Duke hosts Durham City Council and mayoral candidate forum

Nate Baker, city council candidate, with Tiana Clemons, T'25
Nate Baker, city council candidate, with Tiana Clemons, T'25

Duke and Durham community members met 12 Durham City Council and mayoral candidates Wednesday evening. 

The event was sponsored by Duke Polis, Duke Votes, Graduate and Professional Student Government, the Office of University Scholars and Fellows, the Duke Climate Coalition and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. 

Five Durham mayoral candidates were in attendance at the event, including DeDreana Freeman, Sylvester Williams, Mike Woodard, Leonardo Williams and Charlitta Burruss. Seven City Council at-large candidates were in attendance, including Carl Rist, Sherri Rosenthal, Nate Baker, Renee Vaugn, Sheila Huggins, J.J. Campbell and Khalilah Karim. 

Three mayoral candidates — Jontae Dunston, Nick Pettiford and Marshall Williams — and five City Council candidates — Javiera Caballero, Monique Halsey-Hyman, Shanetta Burris, Waldo Fenner and Bonita Green — were not in attendance. 

Candidates were first asked to explain how they would respond to sanitation workers’ demands on understaffing in public services. Durham's sanitation workers held a week-long strike in early September, calling for a $5,000 bonus, compensation for work outside their job title and permanent roles for temporary workers. 

The attending candidates were in favor of voting in support of their plans and raising sanitation workers’ salaries. Higgins added that Durham ought to give departments more flexibility to control lapsed salaries and create a human resources department focusing on career progression for the City’s employees. 

Candidates also proposed their climate goals for Durham and their approaches to achieving them in an equitable manner. 

The City’s Carbon Neutrality and Renewable Energy Action Plan committed to ambitious sustainability goals, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by City operations by 100%, transitioning to zero-emission fleet vehicles and dramatically reducing energy consumption in City buildings by 2040.

Many candidates advocated for increased walkability and bikeability within Durham. After Duke pulled the Durham-Orange Light Rail transit project after 20 years of planning, some candidates, including Sylvester and Leonardo Williams, are using the incident as a way to refocus on busing as a form of public transportation.

“I agree with a lot of what was said, I think that we need to be more focused on walking and biking. I think that was touched on by a lot of candidates' answers,” senior Zoe Tishaev said.

The candidates also presented their stance on whether police department resources in Durham should be increased or decreased. Many candidates proposed consulting the police chief and city managers as well as looking at data to guide the decision about whether police department resources should be increased or decreased. Many supported the current work done by the HEART community safety program

Tishaev appreciated the opportunity to meet with Durham mayoral and city council candidates and emphasized the notion that “Duke students have a responsibility toward Durham and how Duke University has a responsibility toward Durham.”  

Election day is Nov. 7, and a primary election Oct. 10 will narrow the field down to two mayoral candidates and six City Council candidates. 

Amy Guan | Senior Editor

Amy Guan is a Pratt senior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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