Letters to the editor

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 07:43 PM

Real causes require attention to reduce panhandling

Changing Durham’s panhandling ordinances will do nothing to deter panhandling. The problem’s core is homelessness and poverty. Until that core becomes the focus, panhandling will only proliferate. (“Jail’s no answer for panhandlers,” April 7)

While jail is not the answer for panhandlers, neither are highway medians. When people stand or walk the narrow elevated peninsulas that divide traffic, they are accidents waiting to happen.

Let me give one example. Daniel Lauray, who was once an accomplished musician, became a chronic panhandler in downtown Durham. He’d walk into the streets at intersections or stumble off medians begging drivers for money. After dozens of arrests and periodic nights in jail, he’d be back on the streets. Cars, including my own, would swerve to avoid hitting him.

Although city ordinances and confinement did not stop him, the court system did everything possible to help him. He had a devoted public defender. Mental health services were arranged. He received temporary shelter, but long-term care was not available. His habitual wandering into the streets continued.

Last month, Mr. Lauray was killed when he stepped into the path of an oncoming car. The driver was not at fault. And the “system,” including attorneys and judges, helped pay for his funeral expenses.

As government de-funds social services, more tragedies like this will occur. No city ordinances will stop panhandling, but prohibitions from people standing on highway medians might be a way to save lives.


Marcia Morey



Shorter building preferable for downtown

I am disappointed to learn that our Historic Preservation Commission has almost unanimously approved a plan for the proposed 26-story City Center in downtown Durham.  

While I fully support increased density downtown and the resurgence of activity we are seeing there, I am concerned about the scope of this building and how it will affect the surrounding area.  

Why not build it to 10 or 15 floors instead?  

A smaller building would achieve the desired ends, while still being in character with neighboring buildings. 

As proposed, this tower will stick out like a sore thumb. The developer, Austin Lawrence Partners describes this as a 'transformational" project. Well, to be honest, I do not really want to transform downtown right this minute.  

I feel that downtown is making wonderful progress already and I worry that this tower is somebody's "great idea" that will be an eyesore for Durham residents.


Andy Slaughter