Long-time Durham resident Carl Rist, Sanford ‘91, is running for Durham City Council on a platform that highlights sustainable development and economic reform.
Rist was the third-highest polling candidate in Durham’s primary municipal elections on Oct. 10, garnering 17.63% of the vote. He will face Nate Baker, Javiera Caballero, Khalilah Karim and Monique Holsey-Hyman in the general election on Nov. 7 for the Council’s three at-large seats.
“One in seven people in Durham lives in poverty, I think one in six or five kids is food insecure. We've got some real human needs here. And so I want to be part of a council that pushes back on those trends,” Rist said.
Rist and his wife moved to Durham in 1989 as he pursued a master’s degree in public policy at Duke. The couple fell in love with the city and decided to stay in Durham full-time while Rist worked with the think tank Prosperity Now, based in Washington, D.C.
Rist has also been heavily involved with a number of nonprofits in Durham, including the Durham Living Wage Project and Habitat for Humanity.
Rist’s policy platform rests upon four main pillars: economic reform, affordable housing, sustainability and community safety. He released position papers for each of these pillars, outlining specific policies he plans to pursue on city council.
Rist’s economic strategies are inspired by his work with the Durham Living Wage Project. He wants to prioritize the development of living wage jobs while funding education and training programs to help more people access them.
“Durham has really been one of the pioneers in the living wage movement,” Rist said. “We were the first city back in … 1998, to pass a living wage ordinance that requires at least the city, the county and the school system to pay all their workers a living wage.”
Rist refers to this set of programs as “Shared Prosperity,” aiming to take direct action against both income and wealth inequality with policies that empower Durham residents to gain and maintain financial stability in their households.
Rist’s economic policies go hand-in-hand with his plans for the development of affordable housing in Durham. As the Research Triangle and Durham grow more populous, Rist believes that affordable housing is one of the city’s most pressing problems.
“We can't stop growing, we have to increase supply,” Rist said. “But I think we have to do that in the smartest way possible. And that means getting denser in the urban core.”
To combat rising housing prices, Rist supports Durham’s $160 million dollar affordable housing project Forever Home. This program is a key part of Rist's long-term development goals, along with assistance for first-time homeowners and further incentives for private housing development.
With his “Healthy Durham, Healthy Environment” platform, Rist seeks to improve transportation and access to public works with a focus on environmental concerns.
“Climate change is real,” Rist said. “We've got to be about reducing greenhouse gasses and more renewables.”
On a more local level, that involves investing in public parks and making it easier for citizens to access green spaces in everyday life. By collaborating with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, Rist hopes to get Durham residents more involved with the city’s parks and outdoor areas.
“We've under-invested, particularly in certain communities. The bigger parks tend to be in more affluent areas,” Rist said, adding that he wants to invest more in East Durham park infrastructure.
The final piece of Rist’s platform is increasing community safety. Rist aims to support Durham’s HEART program, an alternative emergency response system. He hopes to expand HEART’s operating hours from 12 hours a day to 24.
“HEART allows the city to have a compassionate response to people that are in crisis, but maybe mental health crisis, and don't need an armed officer,” Rist said.
Other key aspects of his community safety platform include competitive wages for emergency responders and the implementation of a Fair Chance Ordinance that allows formerly incarcerated persons a chance at finding a place to live once out of prison.
To find information on changes to voter registration and polling locations, read The Chronicle’s guide to voting in Durham's general elections.
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Bennett Gillespie is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.