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Orange Incumbents Facing Challengers
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Orange Incumbents Facing Challengers

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - Two Republican candidates and a Libertarian are seeking to unseat three well-established Democrat incumbents on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Three commissioners' seats are up for re-election, with incumbents Alice Gordon, Steve Halkiotis and Barry Jacobs running, along with Republican challengers Jamie Daniel and Robin Staudt and Libertarian Seth Fehrs. Daniel and Staudt, making their first bids for elected office, have focused in part on local taxes, saying they would not support future increases in the county's property-tax rate. The incumbents have said they're also concerned about taxes, pointing to their decision in the 2001-02 budget to defer some capital projects, not give employees cost-of-living increases this year and enact a six-month hiring freeze. The commissioners raised property taxes for this year by 2.5 cents per $ 100, with about two cents going to cover debt from the 1997 bonds. County Manager John Link had recommended an increase of 4.5 cents. Jamie Daniel Daniel, 30, lives on Sinai Circle near Hillsborough with his wife and three children, and he works at Duke University as a computer-programming consultant. Before moving to Orange about three years ago, he spent eight years in the U.S. Army as a member of the U.S. Army Band. He grew up near Beckley, W.Va. "I'm just a down-home coal miner's son from West Virginia," Daniel said Saturday. "I say it like it is." Daniel said he wants leaders to do more to tap into resources already in the county, promote more economic development and look for wasteful spending. "I would not vote to raise taxes in any way, shape or form," Daniel said. "I would like to see the line held on taxes, or to lower taxes. If you lower taxes and put more money in people's pockets, they're going to spend more. "I'd like to continue the education support in this county," he said. "We have the most well-educated population in the state, and I'd like to keep that support up. One of the things I would like to change is to bring a new perspective to it, because I think sometimes people equate support with taxes." As an example of supporting schools in ways other than with more funding, Daniel said leaders should help elderly residents come into the schools as volunteers to read to the students, using the existing transportation services in the county. Asked to name a defining moment in his life, Daniel described the death of one of his grandmothers in West Virginia. She was diagnosed with cancer and went from being perhaps the strongest person he knew to very weak. When she died, about 500 people attended her funeral, and it made Daniel think, "You need to do the best you can, live your life the best way you know how, never waste a minute," he said. Seth Fehrs Fehrs, 40, lives on Woodland Park Drive in Hillsborough with his wife and son, and he works at Duke University Medical Center in programming and database design. He grew up in New York and has lived in the county for about six years. He graduated from Duke with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering. Fehrs could not be reached for comment on Saturday afternoon. In the information he submitted for The Herald-Sun's Votebook, he described himself as economically conservative but socially liberal. He ranked himself at 2, on a political scale ranging from 1 (extremely conservative) to 9 (extremely liberal). He stated that his top priorities would be "relieving the tax burden for rural home owners and farmers," keeping the budget balanced and focusing on efficiency in the county government. "I believe people minding their own business should be left alone, or to 'live and let live,' " Fehrs stated. "I tend to prefer the privatization of most government services, but given that we have things like public schools, I'd like to see them run as efficiently as possible." He contended that neither Republicans nor Democrats are "serious" about limiting the size of government, and that the county commissioners should pay only for countywide services, such as schools and the Sheriff's Office. Alice Gordon Gordon, 65, lives on Edgewood Drive south of Chapel Hill with her husband. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and came to Chapel Hill in 1972 with a doctorate in psychology from Stanford. She's retired as a research psychologist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC. Gordon is running for her fourth four-year term. She was commissioners chairwoman in 1999, and she has focused on issues like transportation and schools, serving on groups including the Schools and Land Use Councils, the board of the Triangle Transit Authority and the Transportation Advisory Committee of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization. She is stressing her support for schools, inclusive county government, environmental protection and county programs like Lands Legacy, through which the county has purchased conservation easements and several hundred acres for parks and open space. She's eager for the county, towns and school boards to agree on the proposed adequate public facilities ordinance for schools to prevent overcrowding in the schools. The various boards may vote on that ordinance in the coming weeks. It would link the rate of residential development with the availability of classroom space in local schools. If a proposed development were expected to push schools beyond their capacity for students, then the project would be deferred until new classroom space is available. Gordon said a defining moment was when she decided 12 years ago to run for county commissioner, after serving as chairwoman of the county Planning Board and president of the city school district's PTA Council. "It's not the defining moment of my life, but it certainly was an important moment," she said, since she was able to take her interest in schools and land use to the next level. "If I was going to go on to contribute to the community, the commission was the place to do it." Steve Halkiotis Halkiotis, 58, lives on Franklin Road near Hillsborough with his wife. Halkiotis was chairman of the County Commissioners last year and is now vice chairman. He was first elected as a county commissioner in 1986 and is running for his fifth - and what he says likely is his last - term. Halkiotis has pointed to the construction of school space and two new senior centers in Chapel Hill and central Orange as among the efforts he wants to continue. "The kids are going to keep coming," he said Saturday. "As much as people think we're anti-development, we need to remember that we grew faster than Durham County, according to the last census." He grew up in Haverhill, Mass., and came to Chapel Hill in 1967 to earn a doctorate in Latin American history. He was a teacher and administrator in the Orange County school system and principal at Orange High School from 1981 to 1996. He currently is the school system's director of auxiliary services, which covers bus transportation, school maintenance and child nutrition. Halkiotis also is stressing his support for parks and open space, environmental protection and the concept of sustainability. He said he's concerned that the financial troubles at the state level aren't over, and that next year the numbers could look even worse for the state budget, which could lead to more cuts affecting local governments. "We had to do something," he said about the commissioners' decision this fall to add a half-cent sales tax starting Dec. 1, as authorized by the General Assembly. "Nobody wants to run around and enact additional sales taxes and this and that, but what do you do?" As for a defining moment, Halkiotis pointed to the birth of his daughter, Christon, about 24 years ago. "I think being the father of a daughter shaped and defined my whole attitude toward equal opportunities for women, a level playing field for women," he said. Barry Jacobs Jacobs, 51, lives on Moorefields Road near Hillsborough with his wife, adjacent to the historic Moorefields estate where he works as caretaker. He currently is chairman of the county commission, and he's seeking his second term. He served six years on the county Planning Board and five years on the Orange Water and Sewer Authority board. Jacobs grew up in New York and graduated from Duke University, and he is a journalist and author of works including the annual "Fan's Guide to ACC Basketball," "Coach K's Little Blue Book" and "The World According to Dean." He has been chairman of groups ranging from the Library Services Task Force to the Soccer Symposium Task Force, and was appointed to the state Commission on Smart Growth, Growth Management and Development. He said one of his goals continues to be encouraging "smart growth," which he defines as growth that acknowledges limits on natural resources and infrastructure and does minimal damage to the environment. He also points to his support for schools, social justice, collaboration with citizens and other local governments and efforts like Lands Legacy. "I'm proud of the fact that we're preserving basically one acre for every acre developed," he said. "I think that's one of our proudest achievements." As a defining moment, Jacobs referred to 1969 at Duke, his freshman year, when a group of black students took over the administration building and called for changes, such as more black professors and creation of an African-American studies program. Duke had been integrated only for a few years, and it was a time when the relatively few black students were fighting for a voice, Jacobs said. He decided to join students who blocked entrances to a building to keep protesters from being removed. "You may not fully embrace the tactic, and the situation may not be of your choosing, but sometimes you have to put yourself out on a limb and stand up for what you think is right," he said. Robin Staudt Staudt, 48, grew up near Pittsburgh and moved to Orange County about six years ago. She and her husband live on Bushy Cook Road in Efland. She currently is a homemaker and floral designer, and she owned a hairdressing business back in Pennsylvania. She has a degree in landscape design from the Community College of Allegheny County and a certificate in cosmetology from the Steel Valley Vocational and Technical School. Staudt was a delegate to the Republican state convention last year, and she is a member of the executive committee of the Orange County Republican Party, a founding member and vice president of the Regulator Republican Women's Club and member of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which has asked candidates to sign no-tax-increase pledges. Staudt's call for a "tax freeze" is featured on her campaign signs. She is pushing the theme of more economic development for the county, to take some of the tax burden off residential property owners. "In the county, there are so many people who just don't have the income to handle any more tax increases," she said. "We have to become creative for how we raise our money." Staudt supported the Hampton Pointe shopping center for Hillsborough, and she said she supports the Waterstone development along Old N.C. 86 and Interstate 40. She said she's heard a lot of concern about the water supply for central and northern Orange, and she believes the county should try to build another reservoir, using land the county owns along Seven Mile Creek. The county plans to use that land as a nature preserve, possibly with trails and limited camping. "We don't need a wildlife preserve," Staudt said. "It's an excellent place to consider having a reservoir." As a defining moment in her life, Staudt said she was shaped by her family's involvement in the community and her father's death when she was 13 and the oldest of five children. Her father had been president of the local chamber of commerce and an active Democrat, and her grandmother was an active Republican. "They taught me at a young age that it was important to be involved, that it does make a difference," she said.

11/03/2002
Candidacy: Choice and a Chance
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Candidacy: Choice and a Chance

BY Kathy Hartkopf

I am Kathy Hartkopf, candidate for North Carolina House. I believe my candidacy represents both a choice and a chance for the people of our new district. I live with my husband and two daughters in Hillsborough. I am employed by Calvary United Methodist Church as the director of their Parents Morning Out program and am involved in a great number of volunteer and civic organization including being the chair of my older daughter's PTA Fundraising Committee and the president of my younger daughter's school Parent Council. My candidacy represents the first chance northern Orange County has had to have their voices heard in the General Assembly. Those same citizens deserve a representative who will work to help them have a voice on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Equally, Person County citizens deserve a representative who will be responsive to their needs and wishes. We all deserve a representative whose chief concern is the constituents of their district as opposed to the leadership of their party or the lobbyists who visit their office. North Carolinians deserve: The best schools in the nation. A balanced budget without the additional burden of new tax increases A return to our AAA bond rating A taxpayer protection act. Our farmers, our teachers, and our state employees deserve our protection and our support! I believe that I am the best candidate to represent the people of northern Orange and Person counties because I have the values, the experience and the passion necessary to do the job. For the past six years, I have been a presence at the General Assembly. Not because it is my job, but because I care, I go to Raleigh to make a difference. My legislative experience shows that I am effective with both legislators and legislation. I have been called instrumental in building diverse coalitions, across the aisle for the greater good of North Carolina. I am known as a fiscal conservative. I am known as an advocate for families and taxpayers. I am known as an advocate for the average Joe Taxpayer. I was instrumental in forming the Orange County chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy and I have proudly signed their no new tax pledge for the 2003-2004 legislative session. I was the spokesperson for Citizens for a Better Way, a group that opposed Orange County's 2001 bond package. While there were some very needed and worthwhile elements included in the package, there was waste, inequitable distribution of monies, and a $ 75 million price tag for a county whose tax rate was already among the highest in the state. In principle, I am neither anti-tax nor anti-bond. I do however, believe that tax increases need to be wisely considered and carefully implemented. I have been in Rep. Gordon Allen's office in Raleigh. I believe that he is a very nice man. He has not, however, been a friend to the average citizens of his district. He has not been a friend to farmers. He has not been a friend to state employees. He has not been a friend to taxpayers. Although Mr. Allen has bombarded you with mailings, he has not bothered to visit us and get to know the good people of Orange County. In fact, while Mr. Allen's mailings decry the excesses of big corporations, he has accepted tens-of-thousands of dollars for his campaign from out-of-state corporations and their political action committees. How can he possibly understand our needs and wishes? Next week, please make the choice for a representative who will listen. Please make the choice to return North Carolina to a state with a balanced budget and a premium bond rating. Please make the choice to cut wasteful spending and put families first. Please vote - Kathy Hartkopf for N.C. House.

11/01/2002
Allen, Seeking 4th Term, Opposed by Hartkopf
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Allen, Seeking 4th Term, Opposed by Hartkopf

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - The race for House District 55 pits challenger Kathy Hartkopf, a Republican from Hillsborough, against Democrat incumbent Gordon Allen of Roxboro. Allen is seeking his fourth term in the state House of Representatives, although he currently represents District 22. Allen also was a North Carolina senator for three terms in the 1970s. The General Assembly created the new District 55 this year as part of the redistricting that changed the house districts in Orange County and also cost the county one of its two seats in the North Carolina Senate. District 55 includes all of Person County and 12 precincts in central and northern Orange: Hillsborough, West Hillsborough, Grady Brown, Cameron Park, Eno, Cedar Grove, Caldwell, Cheeks, Efland, St. Marys, Tolars and Carr. Allen easily defeated Democrat challenger Kenneth Rothrock, a lawyer in Hillsborough and northern Orange resident, in the Primary Election earlier this fall. Rothrock got about 600 more votes than Allen in the Orange precincts, but Allen swamped Rothrock by nearly 4-1 in his home county of Person. Rothrock made a push for district representation for the Orange County Commissioners one of his campaign themes, and Hartkopf has sounded that same theme. She contends that many northern Orange voters feel they don't really have a voice among the county commissioners, who are elected at-large rather than by districts. In particular, she says that northern Orange residents are more fiscally conservative than the current commissioners, on questions such as property taxes and spending. "I do not believe that the majority of people of northern Orange County believe that the commissioners who happen to live in [unincorporated] Orange County are representing their needs," she said. "That is the thing that I hear continually when I talk to people in the county. "District representation for Orange County would not be reinventing the wheel," she said. "There are counties all across the country that do elect their commissioners by districts. It's not like the people of northern Orange are asking for something that's never been done before." In general, Hartkopf said that a taxpayer protection act is something she would work for if elected. Such an act would put a percentage limit, based on inflation, on the amount that state taxes could be raised each year. "I believe that North Carolinians deserve the best schools in the nation, a balanced budget without the added burden of new tax increases, a return to our triple-A bond rating, a taxpayer protection act, and a representative who will really listen," she said. "We all deserve a representative whose chief concerns are the needs of their district, as opposed to the leadership of their party or the lobbyists who visit their office," she said. Hartkopf herself has visited North Carolina legislators' offices in recent years to talk about various issues, although Hartkopf said she's done so as a concerned volunteer, and not a paid lobbyist. Hartkopf, 35, grew up in Pamlico County, graduated from Peace College and was a fellow at the Institute of Political Leadership at UNC-Wilmington. She lives on Uphill Court in the Cornwallis Hills subdivision with her husband, Al, and two daughters. She has been the spokesperson for Citizens for A Better Way, which formed last year in opposition to the $ 75 million bond referenda, and she helped establish a local chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group based in Washington, D.C., that calls for lower taxes and limited government. Allen, 73, lives on Crestwood Drive in Roxboro and was principal owner of the family insurance business, Thompson-Allen, until recently when his son took over ownership. He and his wife, Betsy, have five children and 17 grandchildren. Allen is co-chairman of the House Finance Committee and serves on the Education, Environment and Natural Resources, Legislative Redistricting, Rules and Transportation committees. He also is a member of the subcommittee on community colleges and a trustee of Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, which he helped create about 30 years ago. Education has been a focus in Allen's campaign over the past few months. "I'll keep fighting for education funding and the best teachers in our classrooms," he said Wednesday. "Budget crises come and go, but our children only have one chance at a quality education. I have voted to increase teacher salaries and lower class size. I was the founding chairman and got the first appropriation for Piedmont Community College." Allen said he strongly supports the effort by Durham Technical Community College and the Orange County Commissioners to create a satellite campus in Orange for Durham Tech. In general, he has argued that northern Orange and Person face many of the same challenges, and that he therefore is well qualified to represent that part of Orange. He also touted his ranking as the seventh-most effective legislator, and his co-sponsorship of a bill that Gov. Mike Easley was expected to sign into law on Thursday, providing incentives to attract employers to the state. "We've lost our competitive edge to states like South Carolina and Alabama," Allen said. "This new act will hopefully put us back in business. "You've got to be competitive," he said. "Everybody's trying to attract industry." Allen was a platoon leader during the Korean War as an Army lieutenant, and he received the Bronze Star. Asked Wednesday about a defining moment in his life, he mentioned his realization, while in Korea in 1953 as a 24-year-old, that he wanted to settle down for good in Roxboro and raise his family there. He was born in Roxboro and came back there in 1944, after moving with his family to Wilmington and Sanford. But Allen said it was during the war that his attachment to Roxboro really hit him.

10/31/2002
Half-cent sales tax to hit county Dec. 1
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Half-cent sales tax to hit county Dec. 1

BY Rob Shapard

CHAPEL HILL - Calling it the "pass-the-buck" sales tax, county officials have agreed to start collecting a new half-cent sales tax starting the first of December. On Dec. 1, the overall sales tax rate in Orange County and counties across the state will go to 7 cents on the dollar, but it may drop back to 6.5 cents in July, when another half-cent tax is set to expire. That tax generates money strictly for the state. The new half-cent tax, which will be on purchased items except for unprepared food, could generate about $ 1.8 million for Orange County in the seven months between Dec. 1 and the end of the fiscal year, according to projections from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. In addition, the projected revenues for the towns over the seven months include about $ 781,000 for Chapel Hill, $ 261,000 for Carrboro and $ 85,000 for Hillsborough. The half-cent sales tax comes in the context of the state's budget crisis and its impact on local governments. With the state moving to hold back reimbursements and other revenues due to the cities and counties, the General Assembly authorized the local governments to enact a new half-cent sales tax, starting in July 2003. And the Legislature agreed last month to move up the date to December. The Orange commissioners and others have complained that state officials are forcing the local governments to enact a new tax, rather than doing so at the state level - hence the "pass the buck" description. But the commissioners unanimously agreed this week to enact the half-cent tax, saying they didn't see other options for recouping money the local governments no longer will get from the state. In the current fiscal year, Orange would have expected about $ 3.1 million in reimbursements from the state. If the new half-cent tax does generate about $ 1.8 million between December and July 2003, then the county still will be out $ 1.3 million. Starting with the 2003-04 fiscal year, the tax likely will bring in more money for Orange than the county once received through reimbursements. "Over the course of three-plus years, we will probably recover what we lost," Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs said Friday. "We just won't get it all back at once. "It's money due to the citizens of Orange County, and we were given one tool to recover it," he said. "Thank goodness we didn't sign a no-tax increase pledge," Jacobs said, referring to a pledge circulated by the Citizens for a Sound Economy. "The citizens of Orange County would be stuck. That's the kind of irresponsible decision-making that's gotten the state in the mess it's in. I certainly don't think raising taxes is always a good answer, but there are times when you are forced to make a decision you don't want to make." The numbers look better in the current fiscal year for the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but not for Hillsborough. For Chapel Hill, the projected revenue of $ 781,000 from the half-cent tax between December and July is about $ 51,000 more than the town would have expected this year in reimbursements. For Carrboro, the projected $ 261,000 is about $ 10,000 more than the expected reimbursements. But Hillsborough will get about $ 30,000 less from the sales tax this fiscal year than it would have from reimbursements and other state revenues, if the $ 85,000 projection holds true. Town Manager Eric Peterson said Friday it's a good-news-bad-news situation. "It depends on how you look at it," Peterson said. "We'll end up losing another $ 30,000 in addition to what we lost last year." In the 2001-02 fiscal year, the state withheld roughly $ 250,000 from Hillsborough in various revenues, primarily from franchise taxes. But in the budget the Town Board adopted for 2002-03, the town took a conservative approach and didn't count on any of the state revenues. The fact that the town will get approximately $ 85,000 will be a big help, Peterson said. "From a long-term standpoint, I think the half-cent sales tax is a win-win situation for the state and local governments," he said. "They get to keep the reimbursement monies, and we end up getting a revenue source that isn't subject to withholding by the state, which has made it very difficult for local governments to budget. "Another advantage will be that the sales tax, in most places, will have a growth factor to it. In the long-term, it's a good solution."

10/19/2002
Peeling the Orange
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Peeling the Orange

Chapel Hill's three historic districts will be designated at prominent entry points with signs designed by the Historic District Commission. They'll be at the boundaries of the East Franklin-Rosemary, Cameron-McCauley and Gimghoul districts. The wording is on a "historic brown" background in an arch template like the state's sightseeing signs on highways. The idea, according to a commission spokesperson, is to emphasize to residents that they live in historic areas and generally to promote the districts. When the green street signs at corners within these districts need replacing, they'll also be reinstalled in the same brown hue to denote the historic district locale. *** Orange Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs, who's running for re-election this fall, took a moment during a recent commissioners' meeting to publicly tear up a "no tax increase" pledge that the Citizens for a Sound Economy has mailed to candidates. Jacobs said one factor in the financial "mess" in Raleigh is that many state legislators have signed similar pledges and passed the problem of raising revenue down to local governments. *** Hometown amateur ornithologists expect the recent spate of chilly weather will quickly bring on the winter migratory birds hereabouts. Watch for the white-throat sparrow, junco, kinglet and the colorful and colorfully named yellow-bellied sapsucker. And don't worry about attracting hummingbirds to their detriment. Leave the nectar feeders up. A hummingbird savant here admonishes: "These birds are unrequited. They know what they're doing and will head south when they want to." *** Retired U.S. Rep. L.H. Fountain, who died quietly at 89 last week, represented Orange County for most of his 30 years in Congress. A son of the soil from down east in Tarboro, he candidly admitted he received more mail from Chapel Hill than the rest of his 10-county district combined. L.H. (his only given name) was an unusual combination: courtly but easygoing; party-line Democrat but a dedicated fiscal conservative; and a Carolina football/basketball fan without peer. His alma mater gave its '36 law grad an honorary doctorate of laws in 1981. *** New downtown sidewalk installations are to be completed after the traditional Halloween celebrations on East Franklin Street. The project will include a couple of sturdier four-board poster kiosks and planting of new oaks in the brick-sided flowerboxes. The long-awaited custom-built "Chapel Hilly" metal sculpture benches are to be installed on the new streetscape next week. A refinement at the post office will be a new recycling bin that will match the sidewalk trash bins. *** As of last week, the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau has for the first time a true sidewalk location - in the very attractive former Chapel Hill Weekly building at 501 W. Franklin St. Despite its low-key location in the basement of the downtown post office, the Downtown Commission will continue to function as a welcome center. *** More than 100 visitors from Raleigh and Durham had a whirlwind windshield bus tour of Chapel Hill/Carrboro on Thursday during an all-day program sponsored by Leadership Triangle. Former Mayor Rosemary Waldorf, Mayor Pro Tem Pat Evans and Downtown Commission Director Robert Humphreys narrated the gospel of this "Southern Part of Heaven" to the domestic foreigners.

10/18/2002
A Thank You to Bob Bateman For Schools Service
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A Thank You to Bob Bateman For Schools Service

On Aug. 15, we had the pleasure of attending a dinner given by CSE, Citizens for a Sound Economy, in honor of Bob Bateman and his 20 years as an Orange County School Board member. As we sat, surrounded by family, friends and supporters, we each thought back to 20 years ago when we all began this journey as a family. Over those years we put up signs, handed out cards and, on election days, stood on our feet and thanked voters for their support from dawn to dusk. We celebrated victories and shared disappointments. We've watched him work diligently on other people's campaigns, only to have them turn on him when his support was no longer needed. We've read letters opposing his views and, in recent years, had to watch as a small group of people tried to ruin his name and reputation. But more importantly, we watched him give over 20 years of his life to something he believed in wholeheartedly. No matter how bad things got, he never gave up. He never forgot the commitment he made to the people, and the children, of Orange County. So, as this chapter in our lives comes to a close, we, Bob's children, would like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Thanks to all the people who worked so hard to organize the tribute to our father. Thanks to the voters for giving him the opportunity to make a difference. We'd like to thank those who, through the years, not only supported our father, but supported us with your kind words and encouragement. We'd like to thank our mother, who never chose to be in politics, but has endured it all, just the same. Most importantly, we want to thank our father for being exactly who he is. We learned the importance of hard work, honesty, integrity, loyalty and love, all by example. Life is a dance. Thank you for teaching us the steps. We love you. Mark, Kim and Lori Hillsborough

08/29/2002
Outgoing School Board Member Honored for 20-Year Service
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Outgoing School Board Member Honored for 20-Year Service

BY Susan Broili

HILLSBOROUGH - About 100 people turned out to pay tribute to Bob Bateman upon his retirement after 20 years on the Orange County school board. Jonathan Hill, who heads Citizens for a Sound Economy, awarded Bateman the group's Outstanding Achievement award at the dinner held Thursday at the Hillsborough Exchange Club. The grassroots, nonprofit organization of 30,000 members stands for "less government, low taxes and more personal freedom," Hill said. "We think that Bob has stood with those principles on the school board," Hill said. "Any man that's been a true conservative for 20 years on the Orange County School Board, when he gets to heaven, there's going to be a line that says 'No Waiting,' " Hill said. Before the formal presentation, people talked about why they had come to the dinner in Bateman's honor. Robin Staudt said she had known Bateman since she became involved with Citizens for a Sound Economy four years ago. Staudt is a candidate for the Orange County Board of Commissioners. "The fact that he has maintained his conservative stance on the school board - he's really worked hard to find a balance between expenditure and what children really need," she said. "He really wants to keep the tax base down, because he knows the people in Orange County can't afford ever-rising taxes." "I appreciated what he's tried to do," Rachel Phelps Hawkins said. "He's always taken a stand and never wavered. He's had our interests at heart." Hawkins, who has lived in the county all her life, said she likes Bateman's common-sense approach. "We as Orange County natives appreciate that," Hawkins said. Other attendees include candidates for various county, state and national offices, including state Sen. Howard Lee,D-Orange. Hillsborough Mayor Joe Phelps served as emcee. When Bateman got up to speak, he thanked everyone for being there. "It wouldn't have been much of a party if I had been over here by myself," Bateman said. He said he especially appreciated the presence of fellow school board members Brenda Stephens, Keith Cook and David Kolbinsky. (Cook is a candidate for the Orange County Board of Commissioners). Bateman talked about his 20 years on the school board, what it was like being in the minority as a conservative, as well as some of the achievements he is most proud of from those years. He was unsuccessful in his first bid, in 1980, for a seat on the school board. "I did get enough votes to encourage me to do it again," Bateman said. He won his first seat on the school board in 1982, and then, eventually, wound up getting 65 percent to 75 percent of the vote, he said. "I am very proud of that," Bateman said. He also noted, as a mark of achievement for the board, the hiring in 1994 of William Harrison as superintendent, which changed the direction of the school system "from a kind of mediocrity to a system that had aims and goals," Bateman said. Harrison set up a standard course of study and also was responsible for the positive move of bringing in Randy Bridges as assistant superintendent of personnel, Bateman said. Bridges went on to be named superintendent and just left to take a job in Rock Hill, S.C. Being a minority on the board has not been easy, Bateman said. "What I thought was a liberal board in 1982 holds no candle to the board today," Bateman said. The last year has been tough for a number of reasons, he said. "It's been a kind of up and down year. Last August, I was diagnosed with clogged arteries and had triple bypass surgery. ... Some judge moved the election date and gave me five more months on the school board. I believe I'd rather go through the heart operation," Bateman said. "Some of the toughest battles in the last 20 years have been with the Orange County Commissioners, and that has not changed from what it was in 1982," Bateman said. "All these years, I've tried to do what I could for the children ... children don't come in neat little packages ... You need to be able to take care of them ... I try to be all I can be for the children," he said. Bateman thanked his family: His wife, Joyce, of 44 years, and his three children. "I thank God tonight for his grace and his mercy and for keeping me as far as he has," Bateman said. He spoke of how his conservative views had been formed from his experience of growing up, as one of seven children, in the west Hillsborough community of Bell-vue, where he was born in 1933 to Ernest and Mary Bateman. "We had it so hard," Bateman said. When he was in the 11th or 12th grade, his father had a heart attack and was forced to retire from working at the cotton mill, where he had made little money and had no pension, Bateman said. His father never owned a car, Bateman said. "Every month, my dad would get a Social Security check, and that was it," Bateman said. "So many people in rural Orange County are in this boat. ... They live kind of hand-to-mouth, and then you sit up every year and raise their property tax," Bateman said. And, he spoke of some activities, such as flounder fishing, he plans to pursue in his retirement from the school board. "Flounder fishing is not a habit, it's a passion. When you pull a 5-pound flounder on the top of that ocean ... there's just no feeling in the world like flounder fishing," he said. Because of an earlier remark about the chance that he might continue to pursue his interest in singing, Bateman told the story about how he had recorded his first, and, so far, only CD. The recording session was a gift from his son, Mark, who wanted him to make a CD of Bateman's favorite hymns. So about a year ago, Bateman and a pianist went to a recording studio in Carrboro. "We recorded 15 songs, one right after another. Someone asked me if I wanted to edit. I said no. If I do it anymore, it won't get any better," Bateman said. He gave one of the CDs to his sick brother, and when he went to see his brother the last week he lived, his brother had been listening to the CD, Bateman said. "There are several [CDs] out in Hillsborough," he said. "I don't know if people use them in their gardens to keep the crows away."

08/18/2002
School Board Nixes Tax Proposal
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School Board Nixes Tax Proposal

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - The Orange County school board has officially dropped the idea of seeking a referendum on a special district tax. In deciding not to ask the Orange County Commissioners to schedule a referendum on the issue, board members cited either their outright opposition to a new tax, or concerns that the issue was too "divisive" to move forward. "This issue is becoming very divisive and very distracting," school board Chairwoman Dana Thompson said Tuesday. "It's just driving a wedge between a lot of people in the community. "It's a tool to get more revenue, but it's not the best tool," she said. "I don't even think it's a good tool." Thompson's comments came after a formal decision by the board Monday night. Board member Keith Cook had proposed asking the county commissioners to put on the ballot the question of setting a tax for the Orange school district. A specific date for a referendum wasn't part of the motion. Cook said Tuesday that he believed the spring of 2003 would have been the appropriate time, while Thompson said board members' understanding was that it could have been as soon as November's general election. The tax would be similar to the district tax in place in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district for several decades. Thompson seconded Cook's motion, but she then joined five other board members in a 6-1 vote against it. Thompson said Tuesday she seconded the motion simply to get it to the next step, a vote. The six 'No' votes were from Thompson, Bob Bateman, Susan Halkiotis, David Kolbinsky, Delores Simpson and Brenda Stephens. "Ultimately, this district tax business would do more damage than good," said Stephens, who had been a supporter of putting it on the ballot. Bateman and Kolbinsky have consistently opposed the district tax as an additional burden on the residents of the county school district, and groups such as the Citizens for a Sound Economy have weighed in against it as well. That group sent a letter to local candidates on Aug. 2, asking them to sign a "No District Tax" pledge, and Bateman signed the letter on behalf of the group. The vote comes about a month before the Sept. 10 school board election, which will include six candidates vying for four seats on the county school board. The district tax has been an issue in the race so far, with candidate Randy Copeland making the phrase "No District Tax" a prominent part of his campaign signs. "I congratulated them last night, because they think on their feet," Kolbinsky said, referring to the board members who had previously supported the district tax. "The district tax was a loser. "Even bond referendums for schools don't pass in this part of the county," he said. "I think sometimes [residents] up here cast protest votes. "I think the handwriting was on the wall, that anybody that was going to support a district tax wasn't going to get re-elected to the board," Kolbinsky said. "They saw which way the political trends were blowing." Cook is running for a seat on the Orange County Commissioners, but he still would have two more years on the school board if he fails to win a commissioner's seat. Cook said Tuesday he was disappointed with the board's vote. He said he considered the district tax a "dead issue" for now, although he said he expects it will come back up in the future. "I accept it, because I'm a member of a seven-person board, but I was disappointed that we decided we won't move forward," he said. "It got to be an issue on everybody's mind. But to me, it reminds me of the long time we worked to get the impact fee. Just think about where we would be without those monies to help us with our new facilities." The county collects impact fees applied to newly constructed homes, with the money earmarked for school construction. Thompson said she doesn't support the district tax now and won't in the future. "I don't think it's an equitable way to generate dollars for the school system," she said. "I just hope, now that this is off the table, that people can come together behind schools. We could have done a lot of damage to the entire community on this one issue and spent years trying to heal the damage."

08/07/2002
Orange Schools Tax May Go Up For Vote
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Orange Schools Tax May Go Up For Vote

BY Beth Velliquette

HILLSBOROUGH - Although they argued whether a special district tax is needed for Orange County Schools, Board of Education members finally appear to agree that it's the voters' decision, not their decision. "For some reason, there's a belief that this board can levy a tax," board member Brenda Simpson said at the Tuesday night meeting. "I have one vote. If all of you have one vote, it's the citizens of this county who will decide whether we have a district tax." The school board is expected to vote at its next meeting on whether to ask the Orange County Commissioners to put the tax to voters. In a meeting filled with hand waving, interruptions, snide remarks and arguments, the board discussed how to come up with money for the school system. Although Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has had a special district tax for its school system for decades, Orange County Schools hasn't asked for one. Last year a task force was convened to come up with alternative funding ideas for the school system. One recommendation of the task force, which passed in a split vote, was to consider a special district tax. Several school board members, however, said the board should look for other ways to find money rather than adding another tax. One way to do that is through an audit, board members Bob Bateman and David Kolbinsky said. But they said the audit that was completed earlier this year didn't go far enough. It should have included programs, not just items like copy machine costs, they said. "This audit is a scam," Bateman said. "When did you look at the programs? You didn't look at the programs." People in the community don't understand why the school system needs more money, he said. "That's the concern in this community," he added. "As much as we're funding the schools, we should have ample money to educate beautifully 6,000 students." Board Chairwoman Dana Thompson said it was too late to criticize the audit. "The proper time was when we proceeded with the vote," she said. Thompson encouraged the board to move on to the discussion of a district tax. The school board must vote to ask the county commissioners to hold a referendum on a district tax. The task force on alternative funding methods suggested designing a proposal for a district tax with a 10-cent limit and a five-year cap. One cent of tax would raise $ 332,752 for the school system, according to county calculations. Ten cents would raise $ 3,327,519. Board member Keith Cook said it's the school board's duty to educate students. "We have not been able to give our children the same programs other school systems have," he said. "Why? Because we don't have any money." Kolbinsky said residents have heard over and over again that the tax rate has to increase. "If we're talking about asking, I think when the community hears this type of talk, I think they say, 'Here they go again. The government never has enough money,' " he said. Before the board discussion, a number of residents, including several who are running for the school board, spoke about the district tax. Randy Copeland, a candidate, asked the board to wait for the new members to take office before making a decision about the tax. "There may only be a couple of you here, and I'm asking you to table the discussion for a couple of months," Copeland said. Robert Randall, who said he heads an organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy, said additional taxes would hurt the economy. One speaker raised the hackles of several people when she said people who don't vote for the tax are selfish. "I think when anti-tax people stand up and say we want less, what they really are saying is we want less for the children of the Orange County Schools and more for ourselves," Elizabeth Brown said. That statement irritated school board candidate Betty Davidson, who stood up and said she had to respond to Brown's comments. "The special district tax is polarizing this community,' she said. "I absolutely hate to see how we can call folks in this community selfish." Farmers, retired people and other working people in northern Orange County built the county, so it's unfair to characterize them as selfish, she said. "I would say just be careful how you characterize the folks in northern Orange County who have made much of what this county is today," Davidson said.

07/25/2002
Republican Enters Race for House District 55
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Republican Enters Race for House District 55

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - Kathy Hartkopf, an active Orange County Republican and self-described fiscal conservative, filed Monday to run for the state House of Representatives. Hartkopf is running in the newly created House District 55, which includes 12 precincts in central and northern Orange County and all of Person County. She's the sole Republican to file in the new district in the filing period that started Friday, along with two Democrats - Ken Rothrock, an attorney from northern Orange; and Rep. Gordon Allen, a Person County Democrat who currently serves in House District 22. Allen, whose current district includes Person and parts of Granville, Vance, Warren, Halifax and Franklin counties, also filed Monday for the 55th District. The precincts in Orange County that are part of the 55th District include Hillsborough, West Hillsborough, Grady Brown, Cameron Park, Eno, Cedar Grove, Caldwell, Cheeks, Efland, St. Marys, Tolars and Carr. Hartkopf lives on Uphill Court in the Cornwallis Hills subdivision in southern Hillsborough with her husband, Al, and two daughters. Al Hartkopf also is running for elected office this year, seeking a seat on the Orange County school board. Kathy Hartkopf has been the spokeswoman for Citizens for a Better Way, a local group that formed last year and campaigned against the $ 75 million bond package in Orange County, which the voters ended up approving in November. The group argued in part that the bond package was too large, dollar-wise, given persistent doubts about the health of the economy. Hartkopf said last year that, in spite of the fact that one of her daughters attends Hillsborough Elementary, she would vote against the bond package, which included $ 900,000 for renovations at Hillsborough Elementary as part of $ 47 million for county and city schools. She said she felt the renovations were needed, but that she couldn't support the entire schools bond referendum. Kathy Hartkopf also has helped establish a local chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group based in Washington, D.C., that has regional offices and calls for lower taxes and limited government. "I believe my candidacy represents an opportunity for the values of the people of northern Orange and Person counties to be heard in the North Carolina General Assembly," Hartkopf said in a statement. "I am proud to be known as a fiscal conservative. I look forward to continuing this ideology and this work on the state level. Just as we do in our own homes, our state must function within its means." Hartkopf grew up in Pamlico County and was active in 4-H, and she remains a lifetime member of the North Carolina 4-H Honor Club. She graduated from Peace College and was a fellow of the Institute of Political Leadership at UNC-Wilmington. She also is a member of the Orange County Republican Party executive committee, president of the Regulator Republican Women, president of the Duke Memorial Weekday School Parents Council, chairwoman of the fund-raising committee for Hillsborough Elementary PTA and a member of that PTA's executive board and director of the Parent's Morning Out program at Calvary United Methodist Church. Unless another Republican joins the race for the 55th House seat, Hartkopf will face the winner of the Sept. 10 Democratic primary that will include Allen, Rothrock and any other Democrat who files for the 55th. Allen said Monday that he believed many of the issues that concern his constituents in District 22 are similar to those in central and northern Orange County. He specifically mentioned economic development and education. "The problems that [Orange residents] have are the same problems that Person has, and also the other five counties I'm serving right now," he said. "The issues are very similar. "Education, of course, is the biggest issue that affects all of us," he said. "Recruiting teachers, finding teachers. We're producing 3,000 teachers a year, and we need 10,000." Allen, 73, lives on Crestwood Drive in Roxboro and was principal owner of the family insurance business, Thompson-Allen Inc., until recently, when his son took over ownership. He is a combat veteran of the Korean War and has five children and 17 grandchildren. Allen is in his third House term, and also served three terms in the N.C. Senate in the 1970s. He said Monday that Orange County wouldn't be new to him, in part because his district during his first two Senate terms included Orange, Person and Durham counties. Allen currently is co-chairman of the House Finance Committee, and serves on the Education, Environment and Natural Resources, Legislative Redistricting, Rules and Transportation committees. Allen also is a member of the education subcommittee on community colleges. He is a trustee of Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, and helped lead the effort to create the school about 30 years ago. Allen said he would support the creation in Orange County of a satellite campus for Durham Technical Community College. Both the Orange County Commissioners and Durham Tech officials have committed to creating the satellite campus within the next four years, and they are beginning the process of choosing a site. "The community colleges are one of the finest things that have ever happened to North Carolina," Allen said.

07/23/2002

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