Raleigh has clearly defined political battle lines, but that’s not really the case in Durham. The mayor and five of six council members are backed by the progressive People’s Alliance PAC. The three incumbents on the October ballot—Charlie Reece, Jillian Johnson, and Javiera Caballero, who was appointed to replace Steve Schewel when he became mayor—are running as a slate and share a platform. 

Most candidates agree on the challenges the city faces: access to housing, gentrification, and socioeconomic inequality. The biggest point of contention is whether the council should have authorized additional officers in this year’s budget. 

At-Large: Javiera Caballero (inc.), Jillian Johnson (inc.), Charlie Reece (inc.)

Confidence Level: High

Other Candidates: Charlitta Burruss, Ricardo Correa, Joshua Gunn, Daniel Meier, Victoria Peterson, John Tarantino, Jacqueline Wagstaff

When a city council is operating well—more or less, anyway—we see little reason to change it. Such is the case here. There have been missteps, and there are problems to confront. But the council, among the most progressive in the Southeast, is pushing hard in the right direction. Earlier this month, it passed Expanded Housing Choices, a plan to add density to single-family neighborhoods in the urban core. (Raleigh, take notes.) In November, it will ask voters to approve the largest housing bond in state history. (Raleigh, paying attention?) Durham has also been a leader in reintegrating people involved in the justice system with the community through programs like Welcome Home, and the council has committed to using 80 percent renewable energy by 2030. 

The increase in gun homicides this year has been disturbing, to be sure. But it must be viewed in context: Violent crime, on the whole, has declined over the past two years, and we don’t know whether the increase in homicides is a blip or a trend. In any event, throwing a few more cops on the street isn’t likely to staunch the bloodshed. 

One challenger did turn our heads: Joshua Gunn—and not just because we appreciate his work as the rapper J. Gunn, which we do. A vice president of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Gunn offers sharp insights into the city’s approach to economic development. But electing him would mean ousting one of the incumbents—and we can’t figure out which one should go. 

Caballero, Johnson, and Reece have done good work. They deserve your vote. 

Respond to our endorsements at backtalk@indyweek.com.

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4 replies on “Endorsements 2019: In Durham, Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken”

  1. Agreeing with Mike Stevens below. “Throwing a few more cops on the street isn’t likely to staunch the bloodshed” is an awful attitude and a terrible statement. Durham has made progress perhaps DESPITE the progressives. Fiscal responsibility is the answer and yes, if not more, at least better police protection and enforcement MUST be coupled with the willingness to prosecute and proactively curb the city crime. Numbers might indicate an improvement, but an improvement is not the same as a feeling of safety.

    Now, for my two cents: Durham is a hodge-podge of people who care and people who don’t. Drive from block to block, look at the condition of the streets, houses and broken pavement. It’s downright nasty in many places and fairly well-kept in others. Durham citizens need to start caring about their own neighborhoods. Parts of Durham look like South LA, complete with hoodlums, hookers and junkies hanging around on the sidewalks. Drive-by shootings and gangs freely breaking into cars to acquire handguns to conduct crime (this is what I was told by an off-the-record cop). Other places in the city are very decent. Old doesn’t always mean run down, but clearly much of Durham needs revitalizing. And if need be, run all the miscreants out of town, politicians included. We should have no tolerance for bums and freeloaders on our streets and in our public housing. Public housing should be for veterans, the disabled and indigent poor who have paid their taxes all their lives here in Durham. Our tax dollars don’t need to go for “wealth redistribution.” That is just another term for robbing the middle class to pay for those unwilling to work and pay their way – in other words, socialism. We need to elect more conservatives. It will take 20 years to undo the damage from “progressives,” but every journey begins with a single step. In the words of Bill Gates, “If you are born poor, it’s not your mistake. But if you die poor in the United States, it’s your mistake.”

  2. I’m disappointed in the Indy in backing a council that is indeed broken. They’ve been so engrossed with building Durhams’s population yet have done little to help with the infrastructure and affordable housing crisis. To speak nothing about the rash if gun violence. The council needs change. Durham needs to live within it’s budget. Bonds aren’t needed fiscal responsibility is.

  3. “Throwing a few more cops on the street isn’t likely to staunch the bloodshed”. Can there be a more dismissive or uneducated comment then that. The council members Indy endorses are making Durham a less safe place for all. Wake up from being “woke”.

  4. I am very disappointed in the Indy’s endorsements for Durham’s City Council. Those three so-called progressives have completely abdicated their responsibilities to Durham in favor of an ego trip of epic proportions. I find their smug display of self-satisfied progressiveness repulsive given their actions: wasting city council time for useless grandstanding proclamations (last time I looked, the Gaza Strip was not in Durham’s city limits and I seriously doubt Israeli leadership is looking to the Durham City Council for moral guidance); hanging their portraits in City Council chambers and forcing meeting attendees to watch large screen close-ups of their every holier-than-thou expression; founding multiple new nonprofits in a town already drowning in non-profits and in need of more working together, not more ego-based, plantation mentality organizations; and abdicating their obligation to make sound infrastructure decisions for our town when they opened the vote on what to do with millions of taxpayer dollars to 13-year olds and thousands of people who have not paid a cent in taxes, instead of doing their homework and making the decisions they were elected to make. Most of all, they have joined with our equally patronizing mayor to create an unholy mess in downtown. Let’s see them pay for all the front-end alignments and ruined tires citizens have suffered and the ill-planned over-development and gentrification of Durham (1000,000 new luxury apartments coming online within a 2- to 3-year period: WHY?).

    Just no, no, no. They are poster children for superficial, entitled progressive grandstanding. Where are the true progressives willing to do the hard work of local government, willing to tackle unglamorous issues like planning, zoning, affordable housing, uniting multiple agencies instead of duplicating effort, water, sewer, gun violence, the growing divide between Durham’s haves and have-nots, and homelessness? It’s time for the real progressives of Durham to band together and demand change in what is happening to Durham. These three self-congratulatory posers are not the answer.

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