Name as it appears on the ballot: Diane N. Catotti
Date of birth: 12/13/60
Home address: 4147 Deep Wood Circle, Durham, NC 27707
Campaign Web site: www.dianecatotti.com
Occupation & employer: International Health Manager
Describe your past leadership roles, both in career and community. How will these experiences help you serve on Council? Please be specific about how these roles correspond to a city council member's responsibilities.
I have had the privilege of serving on the Durham City Council since 2003, being re-elected in 2007. I believe that open, transparent, and efficient government can do great things for our great city. It's why I got into politics, and it's why I chose to run again.
As a councilwoman, I take an active role in budget and policy discussions. Over the past 8 years, I have served as chair, vice-chair and member of the Joint City County Planning Committee; Vice Chair of the Theater Advisory Committee; member of the Transportation Advisory Committee of the Durham Chapel Hill Metropolitan Planning Organization; and member of numerous other subcommittees.
In a community capacity, I have been the President, Vice President and member of the Durham People's Alliance, a progressive political action group. I serve on the state executive committee of the NC Democratic Party, and have been Vice Chair and Secretary of my precinct. I was President and Vice President of the Burton Elementary School PTSA. I also have been the Vice President of the North Carolina-Cochabamba, Bolivia Partners of the Americas chapter, among other community endeavors.
In a professional capacity, I have been the Director of several program areas and departments throughout my 30 year career in public health.
My leadership experiences on council, in the community, and in my profession have helped develop and enhance my skills and will continue to help me provide leadership on important issues and challenges facing our community.
How do you define yourself politically? How have you demonstrated this political philosophy in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a lifelong progressive Democrat. I have fought for stronger and safer neighborhoods; zoning regulations and enforcement; safe affordable housing; a livable wage for city employees and contractors; and benefits for same-sex partners of city employees, all progressive issues.
List the three most important issues facing Durham, in order of priority. If elected, how will you address these issues? Please be specific.
Important issues facing Durham and the nation include poverty, unemployment, and disconnected youth.
Almost 19% of Durham's residents live at or below the poverty line. If re-elected to council, I will continue to fight for fair taxation, provision of services, and a livable wage for all our citizens, especially our low-income citizens. I will continue to support re-development of areas most in need of attention.
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.
Almost a quarter of our citizens are 18 or younger. Many of Durham's youth face challenges - low high school graduation rates, gangs, homelessness, teen pregnancies, poverty and unemployment—that can lead them away from a path to successful adulthood. I served on the Disconnected Youth/Connected by 25, and Gang Oversight and Steering Committees. I have experience in helping to craft solutions to these challenges. I also continue to support city and community strategies and efforts to provide opportunities for our youth, such as the summer jobs programs, training on how to dress for success and be a good employee, and mentoring and athletic programs.
Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
My opposition to extending water and sewer to the 751 development because of its density, proximity to Jordan Lake and water quality concerns, and the lack of adequate transit and transportation infrastructure may have raised concerns among some voters. The cost-benefit analysis for annexation of the development was not positive. If the city annexed the property, the taxes would yield less than the service costs to the city, and it would be a drain on the city for many years to come.
In recent years, the Council has targeted community development improvements to certain areas, i.e. Northeast Central Durham and Rolling Hills/Southside. Name a specific area of the city that hasn't yet been targeted with services, but needs attention. What are the needs there, and how would you address them if elected?
Most areas of the city that need attention, including Northeast Central Durham, Southwest Central Durham, and Rolling Hills/Southside, have received ongoing and needed support – in housing inspection, rehabilitation, or demolition; job-training, and economic (target area) incentives; and recreational opportunities (e.g., Holton Resource Center; Walltown Community Center; the new Teen Center at Lyon Park; and the Southside Community Center.) These areas need our continued support, and I will continue to champion and support these kinds of initiatives.
The City Council recently voted to allocate a large percentage of current and future federal housing grants to one project in the Rolling Hills and Southside neighborhoods. Dedicating these future allocations has reduced available funding for other housing-related services. Do you agree with the council's decision? Explain why.
Yes, I do. The City Council's decision (which I supported) will leverage $8 million dollars in public funds to gain $40 million in private dollars. These funds will be used to provide infrastructure, construct new apartments and rehabilitate single-family dwellings, and help revitalize the area and attract additional private investment.
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?
The city can provide support to encourage economic development and re-development, whether financial or logistical (planning and inspection rule review, advice and timelines). In some circumstances, incentives to private developers are appropriate, particularly when the public dollars provide significant leverage to a project, i.e., public dollars are matched by significant private investment, and provide a tipping point for additional economic development and return on investment; when development will create significant jobs; and when projects are in key target areas for development, where the city has a particular interest in encouraging development and redevelopment.
Several large-scale housing developments have stalled in recent years, leaving behind half-finished neighborhoods, roads and other infrastructure. Given the unfinished projects and recent economic challenges, how should the city proceed in deciding whether to approve new projects? Does the economic downturn call for a revision of current policies?
I am especially interested in how (and where) Durham grows. The city should continue its careful due diligence in zoning map changes and rezoning requests, with review by the Joint City County Planning Committee (JCCPC) (on which I serve), the citizen advisory Planning Commission, and review by governing bodies (City Council). Regarding sureties/bonds for infrastructure, the Public Works department is reevaluating its policies requesting additional funding prior to granting of certificates of occupancy, to help assure that there is adequate funding to complete infrastructure for developments if they fail.
Police Chief Jose Lopez reported to Council earlier this year that crime reports in the city of Durham have dropped more than 30 percent since 10 years ago. Analyze the police department's current strategies in crime prevention and enforcement. What areas need improvement? How would you enable the department to make those improvements, if elected.
This success is a result of the DPD's strong policy of community policing and data-driven deployment of resources. Senior staff meet regularly to review crime incidents, reports and locations and develop strategies to respond appropriately. I will continue to support the department with adequate funding for staffing and infrastructure; support their creative deployment of resources; and respect their professional recommendations and innovations.
In the past year, the council has taken an official stance on several national issues, voting last year to stop any official city travel to Arizona in light of its controversial immigration law; voting earlier this year to accept Mexican national identification cards as an official ID in traffic stops and other city-related business; and voting this summer to oppose statewide efforts to ban same-sex marriages. How would you have voted on each of these issues? How do you feel about the council taking a stand on these national issues?
I voted to support all three resolutions. I think that on occasion it is important for the City Council to weigh in on state or national matters affecting our citizens, and to affirm that Durham is a community of diversity and tolerance.
To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.