What’s at Stake for Occupy in the 2011 Municipal Election?

What’s at Stake for Occupy in the 2011 Municipal Election?

The short answer…a lot!

What’s in this blog post?

1. What’s on the ballot for the 2011 municipal election?

2. Which overarching goals and concerns of Occupy Duke and Occupy Together do the munincipal elections relate to?

3. How do Duke community members vote and why should they vote in Durham (instead of in other locations, etc.)?

4. Are there any candidates ‘worthy’ of my support?

5. How can I help encourage Duke students to vote in the 2011 municipal elections?

1. What’s on the ballot for the 2011 municipal election?


*City Council

*Ballot referendum raising sales tax by .5% for public transit

* Ballot referendum raising sales tax by .25% for education (Durham Public Schools and Durham Tech)

2. Which overarching goals and concerns of Occupy Duke and Occupy Together do the elections relate to?

a. The future of Occupy Durham

b. the fate of Durham Public Schools and Educational Equality

c. Fighting poverty, homelessness, joblessness and income disparity

d. Offering an alternative to environmentally and socially dangerous private transportation

e. Defining the relationship between the public and private sector

a. The future of Occupy Durham

If we want to truly stand in solidarity with Occupy Durham, we have an obligation to elect leaders who will be more accommodating to direct democracy and occupy of public spaces.  Across the country, Occupy movements are struggling in the face of city governments who find Occupy bothersome or even pernicious.

Policies set by the city council and mayor will continue to have a major influence on the capacity for citizen activists to organize and assemble.

The current city council candidates have not issued formal positions on the issue of public space, so it would be great to have Occupiers as them at the City Council Candidates Forum on Thursday night: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=193644994045268

For more info: 



b. The fate of Durham Public Schools, Durham Tech and Education Equality

On the ballot is a referendum to increase the sales tax to improve public education in Durham.    Supporting education equality is a necessary part of fighting economic injustice, and having a well-educated population decreases the extent that we as a society can be manipulated by misinformation.

“Othela Ngamdi enrolled at Durham Technical Community College because he wanted to continue his education — but also because the school was affordable. “What I like about Durham Tech is that it is not that expensive,” Ngamdi said. “There are a lot of people like me who can’t afford to go to more expensive schools. There are even a lot of people who can’t afford to go to Durham Tech.  A “Local Sales and Use Tax Referendum” on the ballot this Election Day is designed, in part, to make sure more students in need can afford to go to the local community college.  The quarter-cent tax, if passed, would bring an estimated $9.2 million annually to local educational institutions. Durham Tech would get 8.97 percent of that windfall, a projected $825,000 per year. That money would be used for Durham Challenge Service Stipends and Challenge Grants, scholarships awarded to local residents who have recently graduated from the Durham Public Schools or who are in need of training or retraining because they are unemployed or under-employed.  Read more: The Herald-Sun – Sales tax would open doors at Durham Tech ”

Read more: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story_news_durham/16221106/article-Advocates–Education-sales-tax-would-plug-holes–fuel-dreams-?instance=main_article

c. Fighting poverty, homelessness and joblessness:

City Council candidates mostly agree that these problems are priorities, but vary widely on their proposed solutions….

Schewel: “We need to make sure that every neighborhood is a safe neighborhood, that we are supporting low-income housing initiatives and enforcing the housing code, that we are providing excellent recreational and after-school activities for inner-city children, and that we are creating a system of mobility that makes employment around our region accessible to all our citizens. In short, we need to use police, planning, recreation, housing, job placement and training, transportation and inspections resources to lift up the neglected parts of our community.”

Hughes: “When attracting businesses to our community, we must ensure that local citizens are given first consideration for these new jobs through specific language in the incentive deals.”

Catotti: “Unemployment continues to plague the nation and our city. Durham’s unemployment rate (8.2%) is lower than that of North Carolina (10.3%) and the U.S. as a whole (9.1%), but that is small comfort to families who can’t put a meal on the table. I will continue to support our Department of Economic and Workforce Development, helping to shape and fund programs and incentives to attract new businesses, train workers, and support our existing businesses to expand and improve.”

Burnette: “Factoring in the possibly exponential growth of our homeless population via increased migration from other parts of the country is perhaps not engaged as actively as possible in community outreach programming. The city should address this particularity by recalculating of homeless statistics accounting for increased migrant populations and work toward acquisition and renovation of foreclosed and condemned properties around the City of Medicine specifically in order to bolster our not only affordable housing base, but also our transitional housing infrastructure. The renovation of these properties could also serve as a source of employment for potential residents of these spaces. 10 years is an excellent timeline. We may need more sooner though.”


d. Offering an alternative to the oil-automobile complex:

As Durham and the Triangle grows, the region must decide–do we want to be slaves to the automobile and to oil?  Or do we want an alternative that is more socially and environmentally sustainable?

A yes vote on the public transit referendum is a vote for environmental and social justice

Read more: http://www.durhamorangefriendsoftransit.org/pages/funding-transit

e. Relationship between the public and private sector:

Most of the city council candidates have issued statements in response to the following question: “What role should the city play in the development or redevelopment of commercial real estate? Do you believe the city should award incentives to private developers, and under what circumstances?”  Read their answers:

Solomon Burnette: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/solomon-burnette/Content?oid=2661284

Diane Catotti: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/diane-n-catotti/Content?oid=2660306

Steve Schewel: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/steve-schewel/Content?oid=2661286

Donald Hughes: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/donald-hughes/Content?oid=2660321

3. How do Duke students vote and why should they vote in Durham? 

North Carolina has one stop early voting meaning you can register to vote and vote at the same time–if you are not already registered in Durham you can vote during early voting, but not on election day.  

Early voting has already started, and continues until Saturday.

Election day is next Tuesday, Nov. 8.

All of the logistical information (including information about free rides to the polls) is available online:sites.duke.edu/dukethevote

Please note: The email sent out by parking and transportation last week contained innaccurate information about the hours that voting sites were open and where students are supposed to vote

Please look out for updated information to be sent out by DSG shortly


But why should I vote in Durham instead of in the city/state in which my parents reside?

* Did you already request an absentee ballot?  If not, then you aren’t voting at home either, and you are wasting your capacity to make the community a better place through responsible voting

* You are directly impacted by Durham policies and have a right to help shape them:

(Examples, paying sales tax, making use of public transit, concerns over water quality–in 2010, Durham was found to be in violation of federal water quality standards, using Durham roads, hopefully not getting tried in Durham courts [NC has elected judges])

You are living here for four years…own it!

What if I decide at a later date in another location?

You will not be struck from the voter rolls in other locations for over a year.  As long as you dont’ vote in the same election  in two different locations (e.g. you cannot vote for President in NC and in FL but you could vote in the primary in NC and then the general in FL), you are obeying the law.  Voting in Durham now doesn’t do anything to restrict you voting somewhere else in 2012.

4. Are there any candidates worthy of my support?

I hear a lot of criticism from within Occupy that depicts all elected officials as corrupt ne’erdowells.  I’d encourage you to attend the City Council Candidates Forum this Thursday night–I think you will find that many of the people running in local elections do so because they are deeply concerned about the future of the community, and hope to make it a better place.

The six city council candidates have different profiles, and I think they each have things to offer.  I’m going to highlight Steve Schewel here, because I think he is a ‘textbook example’ of the type of candidate that might excite many other Occupiers

He founded IndyWeek, an independent newspaper in the Triangle that provides triangle residents with a meaningful alternative to corporate media and great journalism and coverage of economic and social issues.   Six years ago he (along with his student advisees from UNC and Duke) founded Crayons2Calculators (C2C), whose mission is to donate free supplies to Durham Public Schools teachers. In the last several years, C2C has acquired and donated more than $250,000 in free supplies to teachers. Steve serves on the C2C board.  I have been continuously impressed by Schewel’s dedication to resolving problems in the community.

I’d also like to point out that this election will also involve a healthy dose of “direct democracy”–the referenda allow citizens to decide policy directly


5. How can I help encourage participation in the 2011 election?

Duke the Vote needs volunteers for Friday (10am-5pm), Saturday (10am-1pm) and Tuesday (9am-7:30pm).  If you have even half an hour free, that would be great!  Shoot me an email (edb10@duke.edu), and I’ll give you more information.  The help of students, staff, faculty, etc., is all appreciated.

If you don’t even have half an hour, but want to make sure that students are aware of the upcoming election, invite your facebook friends to the following facebook events:



Published by Elena Botella

Elena Botella is a Duke Undergraduate in the Class of 2013, majoring in Economics and Math.

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