Durham Community Meeting, April 25, 2019

Meeting focused on “People First” Policy

Summary from the Durham Community Meeting

Making Public Incentives Equitable and Effective


Two Holy Cross parishioners, Dianne Ponder and Ava Thompson, represented the parish at the Durham Community meeting on Thursday, April 25, 2019.


The goal of the meeting was to present  the “People First Policy” drafted by four community social action groups – Durham CAN, Durham Chapter of A Phillip Randolph Institute of N.C., Durham for All, PowerUp NC – to organization members and Durham elected leaders.

The People First Policy is a framework for holding businesses that receive financial incentives to come to Durham accountable for things that they agreed to provide for Durham residents. The policy would include

  1.  A Community Benefits Scorecard for each project applying for incentives,
  2.  A Community Access Website and
  3. An Accountability Table

The proposed Community Benefits Scorecard would include items that align themselves with Durham values, affordable housing and decreasing displacement of residents, race/gender equity, living wages, hiring local, hiring residents of color, and subcontracting to underrepresented businesses. Actions that promote workforce development would also be included. During the application process projects would undergo an evaluation using the scorecard.

A Community Access Website would be developed, where the scorecard would be uploaded, along with other information about businesses applying for financial incentives. The website would be user-friendly and easy for all Durham citizens to access. The website would promote transparency in the process of businesses applying for and receiving tax dollars in incentives to come to Durham.

The Accountability Table would be made up of Durham citizens. The group would monitor the application process of projects. A report from this group with recommendations would be sent to elected leaders.

Feedback from Durham elected officials was in support of “The People First Policy”. The only suggestions from them were:

  • Javiera Caballero, City Council Member: Include the members of Durham Public School Board in the discussion.
  • Steve Schewel, Durham Mayor: In mission statement of “People First Policy”, use a different terminology. Long-term residents leave out newcomers to Durham, especially immigrants and refugees.
  • Mayor Schewel: He noted that the City only gives small incentives to small companies. As part of the City requirement, a plan submitted by companies applying for incentives must include local hiring. He admitted that accountability for hiring was weak. Another concern that Mayor Schewel had was sustainability of momentum. How will future City leaders be held accountable for keeping policies going?
  • Heidi Carter, County Commissioner: Attendees at the Community Meeting are encouraged to come to County Commission meetings to voice concerns and hold the Board of Commissioners accountable. There is a need to require businesses receiving incentives to develop a relationship with Durham Public Schools to train students for jobs through internships and apprenticeships. Businesses should also use local foods in their cafeterias.
  • Wendy Jacobs, County Commissioner Chair: Jacobs noted that the time is right to leverage inclusivity, vibrancy and risk factors. The barriers she noted were access to transportation and residents being certified for available jobs from companies.
  • Brenda Howerton, County Commissioner Chair: Howerton noted that the concern is not to advocate for a living wage, but for a market-rate wage. She stated that incentives need to be taken back when companies don’t meet the plan they submit during the application process. Commissioner Howerton also stated that more people of color need to be present during the planning stage.

Next steps

Mayor Schewel: There will be a need for the City to develop more commissions and task forces to address incentive concerns.

Wendy Jacobs: There is a need to hire Economic Development staff at the county level. The County should consider contracting with Downtown Durham, Inc. to help with workforce development.

Tags: Durham People First Policy, Holy Cross Social Action, Durham Community Meeting

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