2013 Endorsements for Mayor and City Council

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Members of the Durham People’s Alliance Political Action Committee met yesterday evening to endorse candidates for the upcoming Mayor and City Council elections.  Presiding over the meeting were the PAC’s coordinators, Milo Pyne, Lorisa Seibel, James Hill and Tom Miller.

For mayor, the group chose Durham’s current mayor Bill Bell over challengers Michael Valentine and Sylvester Williams.  “PA members have always liked Bill Bell.” said Tom Miller, one of the PAC’s coordinators.  “Our leaders were among those who asked Bill to run for the mayor’s job back in 2001.”  Miller continued.  “What members said over and over is that Bell is fair-minded, independent, and deeply committed to the community.” added Milo Pyne, another of the group’s coordinators. Pyne continued, “There are those who have criticized Bill’s handling of the 751 issue in the recent session of the General Assembly.” referring to Bell’s desire to reach a compromise with Representative Tim Moore of King’s Mountain, the powerful Republican chairman of the house rules committee, over the extension of water and sewer to the controversial 751 South development.  But on the whole, Pyne said, members accepted Bell’s explanation that he was trying to do what he thought was best in an adverse political situation.

PAC coordinator James Hill said that “on the whole, Bill Bell is a practical progressive. You may not agree with every decision he makes, but you cannot deny that he makes thoughtful decisions within the band of reasonable choices on any given issue.  He listens to everyone, but bows to no one.  In the end, Bill’s decisions are his own.”

We like what has been happening in Durham under “Bell’s leadership,” said Pyne.  The People’s Alliance sees no reason to change now.

Alliance members enjoyed newcomer Michael Valentine’s enthusiasm, but enthusiasm is no substitute for Bell’s seasoned leadership and proven progressive credentials. Candidate Sylvester Williams seems to view his bid for office as an extension of his ministry. In addition, his lack of understanding or sympathy for the rights of gay and lesbian people is disturbing.

For the ward one city council seat, the PA-PAC endorsed incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden, the mayor pro-tem.  Cole McFadden is running unopposed.  “Essentially, we see Cora’s voice on the council as the voice of compassion,” said Miller “and her commitment to the disadvantaged members of the community is outstanding.”

For the Ward two council seat held by Howard Clement, III, who is stepping down after serving seven full terms of council service, the PAC selected Eddie Davis. “You cannot help but be impressed by Eddie Davis,” said Lorisa Seibel, another of the PAC’s four coordinators. “He is intelligent, educated, and deeply committed to the welfare of Durham’s citizens.” From his years as a teacher at Hillside High School and leader of the Durham City Association of Educators, Davis has an insight into the needs and aspirations of Durham’s young people that few others possess.  “I was impressed by his capacity for patience and his ability to listen to and absorb what stakeholders have to say.  Even in disagreement, Davis displays a gentle firmness of resolve which engenders trust.” said Miller.  Milo Pyne added “We like his position on the 751 South development. We think that he appreciates the complexity of this issue, but he comes down firmly on the side of the Durham taxpayers’ interests as well as the region’s drinking water quality.”  Due to his long service with the public schools, he is justifiably skeptical of charter schools. He is concerned about their impact on the  diversity of, and the public support for, the Durham Public Schools.

Across the board, People’s Alliance members appreciated the fullness and frankness of Davis’s responses to the questions in the organization’s questionnaire.  They were also impressed by the fact that for the past a year he has prepped for the council job by attending nearly every council meeting and work session.  James Hill said “Eddie hasn’t just read the newspaper and reviewed the city website.  He has listened, in person, to what the mayor, the council, the city staff, and the people have said in meeting after meeting.  That commitment and understanding are reflected in his questionnaire.”

We deeply appreciate the public service and deep commitment of Del Mattioli to the welfare of Durham’s citizens, and some members support her candidacy, but her positions on the 751 South development as well support of using city dollars to fund charter schools give other members pause. She is certainly a credible candidate for the ward 2 seat, but her views on these issues do not align closely enough with the views of PA-PAC members. Omar Beasley has proven himself to be a tough campaigner in his bid for a seat on the county commission last year, but Davis’s positions on the issue and long commitment to public service were compelling to PA members. Reverend Franklin Haines is a newcomer to Durham politics, and we applaud his passion for the needs of north-central Durham.

In the ward 3 contest, the meeting endorsed incumbent Don Moffitt. In Moffitt, the savvy of the chamber of commerce and the progressive’s desire for economic and social justice come neatly together.  Moffitt has a degree in architecture from the University of Texas and an MBA from the Keenan-Flagler Business School at UNC. His business experience includes overseeing the expansion of Whole Foods into North Carolina and the southeast. Currently, Don is a business consultant whose clients include local businesses in Durham and Chapel Hill, regional players such as Capitol Broadcasting in Raleigh, and national giants like Whole Foods and General Mills. Don has also been active in Durham non-profits, including service as the former president and treasurer of the Eno River Association and as former president of the Durham People’s Alliance. Pyne, who has served with Moffitt in both organizations, said “Wherever Don Moffitt has been involved, he has used his business experience to put the group on a sound organizational and financial footing.”   During his eight months on the city council, Moffitt has shown himself to be very well informed in the complicated business of municipal finances and a watchdog over the public’s money. Tom Miller said “Don does his homework, and is not just someone who just repeats to you what he thinks you want to hear. When Don decides his position on an issue, he can tell you the reasons and they always make sense.” Miller continued “We liked the way Moffitt dove into his work on the planning commission where he served as member and chair in two terms.  Moffitt learned the zoning code and did not just depend on the planning department to explain the intricacies of each case.  Don often worked directly with opposing sides by suggesting real and practical compromises.  We have seen the same level of involvement since he has joined the city council.  Since so much council energy is devoted to development issues, we need Don’s expertise and capacity for problem solving at the council level.”

At the meeting, several members noted that Pam Karriker, Moffitt’s opponent in the race, is not aligned with the People’s Alliance on the 751 South issue, charter schools, and marriage equality.

The turnout at Tuesday evening’s meeting was very high.  “I think that reflects both the significant jump in the People’s Alliance membership over the last two years and a high degree of interest in electoral politics in Durham.” said PAC coordinator James Hill.  “I was pleased to see so many new members joining the long term members like me,” he added.  Candidates worked the crowd at the door as members checked in and the meeting itself ran nearly three hours.  “At our meetings, everyone who wants to speak gets to speak.” said Seibel.  “It’s a PAC tradition.  When you know you will get your chance, it reduces tension and encourages everyone to listen.  The process is respectful and deliberative.”  she said.

The People’s Alliance and its PAC have been active in Durham political life for nearly 40 years.  Candidate endorsements are made by the members of the organization in a democratic process where  decisions are made by a vote of the majority.  In preparation for endorsement debates, the PAC researches candidates’ backgrounds and challenges them on the issues with interviews and questionnaires. CLICK HERE to learn more about the 2013 Election and to here to read candidates questionnaires.


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