Herald-Sun editorial: Alleviating poverty: The long road ahead

Jan. 07, 2013 @ 09:37 PM

The candidates for the Durham City Council vacancy had strong opinions on the 751 South project and its potential effects on creating jobs that would help to reduce the number of local people living in poverty.

The two leading candidates for the seat to be vacated by Mike Woodard, who is moving to the state Senate, both said they are doubtful that the controversial proposed 751 development will create quality jobs that pay a living wage.

“If the jobs will produce the salaries people need to live comfortably in our community, then that makes sense to me,” said candidate Anita Daniels. “If it’s more Walmart [or] Target, I don’t have anything against those companies, but I know the hourly wage they pay and people will have to work extra hours or work second jobs.” Fellow candidate Don Moffitt questioned the location of the development site, which is remote from public transit routes, and the lack of binding pledges from developers.

Because it has been the subject of a high-profile, protracted fight on multiple fronts, this particular development perhaps comes in for criticism that other project do not. But the debate is instructive in a broader sense: How do economic development projects tie in with the fight against poverty? Any such projects bring some degree of positive economic benefit, but what can be done to provide the most benefit to people in need?

These are difficult questions with no easy answers. The first step might be to remain mindful, as a community, of the challenges that we face in improving economic opportunities for all of our residents.

The Faith Summit on Child Poverty is an important event planned for Jan. 24 at Union Baptist Church. The Rev. Mel Williams, coordinator of End Poverty Durham, wrote in a Herald-Sun guest column on Christmas Day that the summit is an urgent call to action to build relationships with families and children in poverty. About 14,000 children in Durham live in poverty. What progress will we make in this crucially important battle in 2013?