Name as it appears on the ballot: Renee Jamison Vaughan
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: vaughan4durham.com
Occupation & employer: Certified Research Administrator at Duke University SOM/Clergy
Years lived in Durham: Twenty-six
1) Please identify the three most pressing issues you believe Durham faces and how you believe the city should address them.
- Housing. A basic human right for all. Housing for homeless population and affordable housing for all citizens. One way to address this issue is to use public land for Housing First initiatives and affordable housing development for essential city employees, teachers and public safety personnel to be able to live in the city they work in. Also form partnerships with faith-based institutions for tiny-house communities and ADU development for un-housed populations.
- Safe and Equitable Community. Durham has a racial equity plan. I would advocate for inclusion of the many community voices engaged in equity issues and data analysis to evaluate city services for disparities. Such as policies, social determinants of health outcomes, arrests, code violations, etc.
- Economic vibrancy for all of Durham. Economic prosperity should be available to all of Durham citizens. Corporate and Business sector programs should include novel ideas that impact growth wages for front line workers as well as expanding entrepreneurial opportunities for access to capitalization and contracts as well as workforce training and development for marginal communities
2) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the city council and as an advocate for the issues that you believe are important?
- A transformative experience directing a homeless intervention initiative stimulated a life-long passion to advocate for the basic human right to housing and food security for all. I’m a twenty-six-year resident of Durham, and have continued collaboration with faith and community projects to address the unhoused, housing issues and general areas of need. I’m committed to supporting
affordable housing initiatives for the citizens of Durham, particularly since Covid 19 and market forces have shifted the affordability of housing at all levels. That commitment includes serving a second three-year term on the Homeless Services Advisory Committee (HSAC) as faith representative with goal to end homelessness. And the Performance Management subcommittee reviewing applications for funding. In addition, outreach to homeless women and children has included blessing bags of sundry items, food gift cards and hotel night stays.
- Collaborating with thirteen organizations, Churches and faith-based organizations for Covid 19 awareness I facilitated webinars and literature distribution for Good Health Wins CDC funded project of the National Council of Negro Women. I chaired the Durham Section Health Awareness Committee’s distribution, during the height of the pandemic, of approximately 12,000 -N95 masks, wipes and test kits to the unhoused, other vulnerable and under-represented populations in Durham and vicinity.
- I also feel compelled to build consensus with all sectors of the Durham community in moving forward justice and equity issues, as well as dismantling structural racism. This impacts the wellbeing of our youth, housing affordability, gun violence and economic empowerment. As such I’m a life member of the NAACP and Executive Committee member of the Durham Branch.
- The experiences I’ve had working with diverse teams, vulnerable and underserved populations is a strength. As well as contract negotiation, budget development and project management. As a result of engagement and collaborations I believe my qualifications as a research administrator, community clergy, and concerned citizen is beneficial in augmenting diverse representation on the Durham City Council for the City of Durham. But most importantly, I feel my greatest
strength is empathy and compassion in advocating for the voices of all Durham residents to be heard.
3) What’s the best or most important thing the city council has done in the past year?
I feel the 10-million-dollar funding for the revitalization of Hayti is among the best things city council has accomplished in the past year. It goes a long way to ensure a promise kept to Durham citizens from the 1960s urban renewal disruption.
Alternatively, name a decision you believe the council got wrong or an issue you believe the city should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.
City government is working to increase wages and benefits for our front-line and essential workers. I would have preferred the step payment process could have been factored into the recently approved budget. This would have boosted moral and helped with retention of our longest serving public safety and facilities management personnel.
4) The city has seen an uptick in shootings since last year, including recent tragic homicides that claimed the lives of children. Gun violence is obviously a multifaceted problem with no simple solution at the local level. But, in your view, what can or should the city be doing to stem the tide of violence that it isn’t doing now?
I support the goals of the HEART initiative and feel the data gathered from expansion of the program will help to stem the tide of violence by allowing public safety officers to laser focus on violent crime in affected neighborhoods. In addition, transparent data from the public ShotSpotter portal, in collaboration with our police chief and public safety will provide a better perspective in interpreting and analyzing data driven solutions. Most importantly the input of community leaders and constituents is critical to a city-wide approach to this multifaceted problem in lieu of expanded federal and state gun control measures.
5) What can or should the city be doing to support people who are not in control of their own housing (including renters, the unhoused, and those whose homes are owned by banks) as costs of living skyrocket?
One way to address this issue is to use public land for Housing First initiatives and affordable housing development for essential city employees, teachers and public safety personnel to be able to live in the city they work for. Also form partnerships with faith-based institutions for tiny-house and ADU development for un-housed populations. In addition, the city can expand funding for eviction diversion
programs for renters and foreclosure avoidance program through Durham Housing Authority.
6) Describe your vision for sustainable growth and development in Durham, including your view of how Expanding Housing Choices has impacted Durham’s communities and built environment since the policy’s passage in 2019; your thoughts on SCAD and the extent to which developers should be involved in shaping the city’s zoning codes; and an example of a municipality you believe has made smart decisions related to growth and development that could be similarly implemented in Durham.
I’m in favor of EHC as it “promotes densification by allowing the construction of duplexes, townhouses, and small multifamily buildings in lower-density suburban and urban residential zoning districts.” In addition, the amendment reduces restrictions on accessory dwelling units and creates a mechanism for subdividing large lots. I’ve investigated ADUs for both stand alone and as small community developments as a possible solution for homeless, aging and disabled populations. Tiny house communities are springing up across the nation, such as in Detroit.
The city is projecting 140 new EHC-enabled units per year in the city’s urban core.
As I read it the goals are broad and could empower mission-based faith institutions, concerned citizens and those aging in place to build housing for the community. But we must be careful not to allow undue influence from developers to circumvent input from the community and provide undue benefit for themselves.
7) In August, the city released a report showing lead-contaminated soil in several parks in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in Durham. What can or should the city be doing to address existing environmental injustices and prevent further environmental racism as Durham expands?
In addition to public disclosures in a timely manner, the city should update its environmental justice policies, reporting procedures and fund research to address other potential sites of concern. Document and share what remediation and monitoring efforts have been conducted to date in affected parks and make this information publicly available.
8) What are the city’s most pressing transit needs?
Durham needs a transportation system that spans its length and breadth. The current plan focuses on expanding bus transportation. But we should continue to look for ways to add a light rail system in the next ten years.
9) What can or should the city be doing to uplift low-wage workers? To uplift small
Economic prosperity should be available to all of Durham citizens. Expanded opportunities to advocate for living wages and step level increases for long-time personnel to keep pace with inflation are critical. Corporate and Business sector programs should include novel ideas that impact growth wages for front line workers as well as expanding entrepreneurial opportunities for access to capitalization and contracts. In addition, workforce training and development for marginal communities in healthcare, technology and pharmaceutical industries.
10) How do you currently, or how do you plan to, engage with constituents across all of Durham’s demographics? Building on that response, how do you currently, or how do you plan to, weigh differing insights from constituents, fellow council members, city staff, and advisory committees when coming to a decision on a vote?
I plan to emphasize listening to constituents across all demographics and will encourage town hall type of events to gain insight. I’ll review and analyze reports from city staff and advisory committees, building consensus with council colleagues to maximize benefits to Durham residents as decisions are made on each vote.
11) How should Durham’s city council address first responder vacancies?
Increase recruiting efforts for reported vacancies, in addition to those currently training. Add signing bonus. Approve pay step placement for experienced personnel. Set retention goals to increase salaries on par with neighboring cities and their benefit packages. Set a timeline for completion of the compensation and classification study to align with next fiscal year budget deliberations.
11) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
Durham is a great city and we rank #49 in the US Best Cities top 100 for our diverse population and prosperity index by Resonance Consultancy. Unfortunately, controversial issues seem to dominate local headlines. One of the goals of my candidacy is to ensure current residents have benefit of all of the elements of Durham’s greatness.
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