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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.

1:30 p.m. Don Moffitt: The Human Relations Commission hammered out a statement [about the immigration case of Wilden Acosta]. I want to affirm that advisory boards and commissions can make public statements that belong in their wheelhouse, and represents their views, doesn't purport to represent opinion of city, doesn't require city staff, and is relevant to the work of their commission. [Moffitt is the council liaison to the HRC.]

Mayor Bill Bell: Would you, as the liaison, bring this resolution before Council?

Moffitt: Some of our boards put out statements without Council input; some don't feel comfortable.

Reece: I want to suspend the rules to take up both resolutions, the HRC's and Don's.

Bell: Don's original resolution support the boards' and commissions' right to issue public statements: a vote.

[It passed unanimously.]

Moffitt is now reading the HRC resolution for consideration. Paraphrase: Urging that these young people be given prosecutorial discretion and not be separated from their families. Asking Durham youth to be freed from detention, and acknowledging that Durham [undocumented] youth are afraid and don't want to attend school.

Cole-McFadden: This resolution should go to Congressman Butterfield or Price.

Moffitt: I agree.

Bell: I suggest that we endorse the statement passed by Human Relations Commission. 

[Passed unanimously]

HRC can now take the Council's endorsement to local congressional representatives, or whatever course of action it chooses.

Council is now reviewing/reading the agenda. Stand by.

Eddie Davis: Discussing the way city elections are conducted in Durham; somewhere between Chapel Hill and Raleigh model. [This is because of cumbersome primaries, general elections, school board elections, etc., that aren't well-aligned with one another. It costs money.]


Jobs task force update:

Durham County Commissioner Wendy Jacobs is presenting. She is a co-chair of the task force, along with Jillian Johnson and Diane Catotti.
Barriers to employment: young adult engagement, use of Holton Career Center, child care, transportation, criminal record, communication

Census tract 10.01 had an unemployment rate of ~15.6%, compared to ~5% for the City of Durham.

GoTriangle and GoDurham is working on communicating via flyers about how to commute via bus.

Holton update: Each DPR member can help people use computer lab. Community jobs board and NC Works handbook created to provide current job listings and info. A new brochure created to distribute during quarterly community walks.

Fitness center, open gym and computer lab is  free to city residents. Additional programs will be free starting March 1. 

We're monitoring computer lab participation and report monthly numbers to NC Works. Creating more programs that impact the community.

Esther Coleman from the Office of Economic Workforce Development: Holton is a satellite NC Works Career Center. 68 residents were assisted with center orientations and searches via the JobLink Mobile Unit on South Driver.

10 ex-offenders were placed in employment with an average wage of $8.83 an hour.

Cole-McFadden: What kinds of jobs are these?

Coleman: Most of them are transitional jobs. The participants may have lower skill sets, and this is what they jobs pay. We want to get people moving up, that's how you eliminate poverty in the long run.

Former District Court Judge Craig Brown who is on the criminal justice task force is speaking, preparing to show a public service announcement about second chances. Brittany Broughton works at the Scrap Exchange, which employs ex-offenders. So does CT Wilson Construction. N.C. law protects businesses that hire ex-offenders, also subsidies are available.

Next steps: More communication to employers about their protection from civil liability, also certificates of relief and possible record expungement for some ex-offenders. 

2:15 p.m. Stand by, one more agenda item before the affordable housing portion.

3:30 p.m. Triangle, a paving/grading contractor with the city, is speaking about how ICE apprehended 71 of their workers and deported them (timeline is unclear). The company had to pay a fine and settlement, but, a representative is saying, "We hated to get rid of them. They were good family members all of them. They were some of our best people. I’m still in touch with a lot of them. We watched them have families and babies."

This is the same company under which two people died in a work-related accident, trapped in a hole, five years ago. The representative: "One of those men had been with us a long time. The man had signed off on a confined safety meeting two weeks before his death. I don't know why he went into that hole. It was the day that changed the very culture of Triangle." They've since set up a safety committee.

Charlie Reece, who previously criticized Triangle for its safety issue five years ago, says his comments then were unfair. "I intend to support the contract with the city."

 Council is taking a two-minute break and then it will take up the downtown Durham rental subsidy program. Finally.

3:49 p.m. It's show time. Reginald Johnson, director of Community Development Department is speaking. Rental subsidy program was added to the Enterprise contact last year to evaluate its viability. The larger report will come before council within a month.


Karen Lado: Analyzed demographic population. Citywide there are 16,500 households in Durham that earn 51-80% of area median income. Most of these households are one to two people, which is good when we think about the downtown market. 1 in 3 African-American has children. 1 in 9 white. 

Sixty-two percent of low income households rent, most of these low-income households are younger people.

16% vacancy rate in residences downtown, concentrated in only two downtown properties, Whetstone and Moore in West Village (vacancies of 40%). Downtown is one of the most expensive submarkets in Durham. Fair market rent is the largest amount HUD allows to pay through Section 8 = $597 for an efficiency, citywide average monthly rent is $828; downtown apartment buildings (50+ units) = $1,005.

We are proposing a residency requirement of five years in Durham and focus on a specific population, such as teachers or people who work downtown. General expectation the tenants in this program would pay no more than 30% of their gross income on rent. There could be a utility allowance depending on what's included in the rent. 

There would be a time limit of two years in the program. Need to be a written agreement between city and property in terms of inspections, ensuring the tenant is up to date on rent.

Payment standard is the crux of the program. Tenant pays 30%  the city picks up the difference between that amount and the payment standard. These standards would be 1. Fair Market Rent 2. Average downtown rent. 3. Lowest downtown rent. 4. Average citywide rent for properties of more than 50 units.

[I suggest downloading the above attachment, because visual aids are necessary.]

Payment standard is important: It gets the best deal for the city and it gets landlords to participate. Vacancy rates last March were over 30%; now they are 16%, and concentrated in two areas, not spread out.

Karen is talking about how the process would work, page 16 of the above downloadable file. The city would issue the tenant a voucher that's valid for 30 days, and the tenant goes to find an acceptable unit. The tenant returns to the city to get approval for the unit. The lease is executed. The landlord is required to report on a regular basis to ensure the tenant is paying his/her share of the rent. The city doesn't want to pay its share to the landlord if the tenant stops doing so. There can be renewal for one year.

Payment standard affects how much the city would pay for 50 households, depending on the reimbursement. Probably $277,000 to $403,000 for 50 households, based on average/lowest rent in downtown area.

Probably would require a half-time person on city staff to manage the program with occasional pitch-in from others.

Other strategies for affordable housing downtown:

  1. Similar to rental subsidy program, but in this case, city can exercise more market control by issuing an RFP to sublease x number of units. Give us your best price. This could get the city a better price and a longer-term. In an ideal world you would not be the landlord. But you would need the tenants ready to go when the RFP is executed or the city would be on the hook for the money.
  2. Develop on city-owned land, with a market component in any affordable unit project.
  3. Long-term downtown will be unaffordable to people below median income (~$52,000 a year). Can we create permanently affordable units to people? 
  4. Much bigger idea: The city and the county, religious institutions, nonprofits, there's a lot of potentially publicly controlled land downtown, especially east of Roxboro. If the city led such an initiative, it would be a way to get to an inclusive downtown, long-term.

Steve Schewel: Can you legally give precedence to teachers, first responders?

Lado: Yes, you can, but not gender or age.

Schewel: Where is downtown?

Lado: Downtown design district. It picks up 605 but not 9th street. It was really interesting to see what happened in the vacancy numbers since March. 605 was half-empty. Now 100% full. There's a cycle, you build, then you overbuild and rents go down. I don't know when that will happen. Near-term the demand is being absorbed.

Schewel: The Moore in West Village and Whetstone are where most of the vacancies are.

Lado: The average vacancy rate went from 30 to 16. Back in March, significantly high vacancy rates throughout the buildings. Now the self-reported data is 97-100% everywhere but Whetstone and Moore.

Schewel: What's the incentive for Whetstone or the Moore to use this program if they can already rent their apartments for market rate. 

Lado: It depends on how they view the downtown market with a stream of new units coming on. And how many of these tenants will they retain in the next rent cycle. For a rental subsidy program to work, there needs to be some amount of vacancy more than the general turnover. Because otherwise we see what's happening in the Section 8 program, where people just don't play.

Does the city award it to the first 50 people who win the lottery? Or does the city spread it around? The city could also say "there is a subgroup that is so important to have downtown that we don't want to put a time limit on their leases."

Schewel: I see the problem.

Lado: Do you subsidize the temporarily poor? Those who do something for a year or two? The residency requirement mitigates against students. Either you provide it long-term or the risk of not providing it?

Schewel: We've had the problem with Southside (the bungalows) where they are not diverse (24/25 of homeowners white).

Lado: People who want to live downtown don't want kids or don't anticipating having them for a couple of years. How does that look across racial and ethnic groups? If we look strictly at household size currently and at age, we're confident there's enough across all groups to cull from.

Overall 41% of people in this income range are African-American and a third of those have children under 18.  [Would they want to live downtown?] White households are less likely to have children. Suggests that white households would be more attracted to this program. 

Eddie Davis: i have concerns that there is a diversity of income in these downtown rentals. But people get in a position that they have to be identified. Will there be a tiered system? Will they be placed in the least desirable places in the building? Will others know who they are? [Kind of like the "poor doors" in NYC apartment buildings.] People in this program will have identifying features that could make them seem like second-class citizens in that apartment building. 

Lado: The one- or two-year limit — contingent on whether funding is available, comes with the territory. The individual can stay in the building after the subsidy period but they'd have to pay the rent. Transition from the city program to a regular tenant then they could absolutely stay. Would they be steered to less desirable units? That's a legitimate question. In inclusionary zoning, affordable units have to have the same finishes, but the apartments may be on a first floor or have less desirable views. 

The question of would there be a perception, would they be second-class citizens: The units are any different. Question would be how building management interacts with them. 

The population we're targeting has housing choices, maybe not downtown. We're not subsidizing people who would otherwise be on the streets. You're providing a benefit to residents who are adequately housed and potentially not cost burdened to live in a place they otherwise could not afford. It's not a human need in that these folks can find housing. 

 Don Moffitt: I like the residency requirement, but I'd add maybe as an alternative working for the city for two years. We could say the same thing for teachers. Shows you're not a student and that you have a commitment to the community.

Lado: You'd want to dive into the employment numbers into those agencies and make sure there are enough people to live downtown.

[We're now moving to body cameras.]

Deputy Anthony Marsh discussing contract for body cameras. Received 8 proposals to the RFP. VieVuu was chosen. Officers' input weighed very heavily. We were looking for a camera that fit with the program not just the camera itself.

Download 10926_MEMO_PURCHASE_BODY_WORN_CAMERA_383485_676474

Here's the body camera policy, the latest draft: Download 10926_OTHER_DRAFT_BODY_CAMERA_POLICY_383486_676476 

This incorporated public and officers' feedback.

Marsh: Ten agencies in NC use the VieVuu cameras. We reached out to all of them, and the departments that responded very positive. I asked for other departments' policies, and we're reviewing some. We're not there yet, but we're close. We also received letters from ACLU and the NAACP.

Reece: Regarding the contract, have you done any additional work in trying to identify the annual costs for deploying and maintaining these body cameras? Respond to public requests, etc.?

Marsh: To partially answer your question, it's in the contract. If there's any redaction that happens with the video, $85 an hour is the quote I got. It takes about four hours to redact one hour of video. We have two people who do just A/V with the in=car camera, they will also handle request for the district attorney. The full cost to get it started is just over $500,000. 

Reece: What about the additional costs once it's implemented? The incremental costs. Or will we not know until we get into the program?

Marsh: That could be the case. I could go back and trying to figure.

Tom Bonfield: Redacting could be the biggest staff expense driver. 

Marsh: We have $12K in mobile uploads and $15K in storage costs, ongoing. We're thinking of outsourcing the redaction. WE don't know how many requests or how many we have to respond to. The cost right now would be speculative.

Reece: ACLU says asset forfeitures pay for some of these cameras.

Marsh: Yes, about half.

Reece: how are these asset forfeitures used?

Larry Smith: IT's a federal program. That money is distributing back to agencies where there is money seized, both local and federal. 

Reece: Are there guidelines on what we can spend that money on?

Smith: Yes, equipment, training, canines, private lab, body armor. It's a long list. We present what we need it for, we send it up to to the manager for approval.  In 2014-2015, we got $172K, 2012-13, $591K in asset forfeiture funds.

Cole-McFadden: How long will it take for the cameras to arrive?

Marsh: Once we place the order, 7-14 days, and then vendor provides three days of onsite training.

 Reece: The video will be onsite storage. Can you talk about cloud-based or other offsite storage?

Marsh: It's cost prohibitive. That's an ongoing cost. When you use cloud storage, every time you have to produce a copy, sometimes that's an additional charge. $840,000 every year it could cost for cloud storage for a department that's comparable in size to us.

Reece: It's vitally important that the general order for the body camera policy that appropriately reflects the community values. If it does not, I will not support the contract. In broad strokes, it's my opinion the reason the people of Durham have expressed an interest in having body cameras, is to ensure accountability. That purpose is frustrated and the deployment of this technology is inadvisable unless there is a presumption within the general order that if video depicts use of force--that the release of video is justified by a compelling public interest.

Reece: I'm open to redaction strategies to obscure identity of juveniles, that sort of thing. But without that, the cost not only financial but in the cost to the community of the surveillance state, is not worth the benefit. It's critically important if the chief can release video to a third-party, we need to be able to know when the requests can be made. And if the chief hasn't acted on it within a certain amount of time, she should report to the City Council why.

The way the order is drafted now the video depicting use of force would be part of the personnel file. We would need to discuss that in closed session before discussing openly.

Johnson: You had changed the language for written consent, we appreciate that was included. Will plainclothes be wearing cameras?

Marsh: Every officer will be assigned one. A plainclothes officer won't be required to wear one daily. Uniformed officers will have to. And during training. The way the policy is drafted, the camera has to be worn between the collar and the belt. To that point, we recommend that the officers inform people when feasible. I wouldn't want to draft a hard fast line, because an officer might have to make a very quick action/decision, and did everything right but didn't inform.

Johnson: My concern is transparency and the disciplinary procedure.

Marsh: That directive is codified in Rule 1.1 (the disciplinary procedure). We already have that in another document. It's well-established within the organization.





I usually heckle Lisa, but this is a very effective/efficient way to keep up with city council (as well as specific actions of individual council members). This piece is appreciated.


Agreed! Thanks for pulling the long hours today!


So I'll lob this one out there -

Why is Durham City Council getting involved in a union drive of a private employer when the City does not currently guarantee a living wage to all employees, does not have a formal way for employees of the City to demand more/better wages (I know, they can't bargain collectively, but that doesn't mean the City can't advocate for a collective voice), does not offer contracts - all employment is at will, etc. Wouldn't they be better to lead by example in this?


I especially appreciate this coverage of council/BOCC meetings as we're cable free now and can't watch on local cable channel. Could the city switch to UStream or something for online viewing?

Damian Smith

Live stream can be found here. They also archive the audio.

Rob G

The city is in fact living wage certified, and has been since at least 2004 (the BoCC adopted a living wage in 2004 and I know for a fact the city had a policy before that). Even further, the city had an ordinance saying all contractors with the city must pay a living wage to every employee, up until state law made that illegal in 2013.

The City of Durham is actually THE leader on living wages among North Carolina municipalities. Every employee of the CoD will be paid a minimum of $12.53 an hour in FY15-16. The living wage is defined by the City of Durham as the federal poverty line for a household of 4, plus 7%. I know there's lots of ways to define what a living wage is, but the CoD does a pretty damn good job.


Today on the webpage of DurhamNC.Gov
[DPR Summer/Seasonal] Bus Driver Parks and Recreation Seasonal without benefits (Less than 1000 hours) $9.60 - $10.80 Hourly

The majority of the parks and recs positions - those that require minimal skills or training, are part time and can provide re-entry to the workforce - are not in fact living wage positions.


A few thoughts to ponder:

1) If Duke has to pay adjuncts more and they lose the ability to hire and fire at will (both making labor markets less elastic) won’t they simply hire fewer adjuncts? What if this causes the university to use more teaching assistants instead (as many unionized schools do)?

2) If waiters, carpenters, entrepreneurs and corporate employees (etc.) do not have job security, why do part-time lecturers deserve it?

3) Why single out Duke? If union advocates want to be fair, why aren’t they endorsing unionization for all schools and local businesses (such as Self Help, and the Durham Co-op)? Can anyone morally justify the dichotomy?

P.S. This summaries of city/county meetings really are a nice read.

Rob G

Yep, seasonal positions are exempt from the living wage ordinance. They're also seasonal, so the employees aren't really going to learn that much in their 75 days of employment. I don't think they're designed to be transitional employment.



1) I'd be delighted if Duke hired fewer adjuncts. They do not currently have the structure to hire teaching assistants on any significant scale, for the very simple reason that Duke parents tend to be pretty engaged with their kids' educations, and are very very unlikely to accept lower qualifications for teachers for their $250,000 investment.

2) They all deserve job security. Having said that, telling people that after studying for 22 or more years (add it up), often having invested unbelievably huge amounts of money in their education, that they don't deserve a measure of job security is really a bit much.

3) Have you talked to any union organizers, ever? They advocate exactly what you're asking for. The entire argument is that a highly unionized labor force is exactly what is needed to move the economy forward. Your argument here is pure straw man nonsense -- there is no dichotomy. What is there is political reality -- you can't unionize everything at once. Having said that, many of the very same people involved in the union drive at Duke are pushing hard for much of the same at the Co-op and elsewhere, each with a strategy that might actually work (shared governance at the Co-op, etc.).

I'm really sick of the 'what about these people' argument. Yes, there are many bad things in the world. Just because you can't solve all of them at once doesn't mean that moving toward better conditions in some of them isn't worthwhile.

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