Name as it appears on the ballot: Jacquelyn Gist 

Age: 66

Party affiliation: Democrat 


Occupation & employer: Social Worker/Career Counselor UNC Chapel Hill

Years lived in Carrboro: 45

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 am proud of my experience helping lead Carrboro as we have grown and changed while maintaining our sense of place and community. My work has included the initiation   and support of the policies and actions, which have come to define Carrboro’s values and   have attracted many people to join our community. We have recently hired a new town manager, we will soon have a new mayor, ground will soon be broken on the 302 Project, and we are formulating our Comprehensive Plan –all of this as we emerge from the pandemic.  I am seeking re-election in order to draw on my experience with and deep understanding of our town to help lead our community as we move forward. I am proud of the work the council has done but the work of truly becoming the community we aspire to be is one of constant improvement. My priorities moving forward include:

• Enact policies that view environmental protection/ climate change mitigation through an equity/social justice lens as we implement our Comprehensive Plan

• Increase our stock of affordable housing including for those making less than 30% AMI

• Increase community participation: Re-double efforts to increase minority representation on advisory boards. Hold advisory board meetings virtually so that citizens with family responsibilities or transportation issues can participate, provide IPad to those without computers. Hold council listening sessions throughout town including our northern neighborhoods. Engage in neighborhood participatory budgeting.

• Enhance Community Life through working with OC to complete Twin Creeks Park; expanding  the public arts program to include neighborhoods; creating a more  welcoming  downtown  appearance by fixing sidewalks, creating planters, adding awnings, installing public art.

• Complete our storm water control infrastructure improvements update our storm water ordinance; include members of low income and minority communities throughout the process to ensure that storm water management benefits everyone.

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 am proud of the work Carrboro’s staff and council have done and am proud to work with them. I believe that our town is on the right course. That doesn’t mean that we still don’t have a lot of work ahead of us to become a community that lives up to our professed values. I am excited to begin the work of implementing the Comprehensive Plan, which will allow us to bring our values to the built environment.

3. Please identify the three of the most pressing issues Carrboro currently faces and how you believe the town should address them.

Enact policies that view environmental protection/ climate change mitigation through an equity/justice lens as we move forward with the implementation of our Comprehensive Plan.

When low income and BIPOC communities are, the most likely to suffer from the environmental damage brought on by climate change mitigating climate change IS a social justice issue and the two should not be separated. I have been a strong advocate for environmental justice throughout my service to Carrboro. Among my earlier actions, I introduced the resolution, which stopped the expansion of the landfill and initiated the months long facilitated meetings between the town, county, landfill management and the Rogers Rd community, which lead to the neighborhood restitution and mitigation plan and have been a supporter of the community since. I have supported town efforts to address storm water issues in our low-income neighborhoods.

Addressing issues of environmental justice must start with bringing to the table the people who are most affected. This involves making participation more accessible to all members of our community as I outline below.

Moving forward I will continue to address environmental justice concerns including supporting the recommendations of our Comprehensive Plan Task Force. We must work ensure that as the plan is implemented we keep its dual equal focus of climate change mitigation and racial equity. First steps to implementation should include increasing support for low-income households, both renters and homeowners, to increase the energy efficiency of their home, increasing access to public transit in low and working to eliminate dangerous heat islands by ensuring that low–income neighborhoods have tree canopies equal to those in higher income areas. 

Improve Storm Water Management

I have spent a lot of my work as a Council Member recently focused on storm water .Climate change has brought an increase in the number and intensity of storm events which has led to a marked increase in flooding and strained our outdated storm water infrastructure along with causing further erosion of our creeks As a member of the Council I have worked to address and mitigate the impact of increased storm water in Carrboro. I advocated and voted for the creation of the Storm Water utility fee, which supports the work of our storm water management program. I serve as the council liaison to the Storm Water Advisory Commission. Since its recent inception, the Storm Water utility has supported projects such as replacing the culvert on Broad St, restoring and protecting the stream by our public works facility, improving drainage on High and Main St. and work to restore Bolin Creek and prevent its further erosion. The Storm Water management staff has also worked with neighborhoods to decrease the impact of flooding through measures such as conducting outreach and education, the creation of a flood report hotline, increased inspection and maintenance of town owned drainage systems, increased inspections of public and private Storm Water Control Measures and the planting of trees along intermittent streams. The Storm Water Management program is new and there is much work to be done, the work is expensive. In order to pay for the repair and replacement of drainage systems at a faster pace I recently proposed that the town investigate using Powell Bill funds to improve our drainage systems. The Powell Bill is traditionally used solely for road repair but it also allows funds to be used to upgrade/repair drainage. The Storm Water management program is a strong tool for addressing the problem of increased flooding and the degradation of creeks but the town must also upgrade and strengthen its storm water control regulations. The Storm Water Advisory Commission, on which I serve, will soon begin working to draft recommendations to strengthen the town ordinance to eliminate the impact of run off from new development. The new storm water utility has been effective in its early years and is increasing our town’s ability to effectively mitigate the impact of the increased intensity of storm events on both our neighborhoods and natural areas. As we move forward with the strengthening our storm water management ordinance we must ensure that any new regulations do not inadvertently have a negative impact on housing affordability. I am bringing together the Storm Water Advisory Commission and our Affordable Housing Commission to discuss innovative cost effective ways of managing storm water as well as preserving existing housing stock in areas experiencing increased flooding due to climate change.

Increase community citizen participation  

We cannot truly move forward unless all voices are heard. In order to increase citizen participation in making the decisions that affect their lives:

• Increase participation on advisory boards and commissions by continuing to hold meetings remotely after the pandemic. This will allow more people to serve by eliminating the need to rush through dinner, find childcare, or arrange transportation. IPads can be provided to those who may not have access to a computer.

• Hold town council listening sessions and meetings in neighborhoods throughout the town, I including our northern neighborhoods. Install kiosks around downtown and in neighborhoods to allow people to share ideas, give feedback and request services. Hold pop up events in the town parks, neighborhood common areas and at the Farmer’s Market to get community feedback and vision.

• Engage neighborhoods, including multi- family neighborhoods in participatory budgeting for their communities.

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 most important thing the town council has done this year has been handling the pandemic crisis and working to make sure our community is safe and that basic human needs are  met.(See answer #13) In any other year my answer would have been our work on the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan challenges us to put our values into the built environment. I am looking forward to working on its implementation. I was disappointed in the length of time it took to enact a mask mandate at the start of the pandemic and wish we had moved faster as I and others had urged

5. What prior experience makes you qualified for and passionate about the town council and its duties? What made you seek this position?

As a member of the Carrboro Town Council, I have had the honor and privilege of helping to lead Carrboro as it has grown into the community we value today. I am seeking re-election so that I may draw on   my town leadership experience and my understanding of all of Carrboro’s communities to help lead the town as we enter a pivotal new era. Before I began my service as an elected official, I served on the Carrboro Board of Adjustment and as Carrboro’s representative on the founding board of the Community Home Trust. My first job after completing my MSW was as the first coordinator of the IFC Community Shelter. I then served as a program coordinator for the ARC of Orange County where I worked with people with developmental disabilities and their families. In my  position at UNC I have  work closely with students not only as a counselor but as an advisor to student organizations .Many of the students I work with are from low income families and I have initiated programs to help them thrive .I greatly appreciate all that students bring to our community and value their participation.  I am proud of the work I have done in service to Carrboro on the issues that matter to us all including Equity and Justice, Community Building, Housing Affordability, Climate Change, Economic Sustainability, Transportation and Recreation and the Arts. Please see my website for details of my service to Carrboro. 

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?

We are experiencing a concurrence of factors rapidly driving up the cost of housing and affecting our low-income residents the hardest. These include: Investors buying houses to turn into multi-tenant  rental units which charge per bedroom; the purchase of modest homes to be torn down and replaced by homes costing up to and over a million dollars; investors buying apartment complexes raising rents  and refusing to accept Section 8;a market in which homes sell in days often for well over asking price; the increasing popularity of Carrboro as a place to live; the gentrification of once moderately priced neighborhoods; lack of available land; zoning which discourages additional units on already built properties and the need for greater density.

The town of Carrboro has a long-standing commitment to housing affordability. Working to create and maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing is an on-going challenge. The town of Carrboro, through our density bonus to create smaller units in new developments, our Affordable Housing Fund and our Affordable Housing Advisory Commission together with  the nonprofits we support, such as Empowerment, Home Trust, CASA and Habitat, has worked for years to try to  provide and maintain affordable housing. Yet many find affordable housing beyond their reach. For those living below 30% AMI the crisis can be life threatening. We need to preserve our existing stock of affordable housing through supporting programs such as Hope Renovations.  I am a strong supporter of tiny homes built on town land to provide dignified housing to people who otherwise might be unhomed. As we move forward with our new Comprehensive Plan I support zoning changes to allow for building auxiliary dwelling units as well as additional homes on existing lots, pocket neighborhoods and the use of underutilized properties such those along the Jones Ferry and HWY 54 corridors as well as in town such as the parking on the corner of Roberson and Sweet Bay for denser housing if it includes affordable units. I support allowing existing apartment complexes to build additional unite if they agree to accept Section 8 vouchers. When I first came to Carrboro, there were rooming houses in both towns. These provided both a source of income to the owners and a dignified place to live for the residents. I would like to encourage the return of rooming houses as a viable source of income through making small business loans available and through a community outreach program to encourage 

It is important for elected officials to play the role of cynic. “Affordability” and “Sustainability” are the key buzz-words used by housing developers when they are applying for permits in our towns; it is what they know we want to hear. Far too often, they fall short of their promise or what they consider “affordable” is not what many families can afford. Recently I had a conversation with a developer who was exploring a project that he said would be “affordable” I ask him if he  was willing to give me a price point or AMI %   that could be included in his permit-never heard back from him. We need to view all housing development proposals through an affordability lens and hold developers responsible for the words they use under oath at public hearings. 

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? 

NC statute states that “All property… shall as far as practicable be appraised or valued at its true value in money. ….the words “true value” shall be interpreted as meaning market value… the price estimated … at which the property would change hands” 

How this law is interpreted is important. The valuations need to be done on an individual home basis; especially in those neighborhoods, experiencing rapid gentrification where recently sold or built homes can be far more expensive than the homes of long-term residents.  If the statute is taken to mean that valuation is based on recent sales of nearby properties, taxes will sky rocket as we have recently seen.Many of the homes which saw drastic tax increases this year belong to long term residents on fixed incomes whose neighborhoods have are gentrifying or seeing an influx of new houses built with multiple bedroom/bathroom meant to be rented individually. Before each new valuation, neighborhood meetings should be held to explain the process and allow homeowners to request individual valuation inspections before receiving their tax bill to avoid having to ask for reconsideration, which can be a difficult and cumbersome process. Property tax increases affect renters as well as owners since the increase is passed on to the renter, often to the point of becoming unaffordable.

8. In what ways should Carrboro work on growing its tax base

Carrboro has been working to expand our tax base; I look forward to the build out and full occupancy of South Green. In addition to projects underway and those outlined below in my answer to question #11 we can further increase our tax base by:

• Encouraging the re-development of existing commercial properties such as Carrboro Plaza and underused properties along Hwy 54.

• Recruiting Think Tanks to Carrboro .We are perfectly situated for Social Science research organizations and consulting firms that can draw on the research, expertise, and graduates of our outstanding area universities. Carrboro’s progressive values, vibrant arts, food, and music scenes are a natural draw for think tank and consulting firm professionals. 

• Creating density bonuses for commercial development if they include affordable space for small businesses and start- ups.

• Working with the appearance commission to revise the town ordinance to allow for a greater range of design and material to encourage creative commercial development.

• Allowing a greater range of pop-ups and food trucks to add to the vibrancy of downtown.

• Making downtown Carrboro a tourist destination by working with business owners to create a cohesive Carrboro feel and appearance by fixing sidewalks, creating planters, adding awnings, and installing public art

9. What do you think is the best course of action for the town’s parking issues? 

As I sit here on my porch typing this I am literally looking out at @300 unused parking spaces, (I live on Sweet Bay Place)-it drives me up a wall. I have had this same view during remote council meetings as we discuss parking in downtown. I am frequently asked why we need more parking when all these spaces go unused. The answer sadly is that “we” do not own or control it, and believe me we have tried! 

(I hope that the new Comprehensive Plan will encourage the owners to a build mix use project on the lot, including affordable housing; it would be a much better use of the land.) On evenings and weekends when I walk a block from home, I don’t have a car, the public parking lots on Roberson and 203 Greensboro are often full and cars are parked along the road. I initiated the purchase of 203 Greensboro St some years ago to help our locally owned downtown businesses and because I believed that, the day would come when the town would be able to build much needed additional facilities, I am glad that the land was available for the library. I firmly believe that in the not too distant future as alternative transportation improves and people’s habits change the need for parking in our downtown will drastically decrease. For now our locally owned businesses that created the town we love need parking to survive especially as they struggle to recover from the pandemic. I voted for the parking deck on the 203 project for that reason and did not vote to approve the project until adequate parking could be secured for our businesses during its construction. I believe that as the demand for parking decreases the parking deck can be repurposed for other commercial or civic uses. I have struggled with the issue of paid parking. To me it seems to be a regressive tax; an extra few bucks may not be anything to some people while to others ,lower-income residents ,it may keep them from coming downtown. Parking for the 203 project must be free during the hours the library and Skills Center are open. During those hours when the library is closed, we can charge for parking. In order to avoid the abuse of free parking at 203 by people parking there to go to campus we will need to enforce a 2-hour minimum. The decision to charge for parking will need to be for all town lots in the business district. Parking should be free on Sundays.

When speaking with our new parking consultants I talked about the possibility of issuing  swipe cards that would allow people on limited incomes to park in town owned lots without charge. It has been done in other towns and I would like to see that system used here if we move to paid parking. In order to decrease the need for parking we need to increase public transit and other transportation alternatives. That is expensive. If we move to paid parking, we have an opportunity to increase the funds available for public transit by adding a small surcharge that would use to fund public transit much the way the gas tax funds DOT.

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?

Our transit system needs to continue expanding its hours and its routes to reach into more low-income communities and provide greater evening and weekend service, unfortunately at this moment the opposite is true, we are decreasing service due to a shortage of drivers. Many transit systems are currently experiencing a shortage of bus drivers, including school systems. The shortage is similar to that being experienced by retail and dining establishments and for similar reasons, there is not a shortage of people there is a shortage of pay. The starting pay for a city bus driver is $16 an hour. To make bus driving a more attractive work option the pay must be increased. If Carrboro moves to parking a surcharge, Chapel Hill would need to agree, it could be used to raise pay for bus drivers  as well as fund other transit needs .The state of NC is expected to have a budget surplus of over 6 billion dollars. Pressure needs to be put on the NCGA to invest those “extra” dollars in ways, which serve the public and mitigate climate change including increased funding for public transit. Carrboro is a Silver Level Bike Friendly Community, one of only 102 nationwide. The town staff residents and town council, myself included, have supported and implemented many of the programs and facilities that qualify us for this recognition. I am looking forward to the completion of the Seawell School Rd bike path, which will increase safety; I supported the Jones Ferry Rd bike safety project. We need to continue our efforts to make bike lanes safer by duplicating the Jones Ferry Rd project in other streets throughout town  

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?

There are many reasons why Carrboro has struggled to attract businesses run by people of color. Beginning with our history of racial discrimination and early zoning practices, which negatively impacted once thriving black owned businesses. As part of my work with the Truth Plaque project I have asked that the town do a deep dive into our zoning history to bring this truth to light so that we may begin to right past wrongs. The cost of living in and doing business in our town is high. To help provide affordable business space I am proposing offering density bonuses to commercial developments if a percentage of the space is built to be affordable to start ups. I also support allowing and encouraging more pop ups, carts and food trucks. I support the town’s BIPOC Business Round Table and our two revolving loan funds. I have also proposed the development of an Entrepreneurs Village on town owned land. Working with area non-profits Carrboro can develop affordable owner-occupied and rental units on town owned land for people starting their own businesses. A Village Center will include a small business support center as well as a co-working space to encourage and support small local businesses. Once established these small businesses will add to the vibrancy and diversity of our local economy as well as contribute to our tax base.

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? 

I have wanted a branch of the Orange County library in Carrboro for a long time, as have many others. I had  at first envisioned a  modest building housing a modern library with community space and maybe some much needed town office space. I envisioned a library that would add to the vibrancy of our downtown and provide much needed resources such as  computers and internet to low income community members, including schoolchildren. I voted in support of the current design and funding of the 203Project, which is much different then what I had originally envisioned. It will now include, in addition to the library itself space, for our Parks and Cultural Resources programs, the Orange County Skills Development Center, a Virtual Justice Center, WCOM Radio, and a Teen Center and I support these additions, which will provide access to much needed resources by underserved members of our community. The building itself was designed with extensive community input and will be a beautiful focal point to our downtown.

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?

When the pandemic struck in March of 2020, we were all in uncharted waters .I was among the first to call for a mask mandate and was frustrated by how long it took to implement. Carrboro acted in tandem with Orange County and Chapel Hill and I urged us to act on our own to move faster. I understand the thinking behind this action but still found it frustrating, as did many others who contacted me asking when the town would mandate masks as the pandemic worsened. I also believe that the mandate should not have been lifted, only to be re-instated. I was also, along many community members frustrated by the initially cumbersome system of finding and getting vaccinated by the OC Health Dept. once vaccines became available. Again we were in uncharted waters and I know people were working hard to get it right. The bureaucracy involved was too multi-layered and political. All that said, our county and towns did a good job of responding. We constantly have among the highest vaccination rates and lowest positivity rates in the state. The University systems’ refusal to mandate vaccines is the biggest challenge we face in “stopping the spread “.I am proud of my town and community’s response. Neighbors   took care of neighbors and formed stronger bonds. Our businesses formed Carrboro United to keep restaurant staff employed and people fed.The town council and staff have done well in handling COVID 19.The Council early on worked to make sure that needed financial support quickly reached our community including families, nonprofits and local businesses.  Town staff gave out at least 6,500 masks going door to door in historically marginalized communities, hosted tables in apartment complexes, and provided masks to non-profits. In conjunction with DSS, we hosted nine food distributions in Carrboro and gave food to 1,860 households. The Human Services Advisory Board, which I am liaison to, prioritized allocating funding to those NPOs providing food, housing and health care. We also applied for and received a $900,000 CDBG-CV grant to fund rent, mortgage, and utility assistance through the Emergency Housing Assistance (EHA) Emergency local business loans of $296,000 kept people employed, message centers were established in low wealth neighborhoods.$54,500 was distributed to NGOs for  emergency  assistance to those hit hardest by the pandemic. Additional monies to help families with rent and mortgage payments as well as our local businesses and non-profits are being allocated. With my urging and support, the town made the difficult decision of cancelling our popular music festival last month to “stop the spread”. Our mask mandate remains. I think that the Chapel Hill Carrboro schools and especially the teachers have worked hard in almost impossible circumstances connect with an engage our children during the stay at home order and as the schools work to re-open and stay open.

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?

As a part owner, Carrboro has a voice in deciding how to develop the tract. The Roger’s Road Community knows best what it needs and wants. I strongly support the Rogers Road Mapping Our Community’s plan for using part of the Greene Track for mixed use including affordable housing; I also support building Pee Wee and small homes on the Greene Tract. I believe we can and must protect the headwaters and forest and while  developing  other areas of the 140-acre tract. I do not believe this is a choice between the mixed use the Roger’s Road Community wants and environmental protection. The key environmentally sensitives areas, including the headwaters, can be preserved while moving ahead with the plan.

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?

Our new police chief is committed to building trust with the community, as was his predecessor. I believe they are making progress but there is much work left to done. For example, the department has been keeping and reporting statistics on traffic stops. I was disappointed recently to see that while the number of stops for equipment violations had gone down the percentage of those stopped who are Black was still disproportionately high. The hiring, training and supervision of police officers must include equity training.

Too often police are called to situations, which would be better addressed, by training community mediators or social workers. I have and will continue to advocate for a Social Work position to be created. I am excited that the town will soon be appointing a citizens Community Safety Task Force to re-imagine policing in Carrboro. I look forward to working with them.

16) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.

The Arts are central to Carrboro’s identity and local economy. I have worked to promote the Arts and artists during my tenure on the Council. I serve as the liaison to the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Resources Commission and have for several terms. I initiated the Carrboro Poet Lauriat position as well as the Poet’s Council, which hosts our poetry festival. As the liaison to the Arts Commission, I initiated the Summer Arts Stipend for high school and college artists and have actively supported Carrboro’s art galleries in Town hall and the Century Center. I encouraged the BLM murals painted by young people this summer. As co-founder of Carrboro Day, I worked to bring the community together for a day of sharing art, music, storytelling and poetry.

During my service to our town, my focus has been on seeking out and bringing together the diverse voices of our community to find common ground on the issues we face and the projects we undertake. I initiated Carrboro’s tradition of holding facilitated public meetings to address major projects and concerns. One recent example of how effective these meetings can be is the design of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park. When the design planning process began, there were many groups and individuals advocating having their needs and desires included in the park plan, some of them in seeming conflict with others. By working together through a series of sometimes-hard community meetings, we were to design an environmentally responsible park, which includes ample open space, walking paths, a natural playground, our community garden, covered picnic areas, an amphitheater and a pump track! When we cut the ribbon to the park on Dr. Martin Luther King Day 2020, just weeks before the pandemic hit, I noted in my remarks that the park was a living example of what can happen when each voice is listened too and neighbors are willing to work together to make sure no one is left out. 

I am proud to have been endorsed by Equality NC and the Sierra Club.

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