NEXT is a group of engaged community leaders inspired by our community’s potential to be a sustainable, resilient, and equitable community leading our state and region into the future. The NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro Action Fund is registered as a 501(c)(4) focused on education and advocacy. We do not contribute to candidates or other campaign entities. Contributions are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
Our endorsements were based on the answers given at candidate forums, on our candidate questionnaires, and the voting records of incumbents running for re-election. The NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro Action Fund evaluated the candidates on their relevant experience, and depth of knowledge of critical issues facing our community. NEXT believes that growth should support affordable housing that is inclusive of both renting and homeownership, multi-modal transportation infrastructure, climate responses that reduce the carbon footprint of our towns, and a diverse and equitable community.
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Aja Kelleher did not submit a questionnaire.
- Have you participated in any of the meetings, in person or virtual, about the Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan? Are there any policies in the draft plan that you think are particularly promising? What would you like to see in the final plan?
I have served on the Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan Task Force since it began and have led several efforts to include the voices of people in our community who do not speak English. I am especially interested in ensuring the policies around affordable housing, including policies about reducing housing density restrictions, maintaining and improving manufactured home parks, preserving and promoting affordable housing near public transit and evaluating our land use planning for high priority areas. Housing is my top priority and throughout my time on the taskforce I continually pushed for the plan to have real measurable goals for affordable housing. I am looking forward to working with staff to ensure our priorities on the Comprehensive Plan are achieved.
- Have you served on an advisory board, citizen committee, or steering group in Carrboro? If yes, what do you think about the town’s decision-making processes? What works, and what should change?
I have served on the Carrboro Planning Board, Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan Taskforce, Emergency Fund Review Committee, the COVID-19 Mitigation Business Grant/Loan Review Committee and the Criminal Justice Debt Relief Program Advisory Committee to name a few others in the last few years. In all of those roles I had the opportunity to learn how different parts of the town work in making decisions and found a few opportunities for improvement. I would like to see more diversity in these committees, boards and commissions. In most of the boards and committees I served on, I was the only Latinx person and in some cases 1 of only a few people of color. As we move forward, I want to work with our communications staff, our local nonprofits and community leaders to do more recruiting and meaningful outreach to create more diversity on our boards.
- The Orange County transit plan currently identifies only $300,000 for new or expanded transit service in the coming year. This is barely enough money to run a bus that comes every 30 minutes for only 6 hours per weekday, with zero weekend service. What are your thoughts on expanded transit funding?
Equitable Public Transit is one of my top 3 priorities. I want to make sure that our public transit meets the needs of the communities who need it most. This is important not just to combat climate change but also because public transit should be a way to decrease the cost of living and increase the accessibility to our downtown, parks and all the amazing parts of Carrboro. While on the Council, I will not have a vote on the Orange County Commissioners votes in the current or future Orange County Transit Plans. Although I will ensure to use my voice as an elected official in Carrboro to push not just our County, but our state and federal representatives to find and use resources that will adequately support the changes that must occur to ensure transit is equitable and meets the needs of our communities.
- “Complete streets” are streets that provide users with multiple options for getting around by accommodating people on bicycles, walking and in cars with safe facilities such as off-street bike lanes, sidewalks, and safe roadway crossings. To provide complete streets, would you support removing a travel lane for cars? If yes, where?
I would base my decision on the specific situation and its impact on the local community as well as its broader implications for the whole Carrboro community. I am in favor of providing as many options as possible for all of our residents to interact with our town by walking or biking, but I can not in good conscience give a blanket yes or no, it would depend on the proposed street.
- Aside from projects currently underway or recently completed (e.g. protected bike lane on Jones Ferry Road), what accessible biking and walking facilities should be a priority? Would you support speeding their development and construction, and how would you do so?
I want to see the town priorities areas with little to no biking or walking access to the town, or have to interact with a busy highway or only have man-made trails that are underdeveloped and do not serve the best interest of the residents. I would ensure that as the town is looking at areas, like apartments on 54, with little to no biking infrastructure or access into town without having to ride along a busy highway, prioritize those areas for development. The Carrboro Bicycle Transportation Plan, updated in 2020, has someplans of work that are important to complete but it also highlights areas of our town we are leaving behind. I would like to work with staff to find ways of fixing that.
- The 203 Project, which includes the Carrboro Branch of the Orange County Library, will break ground for construction on May 5th. The project has been worked on over 3 decades by Carrboro residents, though it has experienced significant increases in cost due to the inflationary environment of the last few years. The Carrboro Town Council voted 5-1 in favor of moving forward with the project earlier this year. If you had been on the Council for the final vote to proceed, would you have supported for or against moving forward with the 203 Project? Please tell us about why you would have voted this way.
Had I been on the council during the final vote it would have been voted yes resulting in a 6-1 majority. I have been in support of the 203 project since I heard of it. Several years ago, I organized a small group of 7 Carrboro youth to come and speak at a 203 project community meeting about the need of the project and interact in the local process. I have also been in support of the project when it was come up on the Planning Board. For me there are so many reasons to approve, here are my top 3. First, the building is more than just a library. It will house so many important programs and resources that our community will greatly benefit from, whether they go read or check out a book, interact with the teen center, take part in the workers training programs that will be held there or so many other resources in the building. Second, it will be a huge boost for Carrboro’s economic development. The 203 Project will bring in more people to our town that will then interact with our local businesses, bring in new space and opportunities for local nonprofits and businesses and will be the step forward in reimagining zoning around our downtown area. Third, this project will present huge opportunities for our local workers to be a part of the town’s development. As the developers and council have already mentioned, this is a great way to involve our local businesses and workers to benefit, and efforts are already underway to hire local workers. I am proud to stand by the 203 Project and looking forward to the braking ground event!
- The town recently committed to funding a parking deck as part of the 203 Project. Yes or no – should the 203 Project Parking deck be the last parking deck the town of Carrboro ever builds?
Yes! Between that new deck, the parking available in the deck next to Hampton Hotel and all the town lots already exist, I think we have enough parking. I think we should focus on development that better serves our community.
- Single-family zoning is a manifestation of white supremacy culture. Explain your understanding of this statement.
My understanding of Single-family zoning, and in many ways just zoning, has been historically used to limit the ability of Black and Brown folks to be homeowners or restrict them to certain parts of town. That then translates to segregation of communities, huge disparities in the ability to afford housing, homeownership and wealth building in communities of color. The restricting parts of the towns to only be single-family housing and the systematic prevention of People of Color to buy in certain areas of town, has created a long standing and growing divide and disadvantage for People of Color to build wealth, equitable access to amenities, and equality of opportunity. As a young Latino renter and someone who has seen how difficult it is to buy a home with no generational wealth to rely on, I have seen this impact me directly. I also must say, I am still learning. This is a topic that I continue to look for a better and fuller understanding.
- Recently, the City of Durham engaged the community in a participatory budgeting process in which ordinary people identify, discuss and prioritize public spending projects to allocate a portion of the city’s budget (https://www.pbdurham.org/) . If elected, would you support engaging the community in a similar process? Would you do this in the same way as Durham?
Durham’s participatory budget process was very interesting to me. At the time Durham was going through this project I was working at El Centro Hispano and part of my role was to encourage the Latinx community in Durham to participate. While I enjoyed the process I would institute a few changes knowing the difference between Durham and Carrboro. Among them would be language accessibility for the language spoken in Carrboro, encouraging stronger connection and partnership with the nonprofit sector and community leaders, as well as creating an intentional communication and community engagement plan to ensure we bring in as many voices as possible, just to name a few. As someone who took part in that process, although not directly answering the surveys since I was not a Durham resident, I think it’s a great opportunity to educate community members about the budget, services offered by the town and find opportunities for improvement in managing the town’s resources.
- What are your thoughts about how budgets for law enforcement are allocated and what services should be provided by other agencies outside of law enforcement?
While I believe there are some important roles law enforcement plays in our society, we have some work to do as we move forward. I have worked with Carrboro PD to create more community engagement and inform our community about the role of CPD in Carrboro to build trust, but there is still much work to be done. I would like to have Carrboro engage in a similar process to Chapel Hill by creating a Reimagining Community Safety Taskforce to review the roles CPD play and find community solutions and recommendations to address the community concerns. As I look at the budget for law enforcement, I want to support CPD to meet the needs to fulfill the roles that only they can fill, but look outside of CPD to bring in resources and specialists to ensure that armed police officers are not the default to community interactions.
- Have you taken any anti-racism training? If so, which one(s)?
I have, REI – Groundwater, REI – Phase I & II, REI – Latino Challenges, Union=Fuerza Institute and Building an Anti-racist LGBTQ Movement at Creating Change.