Orange County Commissioner, District 1
Democrat, Representing the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Area
An Experienced and Dedicated Leader
As your county commissioner, I have worked hard for Orange County, including past service as the chair of the Board of County Commissioners and as chair of two regional transportation boards. During my sixth term, I have built on my previous contributions, and I have endeavored to accomplish several goals.
Three generations of Alice's family are living in Orange County
I believe I have made a difference during my years as a county commissioner, especially in the areas of school excellence, environmental advocacy, and regional transportation. These are all areas in which I have been proactively dealing with growth challenges so we can continue to enjoy our quality of life. Two of the initiatives for which I provided leadership — Orange County's Lands Legacy Program and the Triangle's joint 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan — have received national planning awards.
After reflecting on my years as a commissioner, I believe that one of my most enduring contributions is my initiative to create the nationally recognized Lands Legacy Program. Through this program Orange County has protected over 3000 acres of our most precious natural and cultural resources, and these lands will be enjoyed by county residents for years to come. The other contribution that I think will endure is my work to champion excellent public schools. As part of that endeavor, I have for many years promoted improvements to the older schools and, in particular, I was a dedicated advocate for a science wing addition to Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill. That building broke ground in late 2013, and it was named the Alice Gordon Science Building in 2014.
I have continued to work on these quality of life and other county issues in a proactive and fiscally responsible way, and have tried to have the county provide the important services that support our core values, while recognizing that the county has significant budget constraints.
Alice, shown here at Carrboro High School, has worked for excellent schools
As your county commissioner, I have been a champion for quality education for students all over Orange County. I chaired the county-wide group of elected officials that crafted the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (SAPFO) to plan ahead for future school needs. Unique in North Carolina at the time, SAPFO helps prevent future school overcrowding. Moreover, I have consistently voted for the funding necessary to support excellent schools, while continuing to remain fiscally responsible, and to promote fair funding of the schools. My overall goal has always been to foster school excellence.
Alice speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for Culbreth Middle School's science wing
Newly constructed Alice Gordon Science Building
For many years, starting in 1994, I worked to get all of the older schools in Orange County renovated, and my vision was that all of the older schools should be "substantially equivalent" to the newer schools. The Alice Gordon Science Building was only one of many needed projects. During my sixth term, the Commissioners asked both school boards to complete a comprehensive study of all of their facilities. The capital needs identified in both districts were in excess of $330 million.
2019 Addendum: In 2016 a $120 million bond referendum for the highest priority school repairs and renovations was approved by the voters of Orange County, and construction of facilities funded by the referendum is underway in 2019.
The Lands Legacy Program was initiated by Alice in her 1998 proposals to create a new environment department and a comprehensive resource conservation program. The Lands Legacy Program won the Excellence in County Planning Award from the National Association of County Planners in 2007.
My most important legacy as an environmental leader is making environmental protection a separate function of Orange County government so that it now gets special attention and emphasis. In the past, environmental issues were handled by the Planning Department. To change that I proposed several initiatives, implemented by the commissioners. A fundamental one was the creation, in 1998, of a separate department for the environment, the Environment and Resource Conservation Department (now Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation). With this new department, the county was able to focus on clean air, clean water, and other environmental concerns. I also proposed the creation of the Commission for the Environment, established in 1997, and promoted far-sighted studies of the county's groundwater resources before there was a crisis, like a drought.
The most well-known of my initiatives is the creation of the county's nationally recognized Lands Legacy Program, the first comprehensive county land acquisition program in North Carolina. To implement a Comprehensive Resource Conservation Program, now called the "Lands Legacy Program," was an important task and a top priority in my 1998 proposal for the new environmental department. The June 1998 action by the commissioners establishing the department called for the creation and implementation of this long-term program for the acquisition of some of the County's most critical natural and cultural resources, such as forests, farmland, historic sites, and other significant resources.
To read Alice's 1998 proposals referenced in the two paragraphs above, along with the BOCC actions which implemented them, see Gordon's 1998 Environmental Proposals and Related BOCC Actions in the last section of the Environmental Record.
In 2007 the Lands Legacy Program won the Excellence in County Planning Award from the National Association of County Planners. It was also a finalist for the Leadership in Conservation Award from the National Association of Counties and the Trust for Public Land. Orange County has now protected over 3000 acres of land since the year 2000, for parks, farm easements, and natural resource protection.
Orange County's Lands Legacy Program has protected over 3000 acres of the county's most precious natural and cultural resources.
I believe it is important to continue to promote initiatives for the protection of our groundwater and air quality, for preservation of our natural resources and farmland, for responsible land use planning and sustainable growth, and for the implementation of our comprehensive plan.
See Environmental Record for more information about my contributions to environmental protection.
Alice chaired the western Triangle's transportation planning organization.
She helped lead the joint planning effort that won The National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Metropolitan Transportation Planning
As past chair of two regional transportation policy decision-making boards -- the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro (DCHC) Metropolitan Planning Organization's (MPO) Transportation Advisory Committee (now MPO Board) and the Board of Trustees of Triangle Transit (now GoTriangle) -- I have promoted improved public transit and other alternatives to cars, and efforts to improve air quality in the Triangle area. For example, as an officer of the Triangle Transit Board, I spearheaded the creation of the agency's bus route from Hillsborough to Chapel Hill which began operation in 2006, and which became one of Triangle Transit's most successful commuter routes.
As chair of the DCHC MPO Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) in 2007 and 2008, I helped lead the effort to create the Research Triangle area's first joint 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan that will guide transportation investments in the Triangle. The DCHC MPO is governed by a policy board, the TAC (now MPO Board), which coordinates and makes decisions on transportation planning issues for the western part of the Triangle. This board is comprised of elected officials and other officials from member agencies. The MPO responsible for transportation planning in the eastern part of the Triangle is the Capital Area MPO (CAMPO), which includes Raleigh among its member jurisdictions. The leader of CAMPO and I worked together for months, with our boards and staff, to craft the joint plan.
In 2009 the two metropolitan planning organizations in the Triangle region were honored with a national award for their collaborative efforts in creating this joint 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan. The National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Metropolitan Transportation Planning was presented to the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO and the Capital Area MPO by the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO). The award citation noted that "starting in 2007, the two MPOs departed from their past practice of creating two separate planning documents for the one region. Instead they came together to produce a joint 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan that was adopted in June 2009. FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) has already commended this effort as an example of 'exemplary practice within the planning process,' and today AMPO does as well."
In the past I received an individual award from the Sierra Club for my work in transportation. There is still much I would like to see done to meet our transportation needs, including work to promote effective public transit and walkable communities, and other efforts to achieve clean air and energy efficiency.
Buy Local! Support our local businesses and local farms
During my years as a county commissioner, I have provided continuity and experienced leadership for important efforts by our county government. The efforts for which I have been an advocate include support for our public libraries; provision of responsive human services for our residents, including youth and those with lower incomes; support for our two senior centers; and provision of effective public safety and emergency services. I have supported affordable housing, Durham Technical Community College, recycling and other sustainable growth initiatives, and completion of planned park and open space projects.
Please note that I have tried to pursue these objectives in a fiscally responsible, transparent, and sustainable manner. I have done all I could to help craft a lean budget which still delivers essential county services in accordance with our core values. I have also been an advocate for thoughtful economic development to promote green businesses and provide quality jobs. I firmly support our local businesses and farms, and have worked for a vibrant economy in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
I am a strong advocate for meaningful participation in county government by all residents, including both women and men, to tap the rich resource of diversity within our county.
To recognize my contributions to the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community, the Chapel Hill Historical Society honored me as a Town Treasure in 2012. Then in 2014 I received the Village Pride Award from WCHL as a Hometown Hero for contributions to Orange County.
Alice's portraits by Catharine Carter
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