by Katherine Hines
A law Professor told me that Kevin Foy "is a young, energetic, attorney committed to social justice." It's an accurate description of this 41-year old resolute and optimistic candidate for a seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council.
There was no contradiction between his smiling attitude and his obvious dedication to his philosophy of government for the public good. It was a refreshing interview, given while he campaigned without hesitation or circumspection.
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Q: After your near victory in the Chapel Hill mayoral election two years ago, were you urged to run for that office again?
A: Yes. But I realized that it was a different situation this year. When I ran for mayor the office was vacant, but the issues have not changed. I decided to run for council so my position on the issues would receive attention. It was more important that I have a voice in our community's business and that I have a vote .
Q: People say you are a spirited, low-budget campaigner-old-fashioned in the sense of door-to-door and business-to-business visits and frugal expenditures. Why work that way when "informed opinion" says media blitzes and hype are the way to run a campaign?
A: Because that's a cynical attitude toward voters. What people really want is to participate in democracy and to have public officials talk to them directly. The essence of a grassroots campaign is that people who are seeking elected office speak directly to voters, know voters and their concerns, walk around their neighborhoods and try to understand what their lives are like and bring that to their position when they are talking about community issues when they become elected officials.
Q: Why limit yourself to such a low-budget campaign?
A: It's not really a limitation. What it is, is trying to be realistic about the basic costs in running a campaign. But it's also trying to create a situation where money is not driving the campaign-where money is not the issue in the campaign.
Everyone in this country has been sickened by the way money has corrupted politics. We've seen innumerable cases of situations where there is a quid pro quo for a certain amount of money and you get a huge return in terms of what you get back from government. That's not what government is about. Government is a way that all of us come together as a community to set certain rules about how we are going to function as a group.
If you have a campaign that is based on a reasonable amount of money, like I have- I am spending $3800 with a maximum $100 contribution in a council race in a town of 40,000 people. The way I'm intending to reach the voters is not by spending vast sums of money. The way to reach voters is to talk to them individually, and ask them to talk to their neighbors, to go out into the community, to churches, to community functions. That's the kind of campaign that is most suitable to a democracy.
Q: What is your philosophical overview of the issues in this campaign? Are there issues that should be addressed?
A: Well, I think that the basic issue in this campaign is how Chapel Hill is simultaneously going to grow and retain some essence of its character. The way that plays out in what are the issues is basically how are we going to sustain a diverse community so that a variety of people can live, work, and enjoy this town. That's why affordable housing is the fundamental issue. Affordable housing is not limited to public housing; affordable housing means that people who earn $20,000, $30,000, or $40,000 a year, can find a place to live. It means a housing mix; it means people who don't have jobs but are trying to raise a family can also find a place to live; and it means that people who have $300,000 to spend on a house can also find a place to live. But that priced housing should not be the only housing you can find in Chapel Hill. I think that's what we're growing toward-an elitist, homogeneous, exclusive community. That's what we have to guard against, because that's not in anyone's best interest.
The second most important issue in this campaign is how do we control sprawl? How do we keep the town confined to certain well-defined limits? How do we make it not dependent on the automobile? How do we make it a pedestrian friendly, bicycle friendly place to be?
And third, how do we protect our natural resources and environment, and keep this a desirable place to live?
Q: Can you single out an issue that you are committed to which essentially is responsible for your running?
A: What prompted me to run is a fear that Chapel Hill, which has been a leader and managed to this point to remain a unique place, is on the verge of selling out and is on the verge of turning into anywhere, and people in this town, I think, need to realize that it can be destroyed in a heartbeat, and once it is destroyed it will take a lot of time to get back what we have lost, if we ever do. And we probably never will.
The inevitability of growth doesn't mean the inevitable destruction of what we value here. And so my philosophy is that the community has a right to determine its own destiny, and people need to step forward who have no economic interest in how this town grows, but have a community interest in how this town grows; who have no profit motive in seeking what's best for this town, who only have a community interest motive. Katherine Hines is a pseudonym for a well-known long-time resident of Chapel Hill.
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