Take a look around. Durham is booming. The skyline is changing, business is moving in, growth all around. It’s a prosperous time. Well for some of us.
This growth places us at a crossroads. Durham needs to create a vision of our future, and we need everyone to participate. Sounds great right, except some voices are historically not heard. We have residents in our city who cannot find work, and those who do find work don’t receive a livable wage. The development boom in our neighborhoods has created skyrocketing housing costs, costs that are pushing out long-term residents. We are still a violent city, where many of our residents don’t see police officers as trusted sentries of safety. Many fear them due to their skin color, their gender, gender identity, or age.
I believe that a city shouldn’t be judged by the number of millionaires residing in its limits, but by how we treat our weakest and most vulnerable residents, and I think we can do a much better job in Durham. My vision for Durham is to build a city where we all thrive. Where my two daughters can be proud to call the Bull City home.
To enact that vision we have to work together. Our city needs jobs that pay a fair wage. I propose a three-year tax incentive program that offsets a portion of the costs for employers that pay a fair and livable wage. I would couple that with a stronger collaboration with NCWORKS and Durham Tech to better enable our workforce with trainings, as well as ensure our public bus lines enable all of our citizens to reach these trainings. After our three-year tax program experiment I would personally lobby the state government with data showing the benefits of paying a living wage, and attempt to rally for a minimum wage that is a living wage.
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We also must ensure we keep Durham “Durm.” We must continue to support our affordable housing budget, I would prop that budget up by earmarking portions of new property taxes from new downtown development. I would support a circuit breaker expansion that not only assists our elderly and handicapped, but all citizens that fall below certain income levels. We can keep our Durhamites in their homes through circuit breakers, properly funding affordable housing units, and keep our neighborhoods diverse.
Our police department must be beyond reproach. Trust must be a given. The current City Council has done an admirable job raising the wages for our officers, now we must ensure that we train them to be the beacon that all cities in the South look up to. I’d push a de-escalation training to lower incidences of brutality, force and officer involved shootings along side a stronger Community Policing initiative. Our officers must be out of their cruisers and be trusted members of the fabric of Durham.
I’m running for City Council in Ward 2 on a simple campaign promise. I promise to listen to the challenges of the citizens of Durham, and we will uncover the impacts of those challenges, to the city, to its people, and to the individual. Together, with each Durhamite hand in hand we will create a vision of a solution. We’ll then get to do the fun part, implementing. Let’s build Durham together into a city our children can be proud of.
Robb Fluet is the director of Client Development for Client Savvy, a local Triangle consulting firm, building visions for businesses and implementing those plans.
Editor’s note: Candidates in this fall’s elections are invited to submit one letter of 250 words per month and a total of two guest columns of up to 750 words between now and Oct 15. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org