Name as it appears on the ballot: Anna Linvill
Party affiliation: Unaffiliated
Occupation & employer: Community Arts Organizer; Treasurer, Hillsborough Arts Council. Co-Chair, Hillsborough Arts Council’s Last Fridays. Writer. Musician.
Years lived in Hillsborough: 4 1/2
1) In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the Board of Commissioners do differently or better over the course of your term?
I decided to run for office after a band hired by The Colonial Inn for the Hillsborough Arts Council’s Last Fridays Art Walk, was shut down at 6pm for playing acoustic instruments at 70 decibels, basically living room music level. Over the past 15 years, a partnership between Hillsborough’s lively arts community, local investors and entrepreneurs, and political leadership fostered a fertile environment for small business and creative spirits that made our town a highly desirable place to live, work, and play. We need to keep the ‘yes, and’ attitude that helped launch Hillsborough’s renaissance. The Eno River and the ecosystem that supports and surrounds it as well as our socio-economic, cultural, and racial diversity is what makes Hillsborough so special. We cannot support diversity without a good supply of housing at all price points, and good employers that train and employ people of all educational levels in high demand skills that pay good wages. It is not enough to ask residents to donate to help their neighbors with their water bills and rental assistance. I would like to see more changes to building codes that make it easier for people to install green roofs and solar panels. Last, but certainly not least, we are at a pivotal moment when we really need our leaders to be advocates for our community’s economic and environmental well being. Our infrastructure is inadequate for the growth we have already committed to. We need shovel ready plans for mitigating traffic.
2) Given the direction of the Hillsborough town government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
Even before the pandemic, storefronts were sitting empty for extended periods of time, Empty storefronts lead to more empty storefronts and bring the whole area down. We need to help small businesses and local investors willing to put their hearts, souls, and cash into keeping Hillsborough alive and in good repair. Walkability and commercial development serving neighborhoods north and south of town needs to be a higher priority.
While I believe members of the Historic District Commission love Hillsborough and have the best intentions, balancing the conflicting mandates of preserving Hillsborough’s historic assets, while being open to architectural, technological, and environmental change is a lot to ask of volunteers with limited training or expertise in any of those fields, while the quasi judicial authority has a great potential to be abused if that power goes to volunteers’ heads, as it has done many times.
Some of our regulations come in conflict with Hillsborough’s environmental goals. On a practical level, the HDC does not meet often enough to handle the volume of permit applications, leaving homeowners and businesses to languish for months waiting for hearings. If plans are rejected or must be modified, applicants have to go back to the end of the line. Some, forced to go back to the drawing board multiple times, give up and move away or simply let their homes fall into disrepair. Others simply go ahead and do what they want, opting to pay for a retroactive permit or deal with HDC fines. Generally, those with more time, deeper pockets, better connections, and better public speaking skills, tend to get through the process faster. I believe the adjudication and issuance of certificates of appropriateness would be more fairly managed by town planning staff rather than volunteers. The current process and hearing system is intimidating and may even disadvantage those without connections at the lower socioeconomic levels trying to stay in the Historic District. How sad it would be if we inadvertently find ourselves in a situation where the only businesses that have the fortitude and deep pockets to invest in downtown are corporate tourist chains like the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and the only people who can afford to maintain their homes in the Historic District are those with the time and money to endure multiple trips in front of the HDC.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
• Ensuring we remain a welcoming, creative, socio-economically, culturally, and ideologically diverse community
• Planning for and mitigating increasing traffic including Walkability/Bikeability
• Making sure we have a vision and shovel ready plans for long term environmentally sustainable growth, community friendly, human centered design, and economic vitality.
4) What prior experience makes you qualified for and passionate about the Board of Commissioners and its duties? What made you seek this position?
For the past four years, I have worked as an organizer for the Hillsborough Arts Council (HAC). As a member of the Executive Committee, I am very proud to say that we were able not only to survive the Pandemic shut downs, volunteer hesitancy, and financial uncertainty, we have emerged institutionally stronger and more resilient than ever with a full staff and plans to grow. In early 2020, The Arts Council rallied dozens of local businesses, artists, spoken word poets, musicians, and dancers from all cultural backgrounds to bring back Last Fridays Art Walk, reviving Hillsborough’s spirits and boosting our local economy after a very difficult year. The momentum and passion of all of those involved is inspiring a rejuvenating energy and collaborative spirit between non-profit organizations and local businesses.
An Air Force linguist and Army spouse, I have lived all over the U.S., in the Middle East, and Europe, giving me the opportunity to experience and appreciate many different communities, cultures, and ways of life. Some communities have taken great care to assess and preserve their most important cultural, environmental, and historic assets, choosing carefully what to preserve and planning growth thoughtfully. Others have not, and are either deeply depressed and falling into ruin, or are becoming indistinguishable from other towns and cities dominated by strip malls and chain restaurants halfway across the globe. (One of the most surreal experiences I have ever had was visiting an ACE Hardware store in Tripoli, Libya, with a fake Cinnabon next door).
Life experience is the best teacher, but it helps to be able to understand the academic doctrines and theories that inform trends and movements in politics. I have a Master’s Degree in International Relations, and continue to read broadly in political philosophy and history–everything from very conservative to very progressive thought. As a veteran and witness to our bipartisan follies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya (to which I had a front row seat), I feel strongly that ignoring or silencing the views of skeptics and those with whom we disagree leads to avoidable errors. It is easy to mistake ideological posturing and gestures as actual good, but reality rarely conforms neatly to theory, and human beings do not fit neatly in ideological boxes. If I am elected, I will be a principled, solution oriented voice on our town board, genuinely open to hearing what anyone has to say without prejudgment or an ideological litmus test.
5) Do you believe the town’s stormwater management plan is effective, or is there a way to make it more efficient and less costly? How can the town decrease the cost of water and sewer services?
The town is doing a lot of good work in the area of stormwater management. The Eno River is one of the cleanest in the country and we should do everything we can to keep it that way. I support public-private partnerships that protect and expand wetland areas on private as well as commercial property that can hold and filter runoff.
Our water and sewer services are expensive because the system was built to support the thirsty, but now defunct textile industry. The expansion of the reservoir has made it financially essential that we continue to grow our tax base to pay for it. Costs to in town customers are expected to increase around 3.5% to pay for the expansion. Water costs for unincorporated Hillsborough is probably going to be even higher. I think we need to incorporate as many of our unincorporated neighborhoods and commercial areas as possible. This would reduce their out of town water costs. While the difference between the higher property taxes and lower water bills would be a wash, at least they would be able to vote for the people making decisions that affect their homes and pocketbooks.
6) In your opinion, what are the best methods to attract businesses to Hillsborough? How should the town seek to make itself more attractive? What types of industries should it pursue to grow its tax base?
The pandemic has driven the point home. We need a diverse economy. Hillsborough has begun to see hospitality and tourism as a major factor in our economic renaissance. We need to continue to support and grow our cultural and historical institutions and assets, our museums, galleries, music venues, hotels, restaurants, and spas. Our eco-tourism, gardens, and nurseries are also valuable assets. We have a wonderful climate and abundant natural wealth. I enthusiastically support trail connectivity and bike paths. Where did we all go when the pandemic forced our favorite haunts closed? We hit the trails and rivers. But tourism and hospitality should not be our only industries. As we have seen, tourism is extremely vulnerable to environmental, political, and biological crises.
One thing I love about the Triangle is its creative, entrepreneurial class. Companies like Nugget and Spoonflower show that our centuries old furniture and textile culture still lives even after the collapse of large industry. Our small farms and agricultural entrepreneurs support a lively, local food and beverage culture. I was surprised to learn that the town does not give any financial support to the Eno River Farmer’s Market. We can do more to make sure local farmers, plant nurseries, and craftspeople have a reliable local market for their goods. Our Farmer’s Market Pavilion should be buzzing with activity every single day, all day long. Our local food and home grown beverage industry are key to maintaining our connection to the land and our sense of place.
The Triangle is quickly becoming one of the nation’s biggest biotech and computing hubs, critical industries with very vulnerable international supply chains. There are several industrial sites that can be redeveloped. I would like to explore how Hillsborough can be part of building a more secure and environmentally friendly supply chain by supporting efficient, environmentally responsible industry and manufacturing in our area. Bringing a UNC Hospital Campus to Hillsborough was a very good move. They employ hundreds of locals at all socio-economic levels, and bring excellent medical care right to our doorstep.We should look for other employers that bring goods and services close to home.
7) Do you agree with the board of commissioners’ recent compromise to update Hillsborough’s noise ordinance? Do you think it needs to change or be revisited?
I think it is very reasonable to set a noise curfew at 11pm. We do not want thumping bass keeping people up until 2 am. However, the ordinance still needs to be revised. The current noise level of 65 Decibels is the volume of a loud conversation. Even unamplified music violates our noise ordinance. Going back to the situation I witnessed during Last Fridays Art Walk, I think it is unfortunate that after investing millions of dollars restoring an iconic historic building and reopening during the Pandemic, The Colonial Inn is not only having to struggle against economic inertia and staffing shortages, they are fighting Hillsborough’s unreasonable regulations. Do we want a robust Art & Culture scene, or don’t we? I know I do, and I will support local institutions and businesses that are bringing energy and life to Hillsborough.
When it comes to noise, I think we need to reassess the kinds of sounds that contribute to our unique atmosphere and which sounds are truly a nuisance. In January last year, France passed a law protecting the sounds of the French countryside. What a unique idea! As more of our rural land is transformed into residential and commercial developments, it might be worth defining the sounds and smells that add to our unique sense of place and atmosphere, and those that detract from it. For example, Mount Bright Baptist Church is just around the corner from my house. During the Pandemic, it was incredibly uplifting to hear the gospel choir raising their voices out on their front lawn. Many people are keeping backyard chickens now. I think it is reasonable to allow people to keep one or two roosters, as long as there is adequate distance between the animal’s enclosure and neighbor’s homes, and they are not aggressive or dangerous. The sound of a rooster crowing in the distance adds a pleasant rural quality to the town, much like the train whistle, church bells ringing, crows in autumn, and the loquacious little wren calling for his mate, unless they are right outside your bedroom window.
The biggest noise issue we have in Hillsborough is the incessant racket and stench of industrial lawn mowers and gas leaf blowers. They are more of a nuisance than folk singers, spoken word poetry, bluegrass, or gospel and jazz gently wafting on the breeze, and yet these are the sounds we suppress while the pollutants are largely unregulated. I have seen town maintenance contractors blowing sidewalks when there was nothing there to blow. I find it comical that the Board would approve regulations that restrict cultural events and ban roosters while allowing our quality of life, our environment, and our health to suffer in the name of spotless town sidewalks and perfectly manicured lawns.
8) As with most places in the Triangle, Hillsborough is grappling with issues related to affordable housing. How would you like to see the town approach affordability issues over the next few years? What do you believe the town is doing right? What could it do better?
The affordability issue is a classic case of supply and demand. We have a very low supply of housing at all price points, but especially rentals, apartments, condos, and smaller homes. Those who can afford to pay are paying exorbitant prices for tiny mill homes and cottages, outbidding lower income individuals and families. Add to that a huge influx of new residents from more expensive markets, and you have a recipe for soaring housing prices. I think we need to focus on more mixed use development in the north end of Hillsborough, moving away from the model of single story strip malls and commercial only zoning. The old Eno Mill would be a wonderful place for mixed use zoning, with galleries, restaurants, light manufacturing and retail on the bottom and apartments on the upper levels.
9) Like most surrounding areas, Hillsborough is currently experiencing growth. What are the best ways for the town to manage this growth and capitalize on it?
I think we need to have a clear vision for how we want Hillsborough to look and feel in 20-30 years and then go out and advocate at the county and state levels, so that we are part of the infrastructure planning process from the very beginning. So often, DoT, developers, and other groups are coming to us with plans that have already been drawn, asking for our approval. We need a bypass, for example, but we haven’t succeeded in getting one because we are waiting for the perfect solution to come across the Commissioners’ desk. If elected, I will work to build a long term development plan and the relationships that will bring investment and infrastructure where we want and need it most.
10) Describe something you think the town should have prioritized differently in the current budget.
While I do believe diversity and equity training can be helpful when relationships are very dysfunctional and institutions are obviously struggling to connect with diverse communities, in some cases, it creates the problems it purports to solve. The philosophy, the methodology, and the goals behind the curriculum matters. Some programs are teaching modes of thought that may be creating more division by encouraging scapegoating, self-segregation, and harmful stereotyping. We should not buy into this kind of program, however trendy it may be. Many of our leaders and staff have already had this kind of training as part of their university educations, memberships in other organizations, or work in related fields where they are well versed in best practices. Are there other ways we might spend that 40K over two years that we know would help improve outcomes and lead to a better quality of life for our residents? I would think the 40K we have budgeted for such training would go a long way to help low income residents repair and stay in their homes or provide quality programming, after school activities, and recreational opportunities at community centers.
11) Walkability and recreation are important to the town. What environmental initiatives would you like to see changed or improved?
I want to see the board get serious about implementing the recommendations provided in the Safe Routes to School study that was done several years ago. In my view, this is one of the most important things we can do not only for the environment, but also to improve the health and quality of life for all of our residents, especially those with limited access to reliable transportation. The commissioners have been talking about building a skatepark and a splash pad, possibly as part of the Exchange Club Park renovation. I would rather invest in a capital improvement fund to build a spacious outdoor community swimming pool at the old Exchange Club. Every year, kids drown swimming at the Quarry. We need better recreational options for not just young families, but teens and young adults in Hillsborough. A skatepark alone would serve a relatively small number of enthusiasts. Everyone would go to a community pool. The history of racial exclusion at the old pool adds even greater weight and symbolic power to tearing it out and building an outdoor pool and recreation facility that welcomes everyone. All new developments are required to have a pool. What about our residents who don’t live in the new developments?
12) How do you feel Orange County, municipal, and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school board officials have handled the COVID-19 pandemic? If you don’t think the pandemic was handled well, what should have been done differently?
I really think that everyone is trying to do their best to understand the disease and craft policy that limits the damage done to our community. I do believe a total shutdown and closing schools was the wrong decision, and has led to unnecessary economic devastation, as well as social, emotional, and developmental harm to our young people. Something like 50 percent of kids went MIA during virtual school. All students’ test scores declined at almost exactly the same rate across the board, regardless of parental involvement of prior achievement levels. I just hope we learned a lesson about unintended consequences that we will not soon forget.
With current policy, there are obvious areas where we could better follow the science. For kids under 12, for whom there is no vaccine, masking is appropriate. For over 12, they should be required indoors only until the vaccine is available to everyone. We need to come together in a non-partisan fashion to try to convince parents to vaccinate their kids. This is the only solution. In the meantime, we know the disease is not as deadly or transmissible outdoors. There is no reason kids should have to wear masks outdoors at all. Elementary students should not have to endure silent lunches, punctuated by the screaming of a Vice Principal, tasked with enforcing ridiculous, inhumane, draconian rules. I have two kids at Orange High, and the stories they come home with are Monty Pythonesque. I went to one Orange High School football game where the band was required to wear masks, but no one else was, not the cheerleaders, not the players, not the spectators. Absurd. The truth is, no one should have to wear masks outdoors. Reasonable distancing between groups should be encouraged, but not overly policed. Hand washing stations and hand cleaner dispensers should be everywhere. At this point, vaccination, ventilation, and good hand hygiene is adequate for those over 12. Instead, our high school students are not even allowed to attend football games. There will probably not be a Homecoming dance. Let’s get tents and rent a massive dance floor and hold the dance on the football or soccer field where the kids can spread out. We need more creative and practical leadership at all levels.
It is extremely unfortunate that political factions in our country have weaponized the vaccine to score political points. Wearing or not wearing a mask has become a sign of tribal identity and personal virtue. Now, we are reaping the consequences of our callousness and our tribalism. Partisans who, when it was politically expedient, vowed never to take the “Trump Vaccine,” should know that questioning the intentions and safety of the government’s emergency vaccine development process planted the seeds of doubt that slowed the vaccination rate, especially in communities that have been historically hurt by the unregulated excesses and unethical experimentation of the drug industry. Notably, as soon as the new administration took office, the narrative flipped. For the left, the vaccine became a miracle of scientific ingenuity, while for the right, it has become a government conspiracy. In reality, the RNA vaccine technology has been under development by non-partisan scientists for decades. When it comes to public emergencies, our government officials at all levels have a responsibility to put aside their political campaigns and work to end it quickly with the least amount of suffering and economic harm as possible. This is not the time nor the place for games. We understand now that Covid is with us for the foreseeable future. How are we going to live with it? We need stiff spined, creative, community minded, problem solving leadership to craft reasonable policies moving forward.
13) This summer, there were media reports of Proud Boys congregating in a downtown Hillsborough business. How do you believe the town can best project an image of inclusivity? Has the town done a good job of this in the past? In what ways can the town foster a more inclusive environment and better engage with historically marginalized groups?
Hillsborough does not need to project an image of inclusivity. It is inclusive. Come to Last Fridays. Go to a high school football game. Visit a local bar. It is one of the few places in this area where people of wildly different political and religious, ideologies, sexual orientations, lifestyles, and races regularly sit down together to enjoy a beer, listen to music, and just enjoy being a community. We should continue to foster this kind of environment by making sure our institutions and events are welcoming and apolitical. I view the incident that happened at The Hot Tin Roof as a missed opportunity. It happened during The Hillsborough Arts Council’s Last Fridays Art Walk. The Hot Tin Roof, hired a DJ who is also a well known LGBTQ rights activist to provide entertainment. In my experience, all kinds of people of all races, backgrounds, and creeds hang out at HTR, from farmers to white collar professionals. Commissioner Matt Hughes is a regular. They are prickly and contrary, but I would not classify them as bigots or Ku Klux Klan sympathizers. I think people should leave their political t-shirts and Proud Boys polos at home when they go to community events, but if they choose to make a political statement with their sartorial choices, it is much more productive to engage them in polite conversation than to scream, demand they be thrown out, and brand the owners KKK sympathizers. Such a hyperbolic reaction is a recruiting dream for radical groups. The Proud Boys have probably gained followers rather than lost them because of it.
14) Hillsborough residents (and people across the nation) have expressed concern with the militarization of local police forces. Is this a concern for Hillsborough? What changes, if any, should be made to the Hillsborough police department or to how officers present or conduct themselves?
In some communities, what we are seeing is a domestic arms race. The militarization of the police in cities is occurring in parallel to the militarization and increasing restiveness of the population. It is a classic chicken-egg situation. Luckily, in Hillsborough, we have a police department that is out there working hard to build personal relationships with community members. They do a good job making sure our community remains a safe place to live and they deserve our support and gratitude. Our law enforcement officers should be well trained and held to a high standard of ethics and discipline and should be trained in how to deescalate tense situations rather than use force. Sometimes they have to use force. There are violent people out there who will fill the power vacuum left by a lack of civil order. We should not defund the police, we should continue to bring in ethical, service minded officers from all communities and train them well. One thing I loved about serving in the military was that we were from everywhere, every race, every religion, every socio-economic background, and we were all there to serve a greater good and to build a shared community. Our police forces should come from all walks of life and all backgrounds so they are personally invested in the peace and prosperity of the community.
15) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
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