Name as it appears on the ballot: Sylvester Williams

Age: 68

Party affiliation: Independent

Occupation & employer: Pastor The Assembly At Durham Christian Center

Years lived in Durham: All my life except for time going to school in Atlanta

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

1. Crime – Murders and shootings are a result of a disconnect between young people and elected officials. Policies such as supporting LQBTQ while homelessness and lack of job opportunities are major causes of the crime. As a pastor that loves the Lord Jesus the only Begotten Son of the Living God, I have dealt with the homeless, those that have committed crimes and those looking for jobs. The last time I ran for office the city sat on about $100 million while low income people lacked housing and jobs. I would immediately address the problems by using excess money to create jobs and affordable housing for low income residents.

2. Housing- I have people attending the church who looking to Graham, outside of Greensboro and Pittsboro to find affordable housing. The head of DHA announced that $19 million of repairs were needed for public housing. The tragedy at MacDougall Terrace is representative of the lack of concern for low income housing. $40 million was given for Durham Public housing with the money going towards downtown and parks and recreation.

3. Jobs – Trade classes were removed from some of the public high schools. Not everyone wants to go to a four year college. Put vocational classes back in all public high schools, such as bricklayer, auto mechanics and carpentry.

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?

The city wanted to destroy CR Wood Park. I advocated for the park and got the state of North Carolina to pave the parking lot and had the basketball courts redone. It is now one of the more popular parks in Durham. I was on the the Mayor’s task force for addressing crime in the city of Durham. As a pastor I am working with seven nations around the world digging wells, building orphanages, supplying food to the hungry and now is in the process of having a facility built for learning and occupation in Uganda. We have done so well that the government of Uganda is partnering with us to address the needs of the people. I was Chair for Economic Development for Durham Business and Professional Chain and Vice-chairman for The Durham Committee On The Affairs of Black People. My experience as a Financial Analyst with First Citizens Bank and Trust taught me the importance of good money management.

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.

SCAD can be a very good program if enacted properly.

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?

1. Hire more police officers.

2. Have police officers interact with school children to help them understand how a safe Durham benefits everyone.

3. Create jobs for low income people.

4. There are churches in every community in Durham. Partner with churches to address the crime.

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?

Make affordable housing affordable for low income people in Durham. The average income should be based solely on Durham residents and not people living in Chapel Hill.

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.

SCAD is a great program if enacted properly. Low income people, especially blacks, are being pushed out of a Durham as a result of redlining. Many were charged exorbitant interest rates when trying to buy a house so they became renters. Now rent is increasing and many cannot find an affordable place to live. There is currently a seven year waiting list for affordable public housing in Durham.

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?

That is why I am running for mayor. I expressed these issues in previous campaigns but political organizations and the media largely ignored the problems affecting blacks and minorities in Durham. Durham’s black population at one time was the largest in the city. They have been intentionally overlooked. Highway 147 went through the heart of black Hayti which is where Black Wall Street had its beginning. In my neighborhood one of the options for the East End Connector was to destroy one of the oldest black communities in Durham. I live in the area and fought for. After the East End Connector was moved to its current location it was discovered that they wanted to expand RTP by accessing the property in East Durham where predominantly blacks lived. I had a professor from NCCU to thank me for the stand I took in advocating for the blacks in the neighborhood.

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

The light rail fail was about $200 million for which there has not been a full accounting. The last time I hacked there were only two profitable light rail programs in the whole nation. The stations for the proposed light rail would have further destroyed black communities. Busses are more flexible in reaching different destinations.

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

Include black men as a minority in Durham so that they can receive e funding for their businesses.

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?

That is what I currently do as a pastor. My experience as a financial analyst gave me access to multimillionaire while AZ a pastor I work with the homeless and the hungry.

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

Hire more.

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

I am the best candidate.

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