Why we strongly support Heidi Carter for County Commission
The People’s Alliance PAC strongly re-affirms our support for the re-election of County Commissioner Heidi Carter.
No one has fought harder for Durham’s schoolchildren over the past 16 years, and nothing has more impact on advancing our community’s racial equity goals than the success of our public schools. Carter is our community’s preeminent champion of universal pre-K. She led the County’s first-ever involvement in affordable housing by moving forward the initiative to build 300 affordable units downtown. She is the County Commission’s leading advocate for initiatives to end hunger, and the leading advocate for improving our bus system and spending the money necessary to do so. She authored the school board’s living wage policy, and she led the fight for higher wages for the County’s lowest-paid workers during this past year. She led the school board’s work to drastically reduce suspensions of children of color, disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. She fought to reform the schools’ AIG program to open up gifted education to many more children of color. All of this work is the work of racial justice, and that is exactly why Carter is an advocate for these causes. When the protestors toppled the Confederate monument downtown, it was Carter who pushed the commissioners to say that the statue had no value so that the protesters would not be charged with a felony. This was an explicit act of anti-racist leadership, and that is the kind of leader we want on our County Commission.
Carter has long been concerned about the need for new schools and other capital spending in our rapidly growing county. Carter and other members of the County Commission have often clashed with County Manager Wendell Davis over the county’s support of Durham Public Schools. Carter has been impatient with Davis and the county staff about the need to develop a plan for funding new schools. This week, the County Manager wrote a letter to Carter which was distributed to the press in which he attributes Carter’s impatience and criticism to what he perceives as her racial bias against him. Davis is African American and Carter is white. Carter denies Davis’s allegations. Writing in support of Carter, School Board Chair Mike Lee has accused Davis of playing a dangerous game of politics – writing and releasing his letter in the midst of early voting in the elections for county commissioners. Lee suggests that Davis is motivated by a desire to elect more compliant commissioners who will take his side on school funding and other matters. Lee notes that Davis’s contract as manager is up for renewal in 2021, after the newly elected commissioners take office.
We agree with Mike Lee. We share Carter’s impatience with Davis over support for Durham’s public schools. Davis has shorted school funding in his budget proposals and the Board of Commissioners, including Carter, have insisted on more funding. People’s Alliance members have observed this tension between Davis and the board for some time and have routinely turned out at county budget hearings to argue for increased school funding.
For her part, while she denies Davis’s allegations, Carter acknowledges that she, like all of us, live in a country permeated with white privilege that fosters anti-black racial bias. Carter has held herself accountable to those she works with and represents. One thing we hear repeatedly in conversations with her colleagues is that Carter actively works to address inherent racial bias. We support Carter’s willingness to explore how living in a culture of white privilege affects her and her efforts to confront bias. Ultimately, we believe her conflict with the county manager over Durham Public Schools is founded in her abiding concern about the welfare of Durham school children, not racial bias. Durham needs strong advocates for schools. Durham deserves County Commissioners who will support policies and funding priorities that change the systems that perpetuate inequity.
Heidi Carter is such a County Commissioner, and we support her bid to serve a second term.