Party affiliation, if any: Democrat
Campaign website: http://committeetoelectrickylhart.nationbuilder.com
Occupation & employer: Child Support Services/Orange County Government
Years lived in Durham: all my life except during my 12 years in US Army
1) Given the current direction of Durham city government, would you say things are generally on the right course?
Response: There are issues that we need to correct. At this time, we are not on the right track.
If not, what specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?
Response: If elected, I would focus on a strong and diverse economy, safe and secure community, a well-managed city, affordable housing, living wage (insourcing), law enforcement accountability and crime prevention.
1. Strong and Diverse Economy that results in a lower unemployment rate and higher standards of living for all citizens and work to increase funding for workforce development.
2. Safe and Secure Community that is based on a shared responsibility model wherein the law enforcement agencies work for the community in an effective, responsible and engaging interaction.
3. A Well-Managed City where the city’s needs are recognized, prioritized and actualized through exemplary accountability and transparency to the citizens.
3) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of Council?
Response: I am the Past Chairman of the Durham Human Relations Commission, that over saw the seven months of research and interviews in reference to Durham Police Department racial profiling inquiry. I went before the Durham City Council with the Commissions of 34 recommendations.
There were many different groups and many citizens that the Commission work with and listen to. Listening to the people’s pain, collaborating and finding solutions is hard work. This process and the commissioners help me to realize there is more work to be done.
If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?
Response: I want to get more information from the people of Durham. I want to talk with them, listen to their issues and collaborate to find a solution. Communication is the oil to a smooth environment.
4) Please give one specific example of something you think City Council has done wrong or that you would have rather done differently in the last year.
Response: I believe the annual storm and water utility fee could have been re-evaluated. It seems that no one has a reason or an explanation on its existence. There are no new plans in building a new reservoir or putting up new water lines.
Also, please tell us the single best thing the city’s done during that span.
Response: The single best thing the city has done during the span is working on reducing poverty.
5) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy?
Response: I identify myself as person of this city that fights for righteousness of all people. Everyone has the same rights and privileges until we violate the sanctity of the laws, rules and guidelines in place. I identify with the value of your word and your honor. I tell people I’m for what’s right. Everyone has a position and there’s a position for everyone.
For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian? (you want to leave this as part of your answer?)
6) The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?
Response: If elected, I will hold people responsible, accountable and be transparent.
Please address, in detail, the following major issues in Durham:
7) Do you believe that there is a disconnect between the citizens of Durham and the city’s police force?
Response: There is definitely a disconnection between the citizens of Durham and the city’s police force.
If so, how would you go about remedying that disconnect?
Response: I would definitely look at the crime statistics and identify areas with the highest crime rate. I would ensure officers are stationed in those areas on foot patrol with 2 officers being together at all times. This would create real community police. The people and the police would build bonds and relationships with trust, communication and understanding.
On a similar note, to what degree would you say you that Chief Jose Lopez has your full faith and confidence?
Response: At this particular time, it would be that the City Manager and City Council have faith in him because he is still here. The Council goes by the recommendation of the City Managers. I believe that the Chief has done what he could for the City of Durham; however, he has lost the confidence of the community. If elected I would explore restructuring the Durham Police Department.
8) A report by the U.S. Department of Justice early this year concluded that black males between 15 and 34 in Durham are six times more likely to die from homicide than all other Durham residents. What steps should local government and police take to address this problem?
Response: There are a couple of issues that are a popular concern. This includes jobs and education. Education is open to everyone that chooses to complete it and advance further if they desire to do so. They would need to determine if this would benefit them for a better life or better opportunity. There are educational facilities, such as Durham Tech, that offers skill training for various occupations. Everyone is responsible and accountable for their own choices. We need to work on eliminating poverty, lack of opportunity and inadequate skills. We need to work on providing soft skill jobs and recreational opportunities for our youth. We also need to work on a living wage and prove affordable housing incentives for police.
Does the city have its priorities in order when it comes to dealing with violent crime in low-income neighborhoods, at a time when there’s so much focus on downtown development?
Response: In my opinion, these are two separate issues. The development in the downtown area is an investment in the future growth of the city. Violent crime in the lower income neighborhoods is a continuing issue. We need to address the root cause of the issue. The downtown growth is a positive thing. We should concentrate on low income areas and look for a solution, such as economic development for revitalization of those areas of poverty. We need to work towards eliminating poverty, providing a living wage and affordable housing.
9) Do you think that support for saving the old Carpenter Chevrolet Building downtown justifies the anticipated $80.9 million cost to renovate it for a new police headquarters?
Response: No, I believe it would be more beneficial to build one from the ground up. There is an option of 201 East Main Street the old Court house.
Do you see any alternatives that could have been explored?
Response: Yes, 201 E Main St, the old Court House.
And do you think the city has enough substations where they’re most needed?
Response: No, I do not think the city has enough substations where they’re most needed. Substations should be safe havens and open 24 hours a day.
10) There’s little doubt that Durham, as a whole, is prospering. But there’s also little doubt that this prosperity is distributed unevenly. What should Council be doing to address inequality?
Response: I believe we should talk with citizens and attend PAC meetings to inquire. We should listen to the people of Durham to see what they need to grow their communities and prosper. We should go to undeveloped areas to find out what is needed to make them vibrant and productive.
11) In that vein, what more should the city be doing to address the need for affordable housing?
Response: I believe we should start with jobs that offer a living wage. We should work with those that want to be home owners and train them on the rewards and responsibilities. We have to create a plan to change the mind sets and look for responsibility and accountability to go to the next level of prosperity. We have such an opportunity to be a model for the state and the country on this issue of affordable housing. We should offer incentives to the police and work to keep them in the city they serve and work on providing the ability for people to earn a living wage so they can afford a house.
12) As downtown grows, some degree of gentrification seems inevitable. What steps do you believe the city should be taking to revitalize neighborhoods without having them lose their character?
Response: We should work very closely with the economic development department, planning department, chamber of commerce and the citizens of those areas that are deprived of growth. We need to work together and come forth with a plan of consensus of revitalization that will provide growth and community stability.
13) What role should the city play in the development or redevelopment of commercial real estate?
Response: We need to look into the purpose and see what the redevelopment will bring to the area. We also have to make sure it is something that everyone can benefit from or use.
Do you believe the city should award incentives to private developers, and under what circumstances?
Response: We would have to investigate this further. We would have to see if the developers are just here for profit or investment in the people. We need developers that are willing to offer sustainable jobs for different segments of the population.
14) The Bull City Connector recently underwent route changes. Do you think the results are fair and efficient?
If not, how could the Connector’s routes be changed to best serve the needs of residents most likely to use it?
Response: The connector misses a huge Durham population that would benefit. NCCU Campus and Durham Tech Campus.
15) Do you believe the downtown Loop is outdated?
Response: Yes, I believe the downtown loop is outdated.
If so, what would you like to see done with it?
Response: We should add a connector to 147, add more parking zones, sidewalks and bike lanes since downtown is migrating to more pedestrian friendly traffic. We should also decrease the traffic flow.
16) What are your initial thoughts on a proposed mixed-use development in North Durham, with a shopping center to be anchored by a Publix?
Response: I believe it will benefit the area. As in any situation, there are pros and cons. We would need to see if there would be more traffic and if it would increase living wage jobs.
Do you see, as some North Durham residents have expressed, opportunities to “fix” problems in the area of Guess and Latta roads with this development? (If so, what features would you like to see in the developer’s plan?) Or are you more inclined to side with residents who believe that such a development would change the character of the neighborhood in undesirable ways?
Response: I believe the citizens should determine what they are in need of. I support the citizens of Durham as far as expressing their needs and concerns.
17) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
Response: We should work for a balance of growth and revitalization. We should work for prosperity for all, be inclusive and not exclusive. In addition, work for a safe and clean environment. We should definitely work together for a living wage, affordable housing, safe communities and a working relationship with law enforcement. We definitely need to build the bond of citizens and police with open communications, respect and cooperation. We need to work together for well-managed city where we all matter, since we are the City of Durham.