It sure looks like longtime Durham City Council member Cora Cole-McFadden, who is seeking reelection to her Ward 1 seat, copied parts of a candidate questionnaire.
The questionnaire was sent out by the People's Alliance, an influential PAC that endorsed Cole-McFadden's opponent, DeDreana Freeman, in this year's elections. Cole-McFadden's answers contain word-for-word passages from Internet sources.
Reached for comment Monday afternoon, Cole-McFadden responded that she often uses outside sources for research. She said she unintentionally left out citations because she was in a hurry. “I should have done that. Usually, I do cite sources, but those are just things I'm familiar with," she said, noting she'd post the sources she used for this questionnaire on her Facebook page.
"You know it didn't even dawn on me because I have about five thousand questionnaires. I didn't mean to do anything wrong. I just wrote what I saw, what I believed in and that was that," she said.
Cole-McFadden said she has heard other candidates borrow phrases in forums and questionnaires, but she did not name specifics.
"I certainly don't want to be accused of plagiarizing. I haven't copied anybody's speech," she said. “I do adopt other things if I feel that's something I can believe in and I don't see anything wrong with that, unfortunately, but people are trying to win an election."
You can read the original questionnaire
for yourself, but we've taken the liberty of running it through an online plagiarism checker. You can check out an annotated PDF
of the results here, but note that the program is including matches in the questions as well as the answers because they appeared in other candidates’ responses.
Here's Cole-McFadden on what gentrification means to her and how to address it, which closely matches four sentences in this article on ShelterForce.Org
Here's Cole-McFadden on co-ops, with some language from the Democracy at Work Institute website
And here's a few Quetext didn't catch (thanks, Google!).
Cole-McFadden on which issues facing Durham's government most important to her (emphasis ours):
"It is difficult to express one issue most important to me for gentrification and how it destabilizes low income areas and poverty and how our children are impacted by it I find troubling. Continuing efforts to move toward racial equity can generate significant economic returns. When people face barriers to achieving their full potential, the loss of talent, creativity, energy, and productivity is a burden not only for those disadvantaged, but for communities, businesses, the City and County of Durham and the economy as a whole. The racial divide has left a legacy of inequities in education, employment, income, wealth, housing, health and other areas that impact achievement and quality of life.
We should be deliberate about our efforts to impact the racial divide by increasing focus on programs such as the Mayor’s Poverty Reduction Initiative(10.01 Transformation in Ten) neighborhood by neighborhood and partnering with nonprofit organizations in implementing other community based programs which are actually working. Gentrification is addressed in a later question."
And here's the introduction to a brief from the Kellogg Foundation
"Striving for racial equity – a world where race is no longer a factor in the distribution of opportunity – is a
matter of social justice. But moving toward racial equity can generate significant economic returns as well. When people face barriers to achieving their full potential, the loss of talent, creativity, energy, and productivity is a burden not only for those disadvantaged, but for communities, businesses, governments, and the economy as a whole.
Initial research on the magnitude of this burden in the United States (U.S.), as highlighted in this brief, reveals impacts in the trillions of dollars in lost earnings, avoidable public expenditures, and lost economic output. Racism in the U.S. has left a legacy of inequities in health, education, housing, employment, income, wealth, and other areas that impact achievement and quality of life.
Opportunities that were denied to racial and ethnic minorities at critical points in the nation’s history have led to the disadvantaged circumstances that too many children of color are born into today."
Cole-McFadden on race inequity:
Housing and residential segregation: Housing inequities are a root cause of disparities in at least two
ways. First, there are significant racial-ethnic differences in rates of homeownership and the value and appreciation of those homes creating large gaps in wealth accumulation and economic security. Second, segregation has constrained minorities to lower quality residential neighborhoods and amenities, impacting health, wealth, and educational and employment opportunities.
The City should look at housing goals, housing code enforcement and other related policies through a racial equity lens. In addition, we should enhance our partnerships with agencies assisting with financial literacy and preparation for home ownership. The neighborhood environment impacts the lives of our children.
The same Kellogg Foundation brief:
"Housing inequities are a root cause of disparities in lifetime outcomes for minorities in at least two ways. First, there are significant racial-ethnic differences in rates of homeownership and the value and appreciation of those homes, creating large gaps in wealth accumulation and economic security. Second, segregation has constrained minorities to lower quality residential neighborhoods and amenities, impacting health, wealth, and educational and employment opportunities."
We also ran Cole-McFadden's INDY questionnaire
and 2013 PA responses through Quetext, but it found no matches. Freeman's PA and INDY
responses didn't generate any hits either. But don't worry, we're checking all the general election candidates' public questionnaires. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: It seems like Democracy at Work Institute is popular among candidates. Responses submitted by mayoral candidate Farad Ali used part of the same passage from the site as Cole-McFadden in
a question about job creation. Ali says he does not recall using the website and that the wording may have made it into his questionnaire via a campaign staffer who helped do research for the responses.
"I don’t believe that the intent was to plagiarize, just to create some innovative solutions for job creation," he said.