Occupation: Senior Analyst
Phone Number: 919-225-9095
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Years Lived in Durham: 5
1) Durham residents, from the new group Durham for All to the demonstrators who tore down the Confederate monument on Main Street, are calling for more power to be placed in the hands of the people. In what ways do you think Durham can improve public participation in local government? How would you make room for that in city government?
Durham can improve public participation in local government through proactive, frequent communication. Public meetings/hearings, Coffee with Council, City Council meetings and public events are already ways public participation are encouraged. However, a reoccurring theme on the campaign trail has revealed that there is an information gap between people and local government. Hosting town hall meetings in neighborhoods, attending Partners in Crime and neighborhood association meetings to show people how much their voices matter are both way to improve public participation. I would make room for public participation in local government by using the existing methods as building blocks to create a cyclical process where people are a part of identifying issues, planning and designing the vision, provided regular updates on implementation, and providing responses once the vision is fully released. Local government leaders and officials can sure up this agreement by making use of specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound methods to communicate the status of promised deliverables. Additionally, providing more timely responses to requests from members of the community even when the answer is “we’re still working on it” creates a revolving door of trust.
2) Because of state law, municipalities have a number of restrictions placed on them by the legislature: they can’t, for instance, be a sanctuary city, impose a city-wide minimum wage, enforce inclusionary zoning, or remove Confederate monuments. Under what circumstances should elected officials push back against the legislature?
Elected officials should work with the legislature to maximize opportunities to collaborate on strategies which address laws and restrictions that may adversely impact the community. The focus must be on finding viable solutions to problems and addressing the needs of the people and the community; rather than political agendas or special interest groups. Clearly the solution is not pushing back against the legislature, but working together to ensure that laws are fair and equitable and the needs of the people are appropriately addressed.
3.) Given the inflamed racial tensions after the recent events in Charlottesville, what steps should Durham take to position itself as a guardian of social justice? How would you characterize city leaders’ relationship with Durham’s communities of color, and what should be done to improve that relationship going forward?
I would characterize the city leaders’ relationship with Durham’s communities of color as strained. To improve that relationship going forward, city leaders must improve communication and build trust through visibility in the communities of color and through inclusive government leadership. As plans to enhance the growth and development of the community are enacted, communities of color need to be at the table and not on the table. These steps will help position Durham as a guardian of social justice.
4) Durham’s public housing stock is aging, and there is limited money to redevelop units. What are your ideas for keeping residents of public housing in quality, affordable homes?
The goal should not be limited to KEEPING residents of public housing in the aging housing stock. Rather than using available limited funds to redevelop units, a more viable option is to enhance residents’ ability to obtain affordable housing via avialable affordable housing options. For example, the HOME Investments Partnerships Program (HOME) provides grants to States and local governments to fund a wide range of activities including 1) building, buying, and/or rehabilitating housing for rent or homeownership or 2) providing direct rental assistance to low-income families. It is the largest Federal block grant program for State and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households. The National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) supports the acquisition, new construction, or reconstruction of rental units for extremely low-income families or families with incomes below the poverty line, whichever is greater. The growth footprint for Durham should include plans to not only attract business and industry and new communities for middle income families; but also, the footprint must include intentional plans to help our most vulnerable citizens acquire affordable housing.
5) While much of Durham has seen a renaissance during Mayor Bell’s tenure, the city’s poverty rate has also increased. What are your ideas for lowering Durham’s poverty rate, other than providing affordable housing? How can Durham’s renaissance be spread more equitably throughout the city?
Poverty in Durham is multifaceted because it impacts the elderly, children, single parents, the unemployed, the under employed, the homeless, veterans, and the disabled. The elderly need affordable health care services. Children need a high -quality education, as well as community based extended learning and enrichment programs. Single parents need affordable child care and adequate incomes. The under employed and unemployed need well-paying jobs, continuing education opportunities, and training. The homeless need access affordable housing that suits their needs and the disabled need access to programs and services designed to address their needs. Durham’s renaissance includes economic growth which has disproportionately benefited high income groups while leaving low-income households behind. Lowering Durham’s poverty rate must include increasing employment combined with ensuring that employment provides a minimum of a livable income; especially for families. Although there is a lot of work to be done, much of it won’t generate a profit. That’s where government can step in. Investments in infrastructure—fixing old bridges, expanding transit networks, converting old buildings—and investments in vital services such as schools, childcare and elder care generate both public benefits and jobs. So do local-hiring ordinances for large employers in low-income communities. Building low-cost housing provides jobs as it increases disposable income by lowering housing costs. In addition, Durham must sustain not cut the social safety net. Strengthening existing programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps (SNAP), cash assistance, and the earned income tax credit (EITC), along with new initiatives like child allowances and a guaranteed income, can raise household income and protect children. Structural segregation has placed an even greater burden on Black and Latino children, particularly low income children, shuttling them to isolated, resource-poor, and excluded poor communities.
6) The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project has moved into the engineering phase, although the Trump administration seems reticent to fund it. What are your thoughts on light rail? If completed, do you believe the project will be worth the community’s investment? Why or why not?
While the light rail project has the potential to connect three of the top ten employers in the state (Duke University, UNC- Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care); and build the infrastructure for projected future growth, the implementation costs are significant. As with any form of expansion and growth, the other side of that coin has resident displacement, last mile improvement efforts, less flexible and longer routes, a lack of transparency, actual versus projected costs, local funding match burdens, a lack of local job guarantees, higher fare rates, less carrying capacity, and fear of dividing communities in the name of prosperity in the hearts and minds of many community members. If completed, the project may be worth the community’s investment provided realistic, achievable goals and accomplishments are outlined with corresponding implementation plans. For example, the average light rail trip tends to be more expensive, time consuming, and less flexible than the average bus trip. It appears to be a transit option better suited for mid income riders rather than transit dependent riders. Realistically identifying target riders, how the replacement of existing
7) Given the current direction of Durham city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific changes you will advocate if elected?
Given the current direction of Durham city government, most things are generally on the right course. If elected, I would advocate balancing growth and development with creating and maintaining communities where residents have jobs that sustain them and their families, feel secure, and raise families without excessive tax burdens.
8) Please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them.
Poverty- People living in low-income neighborhoods pay extra for most everything, from food to car loans, and are dependent upon high-interest “pay-day loans” because many banks won’t serve poor neighborhoods. Without access to capital, low-income residents can’t save enough to invest in their education or job training. Strengthening existing programs that focus on the needs of low, very low and extremely low income residents, while fostering partnerships between local colleges and universities, start-ups, and large employers to provide a training and education pipeline to prepare people for better paying jobs is one way to address the poverty levels in the city.
Race Relations- The police targeting of young black and brown men have wreaked havoc on African American and Latino families, removing fathers from the workforce and their children. Many employers refuse to hire people with even minor criminal records, and many parolees are locked out of credit, housing, and education opportunities. We need to end mass incarceration, implement community friendly law enforcement strategies, and increase visibility within communities to promote trust and enhance communication. People trust the people they know. The only way to get to know others is to spend time with them. Implementing a community policing approach where we recognize that police cannot solve public safety problems alone and involving the community, along with local government agencies would help increase trust and decrease the strain on the relationship between the police and the community.
Gentrification- Gentrification is something our community has been contending with since I began working in Durham nearly 10 years ago. Recent development is showing what kind of city Durham is growing into, but more care needs to be given to ensuring there is room in Durham for long-time residents, and newcomers seeking sleek, new development.
9) What in your public or professional career shows your ability to be an effective member of the city council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to deal with them?
As an engineer and a business analyst, I examine and plan for the needs of the organization, build partnerships with internal and external stakeholders to gather requirements, identify opportunities for growth and improvement, design and create visions and plans, develop fiscally creative funding strategies, find connections where the appearance of disparities is prevalent, develop project plans, recommend implementation strategies using best practices where possible while balancing and celebrating diversity of thought and skill. I specialize in building diverse alliances that value and make room for everyone’s voice; thus creating a vision and solutions that create a greater good approach and help more people. As a business analyst, I’m tasked with solving complex problems sometimes with limited resources and a lack of support from stakeholders and sometimes decision makers. None of the issues identified above have a simple fix, require diversity of thought and skill, finding missing connections, and developing fiscally creative funding strategies.
10) Please give an example of an action by the city council in the past year that went wrong or should have been handled differently. Also, what was the city’s biggest accomplishment during that period?
An action by the city council in the past year that went wrong or should have been handled differently is the Property Tax Relief Deferred Loan Program to alleviate the inability for Southside residents to pay their taxes. Residents presented a problem to City Council in November 2016 and while this program was presented, creating more debt for residents already behind on paying bills only puts them even more behind. Additionally, the program only stated a break for residents within 500 feet of new development; rendering no assistance for long-time residents in the area outside of the 500 foot radius. While an alternate proposal was presented in August of this year, residents still have no way to pay their increased tax bills.
The city’s biggest accomplishment during this period was unanimously approving a plan to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for city workers beginning July 1, 2018.
11) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?
I tell people that I am a moderate.
12) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
I have taken a progressive path to seeking a Council seat. While my resume does not cite experience on many civic boards and commissions other than the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission, I’m running as a public servant to galvanize the community and serve as a connection between them and local government leaders. As previously stated, the most common feedback I’ve encountered outside of issues on affordable housing, employment, safety, and health is the feeling of exclusion in decisions effecting the lives of people and the feeling of a lack of effective communication. Durham has been deemed a progressive city where “residents of Durham should have an effective political voice” (PA PAC’s Mission) and where the “best interest of Durham takes precedence over any segment of the community or any political candidate” (Friends of Durham’s Mission). As a progressive candidate, I’m seeking to close that information gap in conjunction with efforts from the Office of Public Affairs.
While Durham City Council candidates are all at large, I’m seeking to represent the Ward 2 seat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, zip codes in Ward 2 are filled with food deserts; defined as vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. Both city council and mayoral candidates were recently asked a question about how to address the 7-year difference in life expectancy between a child growing up in McDougald Terrace versus a child growing up in the Southpoint area. Based on the United States Department of Agriculture Food Access Research Atlas, nearly 50% of the households near McDougald Terrace (zip code 27703) do not have access to vehicles and live at least 1 mile (urban) or 20 miles (rural) from the nearest supermarket. As a candidate for Ward 2, I would explore ways to alleviate food deserts.