People's Alliance Questionaire

Government and the Public Good

1. Of all the issues confronting Durham County, which single issue is most important to you and why?

The level of poverty in our community remains the single most important issue confronting Durham today. The problems related to unemployment, lack of educational attainment, lack of access to housing and transportation, mental health, physical health, substance abuse and crime are connected to the persistence of poverty in our community. I am passionate about this issue because I believe that all people in our community should have access to a good quality of life and that all of our children should have a bright future.

The current overall poverty rate in Durham is 18.5% but among our children it is even higher at 22.4%. With the Mayor’s Poverty Reduction Initiative (PRI), we have identified the 10 census tracts with the highest poverty rates. In Block B and Block C of the 10.01 Census tract that we are focusing on with the PRI, the unemployment rate is 12.1% and 15.7% respectively and the medium household income is $16,391 and $18,391, respectively. This is in stark contrast to the overall Durham unemployment rate of 4.9% and a medium household income of $51,853.

Our challenge continues to be how do we translate the revitalization, entrepreneurship, innovation, new jobs and opportunities occurring in Durham County into an investment in all of our neighborhoods and all of our citizens such that it provides a pathway out of poverty for everyone. We also need to do this while protecting existing neighborhoods and local businesses and avoiding widespread gentrification and lack of affordable housing, office and retail.

What would you do about it if you are elected?

As an elected official I will continue to remain focused on guiding Durham County policies, decisions and resources to try to address this issue, as well as personally working hard within the boards, committees and partnerships that I am devoted to daily to try to address the complexity of factors that impact poverty and its symptoms in our community. My vision for addressing poverty in Durham is at the big picture level as well as the detailed, day to day level;

As your county commissioner, I am a vocal advocate for the county using its resources such as county owned surface parking lots near proposed light rail stations, to create affordable housing, office and retail through the use of Private Public Partnerships. As your county commissioner, when negotiating incentive packages for businesses, I am a strong advocate for job training for Durham residents, partnerships with NCCU and Durham Tech and the hiring of Durham residents as a component of these incentive deals. As Co-Chair of the Mayor’s PRI Jobs Task Force, I am working with our city partners, county staff, local leaders and community members, to identify and address the barriers to employment and as a result of this process strides have been made to improve system wide practices that will benefit all Durham residents.

As an active member of two Workforce Development Board Committees, I am working with local employers and community partners to make sure we are aligning our Durham Public School, Durham Tech and local university programs with the skills and needs that employers coming to Durham are requiring and making sure that our NC Works Career Center is working effectively for job seekers and employers. At the same time, I work to make sure that the needs of our most neediest citizens are met as Vice Chair of our Social Services Board, Co Chair of the Durham Directors Group, member of the Board of Directors of the Durham Center for Senior Life and as a member of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Health and Human Services Steering Committee.

As Co-Chair of the Durham Directors Group with our Superintendent Dr. L’Homme, I work with the directors of every agency within City and County government that touches people in Durham –from Housing, to Public Health, to Criminal Justice to Law Enforcement- so that we can have a systematic, integrated approach to many of our mental health related issues such as the rise in violent crime or the increase in our foster care population. As your county commissioner, I will continue to support and advocate for policies that address poverty in our community:

  1. A better aligned education to jobs system through programs such as the Youth Work Program, Made in Durham, our Youth Opportunity Initiative, the PRI, My Brother’s Keeper and a strong partnership with Durham Public Schools, Durham Tech, NCCU and the NC Works Career Center programs
  2. Creation of a 0-8 quality early childhood education continuum with universal access high quality pre-K so that all children in Durham will have a solid foundation for future learning and success and all children are reading on grade level by third grade
  3. County government playing an active role in creating affordable housing, retail and office and promoting light rail connected to commuter rail, bus, bike and pedestrian improvements so that there is seamless and affordable access to jobs throughout our region
  4. Implementing better ways to address mental health needs in our community to reduce our jail population, crime and substance abuse and enhancing our diversion programs and alternative courts such as mental health, veterans and drug courts to better address people’s needs and keep our citizens on a pathway to a job not prison.

2. What are the greatest employment needs of Durham’s residents?

The greatest employment needs of Durham residents are making sure they are prepared for and are connected to the jobs existing in and coming to Durham. In addition to providing opportunities for job training, education and recruitment to these jobs, we know from our work with the PRI Jobs Task Force that it is also critical to remove existing barriers to employment such as access to child care, transportation and the impacts of a criminal background.

How can county government use its authority and its resources to direct jobs to those who most need them? Be specific.

There are many ways that Durham County government can play a major role in addressing the employment needs of Durham residents;

  1. Making sure that our financial incentives to new or expanding businesses in Durham are focused on job creation to target citizens of varying education and skill levels and are also linked to our job training and education programs.
    • Some examples include the County’s partnership with the City in several of the recent downtown hotel projects 21C, the Durham, Marriot Residence and Jack Tar. All of these companies have or will be creating jobs in the hospitality sector and are linked to programs at NCCU, Durham Tech and to our NC Works Career Center for job recruiting. In addition Durham Public Schools Culinary Program at Northern High School is creating a talent pathway to this field.
    • Another example is our recent partnership with the state in a JDIG grant for Fidelity that will create an additional 600 jobs in Durham County. These jobs range from high paying IT jobs to entry level customer service jobs. We can specifically target our financial incentives to hiring Durham workers and in this instance part of the incentive is tied to the hiring of Durham workers with $1500 per Durham worker up to $300,000 and is linked to free job training that will be funded by the state and offered through Durham Tech.
    • In our recent public private partnership with home grown Harris Beverage we are supporting a company that has hired a majority of Durham workers, is willing to hire people with a criminal background to give them a second chance and has good jobs that are accessible to people with a range of skills and education. In addition, many of the 39 new jobs with this expansion will be fork lift operator jobs that are a great fit for the forklift certification program that is offered by DERC (the Durham Economic and Resource Center)
  2. Another way that Durham County government can play an active role in creating employment opportunities for Durham residents is the role we play in the development of industrial parks. Through these industrial parks we can recruit and support the creation of good manufacturing jobs like those at AW North Carolina, Merck and Bio Merieux in the Treyburn Industrial Park in North Durham. In addition to providing infrastructure for the 22 acre Harris Beverage headquarters site that will bring new industry to East Durham, we have an option on an additional 93 acres adjacent to Harris that we are exploring as a future East Durham Industrial park.
  3. Another way Durham County Government can help direct jobs to our residents is by helping to better align our education to job pathways in terms of our funding and policies:
    • The county is currently helping to fund the Made In Durham initiative that is creating job pathways targeted at “disconnected” or “opportunity” youth as well as the Youth Opportunity Initiative and My Brother’s Keeper that are also looking at ways to help this same population.
    • We can expand great partnership models such as between Durham County’s EMS and Durham Public Schools’ City of Medicine Academy, where County EMS staff are working alongside DPS teachers to help high school students achieve their EMT Certification.
    • Durham County has been funding the Durham Connects program at Durham Tech for several years now which offers tuition assistance, work study jobs and grants for book purchases for any graduate of Durham High Schools so that Durham residents can access the education and job training they need to get good jobs.
  4. Durham County government can continue to provide services and funding that remove major barriers to employment in the areas of transportation, child care and criminal background.
    • Durham County Access funds can provide up to a year of free transportation to a job, Durham County Government provides a yearly GoTransit pass for all county employees for $24 (which normally costs $60 per month), and our support of a light rail system to Orange County, commuter rail to Wake County and expanded bus service will connect people to job centers who do not have cars.
    • Durham County provides funding and support for high quality childcare through our Department of Social Services, the Durham Partnership for Children, Child Care Services and our Cooperative Extension programs and we have already passed a resolution committing to the goal of universal access to early childhood education in Durham.
    • Durham County can expand the capacity of our Criminal Justice Resource Center that helps prepare Durham residents with a criminal background for re-entry into the work world. We can also expand our Durham County Former Offender Transitional Job Program that currently provides 6 positions for short term employment within Durham County Government to help people learn job skills, develop a resume and references and perhaps find permanent employment within Durham County Government.
  5. Durham County can also address the needs for employment of Durham residents through our contracting for services and purchases as part of our Minority and Women Owned Business Economic Development program. Due to the recommendations of our Disparity Study, we recently signed a contract with the Minority Business Institute for Economic Development to help us implement improvements in this area.

Educating Our Children

3. Do you support expanding pre-school services to all four year olds in Durham whose parents want such services? Yes. If yes, how do you envision this happening over the next four years? If no, please explain.

Yes. I fully support the Resolution our board recently approved in favor of universal access to high quality early childhood education for all children in Durham and a plan of action for implementation. This plan will be a partnership involving Durham County, Durham City, Durham Public Schools and Duke University’s Grown in Durham ages 0-8 educational continuum initiative. As proposed in the Resolution, the first step will be to create a 12-15 member community task force with participation from all sectors of the community including business stakeholders, childcare providers and child education experts. The mission of the task force will be to craft a plan that will begin with expanded access for 3 and 4 year olds and lead to universal access to high quality pre-K for all of Durham’s low to moderate income children.

Recent studies have shown that it is not enough to just prepare 3 and 4 years olds for kindergarten. It is also critical that the pre K education is high quality and the emphasis on high quality education continues from kindergarten through age 8 so that literacy is achieved by third grade. Research has also shown that because critical brain development is impacted by prenatal care and occurs at its fastest rate in the early years, services and programs to support literacy must begin early as well.

The proposed Task Force Plan will include evaluation of our current pre-K programs using available data, recommendations based on best practices and research, a financial model for full implementation and a possible pilot project. The development of a successful model for high quality universal early childhood education in Durham is a huge undertaking. We currently to not possess the necessary scale, capacity or financial resources. It will take the involvement of all community partners to make this a reality.

4. What role should charter schools play in the education of Durham’s children?

There are currently limitations to how we can locally determine what role charter schools should play in the education of Durham’s children. Charters are controlled at the state not local level. But this does not mean we should not be trying at the local level to have a more productive relationship between charter and traditional public schools in Durham. We need to be looking toward a different model then what currently exists because charter schools are one of the publicly funded educational options for children in Durham and there is currently no cap on the number of charter schools. There are now 13 charter schools in Durham, one of the highest levels in the state, and 26 charters that also receive DPS funding outside of Durham County. This is partly due to the fact that Durham County has the third highest local per pupil funding level in North Carolina at $3,108 per student.

We should look toward a new model of relationship between Durham charters and traditional public schools because in the past year, out of the 33,750 school age children in Durham, more than 15% or 5237 of our children attended charters. More than $16 million of the DPS budget funds charter schools. Durham county taxpayers have a direct financial interest in charters just as we have a financial interest in Durham Public Schools. It is in the best interest of Durham parents to have access to as much information as possible about all of our schools-charters and Durham Public Schools alike. Over the past several years the Board of County Commissioners has received reports from many of our charter schools and this information can better educate our community about the curriculum, operations, performance, demographics and budgets of charter schools.

Ideally charters and DPS can come up with some type of model where there can be more coordination and collaboration. There are both DPS and charter schools that are achieving success with all types of student populations and these best practices should be shared and built upon for the benefit of all teachers and students. There is also a need for better coordination between charters and DPS because unlimited charters are not good for either entity –there will be increasing competition over limited resources and a limited student population. One of the impacts of charters on DPS has been the siphoning away of middle class and white students within certain areas of Durham contributing to less diversity in DPS schools. There is also a lack of diversity in many charter schools. Maintaining racial, economic and cultural diversity in all of our schools is important for the future of our community.

Charter schools were initially created as a way to support innovation in public education. It would be great if somehow this was put into practice in Durham and DPS could directly benefit in this way. It would also be great to have the same level of flexibility and innovation afforded to charters given by the state to traditional public schools as well.

5. Did you support or oppose the Durham Public Schools’ 2015 budget request to the Board of County Commissioners?

I supported a budget that represented a compromise budget of $4.25 million in new spending for Durham Public Schools. This was in addition to the $120,233,146 funding level from the previous year, which represents about a third of Durham County’s overall budget. The County Manager’s budget recommendation was for $1.82 million additional funding for new student growth and DPS requested a total of $7.8 million in new funding that included new student growth and additional needs. I supported the $1.82 million for new student growth as well as an additional $2.43 million of the DPS budget request, to specifically support staff salaries and stipends.

I supported the compromise budget of $4.25 million in new funding because I felt it addressed some of the most critical additional needs of DPS, was in line with past support for education and still allowed the County to fund our other important needs and services. This year, we allocated $11.2 million in new revenues for all county services and departments, thus $4.25 million in funding for DPS would be consistent with our proportioning about 30% of the County budget and revenues toward education.

Within this $4.25 million budget for DPS, I supported the $300,000 requested for stipends for teachers who perform extracurricular activities after school, $1.379 million for salaries for the most experienced teachers and $750,000 for a 1% salary for classified staff. I felt that all three of these requests were critical needs because we have not kept pace with the competitive salaries and stipends being offered by Wake and Orange Counties, teacher retention has become a serious issue in DPS, salary increases at the state were only targeting new and beginning teachers and classified staff, many of our lowest paid school workers, had not had a raise in 7 years.

Are local dollars invested in Durham Public Schools giving the citizens a good “return on investment?”

There is no doubt that the local dollars being invested in Durham Public Schools are vital for the support of high quality education for all children in Durham and that investing in education and the future of our children, is the most important investment a community can make. But it is hard to give a simple answer to this question because of the complexity of issues surrounding public education in North Carolina, local challenges related to the nature of our school population, varying interpretations of what a “good education” means and differing ways we may measure educational achievement or our “return on investment”.

On the one hand there is no doubt that many children are getting a great education in Durham Public Schools. I am a former DPS teacher, was actively engaged in DPS for 18 years as a parent and my three children graduated from Durham Public Schools. As a parent I loved being engaged with a diverse group of students, teachers, administrators, school staff, parents and families that are a reflection of our community and to me this diversity has been one of the strengths of DPS. My personal experience was that they had great teachers, great classes, made great friends, were involved in wonderful extracurricular activities and have gone on to good colleges and good jobs. They loved attending Durham Public Schools. The problem remains that this experience in DPS is not the case for too many of our students.

We know that the local dollars invested in DPS is critical because of the lack of state support for funding of public schools in North Carolina. We are the 4th lowest in per pupil funding in the nation and 44th lowest in teacher pay. The local supplement of $3, 108 per student helps to compensate for this lack of funding and puts Durham at the third highest per pupil funding level in the state. Unfortunately due to the removal of the cap on charter schools and the way charter schools are funded in the state, our high level of local funding also makes us attractive to charters. Twenty six charter schools are now a funding drain for DPS schools as levels of required services and operational costs often remain fixed at our 54 DPS schools.

In addition, DPS has the challenge of making sure the needs of our very diverse student population are met and this can be very expensive as state funding for each of these populations has largely remained capped for many years. We have high numbers of LEP (Limited English Proficient), EC (Exceptional Children), AIG (Academically Intellectually Gifted) and economically disadvantaged students. Poverty and the lack of racial and economic diversity has become an increasing issue over the past 7 years. 60% of our student population now qualifies for free and reduced lunch and while Durham’s population is 53% White, this demographic makes up less than 20% of DPS student population. The impact of poverty on education also means the need for providing more expensive wrap around services for our students in the areas of mental health, wellness and nutrition. We have to find ways to meet the educational needs of our more than 900 homeless students, increasing numbers of middle and high school students that work after school and on the weekends to help support their families or students that still do not have access to computers at home.

DPS’s challenge remains how to make sure that all of our students are succeeding, so that all of our children receive a great education at DPS. How do we measure this “return on our investment”? Is it EOG scores, the NC report card, SAT or ACT scores, or measurements of Average Yearly Growth? School attendance rates, high school graduation rates, school suspension and expulsion rates, or truancy rates? Is it the number of Nationally Board Certified Teachers, teacher retention, staff, parent and student satisfaction surveys? Is it the number of AIG classes offered, AIG scores, college acceptance rates, job attainment after graduation? Numbers of hours of community service performed by DPS students? Numbers of students involved in athletic, music, dance, theater, journalism or arts programs? We must find a way to weigh all of these measurements when we evaluate the quality of education at DPS and whether we are getting a “good return on investment”.

But when looking at overall achievement levels and our “return on investment”, we must look closely at standardized state score data because this is often the way that others will be assessing Durham Public Schools. We must be concerned about the data revealing the ongoing achievement gap in DPS among economically disadvantaged and Black and Hispanic students. While standardized test scores and measurements have their limitations and cannot reflect the complexity of learning in areas such problem solving, creativity and higher level thinking skills or the fact that reading based tests are challenging for LEP learners, these test scores are helpful for looking at trends and for benchmarking local, state and national comparisons. This data tells us that more than 50% of our third graders are not considered to be proficient in reading on the state end of grade tests. This is not acceptable and we must do better as we know that third grade literacy is important for future academic achievement. The data also tell us that less than half of our 5th and 8th graders are passing the composite EOG scores, even when benchmarked with other high poverty or high minority population school districts across the state, who have lower levels of per pupil funding. Again, this is not acceptable and we can and must do better.

DPS is making progress in implementing innovative and new programs and we must continue to look for ways to best use our local investment dollars to target the achievement gap and higher levels of achievement for all students. Programs such as the Second Chance Academy, the new Student Code of Conduct and Suspension Policy and the pursuit of universal access to high quality early childhood education are a move in the right direction. We must look at the best use of our local education dollars to focus on priorities such as literacy, innovative best practices and ways to support our teachers at the classroom and school level to ensure that all of our children are succeeding in Durham Public Schools, in all areas of measurement.

Housing, Planning, and Neighborhoods

6. With rising home prices, rents, and property taxes, what should Durham County government do to prevent displacement of lower income residents?

Durham County government can and should play an active role in efforts to prevent displacement of lower income residents. According to preliminary research, we are fortunate in Durham to have a sizeable inventory of affordable housing but the challenge is how to preserve and expand this inventory. The City of Durham is in the process of conducting a study for an Affordable Housing Plan that will provide specific recommendations of policies and practices of how Durham can best use its resources to maintain, attract and assist in the development of affordable housing. Durham County can be a partner in this process and help in the implementation of the plan recommendations when applicable such as participation in a City-County Land Bank or Revolving Loan Fund to support affordable housing development in Durham.

The way the County develops some of its key properties along the Main Street Corridor and close to proposed transit stops can impact maintaining affordable housing options for lower income residents. The use of Public Private Partnerships with these sites and for other projects can help ensure a mixture of housing options for Durham residents. The County Tax Department can take an active role in educating citizens about programs that may help low income residents get relief from their property taxes such as the Elderly/Disabled Homestead Exclusion, the Disabled Veteran Exclusion and the Circuit Breaker-Elderly/Disabled Deferment. The recent notifications of changes in tax values included information about these programs and our tax office employees are trained to help citizens with these programs.

The County can take a role in preventing displacement of lower income residents in additional ways. We can choose to actively support non-profit entities such as the Durham Community Land Trust which works to stabilize neighborhoods by assisting home ownership among lower income buyers and maintains affordable housing stock by controlling ownership of the land and limiting the percentage of resale price. The County can continue to support community development non- profits such as Reinvestment Partners who also provide financial and housing services to support lower income residents. Durham County Government has also been an active partner with Habitat for Humanity which enables lower income residents to become home owners. The County can continue to be involved with Public Private Partnerships such as the Whitted School Project which reinvests in one of the historically neglected areas of our community and will create housing for low income seniors.

7. Will you ensure that any development on county-owned land near transit will include affordable housing?

Yes. I am a strong supporter of leveraging county owned property to assure affordable housing, retail and office development in key downtown locations near transit and of our commitment to at least 15% affordable housing within a ½ mile of each transit stop along the light rail corridor. Recent state legislation that gives counties more flexibility to pursue Public Private Partnerships will be a great tool to achieve this goal.

8. Under what circumstances would you vote to downzone a piece of property?

I would consider the decision to downzone a piece of property on a case by case basis, assessing all of the facts and information, just as I would any other rezoning proposal. As a member of the Durham Planning Commission and as a member of the Durham County Board of Commissioners I have approved down zonings. There are circumstances where a proposed use of a piece of property is only allowable with the approval of a down zoning. As a Planning Commissioner I approved a down zoning to allow an Ultimate Frisbee Complex in North Durham. As a member of the Board of Commissioners I approved a down zoning for a strip of land along 501 North that was zoned commercial but will now be part of a conservation subdivision and I approved a downzoning to make possible development of a paint ball complex and a curling complex.

By “downzone,” we mean a rezoning action that would reduce the market value of the land being rezoned.

I am not sure if the downzoning will always necessarily reduce the market value of the property. In theory this may be the case but in reality, the down zoning may actually bring more economic value to the property which may otherwise remain undeveloped without the benefit of the down zoning.

County Finances, Capital Improvements, Transportation, and County Services

9. In spite drastic cuts in state funding for light rail, do you feel that Go Triangle should continue with project development?

Yes, I support GoTriangle moving forward with the development of the Durham Orange Light Rail Project. The planning for light rail in our region has been in process for more than two decades and will take more than a decade to complete. This project is about planning for the future growth coming to our region (more than a million additional people in just 15 years) and creating a multi modal transportation system that will offer people more transportation options. The light rail corridor will help us plan for where these people will live, work and play, how they will move around. The light rail project will help us mitigate the impacts of sprawl, congestion on our roads, negative impacts to our air and water and will help protect farms, open spaces and the quality of life in our region.

We have already invested significant public funds in the studies and planning needed for the light rail project. We continue to make progress as the draft Environmental Impact Statement is currently being reviewed by the federal government and we were awarded a $1.7 million FTA grant, the second highest award after Seattle, for planning for Transit Oriented Development around the proposed stations. Locally, revenues from the Durham and Orange voter approved ½ sales cent sales tax for transit have been coming in higher than expected and we have already been able to improve our local and regional bus service with these funds.

According to the new state NCDOT formula that was designed to remove politics from the state transportation funding process and use a merit based analysis, the Durham Orange light rail project ranked very high and was awarded $138 million in funding. At the last minute a $500,000 funding cap was unexpectedly placed in the state budget bill. However, Governor McCrory has spoken out publicly many times about the need to amend this funding cap when the legislature is back in session and many representatives from across the state recognize that it is in everyone’s best interest to have a fair, unbiased transportation funding process.

10. Is the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project realistic?

Yes. The proposed 17 mile corridor is the result of years of research, studies, public and stakeholder input and planning. It is a good first step with hopefully future connections to RTP, RDU, Wake County and other parts of Durham, Orange and Chatham counties. Many thriving U.S. and international cities have light rail as one of their transit options. It has also been very successful in places like Charlotte, spurring economic development and as a tool for focusing high density mixed use development within the fixed light rail corridor. If we do it right, by making sure that affordable housing is a part of every transit stop, light rail can become a vital tool in helping us fight poverty in Durham and giving people the ability to access jobs throughout the light rail corridor in a way that is accessible, convenient and affordable. How should Durham’s local governments respond to cuts in state funding?

Durham City and County government have been working with our state delegation, GoTriangle, the Chamber and business community, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and other advocates active in the state legislature to address the state light rail funding issue.

11. What four specific projects are your top priorities for county spending?

I am assuming by word “projects” refers to capital improvement projects rather than programs. My priorities are:

  1. Private Public Partnership on the 4 acres Human Services complex parking lot that would incorporate a large structured parking site wrapped with a mixed use development that would include affordable housing, office and retail. This would also help to activate the East Main Street corridor and the Dillard Street corridor connecting to the Citisculpt mixed use development and the Dillard Street Light Rail Station.
  2. Main Library renovation and expansion. This project has been in the planning stages for years now. The Main Library serves a very diverse cross section of Durham and this project will also have a positive impact on program offerings to our community. What is envisioned is a Main Library that is a center for innovation, creativity and technology with lab and maker spaces. The renovation will also be vital in improving pedestrian connection of the Main Library to the rest of downtown Durham and surrounding neighborhoods.
  3. East Durham Industrial Park. The county is currently performing our due diligence in regards to an additional 93 acre site option we have assumed as part of the Harris Beverage deal. Since the County will be investing $1.3 million in infrastructure to assist in the development of the 22 acre Harris Beverage headquarters site it makes sense that we look at this opportunity to create an adjacent Industrial Park in East Durham. The County’s Treyburn Industrial Park in North Durham is limited in its remaining capacity and we know that there is a need for more construction ready industrial sites in Durham for new home grown Durham businesses. This is also a great opportunity to invest in East Durham where some of our highest poverty/unemployment areas are located and the new East End Connector will make this location even more attractive. With the county being the owner of the industrial park we will also be able to play an active role in supporting and recruiting local businesses and businesses with a range of jobs that are eager to hire Durham residents such as Harris Beverage.
  4. Renovation of the old Judicial Building (with related Annex and Administration building renovations). This project will allow consolidation of many county services into one building, free us up from paying rent for departments such as Probation, will address overcrowding of some offices in the County Building and will allow us to add first floor retail and a public outdoor plaza area that will help activate the streetscape along East Main Street. This renovation will also give us the opportunity to make improvements to make the building more energy efficient and make the façade more attractive.

Would you be willing to raise property taxes to accomplish your priority projects?

Raising property taxes in any situation would always be my last option. We are fortunate that in Durham County we have many financing options to use before looking at raising taxes.

Durham County now has a very sizeable general fund balance. The use of fund balance for capital projects, i.e., one- time costs rather than on going costs such as salaries, is considered a fiscally responsible use of the general fund balance and is consistent with Durham County’s financial policy and the requirements of maintaining our AAA Bond Rating.

We also have a capital improvement fund which is part of our long term capital planning. In addition, the reason to have a AAA Bond Rating (and Durham County is one of only 6 counties in the state and 69 counties in the nation to have this rating) is to be in a good position to pass bonds and borrow money at low interest rates to finance capital projects. The renovation of the Main Library will be part of our proposed bond referendum in the November 2016 election.

Thanks to new state legislation, we can also look to Public Private Partnerships to finance projects such as the Human Services parking lot. In deals such as these, the county can bring valuable assets such as our 4 acres of prime real estate to the table.

12. The Board of County Commissioners recently voted to provide incentives from public money to private corporations including $1.2 million to Wexford, $900,000 to AW North Carolina, $1 million to Purdue Pharma, and $2.65 million to Harris Beverage. The board also pledged $20 million in support of future development in the Research Triangle Park. Did the board make the correct decisions in these cases?

Yes. All of these projects are very different deals but all are beneficial to the citizens of Durham in different ways. They all support economic development and investment in our community and contribute to job creation. In each situation their incentive cost is covered by the increase in sales and property tax revenue to the County.

  • In the case of Wexford, the County is partnering with the City to help revitalize the last remaining historic tobacco factory in Durham and a critical last remaining site along the revitalized West Main Street corridor, which has been an eyesore at the key corner between the Brightleaf and West Village districts. Wexford will transform the Chesterfield building into an innovation life science hub that will create more than 700 new jobs and more than 550 construction jobs. The county’s incentive goes toward the construction of the 554 parking space structured parking that will also help fill the need for public parking downtown at night and on the weekend. Wexford will be investing $128 million into the redevelopment of the building.
  • In the case of AW North Carolina the county is investing in a company that has been in Durham’s Treyburn Industrial Park since 1998 and has expanded six times, increasing their contribution to our tax base and job market during each expansion. As a manufacturer of automotive transmission components, AW North Carolina has just the kind of good manufacturing jobs we need in Durham County, employing 1,600 people and promising to add 56 jobs and a capital investment of $112 million with this latest expansion. AW North Carolina is also the kind of company we want to keep growing in Durham because of their great partnership with Durham Tech in terms of job training for their employees.
  • In the case of Purdue Pharma, Durham added a new pharmaceutical research and development and manufacturing company as part of a state wide incentives package that required a local match in our competition with Austin Texas for this company. The Purdue Pharma deal included a $59 million capital investment and 100 new jobs. It is an addition to our Treyburn Industrial Park and our growing bioscience- pharmaceutical jobs sector. Pharma also represents a great alignment with the programs at NCCU’s BRITE Center and Durham Tech who both partnered in working on this deal.
  • In the case of Harris Beverage we are helping to keep a Durham grown company in Durham. They had the option to go to Granville County where they were offered a build ready site and attractive financial incentives. With the new 22 acre Durham headquarters, Harris is -consolidating their operations located in Vance, Durham and Granville Counties. With the Harris deal the county is also investing in infrastructure that could be part of a larger East Durham Industrial Park. A high percentage of Harris employees are Durham residents-75% of their 120 employees- and they offer good jobs to a cross section of Durham residents. They are also committed to offering people with a criminal background a second chance at employment and their proposed 39 positions, many of them fork lift operator positions, are a great fit for the job training and certification that DERC offers.
  • With the County’s $20 million investment in infrastructure for the Park Center project we are investing in the future of our region. RTP has played a vital role in the economic development and innovation of our entire region over the past three decades. But just as the revitalization and re-visioning of downtown Durham has been taking place over the past decade, it is time to re-imagine and re-vision RTP. The creation of a high density, mixed use, bike and pedestrian hub within the Park that has public spaces at its heart and is connected to the rest of our region by transit will be vital for our future. Durham County’s investment was matched by $30 million of investment by the Research Park Foundation and the Park District. The Park Center development is projected to bring in $314 million worth of capital investment, more than 2,300 construction jobs and generate $13.2 million just in construction related sales and tax revenue for Durham County. More than 5,900 on site jobs and more than $5 million in annual sales and property taxes are expected.

As a member of the board, what philosophy will guide you in deciding whether to provide public financial support to private development enterprises?

As a member of the BOCC, my philosophy will continue to be guided by my commitment to support job opportunities and economic development to benefit the citizens of Durham. I will continue to focus on the use of public financial incentives as a way to support revitalization in needed areas of our community, promote particular types of jobs for Durham residents, support local businesses or provide a community need such as affordable housing or transit oriented development. I will continue to weigh incentives with the projected impact of private investment and its potential for increased sales and property tax revenue that will add to our tax base and help fund needed services and improvements in our community.

I am also guided by Durham County’s Economic Development Policy that outlines our ability to give financial incentives and exactly how these agreements are structured. This policy allows the use of expenditures “for economic development of industrial and commercial plants (to) stimulate the local economy, increase the tax base, promote business, and result in the creation of jobs for the citizens of Durham County.” This policy also includes criteria such as minimum number of jobs created, minimum amount of capital improvement, the provision for a performance based contract with claw back provisions, methods for performance verification and a structured pay out schedule.

The City and County adopted a Joint Economic and Development and Strategic Plan about a year ago. I would like to revisit our Economic Development Policy in light of this new strategic plan and to better align our use of incentives with priorities such as the hiring and training of Durham workers or the development of affordable housing.

13. In general, do you support funding of county programs and services through property taxes, sales taxes, or user fees? Please explain your answer.

In general, I support the funding of county programs and services through property taxes because this is the more equitable form of taxation. Other options may be appropriate in certain circumstances and in Durham we have made use of special sales taxes and fees to cover the cost of programs and services.

For example, we have been able to fund specific programs through the use of state approved sales tax options that were approved by voter referendum. The ¼ sales tax for education has enabled us to generate additional funding for pre K education in Durham, the Museum of Life and Science, Durham Tech and Durham Public Schools. Thanks to the ½ sales tax for transit we have improved bus service and will be able to provide the local funding portion of our light rail project.

Our new Durham Sports Commission which will be a great catalyst for economic development, help bring sporting events of all levels to Durham and which will help support our local youth sports, will be financed by a designated portion of the additional occupancy tax from our five new hotels coming on line downtown and thus will not be borne by Durham tax payers.

A fee based approach is fair in certain circumstances such as for the County curbside Recycling Program and County Waste Convenience Sites in which only county residents living outside the city limits are charged this fee because they are the only residents using this service.

Law Enforcement

14. Do you support allowing a team of concerned community members to investigate inmate treatment and living conditions in the Durham County jail? Why or why not?

I do not think it is appropriate for a group of citizens to investigate the jail because they do not have the expertise to do so. It is important that investigations are done by those that have the expert knowledge in regards to local, state and federal laws and requirements, adopted rules and procedures, etc. It is also important that investigations are conducted by those who have the expertise to make appropriate recommendations and also have the resources, support skills and authority to implement changes or improvements if necessary. There are also safety considerations that are inherent with bringing a group of citizens into a facility such as the County Detention Center.

There are many regular state and federal inspections of the jail that take place on a regular basis. These inspections include the Facility State Inspection, The Facility Health Care Inspection, The Fire Marshall’s Inspection, the Facility Health and Sanitation Inspection, The U.S. Fire Marshal’s Inspection, the Department of Labor Pressure Vessel Inspection, the Facility Elevator Inspection. In addition, a Durham County Grand Jury Inspection last took place on May 4, 2015 and can be done at any time at the discretion of the Grand Jury.

Oversight of certain services is also provided directly by Durham County government departments. Our Criminal Justice Resource Center oversees mental health treatment and services and runs the STARR substance abuse recovery program in the jail. The Durham County Public Health Department oversees medical treatment, nutrition and dispenses medications at the jail.

In addition, the Sheriff requested that the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) come to the Durham County Detention Center to conduct an inspection. The Sheriff’s formal request to the NIC was made in October 2015 and hopefully will take place soon. The National Institute of Corrections is part of the federal Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons and has expertise about national best practices. The NIC also provides support and resources to help counties implement any recommended changes or improvements.

Should conditions in the jail factor into the Board of County Commissioners’ decision-making concerning funding allocated to the Sheriff’s department?

Yes, the county can play a role especially in helping to improve conditions in the jail through its funding allocation to the Sheriff’s department. We funded additional court related services in the jail so that citizens can receive services and hearings in a more timely manner. We advocated for funding of the current GED and high school education programs at the jail and we support the STARR program that helps inmates with substance abuse treatment. We fund CIT training for deputies and detention staff to facilitate the diversion of people to the Durham Center Access for mental health treatment or to make sure they receive appropriate mental health services while in the jail.

Our board has already indicated to the Sheriff that we will support additional funding for structural modifications he may need to improve pod safety design for staff and inmates to safely have free time outside of their cells. The county has also funded modifications to cells for suicide prevention. Additional County funding allocations may be required for the creation of a Mental Health Pod which the Sheriff has expressed interest in and is considered a national best practice.

As a member of the Farmland Preservation Board, I am working with the Sheriff and fellow Farm Board members on a proposal for the jail to purchase locally grown food products that will improve the quality of the food at the jail while having the double benefit of supporting our local small businesses- our farmers.

Another aspect of jail conditions which could factor into the Board of County Commissioners decision making is in the issue of staffing and salaries. Being a detention officer is a very difficult and challenging job. We currently have many vacancies and are continually training officers and then losing them to neighboring counties or the state prison system because they offer higher wages or benefits. Because of staffing needs, the Sheriff has not been able to open Mental Health Pods for male and female inmates. We will need to look more closely at this funding related issue in our upcoming budget process.

15. What steps should Durham County take to create a community where Durham's immigrant residents can live free from fear of being targeted for their documentation status?

I believe that Durham is a very welcoming community to our immigrant population. Durham is a community that celebrates diversity and prides ourselves on our tolerance and respect for differences. Our schools are open to children from throughout the world and we strive to meet their educational, emotional and social needs. Many of our local non- profits and churches are also dedicated to serving the needs of immigrant communities in Durham. Many Durham County programs and services are targeted to non- English language residents in our libraries, Cooperative Extension, Register of Deeds, Tax Office, Social Services and Public Health Departments. Our local law enforcement does not practice a policy of focusing on the documentation status of our immigrant residents and recognizes that immigrant residents are partners in local efforts to fight crime and must feel safe seeking out the help of local law enforcement and in reporting criminal activity.

Do you support Durham County participation in the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office's Priority Enforcement Program?

According to the Sheriff’s department, we have had a relationship with this program for more than 15 years but our involvement is very minimal and this relationship remains unchanged. Only if a person is arrested for a crime and they are fingerprinted would their information be shared with a federal program called the Secure Communities Program. According to the Sheriff, their deputies do not go out actively searching for those who may be here illegally. I support the Sheriff maintaining this practice.

With regard to immigrants in custody, should Durham County cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office? Why or Why not?

Evidently the practice of the past 15 years will remain unchanged and is not at the discretion of the Sheriff’s department. The Sheriff considers this role to be minimal. When the fingerprints are entered into the system, they are reviewed by the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE may request the person be transferred to them if the fingerprints reveal that they been convicted of a past offense under the Department of Homeland Security, have participated in gang activity or are considered to pose a threat to national security.

Health Care and Social Services

16. How can Durham improve mental health services in our community?

There are many ways that Durham can improve mental health services in our community. Our government agencies, service providers and non- profit organizations are aware of the critical mental health needs in our community that we are struggling to address.

As Co-Chair of the Durham Directors Group, which brings together directors of all of the city and county departments providing human services in our community, I am focused on improving our System of Care (integrated, systematic and coordinated) approach to mental health services in Durham. As a member of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Health and Human Services Steering Committee, I am aware of the challenging landscape facing Alliance Behavioral Health, our local mental health care provider, which has been negatively impacted by recent state cuts that will deepen in subsequent years. We also face an uncertain future of how mental health care will be delivered in North Carolina with possible consolidation and privatization of mental health services.

That being said, we must continue to stay focused on our local health needs and do the best we can with the level of funding that we do have. Durham’s System of Care model is a leader in the state because of the level of collaboration, communication and coordination that exists within agencies in Durham in regards to the mental health needs our residents. Many of our educators, law enforcement, school resource officers, social workers, public health staff and first responders have been trained in CIT-Crisis Intervention Training -or Mental Health 101. We can continue to increase access to this training so that as many people as possible, within all sectors of our community, can play a role in screening, prevention and early access to treatment.

We can improve our preventative services so that we reduce the number of people in our jails with mental health needs. This group is now estimated to be about 25% of our jail population, even though our overall numbers in the Detention Center have been declining and are at record lows due to the diversion of people to our 24 hour Durham Center Access mental health care facility by law enforcement and our expanded Pre Trial Release, Misdemeanor and Drug Court Programs. Durham County has been an active participant in the Stepping Up Initiative which is a national effort to reduce the number of people in jails with mental illness. We have onsite psychiatric and mental health services in the jail but we need to look at best practices such as creating a Mental Health Pod. We also need to create a Mental Health Court similar to our very effective and successful Drug Court that addresses the needs of people with mental health issues in a wrap around support program, provides an alternative to jail time and a criminal record, and creates a pathway to a job. We can also look at improving the continuum of care Durham residents receive when they are released from the jail or the programs of the Criminal Justice Resource Center.

The Durham Directors Group is continually looking at best practices for more efficient and effective means of delivery of mental health services. This will mean more co-location and integration of services in the future; placing more mental health workers in our schools, public health and social service departments, so that we can treat entire families and make it easier for people to access services. We are beginning to see progress in this area with this model being implemented in Durham Public Schools. Through the oversight of Alliance Behavioral Health, we also need to make sure that our mental health care providers are giving the most accessible, appropriate and effective care possible to each person in need of mental health services.

One of our greatest areas of need is our youth. We have a lack of local long term care facilities for our children and we struggle with providing care for our at risk youth including those aging out of foster care. We must find a way to continue long term funding of our Becoming Program that has been successfully serving this population and to expand new programs that target transition age youth such as the Life Skills Foundation which provides housing with onsite mental health services.

Civil Rights

16. Would you support legislation designed to protect gay, lesbian, and transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodation, and access to government benefits and services?


Personal and Political

17. Have you ever been convicted of any criminal offence other than a minor traffic offense?


Have you ever been charged with a felony (without regard to the disposition of the charge)?


18 Is there currently a judgment of debt outstanding against you?


19. How are you currently registered to vote?


Have you ever changed your registration with regard to party status?


20. For whom did you vote for in the 2008 and 2012 presidential and gubernatorial elections?

Barak Obama.

For whom did you vote in the 2014 U. S. Senate election?

Kay Hagan.