Newsletters & Op/Eds
Renuka's Campaign Newsletter - #1
It’s August, and election season is starting! In a few short months, we have an opportunity to bring a new vision to Chapel Hill. A vision where we say:
Yes to Parks and Greenways
Yes to Community-Approved Single Family Zoning
Yes to Local Businesses
Yes to Responsive, Responsible Government
Yes to Getting Things Done!
We can only achieve this vision if we have town leadership that supports it. Thus, I would like to introduce you to 4 candidates who share my vision. They are:
Adam Searing for Mayor
David Adams, Breckany Eckhardt, Elizabeth Sharp, and me for Town Council
We come from different backgrounds and viewpoints, but we share a vision for our town. Electing all of us can change the current direction of the town in an exciting way.
But we need your help! We welcome any type of help you are willing to provide, including:
Host a meet and greets. We would love to meet you and your neighbors and learn more about your vision and needs for the town. Please gather your neighbors and invite us to listen and speak. This is the best way for us to get votes and learn from you along the way.
Donate. We need money for mailings, signs, and advertisement. We need to get out the word
Canvass. Help us share our vision with others. We are actively organizing now and would love additional support
Signs. We have yard signs and magnets. Please ask if you are willing to help us get our names out
Talk. Please ask your friends to learn more about our campaign
This election will be a grass-roots campaign. We want to talk to voters about issues and encourage them to vote.
Learn more about us and our campaigns at our websites:
Adam Searing: https://adam4chapelhill.com
Lastly, I am thankful to have my friend and former Vice-Chair of the Parks Commission, Leah Boucher, serve as my campaign manager, and my dad, Don Chand, as my Treasurer.
Renuka's Campaign Newsletter - #2
The recent shooting at UNC Chapel Hill has devasted our community as we mourn the passing of Zijie Yan, a beloved colleague, father and mentor. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him.
That horrible Monday afternoon, many of us sat sick with worry about friends working at UNC, students attending classes there, neighbors we know who live near campus. Some of us also worried our school-aged children, whose first day back at school was marred by a very necessary lockdown. It was a simply awful day.
Sadly, we know that a sad day like this can happen anywhere and everywhere.
This shouldn't be the case! We cannot afford to let it be the case.
I have served on the Board of North Carolinians against Gun Violence (NCGV) for 5 years. In Chapel Hill, I have organized three Gun Give Back events over the past 4 years.
Preventing gun violence has long been a passion of mine and I will continue to work to keep our community safer in every way I can.
Hold your loved ones close to you!
Renuka's Campaign Newsletter - #3
First, so many of you who have come to meet me at various events. Thank you. It is wonderful to meet you and inspiring to hear your ideas and thoughts. Please keep sharing! For those who I have yet to meet, please reach out.
I’d like to start this newsletter with a discussion about parks. I am the Chair of the Parks, Recreation, and Greenways Commission. I serve on this commission because I love our parks. I believe that parks are critical to a healthy community. They offer mental respite, places to connect with others, and spaces for children to play. I also serve on this commission because our parks need help. You don’t need to me to tell you that. Many of you have shared your stories, needs, and hopes with me.
If you play tennis, you know that the tennis courts at Cedar Falls are in such bad shape that the staff has taken two nets down to signal that it's too dangerous to play on those courts and it is a short matter of time before the rest come down too. If you play pickleball, you know that you may have to wait up to an hour to play a 15-minute game. If your child plays a field sport, you may have to drive to Durham or Cary for your child to play because Chapel Hill doesn't have enough fields. If your child skateboards, you know that the skateboard park is falling apart.
Alarmed by this state, the Parks Commission began a focused campaign for better funding for our parks in the fall of 2022. By working with the Parks and Recreation department, we created a presentation to show how underfunded our parks are in the spirit of trying to get our ~70 project long, $25 Million queue of projects funded.
We were successful with some of our advocacy. We succeeded in getting some of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA funds), a one-time stimulus package provided by the federal government, allocated to parks. We urged the Council to use APRA money on returfing the fields at Cedar Falls, fields that had gone long past the end of their lives. We succeeded on allocating some money for a new skate park, a request that has been on the queue for over 10 years, and getting some money for inclusive playground equipment (though sadly, we could not secure enough funding for a dedicated inclusive playground.) To be very clear, we are extremely grateful to the federal government for this funding, because it is unclear any of this could have happened without it.
An important secondary point of this story is “how” the funding happened. It happened because of the work of the town’s volunteer Commission. This commission met tirelessly to advocate hard for these funds. I point out this out not to laud the Parks Commission, but to illustrate how important Commissions can be to the town. Our current Town Council is trying to get rid of a lot of our Town Boards. I hope this example shows why I think this is an unfortunate idea. Our town is better when it listens to its residents.
Some facts that I would like clear up
Recently, I have been on the receiving end of attacks by the Triangle BlogBlog (TBB). The TBB would like to be seen as a source of news. It is not. Rather, it is a blog backed by a 501(c)(4), who does NOT disclose it donors, and are able to conduct political activity to get preferred candidates elected. They cherry-pick facts, change definitions, and create narratives to suit their agenda. If you choose to read them, please consider what you know about me and my fellow slate of candidates (Adam Searing, David Adams, Elizabeth Sharp, and Breckany Eckhardt) and question whether what they write jibes with your impressions. If you have any questions, please reach out. I would love to help answer or provide clarity.
Chapel Hill spends $4/person on parks versus the median spend of $19/person.
TBB attacked me for using an incorrect number for Chapel Hill's spend on parks. I stand behind those numbers that were calculated by the work of the town staff and commission and presented to Mayor Hemminger. The town’s capital expenditure budget, which is the budget used for maintenance and new projects, was less in 2022-2023 than in 2014.
The $4/person is a number that represents 2022-2023. Because of the hard work of the Parks Commission, there have been some very important changes since 2022-2023. The biggest change came from the Parks Commission successfully advocating for some funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, one-time federal stimulus money, discussed earlier.
Another big change is that after the Parks Staff and Commission brought public attention to our under-funded state, our local government passed “Pennies for Parks," which starts in 2023-2024. It is estimated to give parks an extra $900,000/year. We are grateful for the extra money, but with $25 million dollars of projects in need on the current list, it will take 25 years to fund them all. And that is without adding more projects to the list that may be needed.
The effect of this continued budget shortfall is that many of our residents have to leave Chapel Hill to recreate.
Over 1,000 people signed a petition for a splash pad, but at this time, it is not funded.
It is still in the planning stages. The town hasn’t decided how many splashpads we will have, how big they would be, or even finalized a location. Homestead Park is one of the possible sites for the future splash pad. There is a lot of talk and excitement about splashpads. Let’s find the funds.
As mentioned earlier, ARPA provided funding for some inclusive playground equipment. This is “okay,” but not what the Commission or public hoped for. The Parks and Recreation department has a thoughtful plan to build a dedicated inclusive playground at Cedar Falls Park, but that project would cost over $1,000,000. The town did not find funding for this and instead, the Council voted on putting some inclusive playground equipment on some of Town's playgrounds. It’s better than nothing, but frankly, it made many of us a little sad. We feel we should do better for our children with special needs.
A new skatepark, which has been in demand for over a decade, will cost over $1,000,000. With ARPA money, the Council provided $500,000. The results is parks staff having to create a skatepark that can be built in phases with the hopes that a future Council can fully fund it.
With only 14 public courts in town (quite short of what our 2013 Master Plan says a community of our size should have), the Commission has been tirelessly advocating for the renovation of the Cedar Falls tennis courts for years. We still don’t have funding.
Many other parks projects
These are just a few examples. The parks department has so many other projects, many of them need repairs. Cedar Falls Park's bathroom facilities are on a septic system and needs to be connected to the sewer system. Meadowmont has a dam that needs replacing. Umstead Park has broken park benches. Many of these parks projects are not exciting or glamorous. These are basic fixes and upgrades to keep us safe while we are there.
Finally, Moms Demand Action award for my campaign
I would like to thank Moms Demand Action for awarding my campaign the 2023 Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate distinction. This award means a lot to me, and I will continue to do everything I can to work with our community to make safety a priority in Chapel Hill. Please Check out my op-ed piece in the Local Reporter: https://thelocalreporter.press/our-community-is-mourning/.
Renuka's Campaign Newsletter - #4
I am excited to announce my endorsement by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund for my long tome leadership on the issue of gun safety and my commitment to strengthening gun safety laws to make our community safer.
We're your neighbors
Copy and paste the link below to meet Adam Searing, David Adams, Elizabeth Sharp, Breckany Eckhardt, and me. We are your neighbors and are running for office because we believe that we can keep Chapel Hill's charm, take care of our environment, meet the housing needs of our community, support our unique local businesses, be equitable with our parks and greenspace, and we welcome community engagement. This is our town, and we can do this together.
Renuka's Campaign Newsletter - #5
Part of my vision for Chapel Hill is one where leaders listen. So, I have been out listening! I’ve been participating in many different forums, meet-and-greets, and any informal chats I can. To the many of you I have heard from, thank you. For others, please reach out!
One voice that speaks loudly and often is the Triangle Blog Blog (TBB.) It has a very different vision for Chapel Hill than I do. I want to grow thoughtfully as a modern college town. Thus, I have been the subject of many of their attacks, and I expect them to continue.
I want to send you Adam Searing's article on who TBB really is. It can seem like a news source, but it is not. TBB is a 501(c)(4) dark money political group aggressively advocating for candidates who support their vision for Chapel Hill. I urge you to read Adam’s newsletter to learn more.
I look forward to continuing to engage with all members of our community. I make it a point of listening and learning from groups who disagree with me. Those voices are important too.
For the record, I have not, and will not coordinate with any PAC. I am not accepting any donations from any PAC. However, I am going to keep talking to everyone. Everyone’s voice matters.
Here is Adam Searing's newsletter: