Sometimes a fact-check requires a deep dive into source material to disentangle the intricacies of a situation and explain why a claim is false.

Other times, though, it’s simple. This is one of those times. Welcome to Fact Check, Lightning Round Edition! With the election campaign heating up, we’ve encountered some false statements of fact, so we’re going to efficiently address them here.

Facts: There is one member of Triangle Blog Blog on the Planning Commission. There are zero members of NEXT Forward.

On October 10, Council candidate David Adams shared this on Facebook:

Here is another excellent description of dark money in our local politics. It is notable that four members of NEXT/TBB are on our Planning Commission.
Facebook post by David Adams which links to an article (not included). “Here is another excellent description of dark money in our local politics. It is notable that four members of NEXT/TBB are on our Planning Commission.”

This qualifies for Fact Check, Lightning Round because it’s wrong wrong wrong!

Geoff Green (aka the principal author of this post) began his term in July. He’s the only member of the Planning Commission with any formal affiliation ever with Triangle Blog Blog or NEXT. (He’s a current board member of TBB and a former board member of NEXT. Oh yes, and last January he cowrote and signed onto a letter under the NEXT name asking the regional transportation planning group to maybe maker our roads safer so fewer children die. Guilty.) We reached out to NEXT, showed them a list of current Planning Commission members, and asked for comment. They said: “None of the names above are members of the NEXT board, nor did any of them participate in NEXT’s election endorsement process in the 2023 election cycle.”

(Couple pieces of background: NEXT is a local organization that advocates for things like safer ways for kids to bike and walk to school and more public restrooms downtown. Nefarious stuff. Also, in 2020, CHALT members lobbied to block Green from being appointed to the Planning Commission.)

Theodore Nollert, a commissioner who is running for Chapel Hill Town Council, wrote an article that TBB printed last October urging UNC students to vote in the midterm elections. That’s about as far from local politics as you can get. That hardly makes him a member of TBB.

TBB is a blog with five people on the board and 40+ guest contributors. We’re not a membership organization. There’s no Platinum TBB Tier or TBB Medallion Status. No downtown business will give you special attention because you flash your TBB affiliation. Pop into Squid’s and say “I’m with TBB,” and they’ll respond “Huh?” It’s just Martin, Mel, John, Stephen, and Geoff, and whoever else wants to join in our silliness.

This is all quite ironic. One of David Adams’ campaign planks on his website is to “Restore advisory boards to development review, especially for traffic, stormwater and environmental impacts.” But he disparages the work of the one advisory board that is involved in development review because some of the members are (falsely) claimed to be affiliated with TBB or NEXT.

It seems he wants more citizen input, so long as he approves of the citizens providing input. (In his response to questions by The Local Reporter, he also claims that the Planning Commissioners shirked their duties when it came to reviewing the housing choices ordinance in the spring, but that’s based on a misreading of an email then-Planning Commission Chair Jon Mitchell sent to him. Jon has provided a thorough and thoughtful discussion of his vote on his website.)

Fact: The Carrboro Town Council does not lack for having school-age children

We have previously factchecked April Mills and Stephanie Wade for circulating incorrect information about our greenways.

On October 10, CHALT posted on Facebook this flyer supporting the April Mills/Stephanie Wade slate for Carrboro Town Council. (CHALT, which stands for Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, has never endorsed in Carrboro or Durham, where they said they were backing Sherri Ann Rosenthal.) The flyer states “Without us, there won’t be any council members with children in public schools.” This claim has been repeated at neighborhood forums, on social media, by canvassers, and in candidate questionnaires and forums.

Our priorities help address climate change & make Carrboro better for everyone.
The Council needs perspective and life experience. CHCCS is an economic driver for our town and without us, there won't be any council members with children in public school!
• Improved public transportation throughout Carrboro
• Thoughtful planning for development & affordable housing options
• Equitable parks & recreation for all abilities
• Stormwater management to address climate change & flooding
Flyer for April Mills and Stephanie Wade, posted on Facebook by CHALT

Let’s get the fact-checking out of the way. Council member Danny Nowell is a parent with two young kiddos. He has a child who will be in the public school system next fall. (The child is currently in preschool.)

This is also deeply offensive rhetoric. First, there are many reasons people don’t have kids (especially in 2023) and the decision to have or not have kids is fraught. But more importantly, two of Mills and Wade’s opponents are openly queer. Whether intentional or not, this is a coded and gross message.

Having a child as a queer couple is extremely challenging and very costly. Adoption, surrogacy, and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) all have really high costs and uncertainties that are hard to deal with without a stable income and good health insurance. A single round of IVF can cost up to $15,000, and multiple rounds may be necessary. Most employers in North Carolina do not help with this for same-sex couples. The average cost of an adoption is between $20,000 and $40,000. And that’s not to mention the social challenges that often face same-sex couples who have children, even in liberal communities like Chapel Hill and Carrboro. (We speak from experience—there are blogbloggers who have gone through this.)

(For the record, Jason Merrill has a child who went through the school system and graduated.)

So we’ll mark this claim mostly false, and also way out of line.

Fact: Merritt’s Pasture is under a permanent conservation easement

This is something that came up recently during canvassing. A canvasser was telling residents that the lovely Merritt’s Pasture was slated to be developed. (Thank you to the four people who sent this to us!)

About 15 years ago, the Chapel Hill Town Council put the pasture, and the entire Morgan Creek Trail, under permanent conservation easement with the Botanical Garden Foundation. It will not be developed. Ever.

Fact: Melissa McCullough is not on the NEXT Forward board.

This is something David Adams shared in a comment on Chapelboro, where he also repeated the false claim about the Planning Board (fact-checked above!)

You can see the NEXT Forward board here. McCullough is not on it.

That was an easy one. Moving on.

Fact: Adam Searing has taken funds from developers.

David Adams wrote on Facebook that “In case you don’t know or remember the history of developer funds affecting our democratic process, see attached. Note that TriangleBlogBlog [sic], a dark money political attack group, has just acknowledged receiving funds from developers. Follow the money! NEXT and TBB are not honest brokers. NEXT has endorsed Jess, Eric, Theodore, Melissa and Jon. I – and the Searing slate – do not take funds from developers or PACs.”

It’s true that we acknowledged receiving funds from developers. As we write on our about page, two people who have donated to us are local developers. We don’t know who they are because we maintain a firewall between ourselves and our finances. According to our treasurer, who keeps track of donations, they have given less than $200. For the sake of comparison, public school teachers, collectively, have donated more than that.

Greg Fitch donated $200 to Adam Searing. He lists his occupation as real estate. He is the Vice President of Fitch Creations, the local developer of Farrington Village. Mimi Hock donated $357 to Elizabeth Sharp. She specializes in “triangle area commercial real estate design/development.” James Yamin, who develops rental properties, donated $100 to Adam Searing.

It’s more than TBB raised from developers. Is it a lot of money? Nope. Is the statement “the Searing slate does not take funds from developers” false? Yep.

Fact: CHALT has endorsed a slate of candidates

On Facebook, David Adams once again, writes “In case you read Triangle Blog Blog, the political attack arm of NEXT (both are dark money groups), they posted a table linking our slate with CHALT. CHALT has not endorsed ANY candidates.”

He repeated this in the comments.

First, we want to say that driving around with a cardboard-affixed sign seems really dangerous, because the signs could easily fall into someone’s windshield as they drive.

Putting that aside, Adams claims both here and in the comments that CHALT has not endorsed. The Chapel Hill Leadership PAC, the PAC associated with CHALT, has paid for doorhangers for their candidate slate.

On the CHALT website, they list their candidate slate on their donation page.

The Daily Tar Heel did a deep-dive into an event held recently that only invited the CHALT candidate slate. Here is a screenshot from an event CHALT held, only for their candidate slate:

And two days ago, CHALT posted a photo of the Searing slate on their website with the text “FOR CHAPEL HILL.” This is just the latest of multiple positive posts about the Searing slate (including repeated use of this same picture!), and not a single mention of any other candidate.

Facebook post from CHALT with the text "FOR CHAPEL HILL" above a photo of Adam Searing and his slate of fellow Chapel Hill Town Council candidates.

CHALT may not have used the exact phrase “We endorse” but their actions, their financial contributions—and their words—already confirm their slate and who they are backing.

If you see or hear something on a listserv, on social media, or at your door, please forward it to [email protected] so we can fact check. Melody Kramer contributed to this post.

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.

Geoff Green, AICP lives in Chapel Hill. In his day job he's a practicing urban planner; in his spare time he rides his electric bike around town and advocates for improved facilities so that everyone can...