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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.

Now Duke workers are speaking: I've been a non-tenure track faculty since 2009 but I do not feel like I can invest in Durham because of the instability. By forming a union, we will have collective power to speak with the administration like the lack of a career track and a lack of jobs. Also a lack of diversity among faculty. Duke needs more inclusive hiring. (Says only 2.6 percent of faculty or Latino; I missed the exact African-American % but it was low.)

Christopher Shreve: 16 years in Durham. Instructor in biology. In the midst of Durham renaissance, though Duke has been hiring fewer tenure track faculty and hiring more contingent faculty. When I came to Durham, I paid $515 a month in rent. After a decade, I still pay more than my 40% of income in rent. Stagnant wages have made me unable to set down roots here because of the uncertainty of year to year contracts. The idea of a union may be foreign to many North Carolinians. Higher education is undergoing a major sea change; Duke is caught up in that rip current.  ... Your resolution today gives us hope that we can be heard.

MJ Sharpe: Teaches at Center for Documentary Studies, photography. Started teaching at Duke for a flat rate with no benefits. Adjuncts used to be academics paying their dues before tenure track. Now adjuncts are a permanent underclass. It's a particularly vulnerable position. My colleague had to buy COBRA health insurance because he was on a nine-month contract.

I want a union so that instructors can contribution to the vitality of their fields and inspire their students, to raise the entire university, to create a vibrant community.

Bell: I'd like to thank Jillian and the speakers. I appreciate the changes Jillian made to the resolution. I've also made some just this morning after talking with Jillian. I'm not lecturing, but simply stating a viewpoint on resolutions. City unions are legal in NC, and we have them in Durham but government is prohibited from bargaining with employees. I don't think Duke is under a legal prohibition to collectively bargain. I support unions and the right of employees to collectively bargain.

As individual council persons our privileges and actions may take on added consequences. When we as a council come together and adopt a resolution, it's the statement of the City Council, not the individuals. Resolutions should be supported by fact and not hearsay or innuendo. Especially over an institution over which we have no control.

In this case, we're lending our moral support to an issue. It's not clear to me who this resolution is directed to, assuming it's adopted.

Bell going line by line, discussing attribution and sourcing for certain points: Duke non-tenure faculty not having access to health care benefits, not having meaningful raises. Many non-tenure faculty can't lay down roots because of their job status. We need to cite the source for that. This becomes the council resolution so we need to stand by what we say. So these are the edits I would add to the resolution to be presented.

Cora Cole-McFadden: I'm not familiar with tenure track versus non-tenure track. Because resolution is so different — I would have called Phail Wynn (works for Duke as a vp of governmental relations) to be here. I'm concerned we didn't inform the university that we were discussing that today.

Bell: Dr. Wynn sent us a letter at the last meeting. The resolution, if passed could be sent to him. Or it could just be out there. Again, I'm not questioning the union, but that the Council is taking a position, and we need to be on more solid ground.

Steve Schewel: It would be great if we had a resolution everyone could support. I don't think the timing is such that we can't wait until the next work session to take this up. Is there anybody here that can tell me if that's a problem?

Someone from crowd: No.

Schewel: The language most important to me is the very last paragraph, and you didn't change that at all, Mr. Mayor, so you and Jillian and I are on the same page on that.

Cole-McFadden: I agree with Steve. If we can work toward a unanimous vote. 

Bell: If it's adopted, whether it's unanimous or not, it's the position of the Council. But a unanimous vote is better than not on this.

Don Moffitt: I'm getting a clearer picture of the people we're talking about. It seems like it's pretty quantifiable.

Schewel: The bargaining unit includes non-tenure track faculty Trinity College, doc studies and the graduate school, but not the law school, Sanford or engineering. I'm not in this unit, so I have no conflict.

Charlie Reece: Thanks to Jillian for bringing this to council again. We received a draft of the resolution 11 days ago with the intention it would come up today.

Bell: I missed it that it would be brought up today.

Reece: Councilwoman Johnson did (act in good faith). I understand Mr. Mayor your desire for citing a source, although there have been other resolutions that didn't have sources. That said, t agree to vote for the resolution as it is now, but I also support waiting.  

Moffitt: It's true what Councilman Reece said, such as the resolution on immigration. We have a lot of relations with Duke. As much funds as we put into economic development the progress we've made to date are as much Duke's decision as ours. Which means it's incumbent upon us to be as (accurate) as possible.

Eddie Davis: I do support the right of the unit to bargain collectively and form a union. This is an economic justice issue. We fight as a council for economic justice, like a livable wage, and that applies to those working at Duke University. I'd like to be able to support those workers. I hope we can get to a resolution that we agree on.

Johnson: I'm fine with delaying until the next work session. My only concern is watering down the resolution until it has no meaning. Either we support the right to unionize or we don't. I don't think any of these statements are particularly controversial. I'm asking the council to say we believe these statements are true and that faculty at Duke have the right to unionize.

Bell: I would be fine writing a letter: we endorse the right of Duke faculty to improve their working conditions and form a union. All the whereas leads up to that point.

[This will be on the work session in three weeks.]

2:13 p.m. There's some perfunctory appointments happening now. We're taking a break until the next major agenda item.

2:31 p.m. Discussing a supplemental item of creating a Durham Sports Commission. This would be funded via hotel/motel tax. Goal would be to enhance sports in Durham, more facilities, tournaments, etc.

Google Fiber huts in city parks being discussed now. Moffitt: How are the huts getting landscaped?

City staff: We asked for a more rigorous landscaping. They've agreed to use a faux brick facade and a pitched roof, black nylon fencing, complying with the UDO, so it doesn't look like a box.

2:43: Discussion of Upper Neuse River Basin Association. Six counties and seven cities are members. Roxboro is not a member to protect Falls Lake. (Some of this is really wonky, so it will require a follow up story; there is some controversy over whether Durham needs its own watershed commission and the motivations of UNRBA members who want to change some of the environmental rules regarding the lake.)

Stormwater department: Monitoring program began in 2014. UNRBA is looking at existing environmental rules, concerned about cost and whether they are achievable. We want to know what's happening in the lake, what's going in the lake, understanding what's coming out of each jurisdiction.

Need to best address algae growing in the lake and problems with Raleigh's intake. Most of the monitoring is done by the state once a month. We visit our stations every week. This is not a natural lake, but a dammed river. We filled it with water, tree stumps, leaves, all kinds of vegetation in there that died and is releasing nutrients. There was no consideration for what's coming out of the bottom of the lake. How much of the nutrients are coming from the sediment?

Determining how the algae is affecting the lake and its uses. Checking the modeling, spending money to do so. Each of the roads that crosses the lake, I-85, NC 98, NC 50, water moves through the channel beneath very quickly. We call them constrictions. That was another issue regarding the rules, how much of nutrients coming from upstream make it to Raleigh's intake downstream?

Funding level is $978,000 —$800,000 of it for monitoring.  We'll be monitoring two more years. Doing modeling and then the regulatory options, what the rules should be, and the end goal of less algae and protecting Raleigh's water supply.

Cole-McFadden: You're doing a great job, protecting us from the other entities who want to blame Durham for everything.

2:56 p.m. We're now onto the Durham Police Department headquarters presentation from General Services, the police department and architects. Gina of General Services says city received a letter from Durham Area Designers about the project.

Kevin Montgomery of O'Brien Atkins Architects: He's catching up the new Council members on the history of the project. Principles are activating Main and Ramseur streets. What is going to do to the urban fabric of the neighborhood? Connectivity along Main Street, provide pedestrian-friendly area, a safe and secure building that is not a fortress.

. The building was originally 162,000 square feet. We decided to locate the building on the Main Street side and took a position that the entry should be toward downtown, on the western end, near Elizabeth and Main streets. Council approved this site plan; this is where we left things in September. 

We also looked at the budget and had to make some adjustments, we took the building down to 125,800 square feet, which brought the budget down (although still over the original estimates.) Location is the same, opportunity for future development is still there. Size of footprint of building, and instead of four or five stories, the building will now be three stories.

Since September we've met 40 times with various stakeholders, plus internal meetings. Guiding principals didn't change. Certain aspects underscored: Building should have appropriate security, but we've worked hard not to have a fortress. Building should have openness and the number of surface parking spots; we reduced that number.

We had to reexamine the budget in December-January. We have two options for exterior of building. Construction should be complete in summer of 2018. 

New information: We've preserved more of the area for future development. What does this smaller building footprint mean for the inside layout? Horizontally and vertically.  Atrium at Elizabeth and Main becomes a main entry, a grand space for the public. These schematics are general, but details (individual offices, etc.) won't be released for security reasons. 

First floor: Recruitment, personnel, District 5, records, supply. Secured entry elsewhere for law enforcement.
Second floor: Forensics, investigations, day-to-day operations
Third floor: Administration and training/support 
Fourth floor: IT and 9-1-1

Corridors along the front of the building on Main Street rather than offices. How do we clad the building? What does the public see? We look locally and districtwide within downtown itself for inspiration. Then we come up with ideas. Today we're submitting two options: solid material and the glazing. Metal and glass, proportions. Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 1.17.15 PM


Council will weigh color palates, materials and siding. How to treat the landscape elements, and the placement of those. Series of planters and low walls. The building is set back 35 from Main Street, which gives us a buffer, and the public has more room to move in front of the building. Budget-wise, A and B are comparable in cost.

Bell: Which has the lowest maintenance cost? Do office have windows? Do they depend on light from the corridors?

Montgomery: The light will come deeper into the building rather than just along the edge.

Davis: I think I like A. It seems like it would fit into the neighborhood a little bit better.

Johnson: I also have a preference for A, personal and the Durham Area Designers group. I appreciate their feedback. I like it.

Schewel: I appreciate the presentation. You've done a great job in moving us in the right direction. I like A. My judgment on things is not great, but I'm glad Eddie and Jillian like it. Also the land around the old station is important issue to discuss.

Cole-McFadden: A. I'm hoping before construction costs triple we can move this project forward. Every delay costs money.

Reece: I think they both look great, but I'll defer to the others, especially DAD. 

Moffitt: I'm glad you got rid of the bollards. (These are those waist-high posts that look like chess pieces. You see them a lot downtown.) I support the viewpoint of the development team and DAD. Scheme A is a more attractive approach.

Bell: Everybody's on A.

Gina: LEED Silver is the goal. 

It's now 3:34. Architects are moving forward with Scheme A.

Meeting adjourned.



Hey, look, a shiny new RTP office building on Main St. Yay! Fits right in with the County's HHS monolith.

Both scheme A and scheme B for the new policy HQ are as dreadfully boring as we all feared. How will this building help revitalize the neighborhood again? I'm supposed to get excited about an additional nugget of land for "private development" and a few less parking spaces because the square footage got smaller? Why did the square footage get smaller? Was the first estimate on space needs wrong? Or is DPD going to grow out of this building as soon as it is completed and not only will we have to live with our mistake to demolish prior buildings and replace them with the very definition of architectural banality, but the building won't function as intended?

Yes, this still makes me angry.


Another question no one thought to ask: If the square footage is reduced, would that make room for saving the Carpenter Building?

Lisa, maybe just a typo during the "live blog" but first they said they reduced the DPD HQ to 3 stories, but later they said IT and 9-1-1 will be on the 4th floor. Does that mean the roof? Seems like the IT guys will probably be cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and holding umbrellas over the servers every time it rains ... ;-)

Lisa Sorg

Typo alert! Thanks, Chris. Yes, the building will be four stories, not three. As for the Carpenter, it's kaput because it would be too expensive to upfit. Last fall when Council decided not to save the Carpenter, no private entity had made an offer on the building.


"B" looks better.

Jeff Bakalchuck

We have a word for what both buildings look like, it's call ugly. Both designs are just your typical nondescript office building. They look like the corporate HQ of some mid-sized insurance company. It certainly will never be confused with an inspiring public work.

Of course, Durham is at least consistent. We just spent a lot of money on City Hall and it looks , umm what's the word I'm looking for, ummm don't tell me, ummm Ugly. Yeah that's word Ugly.

It certainly doesn't look inviting.

Imagine something styled like Tupelo's new Police HQ:


Jeff, maybe I could agree with the first part of your statement (though I don't think "B" is that bad). However, the Tupelo design you link to doesn't seem like anything to aspire to. That looks like it should have a Kohl's Department store anchoring the center of it.


The brick Tupelo design at least connects visually with the brick of the Presbyterian church just down the street and evokes the tobacco warehouses of downtown & American Tobacco. The other 2 evoke the hideous monstrosity of the human services building--a big, hulking off putting soon to be dated building.


The Tupelo style is way uglier than Design 2. Tupelo looks like all the "upper scale" strip malls in southern Durham. If you go brick (which I like), use an architect that designs his/her own stuff, not a cookie cutter catalog model.

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