John Rooks Jr.
Occupation: EDI Engineer
Phone Number: 919-744-7734
Email Address: email@example.com
Years Lived in Durham: 30 years
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?
The municipalities of Durham need to do a better job at outreach to encourage those community residents that have not been involved in the political sector to apply to sit on the city’s many boards and commissions. This will ensure that all voices across Durham, have a stake and adequate representation in public participation in local government.
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?
Elected officials should push back against legislature when the legislation decision causes harm to the safety and sanctity of the citizens of Durham. When the predominate voice of the community speak in opposition to that piece of legislature, the elected officials should push back.
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? How would you characterize city leaders’ relationship with Durham’s communities of color, and what should be done to improve that relationship going forward?
I believe that Durham is and has positioned itself as a guardian of social justice. While the city leaders’ relationships with Durham’s communities of color is not perfect, there are efforts being made to improve these relationships. Moving forward Durham can ensure that equitable disbursement of resources will be incorporated in all communities of Durham.
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?
To assure that the residents of public housing continue to have quality housing, the city will need to continue to seek funding such as that of the Hope 6 project. This funding developed decent affordable housing for the former Few Gardens residents.
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?
The way to reduce poverty is simple, increase job opportunities for Durham’s most unemployed and under employed population that pays a living wage. In our approach to equitable development we need to focus on a true revitalization to the areas that have sat in lack in neglect. While we have flourished ahead in revitalizing the downtown area we have communities that have not moved forward. We give more attention to medians on our streets and highways than we do for our low-income communities.
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 don’t believe the light rail addresses the most pressing issues of our city. Nor do I believe it is equally beneficial to all of our communities. If and when the light rail project is completed it will be up to the taxpayers to determine if the community investment was worth it.
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 believe that generally they are heading in the right direction, but there are some specific changes that when I am elected I would advocate for. To name one; I would ask for temporary moratorium on any new development proposed in the next 5 years in the downtown area. So that the city can focus on revitalization in areas of high poverty, crime and low economics.
8) Please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them.
Crime, affordable housing/ gentrification and the racial wealth gap. There is no all-inclusive solution to the three most pressing issues that the city face, but I would approach each of them with a collaborative, cooperative, inclusive mindset to creating a coalition for positive change.
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?
In my professional career I have been afforded the opportunity to be and effective communicator with people all over the world. In my service to the public as an organizer and community advocate I have lead many initiatives such as REAL Kids United, Men of Vision, Love over Hate NC and most recently I serve on the City’s Human Relation Commission.
10) Please give an example of an 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?
The city council in the past year has supported development that circumvented its responsibility to incorporate affordable housing into their development. Durham has become a beacon city and established itself as one the country’s number one cities to live.
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?
My political philosophy would be progressive-moderate.