Welcome to the newest edition of By The Horns, a newsletter covering the Durham City Council. This series is intended to help guide those attempting to understand the mechanics of Durham city government, stay informed on issues throughout Durham, and learn the tools necessary to be a more engaged citizen.
Records Are Meant To Be Broken
Remember last meeting?
I’d like to start by giving thanks to City Council for making Monday’s meeting one of the shortest I’ve ever been a part of. We were in and out in under two hours!
Well, why be good when you can be great? Monday’s meeting came in at approximately one hour, toppling the previous record. Mayor O'Neal and Mayor Pro Tempore Middleton were absented from the meeting so Councilperson Johnson presided. She has experience in this role as she was appointed Mayor Pro Tempore from 2017 to 2021 under former mayor Steve Schewel.
Call to Order
A Brief Summary of the Meeting
- The virtue for the month of December is Gratefulness.
- Council member Caballero offered her support to the residents of Moore County where over 45,000 people were left without power after two substations were attacked in what some consider an act of domestic terrorism.
- 321 Coffee, a Raleigh-based coffee shop that employs folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities, recently opened its second location in the Durham Innovation District. Council member Williams, a small business owner in his own right, made a point to highlight 321 Coffee and the important work they do to further equitability and inclusion in our workforce.
- The council received an update from Aidil Ortiz on behalf of We Are The Ones, a mutual aid program originally proposed by former council member Pierce Freelon during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program supports communities of color and low-income communities who are facing what Freelon called “the double pandemic of violence and COVID-19.” We Are The Ones is seeking renewed funds from the city through their fiscal sponsor, Triangle Community Foundation. The conversation between Ortiz and members of council took up the bulk of the meeting.
See You Next Year
The remaining agenda items, two consolidated annexation requests and two street closures, took a whopping 22 minutes. A true Christmas miracle. Both annexation items were “continued” or postponed until a future council meeting. Developers ask for a continuance, or are recommend to consider one, for a number of reasons like not enough public engagement or a change in financial circumstances. In the case of Monday’s meeting, representatives for both annexation items (Hi, Nil) requested more time to consider the “100-Year Storm” plan and whether they can commit to the plan for the proposed projects. (It’s a shame that Mr. Ghosh wasted quite the dapper outfit on one of the more uneventful meetings).
More communities will need to put substantial action plans in place for flooding, extreme heat, and other climate-related disasters as these occurrences continue to increase. Folks in the more rural areas of Durham are already faced with a rapidly-shifting landscape due to development, but even in the urban core, things like giant surface parking lots can cause significant health concerns. The need for environmental protections across the city should be a high priority for our planning department and private developers as Durham’s built environment evolves.
During the first meeting I covered back in August, Mayor O’Neal said that council would be taking a “deep dive” into housing and the mechanics for building an equitable city. Since then, council has hosted a number of sessions on affordable housing and the different factors that influence how things get built.
This YouTube playlist includes five videos, four of which are no more than an hour. I’m a 1.25x playback speed person myself, so they don’t last longer than an episode of Peaky Blinders. If you’re looking to take a break from Netflix over the holidays, I’d recommend grabbing some popcorn, plopping down in front of the fireplace with the rest of your family and queuing up one of these work sessions. Really gets you into the holiday spirit!
By The Horns Season Finale
Sincerely, thank you to everyone who has supported By The Horns in all the myriad of ways since I started publishing this newsletter. The amount of encouragement and grace I’ve received has been so empowering. I’m also grateful to the folks who have challenged me; challenged my opinions, challenged my publishing style, or just challenged me to keep digging. That feedback is vital to producing work that is valuable and worthwhile. Thank you!
December 19 is the final council meeting of the year. As I mentioned in the last edition of By The Horns, the show will go on in 2023. Be sure to subscribe and share this newsletter with your local politics-curious friends.
If you haven’t yet attended a city council meeting, or if it’s been a long time, you still have a chance to try again and get yourself off the naughty list by joining us in chamber on the 19th. Being in person, even for one meeting, will undoubtedly change your perspective on the local government process and how important it is that we all stay engaged.
For folks who want to socialize beforehand, join me and other civically-engaged members of your community at Queeny’s in downtown Durham from 5:30pm - 6:30pm before walking over to City Hall together in time for the meeting. You’ll want to get a front-row seat for this one. I know Mayor Pro Tempore Middleton is reading this so that’s all I can say for now…
Find out next time on another edition of By The Horns!