Name as it appears on the ballot: DeDreana Freeman

Nc Rural 6.13.23_

Age: 45

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer: Consultant

Years lived in Durham: 16

1) Please identify the three most pressing issues you believe Durham faces and how you believe the city should address them.

As we move forward, our most pressing issues in Durham have evolved, but they all revolve around the opportunity for shared prosperity. To build a sustainable and stronger Durham, we need to address these key challenges broadly and specifically:

1. Fair Wages for City Workers: All Durham city employees should be paid fairly to ensure they can actively participate in our community.

2. Environmental Concerns: We must deal with clean water violations in places like Lick Creek and the Falls Lake watershed, as well as address lead hazards in our city parks.

3. Reducing Gun Violence: We need to tackle the root causes of gun violence, which often arise from limited opportunities to live, work, and play in Durham. Let’s come together as a community to confront these issues and work towards a better future for all Durham residents.

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?

My extensive experience in the nonprofit sector and as a community leader, coupled with my nearly six years of service on the city council, illustrates my qualifications as a capable leader to address the complex challenges facing our city as Mayor. I bring a wealth of knowledge about community needs and social issues, and my firsthand understanding of local government dynamics and processes equips me to make a meaningful impact.

Throughout my tenure on the city council, I have consistently shown a strong commitment to public service and an unwavering dedication to addressing social, economic, and environmental injustices. I have worked tirelessly to uplift marginalized communities and create a fair, just, and sustainable city for all residents.

My expertise in community development, gained from collaborating with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) across 17 states and Washington, DC, demonstrates my ability to drive economic growth and uplift marginalized communities. I understand the intricate interplay between municipal policies and economic prosperity.

My advocacy for social economic justice has been a hallmark of my time on the council. I have stood with city employees in support of fair compensation (before, during, and after the COVID pandemic), and I have successfully advocated for increased funding for the Capital Improvement Plan to fund sidewalks, road repairs and repaving. Further, I spearheaded the creation of an equitable process to assess smaller projects that lingered without funding, so that they can be funded in the Capital Improvement plan. My commitment to justice extends beyond rhetoric; it translates into concrete actions that benefit our community.

I believe in the power of community engagement and collaboration, and I have consistently championed the importance of diverse voices in the political process. My leadership fosters inclusive decision-making and a culture of continuous improvement on the City Council.

My experience on the Durham City & County Planning Commission from 2013 to 2017 uniquely positions me to make critical decisions that impact our city’s long-term growth and sustainability. I understand the significance of zoning decisions, which often form the foundation of our city’s development.

Furthermore, my advocacy for equity and inclusion is not confined to words; it is reflected in my actions. I have supported diversity in appointments to city boards and committees and have been a passionate advocate for initiatives like the Safe & Healthy Homes Resolution and the Tenants Bill of Rights, which would have provided protections and sustainable housing for renters.

I have also played a pivotal role in supporting initiatives that address racial injustice. I have been a driving force behind important initiatives, such as Durham’s non-discrimination ordinance, which includes protections against discrimination based on hair texture and style. I led the effort to submit and win a national competition to join Policy Link’s Counties & Cities for Fine and Fee Justice network, an initiative where selected jurisdictions work to develop and implement reforms to unjust fines and fees. I am the former Chair of the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee of the Episopal Diocese of North Carolina, where we implemented hiring a Diocese-wide racial justice position under my leadership. That position is now developing a team to address internal and external racial equity concerns.

In collaboration with organizations like Episcopalians United Against Racism (EUAR), I have facilitated critical dialogues on race and poverty in Durham, fostering community engagement and informing my policy direction and decisions on the City Council.

My dedication to creating opportunities for development and planning with equity for all in mind is evident in my support for initiatives like the Equitable Engagement Blueprint and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. I have consistently used an equity lens to address disparities in the social determinants of health and have taken action to address concerns related to the well-being of our residents, such as the removal of rubber tire mulch from East Durham Park.

In conclusion, my extensive experience, unwavering commitment to justice, and track record of tangible achievements make me well-prepared to lead Durham as Mayor. I believe in a Durham where every voice is heard, every resident is treated equitably, and our city thrives through inclusive and sustainable growth.

3) What’s the best or most important thing the city council has done in the past year? 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.

Our budget included funding the Fayetteville Street Historic Corridor. I have been advocating for this funding since serving on the Streetscape Committee, which was charged with identifying city projects in 2010-2011. This is especially important knowing that the corridor missed the streetscape funding in 2014, and understanding the community-led process that led to the Fayetteville Street Master Plan that would bring equitable development to the historic Hayti community (with the Hayti Reborn goals in mind). The funding begins to address the long standing inequity and harm caused by the urban renewal (removal) project of state highway 147. The $10M included in the budget moves the streetscape plans forward, in addition to the water, sewer and other unseen investments included in the Capital Improvement Plan.

This past budget cycle council should have directed the city manager to create a budget that included at least one of the missed pay steps for all city workers as the Mayor requested. Unfortunately, this failed in a 3-4 vote.

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?

Each time we lose a life due to gun violence we fail as a community to protect our children, who continue to be traumatized. There are many factors that contribute to gun violence, including systemic racism, poverty, and classism.

A few direct solutions we can implement at the city level includes promoting the use of gun locks, encouraging responsible gun ownership, sharing data and research to develop effective policies and partnerships to reduce gun violence.

Additional examples of indirect solutions to help curb gun violence and its impacts include:

Economic development and investment in low and middle income communities that pave the way for economic mobility. As businesses continue to move into Durham, partnerships across sectors, including higher education, will be essential to building employment pathways for youth and adults. This will require collaboration with the Durham County, Durham Public Schools (DPS), Durham Technical Community College, and community groups and organizations. We must also continue to increase youth apprenticeship opportunities. We can convene all youth facing organizations around goals that align with the City, like Durham TRY.

There are adult-facing programs we can support like All of Us or None or the Hayti Reborn Justice Movement, which seeks to provide comprehensive services and resources for current and or formerly justice-involved individuals. We need to continue supporting violence intervention programs. The are other community partners to connect with the Coalition for a Non-Violent Durham, Moms Demand Action, Durham CAN, Sidekicks and El Futuro to name a few. There are many others that could collaborate with a Mayors non-violent coalition with the HEART team Bull City United program administrators to pool resources and develop more solutions.

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?

Ordinances similar to Charlotte’s Prohibiting Collection of Rent on Dwellings in Violation of the Minimum Housing Code is an example. Pieces of the tenant’s Bill of Rights are still in review in the city attorney’s office. We need to move forward with a ‘source of income’ ban for rental applications, expand our protected class, increase the options in our workforce pipeline beyond biotech to support wealth building opportunities and income.

For low-no income residents we need to advocate at the federal level for greater protections in tenant rights and longtime homeowner adjustments based on need.

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.

There is an opportunity to build in growth with equity in the investment of human capital of Durham. These efforts need to begin with community input and develop solutions based on the root causes for the lack of resources and sustainability. I use an equitable lens to address the inequities holistically. Knowing that each of our concerns around financial and physical wealth are tied into each other we have to find ways to increase health. Addressing economic growth, sustainable housing, transportation and environmental health in a holistic effort through Equity building. Each city department could coordinate across the board to address equitable economic development to provide livable wage jobs, business incubation, sustainable energy efficient housing, and transportation with a focus on health and safety that eliminates environmental hazards. It is important to align our city’s hard services around infrastructure with our priorities including, but not limited to, maintenance, repairs, programs, services, training, and development that is equitable and serves the needs of our city.

I advocate for policies and regulations that safeguard our environment for generations to come by balancing economic growth with equitably shared benefits and environmental conservation and protection. Sustainable growth and development in Durham looks like the following.

● Energy and Environment

○ Renewable Energy Promotion: Incentivize and facilitate the adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar, through covering the non-energy components cost, streamlined permitting processes, and tax incentives.

○ Energy Efficiency Standards: Provide incentives for retrofitting existing buildings to significantly reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and set energy-efficiency competitions.

○ Waste Management: Implement comprehensive waste management strategies, including recycling programs, composting partnerships, and waste reduction campaigns, to divert waste from landfills and promote a circular economy.

● Housing

○ Sustainable Housing: Ensuring access to decent, safe, sustainably affordable housing is fundamental. It involves implementing policies that increase our affordable housing options, providing more subsidies for low-income individuals, and encouraging the development of sustainable and energy-efficient housing.

○ Green Building Practices: Continue encouraging the use of eco-friendly construction materials, energy-efficient designs, and renewable energy sources to significantly reduce the environmental impact of buildings. This includes initiatives for projects with passive house designs, integrating renewable energy systems, and incentivizing green building certifications.

● Land Use and Planning

○ Zoning Regulations: Zoning regulations that promote mixed-use and transit-oriented development, compact neighborhoods, and the integration of green spaces to help reduce urban sprawl, encourage walkability, reduce carbon emissions, and create vibrant and livable communities.

○ Smart Growth Initiatives: Implement smart growth principles, such as prioritizing infill development, transit-oriented development, and preserving open spaces, to help sustainably manage urban growth.

○ Brownfield Redevelopment: Encouraging the reuse and redevelopment of brownfield sites helps revitalize underutilized land while reducing pressure on undeveloped green spaces.

● Transportation

○ Sustainable Mobility: Prioritize sustainable transportation options by investing in public transit infrastructure, creating bike lanes, and promoting pedestrian-friendly streets. Encourage the use of electric vehicles and car-sharing programs to reduce emissions and congestion.

○ Active Transportation: Developing safe and accessible walking and cycling infrastructure promotes active transportation, improves public health, and reduces reliance on cars.

○ Transit-Oriented Development: Planning for mixed-use development around transit hubs encourages people to live closer to their workplaces and amenities, reducing the need for long commutes.

As it relates to SCAD, we should continue to slow the process so that voices can be heard, that any code amendments reflect the values of Durham and actually benefit the community. I would like to see SCAD tied directly to sustainable housing development and home affordability. Serving as co-chair on the SCAD taskforce for council, I have great concerns in how SCAD has devolved. However, I am optimistic about the opportunity to adjust the city codes for affordable development that leads to actual built units of housing that is affordable to residents of Durham. I continue to keep an eye on the tear downs in the city center, resulting from EHC, and its impact on longtime homeowners on fixed income. At this point, we need to figure out how more non-profits and affordable housing developers can participate to create additional housing options.

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?

This issue also raises questions around often overlooked cases of environmental injustices and how the city addresses environmental health hazards such as lead, brownfields and other environmentally unsafe practices. Environmental injustice cases deserve more attention as the cause of many slow deaths are due to health issues rather than abrupt deaths caused by violence. The city has an obligation to do more than the minimum required to clean up the environmental hazards identified by the community. There must be city accountability partners like Toxic Free NC, Southern Environmental Law, and others to develop a reparative land use and environmental justice plan, allowing the community residents impacted areas to lead the process.

Currently, the city staff is reviewing the Mid Atlantic study and will offer recommendations. I will demand that the council pushes to exceed the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality standards and do more than the bare minimum to remediate lead (and other toxic chemicals) in the parks. As a Durham resident, I have seen the lackluster remediation techniques of the city subcontractors in my own home. We must do better!

Based on feedback from community meetings about lead in Durham parks we need to support:

1) Continued community engagement and follow up

2) Environmental justice advocacy at the State and Federal level

3) Extensive Research/Testing to document soil, air and water quality

4) Remediation/Intervention to prevent additional harm

8) What are the city’s most pressing transit needs?

In a practical way, we need greater frequency of service on the current routes along with multiple hubs that cover North Durham, Wellons Village, and Southpoint to use transit-oriented development and smart growth strategies to support balanced growth across the city. In long term planning around transportation, sustainable mobility, active transportation, and transit-oriented development are key elements.

In order to achieve sustainable mobility, we have to prioritize sustainable transportation options by investing in public transit infrastructure, creating bike lanes, and promoting pedestrian-friendly streets. Encouraging the use of electric vehicles and car-sharing programs to also reduce emissions and congestion.

In order to achieve active transportation, we have to develop safe and accessible walking and cycling infrastructure, promote active transportation, improve public health, and reduce reliance on cars.

In order to achieve transit-oriented development, we have to plan for mixed-use development around transit hubs that encourages people to live closer to their workplaces and amenities, reducing the need for long commutes.

To improve transportation overall, I propose a substantial investment in Bus Rapid Transit, with a strategic plan for hubs in Wellons Village and North Duke Crossing Shopping centers. This investment would enhance public transit by increasing bus frequency and reliability. We can have more mixed-use developments with affordable residential units on city owned land and partner with the county and DPS for additional locations that align with bus rapid transit.

9) What can or should the city be doing to uplift low-wage workers? To uplift small businesses?

First and foremost, we must pay a fair wage to our city workers. We need more collaboration to create and connect youth and adults to career and employment pathways, especially given the jobs coming into Durham. We have to be mindful of how certain communities are over or under-represented in certain fields. We need to support non-traditional and traditional entrepreneurship for access to living-wage jobs, particularly small businesses. We must also create affordable commercial spaces and redevelop historically underserved communities of color without displacing long-time residents. This can be accomplished by using equity-driven strategies that ensure existing residents stay in the community as neighborhood markets revive and distressed neighborhoods are stabilized. Doing all of this will create opportunities for community wealth-building.

The Shared Prosperity goal in the City’s Strategic Plan addresses the need for tools, resources, and programs that would support current residents and legacy businesses in the historically black neighborhoods throughout Durham.

I believe we should have a just & fair economy which means sustainability-affordable housing, shared prosperity and jobs with fair wages.

We must have shared economic prosperity to build strong, vibrant neighborhoods. I will continue to support economic policies that meet the needs of our city and county of Durham’s housing stock. I remain committed to this effort. We must establish a tenant’s bill of rights and create ownership opportunities for long-time and low-income residents while leveraging those opportunities to support community wealth building. I continue to support smart transportation networks and housing initiatives that benefit working families, elders, people with disabilities, and people of color, focusing on increasing the number of available housing options and preventing homelessness.

Uplift Small Businesses with funded business districts for historically marginalized populations of women and innovation BIPOC business owners.

We must also improve our transportation infrastructure and create opportunities for youth around economic mobility. As businesses continue to move into Durham, partnerships across sectors, including higher education, will be essential to building employment pathways for youth and adults. We must grow the economy by supporting existing businesses and increasing business ventures by aspiring local artists and entrepreneurs, particularly minority and women-owned enterprises. We must also create affordable commercial spaces and redevelop historically underserved communities of color without displacing long-time residents. Doing all of this will create opportunities for community wealth building.

We must stabilize our infrastructure needs and improve the quantity and quality of our jobs, housing and transportation.

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 work to hear the diverse voices of the community at the neighborhood level and broadly across the city, region, state and nationally. I have always prioritized being in the community with Durham residents. That includes listening in and participating in PAC meetings for each district, participating in meetings for other groups and organizations, talking to residents at community events, and being part of several community organizations. This effort has continued while in office as community voice is critical to the work in Durham. Because of this intentionality, I can stay informed and consistently advocate on behalf of the community. This work will continue. It is important to hear the diverse voices within Durham to develop policies, ordinances, and direct funding that keep Durham fiscally sound and reflect the collective priorities of our residents while being socially conscious of our Durham values.

11) How should Durham’s city council address first responder vacancies?

We can continue to improve on the recruitment strategies to attract qualified candidates. This could include job fairs, advertising, partnerships with local schools or colleges, and targeted outreach to underrepresented communities.

We can continue to improve on retention programs to reduce turnover rates, including paying fair wages, providing competitive salaries and benefits, offering career development opportunities, and creating a positive appreciative work environment.

Also we can strengthen and expand our Mutual Aid Agreements with our neighboring jurisdictions for emergencies or staffing shortages.

We need greater overtime management and trauma informed resources to avoid burnout for current first responders as it can impact their performance and well-being. Developing policies and procedures for managing overtime efficiently.

In administrative roles we can continue to engage contract workers or temporary staff agencies to add personnel during shortages.

We may need to implement a volunteer program with properly trained and certified people to supplement first responder staffing during emergencies like in community-based disaster response. We need contingency plans for longterm vacancies. Open and transparent communication with the public regarding staffing shortages is imperative.

12) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.

Climate resilience is critical to our humanity and all the issues going on we still need to prioritize our climate resilience. The global warming climate crisis and increased greenhouse gas emissions is changing our earth temperature. Globally we all have a part to play in building a collective climate resilience strategy. Our lives and future lives on earth depend on it more than any other issue, it is imperative we implement far reaching solutions that reverse the harmful impact on the environment and our community. Environmental stewardship is vital to achieving environmental justice. We cannot forget the historical effect environmental policies that continue to disproportionately harm communities of color. To counter these effects and build a more resilient climate future, we must prioritize investing resources in economically depressed communities to ensure equitable access to resources. With the single largest investment in climate and energy the “Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022” enables cities and towns across the United State to “tackle the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, and develop green energy solutions to protect the environment for future generations with a ‘net-zero economy by 2050 goal.

We must take full advantage of the opportunity to build healthy communities and businesses that reduce our collective carbon footprint. We must increase access and use of affordable renewable energy. We must also adopt smart land-use policies that preserve natural lands as multi-purpose open spaces. These areas can serve as sustainable amenities providing visitor destinations while also helping to mitigate the impact of climate change. As a strong advocate for environmental education and outreach, I serve as liaison to the City/County Environmental Affairs Board and as Chair of the Regional Council of Government at the Central Carolina Pines I advocate for Climate Resilience that center social, economic and environmental justice. As a member of the council I hold public meetings, forums, and town halls to involve residents in decision-making processes to:

○ advocated for increasing our use of renewable energy in City operations to 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. Also working with local stakeholders like Durham Technical Community College, Duke University and North Carolina Central to develop partnerships with local, state and federal renewable energy providers.

○ work to implement energy efficiency programs for municipal buildings and encourage similar efforts in the private sector. This has been expressed in the rezoning and development cases we review. I also advocate for incorporating retrofitting public buildings with energy-efficient technology or offering incentives for businesses to do the same.

○ advocate for the fare free expansion and improvement of our local and regional public transportation systems, which can reduce the reliance on individual vehicles and promote cleaner forms of transportation.

○ champion waste reduction and recycling initiatives with new rental, repair, and remediate policies around lead abatement standards for residential and commercial use along with policies aimed at reducing waste, promoting recycling, and implementing composting programs that can significantly reduce a city’s carbon footprint.

○ advocate for policies that require new construction to meet specific green building standards, encouraging sustainable architecture and energy-efficient design.

○ advocate for a Climate Action Plan that outlines specific steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

○ advocate for policies for Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure for public use encouraging the installation of EV charging stations and providing tools and resources for residents and businesses to switch to electric vehicles can be a significant part of advancing clean energy policies. ○ support initiatives that educate residents about climate change, energy conservation, and the importance of clean energy.

○ allocating funds in the city budget for sustainability projects is a tangible way to advance clean energy goals.

○ engaging with the local community to gather input and support for climate action initiatives is crucial.

Support independent local journalism

Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.