Local Politics

Durham mayoral race offers choice of stability or change

Posted November 1, 2011

— Bull City voters will have a choice of staying the course or pushing for change when they vote for mayor on Nov. 8.

Mayor Bill Bell, who is seeking a sixth two-year term, is almost synonymous with Durham. He served as chairman of the county Board of Commissioners before becoming mayor in 2001.

"I provide stability for this area. I provide leadership. I have experience," Bell said.

Rev. Sylvester Williams, pastor of Assembly at Durham Christian Center, said Durham needs to move in a new direction to confront crime and moral issues.

"The people I've talked to in the city of Durham realize there needs to be a change," Williams said.

His plans call for dipping into the city's financial reserves to hire more police officers and to raise the pay levels in the police department.

"(We need) to address it head on, rather than giving talk or just giving words," he said. "(We need to be) actually saying things and doing things that will make a difference.”

Williams said he wants to be a moral force for Durham, citing a recent City Council vote supporting same-sex marriage. The vote sent a message to local gang leaders and others that the city isn't serious about crime, he said.

"They say, 'How can you say you support these things, which (we) consider to be immoral, then tell us what we are doing is wrong?'" he said. "I think there is a moral issue that is also involved in this crime issue we have in Durham.”

Durham mayoral candidates Minister faces Bell in race for Durham mayor

Reducing crime has to be a community effort, not just a police action, Bell said, noting he wants to focus on improving Durham's quality of life, including economic opportunities for residents.

"I think we’ve done a good job in Durham, putting Durham on the right track," he said. "We've done a good job (revitalizing) downtown, but I've said over and over again (that) strong neighborhoods make a strong city."

The city needs to focus on neighborhoods like Northeast Central Durham, Southwest Central Durham and the Southside and Rolling Hills area, he said.

"We can't go out and print money, but we certainly can provide the type of environment that can make those that have money invest in Durham, and we try to do that," he said.

Two tax issues also will be on the Durham ballot.

Bell supports a quarter-cent local sales tax for education and a local tax for regional transit projects, saying both "provide businesses a reason to stay here and ... a reason to come here." Williams opposes both, saying local residents can't afford higher taxes amid a struggling economy.


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  • mmtlash Nov 2, 2011

    really.... I can't imagine a preacher/reverend/pastor running the city... does he have any political experience?

  • allsmileshere Nov 2, 2011

    how about safety issues................!

  • thewayitis Nov 2, 2011

    I'm so glad I moved away from Durham. Just in time, too, before they raise taxes. Durham voters never met a tax increase or spending plan they didn't like. Tax and spend, tax and spend. Education doesn't need more money -- it needs more involved parents. And that wouldn't cost the taxpayers a cent.

  • Nancy Nov 1, 2011

    Stability? You mean no progress on the issues the city continually faces.

  • alphabaker Nov 1, 2011

    dont forget too that Mayor Bell has done a great job of making Durham a sanctuary city too!

  • tgentry1005 Nov 1, 2011

    Mr. Bell, Why do you support a rail system that most people will have to drive their car to catch the train and have a car, taxi or bus on the other end to take them to where they want to go. The RTP area does not have the people/building density to support a rail system. Many years of zoning changes are needed before investing in a rail system. It will only be a black hole for more tax money to be purred down......

  • Bill of Rights Nov 1, 2011

    HAHAHAHAHA! I'd LOVE to meet the gang member that justifies his/her illegal actions by drawing a false parallel to the city's support of same-sex marriage? Reverend Williams needs to come join us in the 21st century.