Durham: incumbent looks strong in mayoral race

Durham will soon elect a mayor, with incumbent William V. “Bill’’ Bell a clear frontrunner.

His opponents in the Oct. 11 primary are retired salesman Ralph McKinney, Jr., East Durham minister Sylvester Williams, and Durham County Commissioner Joe Bowser.

Bell recently received the endorsement of the People’s Alliance, one of the three major endorsing political committees in city politics. Milo Pyne, co-chair of the left-learning PAC, is not anticipating any surprises for this race.  “We think Mayor Bell has provided good leadership,” Pyne said in a telephone interview.

Endorsements are also anticipated from the right-leaning Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

So far, the Durham race has been a slow one.  But some of the candidates have caused a stir.

Bowser is caught in dust-up surrounding the July 27 firing of Department of Social Services Director Gerri Robinson.  Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Page contends Bowser used his position as commissioner to appoint a friend, Gail Perry, as interim director. Bowser denies the accusation.

Williams is a candidate in two races. In addition to running for mayor,  Williams is also a candidate in the race for a vacant seat on the Durham County Board of Commissioners. This development came after the Board of Elections discovered that Williams’ application was accidentally misdirected to its email spam folder.

Bell has held the mayor’s office since 2001. Bowser, the only other mayoral candidate who has held elective office, is serving his fifth term as a Durham county commissioner.

Williams and McKinney ran unsuccessfully for city council in a previous election.  This mayoral race will boil down to Durham’s primary issues: neighborhood development, schools, housing, and crime.

The primary election will be held October 11, 2011 and the general election will be held on November 8.

The city of Durham has slightly more than 132,000 registered voters, 83,000 of them Democrats.

This article was reported as a part of the JOMC 253 Reporting course at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

  1. None of the incumbent city council members have been helpful to me.!__I have been saddled with water bills that are not credible. The current city council has yet to intervene on my behalf. I am hoping that if my new meter continues to demonstrate my previous one was erroneous that the council may eventually compel the water department to refund some of our overcharges. Here is a small article on the matter: __I have been at my address for 6 years and our water bills must be inaccurate. There are 2 adults and 2 young girls here. We don't water the lawns and use bottled water for cooking and drinking. Despite this our water bills are excessive. 3 times in the past 6 years we got bills that claimed we used 4500 cubic feet of water. The last time was a few months ago and the bill was for over $700.00! During better months we are billed $200-300.00. It's almost like paying a second housing rent some months. __My neighbors report to me that their bills are usually a little over $100.00. I had Al Nelson from the Durham water conservation department look into it. He had our meter changed, then had it upgraded to an electronic meter to track usage better. He could find no leaks and no real explanation but says something isn't right. He says our usage is showing 6 times what is average for a family of our size–it's not like we are running a bottled water business out of our kitchen. He said billing should have got him involved a long time ago but he's stumped.__I was further upset after doing the math. They are claiming we used 4500+ cubic feet, that's 33,000 gallons in 61 days. That's 563 gallons every day! That would mean we were using 23+ gallons of water every hour, every day, for 2 months.__This is ridiculous.The bureaucracy here is a barrier to justice and fair treatment. No NC state senators or representatives have acknowledged my complaints. The billing department acts like we're just whining about our bill, the County Commissioners ignored my phone call and subsequent email, and the city manager Tom Bonfield referred me back to the water department. I feel sure that either our fitting have been incorrect or our meter has been malfunctioning. Either way we don't use 3,4,5 or 6 hundred gallons of water daily, Durham doesn't seem to care, and we've been overcharged by thousands over the past six years. This issue is widespread according to the news (including Atlanta, Charlotte and Philadelphia) and it is wrong that there is no oversight agency that can check for inaccuracies–if something is awry with a bill you often have no recourse.__If anyone else in Durham is experiencing inflated usage claims please post a comment or email us at otto.ladensack.us@member.mensa.org . __Thanks, _Otto Ladensack_1734 Stage Rd._Durham, NC 27703_(919) 349-7720_(The original page above, with working links, is at: http://ottoladensack.blogspot.com/2011/02/durham-… __Here are video links that further explain my situation: _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmFhYF4SRek , _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5avlIF3bt94 , _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXRTUvn_txk , _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY_tcfZnA7E , _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH6vjCAkoVs , _http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u56qq_C_hUw __The 3rd, 5th and 6th clip are most telling but all are concise. Pt.6 tells about how my family had its water service wrongfully terminated Wednesday October 5th and despite assurances nobody came that day to restore it! Thank you for considering my situation.

    Comment by Otto Ladensack on October 11, 2011 at 9:23 am

  2. I tried to vote in today's election but am not able to. Apparently county residents cannot vote for city council members–including the mayor. This seems wrong because if there is an issue with the water department or some other city function, like the one I am currently having, the people I am supposed to be able to rely on do not answer to me at all. I believe that if I was a city resident the council would still be indifferent toward my inaccurate bills but at least I could use my 1 vote toward ousting the incumbents whereas us county residents do not need to matter at all. Everyone affected by city services should have representation–even if that representation is poor.

    Comment by OttoLadensack on October 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm