Nida on the Issues

Fighting for safe & healthy communities

We must fight for a Durham where everyone is safe and able to thrive in a healthy environment. We know our communities are safer when law enforcement is trained to de-escalate situations and when our schools are better resourced with counselors and social workers. We are healthier when residents have access to safe and affordable places to live and when children have access to green spaces to play.

We must address crime by investing in supportive services for returning citizens like health services, housing support, and job training. In North Carolina, 40 percent of people who exit prison re-offend within three years. We must address problems at their root causes.

  • Fighting Poverty, not the Poor
  • Mental Health
  • Police Reform and Oversight
  • Procurement Powers
Fighting Poverty, not the Poor

Sociological studies find that people living in poverty endure cycles of trauma stemming from a primary motivation of “survival.” No resident in Durham county should be forced into a survival state of mind; everyone should be able to thrive.

To combat poverty, we need to focus on the accessibility and affordability of basic needs for our residents, in addition to a focus on long term, career-minded workforce development.

Durham county should follow the example of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. This process-oriented rubric will require county and city officials to work together to map the various needs of our community. Ultimately, anti-poverty measures should be community-driven using a participatory budgeting process. People living in poverty should have a leading role in deciding how the county uses funding to address poverty.

Mental Health

Work towards providing additional funding for social workers and therapists in every school.

I want to expand services offered by Durham County Public Health to include mental health services. We can do this while keeping costs low by partnering with social work programs at local universities.

Police Reform and Oversight

I believe that law enforcement should be keenly aware of the deep, systemic ramifications of their actions, good and bad. For this reason, law enforcement should be required to participate in regular educational sessions on issues such as de-escalation, trauma informed care, and the specific ways in which poverty can lead to crime.

I also support the creation of an oversight committee, created in partnership with the City of Durham, to ensure fair due process of police activity with tangible accountability to the public. By forming a committee consisting mostly of community members but supplemented with legal experts in the field of criminal justice, I believe we can start to bring justice to what has historically been a criminal injustice system.

Procurement Powers

Restructuring the Purchasing Division to ensure large investments in people of color and women run businesses.

The last time Durham solicited research on the use of Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB), it found that the county and city together spent $206.1 million on procurement of goods and services, but only 2.66% of that was spend on firms owned by people of color or women. As commissioner, I will fight to ensure that the county spends as much of its procurement spending as possible on HUBs.

Further, I want to leverage county procurement and business development resources to facilitate the development of worker-owned cooperatives consisting primarily of women and people of color.

We should also leverage these resources to help released inmates begin stable, societally beneficial lives upon their release. We can be proactive in this approach by introducing applications for county business financing to inmates soon to be released, prioritizing cooperative ownership models. While still in jail, we should be providing a positive motivational force for prisoners to work towards, together.

Durham Literacy Center has been offering GED services to inmates for years; the county should at least help scale this program, if not fund it completely.

Partner with North Carolina Employee Ownership Center to provide business management and training lessons for inmates interested in starting worker-owned cooperative businesses.

Fighting for high-quality education

We must fight for a Durham where access to a high-quality education is a right, not a privilege. While the state of North Carolina may be at the bottom of the nation in per-pupil funding and resources for teachers, Durham does not have to be. We must make the investments in our students and teachers to ensure that we are preparing our children for the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow.

Education goes beyond secondary school. If we want to maximize the potential of every one of our residents, we must work to make sure that parents and workers have access to continuing education and job training opportunities they need.

  • Plan for Public Schools
  • Restorative Justice in Schools
Plan for Public Schools

Continue the Communities in Schools program and scale the model to more schools.

Incorporate census data to develop more equitable student assignment plans across race and class. Here’s an example to build on from San Antonio.

Support and advocate for the $10-15 million increase in county funding to satisfy DPS budget needs.

Support and expand the Durham Teaching Fellows Program to recruit and retain a robust cohort of homegrown educators of color.

Provide human resources and technological support to Crayons2Calculators to improve collection and delivery of vital school supplies for low income students and schools.

Increase the county supplement for teachers in order to stay competitive with neighboring counties.

Establish a feasibility study for converting all DPS schools to a year-round model, which would help reduce the growth of achievement gaps every summer. Durham already has 5 well performing year-round schools. Under this model, students would have more frequent but shorter breaks (ex. 6 weeks on, 2 weeks off), as opposed to nearly 3 months with no public educational opportunity. Many studies and meta-analyses support this argument (Year-round vs Nine month calendar, Johnson & Wagner)

Restorative Justice in Schools

Follow through with consistent implementation of restorative practices and avoid relabeling of suspensions to things like “Restorative Practice Center” or “Disciplinary Reassignment” when there may be no changes made to the system.

Support the continued research and advocacy of Made in Durham’s Youth Network, a cohort of over 35 students working towards transformative change in their schools.

Develop interventions that do not remove students from the classroom or impede their learning.

Fighting for accountability

We must fight for a Durham where the government truly reflects the will of the people. There is possibly no greater responsibility from our elected officials than to be honest, and transparent. We do this by providing services like childcare and transportation during County Commission meetings, ensuring any resident who wants to be heard is able to do so. We do this by providing clear and transparent evaluations of county services and programs. We do this by increasing the opportunities for feedback and collaboration through more community forums and citizen workgroups. Durham is strong when we all pitch in.

  • Hold regular community town halls, rotating through every community in order to ensure the voices of every resident are heard.

  • Data-driven decision making and continuous reporting of how policies have had an impact on Durham residents.
  • Participatory Budgeting
  • Building Community Wealth
  • Your Voice!
Participatory Budgeting

I am pleased that Durham has started participatory budgeting processes on projects. As commissioner, I want to continue PB in as many fields as possible, ensuring that the input of marginalized communities are not only heard, but prioritized. In consideration of PB efforts, we need to make sure that information sessions and forums are held in low-income communities.

In other parts of the country, officials have lowered the voting age for participatory budgeting to include minors. As PB is simply a form of systemizing public input, it is not beholden to electoral laws. Therefore, participatory budgeting presents an exciting opportunity to involve our youth in civic actions from a young age. Here’s an example of what youth were able to accomplish in Phoenix.

The Participatory Budgeting Project provides a ton of great resources we could apply here in Durham.

Building Community Wealth

Accountability doesn’t just refer to holding elected officials accountable.  The only permanent, impactful way to guard against the power of wealthy special interests, at any level of governance, is to empower the working class as much as possible.

I want to work on policies that will tangibly increase community wealth to a point that the public interest can actually compete with private interests when it comes to things like building a lightrail, preventing gentrification and shifting from Duke Energy pollution to self-sufficient renewable energies.

How do we build community wealth? Luckily, there have been experiments across the country which Durham can learn from. I’m particularly a fan of the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative in Cleveland, Ohio. Below are some proven mechanisms for building community wealth, and thereby community control.

  • Create funds for worker-owned cooperatives.

  • Partner with North Carolina Employee Ownership Center to help retiring business owners convert their businesses into co-ops.

  • Provide more support to Land Trusts while empowering low-income people to join as board members.

  • Provide funding to create local, organic farms and food hubs on land that would otherwise be sold to a developer for building environmentally detrimental retail or residential space. Local grocers such as the Durham Food Co-op and Kings Grocery could serve as designated food hubs, for example. Here’s more on how to build out strong local food systems.
Your Voice!

Whether you’re born and raised in NC or you just moved to Durham this year, you’ve probably experienced the shameless techniques our Republican General Assembly has practiced in order to disenfranchise you and your neighbors. A primary technique has been through “preemption” of local ordinances. We have a lot of big ideas for Durham that we would love to inspire other counties. But as long as the legislature remains as regressive as it’s been, we need to fight it together. I hope that voting for me will be just your first step—going forward, we will need to take our fight for a progressive Durham beyond the county building, and into the halls of the General Assembly. As your commissioner, I am committed to joining you on the front lines of protests against this GA in the name of justice, equity and prosperity for all.

Fighting to remove barriers and build bridges to inclusive communities

We must fight for a Durham where every single resident, no matter their race, gender, income, or country of origin can fully participate and contribute to our community. We do this by investing in transportation and job training, making public resources available by providing language services for our non-English speaking residents and supporting our Department of Social Services to ensure they have enough staffing and resources to meaningfully serve Durham residents.

Our communities are stronger when every single voice feels heard and when residents have access to the resources they need to thrive.

Increase the salaries of all county workers to a $15 minimum wage within the first year, and create a cost of living adjustment to make sure that wages keep up with expenses.

Partner with local universities to provide translation services for non-legal public services. Ensuring every voice is heard begins with speaking the same language.

  • Every resident of Durham County should feel empowered to make contact with the public services. We need to ensure that points of contact, such as phone services and front desk personnel, are equipped to communicate basic information in any language necessary for our residents.

  • Between NCCU, Duke and Durham Tech, we have access to potentially hundreds of students with strong language skills in Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, French, German, Arabic and many other languages.

Establish funding to ensure ADA accessibility and mobility across the county.

  • The county should be proactive about ensuring that every resident of Durham can fully participate in all we have to offer, whether it means accessing social services or attending concerts downtown.

Ensure that community members are able to age in place and won’t be pushed out of their homes by providing property tax relief to elderly and disabled homeowners.

Questions? Ideas? Get in touch!