Carrboro will fill vacant alderman seat by election

CorrespondentDecember 12, 2013 

— The Carrboro aldermen voted 4-2 in favor of holding an election to fill the vacancy left by former Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle becoming mayor.

Lavelle was sworn in as mayor Dec. 3, which left an empty chair on the board as she moved one seat over to the mayor’s spot. The former mayor, Mark Chilton, chose not to run again.

The aldermen had two options. One was to hold an election, which could be held at the same time as the primary election May 6. The other option was for the board members to appoint someone to fill out Lavelle’s term.

The last vacancy on the board was filled by election last spring, but that didn’t turn out the way the aldermen expected when only one person, planning board member Damon Seils, decided to run. It cost the town about $11,000 to hold the special election.

“I would like to propose we piggyback on the primary in May and have an election,” said Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist. “It means we do not choose who fills that seat. The citizens of Carrboro choose who fills that seat because it’s their right to do so.”

Seils had a different opinion, saying the aldermen have been successful in appointing people to fill vacancies in the past. Those appointees have gone on to win election and re-election, he said. Plus appointing someone could probably be accomplished within six weeks, he said.

Randee Haven-O’Donnell echoed Gist’s point that the election process encourages the candidates to get out and meet the people who live in Carrboro and learn about their concerns.

“They become responsible to the electorate in a very different way than they do if they’re going through the appointment process,” she said. “Someone who is going to be appointed is going to be interviewed by us. That’s very different than being interviewed by the general public.”

Gist, Haven-O’Donnell, Sammy Slade and Lavelle voted in favor of the election, and Seils and Michelle Johnson voted against it.

Braxton Foushee, 73, who served on the board from 1969 to 1981 and who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in 2011, attended the meeting and said he will probably file to run in the election.

Parking forum

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the Aldermen voted unanimously to hold a forum for downtown Carrboro business people to discuss parking. Because of recent changes in parking availability, business people have complained there’s not enough parking for their employees and their customers in the downtown area.

Most of the free public parking is limited to two hours, but some employees have been overstaying in those lots.

Park and Ride lots also began charging to park in its lots, and some people have balked at paying those fees, finding other places to park but still riding the bus to the downtown area.

Some businesses with on-site parking have started sharing their parking with other businesses. For example, a business open during the day might allow employees of a night-time business to park in its lot at night.

The aldermen agreed they liked that idea and agreed to hold a forum for business owners to encourage them to bring their concerns, get to know each other and maybe make agreements for sharing their parking.

Slade suggested that employees might look for parking on residential streets where parking is allowed and then walk, ride a bike or take a bus into town.

“These are public streets, and a lot of money goes into maintaining them,” he said.

Carrboro has a new website called parkcarrboro.com with a map that shows public parking in the downtown area.

Velliquette: bavelliquette@gmail.com

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