Name as it appears on the ballot:Donald Hughes
Date of birth: October 21, 1987
Home address:3308 Coachmans Way, Durham, NC 27705
Mailing address, if different from home: P.O. Box 52598, Durham, NC 27717
Campaign Web site: www.hughesfordurham.com
Occupation & employer:Sales/Advertising Strategist at Blogads
Describe your past leadership roles, both in career and community. How will these experiences help you serve on Council? Please be specific about how these roles correspond to a city council member's responsibilities.
As a Durham native and active community member, I have a vision to lead Durham into the future as one of our state's most vibrant cities. I have the skills, tools, temperament, and vision to be an effective member of the Durham City Council. I am committed to making Durham better through active service, advocacy, and good public policy.
Examples of my ability to serve effectively as a member of the Durham City Council include service as a member of the Durham Workforce Development Board, Durham Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, Durham County Democratic Party Precinct Chair, member of the North Carolina Democratic Party State Executive Committee, and frequent speaker at Durham Public Schools Board of Education, Durham County Commission, and Durham City Council meetings where I advocate for efficiency in government operations and spending, support of progressive programs that serve our community's most vulnerable populations and work with our elected officials to think creatively and innovatively about solving Durham's most pressing issues.
How do you define yourself politically? How have you demonstrated this political philosophy in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I define myself as a liberal, rational, and progressive person. My political philosophy is influenced by my training in economics and aligns with my philosophy on life, which is to speak with integrity, be open to criticism, communicate effectively to avoid misunderstandings, treat others with the level of respect that I desire and to always do my best.
My political philosophy has been demonstrated through my service to the Democratic Party, advocating for progressive issues such as increased affordable housing and home ownership opportunities, the D.R.E.A.M. Act and many other issues that are essential to moving our community forward and to serving our community's most vulnerable. I was raised to stand up for what I believe, speak out for what is right, and know that life is a continuous journey with endless opportunities to learn. I do not claim to know the answer to all of life's questions, but I do seek to work each day to explore the world around me, serve my community, and fight against inequity and injustice where they may exist.
List the three most important issues facing Durham, in order of priority. If elected, how will you address these issues? Please be specific.
The most important issues facing Durham in the coming years are: (1) Jobs (2) Crime (3) Transportation and (4) Economic Development. With unemployment over 8% in Durham County, and even higher in many low-wealth and communities of color, bringing livable wage jobs to our community must be a top priority over the next few years. When attracting businesses to our community, we must ensure that local citizens are given first consideration for these new jobs through specific language in the incentive deals. As Durham continues to grow, so will our need for increased public safety for citizens and visitors. Creation of an effective transportation system is going to be critical to moving Durham forward. Expanded bus routes that connect citizens to jobs, schools, doctors and shopping centers should happen sooner rather than later. Finally, our city's economic development efforts must spread to communities outside of downtown and southwest Durham. Inner-city neighborhoods deserve quality affordable housing, grocery stores, banks and amenities enjoyed by other areas of Durham.
Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
As an elected official, there are many issues that require principled stands to be taken, even when it is politically inexpedient. Having identified the creation of jobs as the most important social and economic issue of the day, I would be willing to vote my with conscious on projects that I truly believe will bring jobs to Durham for the people of Durham-- even if that decision is unpopular with my constituents.
In recent years, the Council has targeted community development improvements to certain areas, i.e. Northeast Central Durham and Rolling Hills/Southside. Name a specific area of the city that hasn't yet been targeted with services, but needs attention. What are the needs there, and how would you address them if elected?
Having been born and raised in Northeast Central Durham, I have a deep affinity with the community and vested interest in its success. I also have personal knowledge and an understanding of where Northeast Central Durham has been, where it is today and a vision for the community's future.
Areas like Northeast Central Durham, Rolling Hills/Southside and Fayetteville Street are three examples of many areas in Durham that could benefit greatly from targeted community and economic development efforts. The late Sen. Paul Wellstone was known for the saying, "We all do better when we all do better." Those words could not be more relevant to the struggle to improve Durham's most socially and economically depressed communities. It is not until all of our neighborhoods succeed that Durham truly succeeds.
My ideas on redeveloping Northeast Central Durham include:
- Increasing support of the "Neighborhood Revitalization Fund" to assist homeowners and businesses in revamping residential and commercial structures to positively benefit the community
- Developing partnerships between the Northeast Central Durham Leadership Team, the Southside Neighborhood Association, the Fayetteville Street Planning Group, community members, the Durham Chamber of Commerce, business owners, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, City of Durham Community Development Department and Neighborhood Improvement Services must be established in order to effectively coordinate efforts to improve Durham's struggling communities
- Developing a comprehensive and strategic development plan, modeled after the downtown development plan for these neighborhoods that includes community members and other stakeholders throughout the entire process
- Utilizing NCCU, UNC City and Regional Planning, Durham Technical Community College and Duke students to conduct community assessments, assist in the development of strategic plans and organize community members around the development of these neighborhoods
Most important to these community development efforts is the meaningful engagement of residents and other community members in the process from beginning to end. Together we can come create the community that we all envision and know is possible.
The City Council recently voted to allocate a large percentage of current and future federal housing grants to one project in the Rolling Hills and Southside neighborhoods. Dedicating these future allocations has reduced available funding for other housing-related services. Do you agree with the council's decision? Explain why.
I agree with the idea of allocating current and future federal housing grants to redevelopment projects in Durham's under-served communities. Many of the communities that qualify for federal housing grants have historically not received the support that they have needed to grow with the rest of Durham. Efforts like dedicating current and future federal housing grants in order to make up these "development deficits" is a step in the right direction.
While this is a step in the right direction, it is not the panacea to Durham's economic and community development challenges. We must welcome the participation of community members and use their expertise, energy and ideas in order to provide much needed housing services in Durham.
Furthermore, we must work to engage the private sector in these efforts. Public-private partnerships have worked in many communities across the nation and will be integral to Durham's success in improving our communities.
What role should the city play in the development or redevelopment of commercial real estate? Do you believe the city should award incentives to private developers, and under what circumstances?
Incentives have been used for decades to bring private investment to a community and Durham should continue awarding incentives to those interested in investment in the development of our community. The city should use these incentive packages as opportunities to creatively work with private investors and community members to bring jobs and provide much-needed work experiences to the thousands of unemployed Durham residents.
Several large-scale housing developments have stalled in recent years, leaving behind half-finished neighborhoods, roads and other infrastructure. Given the unfinished projects and recent economic challenges, how should the city proceed in deciding whether to approve new projects? Does the economic downturn call for a revision of current policies?
The recent economic challenges that we face have caused all of us to tighten our belts and think critically about every decision that we make. The city should continue to approve new projects as they have been approved in recent years. We have a competent city manager and city staff that evaluate all projects, weighing the costs and benefits, to determine whether the projects should move forward. As the current city manager has stated, he and his staff perform the professional analyses, but it is up to the city council to make the political decisions. I would not support a revision of any policy that places unnecessary political pressure on our city's administrators.
Police Chief Jose Lopez reported to Council earlier this year that crime reports in the city of Durham have dropped more than 30 percent since 10 years ago. Analyze the police department's current strategies in crime prevention and enforcement. What areas need improvement? How would you enable the department to make those improvements, if elected?
As Durham continues to grow, we must continue doing all that we can do to ensure that our city is as safe as possible for its citizens and visitors. The Durham Police Department's efforts to reduce crime by over 30% over the last ten years are commendable. Though we have seen some success in reducing crime across the city, we must not rest on our laurels. There is still much work to be done regarding crime prevention and enforcement.
Durham must use innovative approaches to reducing crime that include: (1) Increased educational, vocational and recreational opportunities for youth (2) Collaboration with community organizations and clergy to reach/support at-risk populations (3) Supporting new police department strategies and tools that focus on prevention. I am committed to working with law enforcement officials and community stakeholders to determine a strategy that works best for Durham as it relates to crime prevention and enforcement.
In the past year, the council has taken an official stance on several national issues, voting last year to stop any official city travel to Arizona in light of its controversial immigration law; voting earlier this year to accept Mexican national identification cards as an official ID in traffic stops and other city-related business; and voting this summer to oppose statewide efforts to ban same-sex marriages. How would you have voted on each of these issues? How do you feel about the council taking a stand on these national issues?
I would have voted in favor of stopping any official city travel to Arizona in light of its controversial immigration law. I would have also voted in favor of accepting the Mexican national identification card as an official ID in traffic stops and other city-related business and supported efforts to oppose statewide efforts to ban same-sex marriages. Over the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to travel across the state and nation working with community activists around these issues. These experiences have given me a wealth of insights into the implications of these national issues at the state and local levels. While the city council may not have the authority to create laws around these national issues, the council does have the right and responsibility to use the bully pulpit to balance the lack of legislative power the council has around these issues at the state and national levels.
To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.