Making (dollars and) sense of the downtown library renovation bond

Durham has seen an outstanding turnout in early voting -- just short of 120,000 souls made it to early voting, just over half of the county's registered voter base. And given our bluer-than-blue shade on political maps, it seems nearly a fait accompli that all four bond issues will pass, including that for the main downtown library renovation.

Still, we noticed with some interest discussion on local neighborhood listservs wondering about the library's cost -- a $44.3 million project, about three quarters of which is allocated to construction. 

That is four times the cost projected in 2008 -- then, an $8 million construction budget out of a total project cost of approximately $11 million. (For background, see BCR's extensive July 2008 and September 2008 coverage, and Lisa Sorg's March 2016 update.)

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 7.56.10 PM

Of course, when the project was first under discussion back in '08, there was plenty of grousing from residents and elected officials alike about whether that number was sufficient to develop a first-class library for Durham, given that the renovation cost was only a bit more than the new-build cost of two of Durham's final new-build regional libraries.

The project team at the time put their best foot forward, pontificating on the building's panel/curtainwall exterior, and noting that communities with strong regional libraries (like Durham) needed less space than others.

Then that renovation project went away, only the resurface in the past couple of years with a new project team, a new library director, the departure of the former county engineer -- and, a budget that is a multiple of its old self.

Over the past few weeks, BCR has been taking a look at other library projects in the US and talking with Durham County Library (DCL) staff and project team members to try to figure out what's driving the cost.

Our take? While it's a steep rise in cost and a larger library than was proposed in 2008, it also is at least commensurate with other projects in smaller/mid-sized cities, and likely reflects a more realistic project than was initially proposed a few years back.

Continue reading "Making (dollars and) sense of the downtown library renovation bond" »


Shawn Stokes of Luna: "I didn’t think that there would be public outcry about it," + Black Wall Street Plaza still needs our attention

Photograph_102104_W_Main_Street_107_N_Mangum_Street

Looking at the corner of Main and Mangum streets, where the southern end of Black Wall Street Plaza is today.
Date of the photograph is 1963. Note that Mangum Street is already one-way south.
Courtesy of Durham County Public Library
Photo owned by Rachel Middleton Brown, Robert Lee Middleton, Sara Middleton Mocrich

“What defines a character of a city is its public space, not its private space. What defines the value of the private assets of the space are not the assets by themselves but the common assets. The value of the public good affects the value of the private good. We need to show every day that public spaces are an asset to a city.”
-- Joan Clos, executive director, United Nations Human Settlements Program

 

The Luna proposal died before it was born.

Less than a week after a public meeting about the future of Black Wall Street Plaza — a quarter-acre of city-owned green space bordered by Parrish, Main, and Mangum streets — Shawn Stokes, the chef/owner of Luna Rotisserie, withdrew his inquiry into placing outdoor seating in a corner of it.

“Based on feedback from the public discussion last Thursday, and subsequent coverage and commentary, we've decided to end our inquiry into a public private partnership to revitalize the space,” Stokes wrote to me in an email on Tuesday.

Stokes opened his popular restaurant at 112 West Main Street last fall. Previously, he had served in the Peace Corps and USAID in South America. In rural Ecuador, he worked with organic-coffee growers to help them export value-added products, not just raw green coffee beans. He worked on environmental and social equity issues in Brazil and preventing gang violence in Panama.

“I had a skeptical view of business,” Stokes said. “I wanted Luna to be more than a successful business but to have another [social justice] aspect to it.” The lowest-paid worker at Luna earns $12 an hour, he said. Several line cooks earn $45,000 a year.

On Tuesday afternoon, after Luna had closed for lunch, Stokes and I sat in the park and talked about his plan, the public reaction, and his wish that the community come together to determine the future of the beloved space. 

While we were there, the park did its thing: A man walked his dog along the path. A homeless woman, dressed in a winter coat and scarf on a summer day, lumbered by, burdened by her bags of belongings. She settled at a table, singing. Another man stopped at our table and gave Stokes and I each a peppermint.

Here’s a Q&A of our conversation. It has been edited and condensed for clarity. We also spoke to the building owners; that interview follows the one with Stokes.

Why did you want to put outdoor dining here?

The space was advertised with a patio. [The building is owned by Elaine Curry and Dawn Paige.] A tenant before us wanted a club but the people living across the street in the Kress Building didn’t want that because of the noise. Elaine and Dawn thought the city would be amenable not to a disco, but a restaurant patio.  When I was looking for a space, I thought we have so much nice weather here, and I love being outside, I love dining outside, it sets a really nice environment. The patio would have been open to the public when we weren't open. I didn’t think that there would be public outcry about it. 

IMG_3371

The rental flyer for 112 West Main Street; the schematic includes a 560-square-foot patio. 
A quarter-acre equals 10,890 square feet. However, Duke Energy has two large transformer
boxes that eat up plaza space. Time Warner Cable also has a utility box.

 

When did you first approach the city about the idea?

Late last year we introduced the idea, but it sat for a while. The second discussion with the city was more recent. We were being affected by crime. One of our employees left the back door unlocked and someone took some things. An employee had his bike stolen. We used to let people use the bathroom, but then someone shot up in there. After that, we stopped allowing that. We tell people to go to City Hall.

What were some of your ideas about the park?

We wanted there to be seating without the barriers. We wanted to provided charging stations for the homeless who have phones. We wanted to make improvements that would cater to people who use the park, including the homeless. We really did think a patio would be an added value for the park. It would allow for eyes on the park, seating for guests outside helps prevent crime. It’s a special little place, and even though our proposal is withdrawn, it’s exciting to see people passionate about it. 

Nnenna Freelon, who attended the public meeting, had reservations about Luna’s proposal because it could have ousted homeless people from the space. She stops by the table with an “I Voted” sticker on her shirt. We invite her to sit and chat.

Freelon: I hate that you guys had to be flayed at the meeting. The way the city handled the meeting did not allow people to think creatively. People feel very protective of the this place. It’s the last green space in the neighborhood. But how do we build community around the park? There’s not enough investment in it, spiritually and economically. 

Stokes: I hope that people continue to express their feelings about the park to the city and other stakeholders.

Freelon: There’s an opportunity here. Part of the problem is that there is not enough open free space. We’ve entered a new phase, and we can still create what we want. We need a water fountain, it could be a memorial water fountain to educate people about segregation. We need more places to sit in the shade. These tables say, “People have to know one another to sit here.” We want benches. We want public bathrooms here. No one wants to pee in the park.

Stokes: And there could be emergency buttons in there if someone gets into trouble. You can build the bathrooms so you can see people’s feet, to see if someone is using it. We also could have low terraced walls around the park [instead of the chains and wooden bollards].

BCR: In Chinatown in San Francisco, people do tai chi in the park. It’s beautiful to watch.

Freelon: Everyone is feeling possessive about this space. Things work better when there’s synergy.

Stokes: The business owners, people who live here, who hang out here, there’s a lot of potential. There’s a lot of momentum about the park right now. We need to keep it going.

**************

Elaine Curry and Dawn Paige have owned the building for three years. BCR spoke with Curry on Wednesday.

Did you speak with the city about a patio?

Curry: We did speak with the city about the possibilities, including this option, but they didn't really have a process for it. 

What do you think of the public response to Luna's proposal?

We think all of the public should have a voice in Luna's proposal. I was at the meeting, and there wasn't a broad spectrum of stakeholders there. Shawn never got to make his proposal. He's very community minded. He never wanted to desecrate the park, like some people have said.

What is your vision for the space, being its neighbor?

We're stakeholders. I've lived and worked in Durham 15 years. I patronize downtown Durham businesses. It's a beautiful space, but it could be more than that without changing what's important about it. We want it to be open, with lighting and bathrooms. We've donated money to the church that holds services for the homeless there [Bridge Ministries]. We like that it's a place for everybody. 

 

To that end, Bull City Rising would like to co-sponsor a block party this summer in the park/plaza (with the proper permits, of course). There, the community at-large could informally discuss and brainstorm about how to improve and protect the space for everyone: lighting, public bathrooms, benches, other public amenities — and how much it would cost. Since the city owns the land, those suggestions would be forwarded to General Services, which maintains the space.  

Contact Lisa Sorg at lrsorg@gmail.com.

 

 


When public becomes private: Luna Rotisserie interested in leasing part of Chickenbone Park

Update, Tuesday, June 7, at 12:50 p.m. We received arrived on what constitutes Black Wall Street Plaza: It is both the parcel with the gazebo along Orange Street (north side of Parrish) and extends to Main Street and encompasses what is colloquially known as Chickenbone Park.

We contacted Aaron Cain, who is on the city planning staff, about this. The plaza on the north side of Parrish Street was dedicated as Black Wall Street Plaza a couple of years ago. Since then, improvements have been made to the parcels on the south side of Parrish Street, including the pergola, that mirror those on the north side. So, as part of a rebranding effort, the City administration has asked city staff to start referring to the open space on both the north and south sides of Parrish Street as Black Wall Street Plaza.
 
Here is the lowdown: The city used the term "Chickenbone Park" in its press release so that only to make sure that those reading the press release would know which area we were addressing, again because it's the name that many people use. However, it's a term that City staffers avoid.

**************

At Chickenbone Park, a fleck of green space in downtown Durham, about 20 people have gathered in the shade, seeking refuge from the noontime sun under the crape myrtle trees. Grocery bags bulging with belongings rest on the grass.

“It may get better. It may get worse,” the preacher, an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, tells the crowd. “You know how things go. But the Lord will always be with you.”

IMG_3349

Music for the church service and luncheon  Photo by Lisa Sorg

They sing a song and break for lunch — pork sandwiches and sodas — and then disperse to the air-conditioned library, Five Points plaza, the bus benches along Main Street. A few stick around.

The life in this park — which isn’t technically a park, but instead a quarter-acre of city-owned open space bordered by Main, Parrish , Orange, and Mangum streets — largely keeps to itself. And there in lies its intrinsic value. The park, also known as Black Wall Street Plaza, is one of the last two public green spaces inside the Loop. It offers a respite from the concrete. It is one of the few places downtown where you can hear the birds sing in the morning. It is a place, a woman told city planners last week, where everyone can “just be.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 12.39.10 PM

The city’s planning department had called the meeting at the behest of the city administration to gauge public sentiment on privatizing a portion of the park. Although no one has formally submitted a proposal, Shawn Stokes, who owns Luna Rotisserie next door, has been interested in carving out a piece for outdoor dining. In return, Luna would pay for improvements to the park, such as lighting. (However, a city ordinance prohibits the sale of alcohol in Chickenbone Park; City Council would have to amend the law to allow Luna patrons to drink there.)

“What we would propose would be a win-win. It would make the space more inviting and open,” Stokes said. He’s filed five police reports in the nine months his restaurant has been open, he said, including an incident in which “someone was shooting up in the [Luna] bathroom on the baby-changing table.”

Yet privatizing even a sliver of a public green space — at the crossroads of downtown, the parcel also faces historic Parrish Street — sets an uneasy precedent for Durham. Already the city has leased and sold easements and air rights to condo projects abutting Durham Central Park. If Luna is granted a lease on a part of the property — clearly one of the most valuable downtown — then who else will want a piece of it?

Most of what we think of as public space is actually private. American Tobacco Campus, including the lawn in front of the Aloft Hotel, is privately owned (only within the last few years has photography been allowed), with security to keep the homeless from loitering there. Brightleaf Square is also private.

One of the joys of erstwhile lawn adjacent to the Green Wall at Main and Corcoran streets was that the public took de facto ownership over a neglected private space; the city even mowed it. Now the grass is gone, replaced by is a gaping maw while a 26-story skyscraper is built there.

If there were private space in Chickenbone Park, it should be shared and unobtrusive: a coffee kiosk, for example, or a bikeshare program. However, cordoning off the space would likely alienate some park patrons the way velvet ropes outside trendy nightclubs separate the desired from the undesirable. The homeless who encamp there during the day could feel less welcome, said Nnenna Freelon. “There should be a direct benefit to the least powerful of the users,” she said. “This is one of the few places in Durham where the homeless can sit and feel they don’t have to move.”

 

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Live blogging the City Council meeting, April 21

We'll live blog the highlights of today's City Council meeting. Mayor Bill Bell has an excused absence today; he's out on other business.

Download City Council Work Session Agenda - April 21 2016

1:03: Cora Cole-McFadden announces that a group of minority health care providers are not "coming our way" because of HB2.

Tom Bonfield says there is a supplemental agenda item about a Requests for Proposals regarding the Morgan Street parking garage.

Now going through the consent items and then we'll hear public comments.

Durham Beyond Policing Campaign: I address you all today as a coalition of many organizations, who firmly oppose the building of the DPD headquarters. ... We're bringing up the way policing in Durham causes harm. Our campaign requires an active divestment from police and reinvestment [in low-income, minority people]. We are asking the City Council not to build the DPD HQ and to implement participatory budgeting like has been done in Greensboro.

The money for DPD HQ could go to youth centers, street maintenance, affordable housing. It's doubly offensive to build without buy-in from that neighborhood. It's violent to build a police station in an area where black people are over-policed. Don't build another monument to police that engages in racial bias.

By May 16, we demand that City Council stop construction plans on the building.

Cole-McFadden: What happens if we can't vote by May 16?

Coalition: We would like a response by then.

1:42: [We're waiting for a presentation about the Durham Workforce Development and the Compact Neighborhood Land Use plans. A DPD first crime report is on the agenda, but the details usually aren't publicized until the Monday night session.]

1:50: Kevin Dick, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development is presenting. [He leaves this position for Charlotte on April 30.]  Download 11062_EXHIBIT_DWDB_ANNUAL_REPORT_2016_P_387737_690332

Some facts from the report:

In 2014, 148,761 Durham residents are employed; 7,707 are unemployed; unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. there are an estimated 48,820 Durham residents — 17 percent — living below the poverty level.

Kevin Dick: A highlight for DPS is that our graduation rates are improving. This is integral how we deliver services. It impacts the number and profile of our youth programs: Durham Youth Work Internship Program and Yes program. With nonprofits and the library, we're connecting youth with our internship programs.

The job placement services for our NCWorks center: We formed an adult provider collaborative, government and nonprofit to discuss issues related to people who have multiple barriers to employment. Group meets monthly. Barriers include criminal backgrounds. One grant proposal would put an NCWorks Center in the county jail. Also we applied for a $1.4 million grant to serve people on work release programs and in halfway houses. These grants are competitive, but we're hopeful.

[More interesting data: NC Works referrals who were hired:]

EMC: 6 NC Works hires of 112
ACW Technology: 28 of 42
Save-a-Lot Food Stores: 20 of 20
CREE: 120 of 160
Durham Bulls: 58 of 95
Frontier Communications: 14 of 45

Cora Cole-McFadden to Kevin Dick: Your leaving will leave a void.

Steve Schewel: It's amazing you'd leave Durham for the Charlotte Hornets. We'll miss you. Thank you for all of your great work. I do have a few questions. The success of the former offender program. What limits the number of participants? 

KD: Former offender are considered a "hard to serve" group, multiple barriers to employment. Client to staffing ratios should not be more than 60:1, right now we're at 160 to 1.5. So it's a matter of money.

SS: How is traffic at the career centers? I've heard it's down.

KD: That's correct. Part of the reason is the unemployment rate has gone down. Another reason is that technology has improved. People can access services at home or the library. When you move to full employment, the people left are usually the hardest to serve. 

SS: With the staffing at the career centers, they are a great resource and we need as many people to use them as we can. How far along is the StepUp Ministries?

KD: They are operating and come to the board meetings. As they've ramped up, our referral process isn't as smooth as we like.

SS: How is the cooperation with Made in Durham? How is working for the people serving?

KD: Made in Durham is invaluable. Companies represented on the board are worksites last summer. Where they add value is in extending the message delivery to businesses, nonprofits that work with youth.

 CCM: How do we reach out to kids at my favorite school Lakeview alternative school for summer programs?

James Dixon: We don't target Lakeview specifically but all DPS schools. We went out to each community for application assistance programs to help students. We have received 780 applications. One young man was from Lakeview; I'm sure there are more.

It's 2:29 pm.

 

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Durham Rescue Mission wants no part of Golden Belt's local historic designation

Golden Belt (dragged)

 

It cost just $265 to build a three-room house on Morning Glory Avenue; for an extra $4, the carpenter would toss in a privy. That was in 1900, when the 20-acre mill village, then known as Morning Glory, housed the workers who made cloth and thread at the nearby Golden Belt factory.

Download Golden Belt

More than 115 years later, the Golden Belt neighborhood is one of the last areas near downtown that is relatively affordable for the middle-class. And with its tight street grid and modest former mill houses, the neighborhood feels distinct — character that residents want to preserve through a local historic designation.

“It’s our hope that local designation will guide further development, small-scale in form and character in the future development,” Jennifer Martin Mitchell of MdM, the city’s consultants for the project, told the Historic Preservation Commission at a special meeting Wednesday morning.

The HPC recommended the designation and its boundaries at a meeting Wednesday morning, although with concerns about criteria that could guide future development.

While residents at the meeting overwhelmingly supported the designation, a major property owner in the neighborhood, the Durham Rescue Mission, wants to secede from the proposed historic district. The mission owns 13 properties in the neighborhood, including five historically contributing structures and several vacant lots in the 1200 block of Worth Street and Morning Glory Avenue.

 “We want to be sliced out somehow,” Rob Tart, the rescue mission’s chief operating officer, told the HPC. “We don’t want to be part of it. It’s onerous. It doesn’t help us accomplish our goals of serving homeless people. This will not help what we’re trying to do. We don’t think it’s profitable or helpful.”

However, what the rescue mission is trying to do is unclear. Tart acknowledged the nonprofit, which has been in the neighborhood since 1974, has no concrete vision for its properties, only to say it doesn’t include single-family homes. He also said he had not read the design criteria, only that he had been “briefed on it.”  

“But we have no desire to build what you want us to,” Tart told the HPC. “You’ll leave those lots empty. Nothing will happen on those properties, because we’re not going anywhere.”

Since the mission is a nonprofit, it does not pay property taxes. It has assets worth $23 million, according to its 2014 federal tax statements. The mission CEO, Ernie Mills, earns nearly $150,000 annually. Tart is paid $110,000 per year.  Download 2014_DurhamRescueMission

Vacant lots provide an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of a historic neighborhood, said Cynthia de Miranda of MdM. “They can help reestablish street patterns. They can enhance what has been lost.”

Lisa Miller, a senior planner and urban designer for the city, told Tart that multi-family housing could be built in the historic district, as long as it’s “not a big block of apartments of monolithic faces to the streets.” For example, after several design iterations, the Greystone apartment complex in historic Morehead Hill was ultimately approved by the HPC. 

“This isn’t hamstringing or forcing someone to build single-family homes,” Miller said. “There is a lot of leeway but you do have to hold on to basic elements of building placement and design.”

Without a local historic designation and its associated design criteria, the Golden Belt neighborhood could be very much in jeopardy. The widening of Alston Avenue — construction is scheduled to begin in August — threatens to divide the eastern and western portions of the neighborhood. 

“We see this local designation to give the neighborhood some leverage to be the walkable, integrated, inclusive community we want it to be,” said Mel Norton, who lives on Wall Street. As part of Durham Congregations and Neighborhoods, she has conducted extensive research on gentrification in the city. “I’m afraid we’ll see what’s happening in Cleveland-Holloway happening here” — teardowns replaced by “bigger non-descriptive homes that don’t relate to the neighborhood.”

And with the its proximity to downtown, former Golden Belt resident John Martin said, the neighborhood “is still very fragile. “If you don’t do this, you’ll start seeing gentrification in a bad way, people tearing down mill houses that can be protected and preserved.”

Construction and renovation projects by the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity and Scientific Properties, which purchased the old factories and several blighted homes, have kept prices modest, often under $150,000. But the asking price for a new house on Worth Street is $295,000.

“There are already high development pressures that will increase over time,” said Ben Filippo, executive director of Preservation Durham

Maintaining connectivity on the east and west sides of Alston Avenue is “essential” he added, and that tax breaks for preservation could help achieve that goal.

“If we can’t include those residences — the working class housing-stock that Durham was built on — if we don’t provide incentives to protect that,” Filippo said, “we are doing a major disservice to our residents.”

The issue will go to the planning commission in June, and ultimately to City Council.

Timeline of Golden Belt neighborhood

1900: Julian Carr begins construction of the cotton mill and bag factory, plus the first phase of the village 

1906-1930: Golden Belt expands to six factories, including hosiery and cigarette cartons

1910-1920: Mill village expands to accommodate additional workers.

1985:  The 39-acre Golden Belt Historic District listed on National Register of Historic Places

1996:  The district boundary increased to add a building at the southeast corner of East Main  and North Elm streets. The building has since been demolished but the parcel remains in the district. 

2008: Period of significance is extended from 1935 to 1958

2010:  Petition is circulated to also designate the National Historic District a local historic district.

2015:  Creation of local district initiated with public meetings and initial research by MdM   Historical Consultants


The affordable housing possibilities at the soon-to-be old Durham Police Department

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.16.44 AMPhoto from Durham Police Department annual report, 2008

Here’s a morning mental exercise: This fall, Durham County is expected to place a bond referendum on the ballot to help pay for a $40 million major renovation of the Main Library downtown. The bond will likely pass — let's hope — because libraries are beloved, vital community resources.

Now, if $81 million in funding for the new Durham Police Department were put to a bond referendum, would voters pass it? I’m not so sure.

Last night, Durham Beyond Policing held a public protest at DPD headquarters objecting to the city’s financial priorities: the money budgeted from city coffers for the new DPD mothership on East Main Street versus funding for affordable housing, free and expanded public transit, living wages for city workers, restorative justice.

Realistically, it’s doubtful that the city will cancel the deal. It’s just too far in the process, with Council approving the architectural designs last month.

However, there’s an opportunity here: The current headquarters at 505 W. Chapel Hill St., is prime, city-owned real estate for affordable housing. The building sits on 4.1 acres of land, 3.35 of it surface parking — quite a waste.

It’s next to the bus station and across the street from the Amtrak stop. In other words, ideal for low-income households, especially those earning less than $25,000 a year. There’s a serious shortage of housing for the very poor, a point that Karen Lado of Enterprise Community Partners underscored to Council last week in her presentation about a proposed affordable housing strategy.

One of the goals Lado laid out was adding 300 units citywide over the next five years for these households — “particularly near transit lines and rapidly appreciating neighborhoods.”

Download 10987_PRESENTATION_AFFORDABLE_HOUSING_GOALS__384900_680294

That sounds like 505 W. Chapel Hill St.

There needs to be a public discussion on which is the wisest course to develop the land for this purpose: a City/Durham Housing Authority partnership, a nonprofit, such as Self-Help, or a private developer, albeit one that is required to allocate a percentage of the units as affordable. 

(That type of “inclusionary zoning” is illegal in North Carolina on private land, but the city has more latitude to place covenants on its parcels.)

To add urgency to this situation, consider that over the next five years, subsidies on 1,240 of 6,100 privately owned, affordable units in Durham will expire — 930 of them by the end of 2017. These units have generally been subsidized via low-income housing tax credits and Section 8 programs. The apartments/homes, many concentrated in Northeast-Central Durham, could become market-rate, thus creating an even more severe housing crisis for the poor.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 9.05.00 AM

 

 

Need more urgency? Landlords are bowing out of the Section 8 program because they can charge higher market rates without having to navigate the inspections and paperwork from the Durham Housing Authority. 

There also needs to be a public discussion about the fate of the building, which needs at least $4 million worth of rehab. At one time, the building, which in the late 1950s, originally housed Home Security Life insurance company, looked swanky, with a lot of glass. But now, of the Mid-century modern style buildings downtown — the Durham Hotel, the old Jack Tar motel, for example — DPD HQ is the least attractive because of the tinted windows, security grating and other fortress-like architectural details that accompany a structure devoted to law enforcement. (O’Brien/Atkins, the architects on the new DPD HQ, have been directed: No fortress on East Main.) 

Durham Beyond Policing has valid concerns about the $81 million expenditure. But I’m ready to cry Uncle and acknowledge that a new station will be built. Yet in doing so, we should consider what can be gained on those four acres on West Chapel Hill Street. 

 

 


Live blogging Feb. 18 City Council work session

1:03 p.m. Jillian Johnson is discussing the revised resolution about supporting the Duke unionization efforts. Mayor Bill Bell is asking that the discussion happen after a review of the agenda.

1:10: We're in the citizen comment period right now. First, how to resolve a dispute over a speed hump at 610 Carroll Street.

1:30: James Chavis speaking now. "This is a hot item, but it needs to be taken care of by the city. We're talking about racial profiling and lying. I'm the victim of that. On Jan. 17, I was followed by a police officer from East Durham to my home (on Ashe). I got out of my car. He asked if he could talk to me. He had his hand on his gun and asked me if I knew that I didn't have to talk to him.
He said I had been driving on that street two or three times. I told him he did not see me. I had just come from my sister's house, came from the bank, the gas station.
I gave him the right to talk to me. Then three more white police officers came up on my property without my consent. They looked inside my car without my permission.
I'm asking you Mayor Bell, one black man to another. ... I want a discussion about this with you and the city manager. Please look at your calendar so we can have a forum talking about this racial profiling and lying. He said he saw me, but he didn't. He was wrong. And I was right.

Bell: I'd like to know who the officers were so we know who we're talking about. Don't have to know now, but get the names and we'll set this up.

1:40 p.m. Now back to the Duke University unionization resolution. Johnson: As was requested at last work session, I revised it and am bringing it back to council. I'd like to announce that the workers have filed for union election with the NLRB.

Resolution is in support of non-tenure track faculty to bargain collectively and form a union and improve working conditions on campus. Many non-tenure track faculty have little job security and health-care benefits. These faculty want to have a collective voice. The right to unionize should be that of the workers and not be interfered with.

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Affordable housing, body cameras, Duke union and more: Live blogging the City Council work session

1 p.m. Council member Jillian Johnson is bring up the resolution in support of non-tenure track faculty to bargain collectively.  She is citing facts about Duke, including average student tuition of $61,000 a year, and the students' dependence on non-tenure track faculty for their coursework. Cost of living in Durham is increasing, but these faculty have no job security or raises. City of Durham is stronger when citizens have secure jobs for the long-term. The decision to unionize is solely that of the workers and not to be interfered with. 

Mayor Bell is readjusting the agenda because he has to leave at 3:20. After the Duke unionization public comments, this will be the order. Don Moffitt is also adding a resolution regarding the Human Relations Commission.

19. Poverty reduction task force

18. Rental assistance, affordable housing

20. Underground utilities permits

4. Body cameras for Durham Police Department

 

Jim Haverkamp: He is a non-tenure track faculty member. We want a seat at the table. We work semester to semester, year to year. We don't have opportunity to meet with administration and discuss this. If you'd be willing to add a voice to ours, that would be appreciated.

A man whose name I did not get: I stand in strong support of non-tenure track faculty, they provide excellent education for students despite having no job security. Their security is our security. Their stability is our stability. It's an important benefit not only for the students but the Durham community.

Mayor Bell: I've long supported the rights of labor unions. Unions tend to come in where companies refuse to provide benefits to workers. Even though we are a right to work state. However, when I look at this resolution, it's been the position of the council, if there are any figures or items that may be questionable, we want them verified. There are numbers in here, while I don't contest them, I'd like to see the source of the numbers. There are some statements that aren't pertinent, such as Duke's exemption from $8.5 million in property taxes because they are nonprofits. The gist of what I see is that the resolution that mayor and City Council support Duke non-tenure track to unionize. I support that, just not the entire resolution. 

We have a letter from Phail Wynn (vice president of Durham and regional affairs): Duke will support their legal right to unionize, but it will provide information and communicate with employees. [This is in reference to union supporters' statement that Duke has provided misleading information about the effects of a union.]

Bell: I think it would be more appropriate to have a letter from Council to Duke president supporting the right to unionize, not a resolution.

Moffitt has a question for Jim Haverkamp: I heard you say "contingent faculty," is that the bargaining unit?

Haverkamp: Non-tenure track, adjunct, lecturers. Many of us work year to year or semester to semester.

Moffitt: The resolution supports the effort to organize, but another line says "endorses the right to organize." There's a difference. I strongly endorse the right to organize, but I believe that the decision belongs solely to the workers. I would like to add a friendly amendment saying "effort."

Bell: I don't expect us to vote on this today.

Cora Cole-McFadden: Concerned about the unionization pamphlet being handed out because there is a lack of sensitivity to all races, lack of diversity in the photos. I haven't had time to read it. I'm troubled by the lack of representation.

Johnson: There is supplemental information about diversity and gender pay gap.

Steve Schewel: I'm a non-tenure faculty at Duke. I'm a visiting assistant professor. I have signed the union card. I asked Patrick Baker, city attorney, if I should recuse myself.

Baker: There's a conflict of interest if this would improve your position or financial relationship. This resolution doesn't do this. You may ultimately benefit, but none of your decisions right now would directly influence this. 

Schewel: I think there are many non-tenure track faculty at Duke who don't have the situation I do, so I'm very supportive.

Eddie Davis: Supports the unionization effort and collective bargaining. I would like to see this resolution polished.

Charlie Reece: For my own part, I would vote to approve the resolution as it is today, but I appreciate concerns of council, and look forward to voting on a revised revolution that reflects those.

Bell speaking with Johnson: Work with administration and city attorney's office to word the resolution. It should come back to a work session.

Cole-McFadden: I do want to say that I support unions.

Continue reading "Affordable housing, body cameras, Duke union and more: Live blogging the City Council work session" »


Durham CAN's public subsidy tour: a beginner's guide to tax incentives, diversity and affordable housing downtown

Fayetteplace_1_032214

Photo by Gary Kueber; courtesy OpenDurham.org

 

This post has been corrected to reflect that the option on Fayette Place expires in August 2017, not this year.

It is only 1.2 miles from downtown Durham to the old Fayette Place, the former housing project at the gateway to the historic Hayti neighborhood. Last Saturday morning, about 40 people took a three-minute bus ride to see what many view only from the highway.

“It looks like an archaeological dig,” a man said.

“This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen,” added a woman, who was trying to photograph the desolation with her smartphone.

But a camera cannot capture the blightscape of the 19 acres at Fayetteville and Umstead streets, near the Durham Freeway. Encased by a chain-link fence, the property is scarred with dozens of concrete slab foundations and crumbling brick steps that once went to front doors and now lead to nowhere.

From the highway, the land looks like it has been flattened by a bomb. From the street, it is a constant and embarrassing reminder of the neglect in this predominantly African-American neighborhood.

“If this were in any other neighborhood, there’s no way it would have been allowed to lay like this,” said the Rev. William Lucas, pastor of nearby First Chronicles Community Church. The group had disembarked the bus at Grant and Merrick streets, an eerily isolated block embedded between the abandoned property and the freeway. “This area can go from one to 100 in a second,” Lucas said of the crime in the neighborhood. “It’s real serious here.”

The occasion for the bus ride to this and other prime real estate in and near downtown was the Durham CAN public subsidy tour. About 200 people gathered to learn about the evolution of downtown development, its opportunities for affordable housing, and the market forces and the public subsidies and tax incentives that shape its future.

That future, everyone agreed, should include a downtown made vibrant by racial and economic diversity.

Continue reading "Durham CAN's public subsidy tour: a beginner's guide to tax incentives, diversity and affordable housing downtown" »


Carolina Theatre's Nocek resigns, effective immediately

So we're not saying that this was because of the big-ticket sales tax snafu that The Durham News broke late last year.

But, it's sure gotta be at the top of the speculation list given the timing -- i.e., soon after the announcement, and on a snowy Friday afternoon to boot.

We don't know any more than has been in the funnies about the tax issue (though I'm still curious how this squared up, IIRC, with the state changing taxability of theater tickets, museum admits, college meal plans and a range of other adjustments.) And we'd be remiss if we didn't give a tip-of-the-hat for Nocek's role in revitalizing both a facility and its programming, both much more vibrant since his tenure.

Update: Per the H-S, it was the taxes.

The theatre’s board of directors “felt new leadership was needed to restore confidence and get us back on track,” said Ellen Reckhow, who represents the Board of County Commissioners on the theater board. “Unfortunately, the board was not aware of the challenging financial situation until fairly recently,” Reckhow said.

The theater’s board of directors named businessman and philanthropist Dan Berman interim president and CEO. Berman served as board chair for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and is a board member and finance chair of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

 

From local architect and Carolina Theatre board prez Scott Harmon:

Dear Theatre Supporter,

As chairman of the Board of Trustees of Carolina Theatre of Durham, Inc., I am writing you today to inform you that Bob Nocek has stepped down as our president and CEO. His resignation is effective immediately.

Under Bob’s leadership, the Carolina Theatre has played a key role in the renaissance of downtown Durham. We are grateful for his service and wish him well in his new pursuits.

Continue reading "Carolina Theatre's Nocek resigns, effective immediately" »