Remember Michael Bilandic?

He was the all-powerful mayor of Chicago who was brought down in 1979 by 78 inches of snow and the arrogance to think it didn’t matter how quickly it was cleaned up. Well, you may be thinking, we’ve had our ice storms and hurricanes and power outages, but nothing that bad, nothing of such a catastrophic nature that we should feel there’s a crisis (like a body-builder-turned-movie-actor running for governor) impelling us to rush to the polls on Tuesday.

Think again. We may not have six-and-a-half feet of snow piled up (or a governor with a groping problem), but those ominous grey clouds are gathering. As today’s endorsements issue makes clear, there are critical issues looming in the Triangle that will affect us all for the rest of our lives. But, incredibly, maybe, maybe, one in five of us will bother to take the time to vote. In Durham for the October primary, a pitiful 13 percent of those registered turned out–and that was with City Hall in turmoil and tree limbs from Hurricane Isabel piled up on the curb.

So here are some reminders of the decisions these candidates will be making that could make life either a lot better or more miserable for a lot longer than it takes a snowdrift to melt.

In Raleigh, as ever, it’s growth and downtown. The next council will decide whether to really change the direction of growth and stop sprawl, or just keep talking about it. In different ways, Thomas Crowder and Jessie Taliaferro both want to encourage human-scale housing, stores and office developments in and around downtown, and slow their migration into the countryside. If we don’t make the right choices, we will pay in unbearable traffic, unbreathable air and unattractive surroundings.

Durham has those same issues, and more. Not only has the City Council failed repeatedly to show it can manage growth and urban design issues (just take a look at the big boxes and hideous parking lots going up around the new Southpoint and old South Square malls), it has not been aggressive in holding top management responsible for bond spending scandal after contract scandal after loan scandal. City Council candidates Diane Catotti, Diane Wright and Eugene Brown will address those issues.

In Chapel Hill, the biggest issue since Meadowmont is UNC’s plan to build a second campus on the 1,000-acre Horace Williams tract. The town has an enviable history of good growth planning, and it is imperative that council members make sure the university acts in the best interests of the town. We believe Sally Greene, Cam Hill, Andrea Rohrbacher and Bill Strom will do that.

There is hope. No, it wasn’t quite as bad as a series of blizzards, but it turns out the City of Durham is on its way toward finishing the cleanup from Isabel. As promised in this space by T. Baridi Nkokheli, assistant director of the city’s Department of Solid Waste Management, the city has indeed decided to go around and pick up all the debris that’s out on the curb, regardless whether people have paid the $50 fee for lawn-waste pickup. And they say they’ll have it done by Nov. 22. First vote, then urge five more people to vote, and then hold the city’s feet to that fire.


As with our last endorsements issue, you may notice that we have separate covers in Wake County and in Durham/Orange counties, so we can spotlight local candidates. The inside pages are the same.