Name as it appears on the ballot: Barbara Foushee
Party affiliation: Democrat
Occupation & employer: Senior Technologist, Laboratory Corporation of America
Years lived in Carrboro: 30
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 town council do differently or better over the course of your term?
I stand on the shoulders of giants in the community – folks like NC State Senator Valerie Foushee, Judge Joal H. Broun, Braxton Foushee and the late Fred Battle to name a few. It is because of them that I currently have a seat at the local government table. I am a community driven, community focused candidate with a long history of engagement and activism in the Carrboro community. I am running for re-election because mine is a unique voice and lived experience as a Black woman currently serving on the council and I need to keep a seat at the table. Representation matters. We want our local governing and appointed boards to be reflective of the communities that they serve. I am also running to continue to build community because that is the way forward as we work on issues that matter to all of us and push for more equitable and sustainable outcomes. My priorities include the expansion of housing opportunities and choices. Housing is infrastructure and a human right. Inclusive community engagement because we need to hear from all of the community about issues like housing, transit, stormwater mitigation and climate and environmental justice. Support for our local business community, while centering our BIPOC businesses, both now and post-pandemic. BIPOC businesses have been put into the spotlight in the town of Carrboro as we work to address their needs by providing increased support and by providing online and physical spaces for resources and hosting BIPOC business roundtables. We also have a comprehensive list of BIPOC businesses and continue to promote them in the town. We have to continue to listen and respond to our constituency and to look at all issues through a racial equity lens for more sustainable and fair outcomes.
2) Given the direction of Carrboro’s government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
I believe we are on the right track in Carrboro. We must continue to be engaged and responsive to our community members as different issues come forth. We work for them, not the other way around. Looking through the racial equity lens is key to our community’s success as we tackle issues that matter to all us. Diverse voices at the local government table will help to ensure that we have equitable and fair discussions, policy development and outcomes.
We also have a lot of issues that run in tandem with each other such as affordable housing, climate and environmental justice, transit needs and stormwater management to name a few. We have to work to address all of them and not diminish any of them because each one is critical to someone in our community and every decision that is made affects all of us.
3) Please identify the three of the most pressing issues Carrboro currently faces and how you believe the town should address them.
Affordable housing, climate change mitigation/environmental justice, and working through a racial equity lens. All three are closely linked together and support each other. Smart and thoughtful development along with transit planning can help to make housing affordable and reduce climate impact at the same time. Affordable housing and environmental justice are critical pieces of our racial equity strategies. To reach sustainable outcomes together, we must pay attention to both race and ethnicity as we continue to tackle community issues. I will work to address these issues by continuing to advocate and educate on the importance of expanding housing opportunities and how climate change/environmental justice impacts all of us, especially our black and brown communities. Our town’s budget should mirror our priorities, so I will also push for the allocation of more funding for these issues.
4) What’s the best or most important thing the town council has done in the past year? Alternatively, name a decision you believe the council got wrong or an issue you believe the town should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.
The best and most important thing is continuing our work with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity as well as our other racial equity strategies as we continue our work on race not being a predictor of outcomes. This work is important to our community and town staff as we review our policies and practices to ensure that there are no barriers or burdens in place.
We are also in the process of completing our Comprehensive Plan visioning document. Race and equity were listed as pillars for the foundation of the plan, so I was disappointed when the much needed racial equity training came almost at the end of this process. The training is key to the Comprehensive Plan task force members’ understanding of how race and equity play roles in local government decision-making. This important training should have been on the front-end so that task force members had the knowledge as they moved through subsequent stages of the process.
5) What prior experience makes you qualified for and passionate about the town council and its duties? What made you seek this position?
I have always had a very high level of activism within the community as I worked with various organizations such as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., OWASA Board of Directors, Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate and My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Advisory Board of Orange County, to name a few. I seek community input through engagement and ongoing conversations; this is how I keep my finger on the pulse of the community. To know community, you have to be in community and I pride myself on being accessible and transparent. Also my life experience as an African American woman brings a unique lived experience and voice to the local government table. I have had a long-term commitment to serving the Carrboro community and my work continues to revolve around community building and bringing voices and faces to the table that aren’t already there. Historically, these community members have been underserved and pushed to the margins. In 2017, I was recognized by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service award which is given to an individual whose work has promoted diversity and champions social justice. In local government, we need to hear from all of the community about issues that matter to all of us. As the only African American council member, I am running to keep a seat at the table because representation matters and we only can achieve more sustainable and equitable outcomes together. I sought election to the Town Council in 2017 because I saw that there was a need for representation and I still see that need today.
6) As with most places in the Triangle, Carrboro is grappling with issues related to affordable housing. How would you like to see the town approach affordability issues over the next few years? Should it promote apartment living, duplexes, and/or triplexes? Encourage density in single family housing? What do you believe the town is doing right? What could it do better?
Persistent income equality is a real problem for people of color as well as the economy. This gap is a result of very complex interactions among social, historical, political and institutional forces. Continuing to increase the minimum wage is at the top of the list followed very closely by investing more in education and helping working families to build assets. We need a variety of housing choices and increased supply across all socioeconomic statuses, but particularly low to very low wealth and the missing middle class. I would start with engaging local electeds about activating policy that would allow for this housing and identifying funding sources for the effort. This effort will need subsidies as well as jurisdictional funding. Finding suitable land for the housing is also a consideration, keeping in mind factors like being near public transit, affordable density and keeping environmental impacts to a minimum. I believe that the town is working to get it right when it comes to thoughtful development and smart growth. In my mind this continues to be a work in progress and it will take all of us to achieve success as a community and as a town. The goal is to protect our community’s health and environment while also achieving a community that is economically strong and socially diverse. To get there we need to 1) create a range of housing opportunities and choices across socioeconomic statuses, 2) increase community and stakeholder collaborations, and 3) make fair and cost-effective development decisions. Our comprehensive plan process seeks to gather a community vision and provide guidance for growth and development over the next few decades. The plan’s policies will address land use rules and define key projects under themes like racial equity, climate action, fiscal sustainability and affordability.
7) For those who rent or own homes in Carrboro already, how should the town and county address tax revaluations that increase property taxes and rising rents, particularly for residents in public housing and those low-income residents who face displacement?
Decisions on property tax valuations occur at the county and state level. As a member of the Carrboro Town Council, I will continue to advocate for equitable tax valuations as the Carrboro Town Council did recently for our Northside neighbors.
8) In what ways should Carrboro work on growing its tax base?
Carrboro can continue to grow its tax base by adding more commercial development to the town. Our residential tax payers carry the biggest tax burden in our community and I think when we have the opportunity to add commercial we should do so in a thoughtful way; providing incentives, community engagement, transit access and environmental impact are a few of the considerations. There are certainly businesses that are missing in our community that could serve every day needs of our community members.
9) What do you think is the best course of action for the town’s parking issues?
Parking continues to be a work in progress within the town of Carrboro as we work on public and private partnerships, discuss pay for parking and reach our climate change goals which includes more bike-ped infrastructure and reducing car dependence. I believe that looking at transit in a holistic way is important as we all use the same travel spaces in town and need to be mindful and respectful. A continuing emphasis on bike-ped education, infrastructure and funding is in order as we pursue climate/environmental justice goals as well as promote better mental and physical health in the community. I think we should continue to investigate ways to have car parking in the downtown for our businesses while centering the value of walking, biking and using public transit. These issues are running in tandem with each other and the reality is that folks will move about as is comfortable for them but we can continue to educate and inform how they do it.
10) In your view, how can the town improve public transit, especially in terms of serving lower-income residents? How can the town recruit and retain more bus drivers? How can bike lanes be made safer and more efficient?
We can start by looking at this important issue and all others through a racial equity lens to ensure that no one is left behind. Our lower-income residents may not have any other means for transportation and we should make sure that equitable and sustainable options are available for them and their voices are represented at the transit table. Funding should be allocated in a way that supports increasing transit services, improving current infrastructure and developing new projects. Community education and engagement around different modes of transportation is also critical. Recruiting and retaining bus drivers in the age of COVID is difficult as the job is now considered to be hazardous. A pay increase, increased safety measures for the drivers and maybe even some hazard pay would be helpful in this effort. We can further protect bike lanes with enhanced safety measures. I believe that all bike lanes should be protected when possible, recognizing that every bike lane situation in town is different.
11) Carrboro has traditionally struggled to attract businesses run by people of color. Why do you believe that is? How can the town work to attract minority-owned businesses?
I believe that this is not only an issue for the town of Carrboro but for other municipalities as well. The issue has a historical context. Black people could only go to black businesses and over time these businesses dissolved for one reason or another and subsequently most of them were gone. The lack of financial backing and lack of town and community support were other likely factors. The best way to attract BIPOC businesses is to promote that we are actively seeking to bring them in and support them. Our economic development director can also be instrumental in this process by actively seeking out these businesses and offering incentives to them. The town has been shining the spotlight brightly on our BIPOC businesses within the past few years in several different ways. We are providing online and physical resources for BIPOC businesses, hosting BIPOC business roundtables and increasing the promotion of BIPOC businesses in a number of ways. Our economic sustainability commission is also engaged in finding ways to be more inclusive of our BIPOC business community.
12) In March, Orange County’s Board of Commissioners voted to allocate an additional, unexpected $1.8 million to the county’s Southern Branch Library project. Do you support the design and funding of the library in its current iteration? Would you lobby the commissioners to do anything differently in regard to the library?
The southern branch of the Orange County library has been in the works for decades and is a part of the 203 Project building. The increase in pricing for building materials was a key part of this cost overrun and we understand that. I do support the current design and funding of the 203 project which will also house other town offices, WCOM and other uses. I must say that I wish the parking deck footprint wasn’t so big while at the same time realizing that we need to replace the 100 spaces lost during the construction as well as provide parking for all the other uses in the building. I think we are on track for a beautiful new building in the downtown that will be beneficial to the entire community.
13) 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?
As a municipal elected official I am not on the inside of the important discussion that the school board electeds have had around this important issue. I do support anything that will make the school environment safer for everyone during the age of COVID; this is a public health issue and should be addressed as such.
14) What role does Carrboro have in developing the Greene Tract in partnership with Chapel Hill and Orange County? How do you think that land should be developed? What are your priorities for the property?
I am very supportive as the building of affordable housing has always been a part of the Greene Tract conversation. The Mapping Our Community’s Future document reflects a long history of community engagement and discussion. This document touches on important uses of the Greene Tract including connectivity, keeping the rural feel of the area, mixed use development, a variety of affordable housing choices and preserving sensitive environmental areas. This document should be used as a guide since the Rogers Road community and others are speaking through it. It is time to center community voices in this process. Our role is to continue to advocate for the plans that have been laid out for this important tract of land and to continue our collaboration with Chapel Hill and Orange County as we work to bring the vision to fruition.
15) Carrboro has a new police chief whose stated goal is to build trust between the community and the police department. How successfully do you feel the police department is realizing that goal? What, if anything, should the town be doing differently in regards to policing?
Leadership in the police department is key to its success and our police chief is new to the position but not to the department, which is in the town’s favor because he is already familiar with Carrboro. I think it is a work in progress as the department continues to build trust with community members. Diversifying our police department, regular racial equity training, recruitment and retention of black and brown officers and accountability and transparency by way of regular data reviews and other reports are key to equitable and sustainable outcomes. We also passed a Resolution for Next Steps in Advancing Racial Equity for Community and Public Safety last summer which addresses the use of force, school resource officers, data and reports and the formation of our Community and Public Safety Task Force. We are looking forward to recommendations from the task force as we reimagine community and public safety.
16) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
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