Dependable Erection

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Heard around town

City Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden has asked her fellow Council members to express at Thursday's work session what they each are doing personally to reduce their water consumption during the current severe drought. Councilman and mayoral candidate Thomas Stith is expected to announce that for the duration of his campaign, he will refrain from slinging mud at incumbent Bill Bell, and will instead hurl only dirt bombs.

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  • I've not actually seen much mud slinging at all. Very surprised about that. Though there is much to sling, that is for certain.

    Don't know much about Stith other than he appears on board with crime prevention and improving the perception other cities have on crime here, what with all the dissatisfying posts I've read lately about the state of Durham's affairs, why would anyone want to keep the current incumbent in place? Unless that incumbent is performing a fine job at improving the city. So far, I've not seen a whole lot of great achievements from the incumbent.

    Is everyone really satisfied with Bell's performance? Has he really improved the City of Durham during his administration or has it been others in supporting roles? Like I said, I don't know much about the two candidates but I have read much about how dissatisfied Durham residents are unhappy with the current state of affairs.

    Not knowing much but a little on either, at this time, I have more faith in Stith than Bell. The crime platform, well, it's a big one in Durham. Cuz everyone not from Durham thinks it's a haven and that perception must be changed by someone prepared to manage that. Although neither candidate may not be able to do that, Bell, to me, has had his chance. The Duke issue doesn't help either, unfortunately.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:45 AM  

  • i can't believe that you can claim to be from Durham and say "I've not actually seen much mud slinging at all."

    Unless you're actually working for Stith. Who, i might remind the rest of my readers, has been on Council longer than Bill Bell. Dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in Durham? Then why would you think that Thomas Stith has any answers that he hasn't brought before Council over the past 8 years?

    His entire campaign is based on painting a picture of Durham that simply doesn't jibe with the one i know, and then blaming everybody else for it being that way.

    Maybe i should turn off anonymous commenting for the duration.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 3:56 AM  

  • Um, the mailer with distorted pictures of Bell, the robocalls, the attempts to bring up pointless proposals at council meetings designed to rally the right (which just ended up pissing off everyone)...

    Need more? Just read the papers and blogs.

    By Anonymous durhamfood, at 7:50 AM  

  • La la la la nope no mudslinging la la la la

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 9:47 AM  

  • The anonymous post is a rare point of view in my Durham.
    If by no mudslinging you mean;
    No mudslinging means negative attacks on the city's police and mayor.
    NO mudslinging must also mean inciting the races division card for "immigrants"
    NO mudslinging must also mean blatant misrepresentation of facts and incumbant records.

    If that means no mudslinging then maybe anonymous- if that is your real name - is correct in the observation that there is no mudslinging.

    The crime issue is bad for Durham. It doesn't need a President I mean Mayor who wants to beat the Durham is Dangerous drum.

    I want a Mayor who is focused on the business of Durham. It isn't Stith in my opinion.

    Nicky in Durham

    By Blogger nicky in durham, at 11:03 AM  

  • Not saying there was NO mudslinging, compared to what I am used to in Michigan, the mudslinging I've seen pales here in comparison.

    As for the candidates, I have obviously stumbled upon pro-Bell territory. Fine. But I will do my best to answer questions and address issues since my questions have gone relatively unanswered.

    No. I am not pro-Stith. No. I am not pro-Bell. I was pretty clear that I have not seen great achievements here since I read on other blogs, including the one by michael bacon if this is the same one, that there is much to bitch about Durham. That's sad. And these two guys are helping the current running of the current show.

    And, Nicky, if managing crime and the perception of it is NOT a part of the business of Durham, then I will say that your views are off-target. Crime is a big issue here. Since moving here, we've had three crimes committed against us in less than 11 months. In Michigan, twenty years, none. Coincidence? Bad luck? Maybe. But it must be addressed and not ignored. And fixed.

    Anyway, I'm anonymous because I don't have an account. I really don't want anymore either. But I'll post my name... Harold B of Durham. So, if that makes a difference, go send your cronies after me if my views are different than yours.

    What I am basically saying is that I haven't seen any hardcore mudslinging. It may be hardcore for Durham, not for me. It's relative.

    Second, I'd like to start reading on everyone's blogs how great the current encumbent is at managing the city. When we moved here, everyone locally told us not to. People still ask why we came here. We like it. We see and read that others love it here. But we've had crimes already committed against my family and our property for the first time in our lives. We hear from other people when visiting the council meetings that they are not being informed of issues they should be informed of. We hear that Durham is in dire need of money and the money they have is not being spent as wisely as it should. We hear about slumlords making the city worse. We hear about businesses encroaching upon residential areas. We hear that normal issues are turned into racial issues when they need not be. We hear about how sending our kids to Durham schools would be a mistake because of the lack of good education here. We hear about the city tearing down it's own history. We hear that people want change? But, honestly, we hear about crime the most! Why?

    My first thought is always about who is running the current show. Are they doing a great job? If not, then change is necessary. Vote for someone new.

    But, if the beating of the crime drum is ONLY coming from Stith propaganda, then I would say that he knows how to move the propaganda well. But, of course, he's not the source of it. It's coming from people. People who may not live here. Maybe from people living here. We've have three reported crimes committed against us. And I'm wondering why?

    I'm not loyal to Stith. I'm not loyal to Bell. I have no agenda other than preventing a fourth crime from being committed agains my family. I have no loyalty to anyone. But I would like to.

    I just want to live in a safer city with great education for our kids. So, yeah, I'm concerned about safety. But I'm also concerned about housing here. The homeless guys I talk to every day. Education. And I would like to thrwart all that. But, I'm not partial to either of the candidates. I'm reading papers, blogs, and whatever else I can find. And I'm reading a lot about people slinging mud at Stith. And not enough about the great achievements Bell has made. Maybe reading "personal" blogs are a mistake since those running those blogs often come across as authoritarians. If banning anonymous people is the answer to dealing with those who do not have all the information, but are seeking it, then maybe I, as another anonymous person in Durham, should not read blogs. But, I want information even if it differs from my own.

    I come from an area where mudslinging is far worse. Sorry if I did not think it was terrible here. But aside from that, I think bloggers could start posting all the great things on a regular basis about this city and most importantly those who are currently running it so that me, being somewhat new and ignorant of all the issues, and maybe not as well spoken or read, can find enlightenment and positive affirmations now that we are here in Durham.

    I was planning to vote for Bell, by the way. Though I haven't seen that Stith would be such a bad choice, I am not impressed with either candidate. Maybe I should write in a name. Maybe Barry's. Maybe Michael's? Both have blogs and a lot to say about what should be done here in Durham. You guys seem more proactive about Durham than the two candidates as you are posting everyday and have opinions. But if Bell is the best choice, just list them in your blog. No biggie. Back him up. A list of achievements by our current mayor and council, for that matter, would be great! No attacks. I just want to read something more positive because I grow more negative everyday. And I don't like that either.

    By Anonymous Anonymous Harold, at 3:20 PM  

  • Thaks for responding.

    Here's where my curiosity gets whetted. I made a post in the middle of the night, essentially making a joke about Stith's campaign. Fifteen minutes later, at 3:45, someone makes a comment that reads suspiciously like a Stith campaign staffer playing disingenuous:

    Don't know much about Stith other than he appears on board with crime prevention and improving the perception other cities have on crime here, what with all the dissatisfying posts I've read lately about the state of Durham's affairs, why would anyone want to keep the current incumbent in place? Unless that incumbent is performing a fine job at improving the city. So far, I've not seen a whole lot of great achievements from the incumbent.

    Ignoring a whole lot of points about Durham government, namely that in our system, the mayor is essentially the chair of the city council, and only marginally more influential, if that, than any city council member. Thomas Stith has, of course, been a member of city council for a longer period of time than has Bill Bell, and is as much of an incumbent no matter how you slice it.

    Sorry to hear about your crime experience. I lived in California for 7+ years before moving to Durham. In those years, my cars were broken into 7 times, including once in a Target parking lot, and once in the parking lot at my daughter's school. My house was broken into twice, when i lived on a walnut orchard in the country. The response fromthe police department on every single occasion consisted of "you got insurance?"

    Fifteen years in Durham and i've lost the tire from a bicycle and a battery from an unlocked truck. On the occasions when i've had to call the police, for example the two times my car alarm ahs gone off in the middle of the night, they have been responsive, courteous, and efficient. And effective. The outreach from the Durham PD to the community, formalized through the Partners Against Crime, but also informally with individual officers such as Sgt. Dale Gunter and Master Officer Eric Hester has completely changed my views on what a police department can be.

    Already in his brief campaign, Thomas Stith has been caught out lying (when he claimed he had been told his immigrant bashing proposal would be on the agenda for a Council meeting and he invited his supporters to attend), has sought to divide the community by singling out one segment of it for special attention by law enforcement, has been less than forthcoming about his political affiliations (he's a Republican, which is certainly important, despite the niminal "non-partisan" nature of municipal elections in NC), and is taking advantage of a flaw in NC election law in which robo-calls do not have to be attributed to a financial source, unlike mailed literature.

    His style is relentlessly negative about the state of things in Durham, while at the same time he avoids discussing the fact that he has been in a position of responsibility on City Council for the last 8 years. His voting record on council does not support his campaign claims.

    More bothersome to me is the fact that most of the money he has raised for his campaign has come from large donors, development interests, and people who do not live in Durham. That alone should give pause to anyone who thinks that Thomas Stith is truly interested in what's best for this town.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 4:02 PM  

  • Thank you for your response as well, Barry. California doesn't seem any better both when it comes to the crime element and who has the dumb luck of getting hit. In our case, bad luck.

    Shameful that their PD response was what it was. I can say great things about Durham's. I agree they are courteous, professional and, in my opinion, understaffed. But all of the Durham PD officer's I have spoken to all seem to care about the citizens of this city and about doing a good job. In my experience with them so far, maybe more than I care at this point, I can't imagine anyone saying anything bad about them. I think they are one of the best elements about Durham.

    So, when it comes down to crime, I would be happy to be taxed more for more PD support. Though serious crimes cannot be as bad as parts of California or Detroit, Michigan, I think petty crimes seem too prevalent. Almost accepted, in a way. In my opinion, no crime should be tolerated. Any tolerance at any level breeds more.

    But, back on the subject of Stith and Bell. I did not notice the time response was only about fifteen minutes. But if staffers are doing this, then they would really be on the ball I guess. Of course, that would mean they are watching your blog closely and that would be a testament to the effectiveness of this blog. But, no, I am another citizen hoping that during the next term, we’ll see improvements in the downtown revitalization and that our streets and city will promote a safer environment and better education above and beyond the neighboring cities.

    I have met both Stith and Bell, though. Shook their hands and posed them both the same questions. Not political ones, but just guy to guy type questions. That may make no sense in the political arena, but I just wanted to hear their response to the regular dude on the street. I found Mr. Stith to be quite pleasant and he seemed interested in me. His responses were such where he engaged in further conversation even though there were other suited people next to me who wanted to talk to him.

    Posing the same with Mr. Bell, I thought he was courteous but rushed. Almost regretting that he shook my hand because what I had to say wasn’t politically oriented. He may have had somewhere else to go and that’s okay. He’s our Mayor and he is definitely a busy man. But, I would guess Mr. Stith is as well.

    So I just wondered why Stith was so disliked. I haven’t gotten any of the phone calls that some people spoke of. I know what they are because I got them back home, but a lot more from a lot more different candidates. But if he was actually caught in a lie and doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, I can understand the disgust. But then, why was he continually elected?

    Well, Stith won’t be serving now at all. Maybe new blood on the council is going to be a good thing.

    As far as his campaign supporters, it may be a concern, but if he can get outsiders to invest in Durham, why not? Is that bad? Do we have enough big spenders here in Durham who will rebuild and revitalize this city? If so, why have they not done so already? I’m sure some have, but I welcome neighbors who would like to invest in this city. As long as those neighbors with big money don’t come in to rape the system of its resources and leave once the profit is taken. That would be up to us to moderate. I would think that, really. I just don’t think it’s so bad for those not living in Durham wanting to invest in Durham. They’re investing everywhere else, why not Durham?

    If Mr. Stith is seeking money from such donors, as long as Mr. Stith does not allow developers to put up a bunch more crap new housing, then we’ll be good. But, at present, I see a lot of developers who are already building crap developments all over the city. Housing that will not stand the test of time like the old homes of East Durham that would really just need a good aesthetic once over to make beautiful again. The vinyl and cheap stuff they put on these new houses that are littering the city does not last. And these developments must have been approved over the last six years under both Stith’s and Bell’s administration.

    So, Stith sucks. I don’t know. I’m not all that impressed with him. Bell seems more reserved and now has some experience, but I don’t think he is the best candidate either. I just wish there was someone else more motivated with passion, great ideas and enthusiasm along with political know-how to move Durham into the 21st century. But after reading all the foregone plans and agendas of the past, I imagine the same old same old present day concerns will be the same concerns in another decade.

    We’ll see what happens as I can almost predict what the election outcome will be at this point. Hopefully, I will begin reading how great all the plans and tax dollars are making Durham a desired place to live by anyone visiting the triangle. What’s best for this town? I’d like to see all the local bloggers start posting their thoughts so everyone has a clear idea of what that is. I really don’t know what’s best for it. I’m not educated enough, smart enough, and too new to the area to really make comment other than I want a safe place to live away from the crime element and improved education in a school that is also safe for my kids so that they have a chance to go to college and make something for themselves.

    What IS best for the city of Durham? Would this be a good topic for every blogger?

    Thank you for your reply. I like reading this and other Durham blogs and articles. They do help me learn even though I don’t always agree.

    By Anonymous Anonymous Harold, at 8:01 PM  

  • Hi Harold,

    Kevin here (from Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, questions and ideas as you've tried to come up to speed on this election and politics in Durham.

    Yours is a good reminder that it's easy for us who talk (and talk and talk and talk...) about politics in Durham to remember that there are newcomers to the conversation and that the context sometimes is missing beyond the stories we post.

    As to the question about developers: I think the fear I have, at least reflexively, about developer donations in big ways to campaigns stems from looking over at Wake County, or my hometown experiences in Orlando. In both places, Big Homebuilders control local politics. Which means local governments rubber-stamp every new development, but won't fight for impact fees or bond issues for school expansion, road expansion, etc. Frankly, Wake County seems destined to choke on poorly-planned growth just as so many other Sunbelt cities are.

    Durham's avoided this problem in part because growth is slower here, and in part due to somewhat (I think) smarter planning about density and development.

    There are good rational reasons for developers to back change in Durham. A big one is the inefficiency of the City/County planning and inspections process, which is legendarily byzantine and broken. So I don't want to read too much into the donations, but instinctively, I think that's where a lot of the fear comes from.

    Of course, you're also asking the million dollar question -- what would bloggers do? I can't speak for bloggers per se, but on a tangent, I think the day of a new Progressive Party is approaching in local politics. (Not progressive as in liberal necessarily, but harkening back to the 1900s-1910s movement.) That is, a movement focused on good government and concrete proposals for improving civic systems, with candidates running on platforms that are vetted through an open-source-style set of reviews. Imagine, for instance, if a "team" of candidates for local office were running not on grandiose ideas and philosophy, but with a proposed City budget down to line items and categories, or with specific resolutions and initiatives in hand for City government. In other words, you're voting for the actual change, not agents of change. I don't think we're that far off, with the broad dissemination and communication of civic and political issues, from seeing this happen in a small way somewhere, if not Durham.

    But I digress. What would I, tangibly, do to try and change things for the better in Durham?

    For a start: radical inclusionary zoning. Want to build a new subdivision? 10-15% of your building lots need to be reserved for affordable housing, which have to be integrated into the development. You can build it yourself, or donate the lot to Habitat or other non-profits or the City to build. In exchange, you get a rubber-stamp on your development plans (within reason), saving hundreds of thousands in development cost. Furthermore -- and this is the really interesting key -- if you build the affordable housing units yourself, for each one sold, the City transfers ownership of a vacant, abandonded, abused property in the inner city to the developer, gratis, with restrictions favoring restoration or infill redevelopment and market-rate resale.

    What's the whole point of doing this? Dispersing islands of poverty throughout the City while creating the germination for redevelopment and renewal in neighborhoods we all too often see as abandon. You'd have Kelo (eminent domain) issues with this, to be sure. But you'd also have one hell of a chance at radically transforming development and residential patterns in a City.

    Will this ever happen? I wouldn't count on it. There are natural constituencies on the left and right to join together and fight it, not to mention legal challenges. But until we eliminate the disparities between the Southpoints and North-East Central Durhams of the world, we aren't going to move things forward anywhere.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful questions, Harold. If you want to chat more, come have a beer with Barry and me sometime. He isn't quite as scary in real life as on the blog, anyway.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 8:38 PM  

  • Harold,

    Sorry for the snark. Sometimes I get punchy. (And having just gotten another incredibly deceptive attack mailing from Stith, I'm pretty hot about the issue right now.) Anyway, welcome to Durham, and thanks for reading our blogs.

    I'm not rabidly pro-Bell. I'd rate his tenure as a mayor as somewhere around a B-. He's a consensus builder, not out to generate a lot of new energy or anything like that. But he's brought a measure of normalcy to city hall, and I'd say that we currently have one of the more functional councils we've had in a long time. And yes, Stith is a part of this council, but he's got the worst absenteeism of the bunch, serves on far and away the fewest committees, and has shown no capacity whatsoever to be able to work with his fellow council members. Frankly, I'd give him an F on his council service. I imagine that if he were elected, we'd have two years of war between the mayor and the majority of the council. (There would almost certainly be a Catotti+Brown+Cole-McFadden+Woodard coalition that would continue to block any of the nonsense proposals he's brought to the table over the years.)

    I'm ready for someone other than Bell, but right now Stith is the only alternative, and he is, in a word, terrible. My guess is that this will be Bell's last run, even if he wins, and that there will be a better option in two years.s

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 10:38 PM  

  • If you want to chat more, come have a beer with Barry and me sometime. He isn't quite as scary in real life as on the blog, anyway.

    However, for such an enlightened and tolerant guy, i do get pissed off rather easily.

    Stith doesn't so much as hide some of his credentials as he does kind of bypass them hoping you won't notice. for instance, the several years as a VP of Art Pope's Civitas Institute. Pope is the financial backer for much of the more reactionary nonsense that comes from the John Locke Foundation. My favorite was the study that basically called for widening every road in Durham to eliminate congestion.

    Raising the bulk of your campaign funds from outside the town you wish to lead to me is a huge problem. It shows the lack of support that Stith has within the community. It's pretty much common knowledge among the chattering class in Durham that Stith is positioning himself for a run at statewide office anyway. He sought the Republican nomination for Lt. Gov. a couple of years back, and if he could do that or something similar from the mayor's office, rather than back in Pope's employ, he'd have a better shot.

    I liked how his current mailer, in talking about the lead in the water situation, says, "City officials remained silent."

    Well, last i checked, Thomas Stith was a city official. One of the 7 most powerful officials in the city, as far as i can tell. That's a pretty tough piece of cake to both have and eat, if you know what i mean.

    and correct me if i'm wrong, but i thought the lead in the drinking water was supposed to have come from lead solder used in home construction during a certain period of time. did i miss something where the cause was found to be elsewhere?

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 11:05 PM  

  • I'll echo what Michael says about Bell. This is not exactly a hard-hitting political analysis, but one of the things I like about Bell is that he's calm, and I think that can have a calming influence on others. Watching people in this town get red in the face over the school board or the Duke Lacrosse case, he always maintained a reserved demeanor that, if nothing else, at least didn't add fuel to the already raging fires.

    I can't think of anything bad to say about him. To me, that says a lot of good about a politician.

    One of the failings I find in democracy is that people think that be electing a leader, that the leader is going to have the power to change everything. That's not democracy, that's authoritarianism. For instance, my biggest beef about Durham is the amount of litter in the streets. I know that Bell is not personally throwing that trash there, or condoning it, and that in a city with a big crime problem, trash is low on the priority list. I also know that Keep Durham Beautiful is a non-profit entity with city funding that addresses the problem above and beyond what city departments can do, and solicits help from the residents, which to me is a positive, pro-active effort. My beef is mostly with the people of Durham, not the officials...this town has a lot of litterbugs. And I have to tip my hat to Barry for lobbying the city successfully to at least get one trash can placed at one bus stop...and to the city for being responsive to his requests.

    Also, I don't know how Stith can say that Bell was silent about the lead issue. I've gotten mail from the city, as well as inserts in the water bill, I've read about it in the paper as well. I don't keep up on the news as much as these other dudes, but I certainly heard about the lead issue.

    By Anonymous mrs dependable, at 8:44 AM  

  • Say, is that Nicky Giovanni up there? Cool! We have our own inner city beat poet at last!

    Look, it doesn't take a lot of words to explain: yes, Bell sucks. But he sucks WAY less than Thomas Stith, who would be as bad a leader as he was a councilman, and who is COMPLETELY controlled by the ultra rightwing John Locke Foundation and the Civitas Foundation, for whom he worked until recently. Google them and get back to us. Among the essays he wrote while shilling for them: a strategy on aligning the black vote with the far right vote since both groups hate gays and are both groups are anti-abortion.

    There's a reason he is running. I'm just not convinced that reason has all that much to do with Durham.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:19 PM  

  • A great amount of material to digest everyone. Thank you! I think it's clear what direction I will go at the polls, but even clearer that getting more involved as a citizen in matters that affect the city of Durham is crucial for the benefit of the community, my family and myself.

    Thank you for all the kind, constructive and enlightening follow-ups too --- even though we may have initially started off on the wrong foot. That's o.k. My wife and I are always starting off on opposite feet, but we seem to hash things out toward a mutual understanding.

    The learning never ends. I will be printing this one out for future reference and will be checking in again soon.

    Good morning!

    By Anonymous Anonymous Harold, at 4:21 AM  

  • I want some of whatever he's

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:11 PM  

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