Name as it appears on ballot: Sammy Slade
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: sammyslade.org
Occupation and employer: Carpenter, Self-employed, Town of Carrboro
Years lived in Carrboro: 12 (Previously in Chapel Hill since Elementary School)
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 Aldermen do differently or better over the course of your term?
In normal times we could have many balanced priorities and resources could be distributed amongst those priorities or saved for the future. We are in a climate emergency! Our children are demanding that we take climate action now! I am running first and foremost in order to see through Carrboro doing our part on taking on -within the narrowing window of time, at the scale and scope that the science says we must- emergency climate justice action.
This means our priorities must be laser-focused on solving the crisis; there is one top priority and we must allocate a huge amount of resources towards the solution. This does not mean that other important priorities such as equity, affordability, and supporting a local living economy are to be ignored, rather it means that we must maximize those priorities synergistically with the highest priority: Emergency Climate Action. Addressing Climate change threads through everything. (As the startling IPCC report in 2018 stated in no minced words addressing Climate Changes “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” “With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society”. )
The work I became known for that led to my becoming an Alderman 10 years ago was Climate Change community action through two the non-profits I co-founded: the Carrboro Greenspace: Center for Community and Sustainability and the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition. The first resolution that I introduced in 2009 set the standard for our climate action goals, we have created our climate action plans. Now we must implement them.
Carrboro voters can continue entrusting me with this position as I have a proven record of working on many issues and climate change has been my biggest drive.
2) Given the direction of Carrboro government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
There are many things that I believe our town does very well and I am very proud of them. In regard to climate action we support the free bus system, are updating our bike plan, converted to LED street lights, we have climate action plans, etc… in normal times we could say we are doing a lot. However, climate change is an existential threat and emergency.; it requires that we do what is necessary: our part on taking ACTION to the degree called for by the science and climate justice. Our climate action plans must be implemented. To do that we must fund our climate plans. To fund our climate plans we need to understand how much they will cost. All major budget decisions must be weighed against emergency climate action budget costs. Moreover, I believe that truly addressing climate change, also pushes us to more equity and affordability.
Since serving on the Climate Action Task Force, which developed our community climate action plan that was adopted in 2017, I have been vocal towards making sure the plan gets funded. For every new expense the town proposes I am the one to ask: “How will this new expense impact our ability to fund the implementation of the climate action plans within the 10-year climate emergency window that we may have?”
It has become apparent that to answer that question we need to know what the various items in the climate plans will cost. Before the summer break, I successfully got the BOA to direct staff to, in the next year, develop a 10-year climate budget plan to inform annual budgets beginning with the 2019-20 budget.
Having this information will allow the Board of Alderman to budget for climate action alongside all the other demands on the limited resources and funds that we allocate annually. If the costs cannot be absorbed by our general fund we will have to make hard decisions on what won’t get funding or how to generate new revenues.
In the meantime, we need to pause before committing resources for the long term. For this reason, I have not been able to support recent significant big-ticket items (i.e. funding of MLK park $2,561,196). I also protest voted against approval of our budget this year.
On the horizon is a potentially very expensive parking deck and administrative offices above the southern branch library (203 S Greensboro). We need to know what the cost for implementing our climate plans is in time for when the board has a clearer picture of what those 203 S Greensboro project costs are (current rough estimates for Carrboro’s portion of that project is approximately $8,000,000 intended to be paid through debt financing). We cannot afford to blindly commit funds that we may need instead for taking emergency climate action within the 10 year window that we may have.
The Board of Alderman has formally expressed an intention of prioritizing climate action:
From our 2009 Climate resolution which set the standard for our climate goals https://townofcarrboro.org/DocumentCenter/View/2387/2009-Resolution :
“The Town of Carrboro will seek, and will facilitate the community at large, to cut CO2 emissions by its proportion of the amount which is required to stabilize the climate back to less than 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere in time for a 90% probability for success as defined by the most up to date scientific consensus.”
From December 4, 2018, Green New Deal resolution https://townofcarrboro.org/DocumentCenter/View/6702/Green-New-Deal-Resolution-12-4-18 :
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Aldermen accepts that we are facing a life-threatening emergency and we need to reorient by adjusting our hierarchy of priorities so that the emergency is the clear top priority and deploying a huge amount of resources towards solving the crisis.”
The board must be clear and consistent about matching action with its stated priorities. To take other action by default through ‘business as usual’ is unacceptable.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
1) Reconnection within ourselves, each other and with other beings
Our disconnection from one another is a fundamental cause of many of our problems. These disconnections happen between people, other beings and within ourselves. Their expressions include racism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, imperialism, extractivism, and our ill-treatment of the environment and other beings generally.
We need to name this. Naming is a beginning for a process of healing and towards re-integration. This is cultural and language work. As leaders, we must strive towards incorporating this dimension into our everyday work. Specifically, we must be able to have emotions in a space that traditionally is not made for that. A tangible example we currently employ is at the beginning of each Board of Alderman meeting we have poetry read to us. I feel that an effect of this is that a tone is set that is conducive to our feeling more.
Eco-philosopher Joahana Macy writes: “The interdependence of all life remains just a mental concept, without power to affect our attitudes and behaviors, unless it takes on some emotional reality. We need to feel it, and our capacity to feel is stunted, if we block out the pain within us over what is happening to our world.”
I believe there is room for incorporating more ritual in our meetings to set the space for making decisions not only with our mental faculties but augmented with emotional reality.
Emergency Climate Action:
Without support from other levels of government, it is still necessary that we take responsibility and action for fully doing our part locally.
The hope is that come 2020 the Senate will flip, the House will remain Democrat and the President will be one that understands the magnitude of resources called for implementing a Green New Deal that will have a chance of mitigating runaway climate change. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party must yield to the independent grassroots wing if we are to tackle this in a serious way at the federal level.
If we do have a supportive federal government by 2020 our task locally, until then, is to be “shovel ready” with local projects that can plug into the transformation of our economy that a real New Green Deal will usher in. Otherwise, we need to take it on fully ourselves anyway. That would be much harder but there is no alternative if we want to have a livable future.
In regard to state support, the hope in NC is that gerrymandering will be displaced with a system that is democratic and that would allow the state legislature to flip so that we will have representatives in office who at least could be susceptible to pressure from the people of NC. At the state level, the first order of business would be to free electrical power generation from the Duke Energy monopoly.
In the previous question, I describe what the board of alderman needs to do to match our formally stated intentions to do emergency climate action with actual action by matching our climate action plans with the necessary resources for implementation within a 10-year timeframe. Implementing our climate action plans is the most important action that I will be advocating for, re-elected or not.
Here I will get into a couple of specific items that are described in the plans:
The Energy and Climate Protection Plan prepared in 2014 focuses on the municipal operations that the Town administers, where the Town has the most responsibility and control. In 2017 municipal operations represented 7% of our communities total emissions (currently 2%):
· Municipal Facilities (37%) Retrofitting all municipal facilities to maximize energy efficiency. After efficiency is maximized we need to generate the remaining power for the buildings and for fueling an electrified vehicle fleet with renewable power. Town staff is currently doing facilities assessment so we can get on the path of net neutral net/positive for our buildings and vehicle fleet.
· Street Lighting (22%) We are currently converting streetlights to LED. This conversion will represent a 10% municipal footprint reduction. We can also offer and promote for neighborhoods to choose to opt out of street lighting, this would achieve the highest energy reductions. There is precedent in Carrboro for this: When the Tallyho trail neighborhood was annexed a decade and a half ago, they chose to keep their street free of street light so that they could continue enjoying the stars on their walks.
· The vehicle fleet (37%) must be converted to electrical. When we install renewables to power our buildings we need to install enough generation to power our vehicle fleet too.
In 2017 the community sector accounted for 93% of emissions within Carrboro. For this reason we have also created a Community Action Plan https://townofcarrboro.org/DocumentCenter/View/4116/Community-Climate-Action-Plan
· While the town does not have direct control over community emissions and the state preempts much of what we could do, the town can play a major role in motivating and supporting the community to take action anyway. Dedicated climate action that town staff sustainability coordinator(s) could coordinate, support and promote includes:
o The work of organizations that are already taking action.
o Create a Green Neighborhood Program. Projects taken on by neighborhoods (i.e. no street lights, public parking on neighborhood streets to take pressure off of downtown parking, composting, solar program, Energy efficiency education) will save the Town money. The town could make available to the neighborhood those saved monies so the neighborhood can thereafter reallocate to new green project initiatives through a participatory democracy process. Neighborhoods would inspire each other with the initiatives they take on.
2) The legacy of slavery, white supremacy and racism.
I believe we need to pursue and implement a community process that works towards healing from the trauma caused by the legacy of slavery, white supremacy and racism. This would involve identifying where institutional and systemic racism is happening today so that effective action for change in these areas can be pursued as well as a truth and reconciliation process. Based on my initial proposal, all department heads have trained on racial equity.
Full staff training should be the next stage. Also there is a lot that can be done by changes to our policies at the various departments. New town policy proposals need to be assessed through a racial impact lens metric before there is a commitment to them. Old policies need to be revisited with a racial impact lens. We have begun working with Government Alliance for Racial Equity (GARE) to help us in these efforts.
Lastly, I believe that we could benefit from a truth and reconciliation process for the community at large. In the latest resolution that we passed in response to Charlottesville we further set these intentions with the following language that I offered: “Seek ways to identify and acknowledge Carrboro’s own racist and white supremacist histories, and seek to find ways to memorialize, heal, and transform from that history”
4) What prior experience makes you qualified for and passionate about the Board of Alderman and its duties? What made you seek this position?
I have had numerous local civic and organizational affiliations ranging from my work as a community organizer in NC Warn, to grassroots leader as founder of the Carrboro Greenspace and Carrboro Community Garden coalition, to my nearly ten years of service on the Board of Alderman.
As a Board of Alderman member my priorities have been racial and economic equity and climate change, bringing a grassroots anti-racist and environmental justice lens to all of our work. My experiences are rooted locally and have produced tangible results spanning a spectrum that includes the economic, the community, social justice, and the environment.
I am running for re-election to the Carrboro Board of Alderman because I believe that Carrboro – the people of Carrboro – have the capacity to act with the speed, boldness, justice and creativity that the climate emergency that we find ourselves in is calling for. I would like to continue serving on the board to facilitate Carrboro’s action, to inspire and to be inspired by those who I would represent, not being afraid to challenge some of the “political pragmatism,” “business as usual” and habitual ways of doing things to help move the ‘Overton Window’ to where we can then take the necessary climate emergency action that is called for by the science and morality. . As a new father, I am now even more moved to act to ensure a planet for our children and our children’s children.
5) 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? What do you believe the town is doing right? What could it do better?
I am proud to have served on the affordable housing task force which developed the Affordable Housing Goals and Strategies document. I support all the strategies in that document (can be found here: https://townofcarrboro.org/1019/Affordable-Housing-Plan-Goals-and-Strate ).
Some major actions taken since the creation of the document that I have also supported include:
a. a dedicated staff person to implement the goals and strategies,
b. creation of the Affordable Housing Committee to guide the implementation of the strategy and goals
c. and most recently 1.5 cent increase in taxes phased in over three years to generate the sustained revenue necessary for supporting affordable housing.
Strategies that have been identified in the town’s affordable housing goals and strategies
document or community climate mitigation plan that must be prioritized to address both housing affordability and climate mitigation are:
a. Finding ways to reduce the money spent on energy by low income people through facilitation of energy efficiency and renewable energy to low income housing units. Housing affordability is defined by the cost of utilities and mortgage or rent not surpassing 30% of a person’s income. According to Doug Dixon who runs the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) at Chatham and Orange Community Action Agency weatherizing a home on average saves a family $7,000 annually. The towns affordable housing funds can be spent on promoting this program and making homes more efficient. Carrboro’s affordable housing funds and the county’s affordable housing and climate funds can make up gaps in funding of WAP so that supply matches demand of weatherization for affordable housing in CArrboroCarrboro
b. Housing and transportation costs combined are defined to be affordable when these do not surpass 45% of a person’s income. We can reduce the cost burden of transportation through:
a. determining whether modifications to parking requirements could materially affect homeownership prices, development opportunities, and density. Unbundled parking for condominiums and townhouses should be included in this analysis.
b. increasing walkability and biking, by encouraging more high density mixed use along transit corridors, making biking and walking more comfortable and safer through infrastructure improvements.
c. continuously improving public transit access, routes, frequencies and the urban densities that warrant these.
d. Assure that planning locally and regionally for future transit priorities and policies reflect affordable housing goals
e. Fully evaluate and reduce housing density restrictions to slow the climb of housing prices and diversify housing stock, particularly in high transit areas.
The Jackson Center has been at the forefront on working against gentrification and creating novel initiatives like their landbank and the Good Neighbor Initiative. Continuing to support their work is imperative.
Lastly, in the process for the town’s comprehensive plan we need to be intentional about using a community first model as we did recently with the Rogers Rd. Community to make sure most impacted communities are directing many of our development visions and plans
6) In what ways should Carrboro work on growing its tax base?
A longstanding goal of the town is to increase our commercial property tax base to alleviate the burden of ad valorem taxes on residents. The problem is that commercial development tends to keep pace with residential growth so we have not achieved this goal very well.
I believe that through our comprehensive planning process, that we have recently begun, there is an opportunity to expand the areas where commercial development can happen. Transit corridors are prime candidates. In these corridors we can facilitate ‘missing middle’ mixed use development by making the development process for these smaller scale buildings streamlined and more within the reach of regular non-deep pocketed citizens.
Also we can allow for income generating commercial uses in residential areas like those we have recently approved for the Historic Rogers Rd. Neighborhood.
7) The town is considering implementing a paid parking system downtown. Do you think this is a wise option? What do you think is the best course of action for the town’s parking issues? Should the town hire a consultant?
Car dependency is unsustainable. Not counting roads, 37% of land in downtown
Carrboro is car infrastructure. Cars take up a lot of space that displaces human scale
use of our downtown. They also use too much energy and are major contributers contributors to climate change.
At my request we commissioned a downtown parking study that found the town to have surplus
parking for the foreseeable future. ‘Surplus parking’ means surplus parking infrastructure, that does not necessarily mean that this infrastructure is accesibleaccessible. The study accurately found that people’s perception is that parking is hard to find in Carrboro.
The town does not have a parking problem it has an access problem. To address access to the downtown by car the recommendations in the study include finding ways for private lot owners to share the parking they own (84%).
Before our summer break I was succesfull in getting the BOA to formally direct staff to develop a parking enforcement and payment program for town lots and for offering to private lot owners. The program is to be designed so that it can also be made available to private lot owners, facilitated for them and promoted to them so that they will open up the sharing of their space with the public.
Town planning staff is small and stretched thin, they were given an option of doing the work themselves or choosing a consultant. I believe that their decision to choose a consultant was wise.
If this program works, as it does in many other towns, the BOA hopefully will mellow on current efforts to build a very expensive parking deck that will suck resources away from emergency climate action and will contravenes strategies towards maximizing car independence (i.e. TDM Program, Bike and walking infrastructure, dedicated bus lanes, land use strategies, etc.)
8) In your view, how can the town improve public transit, especially in terms of serving lower-income residents? How can bike lanes be made safer and more efficient?
Keeping our fare-free bus system is obviously very important in making transit affordable. As for making the system function better we need to invest more into the system to expand routes and increase frequency.
To do that we need to be more intentional about aligning our values with the resources we expend on transportation in general. Expenditures for upkeep of car infrastructure must be minimized and transit, walkable and bikeable infrastructure maximized.
I believe that if we are intentional and clear about that goal and we are promoting more use of the public transportation system generally, then it is possible to hold harmless our locally owned businesses and build the demand necessary to warrant expanding frequency and routes.
Until that expansion happens, for people who live outside of walkable, bikeable and transit ranges, freeing up parking that is currently being used by people who do have access will make it possible for car-dependent people to still access the downtown with the help of their cars until a full transition is met.
It is imperative that land use regulation be employed to minimize the drain on public coffers that car infrastructure causes. Through the comprehensive planning that Carrboro is embarking on we need to facilitate the creation of ‘missing middle’ commercial and mixed-use developments. These developments need to be served by enhanced transit service; improved vanpool/carpool options; further promotion of walking, biking and transit; improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. These are all recommendations in our community climate action plan, which I support.
Our EZ-rider system is excellent public transportation for senior citizens and the disabled who cannot use our fixed route bus system.
Bike lanes can be made safer by having physical barriers separate bikers from cars. Also where and when possible greenways are the safest alternative. Achieving more comfort and safety for bikers will encourage more people to bike.
9) 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?
Systemic and institutional racism is real. People of color have been historically dispossessed and by consequence do not have the resources (or white privilege, including connections and wealth) to start and relocate a business.
We need to allocate government loans and grants in an affirmative action manner for example by reducing the collateral that is required for loans if you are a person of color, as well as actively recruit black-owned businesses. More generally we need to make sure that economic development dollars that the county spends are proportionally relative to population size going to the towns, this is currently not the case as most of the dollars are going to the economic development districts located along I-40 to attract large out of county owned corporations.
10) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
There is currently a strong perception that local emergency climate action can mainly be achieved through land use policy. The problem is that we have an 8 -10 year window in which to take emergency climate action. The fruits of land use policy are much slower then that. We need to come to terms with the fact that emergency climate action is immediate term, it is actions that will have effects within the next ten years. A comprehensive land use policy is inherently mid term. Resources ideally would be available for both types of climate action, afterall if we are succesful in the short term there are many changes to how we do things that must happen in the medium term. The short term though must be prioritized.
Similarly, adaptation to climate change is something many would like to do first: the state has focused on this over mitigation. In Carrboro we created a stormwater utility. It is a fools errand if mitigation iis not addressed fully first as runaway climate change means infinite adaptation and tehre is a point at which that becomes too costly and ineffective.
A Greenway along Bolin creek has been an ongoing controversy in our community. I am still supportive of following through with the Board of Alderman intention, from the time of the Greenway approval, to have a community process for determining what to do here. Before our summer break, I led in formalizing the intention expresed by the mayor and others on our board to have a meeting to begin this process within the next year.