Fluet for Durham
Ward 2 Candidate for City Council

The Issues

Where Fluet Stands

City Finances, Capital Improvements, Transportation, and City Services

City Finances, Capital Improvements, Transportation, and City Services

If the city needs more revenue for a basic public service, do you, in general, favor a new or increased user fee or a property tax increase?  Residential trash pickup is an example of a basic service.

Imagine trash piling up in the streets. Imagine that it’s a warm July day, and the humidity is making the air feel wet. Now you’re walking downtown or maybe towards the ball park or maybe down Alston Avenue. Imagine that trash is piling up because people are refusing to pay an additional fee. Let’s consider where people may have a harder time paying that fee. Any potential fee for a basic service is going to affect citizens who have a lower income in a far harsher way than one with a higher income.

I grew up in a town where we paid for trash disposal by the bag. When instituted, the backlash was unsettling. A basic service was taken away from the citizens, and some of the  citizens revolted. My family had to be extremely careful with our trash budget. Some residents couldn’t afford the cost per bag this led to people dumping trash on public land, keeping trash on their property, and ultimately a failing situation.  

When in doubt, if a basic Durham public service needs more operating revenue, I would push for a property tax increase. A property tax increase spreads the cost more equitably across the community, as opposed to a fee that is dumped without regard to affordability.

 

Do you support or oppose Durham's plans for rail-based transit? If federal funding for the project is denied, what must Durham do about transportation, urban planning, housing, taxes, and infrastructure?

I absolutely support the plans for a light-rail, as well as a commuter rail, however we do need Federal Funding or Private Funding to complete the project. I believe that those two lines will enable our city to become a stronger hub between Chapel Hill and Raleigh. If federal funding is denied, the tax burden may be too high for our city and collaborating communities to provide. We need to balance the needs of today, the needs of the future, as well as the costs placed on our citizens and future generations. The benefits of connecting a light rail are numerous. Cost effective mass transportation allows people from all walks of life to have transportation to employment, education, healthcare and community in an eco-friendly way.

If the federal money does not come through, we must go back to the drawing board, and re-imagine our plan. Our city has begun it’s urban planning, zoning, and transportation plans with a light rail at the center of the plans. If the federal money does not come through we must huddle back up. Our citizens will still need mass transit. That may mean self funding a light rail or that could mean that we expand our bus transportation plans. We must have a plan in place for transportation, planning and housing to best position Durham as a desirable city to live and work in, as well as one that does not fiscally handcuff our community. We must balance responsible spending and the need for growth.

 

Has the city’s investment in bus transportation reached the population which needs it most?  What else can be done to improve bus transportation access and affordability?  

As of today, no. If the Durham County Bus and Rail Plan come to fruition, we’d have a much better solution for our citizens. Today though, there are people who have challenges getting to work, getting to doctor’s appointments, and are unable to take care of their basic human needs. We need to study where the heaviest ridership is, and where we could find increased ridership if there was access available. We must ensure that the busses and bus stops  are not only handicap accessible, but handicap friendly. We need to continually review ridership patterns, ridership traffic, and how to evolve as the city evolves, we can not create a five year plan and blindly follow it. Our population has grown 15% since 2010. We must review this plan annually with that ridership data and ensure that all of our residents can access work, school, education, healthcare and all basic human needs.

 

Would you support a property tax relief program, for example, a circuit breaker, to reduce the tax burden on homeowners with limited resources and help them stay in their homes?  If your answer is yes, please describe the program or programs you would support.  If your answer is no, please explain. 

My grandfather was taken from us by cancer and widowed my grandmother. The cost of his cancer treatment had left them with extremely little savings and had eaten into their retirement. About a year after my grandfather passed my grandmother came to my parents and shared that she was having trouble paying her property taxes. My grandmother was disabled, was recently widowed and had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now the city was threatening to push her out of her home. With a quiver in her voice, she asked for help.

That experience opened my eyes. People must have assistance from time to time, and we must ensure that our residents can stay in their homes. I would absolutely propose expanding the existing programs that the city provides for the elderly, disabled, and qualifying veterans to additional unites.  Families that live under the poverty line, or have a life changing event (death of a primary breadwinner, medical expenses, loss of employment due to conditions outside of their control) must be protected and assisted and are be allowed to stay in their homes. It is crucial that all of our citizens do not fear the government taking their homes due to situations outside their control.

The Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit has provided a wonderful proposal to the Deferred Loan Tax Relief Program that helps those people in need. Currently, the program only serves the disabled and elderly. Their proposal removes startup fees, expands the program to low income homeowners that have had their taxes skyrocket due to the gentrification of their neighborhoods. This expands the Circuit Breaker Tax Relief program to all homeowners based on their income. I’d like to thank the Coalition for the tireless work, and let them know, passing and implementing a plan based on these proposals will be one of my priorities in office. Groups such as the Coalition are exactly who I will lean on for progressive ideas to assist our Durham community. 


 

 

Robert Fluet