Government and the Public Good
I was lucky enough to receive some amazing questions from the PA PAC. I've decided to share my answers with the voters in 5 parts.
Of all the issues confronting city government, which single issue is most important to you and why? What would you do about it if elected?
A City should not be judged by the number of millionaires dwelling in the city limits, but by how the cities weakest and most vulnerable are treated.
Durham is booming. It’s the beginning of a Golden Age. Businesses are flocking in in droves. Developers are changing the skyline. While all of this momentum is exciting, it is not a “Golden” situation for all. This city has inequity at every turn. We must ensure, for this city to fulfill its potential, that every resident is valued, is cared for, and is thought of in every decision made. Durham must be a City for All.
Our city has a person shot every other day. We have children that go to bed hungry. We have hardworking people who are unable to make ends meet. Lifelong residents are being pushed out of their homes due to skyrocketing housing costs. This is not the definition of a “City for All”. We must ensure that as we grow, we do not allow growth to push our residents out.
I’m here to bring those challenges Durhamites face daily to the forefront. To help find out how their challenges impact them, their families, and our community as a whole. I want to help paint a vision of a Durham for All with ALL of our Citizens, regardless of age, gender, affiliation, color, creed, who they love, what they worship, handicaps or the number of dollars in their pocket. I want to use that Vision to create solutions WITH the citizens of Durham.
As the father of two young daughters. who have made Durham HOME. I want to make this a city one where my children, and every child that calls Durham home, one they can be proud of, and feel that they belong. Very simply there is not just one challenge facing Durham, but I promise to our voters I want to help make this a City for All.
What can the city do to lift the wages of the lowest paid workers in Durham and reduce growing income inequality in our community? Where in our community do you see opportunities for city government to address the racial wealth gap?
I grew up in a family as the eldest of four children. Calling us a blue collar family would have been generous. My father is a high school graduate, he did not finish his college education, but he is the hardest working man I’ve ever met. When we were young there were times that he would be working 2 or 3 jobs at a time to make ends meet. There were weeks at a time that the few times I would see him were times he was asleep, exhausted from double or triple shifts. My mother stayed at home with us until my youngest sister entered kindergarten, because pre-school or day care was a pipe dream on their income.
The ability to provide for a family is becoming harder every day for people in this community. As we have more businesses enter our city, there seem to be fewer and fewer opportunities for those who do not have a college degree. The costs that come with growth of a city, rising rents and rising housing costs, are even less achievable at a minimum wage of $7.25.
While the State mandates the minimum wage, there are absolutely ways to assist our citizens with this wage gap. Our City has the ability to be a leader on wage gap reform through a three fold experimental system I would propose:
1. Provide a temporary Tax incentive to companies that pay a living wage to their employees. Granted, the tax incentive will not be enough to make up the difference between minimum wage and a living wage, but the incentive is our first step toward shrinking the gap. These incentives can be funded through additional property tax income created through new developments as well as providing those businesses tax breaks.
2. The city must team up with groups such as WorkNC and Durham tech to create programs within our community to ensure that our residents are educated and hold marketable skills to ensure that the livable wage is money well spent by the employers. We must also continue to ensure that there is Public Transportation to ensure that those who need this training can ACCESS it.
3. After study and implementation of such a plan, we have to bring it to the state house to show data and facts supporting that this type of Living Wage improves life for the employees, for the employers, and for the community.
A temporary incentive for a living wage is one step to address the racial wealth gap, for this plan to work we also must ensure that there is ADEQUATE and RELIABLE transportation for the people of Durham to access the jobs as well as jobs training.
If the City of Durham can create an ecosystem of livable wage jobs, with well trained potential employees that benefit employers, we can lift up the lives of those who are working their fingers to the bones, and their families as well, to create a stronger Durham and a City for All.
Describe your interest in and commitment to public amenities such as playing fields, open space, street trees, traffic calming, and walking and biking facilities. Are you willing to raise property taxes to provide for and maintain these amenities? Are public amenities allocated to neighborhoods of different wealth and income levels equitably? Please explain and cite examples.
Amenities are what separates a collection of houses, in to a community. Our city has some beautiful parks, but not nearly enough for our growing population. The desire of the people of Durham would seem to include more parks, more open space, and more bike paths; however we must also review the costs and ensure that when property taxes are raised, they are still affordable.
As a Coach with the Durham Parks and Recreation Department, I’ve seen first-hand the lack of amenities offered within our City. The DPR does an amazing job with the limited budget they receive. In order to be competitive in attracting new homeowners to the city, the city must be competitive with our neighbors.
Durham is absolutely off to the right start for example, my wife and I love playing tennis in Bethesda park, and my daughter and her friends love the Valley Spring Soccer Fields, we must continue this progress, and make it progress for all. My family lives close to the Bethesda neighborhood. We’re very lucky to have the wonderful amenities so close by. There are many Durhamites that don’t have those amenities. Our lower income residents lack the same quality and quantity of parks that some of those in a different income level enjoy. When you compare the city funded amenities around McDougald Terrace and those around the Bethesda neighborhood there is no comparison.
So while I can personally attest how much my family and I enjoy the public amenities of Durham, we also must review what the residents of Durham want. In the 2016 Durham Resident survey (our most recent data analysis of resident sentiment) 28% of residents stated that Recreation, Pedestrian facilities including Greenways and Bicycle Facilities should be a top 3 funding priority for the city. If we include the somewhat similar group of Traffic Calming, an additional 21% of Durhamites believe these amenities are a priority.
I am a pragmatic data geek who thinks with his brain, but listens to his heart.,We must always weigh the desire and sentiment of the residents versus the costs that may come with additional expenditures. I promise when on the subject of property tax hikes, I will review Resident Sentiment before raising taxes.
We can not tax our citizens into an un-affordable burden. We must measure the costs and the benefits before making any decision regarding property taxes. While green spaces and facilities can help attract new residents, high taxes can just as easily deter new residents from buying locally.
I would strive to find affordable and worthwhile opportunities for improving public amenities that would improve the quality of our city without creating an unruly tax burden in the process. If necessary, to satiate the desires of the community (as we will see in the 2017 survey) I would absolutely consider a measured property tax increase to fund public amenities, as long as we can balance the distribution to those of all income areas.
How should the city measure the benefits and costs of incentives to promote development especially as those benefits and costs affect low-income residents of Durham? How would you use these measurements when deciding to vote for or against a proposed incentive?
When making any decision I will always look back to this quote. “A City should not be judged by the number of millionaires dwelling in the city limits, but by how the cities weakest, and most vulnerable are treated.”
I believe that a cost benefit analysis of incentives is extremely important in all aspects of development. As a pragmatic thinker with a heart, I have to say I’m going to hold to my creedance of- is this vote going to result in making Durham a City for All.
We must remember that one of the beautiful things about Durham is that this city an eclectic mix of people and cultures. We need to ensure that this part of the fabric of Durham is not torn from the painting. Any time we have a potential for development in the city, elected officials must make sure they are making the right choice for all of Durham. As a City Councilor, I promise that any decision I make that would affect low-income residents would have off-setting language creating benefits for not just the low income residents, but all residents.
What actions should the city take to expand job creation and job quality? In your answer, please comment on the city’s potential involvement in entrepreneurship, worker-owned cooperatives, and union organizing.
I had the great privilege to work under Duke Alumni Jesse Lipson at ShareFile. Jesse built the ShareFile platform in his kitchen, bootstrapped his software company starting with just himself, and finally scaled his company to about 100 employees before ShareFile was acquired by Citrix. Since then ShareFile has become one of Citrix’ most successful business units. The small start-up grew into a behemoth and led to the revitalization of the Warehouse District in Downtown Raleigh. That’s a Entrepreneur. That is the type of company I want to drive to Durham.
Durham Co-Op market was created by a group of like minded individuals who saw a need and had a vision. They built it. They brought jobs and a much needed grocery store to their neighborhood. That’s forward thinking. Those are the type of community minded individuals whose business I want to support.
My Grandfather was a member of the Plumber’s Union in Massachusetts. They worked hard to protect their members from unsafe conditions, they helped them with continuing education, and helped negotiate a fair wage. Unions should be the voice of the individual they represent. Those are the type of Unions I want to see rallying their members in Durham.
Those are all success stories. If elected, I would want to hear and build success stories like those from Durhamites. As I have stated previously with my living wage proposal, I believe in being forward looking community. I would reach out to potential employers and discuss with them the benefits of bringing their business to the City of Durham. Entrepreneurs, Cooperatives, and Unions should be brought to the table and given every incentive possible in order to bring in quality jobs that increase our tax rolls and offer a fair wage for our Residents. Efforts should include tax incentives for Minority owned businesses, incentives for start-ups, and a seat at the table for large and small corporations alike.