photos by: Chrystal Kelly
story by: Josh Factor
This past Wednesday night, our two mayoral candidates came together for one last forum before the big election. In a show of good faith, the outgoing Mayor, Bill Bell, was present to express his support for the political future of Durham. Two Mayoral candidates who didn’t survive the primary, Pierce Freelon and Shea Ramirez, were also in attendance at the forum.
The Rickhouse, the Foster Street venue for this forum, held a crowd with a diverse mix of people of all ages, races, and political views. The audience was quite enthralled as the candidates discussed their stances on various issues such as affordable housing, civil rights, transportation, and immigration. The public’s fervent intrigue was evident by the number of questions asked during the forum. There were so many that there wasn’t enough time to use all of the questions submitted.
As this was the 25th mayoral forum (for example compared to just four for the presidential election), both candidates seemed to concur that we should cut back on the number by consolidating mayoral debates.
Yet both candidates were in good spirits answering questions from the audience.
One of the significant issues discussed was the lack of civic engagement, as the candidates emphasized the importance of voting in local and federal elections. Turnout was abysmal in the Mayoral primary with less than a third of the eligible Durham electorate voting. Passionate audience member and noted community activist, Jackie Wagstaff, suggested afterwards that perhaps a bond referendum or other ballot question would have stimulated voter turnout in this election cycle.
Some other questions that were asked were in regards to racial equality, gender equity (including preventing abuse and harrassment), funding mass transportation, job growth, and preserving the Hayti Heritage Center.
City Councilman Schewel made an engaging point about how we should try to encourage the Latino community to take a more active role in state and local politics. He even mentioned a system in Durham which allows undocumented immigrants to assist local law enforcement in exchange for being allowed to stay in the country, and he expressed his support for this.
Another big topic that was discussed was how people from the surrounding cities are taking jobs that could otherwise be held by Durhamites. They also discussed gentrification and the impact it may have on our city. Yet it is clear both candidates have a positive vision for the future of Durham.
The forum lasted for over an hour and the candidates stuck around afterward to answer further questions the public had. Freelon, Ramirez, and several city council candidates were also seen chatting with the engaged audience afterwards.
While Schewel did get more votes in the primary, with such low turnout expected, it is still very much up in the air as to who will emerge on top in this election. Early voting runs through Saturday and Election Day will be on November 7. I encourage you all to come out to vote and show how much Durham means to you by investing in its future.
Josh Factor is an avid young writer and a native of Durham, NC. He is a 2016 graduate of Elon University, where he majored in English.
Chrystal Kelly is a Durham based, concept driven, photographer. She specializes in creative portraiture and fine art photography. See more of her work at Shattering Light Photography.