Mayor Encourages Community to Engage in Comprehensive Sustainability Planning
In her second virtual State of the Town Address, Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver reflected on the challenges and achievements of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the community’s work on striving for racial equity, and a new opportunity to engage in comprehensive sustainability planning to ensure our town has a resilient future.
“One of the major positive lessons from the past year — as difficult as it has been — is that the people of Hillsborough are absolutely capable of adapting to change for the betterment of the whole community,” Weaver said during her address.
Reflection on the pandemic
Weaver opened the annual address with reflection on how quickly businesses and nonprofits altered services last spring to remain open and support the community while minimizing risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.
“Our community did what it always does; we figured it out,” she said. “Overall, we came together, we rose to the occasion, and we took care of each other.”
The mayor reflected that curbside pickup, e-commerce and family to-go meals quickly replaced eating and shopping inside establishments. Community members found creative ways to support those who were suddenly unemployed. And some people managed to open new businesses, including those who are operating The Colonial Inn.
“We have done things we never conceived of doing, and we did so on a dime,” Weaver added. “Some of these [things] have been quite hard, but we did what we needed to do, and we still are. We are resilient and adaptable and when we remember that, amazing things can manifest.”
Weaver noted that Orange County appears to have turned a corner in the pandemic, with hospitalizations and local cases trending downward and the availability of vaccines trending upward. She stressed the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine when eligible, and she noted that adherence to safety measures — such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance between people — has paid off.
“All of this has sent the message that Hillsborough is a safe place to live, do business and visit,” Weaver said.
Racial equity work
Weaver also reflected on the country’s reaction and the town’s swift and strong response in protesting the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis and the recognition that our society still has many racial injustices to address.
The mayor recounted the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners’ resolution in June 2020, which recognized that Hillsborough’s history includes cruel and inhumane elements, resulting in land loss, a lack of generational wealth, and a pattern of not having the full breadth of our community represented on our boards, in our government and in our community processes.
Weaver then reviewed that the Town of Hillsborough has joined the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of government agencies working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. She noted that Hillsborough is collaborating with Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Orange County to create a community-wide racial equity plan.
Weaver expressed appreciation for Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton’s participation in numerous community panels and listening sessions as a result of the actions laid out in the town’s resolution. She noted he has answered difficult questions and provided detailed presentations to the town board and other organizations.
“Though every police department has work to do to increase trust and to end racial disparities within the criminal justice system — including ours — I can say with confidence that Hillsborough is advantaged by having a starting place that is ahead of many jurisdictions,” Weaver said. “I credit Chief Hampton and his team for being ahead of the game on the use of body cameras, having a use of force policy that is high on restraint from using force and also high on reviewing any instances where force is used. There’s a culture of listening, learning and engaging with the community.”
Weaver also expressed appreciation for those people who are serving on the Mayor’s Task Force on Re-imagining Public Safety. She encouraged people to watch the meetings on the town’s YouTube channel.
The mayor also acknowledged there have been attacks nationally on Asian Americans and said the Town of Hillsborough stands in solidarity with Asian Americans.
The mayor wrapped up the address by introducing the town’s new project: developing a comprehensive sustainability plan that will involve long-term community planning in hopes of achieving the town’s environmental goals in a socially just manner.
“This Comprehensive Sustainability Plan will be used to create a healthier, more vibrant, economically competitive and resilient community,” she said.
Weaver noted the town has adopted a resolution to use 100% clean energy by 2050 and has other plans that can be incorporated into the new comprehensive plan.
“The sustainability plan is all about your future, our future, as a town and as a community. Not just for us, but for our children and our children’s children,” Weaver said. “The more people we hear from, the better the plan will be and the better it will reflect the needs of our entire community.”
Weaver encouraged everyone to stay informed about opportunities to give input into the planning process by signing up for news releases and newsletters on the town’s website at www.hillsboroughnc.gov. Information is available on the town’s Comprehensive Sustainability Plan page.
Questions and answers
Following her address, Weaver answered questions submitted earlier in March. She addressed questions regarding:
- Redevelopment of the Daniel Boone Village
- Sidewalks on West King Street
- Addressing political divisiveness
- Electric vehicle charging stations
- Balancing growth and small-town feel
- Roadside entrances to town