As a member of the City Council it is my job to serve all of the residents and visitors to Durham. My number one priority is to make Durham a SAFE and prosperous city for all of its residents. Below you will find what I consider to be the most important issues facing the citizens of Durham and the Durham City Council, however I encourage you to read the Candidate Questionnaires from the various interest groups for additional responses.
DURHAM AND THE DURHAM CITY COUNCIL
Ultimately, the number one goal for any City is make sure the residents and visitors are safe, not just from crime, but economic safety, health safety, housing safety, education safety, employment safety, and the rest. A safe city is not just low crime, but is economically vibrant with affordable housing, plentiful jobs, education, an opportunity. If am elected to the City Council, I will do everything I can to make Durham safe, in every sense of the word.
Too often the police are painted as an obstacle to City growth and overall progress. Durham has been experiencing a sharp increase in violent, and non-violent, crime recently. To help combat this, we need to make sure that Durham has an adequate number of police officers, assigned to the right areas/duties, with competitive compensation. However, the current City Council seems tone deaf to the this rising crime. They denied our Chief of Police’s request for additional officers, with no real logic other than “we don’t agree that police are the way we want to move forward to combat crime.” The Chief originally wanted to request 72 additional officers, but that number was pared down to 18 when submitted to the City Council, when that was defeated, a compromise of 9 was proposed, which was also defeated. One argument that the opponents of increasing the staffing of DPD make is that they have kept funding constant for the last 4 years, and they aren’t sure we need more police officers. This ignores the fact that over the last 4 years, the City of Durham has grown by approximately 13-15 people PER DAY. Constant staffing levels at DPD would require over 80 additional officers. We need to work with our Chief and make sure she has the resources and officers necessary to adequately patrol the City and keep us safe. I recognize that Durham is in a crisis right now and we need immediate help. Providing additional officers will help improve safety in the short-term while we work to accomplish our overall goal of crime reduction in the long-term.
We do need to make sure to differentiate the “police” from “policing.” We have recently re-introduced the Housing Units in DHA property (now we call them the Community Engagement Unit). Their primary focus is to be a resource for the communities they are serving, and a liaison between the communities and other law enforcement. They are not patrol officers, and are not looking to “police” the communities they are in. They are there to provide a physical presence and a resource to help deter criminal activity, and to be there in the event of a situation that needs a rapid police response, as we saw in Dayton, OH, where the presence of police officers allowed them to stop the shooting within 30 seconds, preventing it from being much worse.
We also need to work on any trust issues between the residents of Durham and the police. The police are there to protect and serve all of us, we need to make sure that residents feel comfortable cooperating with the police on violent crimes, and going to the police when they need help. We do need to make sure that policing is done fairly and equitably and take steps to address any bias (implicit or explicit).
The Chief asked for additional officers and we should have supported that request. However, we also need to recognize that we cannot police our way out of crime; additional officers are a short-term bandage for improving safety and crime, they are not the long-term solution. We need to focus on community investment and growth to truly make and keep Durham safe.
We need to make sure that we have adequate, and affordable, transportation options for our residents. No matter how much job growth we have, or how many educational opportunities or mental health/substance abuse treatment options we offer, or recreational venues, or any other community investment, if people without their own vehicles cannot get to them, they aren’t helpful. We need to work on expanding our bus lines and transportation infrastructure to make sure that our city is connected and residents aren’t denied opportunities simply because they cannot get there.
We need to continue to be good stewards of the environment and work to expand environmentally friendly options in Durham such as parks, bike paths, walkways, and other initiatives.
We need to make sure that our residents have the ability to find affordable housing, whether that be rental or ownership opportunities. If people have stable housing, they can focus on education, and jobs, and other opportunities that can help deter criminal activity, and increase overall safety of the community. We need to make sure that we spread the affordable housing opportunities out, and not simply focus on downtown, and we need to make sure that DHA property is properly maintained and upgraded.
We need to make sure that we invest in/incentivize affordable housing in these same neighborhoods where gentrification is occurring. This will help get people out of below-standard housing, and if we encourage ownership, rather than affordable rent, they will have a say in their neighborhoods. We also need to make sure that we make zoning more friendly for the goods and services people in affordable housing with limited transportation need, like grocery stores and shopping centers. Right now, if you are poor or have limited transportation, downtown is a very difficult place to live. We need to spread out affordable housing, encourage ownership, and make sure that outside of just housing people of limited means can afford to live downtown or in the affordable housing we are encouraging.
Economic Development is a key to tie everything together. The more jobs we bring in, the more resources we have to put back into Durham to provide more security, education, vocational training, housing, higher wages, transportation infrastructure, and the rest. Economic development and the jobs and revenues it brings is critical to keeping Durham moving forward and staying one of the best places in America to live and do business. Ultimately none of the other plans or goals can be met if we don’t have the revenue base to make it happen, and don’t have the opportunities our residents need for jobs. I would continue to work with the City Manager and the Developers and employers to look for new opportunities to relocate to Durham. In addition, we have a lot of land we could use to provide incentives for businesses and developers to locate businesses and vocational training in underserved areas so that people can have better access to vocational training and good jobs.
We need to support job-based education and work with businesses to get rid of barriers to employment for people with criminal records. We need to continue the reintegration programs we have in Durham, and make sure that we have adequate childcare, substance abuse, mental health treatment, housing, transportation, and other required resources so that disadvantaged residents have not only access to jobs, but the ability to keep them. We can also use land around the public housing areas, and other disadvantaged neighborhoods, to create new businesses and new job opportunities which will allow local residents greater access. But, a major factor is to continue the criminal justice reforms and reintegration to make sure that people with criminal records can get jobs. Their lack of access is a major contributor to long term poverty.
Criminal Justice Reform
One of the things that helps keep a community safe is focusing resources and criminal justices efforts on crime reduction, recidivism reduction, and shifting from incarceration to treatment. Durham has been making great strides in these areas, and we need to make sure that we continue to support more mental health and substance abuse treatment, as well as job training and support for previously incarcerated individuals, or even just those with convictions. Of course, we also need to make sure that we continue to protect victims and society and not lose sight of their rights as well, especially with violent offenders, or those who use firearms. I am very familiar with Durham criminal justice system and reform efforts, and I will make sure that we adequately support those that work and are effective. We need to greatly expand mental health and substance abuse options, preferably before people become involved in the criminal justice system, but certainly afterwards. We also need to continue our reintegration efforts and support.
Durham is a diverse and welcoming city. We need to do all we can to keep it that way and support all of the residents of Durham and prevent discrimination and harassment.