Hillsborough has the same big challenges that our neighbors do: tremendous growth pressure, shrinking affordability, water and wastewater needs, and transportation needs for carbon reduction and fostering a connected community.
The decisions the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners make on these issues and others have an impact not just on Hillsborough itself, but on the surrounding region as well. The reverse is also true for the decisions made by our neighboring municipalities in Orange, Durham, Alamance and beyond and their impact on Hillsborough.
In fact, one of the unique challenges of local government in this area is having multiple small-to-medium sized jurisdictions that comprise one of the most popular regions in the country to live, all making decisions that impact the same critical policy challenges. This is true for numerous issues that are regional in nature, such as land use decisions that impact the number and type of housing units available (or unavailable). Or in the realm of less-sexy-but-super-important – if a local government in our region does a pay study that results in significant raises for their employees, you can bet all the neighboring jurisdictions make a plan to do the same, often implementing stop-gap increases to keep valuable staff until a study can be completed. This has a significant impact on how local tax dollars are used.
And Hillsborough may be small, but we punch above our weight in many ways, including our contribution to the overall Orange County economy. Regardless of what any individual voter thinks decisions in these areas should be, who is making them matters, in every jurisdiction regardless of size. We not only need reliable sources of information, but the heuristics that various endorsements provide to the whole of information available (imperfect as they may be).
All this is to say I was dismayed to learn Hillsborough was not included in the endorsement process for the Indyweek this year. And then upon inquiring with one of the candidates for Hillsborough commissioner, I learned that the News and Observer did not send questionnaires to Hillsborough as they did all the other candidates in the county this cycle.
Having been a candidate four times, I know that the questionnaires can get tedious and tiresome – they take a lot of time to complete – but I also recognized each time that they were still important to help voters understand who and what they were choosing between.
Did I love it that one year I spent several hours doing the Indy questions to only have their endorsement be basically “Vote for these two incumbents. They’ll be fine.”? No, I did not. But I also knew my answers were there in full online for people to read, and I still wanted that endorsement. Even as so much has changed, those endorsements still mean something. The Indy and the N&O still have a wide reach, and both are resources voters in Hillsborough look to for information.
I recognize that part of what is happening here is my general frustration with the state of print media and local news, and I know that no one bemoans that more than the good folks working as reporters in the field, including the ones at the above mentioned. The Indy kindly responded to a query by a Hillsborough local that they lacked the staffing to cover Hillsborough town government, and didn’t feel informed enough to make endorsements this cycle, but hoped to do so again in the future. And therein is the problem.
No one has the staffing for that kind of coverage anymore, and we really, really need it. The Orange County Schools Board of Education elections will be in the spring, and having accurate, in-depth, and nuanced information on that race will be critical to the children and families in the district. I worry about whether that will be available to us.
Thank you to Chapelboro/WCHL, News of Orange, and WHUPfm for their efforts to help the Hillsborough community get to know the candidates. And truly, thank you to the reporters at the Indy and the N&O. I know it’s not an easy time to do what you do.
Early voting gets underway at the Hillsborough location on Mayo St starting October 19th. Remember to vote and remember your photo ID!