Posted by Team Owens
A New Generation of Leadership
The majority of the 2008-elected County Commission first took office decades ago. They’ve done a good job sometimes, and a less good job other times. During the economic-crisis of the last four years, the Commission has been letting us down. Durham has changed since the 70s and 80s, and it’s time for some changes on the Commission.
In the 2010 session, the Commissioners spent more time debating who would be chair, and who would be vice-chair, than they did discussing the school budget. They spent much more time this last session debating who they would appoint to the vacant commissioner’s seat, than they did on any other single issue. Ultimately, they agreed to appoint the only candidate who promised not to run against them in 2012.
But it’s not the individual Commissioners that needs to change, it’s the stale air in the Commission chamber. Durham is changing in good ways. Durham is evolving. But these changes aren’t represented on the Commission.
Durham is the youngest metropolitan area in the whole South. Our average age is 31. But the average age of our elected policy-making leaders is 66. More than 75% of Durham is under the age of 50, and exactly zero of our leaders are. Durham is now 15% Latino, and growing; more than a quarter of our public school students are Latino. But there are no Latinos in elected government. Durham has one of the largest, if not the largest, LGBT population in North Carolina– but none of our elected officials are LGBT, or even connected to the community.
These are the facts of a changing, growing, vibrant Durham–but they are missing from our County Commission. We must ensure that all the communities of Durham have a seat at the table.
Most importantly, the Commission needs creative thinking to solve problems, instead of just re-fighting the battles of the last few years and decades, over and over. We are moving into 2012-13 with a $14 million gap in our school budget. We might have to close a school because of under-enrollment. And violent, gang-related crime is on the rise. In the next few years, we will see a major drop in property tax revenue as valuations decline.
We will have to face and fix these problems. To do this, we need new voices at the table. We need a new generation of leaders who don’t fear speaking honestly. We need leaders who understand the challenges and the opportunities, the failures and the success, of what Durham is today.