro and service are intertwined: she has spent decades serving our community through her work on Town Council, advisory boards, and in community. Foushee’s focus on centering and empowering community will help lead Carrboro forward. Fray, Merrill, and Posada bring decades of experience to the table and a vision for Carrboro that centers equity, the environment, affordability, and accessibility. Posada, a renter like 58 percent of Carrboro residents, has championed ensuring that every community in Carrboro can access material in their native languages. Fray co-led the Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan, which was built on a foundation of race and equity and climate action. They have a deep understanding of housing, stormwater issues, and planning processes. Merrill brings years of business experience leading Back Alley Bikes and a commitment to ensuring that kids and adults can bike and walk safely to school, work and our downtown areas.

Their forum answers are thoughtful and nuanced, and their platform is centered around concrete, specific goals for Carrboro to continue to maintain the inclusive, welcoming values that this town holds.

On the other side, we have newcomers Stephanie Wade and April Mills. Both Mills and Wade have far less experience serving in municipal roles, which will matter for Carrboro as we enter an era with a new mayor, new Town Manager, and efforts to modernize our approach to staffing.

Wade and Mills have held joint meetups, frequently tag each other on social media, and have created digital and printed materials encouraging people to vote for both of them as a slate of two. (There are three seats open in Carrboro.)

Both Mills and Wade have been dismissive of affordable housing goals and the town’s approach to climate resiliency and racial equity, and both have been willing to misrepresent facts to paint our town government as far more untrustworthy than it is. Both Mills and Wade have a conservative history in past elections—Wade has supported Libertarians, and Mills has supported Republican and Libertarian candidates. That’s disturbing.

Ultimately, it’s clear that the two slates present a stark choice for Carrboro. We can continue to try and become a higher-performing town on issues that our community cares about, or we can elect conservative candidates misrepresenting their viewpoints in order to roll back much of the progress we’ve made.

Here’s how they differ on policy.

Carrboro Connects

Carrboro’s comprehensive plan, which passed last year, sets a long-term vision for the town based on two key pillars: climate justice and racial equity. Key goals of the plan include supporting local businesses, expanding affordable housing options, and increasing access to open spaces like parks and outdoor facilities.

The plan passed last year, and received multiple awards for how well it engaged thousands of residents across Carrboro, in multiple languages and formats.

Both Stephanie Wade and April Mills have heavily criticized the plan on social media and in forums, and made clear that they don’t like parts of the plan or the way it was communicated. On her website, Mills has suggested that Carrboro adding any “new construction” would conflict with reducing municipal emissions and says she “will ask hard questions to understand the cost and the benefit to the community.” On social media, Wade has criticized the town encouraging housing near transit services—something that has been proven to help reduce carbon emissions. At the El Centro forum, Wade said:

“There are a lot of things that have been implemented throughout the past that our community has trusted our Town Council with. And so they do find out about it at the last minute, and are wondering about why all of a sudden the sudden change, and they do go to town and ask questions and complain, because they feel that there is a lack of transparency that they were not given proper awareness of changes that are happening in the town, even if they are passed and something like a Carrboro comprehensive plan.”

This fits a pattern of trying to increase resentment by misrepresenting a years-long, extremely public process—which, as we noted earlier, won an award for its thorough and thoughtful community outreach.

The Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan was an amazing achievement. The town engaged marginalized communities, talked to stakeholders, consulted experts, and did everything possible to map a future for Carrboro in which everyone has a place.

Over 1,600 people, including residents and workers, participated in the comprehensive planning process, which was communicated in a myriad of ways—including on paper, at community meetings, in Burmese and Spanish, and with flashing signs across Carrboro. It was notable for the ways it reached and received input from many communities across Carrboro.

In contrast, Posada voted for the plan which the council unanimously voted for; Fray co-led the comprehensive plan task force, and Posada served as a task force member. Posada, Fray and Merrill have said that they look forward to continuing to implement the plan, which describes the type of community that Carrboro wants to be in the future with an implementation strategy to achieve that vision.

Merrill specifically mentions wanting a future that is “more equitable and more sustainable” based on “our community’s values and vision have been clearly spelled out in the comprehensive plan.”

Town Library

Until recently, Carrboro was the largest town in North Carolina without its own library. The library building, which replaces a former parking lot, will also house a community radio station, the parks and rec department, the Orange County Skills Development Center, a teen space, and other municipal offices. It took 38 years of effort from a group of dedicated volunteers to push for the library.

Wade has said on NextDoor that she’s “not someone who supports the building of the library.”

Posada, Fray, and Merrill support the library, which is accessible by three Chapel Hill Transit bus lines and will open next summer.

Affordable Housing 

The Carrboro Community Survey,  held every few years, uses demographic sampling and follow-up so that the responses are demographically representative of the town. In 2021, the survey revealed that “The most important aspect of housing to Carrboro residents was the availability of housing options by price.”

This is because many people, both homeowners and renters, are getting priced out of Carrboro. The median home price has jumped by over $200,000 over the last three years, according to the recent State of the Community report.

Notably, affordable housing is not mentioned on Mills and Wade’s door hangers, or on their websites. Mills and Wade did not answer the questionnaire created by the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition, a consortium of all of the affordable housing organizations in our area. Wade has skipped both candidate forums put on by affordable housing advocates.

Wade posted on Instagram on September 18 that “One of the things I am very passionate about is tackling the affordable housing problems in Carrboro that come from being in an area with high demand. Adding homes, apartments, and other dwellings isn’t the answer. Providing public transportation and preventing corporate landlords from jacking up the rent is a start.” (We added the emphasis.)

A week later, she removed the phrase “Adding homes, apartments, and other dwellings isn’t the answer.” 

We’ll point out that Carrboro has no legal means to regulate landlords or rent agreements beyond making sure properties conform to the property code because the NCGA prevents rent control across the state. In addition, public transportation funding is fully committed for the next several years. Wade’s statement also contradicts the comprehensive plan, which outlines a number of do-able strategies for increasing the number of homeownership and rental units that are permanently affordable, and speaks to the need to “diversify and expand a variety of housing options throughout Carrboro using a mixture of affordable housing types.”

In contrast, Posada, Fray, and Merrill have each made affordable housing central to their campaigns. At the El Centro forum, Fray said:

The reason why I’m running for Town Council is to support the development of additional affordable housing in Carrboro. I could not afford to live in Carrboro if I were moving here today—it would be very difficult. 

And housing as it’s become much more expensive is a real concern for people in their everyday lives. So my goal is to help Carrboro build a lot more affordable housing and also to help the town adjust to climate change and keep people safe from flooding and from heat concerns as the climate gets worse.

At the same forum Merrill said: I have deep connections in the community here and I love it here. And I also see room for improvement. I’ve lived here for 22 years. And in that time I’ve watched the town become very expensive and very difficult for working people to thrive here. It’s a place when I moved here a great opportunity. And if it becomes too expensive for people to live here, we could lose that opportunity. So that’s very important to me. As somebody who has worked my whole life to be able to continue to afford to live here and again for this to be a place that other people can also afford to live here.

Posada’s website speaks to the work he’s done to push funding and policies towards more resources for affordable housing.

Public transportation and greenways

After more than a decade of inaction, thanks in part to efforts by the Carrboro Linear Parks Project, the town finally began moving forward on plans for Phases 3 and 4 of the Bolin Creek Greenway in Carrboro. (We’ve written a lot about the proposal—here’s a summary of the options, and an archive of our articles about greenways).

On Instagram in mid-September, Wade wrote “First, we must have public transportation before providing more housing. We need a robust public transit system that gets people in and around town on a regular and frequent schedule because how can we build affordable housing if the residents can’t even get to town?”

This contrasts a statement Wade made on NextDoor six months ago: “I don’t mind public transportation. I just don’t want it forced on me.”

Mills and Wade have both also repeated inaccurate statements about the greenway, which we have fact checked.

In contrast, Posada has made equitable public transit one of the tenets of his campaign. And he defines public transit broadly to include “bus routes, bike lanes, walkways and greenways to ensure all our community can interact with our town in a safe and secure way.”

Fray and Merrill both support the Bolin Creek Greenway. Merrill led the Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board, which helps the town plan and set up better bus, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure and gives advice to Chapel Hill Transit. Fray focused their attention on Chapel Hill Transit at a recent forum, stating that they would advocate for increased service frequency during commuting hours.

Don’t take our word for this. Read the questionnaires. Listen to the forums. Examine the NC Board of Elections website.

With two slates of candidates holding diametrically opposed positions, Carrboro’s future hangs in the balance. Will we continue to be a welcoming, accepting, and progressive community? Or will we decide a different path?

We encourage you to vote for Eliazar Posada, Jason Merrill, and Catherine Fray for Carrboro Town Council, and Barbara Foushee for mayor.

Endorsement statements were researched and written by the Triangle Blog Blog board: Geoff Green, Martin Johnson, Melody Kramer, John Rees, and Stephen Whitlow. Kramer, a Carrboro resident, was the lead author on this post.