On April 11, NEXT was incredibly proud to host our first ever Policy Slam Competition, presented with our co-sponsor, UNC’s Community, Equity & Sustainability Workgroup. We had seven contestants from the community present their ideas at the Speakeasy in Carrboro. Our co-hosts for the evening were Dr. Ashley Hernandez and Rene Iwo. Dr. Hernandez is an assistant professor of City and regional Planning. She teaches a course about gentrification and studies community political action. She is a member of our workgroup. Rene Iwo is a doctoral student at UNC in sociology and a board member of NEXT. 

Contestants were asked to respond to the following questions:

How are current urban planning policies contributing to inequities?

How can new policies be used to create a more equitable city?

Our first contestant was Juliet Alegria, MSW grad student, Community Empowerment Fund intern. She advocated for more access to public restrooms. View her presentation here.

Our second contestant was Andrew Kane, Duke PhD Candidate in Finance, who spoke about property taxes. The current tax policy is regressive. Current best use is often based on what can bring in the most money. View his presentation here.

Our third contestant was Shareen El Naga, MSW/MPH grad student, Jordan Institute for Families intern. He presented on Community Benefit Agreements, which allow community members to benefit from new development. View her presentation here.

Our fourth contestant was Whitney Hall, Urban Planning, Public Policy, and Hispanic Studies undergrad student. She presented on Historic Districts… but for whom? View her presentation here.

Our fifth contestant was Sawyer Husain, Geography and Public Policy undergrad student. He presented on  gender equity with a focus on Chapel Hill transit, noting that women in the labor force often need to take jobs that are at night. View his presentation here.

Our sixth contestant was Rachel Ram, recent Gillings MPH graduate and healthcare consultant. She advocated for a neighborhood circulator shuttle for Chapel Hill Transit to add to our already great fare-free transit service. View her presentation here.

Our seventh and final contestant was Patrick McDonough, Senior Traffic Planner at HDR. He presented on… rapping (you heard that right) about parking minimums! View his submission here.

We are so thankful for each and every one of our contestants and all of the community members that joined to support our first ever policy slam! But now, for the most exciting part of the evening, our winners!

Thanks to our 60 voters! 1st place: Whitney Hall, 2nd place: Patrick McDonough and 3rd place: Sawyer Husain.


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