Published: Aug 13, 2008 07:05 AM
Modified: Aug 13, 2008 07:05 AM
Matt Czajkowski is sweating through his REI shirt. He's wearing sandals and tells me he drives an '83 Mercedes diesel.
And he likes it that way. ... well, maybe not the sweat.
Czajkowski says the best thing town leaders have done is keep the town from becoming Greenwich, Conn., where some people might judge his attire or choice of vehicle.
Chapel Hill, he says, is still a place where you can drive your beat-up car up to a party, or eat out in a T-shirt and jeans and nobody cares.
But he wonders how long it will stay that way with high-rise, high-priced condominiums filling the skyline.
Czajkowski's been the voice of dissent on the Town Council. As we wait for our burritos -- he's ordered pulled something -- I ask whether he dissents for dissent's sake or thinks he's making a real difference.
He's spoken up against insurance for ex-council members, the town's high-density direction and the state of downtown, the latter after midnight in the council's last meeting before summer break.
He was lauded by letter writers after the health insurance vote. Many who blasted the council's initial aproval (later rescinded) singled lone opponent Czajkowski out for praise.
Czajkowski thinks the council is out of touch with Chapel Hill's changing population.
Changing how, I ask. Less liberal?
"I didn't say that," he says.
Mostly, the council's disconnect shows in what he sees as the body's priorities, he says.
"The people who've moved here in the past 20 years are not the old Chapel Hillians who grew up in the halcyon days of Peace and Justice Plaza," he says.
"That stuff doesn't mean anything to them because they weren't part of it."
You hear something similar from time to time in Carrboro. As the town grows more affluent, some wonder how the decisions made on West Main Street are playing out in the 'burbs.
Since Czajkowski scored points for opposing benefits for ex-council members, I ask why he accepts benefits as a sitting council member. Is that a contradiction?
"We get paid as council members; part of compensation is benefits," he responds.
"Nobody says, 'Don't pay me.'"
I ask him again whether he thinks he's making a difference.
He thinks so, even if indirectly. He gives Mayor Kevin Foy the credit, for example, for reopening the mixed-use discussion. The town will hold meetings this fall to re-examine past assumptions on how Chapel Hill should grow, especially on its major corridors.
"Obviously the goal is to implement change," Czajkowski says of his agenda.
"To the extent other council members are listening to the broader public -- instead of the constituency they've been listening to -- they may be hearing the priorities in Chapel Hill may be different."
Take Glen Lennox, he says.
By proposing high-density redevelopment along a highway, Grubb Properties was giving the town what the council had said it wants, Czajkowski says. It's clearly not what a lot of Chapel Hill residents want.
I ask what's next. If Kevin Wolff, who did little to get his name and issues out, can win 25 percent of the vote against an incumbent mayor, arguably a council member who's tapped a public vein could do better.
"Arguably I could," he says and half smiles, which he tends to do.