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.

Friday, December 6, 1991

Towns may call on UNC to poll public

The News & Observer, Dec. 6, 1991

By RUTH SHEEHAN, Staff writer

CHAPEL HILL -- Your local government may be calling you this spring. But it won't be about taxes.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro officials are expected next month to approve an agreement with the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and the Institute of Social Science Research to conduct a poll of voters. Questions will cover such local issues as bicycle helmets, land use, schools, taxes and more.

The poll, tentatively dubbed "Public Pulse," is indicative of a growing trend in local government.


But if a majority of local leaders are enthusiastic about the prospect of the surveys, Chapel Hill town councilman Joseph Herzenberg has some doubts.

Calling the polls "government by electronic plebiscite," Herzenberg said officeholders are elected to make decisions, not react to public opinion.

He pointed out that people often do not respond in real life the way they answer questionnaires.

"Who's going to say they want higher taxes?" Herzenberg asked.

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