Nate Baker is advocating for community-centered development policies in his first campaign for Durham City Council. His campaign platform consists of a three-pronged approach to improve quality of life for Durham residents: planning for people, protecting the environment and prioritizing good government.
Baker was the highest polling candidate in Durham’s primary municipal elections on Oct. 10, garnering 18.27% of the vote. He will face Javiera Caballero, Carl Rist, Khalilah Karim and Monique Holsey-Hyman in the general election on Nov. 7 for the Council’s three at-large seats.
Born and raised in Durham, Baker is a graduate of the Durham Public Schools system and has a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Baker has also served as a member of Durham’s Planning Commission since 2018. An urban planner by trade, he believes that his experience working with local communities informed him of some of the most pressing issues facing North Carolinians today.
Planning for people
Addressing the affordable housing crisis in Durham has been a common theme across campaign platforms for Durham City Council hopefuls in this year’s elections.
“We’ve seen growth in our municipal limits by 10% of land area in just the past five years, the greatest level of growth and change in the history of our city,” he said. “That has resulted in probably the most unsustainable development in the history of our city as well.”
Baker argues that developers must be held to a stricter standard to provide more affordable housing. Baker advocates pushing such developers to provide housing units that are affordable for residents making 60 to 80% of area median household income, which from 2017-2021 was measured at $67,000.
Baker also thinks that the Council should provide stronger support to renters by strengthening the existing Tenants’ Bill of Rights, forming a long-awaited committee for tenants’ rights and aiding the creation of a tenants’ union.
Baker believes shifting development policies to support pedestrian-oriented and bike-oriented development instead of the current car-centric style would go a long way to support Durhamites' quality of life by connecting them with the services they need.
Protecting the environment
Baker has advocated for a Green New Deal for Durham that would balance comprehensive climate action with addressing economic inequality since 2020. He noted that at the local level, such a policy plan would be both “transformative in scope” and “realistic.”
Unlike its sister cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Durham currently does not have a community-wide climate action plan. Baker sees collaboration with these municipalities in a Triangle-wide Climate Action Plan as an opportunity for Durham to be a leader in mitigating the climate crisis.
“I think we hold summits that are held throughout the Triangle maybe once a year or once every two years that bring a lot of people together where we measure our metrics and see if we are achieving our goals,” Baker said.
Baker sees this style of “coopetition” — in which local governments collaborate on efforts while also competing against one another to motivate ambitious policies — as an avenue to promote both climate mitigation and resilience in the region. This includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also ensuring that local communities are provided with the necessary resources to withstand the impacts of climate change.
Prioritizing good government
A large component of Baker’s campaign platform is to reduce gun violence in Durham, which has been on the rise in recent years.
“When someone is shot, that’s lives shattered, that’s communities shattered,” Baker said. “The lack of investment from the state and federal level, that’s really stimulating that problem.”
Baker supports policies to address the root causes of gun violence, including investment in parks and recreation, affordable housing, job training, and criminal justice reforms. He also advocates for enhancing emergency response infrastructure by paying competitive wages to emergency service workers, investing in proven gang intervention programs and expanding Durham's HEART program.
Baker believes that Duke has a responsibility to contribute to City-wide policies by directly investing funds into Durham.
“I want [Duke] to start paying the city of Durham annually $20 million a year,” Baker said. “It’s not that much money, but it would go so far in a cash-strapped city like Durham ... I don’t think it’s a punishment, I just think that it’s time for them to pay their fair share."
To find information on changes to voter registration and polling locations, read The Chronicle’s guide to voting in Durham's general elections.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Zoe Kolenovsky is a Trinity sophomore and a staff reporter for the news department.