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August, 2015

Dear Friends,

I am asking for your support as I seek re-election to the Durham City Council. Here is why I am running: It’s simple. I love this city, and I want to help it flourish. I have given my very best efforts to my city council work during the past four years, and I believe that work has made a positive difference in the life of our city. Now, on the verge of Durham’s Golden Age, we face two critical challenges:

First, we must make sure that the city we love is a city for all.  The harsh underside to Durham’s recent prosperity is that thousands of people—overwhelmingly African-American and Hispanic—are poor, jobless, and now increasingly priced out of their central-city neighborhoods. To improve their lives, we must keep affordable housing at the top of our agenda, train our residents for good jobs and connect them to those jobs, create a bus and light-rail system that makes employment around our region accessible to all, and ensure that every neighborhood is a safe neighborhood.

Second, we need to grow in such a way that we enhance rather than diminish our wonderful small-city quality of life. We need to preserve open space and parkland, protect our neighborhoods from commercial encroachment, prevent the deterioration of our air quality, provide a plentiful future source of safe, clean drinking water, keep pace with our infrastructure needs, and construct the sidewalks, ball fields, bike lanes and trails that will make Durham a happier and healthier place to live.

City government has a limited but crucial role to play in facing both of these challenges. Here is what I will fight for:

  • An affordable housing strategy that works. I work on this issue every single day. I will soon be releasing a detailed, comprehensive housing strategy that can make a difference even in the face of powerful market forces. Look for that strategy paper here on this website.
  • Strong council oversight of our police force. I will continue to work towards a police force that actively seeks to win the trust of our entire community, engages in true community policing, enforces the laws free from any racially discriminatory effects, and does the top-notch crime-fighting work that our residents need and demand.
  • A mobility strategy for the next 50 years. We must provide an inexpensive, efficient bus network for our 22,000 daily riders, and we must push the 17-mile Durham-Orange light rail project over the finish line for federal funding. Even as we pressure Wake County to join the regional rail system, we must complete this first leg in the next decade, and we can do it.
  • $15 million worth of sidewalks. The council has prioritized this spending, and I will work hard to get these sidewalks built over the next five years.
  • Improving our trails, bike lanes, parks, ballfields and tree canopy. Durham lags far behind the top cities when it comes to trail miles, bike infrastructure and ballfields, and we must fund and build them all over town. We are also losing our tree canopy to age and development, and we need a public-private effort to replace the canopy and make sure that every neighborhood has the benefit of a vibrant tree canopy.
  • Attention to the needs of our Hispanic residents. They now make up 15 percent of our local population and 20 percent of our schoolchildren. With a spirit of cooperation, we can all prosper together.
  • Support for the Mayor’s anti-poverty initiative in East Durham. Mayor Bell has put poverty at the forefront of our civic work and engaged hundreds of people in this effort. As we move from surveying residents and planning to action, let’s keep it going.

Why am I qualified to serve? In addition to my first four years on the city council, I also had the privilege to serve on the Durham Public Schools Board of Education for four years, including two years as vice-chair.

I founded the Independent Weekly in 1983, and I remained president of the company and majority owner for 29 years until selling the paper in 2012. Since 2000, I have taught public policy to undergraduates at Duke’s Sanford School. With my wife, Lao Rubert, we have raised our two beloved boys here in Durham, both of them graduates of Durham Public Schools. In addition, I have been intimately involved in the civic life of Durham since I moved here to attend Duke as a young man.

Among my civic activities, I’ll mention just one: For 18 years I coached youth soccer, most recently at Riverside High. What I have learned on the soccer field is that our children need safe neighborhoods, decent housing, good schools and constructive recreational opportunities. I want the chance to work on their behalf.

I am running for re-election because there is so much unfinished work yet to do. With two of my colleagues choosing to retire at the end of this year, there will be change on city council. I’m committed to the continuity of the many initiatives we’ve begun and to the strong, transparent fiscal management and excellent core service delivery that we have established here in Durham. I will listen with an open heart and an open mind to you, the people of Durham.

I would appreciate your vote in the primary on October 6 and the general election on November 3.

Sincerely,

Steve Schewel