NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro Action Fund Endorses Greene and Richards for Orange County Commissioner, Declines to Endorse Bedford
Earlier this year, County Commissioner Jamezetta Bedford was one of two commissioners, and the only one up for reelection this year, to vote no on the 203 Project, which will contain the Carrboro Branch of the Orange County Library. For thirty years, this project has been a priority for local and county governments, and Bedford was one of many elected officials to support it along the way. By casting a no vote on this project, Bedford violated the trust of voters.
NEXT NC Action endorses the two commissioners who voted FOR the library, Sally Greene (At Large) and Anna Richards (District 1), and declines to endorse Bedford.
Who is NEXT?
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.
Why is NEXT making endorsements for the Orange County Board of County Commissioners in an election with four incumbents who are all running unopposed?
While most of the issues that NEXT advocates about are the purview of the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, there are times when partnership between the towns and the Orange County Board of Commissioners (OCBOCC) is critical to achieving important goals in the two towns.
In the past year, one of the most important votes taken in Carrboro was the vote to approve the construction of the 203 Project, which will contain the Carrboro Branch of the Orange County Library, a goal that has taken the community over 30 years to achieve. The Carrboro Town Council voted 5-1 to support its construction, and NEXT scored that vote and recorded the results here.
But the Orange County Commissioners also took a vote, and the Board approved their financial contribution to build the library by a vote of 5 to 2.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro are represented by three commissioners who represent District 1, which is essentially the town limits of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and also by two at-large Commissioners who are elected to represent the whole of the county. Two other commissioners represent District 2, comprising Hillsborough and the rural parts of the County.
How did the Commissioners who represent Carrboro and Chapel Hill vote?
Amy Fowler, who is not up for election this year, represents District 1 (CH/C) and voted to support the 203 Project and the library. Jean Hamilton, who is also not up for election this year, represents District 1 (CH/C) and voted against the project.
Of those running for election this year to represent Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Sally Greene (At Large) and Anna Richards (District 1) both voted to support the 203 Project and the library, and NEXT endorses both Greene and Richards for the fall 2022 election.
In addition to casting a critical vote in support of the 203 Project, Sally Greene is an experienced public official who understands how partnerships between the County and the towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough are important to build and maintain. Greene has been a consistent supporter of investing in public transportation, and has helped advance initiatives on affordable housing and the elimination of homelessness.
Anna Richards is a relative political newcomer who was appointed to the seat vacated by Mark Dorosin when he moved out of state in 2021. NEXT is encouraged that Richards has identified updating the County’s Comprehensive Plan and adopting a Climate Action plan as key priorities. Richards also seems to understand that as a community that values having a strong social safety net, welcoming economic development and new residents can build the tax base to fund Orange County’s equity-based goals. We are hopeful that these interests and her positive vote for the 203 Project signals that she may become a champion of positive, progressive and inclusive planning policy at the County level.
On the other hand, Jamezetta Bedford, who is also running for election this fall, voted against building the 203 Project and the library, significantly disregarding years of work by multiple Town Councils and so many of the people she is supposed to represent in Carrboro. NEXT strongly recommends not casting a vote for Bedford’s seat in the fall 2022 election.
To put this disappointing vote in perspective, even newer Carrboro advocates for this project have been advocating for building a library downtown for nearly a decade, which is twice as long as Bedford has been on the OCBOCC, who was first elected in 2018. Above and beyond these efforts, there is also the 30 years of consistent advocacy for a library of Carrboro’s Nerys Levy, whose tireless focus on this issue helped inspire others to make this happen.
In the final year before the vote, Bedford joined others in advocating for a large parking deck attached to the 203 Project, driving up the project’s cost, while NEXT and others warned that the deck would be expensive and encourage more driving, and that a much smaller parking deck, with more bicycle parking, would be better both fiscally and environmentally.
Chapelboro.com reported that Bedford said that the escalation in the cost of the parking that she advocated for was what led her to vote no, and that the funds were needed for the schools. When thinking broadly about education, schools and libraries complement each other. Schools are open fewer hours than most libraries, and not on weekends, like libraries are. Libraries provide educational opportunities not only to school age children, but to the entire community. The two school systems in Orange County are both in the top 3 or 4 districts in per pupil funding each year, and this library is a complementary investment to our community’s longstanding commitment to education. We are disappointed that Bedford did not make this connection.
To add further disrespect to her constituents’ years of advocacy for a library, Bedford had the chutzpah to show up and pose with a shovel at the groundbreaking of the 30-year community project she voted against being built.
But the most disappointing part about Bedford’s “NO” vote is that it means that there’s no community process, no public input, no amount of multi-agency government planning or partnership over many years that she won’t throw out the window at the eleventh hour. Sadly, this is a pattern for Bedford; her approach to the light rail project was similar.
Public projects take more time, coordination, and yes-sometimes cost more than private ones because they must balance many interests. While the 203 Project is not perfect, it will house a library, a teen center, job training resources, and more. It’s often easier to kill good ideas in Chapel Hill and Carrboro than to build things together. That’s why when the stars align for an outcome like this Project, it’s critical for leaders to pull together and make things happen.
As the funding was debated, Chapelboro.com reported that Sally Greene rightly observed:
“She said in addition to the benefits a library would offer to the community, like equitable access to learning, literacy and internet, she believes it is important Orange County not pull out of the project and strand the Town of Carrboro. Greene said if the commissioners had voted to scrap the library plans, it would be “a colossal breach of faith.”
Finally, NEXT notes that Bedford announced her “No” vote on the 203 Project eleven days after the filing deadline for the 2022 Primary had passed. Given the 203 Project’s broad community support, NEXT is confident that if Bedford had made her intentions clear sooner, people would have had the opportunity to challenge her in the Democratic Primary.
Jamezetta Bedford has without a doubt broken faith with the residents of Carrboro and Chapel Hill that she is supposed to represent in District 1. It is only fitting that voters respond in kind by withholding their support for her. The best way to send that message in the fall of 2022 is to vote for Greene and Richards, and not cast a vote for Bedford’s seat.
Note: as the OCBOCC District 2 is outside of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, NEXT has not made endorsements in that geographic area. That said, we believe it is important to note that both Earl McKee (running this fall) and Renée Price (not running this fall) voted to support the 203 Project, and we thank them for helping to see this important community endeavor through.