Statement on City Council and Board of Education appointments

August 24th, 2020

Members and friends,

The Durham City Council and the Durham Board of Education will be voting at their upcoming meetings to appoint a new member to their respective bodies. Our staff and board just delivered the following statement—in tailored forms—to each body. In the statement, we highlight the values and stances we want to see in the new appointees, based on the conversations we’ve been in with Durham residents.

Dear electeds,

Soon you will be voting to appoint a new member to join you on the City Council or the Board of Education. Durham For All (D4A) is writing to advocate for the type of candidate that we—as your constituents—want you to appoint, based on our values, our issue priorities, and our hopes and dreams for Durham. We trust you will take our perspective into deep consideration while casting your vote.

For our Swing the State campaign this year, our energy and attention is focused on swinging critical state-level races. We select the races in which we endorse based on our campaign priorities. So while D4A is not endorsing a specific candidate for the appointment, we are clear about the values and stances we want the appointee to uphold. 

Since April, our 20 core member leaders and our activist base of over 150 volunteers have been in deep conversation with more than 2,500 people of color in Durham, as we listen to our community members’ needs, connect each other to resources, and deepen our collective vision for Durham. Through that organizing, we have invited community members to participate in developing a People’s Platform, consisting of policies we want to see from our local, state, and federal governments.

Our members and thousands of Durham residents have spoken loud and clear. We want a Durham that invests in care, not cops; that prioritizes workers and community members over big business and out-of-state developers; that fully funds our public schools and ensures we have affordable homes and healthcare for everyone.

The following is our full list of policies we have prioritized in our People’s Platform, voted on by community members during a series of public events with partner organizations. While these policies require action from all levels of government, we believe our local elected officials must be united across governing bodies to fight for them, as we take on the far right at the state and federal levels.

To create a Durham for all, we want:

  • Homes For All: Issue a moratorium on evictions for the duration of the COVID crisis, expand tax relief for long-time homeowners in neighborhoods facing gentrification, and fight state preemption of housing equity tools. 
  • Education For All: Address race- and class-based inequities by fully funding our public schools, removing School Resource Officers, and redistributing funding to hire nurses, counselors, and other crucial staff.
  • Healthcare For All: Enact Medicare For All, ensure guaranteed paid sick leave, and decriminalize drug possession.
  • an Economy For All: Raise the minimum wage above $15, enact Medicaid expansion, end the overdose crisis, and repeal North Carolina’s preemption laws to expand the powers of municipalities to pass progressive economic policies.
  • Justice For All: Divest from police, invest in community based-alternatives, eliminate cash bail, and ensure there is no cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

D4A wants you to appoint a candidate committed to fiercely advocating for all these policies and, in particular, committed to working collectively to enact the policies within your governing body’s authority.

Lastly, we recognize that some community members have expressed concerns about holding a City Council appointment instead of a city-wide special election on the November 2020 ballot. We understand that the City Council sought legal counsel regarding this matter and confirmed that it is against state law to add a municipal election to a non-municipal ballot. Thus, a special election is not possible this year. Especially during a prolonged moment of global crisis and heightened attacks from the far right, we believe Durham needs a full team of fighters in our governing bodies before the 2021 elections.

Indeed, a critical and upcoming responsibility of the City Council will be to hire a new city manager, as City Manager Bonfield will be retiring at the end of September. As you know, city manager is the most powerful unelected position in our city. We understand that the City of Durham is a weak-mayor system, meaning the city manager—not the mayor—is the boss of city staff and has the greatest influence over the administrative work that keeps Durham running. This includes how our budgets are formed, who on staff is hired, and how the city functions. It is crucial that Durham has a team of council members in place who will work together to hire a city manager who shares our vision and stances. 

We urge you to vote for a candidate who will fight for our collective vision of a Durham for all and who will be a team player to bring that vision to life. Thank you for bringing our considerations with you as you cast your vote to appoint Durham’s next elected officials. And thank you for your leadership in our community. 

With respect,

Durham For All Staff & Board