In his final State of the City address Tuesday, outgoing Durham Mayor Bill Bell addressed the city in an interview with WRAL reporter Gerald Owens.
The luncheon was held at the American Tobacco Campus, the site of the mayor’s first State of the City address. Bell discussed the progress he has seen Durham make during his past 16 years as mayor, as well as the challenges it continues to face. Attendees included Durham and state-elected officials, mayors from surrounding cities and other members of the Durham community.
“The community has been good to [my family]. I consider it an honor to have had the opportunity to serve as long as I have to elected offices," Bell said. "I’ve met some very great people in this community, throughout this state and even throughout the world, and had it not been for the opportunity to serve as an elected official, that wouldn’t have happened."
Bell emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships that have been crucial in revitalizing Durham. He cited both the American Tobacco Campus and the Durham Performing Arts Center as essential changes to downtown Durham that helped strengthen the city.
The mayor also emphasized that changes of this scale do not happen overnight and that the strategic plan set for Durham has been essential in shaping the future trajectory of the city.
Owens questioned Bell about the current traffic situation, leading to a discussion surrounding the addition of a light rail. The mayor highlighted the key role that GoTriangle would play in this initiative, which seeks to connect Duke, North Carolina Central University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bell also discussed crime in Durham—explaining that when he first took office, he advised the police chief to begin publicly reporting crimes in the city. He urged the citizens to listen while still voicing important concerns, keeping in mind that public safety is a community effort.
In his final remarks, Bell cited his vision for the growth of downtown Durham and investment into the community. He said he hopes that his initiatives will be carried on by his successors.
“I never talk about what I want to accomplish. I have a vision, just like my colleagues on the council have a vision, and there are certain things you tend to focus on…the whole issue of reducing poverty is important to me," Bell said. "The whole issue of reducing crime is important to me, and I just hope that by the end of this term there will be enough progress so that they could be carried on by succeeding council people and administration."
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