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Chatham Coalition endorses Board of Commissioners candidates

By Jeffrey Starkweather
Posted Monday, March 6, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham Coalition, a grassroots political organization, announced today it is supporting a three-person ticket of candidates for the county Board of Commissioners in the May 2 Democratic Primary. The Coalition endorsed George Lucier in the District 3 race, Tom Vanderbeck in District 4 and Carl Thompson in District 5 because these three leaders are committed to restoring integrity and openness to county government.

“Under the current Board of Commissioners majority, lead by Bunkey Morgan, Chatham has suffered three years of broken promises, blunders and boondoggles,” said Coalition Vice-Chair Sally Kost. “County government has been conducted behind closed doors, with big-money outside developers calling the shots,” said Kost. The latest insult, she said, was the revelation that Bunkey Morgan co-signed on a loan to a county Planning Board member, which advises the commissioners on development issues. Bunkey Morgan accepted as collateral property that is valued at one tenth of the loan amount.

“Chatham citizens deserve leaders who put the interests of Chatham residents first, and who are open, honest and straightforward in their deliberations,” said Kost. “Now is the time to elect such leaders before it’s too late.”

Carl Thompson has stepped forward to serve on the Board of Commissioners again because, he said, “People across the county have lost faith in our government.” Thompson, a native of Bear Creek, became the first African-American to serve on the Board since Reconstruction when he won election in 1978, and in 12 years of service on the Board helped build county government that met the needs of all Chatham’s people. Thompson is running against incumbent Tommy Emerson for the District 5 seat. “Emerson has voted consistently with Bunkey Morgan in undermining the advances that were made in county government during Carl Thompson’s first three terms,” said Kost.

Tom Vanderbeck is challenging Bunkey Morgan for the District 4 seat and is a sharp contrast in every way, says Kost. Vanderbeck, who actually lives in District 4, is an advocate for affordable housing, Chatham’s growing sustainable farming community, and local small business development. “Tom Vanderbeck has spoken out against Bunkey Morgan’s brand of planning driven by big money outside developers because it increases taxes, destroys Chatham’s natural resources, and drives farmers and low-and-moderate income neighbors off their land,” said Kost. Vanderbeck said the Board of Commissioners should “act in the best interest of the citizens, rather than be a rubber-stamp for large, out-of-county development firms.”

George Lucier is running for the District 3 seat being vacated by Carl Outz, and brings first-hand experience with good planning policy and environmental protection to the Board of Commissioners. Lucier served as the Chair of the county’s Planning Board, and lead that body in promoting the county’s citizen-approved Land Use Plan, for instance making recommendations against the Homestead development on Jordan Lake and in favor of a county-wide water protection ordinance. The Board of Commissioners, under Bunkey Morgan’s leadership, rejected those recommendations. “George Lucier has the expertise, leadership and integrity we need on the Board of Commissioners,” said Kost. “His opponent Mary Nettles has no experience with planning issues, and has acknowledged that she is backed by Bunkey Morgan.”

“We are confident that together George Lucier, Carl Thompson and Tom Vanderbeck will bring Chatham County the leadership we need now to face the critical issues that will determine our quality of life for many generations to come,” said Kost.

The Chatham Coalition is committed to restoring integrity in county government, promoting Chatham’s towns and defending its rural character, and preparing Chatham’s residents for the economic challenges of the 21st Century. For more information, visit the Chatham Coalition’s website at www.chathamcoalition.org.

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About the Candidates:


George Lucier, candidate for Democratic nomination, Chatham County Board of Commissioners District 3

  • Resident of Chatham County for 33 years
  • Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Agriculture
  • Chair, Chatham County Planning Board, 2001-2004
  • Retired Associate Director of the federal government’s National Toxicology Program
  • Resident of Redbud development, former President of Redbud Landowners Association
  • President of Rocky River Heritage Foundation
  • Boardmember, Woods Charter School
  • Chair, NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources’ Science Advisory Board
  • County Planning Board was evenly split during Lucier’s term between proponents of the citizen-approved Land Use Plan and opponents of the Plan appointed by Bunkey Morgan and other Commissioners. Yet even with this close division, the Planning Board rejected by a 7 to 3 vote the application for the Homestead development, a gated community of 500 homes proposed on the shore of Jordan Lake. The proposal was plainly contrary to the Land Use Plan and included a spray-field wastewater treatment system that threatened further pollution in a sensitive and already impaired portion of the Lake. The Board of Commissioners, lead by Bunkey Morgan, approved the Homestead despite the negative recommendation of the Planning Board. The manager of the company that proposed the Homestead contributed to Bunkey Morgan’s 2002 election campaign.
  • The Planning Board under Lucier unanimously recommended a county-wide stream buffer ordinance. The Board of Commissioners has never taken any action on the recommendation.

Tom Vanderbeck, candidate for Democratic nomination, Chatham County Board of Commissioners District 4
  • 25 years in construction industry
  • Member of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
  • Member of Chatham Alliance for Sustainable Energy
  • Owner & investor in Chatham Marketplace Co-op Grocery
  • Small-scale farmer
  • Bunkey Morgan ran as a Republican for the Board of Commissioners District 1 seat in 2000, and owns a mansion and 13-acre estate in District 1. He claims his wife lives at that property, and that his residence is a town home in District 4. He changed residences and party affiliation to run for the Democratic nomination in 2002.
  • Bunkey Morgan and the Board of Commissioners have rejected calls for managed growth. Bunkey & company have approved every single residential development proposed in Chatham since 2001, a total of 42 developments with approximately 10,000 homes and 30,000 residents.
  • One result of the county’s haphazard, unplanned growth was another outsized increase in residents’ property taxes in 2005. Countywide, residential land valuations jumped almost 30 percent due to unchecked growth, and the Bunkey Morgan-lead Board of Commissioners also increased the residential tax rate over 7 percent. An average resident owning a home valued at $100,000 in 2004 saw their property tax bill explode by 37 percent for the 2005-2006 fiscal year. Farm families and low- and moderate-income residents are the least able to bear these steady increases in property taxes.

Carl Thompson, candidates for Democratic nomination, Chatham County Board of Commissioners District 5
  • Elected to Board of Commissioners in 1978, at age of 26; first African-American Commissioner since Reconstruction
  • Three 4-year terms on Board between 1978 and 1990, including service as Chair and Vice-Chair
  • Native of Bear Creek
  • Masters degree in Regional Planning from University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • Recipient of NAACP’s 2005 Humanitarian Award
  • Minister, Word of Life Christian Outreach Center, Liberty, NC
  • Served on Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees, 1987-90
  • During his first 12 years in office, Thompson helped establish Chatham’s first water system, the recreation department, the building inspections department, and an economic development commission. He also helped enact the county’s first land development plan and campaigned in favor of a ballot initiative that lead to the construction of Central Carolina Community College’s Pittsboro campus.
  • The economic development commission Thompson championed was a public advisory body that abided by the state’s Open Meetings and Public Records laws. That commission was later replaced by today’s Economic Development Corporation, which claims to be exempt from the Open Meetings and Public Records laws. The EDC has received over $610,000 from county taxpayers during Bunkey Morgan’s tenure. Bunkey has not held the EDC accountable for its failure to develop a written economic development plan or the loss of over 1,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000.
  • During his prior service on the Board of Commissioners, residents applauded Thompson as an advocate of open government who welcomed—and responded to—citizen input. Under Bunkey Morgan and Tommy Emerson’s leadership, the Board has consistently ignored the input of residents and voted in favor of outside interests. Now the Board is instituting a gag rule that would bar most residents from even speaking at public hearings.
  • Thompson worked hard to unite the county across racial and geographic lines during his 12 years on the Board. Today’s Board of Commissioners majority is backed by big-money outside development interests that use the media to fan the flames of divisiveness and pit residents against one another.
 
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Chatham Coalition endorses Board of Commissioners candidates
George Lucier is one of three BOC candidates endorsed by the Chatham Coalition.
photo by Gene Galin
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