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Citizen PAC quizzes local candidates on issues

By Jeffrey Starkweather
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004

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The Chatham Coalition, a grass-roots political action committee supporting smart growth and more open and responsive local government in Chatham County, did not wait much past the opening bell to start its county commissioner and school board candidate endorsement process.

Tuesday, a day after the opening of the election filing period, the Coalition sent each candidate in both races a detailed questionnaire based on the Coalition’s just released issues platform. In addition to supporting the limitation of high-density residential developments to towns and population centers, the platform calls for a more open economic development process and plan, support for public recreation, libraries and cultural activities as an industrial recruitment tool, hiring a full-time county attorney, adopting a code of ethics for elected officials, seeking public explanations from elected officials for their decisions, establishing parent-teacher advisory councils, and raising the local teacher salary supplement to order to attract and retain quality teachers.

The Coalition plans to use the candidates’ answers to choose which candidates it will endorse and support financially and through grass-roots campaigning. The Coalition plans to announce those endorsements prior to their initial campaign kick-off “Music for Chatham” benefit and rally, scheduled for Saturday, May 15, 4-7 p.m., at Shakori Hills festival site in Silk Hope. Selected candidates will be formally introduced and give short speeches during the intermission between performances by three bands providing bluegrass, grassroots, and blues music. The bands include Chatham’s own traditional Big Fat Gap, blues artists Abe Reid and the Spikedrivers, and the Stillhouse Bottom Band. Barbeque and other food will be provided.

“We promised the people of Chatham that our Coalition would work to see that these important county elections are decided on the basis of the candidates’ positions on the issues,” stated Coalition chair Jeffrey Starkweather. “We believe the candidates’ candid responses to our questionnaires will provide voters the information needed to make informed choices.”

In addition to using the answers to the questionnaires to choose which candidates it will endorse, the Coalition plans to post all of the candidates’ answers on their website, The candidates’ questionnaires have been posted to this website.

“Chatham County is at a crossroads, facing outside pressure and issues that will determine whether our county prospers economically while maintaining its rural character as a desirable place to live or descends into an expensive, polluted, paved-over area of residential sprawl, high taxes and low-performing public schools, “ said Starkweather. “The candidates’ answers to these questionnaires will give citizens an opportunity to determine how each candidate plans to address these choices.”

Below is a summary of the Coalition platform. You can obtain more details on Coalition issues and implementation strategies regarding open government, education, planning, development and environmental protection and economic development on their website.

Chatham Coalition Issues Statement and Platform

For decades the citizens of Chatham County have held a shared vision of what makes Chatham worth fighting for. It’s time we had leaders who stand up for that vision. This document outlines some of the more critical issues facing Chatham leaders. We will press candidates for their position on these issues as we work to elect leaders who share this vision.

Open Government: The County Commissioners should:

Ø Adopt a code of ethics which mandates that all elected and appointed officials declare their business and financial holdings and pledge to abstain from votes that affect their financial interests.

Ø Be guided in their decision-making by the recommendations of county advisory committees.

Ø Hire a full-time staff attorney with expertise in land use, economic development, employment and environmental law.

Ø Provide a public hearing process which gives citizens more time to become informed and allow them to participate in a more meaningful way.

Ø Explain publicly the basis for major decisions.

Education: The Board of Education should:

Ø Conduct a full-scale audit of all school expenses to ensure that we make the best use of available resources.

Ø Develop strategies to attract and retain talented teachers.

Ø Give parents and teachers an active voice in their schools and in their districts by establishing advisory councils.

Ø Maximize the use of volunteers from the community to enhance and enrich school programs.

Ø Actively solicit the input of parents and teachers in recruiting and hiring key administrative staff, including the superintendent and principals.

Ø Provide better oversight of school construction and maintenance.

Planning, Development, and Environmental Protection: The Commissioners should:

Ø Implement the Land Use Conservation and Development Plan developed by our citizens through eight years of cooperative work.

Ø Limit high density development to towns and population centers so as to prevent property tax increases and pollution caused by sprawl.

Ø Influence state and national regulators to protect our air, rivers, and Jordan Lake.

Ø Solicit and promote citizen views concerning major infrastructure investments such as the 15-501 by-pass, a regional landfill, and Cary annexation.

Ø Foster economic growth rather than rapid residential growth.

Ø Promote affordable housing - require on-site location in major subdivisions.

Economic Development: The Commissioners should:

Ø Have an open economic development process and plan for which they are accountable to the citizens.

Ø Foster small business and entrepreneurship

Ø Recruit and retain environmentally friendly and high-wage industry.

Ø Promote and retain a strong farm community

Ø Develop a fiscally and environmentally conservative integrated long-range plan for water, sewer, and solid waste management.

Ø Support public recreation, libraries, and cultural activities

Related info:
Chatham Coalition
e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page
Citizen PAC quizzes local candidates on issues

Related info:
Chatham Coalition
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