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Durham People's Alliance chooses Schewel, Reece, Johnson

A record turnout—190 ardent politicos—showed up at last night's PA endorsements meeting, and after an intense two-plus hour discussion, but only one ballot round, the PAC's co-coordinator, Tom Miller, announced the chosen ones for City Council: Steve Schewel, Charlie Reece and Jillian Johnson.

Not surprisingly, the PAC endorsed incumbent Mayor Bill Bell, who is running for his final, 267th term. (OK, that's an exaggeration, but it's early.)

In their Council selections, the PA broke from the endorsements pack (yes, a terrible pun, but again, it's early). Both the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and Friends of Durham endorsed Schewel, Ricky Hart and Mike Shiflett.

Reece and Johnson are part of the new guard, candidates who have not risen through the political ranks in the traditional way. Although Reece has served in the state Democratic Party, neither he nor Johnson has been anointed in city politics through appointments to the planning commission or elections to the school board. 

In her work as a community organizer, Johnson's support comes from a grassroots, street-level constituency. As I wrote earlier this week, it is similar to the bloc that buoyed Sendolo Diaminah's school board campaign, one in which he defeated a well-funded conservative, Jimmy Doster. (Where is Jimmy these days? Paging Jimmy.)

In Durham politics, money isn't everything. It's not even the only thing. Ask Thomas Stith, the last major challenger to Bell. (You'll find Stith working in Gov. McCrory's office, because that's where he landed.)

With this in mind, the importance of this year's City Council election cannot be overstated. Two veteran incumbents, Eugene Brown and Diane Catotti, are not seeking re-election to their at-large seats, taking with them years of institutional memory. None of the newcomers yet knows the misery of revamping the UDO—but rest assured, they'll get their turn—or of deciding, in each budget season, the winners  and the losers.

At this point in Durham's economic, social and cultural history, there's considerable anxiety over how current city leaders will plot the course of the next 50 years. We are still living with the decisions of our political ancestors, Exhibit A being the destruction of Hayti and Exhibit B being the Downtown Loop. Today's decisions on affordable housing, for example, will resonate long after many of us have moved away, or yes, have died.

For all the current promise, and the mayor's ambitious, laudable poverty reduction initiative, there is still an enormous class divide. This chasm excludes the working class from rooftop hotel bars, from luxury condos and from the venture capital flowing into American Underground. (Although admittedly, some of those start-ups are in a stage known as "pre-revenue.")

And how will the new Council interact with Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez? Violent crime continues to rise. There have been a half-dozen shootings over the past week, with at last count, 14 people injured and at least two of them killed.

These, and other troubling aspects of Durham, are a reflection of a larger, systemic failure, not only in policing but also in education, health care and neighborhood cohesion. (I'm looking at you, gentrification.) 

Whoever wins in November will need to be prepared to lead in a way that accounts for the well-being of everyone, not just today, but in 2065.



Erik Landfried

I agree that this is a very important election and am ecstatic that there are several great candidates to choose from. That has not always been the case.

Most of all, I hope that folks get to know the candidates as best they can and VOTE!

Carol H.

Interesting article re: gentrification from NPR. It isn't always a bad thing for the existing community.


I am thrilled to see the PA endorse such great candidates. I am especially glad Jillian Johnson received the endorsement she is the type of bold leader Durham needs!

Phil Marsosudiro

" isn't everything. It's not even the only thing." :-)

"Whoever wins in November will need to be prepared to lead in a way that accounts for the well-being of everyone, not just today, but in 2065.", when Bill Bell will be running for his 398th term.

Khalid Hawthorne

One of my issues with the Anti-Poverty Initiative is that it is inherently focused on making poverty more comfortable not providing a pathway to the middle class. We should be focused on creating more middle class opportunities for medium- (we do a pretty good job of this) and low-skilled jobs. Maybe Opportunity Initiative would have been a better title...maybe not but it matters.

I will say this we need leaders who believe that all healthy (physically and mentally) can achieve their goals through work and effort. Leaders who have the vision to see what the future opportunities will be. The manufacturing jobs from IBM, Nortel and Mitsubishi are not coming back anytime soon. At the same time, we need to support CREE's local manufacturing as much as possible and encourage others to follow in that cluster while continuing to partner with Orange County on an economic development areas between 85 and 40.

I don't hear any talk like this when people talk about inequality. The best way to combat inequality is through JOBS.'s hard work. Part of that is to encourage business both large and small. (Successful small businesses become large businesses.) There is no reason that Durham should not be the center of Sustainable Capitalism (B-Corps). Companies that take a longer-term view on business while minimizing harm.

Leadership needs to get behind operations such as Bull City Forward and Investor's Circle (Impact Investing) businesses such as Burt's Bees, CREE, and others...promote the Duke Sustainability Center and partnerships with UNC's center.

You can have 8000 training programs but they are worthless without jobs that are sustained by a growing market. Forget minimum wage service jobs...let's get back to making things again.

Where are the leaders talking about THESE types of initiatives???

Bull City Rising

@Khalid: FWIW, I'm working on a post on exactly this subject, look for it in the next couple of days. I tend to agree, we are heavily focused on the symptoms/challenges of inequity, and we should be, but there needs to be an equal focus on middle class jobs.

Khalid Hawthorne

In the late 90's, when Durham 1-2% "reported" unemployment it was different from today's 4-5% "reported" unemployment. That reported number does not include the long-term unemployed who have dropped out; under-employed who are working jobs below their education/ skill level and those who are attempting to make their own way as independent consultants/ contractors.

Back in the 90's it was hard for minimum/ low-wage companies to find workers. I want to go back to those days! LOL

I look forward to your take everything!

Phil Ippic

"Sendolo Diaminah . . . defeated a well-funded conservative, Jimmy Doster. (Where is Jimmy these days? Paging Jimmy.)" Where is Sendolo these days? Paging Sendolo . . .


yeah, I wish I could remember where I saw the figures on the number of officers who lived outside the city, isn't that the proper way to be absent?

Dick Ford

Unless you expect officers to be on duty 24/7, why are you interested in where they live?? Do officers want to be in neighborhoods where they know all the malefactors??

Officers show up for work. Apparently Mr. Diaminah has an issue that prevents him from showing up. I hope all is well with him, but his absences do not help our community. We do not have an outlet other than his reelection but I hope he will think carefully about his commitment to DPS.

If you can't be present when the School Board votes on long term bond issues?????? I can only imagine what the PA would say if one of the Board Members not under their control was AWOL.

Why would you conflate polices residences with School Board absenteeism??



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