There were about, by a generous accounting, perhaps 10-12 residents for every pro journalist in the City Council chambers for tonight's State of the City address by Mayor Bell. (Then again, when you've got all the major media turning out for an event, why show up?) Still, those present got a useful lens into what the Mayor has in mind for the coming year in local politics and governance.
Bell kicked off his seventh-annual address by noting a list of accomplishments in this past year: the success of public-private partnerships like the topping-off of the Durham Performing Arts Center, the completion of the downtown streetscape and the ensuing Durham Rising celebration; and the groundbreaking for the Durham Transportation Center. Bell also noted the agreement with NCDOT and West Village to move the city's Amtrak station to its new home.
The mayor also singled out the $150 million West Village Phase II renovations, coupled
with a $4 million streetscape investment. At the same time, Bell
praised the approval of the funding for the DAP renovations and the
arrival of Minor League Baseball, along with the ongoing work at American Tobacco.
But, as Bell noted at the end of the address, as tempting as it would be to talk about only the signs of Durham's "upswing," "that's not Durham, and that's not me." Durham faces challenges, the mayor noted, but the city can overcome them. Bell focused on three topics of attention for the City this year: crime and public safety, the drought, and inner-city revitalization.
Crime and Public Safety: Though he addressed this topic last, this marked perhaps the most newsworthy part of Bell's address. The mayor made a clearer, more strident call for reductions in crime than one has recently heard from hizzoner, including notably a number of admonitions towards Durham's judicial system -- an element that, strictly speaking, falls outside the city's jurisdiction.