Let's fight for what our communities deserve!
The overarching priority the next term of county commissioners will face inequity in the economic development of Durham. If I am fortunate enough to be elected County Commissioner I will work to address this issue by segmenting it into my top three priorities are fighting for safe & healthy communities, removing barriers and building bridges to inclusive communities, and holding myself and other elected officials accountable.
We know our communities are safe & healthy when everyone has access to a high-quality education and safe and reliable housing. We know there are barriers in place that limit the access for our most marginalized community members to job and entrepreneurship opportunities, healthcare, and more. We must fight for a Durham where the government truly reflects the will of the people. There is possibly no greater responsibility from our elected officials than honesty and transparency. We do this by providing clear and transparent evaluations of county services and programs, increasing the opportunities for feedback and collaboration through more community forums and citizen workgroups.
As a County Commissioner, I would pursue fully universal pre-K. We know that a quality preschool education has a significant impact on addressing a child’s ability to maintain grade-level learning with their peers through the third grade. We must increase funding for pre-K programs and work towards a truly universal system that provides all Durham residents equitable opportunities to a high-quality education. Durham has the technology, personnel, and resources to help all of Durham’s children succeed. The resources have to be distributed and utilized in a more equitable way, and the county government must incentivize teaching positions at its schools by providing affordable housing and competitive pay for teachers. My vision to strengthen our public schools further is creating universal access to preschool; ensuring student access to technology-- including internet access-- outside of schools; creating partnerships to provide internships and apprenticeships with the many startups, universities, health-related and technological companies in the area-- especially for underrepresented populations; expanding access to convenient public transportation.
The county offers an array of services, however, those services aren’t available to our most marginalized community members. For members of our community who do not have convenient access to our bus system, finding reliable transportation to and from our downtown Durham County Human Services Building while also making it to work on time -- often for less than a living wage job, securing childcare, filling out cumbersome paperwork, and navigating a rigid bureaucracy are too many barriers to access for our residents to access social services.
We also need to drastically increase our access to language interpretation services across all our Durham county departments. Through the community school model, I will support providing access to ESL classes to our interested residents, as well as ensure that all of our public schools have an adequate number of counselors and behavior interventionists. A 2017 report by the Youth Justice Project found that NC schools are severely lacking in mental health support staff in schools. While the national standard ratio of social workers in schools is 1 for every 250 students, NC schools average just one social worker for 1,536 students. In order to have the greatest impact on mental health outcomes, the county should prioritize filling the gap left by inadequate state funding for mental health services in our public schools.
As mentioned previously the greatest priority for our county is economic inequity. The inequities contribute to almost all aspects of an individual’s life from birth, including but not limited to, the education achievement gap, access to housing, and wage disparities. As County Commissioner, I would utilize the current tools at our disposal to address said inequities. For example, we know that a quality preschool education has a significant impact on addressing a child’s ability to maintain grade-level learning with their peers through the third grade. We must increase funding for PreK programs and work towards a truly universal system that provides all Durham residents equitable opportunities to a high-quality education. We know that the housing affordability crisis in Durham is also tied to decades of stagnant wages. The commission must ensure part-time DPS employees are paid a minimum of $15 an hour. This provides immediate relief for these community members and their families while also setting a standard around our shared values as a community. While $15 isn’t a living wage in Durham, we need to reach this standard and work on initiatives to achieve a living wage, $23, for our workers as well as work to relieve the cost of living in Durham.
We must recognize that environmental problems disproportionately impact people of color more than whites. Our challenge will be in achieving equitable quality of life across race, class, and gender while working to achieve carbon neutrality. Part of a just transition requires bringing economic equity to the poor by increasing avenues to employment to those living in poverty. Generally, the careers that have the smallest impact on the environment are those that our community needs most: caretakers, nurses, and teachers. These professions also tend to be filled more often by women.
We need not concentrate poverty through our public housing policy but rather set a high standard for how dynamic mixed-income/use housing across the county can be. Residential housing accounts for almost ⅓ of carbon emissions in America. When we invest in mixed-income housing-- with a substantial amount set aside for public housing, we should be intentional about locating new dense development in bustling corridors and making those communities as walkable as possible. We need to invest more in public transportation and provide more frequent bus stops, particularly to areas that are dependent on public transport. When we build this infrastructure, from new housing to parks and bus stops, our government contracts must include those communities that have been negatively impacted by gentrification and before that urban renewal over the past 60 years.
Believing in Durham, Building in Durham, Being Bold For Durham
I think the top 3 priorities for Durham County Commission will face will be building and repairing our aging schools, building a more inclusive economic development ecosystem that includes job training and local recruitment and restoring confidence in public safety and public health.
Since my first debate, I have been vocal about the need for additional funding for capital improvements. Since day one of this campaign both in print questionnaires and in public speeches I have been requesting a plan for the almost $730,000,000 needed to get our schools back on track. I have met with parents, teachers, school board members, the superintendent, numerous principals and vice principals to get an accurate assessment of the most needed repairs. I know about the leaking roofs, 20 year old trailers, peeling paint and old ventilation systems. Capital outlays have remained stagnant for over a decade in Durham County. I have been telling my supporters to imagine that they were painting their own homes. I ask them to think of painting a child's bedroom in 2009 and then deciding to paint that same room again in 2019, but with the same amount of money. One would not be able to buy the same amount of buckets of paint. So instead of painting an entire room, they would be reduced to spot painting. That's what Durham public schools has been reduced too. Spot Painting. I want all of DPS's students to be able to learn, work and play in a safe, healthy and aesthetically pleasing environment. I am a proponent of funding the most needed $470,000,000 over the next 10 years as has been requested. I want to see our new high schools and elementary schools built. I am hopeful that the funding is approved and moved forward in its entirety.
I do think that there somethings that we could do better.
1) As a county we need to improve our mental health and wellness capabilities. Right now our county is in a transition to develop a mental health strategy and plan. We currently outsource a lot of these services. I think the fact that we lack many of these capabilities to treat, asses and train our workers is what leads to individuals both in the school system and the criminal justice system from being diagnosed correctly.
2) I would love to see infant mortality not just studied but really strategically looked at as an issue in Durham. For 3 straight budget cycles the county has produced documentation stating the widening gap and disparity between black women and white women when it comes to infant mortality, yet no plan has been put in place to aid this issue.
3) I want to see more financial literacy courses delivered through social services. Financial social work is a great field of study that illustrates the strengths that different races and ethnic groups have when it comes to budgeting and saving. I hope we can play to these strengths. I think a course in financial social work or training is need for employees and recipients.
Conversations about recruiting that workforce often lack significant details as to the methodology that will be utilized to get said workforce hired. Our community uses taxes incentives from Durham’s tax base and Job Development Matching Grants. Those funds often come with strings attached. One example is the use of a formula that accounts for the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs. State payments only occur following performance verification by the Departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met its incremental job creation and investment targets. JDIG projects result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company. If we are going to make the companies adhere to a job creation timetable then why not also negotiate a job recruitment rate for our county. They do so in other counties. I know like most candidate that there are thousands of jobs that go unfilled every day. When Corning moved to Durham they received tax incentives and promised over 300 jobs. After 2 years, Durham citizens only make up 17% of Cornings employees. The same can be said for many of our counties newest employees. Manufacturing firms are great for all of Durham. They have jobs open in almost all levels of education and often train their employees in formal setting before they begin work.
I want to look at how we can begin to enter more of our farmers and landowners into conservation plans. I also propose opening a USDA office once a week in the County Administration building. We currently share an office with Orange County. There are programs that our residents would be more than willing to take advantage of if we had access to information about them.
I also want to look at applying for more grants to provide more electric buses. While they cost more on the front end, they are less costly to repair and are great in reducing emissions.
My top three priorities are health, education, and economic security with a focus on improving racial equity and environmental sustainability.
My top three priorities are health, education, and economic security with a focus on improving racial equity and sustainability. First, to build a culture of health for all in Durham, I am devoted to:
• Aggressive carbon-reduction policies and changes that make Durham greener
• Safe, affordable housing in neighborhoods free from drugs and violence
• Access to nutritious food from local farms and distributors
• Strong public health and social services that connect people with the resources they need
• Sustainable growth that protects our natural resources and watersheds
• Pedestrian- and bike-friendly trails and open spaces for physical activity and recreation
Second, to guarantee outstanding educational opportunities, I will fight for:
• A fully funded DPS budget for school operations, maintenance, and school construction
• Expanded access to universal, high-quality Durham Pre-K
• Delicious, nutritious food in our schools that 20,000 children depend on each day
• Prevention of adverse childhood experiences and trauma for families
Third, to promote a vibrant economy with opportunities for everyone, I will work hard for:
• Economic development that creates well-paying jobs and benefits our residents and communities
• Work-force development that aligns our residents’ skills with jobs coming to Durham
• Transit options that serve the needs of all and connect people to jobs, schools and services
• Increased County contracting with local and minority businesses
The Board of Education identifies and prioritizes what the schools need to serve all children well, and the primary role of the County Commission regarding improving public schools is to provide local funding to cover as much of the school board's budget request as possible. If re-elected I will continue to support a local salary supplement for teachers in order to remain competitive with surrounding counties and to recruit the best teachers to Durham. I will also support the continued expansion of high quality pre-K in Durham so that our children will arrive at kindergarten ready to learn. Additionally, I support increased capital funding for our schools to address much needed maintenance and the construction of new schools. We are partnering with Durham Public Schools to fund community schools coordinators in 4 pilot schools, and I strongly support this program and its continued funding. Other important school investments I support include: school nurses, guidance counselors, and social workers; $15 per hour for all staff; school-based mental health services; healthy school meals; and more.
Durham County’s Department of Social Services does excellent and critical work to support the well-being of our residents. We continue to be challenged at the local level by decreases in state and federal funding for crucial services. A major challenge we face is the dramatic increase in the numbers of children who need foster care, in part due to the opioid epidemic, and we are strengthening our outreach and support for foster parents to meet the need. As the federal government changes income level and work requirements for supplemental nutrition assistance, we must do all we can at the local level to meet the actual need in our community. A third area of concern is services for those who are experiencing homelessness. The County should increase its support for the Eviction Diversion Program, emergency rental assistance, and access to legal counsel. We also should continue the work to streamline entry into the system that assesses need and connects individuals to the homeless services they require, such as emergency shelter, transitional housing, or permanent supportive housing.
Durham is experiencing economic prosperity, but we need to ensure that the benefits of our vibrant economy bypass no one. To promote a strong economy with opportunities for everyone, I will work hard for:
•Economic development that creates well-paying jobs and benefits our residents and communities. Durham attracted over 2000 jobs with wages above the Durham median. We must do all we can to help our residents get these good jobs, many of which do not require an advanced degree.
•Work-force development that aligns our residents’ skills with jobs coming to Durham. We must support the development of clear curriculum and skills training pathways to align with the knowledge and skills needed for the jobs we are recruiting here.
•Strong local funding for our public schools so children graduate prepared for college or a post-secondary credential.
•Strong support for Career and Technical Education, career exposure, work-based learning opportunities, and internships for students.
•Transit options and more frequent, reliable bus service that serves the needs of all and connects people to jobs, schools and services.
•Increased County contracting with local and minority businesses
We cannot maintain a just and equitable community in Durham without directly confronting the urgent climate crisis. This is a progressive priority because climate change and pollution have disproportionate negative impacts on our most vulnerable neighbors.
Durham must shift to renewable energy and restore our local environment to help protect residents from the effects of increased heat, flooding and tropical storms. And we can do so in a way that provides economic opportunities.
I was the first local elected official to sign onto the Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal pledge to support Green New Deal federal legislation, and I pushed for our 2018 resolution to shift to renewable energy. But we need to take more significant action to fulfill those pledges. That action should include investing in community solar energy, including Solar Schools initiative; energy efficiency retrofits for our public housing communities and low-income home-owners; and increased investment in public transit and enabling transit-oriented development so that more residents can use buses, bikes and scooters. More trails, tree-lined streets and restored wetlands can bolster resiliency to a changing climate while also providing areas for outdoor recreation. And we should have local apprenticeship programs so these retrofits and construction projects provide jobs to graduates.
I led Durham to be the first NC County to prohibit using tax dollars to purchase single-use plastic water bottles.
I am "The People's Commissioner," recognized for my years of passionate public service at local, state, & national levels. I listen to the community.
CRIME - There are too many random shootings in our community. Oftentimes, culprits are those who come from impoverished communities and they have few skills that afford them the opportunities to gain meaningful employment. Crime prevention funding is a function of Federal grants and local property taxes.
JOB DEVELOPMENT - Every day in Durham, there are 21,000 high-tech jobs in the Research Triangle, Treyyburn Park and throughout Durham. Every day in Durham, we have over 6,000 people looking for work. They seem to go unfilled by our people. Given the abundance of jobs that exist, the key is to give poor people the skills to obtain a job.
CLOSE THE EDUCATION GAP - Society will only advance if we educate our people. Working with our General Assembly to adequately fund our public schools and pay teachers, stop funding private, parochial, and charter schools that deprive our public schools. Stop the practice of unfair and uneven discipline in schools as well as work harder to identify students of color who are gifted.
I am supportive of public education, our teachers, classified personnel, and our students. I believe the County should do everything it can to provide the best for our students.
The GOP-led NC General Assembly has shirked its responsibility for adequately funding public schools ever since they took the majority in 2010. According to the Public School Forum of North Carolina’s 2019 Local Finance Study, (they have been doing this study for 30 years).
“Cuts to the state budget during the Great Recession, however, have yet to be restored to pre-recession spending levels, leaving districts across the state struggling to meet their students’ needs. This, coupled with increasing costs for education stemming from population growth and a changing economy, has forced local districts to take on a larger share of instructional expenses, exacerbating inequalities in educational opportunities between those with the least and the greatest need.”
Moreover, the recent WestEd Leandro Report, “Sound Basic Education for All,” states:
“State funding for education has not kept pace with this growth, and the state does not currently provide adequate resources to ensure that all students have the opportunity to meet higher standards and bEcome college and career ready.” Pp. 35.
I serve on the Durham Board of Health and believe we have the best department in the state. Our staff works hard. We have had the same director for over 10 years, an employee of the Health Department for over 40 years. The mission of "Working with our Community to Prevent Disease, Promote Health, and Protect the Environment" is what they do. I am very proud of the staff.
I have served as the President of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC). This association advocates for county government before the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of state government. I am also the owner of The Howerton Consulting, Inc., a small business that specializes in organizational development and executive coaching for public and private industries.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/JOB SKILLS - Every day throughout Durham, there are 21,000 high-tech jobs. Every day in Durham, we have over 6,000 people looking for work. They seem to go unfilled. This is why we need to work with Durham Tech to create opportunities for job skills.
EVERYONE WANTS A GREAT EDUCATION - Society will only advance if we educate our people, adequately fund our public schools to provide a great education to all children, and properly pay teachers.
INFRASTRUCTURE - We need to provide business with the tools they need to succeed. That includes roads and dependable public transit options.
The most important environmental issues that I will continue to deal with are environmental justice, climate change, healthcare, housing affordability, and the inequity laced throughout. In my view, these issues are interconnected, and we can see that playing out right now in Durham with the public housing crisis.
Durham County has a Sustainability Plan, which we work to not compromise the ability of future generations. I will support our renewable energy plan. I will also continue to promote a healthy environment that is rich in resources, clean air, water, and soil, that is just for all.
I am running for re-election to continue the transformative county work I am leading as Chair, for an equitable, just, and sustainable Durham.
My top 3 priorities address Durham’s 24% child poverty rate, and root causes of poverty and systemic inequities so everyone can thrive, support themselves and their family and experience health and well being. My #1 priority is to continue strong county investments in our children and education. I have supported more than $10 million in funding for our Durham PreK Program and will continue to champion this program so that all our children can begin kindergarten ready to learn and on a pathway to life long success. My #2 priority is to keep strengthening our Education to Jobs- Cradle to Career Pipeline. In my role as Chair, I strongly support more than 2,000 new good paying jobs, $1 billion worth of investment in our tax base, and a scholarship available to every high school student to attend Durham Tech for two years. Every student, youth and adult must be prepared for and connected to the great jobs we have in Durham. I am working for a transit system that will provide equitable access for everyone to education, affordable homes and self sustaining jobs. My #3 Priority is Health and Well-Being for All. I will continue to support investments in programs and services to address root causes of community and domestic violence, provide mental and physical health care and treat substance misuse. I will continue to prioritize ways to divert our youth and adults from our criminal justice system, support re-entering residents and connect families to resources they need to thrive.
As a County Commissioner I strongly support our local schools through my budget decisions. I prioritize funding for our schools and children. More than one third of the county budget is allocated for education. As Chair, I promote a positive working relationship with our board and the Board of Education. We are developing an integrated Capital Improvement Plan so we can fund the back log of repairs, renovations and new schools. I support increased salaries for our underpaid teachers and school staff and approved $3 million this year for this purpose. I support Community Schools to promote learning, empower and engage parents, teachers and students, identify needs and bring in additional resources. I am championing plans for a Central Kitchen to make sure all students have access to nutritious food to support their learning. I advocate for universal pre-K education, increased funding for special need, bilingual, immigrant and refugee children and restorative justice approaches to school discipline to address racial disparities in academic achievement. I support the more than $6 million in DPS requested funding for school nurses and SRO’s. I continue to support our teachers leading the fight for adequate state funding for public education. As Chair, I advocate with adopted resolutions and policies and lobby at the state and national level. All our children deserve to learn in safe, adequate and healthy school facilities with great, well paid teachers in every classroom.
I am Vice Chair of our Social Services Board. We have an awesome DSS Department of more than 500 dedicated employees who are impacted by inadequate state and federal funding as they work hard to serve more than 100,000 people in our community each month. I advocate for local funding to fill critical gaps. 1)I am confronting our soaring foster care population of more than 300 children by supporting county early childhood investments and programs that integrate Trauma Informed approaches, ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) screening and promotion of Resilience by connecting mothers, children and families to the resources they need. 2) I am leading the call to create Durham County’s first Aging Plan so that we can meet the urgent needs of our growing senior population. This plan will help us find a solution for our wait list of more than 400 people waiting for Meals On Wheels or hundreds needing assistance with in home health care as we must make sure our seniors can age in place. 3) I am addressing homelessness and our housing crisis by supporting the new Coming Home program that provides Permanent Supportive Housing for returning residents. I support Medicaid Expansion so that 30,000 Durham residents can get the mental and physical health care that they need. I support the more than $400,000 in county funding for Entry Point Coordinated Intake and emergency funding, both components of the joint City County Eviction Diversion Program.
A talented work force is the key to a thriving economy. I support strong investments in our early childhood education system, public schools, youth internships and apprenticeships, Durham Technical Community College and beyond to create a seamless Cradle to Career, Education to Jobs Pipeline. Existing businesses expand and new businesses locate here because of our skilled and educated workforce in cluster areas like Bio Pharma, Contract Research and Advanced Manufacturing. In the past 2 years, I supported the creation of more than 2,000 new good paying jobs and the growth of businesses resulting in more than $1 billion of investment in our tax base to help fund our schools and county services. I support the revision in process of our Economic Incentives Policy that prioritizes Community Benefits and a stronger relationship between employers and our educational system. I support an effective transit system to connect employees to employers, reduce congestion and traffic, and promote sustainable growth that will protect our natural environment, address climate change and preserve an attractive quality of life necessary for a thriving economy. I support county actions/policies to promote equity and shared prosperity like our MWBE contract and purchasing program 25% participation goal, $15 minimum Living Wage, 12 week paid Family Leave, $3 million Compensation Study investment to raise up lower paid staff salaries, and 300 unit mixed use Affordable Housing projects underway.
Environmental sustainability and resiliency must be integrated into everything we do in County Government. There are real costs and impacts to county services and programs, our economy, and the health and well being of residents associated with Climate Change. I am a leader of the NC Solar Schools Initiative that will help reduce the energy costs of our schools, provide more funding for classroom needs and support renewable energy usage. I strongly approved Durham County’s adopted Renewable Energy Resolution. I will support implementation of the plan in progress to achieve our goal of 80% renewable energy usage by 2040 and 100% by 2050. Our adopted Greenhouse Gas Plan is currently being updated and I support it being fully implemented. I approved our newly adopted policy banning the purchase of plastic water bottles with public funds- the first county in North Carolina to do so! As Chair of our transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization, GoTriangle Board member, TJCOG Smart Growth Co-Chair and Vice Chair of our Joint City County Planning Committee, I am advocating for an integrated transit and land use system that will help us reduce sprawl and congestion, make better use of our natural resources and protect farmland, green spaces, water and air quality. I am a strong voice pushing for county policies and programs to reduce parking decks and dependence on cars, by promoting bus passes, van pools, working from home and TDM (Transportation Demand Management) practice.