Durham Residents Considering Cutting City Council
Posted August 8, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — Public protests and petitions have become popular in the City of Durham. Over the past several months, City Council Members have faced a lot of controversial issues. Some residents aren't happy about it and they're calling for change in the Durham City Council.
Durham City Council Members said some American flags were too big. Then they said that their salaries as council members weren't large enough. Now, some citizens groups are pushing for a vote on whether to cut the council down to size.
"People are just finally fed up with 13 people and we're giving them the opportunity to vote for seven," said John Best of Citizens for a Smaller Council.
Best is one of about a dozen Durham residents who began circulating a petition that would allow voters to say whether council should be decreased from 13 seats to seven. Many other residents took petitions to expand the circulation. Best says some are in favor of the idea because they're angry at council members who voted to limit the size of the American flag within the city limits. Others are upset about council's proposal to give themselves a 37 percent pay raise. They later voted for a 9 percent pay raise. Best says the bigger issue is what's best for the city of Durham.
"With seven, we feel there's a better ability to come to a consensus on issues, so there aren't 13 different agendas, 13 different factions," said Best.
Petitioners say they've privately spoken to some council members who say they agree a smaller council would run more efficiently. No council members were available for an on-camera interview, but Council Member Virginia Englehard said she does not think a smaller council is a good idea. She says Durham needs the larger diverse council to equally represent all the people."
"As far as I know, most politicians run for office [because] they want to represent all people. So as far as representation, that will be decided by the voters of Durham at election time," said Best.
Citizens for a Smaller Council want to put the referendum on the November ballot. They'll spend the next several weeks trying to collect the minimum 5,000 signatures.
The citizen's group says it compared Durham's 13 member city council to Durham County's five member board of commissioners and Raleigh City Council, which has only eight members. Citizens for a Smaller Council says Durham has one of the largest city councils in the state.