Durham County

Bull City Politics: Council adds black men to racial equity task force

Durham City Council member Vernetta Alston, left, and Council Member Mark-Anthony Middleton, right, await the start of a City Council meeting on Monday, August 6, 2018.
Durham City Council member Vernetta Alston, left, and Council Member Mark-Anthony Middleton, right, await the start of a City Council meeting on Monday, August 6, 2018. jwall@newsobserver.com

When the Durham City Council took its first vote on who should be on its new Racial Equity Task Force, no African American men were on it.

Mark-Anthony Middleton, the only African American man on the council, missed the initial vote and saw a problem with that. The rest of council agreed to talk more about it, and this week they came up with a solution. Keep the first list of nominees but expand it so the now 17-person task force has at least four African American men.

There are now six African American women, four African American men, four white women, two white men and two Latina women on the slate of 17 nominees. The nominees were chosen by a vote at Thursday’s work session, when all council members were present. They’ll make it official at the council’s regular meeting Monday, Oct. 1. The appointments will be on the consent agenda, which is a way for the council to approve several items at once unless one is removed from the consent agenda for discussion first.

Here is the breakdown of the Racial Equity Task Force:

Elaine O’Neal, the district court judge and interim dean of the N.C. Central University law school, will be chair. She was nominated by Mayor Steve Schewel.

Ward I:

Tia M. Hall, African American woman

Vanessa J. Hines, African American woman

Cory H. Hogans, African American man

Jessica C. Luginbuhl, white woman

Cameron L. Smith, African American woman

Ward 2:

David H. Dixon, African American man

Kaaren M. Haldeman, white woman

Ana S. Nunez, Latina

James Tabron, African American man

Ward 3:

Emily S. Coward, white woman

Jovonia Lewis, African American woman

Howard N. Machtinger, white man

Daniel R. McKinney, white man

Katie J. Mgongolwa, white woman

Jamel E. Moss, African American man

Cecilia S. Polanco, Latina

O’Neal, the task force chair, lives in Ward 2. The Durham City Council’s ward system designates that a council member must live in the ward they represent, even though voters from across the city vote on all council seats regardless of ward.

Council member DeDreana Freeman represents Ward 1, Middleton represents Ward 2 and Vernetta Alston represents Ward 3. Charlie Reece, Javiera Caballero and Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson are at-large members. The Racial Equity Task Force is a new advisory board that Johnson started as a priority when she was elected mayor pro tem by her fellow council members in December.

Durham’s 150th anniversary

Also this week, council members took a preliminary vote on the Sesquicentennial Honors Commission. That commission will work on the upcoming 150th anniversary in 2019 of Durham becoming a city. Schewel said he’d like there to be 150 different events, large and small.

The breakdown, by name, race and gender:

Joseph Blocher, white man

Ernest A. Dollar, white man

Michelle L. Gonzales-Green, multi-racial woman

John E. Schelp, white man

Aya Shabu, African American woman

Frances D. Starn, white woman

Andre D. Vann, African American man

City Council members said they need to be “intentional” about diverse board appointments beyond the Racial Equity Task Force and the Human Relations Commission.

Alston said that it’s not only about race and gender. She’d like to see people with a diverse range of educational backgrounds serving on boards — not just those with advanced college degrees.

“I Voted” sticker, Durham style

There are many serious reasons to vote. Getting that “I Voted” sticker is a fun reason. The Durham County Board of Elections held a contest to design this year’s “I Voted” sticker.

The winning “I Voted” sticker of a Durham County Board of Elections contest. It was designed by Joshua Klein. Image from Durham County

The winning design was created by Joshua Klein, and incorporates the City of Durham flag colors and stars. The design won with 457 votes, which is 11 percent of the 4,135 votes cast for the sticker.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Early voting starts Oct. 17. Visit dconc.gov/government/departments-a-e/board-of-elections for early voting locations and other Durham County Board of Elections information.

Bull City Politics is an occasional Durham politics column by Durham government reporter Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan. She live-tweets council meetings. Follow her at @dawnbvaughan and the hashtag #BullCitypol on Twitter.

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