Scattered agenda marks City Council meeting

The Durham City Council focused on a wide variety of issues at its meeting Monday night, with its discussion ranging from crime to the future of transportation in Durham and Chapel Hill.

Addressing lingering concerns about the summer's drought, City Council members authorized City Manager Marcia Conner to execute a contract with the state for water supply storage at Jordan Lake. The council's action followed the advice of city environmental officials who have warned in previous meetings that the city must extensively plan for future droughts.

The Durham Police Department also presented its crime report for the third quarter. Although the council did not discuss any statistics in particular, some citizens expressed concern that crime has continually festered in Durham's neighborhoods.

Victoria Petersen, a resident, spoke of the need for new measures to counter area crime.

"Couldn't we... bring in expert people [from] around the country who could help us discuss what to do about crime?" Petersen asked, adding that statistics that include breakdowns by race and education could help officials assess some root causes of crime in Durham.

She said that the mayor and the council had promised her that in the latest report, race would be reported for all crimes, not just with homicides as officials have done in the past. Mayor Bill Bell, however, refuted this claim, adding that Petersen should try to set up a meeting with Interim Police Chief Steve Chalmers.

Petersen argued, as she has in past City Council meetings, that increasing attention has been given to combating crime in Latino communities at the expense of safety in black communities.

In other business, the council adopted a resolution endorsing the 2025 Long Range Transportation Plan for the Durham-Chapel Hill corridor. The plan was recently prepared by the Transportation Advisory Committee, a group of elected officials from the metro area who work with the N.C. Department of Transportation to decide on what area roads will be built and in what order. Bell and City Council member John Best are members of the advisory committee.

The transportation plan, revised every three to five years, is reviewed by the federal government to ensure that planned roads will provide at least a minimum level of air quality. It also identifies a range of possible improvements to address the transportation deficiencies, needs and goals of the urban area for the next 20 years.

Mayor Pro Tempore Lewis Cheek stressed the need to secure federal money for roads.

"Without a long-range transportation plan, we can't get federal money for our roads," he said. Cheek also praised Bell's work in quickly assembling a plan.


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