Bull City Politics: What a group with Raleigh in its name wants in Durham

Major the Bull statue in downtown Durham.
Major the Bull statue in downtown Durham. dvaughan@heraldsun.com

Durham’s most active grassroots groups — Durham CAN and Durham for All — are good at getting the community, and some leaders, behind their progressive issues.

This week they were joined by two groups from Raleigh in a new coalition that wants a scorecard for Durham developers who get public money.

The Durham-Raleigh Equitable Development Collaborative is composed of Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods); Durham for All; the North Carolina chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which is based in Raleigh; and the NC League of Conservation Voters Foundation, also in Raleigh.

“How do we plan for development in ways that put longtime residents and workers first?” asked Kaji Reyes-Gertes, who lives in Durham and works in Raleigh. The group’s proposal to track how companies that get incentives deliver is a work in progress, he said.

Members spoke Tuesday to the Joint City-County Committee, which comprises city and county leaders and meets quarterly. On the city side is Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson, who is a founder of Durham for All and still involved in the group.

“Public dollars should support the future of all Durhamites,” Reyes-Gertes said.

A group with Raleigh in its name is something new in Bull City politics. The only time you see or hear “Raleigh-Durham” is when people talk about the airport or don’t live in North Carolina. And Durhamites don’t like being listed after Raleigh. (This group, however, put Durham first.)

Durham politicians do work with their Triangle neighbors, serving together on regional boards or most recently coming together in opposition of the six constitutional amendments that were on the ballot this past Election Day.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute was founded by Randolph and Bayard Rustin, both civil rights and workers’ rights leaders. The North Carolina chapter also works to advance workers rights and civil rights. The N.C. League of Conservation Voters is an environmental group.

The collaborative talked only about what it wants for Durham. It will be interesting to see if they work together on Raleigh issues, too.

Participatory budgeting

Johnson is also behind the city’s new participatory budgeting program she prioritized when she became mayor pro tem in December.

The City Council voted to spend $2.4 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year on participatory budgeting, which will pay for projects chosen by Durham residents ages 13 and older.

A kickoff idea assembly will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at Birchwood Heights Community Center, 416 Walton St., followed by five meetings across the city over the next several weeks. Adults and teens can submit ideas at pbdurham.mapseed.org.

Pre-K expansion

The Durham County commissioners got an update Tuesday night about the first few months of the pre-K expansion that the county funded in this year’s budget.

The county added $2.16 million for its goal of universal pre-K in Durham by 2023. It is now in the second quarter of a two-year contract with the Child Services Association.

Children won’t be able to get into new pre-K spots until 2019, but work has started on figuring out exactly how many spots will be available at new or existing pre-K programs. It will be more than 1,000, with an exact number due this spring.

Linda Chappel of Child Services Association, sat through two hours of a commissioners meeting packed with supporters of affordable housing plans. She told commissioners that the money they’re spending on housing is important, but so is pre-K and she hopes there will be a crowded room to support that plan as well.

Goals including raising pre-K teacher pay to that of Durham Public Schools teachers and increasing the number of high quality childcare providers. Child Services Association ranks childcare and pre-K programs on a five star rating. The average cost of high quality, five-star childcare for a 4-year-old in Durham is $940 per month, according to the county.

“Progress is happening, but we are very much in the support and strengthening mode now,” Chappel said.


County Chief of Staff Drew Cummings gave a short version of the pre-K update to the Joint City-County Committee on Tuesday morning.

He mentioned the comprehensive research report on pre-K in Durham, which prompted Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs to ask how long the report is.

“It’s a goodly report,” Cummings said.

The Durham County Preschool Supply and Demand Report is 88 pages: dconc.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=26106

You can also read a 34-page report, “Voluntary, Universal Pre-kindergarten in Durham County How Do We Get There From Here?”: dconc.gov/home/showdocument?id=21520

State of Durham County’s Young Children Report, 20 pages: dconc.gov/home/showdocument?id=20751

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers Durham government and live tweets meetings on Twitter at @dawnbvaughan and #BullCitypol. Bull City Politics is an occasional Durham politics column that takes you inside City Hall and the County Administration Building.
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