Name as it appears on the ballot: Talal Asad
Date of birth: 06/15/1986
Home address: 1202 N Greensboro St, Carrboro NC 27510
Campaign website: www.talalforcarrboro.com
Occupation & employer: Director of Operations – Son Information Systems
Work phone: 919-308-6288 Cell phone: 201-210-1566
Twitter handle, if applicable: @talalderman
1.What are the three most important issues facing Orange County Carrboro? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The three most important issues in Carrboro are numbered below, with my priorities in addressing each of those issues in bullet points.
ISSUE 1: Encouraging Business Development, Entrepreneurship, and Employment Opportunities
• Attract secondary sector businesses (such as light manufacturing) utilizing the Revolving Loan, Microloans and potential Green Urban Enterprise ZonesAs Alderman, I would continue supporting the revolving loan and start disbursing the new microloans that have already been line itemed in previous year’s budgets. I would look into extending these loans to secondary sector businesses (i.e. manufacturing).Some Towns in the United States have set up Urban Enterprise Zones for businesses in their Towns. These zones provide favorable incentives to businesses for setting up shop and employing residents, while reinvesting their taxes directly into the Town. I would explore setting up a similar program, but with a unique Carrboro touch.The Town should identify areas where light manufacturing is feasible and create a new ‘Green Urban Enterprise Zone.’ Companies that qualify for these zones will receive incentives as long as they demonstrate a commitment to sustainable and green manufacturing processes and certifications. This will increase employment, provide a long-term revenue stream for the Town and attract investment from forward-looking companies.
• Encourage the development of a business incubator or Town-subsidized shared workspace to bring like-minded entrepreneurs together under one roof with seasoned business owners and mentors.Tracking the outcomes of incubator programs like Launch Chapel Hill and replicating its successful features would be a good way to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation. The Town should encourage and subsidize workspaces to keep professionals in Carrboro. Another great model is the Co-Lab workspace in Omaha, Nebraska.Funds from the revolving and micro loans could be used to subsidize the office space and minor build-out in orderto incentivize entrepreneurs and fledgling companies to choose Carrboro as the destination to set up shop. Local business leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, and UNC could also help with a mentorship program.This would have a multiplier effect in promoting the local economy by increasing the number people shopping, having lunch/dinner, and living in Carrboro.
• Stop impeding development and expansion by tying current businesses to parking spaces.The Town should do everything in its power to allow businesses to expand and grow. Currently, some businesses have been told they are unable to expand due to “not having enough parking spaces.”Not having enough parking is a “good” problem to have, as it indicates the Town is growing and becoming more popular. But it should be a problem that needs to be solved by the Town, not be a burden on the business owners and their employees who want to thrive. Certain business leaders have been warning of this issue for over a decade and it has gone unsolved. It’s time to come up with a comprehensive solution that looks a decade into the future, is pragmatic and does not hurt the local business owners.
ISSUE 2: Solve the Parking Situation
•Short Term: Encourage public/alternate transportation while educating visitors of current parking solutions.Living in such a densely populated Town has its merits, especially for those within a mile or so of downtown Carrboro. Ease-of-access with bike lanes, free bus routes, and ample sidewalks allow many residents to use alternate forms of transportation. However, encouraging some residents to use these alternate forms of transport remains an issue.
Later busing hours between downtown, surrounding Carrboro neighborhoods, and Chapel Hill would encourage local residents to use public transportation during the busy late night hours would be ideal and ease the current parking burden. This also allows out-of-Carrboro residents to find parking spaces. This would also decrease the likelihood of impaired driving in and around Town, and lower carbon-emissions.
Educational campaigns should be run on the Town’s website with literature about the parking and commuting options would also be beneficial. More signage around the 300 E Main deck and in municipal lots would be a positive step toward educating commuters about their options. (For example, at the “Open Eye” municipal lot a sign that says “If full, try the new parking garage at 300 E Main.”)
• Zoning of more Residential units Downtown
Allowing new (and old) buildings in downtown to rent out top floors for residential use would keep more people downtown, encourage more pedestrian traffic, and decrease the need to commute and park. As Main St continues to develop, these new buildings could have dedicated parking for their residents to keep the burden away from the Municipal lots.
• Long Term: The Carrboro Solar Deck
The lease to the town for free use of the 300 E Main parking deck runs out in 5 years. This means as the population increases, there will be even LESS parking!My full parking proposal, which will be unveiled during the Orange Politics debate Sunday the 6th, calls for the creation of the Carrboro Solar Deck to be erected at the municipal lot on S. Greensboro St (the lot next to Open Eye). Speaking with local solar companies and business leaders, this is entirely feasible.
The deck will provide approximately 200-300 new spots along with electrical production of approximately 250,000 KW/h yearly. Furthermore, the Solar Deck will mark Carrboro on the map as a town that supports sustainable and progressive development. The lot will also host Electrical Vehicle charging stations to be ready for the future.
More information will be provided on Sunday, and by the time this is published the proposal will be available in full on my website: www.talalforcarrboro.com
ISSUE 3: Affordable Housing
Unfortunately, according to State Law, the municipal government does not have much leeway in terms of dictating affordable housing ordinances. The Town is not allowed to cap rents or limit rent increases.However, the Town has the ability to continue providing its wonderful services without sacrificing its revenue streams by diversifying its sources of income away from the home and property owners.Carrboro currently has one of the state’s largest effective combined property tax rates (ranks 32nd out of 730 municipalities or the 96th percentile). It is hypocritical for Carrboro to bill itself as a town that is dedicated to affordable housing, when in fact it has a higher property tax rate than Charlotte or even Chapel Hill.
•Realign the tax base of the city back to the businesses. In order to provide public services, the Town earns about 80% of its income from two main sources, property taxes and local businesses sales taxes, of which 78% of those two sources are property taxes. A healthy ratio should be around 65%/35% property to sales tax.Looking at trends from 2008-2012, adjusted for inflation, property taxes in Carrboro have remained nearly stagnant with only a slight decrease while sales taxes have declined significantly, to the order of 16.6%! As a percentage of total revenue, the share of property taxes has increased about 4% while the share of elastic revenues (such as sales tax) has decreased 4%. The burden is clearly on the home and property owners in this case.The formula is very simple: increased sales = increased tax revenue. The Town must encourage business and commerce. The Town has to stop stifling growth over bureaucratic red tape, parking, zoning, and planning issues.
•Pledge a percentage of yearly budget surpluses to the Affordable Housing fund.The Town of Carrboro does a wonderful job of accurately forecasting costs and balancing their budget. So well, in fact, that the Town has had operating revenue surpluses in the last 6 fiscal years! On top of the funds that are appropriated to Affordable Housing, a portion of yearly surpluses should be made in the next fiscal year to the fund.
•Work for Carrboro? Live in Carrboro!Carrboro should incentivize town employees (Aldermen excluded) to live in town by providing tax breaks or other means to keep public employees in the town they serve.A greater sense of community can be fostered and this would affect the likelihood of encouraging a greater sense of urgency and pride for those who work so hard to keep our town running smoothly and safely.
2.What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County Board of Commissioners? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
I never have been a public official. I think this is what sets me apart from my competitors. It never hurts to have a little change and an outside shakeup is sometimes necessary for new ideas. No community can succeed with tunnel vision, and I plan to bring a fresh perspective to this town.
My career has spanned many industries. I have worked for a privately-owned jewelry shop in downtown Columbus, Ohio; in Market Research for the world’s largest market research firm; and for the past four years, in a small software company. I have also had stints managing a friend’s music career and currently serve on the weekends at the Hickory Tavern in downtown Carrboro.
In Columbus, I saw firsthand what happens to a local brick and mortar business when impediments to traffic are placed (It’s not pretty). This has molded my views on why slow-zones or the closure of traffic to already strained traffic patterns would be a death knell for a local business.
In my current job with the software company, we provide enterprise database and web application solutions to non-profit organizations that provide health and social care to indigent care communities, including Farmworker Health. This work has allowed me to become educated about the strife of vulnerable populations, including farmworkers, and those who are un/underinsured.
When developing enhancements and solutions to the software, our company ethos has been to bring together disparate non-profits into a collaborative agreement. One client’s needs in farmworker health could also benefit a free clinic in a small town. Opening up this dialogue between our clients and has led me to realize that a community collaborative method of engagement helps bring like-minded people together to come up with solutions.
I believe in implementing the same strategy to local governance. The residents of this town as a whole have the same mission… to keep Carrboro beautiful and progressive. My work experience and community involvement in college will help our neighbors, who are as diverse as they come, to realize this mission and band together for solutions to our issues.
3.How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I do not believe in labeling myself along party lines and I am proud to declare myself a radical centrist.
The past few years of governance in this country have proven that taking staunch non-negotiable approaches and positions only causes strife and gridlock. One cannot call themselves progressive, yet refuse to negotiate or compromise, especially when it comes to issues regarding the economy.
That being said, however, socially, I lean very left. You are on the wrong side of history otherwise. There is no excuse for intolerance of any sort. In the matters of civil liberties no one has the authority to take away our unalienable rights.
My platform is pro-local business and pro-property rights. I believe in easing the burden of business owners so that they can spend less time worrying if they are going to go out of business and more time hiring and contributing to the local economy.
As for property owners, the tax rate our residents pay is through the roof, it’s time to ease the burden on them so that the overall cost of ownership decreases and achieving the dream of homeownership becomes a reality. Renters will also see the benefits of lower property taxes as their rent increases will be less prominent.
4.The Carrboro Board of Aldermen made changes in recent years to how the Town’s revolving loan fund is administered, including pushing for more follow-up with businesses. What are your thoughts on the fund’s performance in recent years? What could be done to improve the fund’s performance?
This paper had a great article last month that discussed the current performance of the fund. (http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/after-revamps-success-rate-of-carrboro-revolving-loan-fund-improves/Content?oid=3902686)
Recently, with more follow up and more stringent review of disbursing this fund has led to zero-defaults in two years.
As I stated earlier in question 1, I think we should look into extended these loans, coupled with microloans and the Green Urban Economic Zones to manufacturing and other “long-term” employment opportunities.
This is a great tool to attract and retain business in the Town, and I believe it should continue to be administered.
With a minor in entrepreneurship from Ohio State, and my experience in entrepreneurship and small business I will be asset on the Board as it pertains to reviewing business plans for approval.
5.Affordable housing remains an issue in the Town of Carrboro. What would you do as a board member to address the issue?
Please see answer 1-C.
6.Town officials continue to push for changes in Town regulations to make downtown more “pedestrian-friendly?” Is downtown safe enough for pedestrians today? If not, explain what you would do to improve the situation.
Education on pedestrian and bicycle safety remains extremely important. I have now witnessed a bike accident and a pedestrian getting hit by traffic since I’ve moved into town. Improvements to safety can always be made. Flashing light zebra-crossings could be an option, especially in high pedestrian traffic areas such as Main St and N. Greensboro and more reminders to “Watch for Pedestrians/Bikers” could be placed around town.
Cyclists and pedestrians must also exercise vigilance when commuting in and around town and common sense and courtesy should be extended on the road.
The residential complexes off of Highway 54 are very dangerous spots as residents cross to catch the bus on either side of the street. This is an issue that needs to be addressed before more tragedies occur.
I do not support pedestrian only or extreme slow-zones in downtown Carrboro as we do not have the supporting streets or enough lanes that allow for diverted traffic to flow. This will only cause more gridlock, jams, and ultimately accidents and destroy businesses.
7.Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.
Some residents have been very vocal about not needing more parking. My stance on the Carrboro Solar Deck remains strong, especially after speaking with many downtown business owners who continually reiterate parking as being one of their main problems.
A quote I remember from one of the meetings was “If the Town had been more forthcoming about the lack of parking in this area, I would not have spent all of this money setting up in Carrboro.”
This is unacceptable. Carrboro has grown over a fifth population-wise since 2000! If this growth rate increases or even remains steady, the strain on parking downtown will only become greater. We will be losing 350 parking spaces in five years when the Town’s lease with 300 E Main runs out.
We need solutions that are creative and “Carrboro.” I believe offsetting the carbon footprint with the Solar Deck will be a great way to both satisfy our business-owner’s needs and demonstrate Carrboro’s commitment to sustainability.
8.The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
The first step of a just community is transparency. The Town’s record of transparency in regard to local government meetings and decisions is to be applauded. Being the “young” candidate in the pool, my candidacy highly encourages our underrepresented demographic, the 18-35 year olds, to engage in the civic process and town government.
Hearing “What’s an Alderman?” is appalling, but is the most common question I get when I inform people my age that I am running for this position. The Town can do a better job in educating its residents about how the Town is governed. My campaign literature that I have been distributing does just that. I believe this can be a very cost-effective way to reach out to the community.
Speaking of just communities, I think Carrboro has one of the best police departments I’ve ever encountered. The officers at CPD have been nothing short of courteous and helpful, even in situations where they may have had the opportunity to practice “enforcement” policing as opposed to “education” policing.
This model should be encouraged and replicated across our community and in the Triangle as a whole. I would support our police department in public outreach programs. Coffee with a Cop should be a regular occurrence and a streamlined grievance process for residents who feel that they’re rights are not being properly served should be placed in effect.
9.Downtown Carrboro is known for its quirky, small-Town businesses and buildings. What sort of development decisions would you support to either continue this path for downtown Carrboro or make a change?
Small-Town businesses are the heart and soul of downtown Carrboro. Development decisions that are made should keep the character of the city in mind. Priority and incentives for development should be made to developers who want to attract businesses that keep the town’s mission of diversity and economic sustainability in mind.
Carrboro should never look like Orlando, or even worse, Cary!
Luckily, I am firm believer that one does not have to impede development in order to retain character.
Under my watch, I pledge to make sure that Carrboro will continue to grow out without having to necessarily “grow up!”