Name as it appears on the ballot: Michael ‘Mike’ Shiflett
Party affiliation, if any: Unaffiliated
Occupation & employer:retired American Labor/LAB aCM inc.
business owner (clinical lab equipment)
Years lived in Durham:31
1) Given the current direction of Durham city government, would you say things are generally on the right course?
Yes and the recent polls and citizen surveys show that over 70% of us are in agreement and headed in the right direction. But that still leaves out close to a third that don’t agree.
If not, what specific, major changes you will advocate if elected? However, Durham IS working on its problems. ‘Affordable’ housing requires more partnerships and creative solutions to address the continued need of many of our citizens. The penny for housing City Council adopted is now addressing that. Law enforcement/Community relations still have not produced the understanding and trust that is needed. As an involved Durham citizen for over three decades I have seen problems like this addressed and made better. It is my intent to further the connection and communications between our local elected officials and all of Durham’s citizens that they serve so that better understandings are established to continue meeting the unmet needs and tackling yet to come challenges from our diverse and growing population.
2) Please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them.
#1-rebuliding and sustaining public trust in the institutions that ‘govern’ us. I want the Indy and its readers to look at the history of participation and involvement that I’ve had in our neighborhoods and the Durham community for more than 30 years. When we work together with very specific goals, we come to know each other and build a better sense of trust and community between us. In a number of instances, I’ve been humbled to be nominated and elected a leader. I encourage you to contact others involved with those commissions, non-profits, volunteer and community groups then ask “Who do people say that I am?”. #2-creating positive and exhilarating ways for our youth to grow and develop that benefit society. The cost of failing to do so far outweigh the consequences of trying to solve the problem on the other end. We need to address the root causes of poverty, disengagement and the sense of hopelessness that leads to educational and social expectation failures. One of the ways I have done this is through Kids Voting Durham that provides a vehicle for our youth to feel engaged and connected. By giving them a voice in doing so and the experience of making decisions on a ballot we instill a sense of what it’s like to be a part of society and a citizen, not just a child. #3-Implementing affordable mass transit opportunities for residents to have access to the rest of the Triangle and beyond. I have been participating in Durham transit possibilities since the 90’s. First with TRIP (Transportation Reform is Possible) to the first TTA studies that looked at a monorail project from downtown to Chapel Hill then later as an elected member of the Special Transit Advisory Commission that spent a year studying it. More recently as a founding member of DO (Durham Orange) Friends of Transit we brought the community together in Durham to pass the ½ cent sales tax for transit. The plan included three phases; enhanced bus service, inner city circulators and light rail. Now we are working together to include affordable housing into it with the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit.
3) What is your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of Council?
It is my intention to continue to be a community servant in Durham with the responsiveness to my fellow residents. I am committed to Durham and have served on dozens of boards, commission, taskforces, community, non-profit and neighborhood groups If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?
– Board member: Watts Hospital Hillandale Neighborhood (President 1997-99)
– Member of InterNeighborhood Council since 1997 and President in 1999 and 2001
– Durham PRIDE Alliance (Neighborhood Improvement Services)
– Local Emergency Preparedness Committee (County Appointee) since 2002
– Adequate Public Facilities task force
– Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Board member of Friends since 1999
– Liberty Arts Board member
– Community Association Institute: NC Chapter board member 1999-2007, National Chapter, Community
Association Volunteer Committee (6 yrs) 2 Chair, National Board of Trustees 2010-2012
– Coordinating Council for Senior Citizens (2005-2009) President for two years
-Epworth United Church of Christ Sunday School Superintendent 21 years
——Crime Reduction/Law Enforcement——
– Durham Businesses Against Crime 14 years (last six as Chair)
– Co-facilitator of District II Partners Against Crime (1997-1999)
– Attended and graduated from the Police Citizens Academy (26th Class) in 2001
– Presented a Durham Police Department Community Service Award at City Hall (May 22nd, 2014)
– Nominated and elected as a board of director for Triangle Learning Community in 2013
– Durham Public Schools –Community School Advocacy subcommittee 2015
– Kids Voting Durham since 1997 Chair Kids Voting since 2008
-Durham Public Education Network and served on Achievement Gap taskforce
-Community Schools initiative (2015)
– Durham Garden Forum since 2013
– WakeUp Water Quality Team since 2014
– Keep Durham Beautiful board member since 2013
– Don’t Waste Durham 2013 (focusing on plastic and polystyrene reduction/recycling/reuse)
– Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association volunteer since 1998 Board since 2009
– Urban Open Space and Trails (Open Space subcommittee)
– Big Sweep Coordinator since 2001
– Northgate Adopt-a-Park Coordinator since 2002
– Presidential Citation of Excellence Award 1973 (Nixon) for environment protection (pre-EPA!)
– Housing Appeals Board 2000-2008 Chair for seven years
– Campaign for Decent Housing Substandard Housing sub committee past chairperson
– Citizens Advisory Board for KB Homes
– Founding board member of Rebuild Durham which provides for renovating dilapidated and abandoned houses into decent affordable rental property with a socials conscious.
– Awarded the Community Housing Award from the Durham Human Relations Commission.
-Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit
– Durham Comprehensive Plan
– Durham Appearance Advocacy Group
– Facilitated Durham PRIDE (Preservation, Revitalization, Investment, Development & Education) Alliance
– Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce: Transportation & Local Government/Public Policy committees
– Honored with the Founder of Democracy Award, presented by Mayor Bill Bell in 2009.
– Mayor Bill Bell’s Poverty Reduction Initiative Housing committee member since inception
– Durham Non-Agency Funding Review Committee
– Citizens Results Based Accountability
– Citizens Oversight Committee
– Member of DAD (Durham Area Designers)
– Certified in Emergency Management of Radiation Accident Victims (at Duke) by Oak Ridge Institute 2013
– Completed Mental Health First Aid USA course byNational Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
– Basic Life Support Training in CPR and AED
– Red Cross Shelter Operations Training, 16 gallon blood donor
– Duke University Certificate Program for Non-profit Management
– member parliamentarian from National Association of Parliamentarians (2015 Biannual Conference)
– Certified Emergency Response Team ten years Northgate Park team
– Selected to serve on the Special Transit Advisory Commission (STAC)
– Durham Orange County Friends of Transit
– Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit (CAHT) since 2013
– Regional Transportation Alliance
AWARDED “Citizen Connector of the Year 2010” by Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce
Please give one specific example of something you think City Council has done wrong or that you would have rather done differently in the last year.
For me, there is one specific example and a potential one that I want to address. #1-implementation of the Yard Waste container charge described as a maintenance fee. Everyone that got the letter from the City agreed it was poorly worded, badly timed and sorely executed without advanced public notice. My personal hope would be that we (as a member of City Council) will repeal it and maybe look at an alternative to be offered to residents to request as insurance, not a mandatory fee every year. #2-The City of Durham still owns a strategic piece of land at the Transportation Hub (bus station). It has the potential to be THE perfect location for a mixed income (read affordable opportunity) housing for residents. City Council has been discussing it with pressure from the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit over the past couple of months. One option includes a proposal from Self Help. They have publicly stated that a process be implemented quickly to make this happen to qualify for federal tax credits in 2016. The issue at heart here isn’t that it still hasn’t been allowed to proceed as a Request for Proposal but that each and every year we should have a que of tax credit projects in advance, lined up year after year so there isn’t this sort of rush at the last minute to get an application in on time. Also, please tell us the single best thing the city’s done during that span. The penny for housing.
1) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy?
I like the opportunity to vote for the best candidate that fits their qualifications for the position balanced with what my interests are for the time period we are living in. Over the years, that’s changed for both me and the candidates I’d voted for. This is why I am currently registered as an Unaffiliated voter. For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian? The issues that I believe in, are those that I have spent my time, energy and money on supporting (see above). In my mind, there shouldn’t be a litmus test to be labeled as one or the other. For those that know me they might describe me as a centrist, others a conservative and then even others as an outright progressionist. As an American, isn’t it great to be given that opportunity? I do!
2) The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?
Over the years I’ve done just that and hopefully you will agree when you understand that I’ve been a driven force in the following; Neighborhood Summit (1999 and 2001), Neighborhood Hero Awards since 2004, Local Emergency Preparedness Committee, Citizens Emergency Preparedness Team (over the years), Citizens Observer Patrol, Housing Appeals Board, Coodinating Council for Senior Citizens, Kids Voting (16 years), Keep Durham Beautiful, Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Mayors Poverty Reduction Initiative, Campaign for Decent Housing, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, KB Homes Citizens Advisory Board, Community Associations Institute, Parliamentarian, Liberty Arts, Epworth United Church (2nd reconciling church in Durham), Partners Against Crime, Durham Businesses Against Crime, Achievement Gap taskforce, Community Schools initiative (PA effort),Big Sweep coordinator, Adopt a Park program (10+ years) among many more..
Please address, in detail, the following major issues in Durham:
3) Do you believe that there is a disconnect between the citizens of Durham and the city’s police force? If so, how would you go about remedying that disconnect? On a similar note, to what degree would you say you that Chief Jose Lopez has your full faith and confidence?
I remain respectful to the City Manager and the current City Council to work out the recent disconnect that’s felt by some residents. However ,from recent polls it’s true that most residents still have the hope and desire that we can work together to solve our problems. There have been and will continue to be instances where the trust and dependence on law enforcement to provide just and reasonable responses to each and every encounter between us can be questioned. An example of this is the community forums I’ve attended of Eddie Davis and the Partners Against Crime groups to work towards encouraging discussions and finding ways to ‘reconnect’ the community. As a long time participant and supporter of community policing in every aspect of its intentions and implementations, I support Councilman Davis’ honesty and integrity in stepping out and having these forums (with Chief Lopez). I also encourage people interested in finding a reasonable balance and understanding for the roles and responsibilities of citizens during encounters with police to attend one of BJ Councils “You and Five-O”. It’s both informative and inspirational.
Regarding the last question. It is the responsibility and duty of the City Manager over each and every department head to measure and evaluate their performance. If there is an issue, complaint or compliment that I get from citizens of Durham as an elected official, I will forward them to him (or her). It is not my intention to get entangled in personnel issues of any city department employee or Director. To do so would be inappropriate, in my opinion.
4) A report by the U.S. Department of Justice early this year concluded that black males between 15 and 34 in Durham are six times more likely to die from homicide than all other Durham residents. What steps should local government and police take to address this problem? Does the city have its priorities in order when it comes to dealing with violent crime in low-income neighborhoods, at a time when there’s so much focus on downtown development?
I’ve read this report and agree that it’s a failure of society that this is happening. But I also understand that in a majority of those cases the cause of death a gun was involved. Addressing gun control, while a personal and constitutional issue, is something that Americans must come to grips with first, to stop the killing. I am also disappointed to hear that in many of these cases it’s black on black violence. This is also unacceptable but blaming the police for violent crime is much like blaming the maternity ward for teenage pregnancy. Law enforcement in most cases aren’t the root cause for violent crime, society is. Recent statistics have shown that gang violence is increasing and that the age group for young offenders is getting younger and younger. As addressed above, I believe that engagement between law enforcement and children has to start early to begin building trust and mutual respect. This has to be encouraged more at our schools, community centers and in athletic organizations. This is taking place now in a number of places across the city.
I’m also a believer in even earlier help for young mothers and with teenage pregnancies in providing counseling, financial support, child care services, parenting skills training along with toddler/pre-K activities that stimulate the development of at risk populations in OUR neighborhoods. This is the cure to the problem, I believe. As a City Council member I will support efforts that have to occur in places like Holton School and Lyon Park Community Center just as two examples. Regarding downtown, I supported the concept of creating four Police Districts over two decades ago (there are now five) and agree with others that just adding more police officers isn’t the only answer, but it is needed in neighborhoods that are in crisis. The implementation of the District concept has helped facilitate that by enabling the Commander of each one flexibility to allocate those resources needed along with when and how they should be deployed.
5) Do you think that support for saving the old Carpenter Chevrolet Building downtown justifies the anticipated $80.9 million cost to renovate it for a new police headquarters? Do you see any alternatives that could have been explored? And do you think the city has enough substations where they’re most needed?
I was very pleased to see DAD offer a sixth option for the city to consider and am encouraged that the design consultants will be looking at it over the next week or two. However, the current price tag seems excessive and given the history of construction projects over the years for both City and County facilities, fiscal responsibility in making sure that there are more built-in guarantees that these estimates are reasonable and expected final costs is one of the most important roles for a City Council member. Several years ago there was a plan to have a North and a South semi-headquarters in the city with separate but individual substations to supplement them. I’d like to look again at it before it’s too late when I’m elected, There are a number of declining strip commercial and shopping center properties that might be acquired for far less money and be more accessible to local residents when combined with a few more substations in strategic locations. Finally, I’ve been a willing visitor to the current police HQ and have heard and seen many of the problems that exist with that building. It is my conclusion that it is NOT the location we need to invest any more money into and that by the actions taken above we can achieve a longer term solution to 911 and law enforcement facilities.
6) There’s little doubt that Durham, as a whole, is prospering. But there’s also little doubt that this prosperity is distributed unevenly. What should Council be doing to address inequality?
The groundwork for inequality can start at birth. Providing opportunities for a child’s parents to be equipped to provide good parenting skills and having access to preschool programs for each child is a goal I want the city I live in to make available to everyone, particularly where it’s needed the most. Failure to do so has been proven to affect mental and behavioral maturity later on in life. Ensuring that all children are ready for the learning that comes with school along with making sure that our schools have programs that teach marketable skills and graduate high school able to read, write, do math and problem solve at a level that makes them an employable individual is the goal. Most of this of course, falls under the purview of the County and DPS. However City Council has the authority to help shape the environment for these opportunities. As a Council we can be looking at projects that request zoning to allow those facilities to be built. Determining if a project provides solutions to inadequate affordable housing near businesses that will provide healthy food and employment at a livable wage can be influenced by those decisions. Options for transportation so that owning a vehicle is not mandatory have been personal goals of mine for years along with having safe streets, good nearby parks and recreational facilities for everyone. Take the time to look at what I have done to guide what you should expect from me in the future on City Council. We can help stimulate departments to apply for grants to help cover the costs of creating these types of opportunities for everyone.
7) In that vein, what more should the city be doing to address the need for affordable housing?
Affordable housing takes many shapes. It can be in the form of smaller, energy efficient houses that are near transportation alternatives. It can be in the form of down payment assistance for those far below the minimum wage level with mandatory attendance at workshops on how to maintain a home that need occasional minor repairs and landscape maintenance. Mortgage and down payment incentives are great incentives when all the above training has been finished and being implemented by the homeowner. It can also be in the form of helping individuals understand how a household budget works and how to create a workable one for their family. Council has made recent changes to the incentives to help developers include lower priced, quality housing. For those not interested in home ownership, helping keep predevelopment costs in rental housing projects reasonable so that units are price tiered to include lower wage earners while the landlord still is able to maintain a quality project that gives him a return on his investment. Finally, the issue needs to be focused on providing more economic stimulus (income) for families and workers to be making enough money to afford quality housing. The city (and county) own a number of properties that can and should be land banked specifically for affordable housing. An inventory of each has been completed and I’m eager to pursue a process to make that happen.
8) As downtown grows, some degree of gentrification seems inevitable. What steps do you believe the city should be taking to revitalize neighborhoods without having them lose their character?
It would be unrealistic for every neighborhood to think that every housing unit is worth repairing and salvageable. Old and ‘remuddled’ isn’t always historic. As the Housing Appeals Board knows, at some point we reach the ‘point of no return’ on a home. Each neighborhood seems to have their own vernacular. If a housing unit is lost to neglect, a partnership of non-profits, developers, educators and whoever else can play a part, could find a way to replace the empty lot with a quality built unit that fits into the neighborhood character. Keeping the new unit at a price point for more individuals can come from a ‘playbook’ of options that keep costs down while still building a house that fits the style of the neighborhood. Generally these savings options occur on the inside of the unit and would not be discernable to anyone driving by. Partnerships combine many areas of expertise to solve what may seem unreachable at one point in time. As someone who has worked with Housing and Community Development and Neighborhood Improvement Services, I know that they have been working constantly on these exact issues for as long as I have been involved. Finding options for current residents to have their homes repaired and maintained, particularly for seniors, veterans and low income families has been and will continue to be a priority for me. The long term experience I have with NIS will facilitate this as a City Council member.
9) What role should the city play in the development or redevelopment of commercial real estate? Do you believe the city should award incentives to private developers, and under what circumstances?
When an area of the City lacks employment opportunities or businesses that add to the quality of life for those living in that area, an incentive can help kindle the interest of a developer. The incentive should be tailored to the particular need that must be met and should be commensurate with the benefit it will supply. The developer should be thoroughly ‘vetted’ so that there is an assurance of performance as expected, that being a completed project that matches the original vision. An incentive could be a streamlined approval process once it is ascertained adequate skills and performance are part of that particular developer’s history. I believe in public/private partnerships and the benefits they have brought to us. Examples of which however should extend beyond downtown to other areas that need ‘stimuli’. The focus on downtown now that it’s become desirable for developers, ought to shift attention to other commercial and retail venues that could use it. This list should include deteriorating and blighted older shopping centers, strip malls and neighborhood commercial areas like Wellons Village, Lakewood Shopping Center, SouthSquare, University Drive (Compare Foods) and the Avondale/Roxboro Road areas, just to name a few.
10) The Bull City Connector recently underwent route changes. Do you think the results are fair and efficient? If not, how could the Connector’s routes be changed to best serve the needs of residents most likely to use it?
Looking back to the pattern of one way streets in Durham and it’s configuration of streets in older neighborhoods gives a clue to the changes that have occurred with the Connector. Here Public Forums would be advantageous to gather more information about who is using it and why. A well-executed survey should have been used to pinpoint BEFORE what was felt to be lacking implemented. Communication with our citizens is key to finding what ‘tweeks’ could or should be made. I will advocate for an expansion of the BCC to NCCU and Durham Tech in the future.
11) Do you believe the downtown Loop is outdated? If so, what would you like to see done with it?
So much has changed in the way of expected outcomes from the decisions made decades ago to address particular traffic patterns and pedestrian access now that downtown’s character has changed is amazing. Similar cities that have done the same have discovered that the one-way-only concept did not result in the ease of access that was originally intended but instead cut off customers from services and frustrated visitors that didn’t understand the system. While I am not an expert land use/traffic planner we can learn a lot by listening to their advice. Expert traffic system planners and volunteer organizations like Durham Area Designers with proven track records are available today for consultations. We need to decide if this reconfiguration is a necessity or a convenience and let that answer guide decisions for undertaking any project based on quality input from expert planners and local professionals who have a vested interest in making sure that what is eventually decided on is good for Durham and a long term success, not a sort term Band Aid. Opening up the loop by reconverting it to be more pedestrian friendly will work to reconnect surrounding neighborhoods to downtown. How many times have you seen visitors wondering around trying to figure out how to get from one place to another? Involving the opinion of the Durham Visitors and Convention Bureau will have a critical impact on my eventual decision on whatever plan is proposed.
12) What are your initial thoughts on a proposed mixed-use development in North Durham, with a shopping center to be anchored by a Publix? Do you see, as some North Durham residents have expressed, opportunities to “fix” problems in the area of Guess and Latta roads with this development? (If so, what features would you like to see in the developer’s plan?) Or are you more inclined to side with residents who believe that such a development would change the character of the neighborhood in undesirable ways?
I don’t know enough about this and would need to learn more specifics before answering these questions. However, I was aware that there is a major road construction project planned for the near future at that intersection and as an elected official will make sure that it is done with improving the area and integrating whatever development is planned on going there for the benefitof the residents that both live nearby and travel thru that area every day.
13) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
I don’t have all the answers to the problems we face. But after over 20 years of working with neighborhoods, non-profits, business owners, the Chamber and thousands of other community volunteers I have a good understanding on why those problems are here and how they manage to continue to exist. While I’ll admit I might have an opinion, I haven’t gotten to this point by telling everyone what I think, I’ve gotten here because I have listened to what they have had to say. Steven Covey preached a number of years ago “Seek first to understand, then be understood”. I’ve taken that advice to heart. By listening to people’s opinions, going to workshops, public hearings and yes even deliberations in municipal debate it’s been a learning experience to see how my understanding and depth of knowledge has grown and improved. I want to continue to learn more by listening to you, not telling you what I think you (or others) should do. Then and only then will we be able to find a workable solution that both of us can walk away from with a plan of action that WILL work for all of us. I look to doing that as a full time City Council member who has the time, energy and long term commitment to all of Durham’s communities.
“It’s better to have debated a question without an answer, than to answer a question without debate”
Name as it appears on the ballot: Michael ‘Mike’ Shiflett