Anita Daniels | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Candidate for Durham Board of County Commissioners

Anita Daniels 

Candidate for Durham Board of County Commissioners

Name as it appears on the ballot: Anita Daniels

Full legal name, if different: Anita Antoinette Daniels-kenney

Date of birth: 2/16/1960

Campaign Web site: www.electanitadaniels.org

Occupation & employer: Interim Director, Durham Center Access (operated by Freedom House Recovery Center)

E-mail: danielsforcommissioner@gmail.com


1. Describe your past leadership roles, both in career and community. How will these experiences help you serve on the Board of Commissioners? Please be specific about how these roles correspond to a commissioner's responsibilities.

I have held a variety of leadership positions throughout my professional career, which spans 27 years, as well as the leadership positions serving on nonprofit boards and local committees/commissions. I currently serve as interim director of Durham Center Access. Other titles I have held over the years include:

Freedom House Recovery Center - Durham Center Access, Durham, NC - (2006-present): Director of Outpatient Services (2/2009); Director, Mobile Crisis Team (8/2008) Shift Leader (6/2006)

Union Baptist Church, Durham, NC - (2005-present): Assistant Minister of Congregational Care and Counseling

City of Durham, Durham, NC - (2004-2008): Operations and Evaluation Administrator

City of Durham, Durham, NC - (2002-2005): Director, Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park

actualities limited, Durham, NC - (2002-present): President/Licensed Clinical Social Worker

County of Durham, Durham NC - (1998 – 2001): Department Director, Durham Youth Coordinating Board

Triangle United Way, Research Triangle Park, NC - (1996 – 1998): Vice-President of Community Planning and Fund Distribution

United Way of Greater Orange County, Chapel Hill, NC - (1993 – 1995): Executive Director and Chief Professional Officer

Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina - (1991 – 1995): Adjunct Instructor, Department of Sociology and Social Work

United Way of Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina - (1989 – 1993): Assistant Vice-President of Community Resources

Unlike most of my opponents, I have had the privilege of living and working in Durham, Orange, and Wake counties and developed positive relationships with business, education (including college and university), healthcare, human services, nonprofit and community agencies, religious, local and state elected leaders. The positions, specifically United Way and County and City Government, prepared me to represent the organization as one of its executives. My job responsibilities were community planning, needs assessment, funding policies and priorities for education, health and human services, fund raising, environmental resources/regulations for waste recycling/disposal, and coordinated/collaborative initiatives with local and state government departments. My work spans the ages from young children to senior citizens and all citizens along the socio-economic spectrum.

Additionally, I have worked with city and county employees in all counties and was employed by Durham County and City governments. I prepared department budgets, contracts, contract amendments, agenda memorandum, and presented findings, initiatives, issues, and proposed solutions to the Board of County Commissioners, the City Council, and the Youth Coordinating Board. The Youth Coordinating Board, created in 1997, was co-chaired by the Chairman of the BOCC and the Mayor, and consisted of elected and/or appointed local and state government officials. I was recently recommended for appointment to the Open Space and Trails Commission by the Joint City County Planning Committee for City Council approval this month.

Lastly, I served as the County Manager's designee on the Governor's Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and as Vice-chair of the Lakeview Advisory Board when the idea for the creating the school to serve long-term suspended youth was being formulated.

2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am a registered Democrat and have been my entire life. I am professionally trained as a social worker and hold a Master's Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Human Services Administration. I am a proponent of democracy and believe people have the right to equal access, treatment, resources, opportunities, justice, and freedom from oppression and discrimination. I genuinely care about the welfare of human beings and ensuring they are able to achieve their best life. Although I have held a variety of leadership positions throughout my career, I am always cognizant of the fact that I was a child who someone cared enough about to shepherd through early adulthood and point in the right direction. I am obligated to pay it forward, and if I am elected, that reality - - the well-being of human kind, not the title of County Commissioner (or any title I have held in the past or will hold in the future), will guide all of my decisions.

I listed the professional positions I have held the past 27 years. The community volunteer leadership roles I have held over the years coupled with my current/past memberships and honors, reflect my philosophy and correlate with my campaign platform: employment, education, safety, smart growth, health and human services, and competent, accountable leadership. They include the following:

Member, Durham County Jail Diversion Committee, 2011-present.

Member, Durham Economic Resource Center Board of Directors, 2009-present.

Recording Secretary, The Links, Incorporated, (Durham) NC Chapter, 2008-2012.

Secretary, United Negro College Fund-Durham Steering Committee, 2007-2010.

Member, City of Durham Capital Improvement Program Committee, 2006-2008.

Closing Speaker, Durham County Women's Commission Fall Forum, 2005.

Assistant Secretary/Treasurer, Carter Community Charter School Advisory Board, 2004-present.

Chairman, St. Joseph's Historic Foundation, Board of Directors, 2003-04.

Ex-officio Secretary, Lyon Park Advisory Committee, 2002-2004.

Member, Women in Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc., 2001-02.

Vice-chair, Lakeview School Advisory Committee, 1999-01.

Member, Durham County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, 1999-01.

Member, Durham City/County Crime Cabinet, 1999-01.

Treasurer, Durham's Partnership for Children Board of Directors, 1999-00.

Vice Chairman, Durham's Partnership for Children, 1998-99.

Chairman, Orange County Partnership for Young Children Board of Directors, 1996-98.

Volunteer Coordinator, UNC-Chapel Hill Career Night Program, 1997.

Induction Speaker, North Carolina T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Education Program, 1996.

Commencement Speaker, UNC-Chapel Hill, School of Social Work, 1996.

Member, Orange County Human Services Advisory Commission, 1995-98.

Member, Orange County Human Services/Welfare Reform Task Force, 1996.

Member, Orange County Public Private Partnership, 1993-95.

Opinion Editorial, The Philanthropy Journal of North Carolina, April 1995.

Member, Triangle Management Assistance Program, 1990-1997.

Member, Meredith College Social Work Advisory Board, 1991-1993.

Guardian Ad Litem, The Caswell Center, Kinston, North Carolina, 1986-01.

Memberships/Honors

NC Democratic Women Resolutions Committee, 2012.

NC Council of Community Programs Excellence Award for Crisis Response (with The Durham Center), 2011.

Durham Democratic Women, 2011 – present.

Durham Branch, NAACP, 2011.

The Links, Incorporated, Durham (NC) Chapter, 2006 – present; www.linksinc.org

Triangle United Way African-American Leadership Initiative, 2005.

President's Award, St. Joseph's Historic Foundation-Hayti Heritage Center, 2004.

Mental Health Professional Woman of the Year, Durham Alumnae Chapter Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, 2003.

Union Baptist Church, 2002-present; www.myubc.org

National Association of Social Workers, 2002-present; www.nasw.org

Triangle United Way Leadership Circle, 1996-2001.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, 1992 – present; www.deltasigmatheta.org

3. List the three most important issues facing Durham, in order of priority. If elected, how will you address these issues? Please be specific.

The three most important issues facing Durham in order of priority for me are Employment, Education, and Employment Training. If elected, I will address each in the following manner:

EMPLOYMENT - I believe the single greatest challenge facing Durham County today is unemployment. As the interim director of Durham Center Access, operated by Freedom House Recovery Center, I supervise two staff who complete mental health and substance abuse assessment for citizens seeking support from Work First and Food and Nutrition Services. DSS houses the staff at their Duke Street location.

Since 2010, the face of our clientele has changed dramatically. We are completing assessments for college educated professionals (including Master's level and/or professionals downsized from Fortune 500 companies, nurses, dentists, and physical therapists), who are out of work and have been for more than 12 months. They have depleted their separation packages and savings and are seeking financial assistance from Work First and food stamps to help feed their families. They are depressed and discouraged because they have been unable to find suitable employment. Some have tried to get jobs at Wal-Mart and Sam's but have been told they are over qualified.

I would start by working with the Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Division and the City's Economic Development Department to discuss which of our current businesses is performing well, seeing financial gains, and positioned to add more jobs. Additionally, I believe the BOCC could take more initiative to pursue businesses we want to move to Durham instead of waiting for them to approach us. The BOCC can invest in a collaborative and comprehensive marketing strategy with Durham Convention and Visitor's Bureau and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce to sell Durham to businesses. If we believe "good things are happening in Durham," then it is up to us to share what makes Durham great and recruit businesses to stimulate our local economy and grow our tax base.

Based on information from financial analysts, the United States needs to create approximately 250 thousand jobs per month to reduce the unemployment rate, so I would consider strategies that include gradually and methodically increasing and sustaining jobs in Durham, particularly more entry level employment options for persons age 20-29 who are just getting started in their career. In January 2012, Durham had nearly 12,000 unemployed citizens. For the job vacancies that already exist, I would like to see the Workforce Development Board and JobLink establish paid internships with businesses, so citizens can receive a salary while getting on the job training and determine if they are eligible for permanent employment with the company.

EDUCATION – In March 2010, the Alliance for Excellent Education completed research to show the connection between graduation rates and the economy. People who have the appropriate level of education can secure a job with a higher salary, will have more money to spend and increase sales tax revenue. This includes increasing their ability to purchase and keep a home, thereby generating additional property tax revenue. Education coupled with employment would also decrease the burden on public services like the public safety, courts, social services, public health, mental health, and community college expenses for remediation.

As a member of the BOCC, I would collaborate with the School Board and Charter School leadership to meet the findings outlined in the Leandro Case that every child has a constitutional right to a sound basic education. Additionally, I would commit to increasing graduation rates.

Lastly, I want to approach the NC Department of Public Instruction to allow more participation by the county's elected body for public education relative to Charter schools. Since Charter schools are deemed by DPI as 'public schools,' the BOCC can facilitate quarterly meetings with DPS and Charter School leadership in a non-threatening environment where the dialogue is focused on the needs of all school-aged children and their families.

EMPLOYMENT TRAINING - The Obama Administration issued a press release March 12, 2012, unveiling the President's proposal for a streamlined re-employment system that will reach up to a million displaced workers annually and better connect workers and businesses with employment services in their communities.

As part of his plan to reform and modernize training systems, President Obama proposes to expand the availability of a universal suite of training and employment services to a broader number of displaced workers by consolidating and improving the Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA), and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Dislocated Worker program, creating the Universal Displaced Worker Program. Under this new Program, workers can receive high-quality job-search assistance, together with access to critical skills training for high-growth and in-demand industries or wage insurance for older workers.

In addition to a collaborative approach to creating jobs, I want to ensure the citizens who need a job are trained to fill the jobs we create. I would pursue a coordinated effort between the businesses and the entities responsible for assisting businesses with business develop and training - in our case Durham Technical Community College and the NC Institute of Minority Economic Development. I would also pursue a partnership with NCCU and Duke University to develop a joint training program where students could attend classes on both campuses as they prepare for the changing job market.

There is a very strong correlation between these three priorities. If I am elected, I will be looking for ways to grow our tax base and improve our economy, so school aged children receive a proper education, talented professionals with a college education can get a job or go back to work and provide for their families.

4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected, that you know would cost you popularity points with voters.

I personally oppose the Constitutional Amendment on the ballot for May 8. The North Carolina Constitution was created to protect the individual rights of all North Carolinians, e.g., male, female, old, young, rich, poor, black, white, and yes, gay and straight. Each of us is due equal rights no matter our choices for a domestic relationship. My mother used to say, "You can't help who you fall in love with." When I consider the impact of this Amendment, her words resonate with me even more.

North Carolina already has a law that prohibits same-sex marriage. This new Amendment will damage other domestic partnerships - - young couples who wait to get married; older adults who do not get married to avoid losing their benefits; and/or any couple who live together but have elected not to marry. It would also end protection against domestic violence for unmarried partners, thereby putting women who are somewhat protected by restraining orders back in harm's way, invalidate wills, and eliminate benefits in long-term domestic partnerships that are not legal marriages.

I am not in a position to underestimate the power of love, and I cannot in good conscience support withholding anyone's civil liberties. Consenting adults should have the right to choose with whom they wish to share their life.

5. Please describe how you handled a difficult decision in your community leadership experience or career. What were the possible consequences of the decision you made? Looking back, please explain whether you are still comfortable with how you handled the situation, or how you would change your actions.

As an employee of United Way, I was responsible for recruiting community volunteers to review agency budgets, tour agency facilities, listen to agency presentations and make funding recommendations to the Board of Directors. Additionally, I supervised an audit committee of volunteer CPAs responsible for reviewing each agency's audit and determining their level of fiscal health.

In making their funding recommendations, volunteers used information from the community needs assessment, the agency's request, and the audit findings. Due to an agency's fiscal health (positive or negative), the fund distribution committee made recommendations to decrease funding to agencies with a long-standing United Way history. I was responsible for explaining to the Board why the volunteers elected to decrease funding for agencies admired by many of them.

Unlike local government where citizens are required to pay taxes, United Way funding is more than 90% giving by individuals from their generosity. I would not change my actions because United Way like any other organization should be good stewards of the resources people graciously donate. I believe the United Way Board could justify reducing funding to an agency that had sufficient resources as well as one that was not managing its resources well.

6. Last fall, voters approved new sales taxes to generate new revenue for the Durham Public Schools and for mass transit in the county. Did you vote for or against these measures? Please explain why.

I voted in the affirmative for both sales taxes, one to generate new revenue for Durham Public Schools and the other for mass transit in the County. The School Board is not authorized to request tax increases, so the BOCC had to make the request of the voters on behalf of children and their families. A quality education and the resources needed to provide them are a critical component for academic achievement.

I supported the mass transit sales tax because in order for people to visit and/or move to Durham, we need the proper infrastructure to accommodate them. Triangle residents are constantly stuck in traffic on clogged roadways and eventually, we will be exposed to poor air quality if all adults and their teens (who are old enough to drive and own vehicles) continue our current transportation patterns (driving cars). We need to get people out of their cars and create other forms of transit that are both tied to destinations of importance and get citizens where they need to be in a timely fashion.

7. The newly adopted Durham County Strategic Plan identifies the need in Durham County to expand residents' access to technology. As a commissioner, how would you work toward this goal and how would you finance the efforts?

The first goal of Durham County's Strategic Plan is Community and Family Prosperity and Enrichment with proposed outcomes: to provide access to educational, vocational, economic, and cultural opportunities and to empower citizens to select strategies that improve their quality of life. One of the intermediate measures is access to computers.

One of the easiest ways to work toward the goal of access to technology is to ensure all government facilities (including public schools) have two to five computer stations for citizens to use. The computers should have software for citizens to access the internet for specific information including social networks as well as programs like Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Publisher, Access, PowerPoint). Facilities should have easy access to WiFi for citizens who have their own laptops and iPads. Additionally, the BOCC can coordinate its efforts with the City Council to place computers in all of its facilities, particularly the recreation facilities.

The County is on a three-year replacement program with its computer vendor. IT staff can work with the vendor to purchase the computers at a reduced cost since technology changes so quickly. For some citizens, a computer at locations throughout the County may be their first introduction to computers, so a refurbished computer with access to the internet will be a good starting place.

Citizens may need training on how to use the computers/software programs, so a combination of volunteers and paid staff from the Library and IT departments and Durham Tech can be explored.

8. What are the pros and cons of the county's economic incentives program? How would you amend it? What oversight mechanisms are in place to ensure companies adhere to the policy? Are those oversight mechanisms sufficient?

The Board of County Commissioners passed a Resolution Establishing the Durham County Economic Investment Fund April 13, 1996. The City of Durham, County of Durham, and State of North Carolina offer an array of incentives to help companies cover expenses on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, businesses can earn tax credits through investments and hiring performance.

Types of credits offered by the three entities include Central Administrative Office, Capital Investment Incentive, Economic Development Investment, EC Rider Incentive for Electricity, Foreign Trade Zone, Industrial Revenue Bond, Investment Tax Credit, and the Research and Development Tax Credit. Each has detailed requirements including the maximum percentage of credit allowed, length of time the benefit will be provided, and anticipated benefits to the County, City, and State, e.g., the creation of certain number of full-time jobs paying an above-average wage, and how incentives can be forfeited if the company fails to meet its agreement(s).

The areas that can be explored and enhanced are the anticipated increase in the tax base, the number of jobs based on the level of incentive (as low as 10 jobs), and an increase in the number of Durham City/County residents hired for the jobs. A significant number of employees commute to Durham, so even if the tax base increases, property tax in the form of residential home ownership and sales tax revenue are following the employees to Wake, Orange, Person, and surrounding counties. Additionally, companies could guarantee a higher number of jobs, and a larger percentage increase in the tax base annually. The BOCC may consider passing a revision to the Resolution since it was passed more than 16 years ago.

Different entities are responsible to administering the incentives including Duke Energy, Downtown Durham, Inc., and the federal government, which could impact the BOCC's ability to provide the level of oversight and scrutiny to ensure companies' adherence to the policy. I would continue to use the BOCC written update/status reports as well as request quarterly presentations as needed by representatives from the different entities administering the incentives.

9. What incentives would be appropriate in persuading the commercial and industrial sectors to cut their greenhouse gas emissions? The residential sector? Durham County in 2007 adopted a Greenhouse Gas Emissions plan, but at what point will Durham need to take more aggressive steps in emissions reductions?

In 2005, Durham hired ICLEI to provide a greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant inventory and action plan as well as set a reduction target for commercial, residential, and local governments. The target year for reductions is 2030 with 30% emissions reductions for the community and 50% emissions reductions for local government. If local government alone does not make changes, the anticipated increase in energy use and waste would be 29% over baseline by 2030.

From 2006-2008, Durham's greenhouse gas emissions increased 3% while industry decreased by 10%. Government greenhouse gas emissions rose 4%, residential rose 2%, and commercial had a 3% increase.

Some of the incentives that could be offered to the residential sector (including citizens renting apartments) are approximately $2,000 per residence for programmable thermostats, sealing, and caulking. Additionally, local governments are encouraged to educate its citizens about the effective ways to conserve energy and water in the home.

Businesses can be certified through the Chamber of Commerce's Green Plus program, which will attract citizens who care about the environment. The BOCC can also foster partnerships with the Home Builders Association of Durham, Durham Regional Association of Realtors, and private developers to encourage home energy efficiency.

10. Crime and safety is a large component of county government. What are your priorities for improvements in pre- and post-conviction services, such as prisoner re-entry programs and diversion programs for juveniles? How will you fund those priorities? How will you measure the success of those programs?

I currently serve on the Jail Diversion Committee and served in the past on the City County Crime Cabinet. When I worked for the County of Durham as the Director of Youth Services (Youth Coordinating Board), one of the first staff I hired had a juvenile record (assault at age 17). I also hired an intern who the County Manager (David Thompson) met at a Crime Cabinet meeting.

We must stimulate our local economy and create jobs, so citizens will be less stressed and have adequate resources to care for themselves and their families. We do not want our citizens to commit crimes against each other or lose all hope because the mental, emotional, and financial burdens are too heavy for them to manage.

We must divert persons suffering with mental illness and alcohol and other drug addictions from jail to appropriate community resources. State funding was cut to continue offering the Family and Youth Treatment Court programs, which served Durham citizens for over 10 years. Treatment Courts use teams of court and community professionals to help ensure North Carolina's offenders addicted to drugs and/or alcohol receive the intensive treatment they need to become healthy, law-abiding and productive family and community members. The BOCC is still funding case management services for Adult Treatment Court in Durham.

Additionally, Durham County has several halfway houses for men and women who have drug and alcohol dependence but minimal housing for persons suffering from severe and persistent mental illnesses. As a result, many of the citizens commit crimes because they are not taking their medications as prescribed, find themselves homeless, and needing to be hospitalized. The expense at this level is three times more than it would cost to place them in stable housing and adequately address their mental health needs.

At Freedom House Recovery Center - Durham Center Access where I serve as interim director, several of our staff were incarcerated, participated in a Work Release Program, and are now full-time employees. At least 45% of the staff who work for our agency are in recovery and many have criminal backgrounds for substance use, drug paraphernalia, and other crimes associated with alcohol and other drug dependence. They have many years of sobriety and are helping Durham citizens who seek our services to obtain the same. When citizens change their life, they deserve a chance to give back and make our community stronger. It is amazing to witness and experience, and I will continue to encourage employment opportunities for persons released from prison as an elected official.

Lastly, I would like to see us offer a curriculum for school-aged children about citizenship and personal responsibility. It should start in elementary school. Some children bully others, have no concept of what it means to respect and honor diversity, and do not seem to value people's personal property or life. The curriculum can be specific to the concerns we have in Durham about crime including gangs and violent/fatal attacks, litter, recycling, education, health and well-being, parenting, and employment. We can help create citizens who value our community and are committed to making Durham stronger and better for their children and grandchildren.

Funding for these initiatives could be program-specific allocations for local mental health services, Sheriff's Department, Courts, Criminal Justice Resource Center, and DPS through the departmental budgets. The BOCC is already responsible for ensuring adequate services exist in Durham to meet the needs of the citizens. I would ask each to look at unspent funds in their budgets to offset the costs of providing innovative services to this citizen group.

11. Among the most controversial issues to test the commissioners in recent years is development. Please explain the philosophy that will guide your decisions on development while serving as a county commissioner, and also share your definition of smart growth.

Durham has a Comprehensive Plan to guide development activities in the County and City. I think the Unified Development Ordinance is a good way to ensure all planning and development reviews are uniform. I believe it is reasonable to make amendments to the adopted Comprehensive Plan every three years. Three year intervals give the Planning Commission, Planning staff, and developers a reasonable amount of time to implement changes, evaluate the effectiveness of such, and make modifications.

One specific change that comes to mind is the length of the application process. Wake County's application process takes approximately 45-days while Durham's is closer to 12-months. This lengthy process can discourage business owners and developers from pursuing Durham as a location to develop/expand, choosing Wake or other counties instead.

My definition is smart growth is considering a combination of economic, social, and environmental factors when we look at growing the county. I define economic development as the ability to recruit businesses to Durham to stimulate our local economy thereby adding jobs and growing the tax base.

Real estate/personal property and sales taxes are the two major revenue sources available to the BOCC. Additionally, the County receives a small amount of intergovernmental revenue from the State and some federal funding (Medicaid and Medicare) which is targeted for specific populations. Local governments need more revenue options because of the growing demands to provide more services and resources. Potential options include meals tax and impact fees for new development.

Many Durham citizens (including City and County employees) did not receive a salary increase several years in a row while the prices of goods and services continue to increase. As an elected official, I have to consider the impact of an additional financial burden (in the form of tax increases) on all citizens, particularly the ones who are barely surviving. The BOCC will need to continue to explore options to generate more revenue to ensure a good quality of life for Durham citizens.

  • Candidate for Durham Board of County Commissioners

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