In communities across the Triangle, “smart growth” is the latest catch phrase. As the down side of growth has everywhere become more obvious–traffic jams, big-box commercial centers and vanishing green space–citizens have been raising questions about the unchecked pace of development in the region. In its current usage by business interests and politicians, smart growth has begun to lose its meaning as an alternative. Municipal leaders will often say the right words, but when it comes to crucial votes, they back the developers almost every time. In many local communities, open debate over balanced growth is sorely lacking. Is any “infill” development, no matter how large, smart growth? Does allowing developers to build only where they want to add up to smart growth? How smart is it to ignore the pressing problems of affordable housing and the need to revitalize our city centers?

When you get right down to it, growth per se isn’t the issue. The real issue is equity–how and whether the costs and benefits of future growth are shared by all citizens of the region. On Oct. 9, voters in Wake and Durham will select–or begin selecting–the people charged with regulating growth and development and, therefore, shaping the quality of our daily lives for years to come. In these local races, individual votes can still make a critical difference. That’s why The Independent publishes endorsements each year to help you sort out the issues and the candidates.

Our endorsements are based on extensive reporting and research. We send questionnaires to all of the candidates asking for detailed positions on issues they’ll face in office. We also conduct numerous supplemental interviews with local political activists, neighborhood leaders and observers–as well as the candidates themselves. The results of our findings are organized into Raleigh, Wake and Durham sections. We have also assembled Voting Guides that you can clip out and carry to the polls (and we’ll reprint those the week before the primary). Look for another set of Independent endorsements Oct. 24, when we’ll offer recommendations for the Nov. 6 runoffs in Wake and Durham, and for local races in Orange and Chatham counties.