Occupation: Homemaker, Graduate Student
Phone Number: 828-964-7000
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Years Lived in Durham: 2
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?
First off, the government is of the people, by the people, for the people. This must never be forgotten. We make room for public participation by putting our personal feelings aside and listening to what the people want, then acting accordingly. To improve such participation, we need a government that truly reflects the people. During public hearings and meetings, every event should include multi-lingual transcripts/ translators so everyone can participate. For our blind citizens, we need brail agenda meetings, for our deaf, sign language translators. We need a government that takes every issue seriously and addresses it like a top priority. Lastly, we need a government that is easily accessible to those who can’t make the time out to city/ county meetings, by going to them. I’m ready to take the government to the streets and give it back to who it was designed for, the people.
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?
Under any and every circumstance, we should push back. This is our home. We live in a red state, that has cheated its way to get there and stay there and we must resist ever restriction they try to impose on us. Our progressive values shall be a beacon for those who have been ignored and suppressed for far too long.
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?
Since Charlottesville, Durham has made its position on racism very clear, there will be not tolerate for discrimination here. The relationship of our city’s leaders has, mostly, been very supportive. But there is still plenty of work to do within our city’s leadership. Going forward, there are several objectives that need to be met, listed in no particular order. First, we must address the problems within our police force to not just train them on anti-discrimination practices, but to hold them accountable for their actions. To do this, we need a city government that acknowledges this issue and makes it a top priority. Second, we need to keep the momentum going to end the monetary bail out system that disproportionately affects blacks and continue the work of the late Umar Mohammad with “Ban the Box” by expanding his vision to end discrimination for employment. Third, we need to continue rallying our support with the community, and always be ready to stand between our beloved citizens and hate. With tensions rising, many anticipate when Durham will become a target for extremist white terrorist groups. We must make our message loud and clear and show that we are a united city, and a strong city.
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?
There are different ways to address affordable housing. There are short-term and long-term solutions that are equally important. In the long run, we need to focus on stabilizing the growth of the city so the people can grow with it. Allowing an economy to grow too fast creates a financial burden to those who are already low income and throw more people off into poverty, hence our growing poverty rate over the years. This stabile growth must include a vision for job creation that is long-term and job training to prepare Durham residents for their careers. For the immediate issues, we must focus on the eviction rate of 800 people a month and find ways to keep people in their homes. This is where allocated funds for affordable housing programs come in. The current city budget has reflected the desire to maintain, and even increase, funds and we need to keep that momentum growing until we finally reach stability from the long-term plan. These allocated funds shall award housing programs the grants they need to complete more projects and provide more affordable units. Furthermore, Durham is becoming the place to live in North Carolina, which gives the city a lot of leverage in negotiating deals. This power needs to be taken advantage of by a city government with the spine to turn down developers when they do not meet our demands on housing costs and job creation. If a developer is not willing to provide housing in the price range we need for our buyers, they should not be allowed to build here. Addressing this problem with long-term and short-term solutions and visions is what I will focus on.
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?
I touched on this very briefly in the previous question but will dive in more. While Durham has brought in a lot of business, we have neglected internal growth by not investing in our own residents’ business ideas. We transformed our downtown district but filled it in with outside businesses and tech startups. These businesses are a great asset however, if we are to focus on creating jobs, then we need to equally focus on job training programs that effectively prepare our residents to fill these positions. The same goes for vocational training programs, that the city must reinvest in. It is time to invest in our own people over corporations.
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?
I have heard great arguments for and against this project. On the side against the project, there is concern that it will not serve the population it is intended for and will spread gentrification. These are major concerns. On the side for the project, it will create jobs and improve our public transportation while decongesting the roads in anticipation for our exponential growth over the next couple of decades. Something to bear in mind, this is a long-term project that is not expected to be complete for at least 20 years. And in that time, our population is expected to double. So here is what needs to happen now. Our city council needs to continue pulling voices to the table to create plans that will support the promises of the light rail. All concerns shall be taken in a measured carefully to ensure no one is displaced or left worse off because of the light rail. If the project is completed, our government has a responsibility to continue holding developers accountable and continue assessing the light rail to ensure it is serving the members who need it the most. In short, I am prepared to hear all sides of the arguments thoroughly and make sound decisions that show this project will benefit, not hurt, our vulnerable populations and pay off our community investment. I do believe if done right, this rail project can be an effective addition to our growing community and infrastructure.
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?
I would say that our city government is generally on the right course with many issues. I think the challenge we now face is how well we continue to address concerns of affordable housing and poverty while also addressing major concerns that aren’t being tackled right now, such as social justice and LGBTQ rights. There is also a matter of whether Durham will choose to be a sanctuary city despite laws against such. Durham is a progressive voice in North Carolina and our next challenge will be to remain steadfast and continue pushing for true equity and equality for all.
8) Please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them.
I think it is well know that gentrification has created many problems through a domino effect on affordable housing, rising cost of living, poverty rates, and disassociation for many lifelong Durham residents who can no longer afford to shop, eat, or enjoy recreational activities here. To address this, it is time to stop talking about it and start serious efforts in slowing down the process and being smarter about how we develop our economy. I aim to do this by being stringent with our approval towards new businesses and developments and make sure they aren’t targeting areas that will displace low income residents.
The second issue is job training/ youth preparedness. While creating new jobs hasn’t been an issue in this economic growth boom, filling them with Durham residents has been. Our once thriving youth programs that prepared our young adults for careers, have been depleted through lack of funding. Our most vulnerable youth have been unable to access these programs, leaving them unprepared and untrained when employment opportunities do open up. Likewise, our adults aren’t trained in the skill sets that are currently in high demand, which are heavy equipment operations and other vocational jobs. To address this, we need to expand our vocational job training partnerships and increase funding back into youth programs to prepare the next generation for employment.
Another pressing issue is social justice. In the face of a conservative pushback nationally, Durham stands out with its resists to give in to the discriminatory practices that surround us. With the most recent attack on our Dreamers, we have a responsibility to make our Hispanic community feel welcome and protected here and beyond. Extending to our Muslim friends and refugees, Durham shall be a sanctuary city to let the Trump administration know that we will not allow his scare tactics to tear apart families, our neighbors, and our friends. We will need to continue this fight to stand up for our amazing LGBTQ residents, to offer them full protection from discriminatory practices in businesses, workplaces, schools, housing, and elsewhere. Taking police reform seriously to tackle discriminatory practices is another major step that must be taken now. For ex-felons, we must continue to strive towards practices that enable them to reintegrate back into society. We have implemented the “ban the box” practice, and now need to follow through with that by ending workplace discrimination, housing discrimination, and protecting personal rights. The local government has a critical role in being the one that steps in between the federal government overreach and our residents’ rights. 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?
In the last 5 years, I have been working to prepare myself for public service in several different ways. Before moving to Durham, I headed a committee for the Farm to School grant program with a nonprofit called Local First, and volunteered with the Children’s Council, both of which are in Boone, NC. With the Children’s Council, I worked with teen moms on breastfeeding and helped plug parents into community resources, such as a free diapering program, parenting classes, and other resources to help address their needs. In Durham, I have slung hammers with Habitat for Humanity and interned with a local nonprofit called Transforming Hope Ministries, which educates on human trafficking in Durham and surrounding areas. My past professional experiences with working in a public health department with W.I.C., have shown that I am effective in networking and team building across departments to find complete solutions to a variety of needs and problems. In my varied experiences, I have shown I can work with citizens and officials alike to bring different views to the table and create solutions that are effective and holistic.
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?
I believe the greatest accomplishment this past year is the new fiscal budget which included an increase from one cent to two cents for affordable housing. Just as citizens can vote with their dollar by how they choose to spend money, our city government shows what issues they truly are concerned about in a budget that shows what they are willing to spend money on. The new budget reflexed our progressive values that the city holds dearly and I hope we continue to push for funding on issues we care about, such as housing, youth programs, social justice, police reform, green energy, and job training.
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?
The most accurate political identity for me would be a progressive liberal.