Cora Cole-McFadden


Occupation: Retired – City of Durham

Phone Number: (919) 614-4756

Email Address:

Years Lived in Durham: Life time Resident

1) Durham residents, from the new group Durham for All to the demonstrators who tore down the Confederate monument on Main Street, are calling for more power to be placed in the hands of the people. In what ways do you think Durham can improve public participation in local government? How would you make room for that in city government?

In addition to the groups mentioned, there are other groups in Durham who desire more participation as well and whose input must be considered as residents of the City of Durham on how that input should occur.

In order for there to be a coming together of the whole community, listening sessions are valuable tools in understanding the needs of the diverse demographic in Durham. A commitment to look at all that we do through a racial equity lens is the first step. All groups should be owners and decision makers in the systems that govern their lives. Low wealth communities especially have minimal voice about what happens in the community impacting the lives of their families. A perfect example is how we have used PACs to gain input into the budget process and how we should spend funds. We have learned that so many citizens don’t attend these sessions for various reasons including child care and transportation needs and therefore, are not adequately involved in the budget preparation process. I have suggested we hold budget sessions in low wealth areas including public housing centers and other venues in close proximity to those centers. In addition, I have encouraged residents in housing provided through the Durham Housing Authority to become more involved in board meetings and deliberations of DHA.

We invite all residents to apply for boards and commissions where so much work is done.

Meeting times for work sessions have been a subject of discussion for a while. I am open to holding a work session later in the evening, but in doing so, we must be cognizant of the fact there are very important meetings in the community held on most evenings in Durham. Another suggestion has been the introduction of participatory budgeting. I support the Boston Model where youth served as a pilot target for their initiative. Youth engagement is essential if they are to thrive.

2) Because of state law, municipalities have a number of restrictions placed on them by the legislature: they can’t, for instance, be a sanctuary city, impose a city-wide minimum wage, enforce inclusionary zoning, or remove Confederate monuments. Under what circumstances should elected officials push back against the legislature?

The City of Durham’s involvement with the National League of Cities, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, Metropolitan Mayors’ Association and other collaborative efforts positions us to gain ground in many areas. Our legal team provides valuable guidance to us in achieving our goals in creative ways.

3.) Given the inflamed racial tensions after the recent events in Charlottesville, what steps should Durham take to position itself as a guardian of social justice?

(1) We need to acknowledge and act on what is at the root of the tension in this city; past and present inequities. Community conversations have been informative. Now we must tackle intergenerational poverty, increase youth engagement in more innovative ways (a joint city/county strategy is now underway); We must focus our work on building neighborhoods where housing is affordable, where there are good paying jobs, fresh food markets and in general, where the infrastructure is in place for neighborhoods and families to thrive. Neighborhood reinvestment efforts/initiatives should involve consultation with our economic development staff, should be publicly vetted and with a focus on what low wealth citizens feel their needs are and not on what we tend to intellectually superimpose upon them.

What should be done to improve that relationship going forward?

The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) has published “The Racial Equity Toolkit/An Opportunity to Operationalize Equity. This is an excellent model to guide us in deliberate, focused, steps to eliminate racial inequities in our communities. This is a results oriented tool that if implemented properly can touch every department of our organization.

4) Durham’s public housing stock is aging, and there is limited money to redevelop units. What are your ideas for keeping residents of public housing in quality, affordable homes?

We are engaged with the Durham Housing Authority, a major affordable housing provider, on several key developments; Fayette Place, Morreene Road and Damar Court. Recently, the City of Durham adopted a resolution providing approval of DHA, as required by the IRS, to issue tax-exempt multifamily housing bonds for rehab of Damar Court and Morreene Road Apartments. In addition, the City of Durham awarded DHA an 18-month contract for Tenant Based Rental Assistance this past fiscal year. We will continue partnering with the housing authority as appropriate to redevelop units through the City of Durham’s affordable housing resources.

5) While much of Durham has seen a renaissance during Mayor Bell’s tenure, the city’s poverty rate has also increased. What are your ideas for lowering Durham’s poverty rate, other than providing affordable housing? How can Durham’s renaissance be spread more equitably throughout the city?

Recently, we received a proposal that the City and County jointly enter into a contract with North Carolina Central University through its School of Business to assist in charting a more equitable renaissance throughout the City of Durham. The proposal should be seriously vetted as we strive for racial equity in the conduct of city and county business. As we look to future development in the Fayetteville Street corridor, it makes good economic sense that an institution with a rich history in Hayti lead these efforts.

6) The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project has moved into the engineering phase, although the Trump administration seems reticent to fund it. What are your thoughts on light rail? If completed, do you believe the project will be worth the community’s investment? Why or why not?

I do support the project. As we continue to grow locally and regionally, it is imperative that we are able to transport our citizens to job centers in the region, reduce traffic congestion, reduce pollution, foster economic development. Routes should be structured so that minimal displacement occurs.

7) Given the current direction of Durham city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific changes you will advocate if elected?

I think we are generally on the right course. (a) Recognizing the changing demographic in the city, our workforce is growing more and more responsive to this changing demographic. It is important to note that 41% of our workforce are millennials, and through our Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team Grant, great progress is made engaging them in creating new ideas, new approaches to the conduct of city business; (b) Affordable housing is a critical issue and in this fiscal year, a division of the Department of Community Development is created to provide more focused attention on affordable housing, and an additional penny for housing was adopted in this year’s budget; (c) Youth engagement, this fiscal year, the Teen Programs Unit of the Parks and Recreation Department will provide oversight to the new “My DPR’ pilot program which will provide free programs for teens at four recreation centers between the hours of 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The Office on Youth in partnership with Durham County Government is set to embark on a new initiative focusing on what we need to do make our outreach and youth engagement efforts more coordinated and successful. (d) Community Oriented Policing is a critical issue. The Police Department with the leadership of Chief Davis and the command staff is focused on building and strengthening relations with the community and in assuring a positive presence of law enforcement throughout the community rebuilding /community trust process.

9) What in your public or professional career shows your ability to be an effective member of the city council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to deal with them?

I served as Director of Equal Opportunity/Equity Assurance for the City of Durham before retiring in 2001. I led the City of Durham through a diversity audit to determine the extent to which diversity was a part of the conduct of city business. As a result, department heads created work plans addressing diversity, a diversity council was created and a diversity change agent award was established. I was the first Diversity Change Agent awardee. Now this award is presented each year during our Employee Recognition luncheon to an employee nominated by his/her peers. It is named the Cole-McFadden Diversity Change Agent Award. Diversity training for employees was implemented as part of new employee orientation and required every three years.

As Mayor Pro-Tempore throughout most of Mayor Bell’s service, I have had experiences that have expanded my knowledge regionally and nationally. I serve on boards of the North Carolina League of Municipalities and the National League of Cities. I have served on state and national committees with the mission to shape state and national policies benefitting cities.

10) Please give an example of action by the city council in the past year that went wrong or should have been handled differently. Also, what was the city’s biggest accomplishment during that period?

As the longest serving member of the city council, I can’t recall a time when input from citizens was not considered. Work sessions, public hearings, emails and telephone calls have been valued and considered at all times. Of course, we all have varying views. Citizen participation is always valued and so is the diversity of thought and the passion of our residents.

11) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?

I am a democrat and espouse the principles of the party.

12) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do.

We need to bring the different groups in Durham together to discuss participation in governance.