It's been a long time since a Republican challenged four-term Sheriff Worth Hill. But this spring, newcomer Roy Taylor took on that task, capitalizing on the infamy of incidents that have happened during Hill's most recent term: drug dealing by a couple of rogue employees and management processes that allowed some employees to embezzle thousands of dollars before anyone noticed.
Taylor, a candidate with military and police leadership experience, might have had a shot—until he revealed he hasn't lived in Durham for a full year, a key requirement for that office. Taylor is still running; he plans to contest the constitutionality of that one-year rule. But any momentum Taylor might have gained in unseating Hill, a Durham native of 73 years, has fizzled.
Taylor makes important points about employee malfeasance under Hill's watch, but his own candidacy raises several concerns. He has made inconsistent statements to the media about his residences and voting record. Taylor was fired from his job as police chief at Dorothea Dix hopsital in 1999 after he was accused of covering up employee theft. (He says he appealed and was later asked to resign.) Answers to the Indy's questionnaire suggest his ideas are limited to existing initiatives. He suggests he might support the enforcement of 287(g) program if the federal government were to subsidize local efforts.
WE ENDORSE Worth Hill, and hope that he will work harder to keep his employees honest and continue to come clean to the public when they're not. The sheriff might not be able to prevent crimes within his department, but if he implemented more shrewd management practices he would surely reduce the likelihood and catch problems a lot sooner.
Pros: Hill has 16 years' experience as sheriff; he has a history in Durham as a respected mentor and coach; his employees keep working for him, despite the lure of nearby counties with better pay and benefits; he knows this community and its crime problems and his investigative team has strong clearance rates.
Cons: He needs to tighten the reins on some processes and departments to lessen opportunities for corruption.
Others endorsements: People's Alliance, Friends of Durham, N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance
Campaign finance: Worth Hill has raised $15,000, including sums from 751 South developers Neal Hunter, Tyler Morris and Alex Mitchell ($500 each), K&L Gates attorney Lewis Cheek ($250), Durham County Public Defender Lawrence Campbell ($100), Durham Mayor Bill Bell, Durham Rescue Mission chief, Pastor Ernie Mills ($100), several of Hill's deputies and administrative staff ($1,840 total).
Taylor's $3,000 comes in part from Goldsboro magistrate William Buchanan Jr. ($1,000).
Haven't we been down this road before? Yup. In 2007, Durham city leaders told us the $20 million bond for road and sidewalk improvements that voters passed would be the last boost the Bull City needed to catch up on a backlog of crumbling and poorly patched streets. Alas, that only fixed about half the city's worst thoroughfares. Durham's city manager and elected leaders are now pushing another $20 million bond referendum that would cover the last 150 miles of streets in the worst condition. If voters allow the city to take out this $20 million loan, the projects would begin next spring and be finished in 2012.
We don't disagree—these roads need help. And low interest rates and competitive bids make this a good time to act. But Durham's residents need to see the city's elected and appointed leaders make good on their promise to properly prioritize street maintenance within the budget—not with bonds—so that we're not always playing catch-up.
OUR CHOICE: Yes
Pros: Interest rates and oil prices are low, giving the city a cost savings estimated at 20 percent; 64 percent of respondents to a 2009 citizen survey said that among city maintenance services, street repair should be a top priority
Cons: Taxpayers will see annual tax hikes to pay down this new debt, though the amount is relatively small at about $15 a year on a home valued at $200,000. This bond could affect the success of future city and county bonds for issues such as affordable housing or other capital projects.
Others who agree: Durham Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Friends of Durham, Downtown Durham, Inc., Citizens Capital Improvement Panel, Durham People's Alliance.