A pivotal election is underway in Durham, with voters set to choose a new mayor and fill three City Council seats this fall.
There are 12 people competing for the City Council seats, including two incumbents.
A primary is being held to narrow the field. Early voting in the primary runs through Oct. 7 and Primary Day is Oct. 10.
The top six candidates will proceed to the general election in November.
Terms last four years. The seats are at-large, which means candidates can live anywhere in the city.
We collected questions from residents across Durham to help readers get to know the candidates.
Name: Shanetta Burris
Occupation: Program manager
Are we paying people competitively and keeping our promises to our workers?
- East Durham resident Aidil Ortiz
No, the city of Durham is not paying all employees at a competitive rate, nor has the city kept previous promises to address pay concerns.
Do you have any experience that helps you understand development in Durham? How do you plan to get more affordable units in the city?
- Planning commissioner Zuri Williams
Yes, I have acquired experience through my educational and community advocacy experiences. While I do not have the same knowledge as someone who serves on the planning commission, I am confident that if elected, I will not be an impediment to governance. Moreover, the city needs to be strategic and intentional in the development of public properties, developer incentives, and leveraging public funds for the increased production of affordable housing.
As Durham grows more dense, how do we get away from the classic American model of car-oriented development? Are there any policies that you support that can keep us from becoming another Atlanta or Dallas?
- Downtown resident Nirav Patel
My vision for sustainable growth and development in Durham includes the adoption of the new Comprehensive Plan. The city of Durham’s Comprehensive Plan outlines how our community collectively envisions growth and development. This plan directly influences where and how private development occurs, as well as the provision of public facilities and services to support our community’s future needs. The comprehensive plan is an opportunity for us to address historical inequities and ensure the fair treatment of all residents.
What policies do you support for implementing safer streets and reducing car dependency locally and regionally?
- Stadium Heights resident Nick Roberts
It is imperative that we work with our regional partners, state, and federal government to establish a regional bus rapid transit network. This project will focus on connecting riders with employment centers in Wake and Orange counties. While the Federal Transit Administration recently denied financial support for commuter rail, they did offer support for Bus Rapid Transit, which is included in the MTP.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is defined as a high capacity bus based transit system. BRT includes dedicated lanes, busways, traffic signal priority, off board fare collection, elevated platforms, and enhanced stations.
In the interim, it is vital that we continue to provide Go Durham with the funding necessary to continue making improvements to existing routes, offering shorter routes to local job centers, conversion to fuel efficient fleets, fare-free ridership, and enhancements of the overall user experience.
What will you do to support the mental health needs of everyday Durham residents, especially thousands of young people in our public school systems?
- Hillside High School senior Isaiah Palmer
We need to ensure that our young people have access to safe spaces that will offer extracurricular activities, mentorship, peer support, and life skills training. I believe that we can invest in our recreational centers across the city to ensure that our young people have such opportunities close to them, thus alleviating the burden of transportation. Moreover, we need to be more intentional about working with youth to develop strategies that will address their needs.
In your vision for the city, what role does public education play and how does that connect to economic development, public safety and community health?
- Fayetteville Street corridor resident Erika Wilkins
While the city government is not responsible for public K-12 schools or our public higher education institutions, we can partner with these entities to support the education and upskilling of residents, which directly relates to economic development, public safety and community health. We must work with our public education partners to ensure that our labor force acquire the skills needed to pursue employment in our labor market. This can be achieved by continuing to build upon the work of Durham Tech and others. Moreover, we must ensure that we create a system where those participating in these training programs can find time to pursue opportunities and have adequate housing, childcare, and transportation while participating in the programs.
On the subject of alleged Clean Water Act violations in Falls Lake and its tributaries: How did we get here and who should be held responsible? Who is going to pay for the creek restoration and environmental damage?
- Southeast Durham resident Pam Andrews
I’m deeply disturbed by the manner in which some members of the council have decided to publicly characterize the advocacy efforts of “Preserve Rural Durham” as NIMBYism on the part of some residents when it is a multi-racial, quality-of-life issue. Unfortunately, the issues plaguing our city can be attributed to the absence of an updated comprehensive plan and the fact that the majority of current City Council members lack the capacity to “see the forest beyond the trees” or essentially think critically and strategically regarding the growth of our city, due to their own self-interest. Unfortunately, to achieve an immediate resolution, I believe the burden will fall upon taxpayers.
How have you seen Durham evolve in your time here and what’s one thing you’ll have the power to change if elected?
- The News & Observer
Since coming to Durham in 2005, I have witnessed the revitalization of downtown Durham in addition to a shift in our city’s population. While it is great to see so much interest in our community, it feels as though we don’t have a collective vision for growth. If elected, I vow to be intentional with requests that come before council regarding zoning and development. Moreover, if elected I will work hard to address the issues plaguing many of our longtime residents and identify strategies to ensure that ALL residents are able to thrive and enjoy the growth of our city.
To find polling places and full details on voting, visit the Board of Elections at dcovotes.com or 919-560-0700.