Campaign flyer from Joe’s first Chapel Hill Town Council race, 1979

About Joe

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Chapel Hill, N.C., United States
Joe Herzenberg was born June 25, 1941, to Morris & Marjorie Herzenberg. His father owned the town pharmacy in Franklin, N.J., where Joe grew up. After he graduated from Yale University in 1964, Joe went to Mississippi to register voters for Freedom Summer. He joined the faculty of historically black Tougaloo College, where he was appointed chair of the history department. Joe arrived in Chapel Hill in 1969 to enroll as a graduate student in history at the University of North Carolina, and, along with his partner Lightning Brown, soon immersed himself in local, state, and national politics. Although Joe’s first campaign for the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1979 was unsuccessful, he was appointed to the Council to fill a vacant seat and served until 1981. In 1987, he was elected to the Council, becoming the former Confederacy's first openly gay elected official. Joe died surrounded by friends on October 28, 2007. He was 66 years old.

Thursday, May 2, 1991

Town is cautious of plan - Residents review UNC land report

The News & Observer, May 2, 1991

By RACHEL BUCHANAN, Staff writer

CHAPEL HILL -- Remembering the conflicts that resulted when the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released its land use plan in 1987, residents are wary of trusting their biggest neighbor.

But last month, when the university released its revised plan, the response was guarded. "This is a considerable improvement over the 1987 plan," said Joseph A. Herzenberg, Town Council member.

Still, residents who have long seen the university's growth as a direct threat to their homes and happiness remain wary of the university's long-term plans.

To hear the stories -- already lore among the citizenry -- the release of the university's long-term development plan raised the ire of Chapel Hill's politically active populace like no other event.

Residents, in short, wouldn't accept what the university planned for development in and around their neighborhoods. Their protests forced the university back to the drawing board for more than four years.


Town residents say they are pleased by the changes, but not everyone is satisfied.

"There is some distrust," Mr. Herzenberg said. "Over the past 25 years, there have been a number of incidents where there has not just been suspicion the university might do something, there is evidence. The university has disregarded local ordinances and the feeling of people living in neighborhoods surrounding the university."

Residents are upset with parts of the new plan that includes more than six new parking decks, development of a thoroughfare that would draw traffic to the edges of campus -- which would destroy some of the married student housing -- and development of more than 3.5 million square feet of building space on campus in the next 20 years.

"The university is a state institution that does not have to abide by town ordinances," said Estelle Mabry, president of the Neighborhood Alliance, a townwide residents association. "So there is a lot of the concern about where parking decks are going to be. Why are they considering building them on the edge of those neighborhoods, bringing in all those cars? We want to talk about alternative transportation."

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