Candidates differ on growth rate, Covid vaccination requirement for city employees, and spending priorities
Mebane voters will head to the polls (early voting begins today and election day is November 2) to select three members of the city council this fall.
For the first time in many election cycles, there are at least two vacancies on the council, so there will be at least two new council members elected.
Only one incumbent, long-time councilman Tim Bradley, is running for re-election. Council members Everette Greene and Jill Auditori did not seek re-election.
Also running for the three open seats are Katie Burkholder, Montreena Hadley, Charles Lopez, Roger Parker, and Jonathan White.
See biographical information on the six candidates:
The Alamance News submitted an issues questionnaire to the candidates, all of whom responded. Their answers, in some cases edited to conform to the newspaper’s space limitations, begin on page 5.
Also provided to the candidates was a form for biographical information and a request for a photo. Those are printed on page 4.
Additionally, the newspaper submitted individualized, or targeted, questions for each candidate, based on concerns or issues that seem to be voiced in the community. Those responses are on page 8.
Candidates are often in agreement on some of the broad issues facing the city, but little agreement on others.
Is Mebane growing “too fast”?
Growth is always a central issue in Mebane. Figures from the recent Census indicated that the city has grown by 56.2 percent over the past decade, to 17,797, eclipsing Graham as the county’s second largest city.
But candidates were divided about that rate of growth.
Three – Bradley, Burkholder, and Lopez – believe Mebane’s residential growth is “too high,” while the other three – Hadley, Parker, and White – say it is “about right.”
All candidates agree that the pace of commercial development has been “about right,” and all but Lopez believe the rate of industrial growth has also been “about right.” Lopez says it is “too low.”
Candidates were asked their views on a potential moratorium or slowdown in either approvals for subdivisions or apartment complexes.
Hadley, who previously worked as a planner with the city, is opposed. “Mebane should not have a moratorium on building. We should concentrate on providing adequate infrastructure to support the growth.”
That was also a theme from White: “The rate of growth and the ability of our infrastructure to handle it needs to be in the forefront of our planning decisions.”
Specifically with regard to apartments, White says, “ We need to keep all types of housing in balance and assess whether the number of apartments is aligned with our future goals.”
Bradley and Burkholder both point to new city requirements for assessing wastewater demands as providing a de facto slowdown.
Taxing and spending about right
With respect to overall spending and taxing levels, most of the candidates are satisfied with the current levels.
All six candidates say that the tax rate of 47 cents per $100 valuation is “about right.”
With respect to specific departments, most who were willing to state a position say recreation and parks along with public works are “adequately funded.” Lopez says police and fire should have “more” funding.
White did not state a position, saying instead, “Departmental funding issues are more complex than can be adequately answered here.”
In terms of where increased spending might be warranted, Bradley says, “ Infrastructure needs are continuing to grow, primarily streets and paving, so there is a need for more there, but overall the balance is good.”
Burkholder also points to potential water and sewer upgrades. “If the planned federal funding falls through for the water/sewer improvements, we’ll need to increase spending here. This is unlikely since half of the funds have already been received.”
Mandating Covid vaccinations for city employees?
Candidates were evenly divided about whether Mebane should institute a mandatory vaccination requirement for city employees.
Bradley, Burkholder, and Hadley support such a requirement, with Hadley adding a caveat for “exceptions due to medical or religious reasons.”
Lopez, Parker, and White are opposed to a mandatory vaccination requirement.
No pay hikes, expanded benefits for council members
All six candidates say that the current level of pay for city council members ($750 per month, about $9,000 annually) and for the mayor ($791.67 monthly, or $9,500 annually) is “adequate and fair.”
They also uniformly say they oppose the idea that some jurisdictions – most notably nearby Burlington – have allowed by expanding health insurance coverage to members of the city council. Adds Lopez, “Serving the city is not a primary function or employer for elected officials.”
What role for partisanship?
Candidates generally oppose converting the non-partisan city council races into partisan ones, although Parker supports the idea, and Hadley is undecided.
Candidates generally support maintaining the non-partisan nature of the race. Two candidates – Burkholder and Parker – who are identified with the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, also addressed the issue in candidate-specific questions that were sent to individual candidates. Those responses are on page 8 [included in the link below].
The full questionnaire and all of the candidates’ responses can be found beginning on page 5 [link below].
The questions are listed in the center, with three candidates (arranged alphabetically) on each side, for the reader’s ease in being able to follow the questions and answers.
For complete list of questions and answers from this week’s edition of The Alamance News, click HERE