Name as it appears on the ballot: Eugene A. Brown
Full legal name, if different: Eugene Alexander Brown
Date of birth: November 1, 1943
Home address: 410 N. Buchanan Blvd., Durham, NC 27701
Mailing address, if different from home: same
Campaign Web site: www.brownfordurham.com
Occupation & employer: Owner/Broker, Distinctive Properties (since 1980)
Home phone: (919) 688-5954
Work phone: (919) 682-4403
Cell phone: (919) 624-4719
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Durham? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
The most important issue to me as a Councilman is adhering to our citys mission statement: The City of Durham is dedicated to improving the quality of life in our community by delivering cost-effective, highly-responsive services with integrity and friendliness.
In addition, I believe in our council goals: (a) All Durham citizens are safe; (b) Every citizen in Durham has access to adequate, safe, and affordable housing; (c) Durham enjoys a prosperous economy; (4). Durham citizens enjoy a healthy environment; (d) Durham citizens enjoy sustainable, thriving neighborhoods with efficient and well-maintained infrastructure; (e) Durham citizens enjoy a City rich in aesthetic beauty; (f) Durham citizens enjoy a vibrant City that embraces and promotes its cultural diversity and heritage; and (g) Durham citizens enjoy an efficient and accountable City government.
Obviously these are goals to strive for and will continue to be so. But I take these goals, along with our mission statement, very seriously. All of them are important but three, perhaps, stand out. Public safety is critical. A great city starts first with being a safe city. A prosperous economy is the engine that drives the Bull Durham train. Having an efficient and accountable city government is also important because if Durham is embedded in waste, fraud and abuse, then public support of many of these other goals would be threatened financially.
2. What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on council? This might include career or community service; but please by specific about it relevance to this office.
Please see answer for Question 3 below.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
From the center out and to the left. Ive been a Democrat all of my life and have worked in the U.S. Congress for former Congressman John D. Moss (D. Calif.) who wrote, among other legislation, the Freedom of Information Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act. I also worked as Press Secretary to Senator Joe Biden (D. Del.)
As you realize, however, this is a non-partisan race and although I have always maintained and adhered to my partys basic principals, on Council I try not to wear rigid ideological blinders as I work for all the people of Durham. My voting record is very similar to my friend and colleague Diane Catotti, but I do strive to be an independent voice in a diverse city and I am not afraid to speak truth to power. One example is when I spoke out in protest against the hostile take-over by Paxton Media of the Herald-Sun (Independent, January 12, 2005).
Another Council issue, covered in your paper, was the Rice Financial Groups attempt to do a $120 million leveraged swap with the City. I worked with Martin Eakes and others to write an 18 page brief on the inherit risks to the City of such a fiscal gamble.
Four year ago, my campaign promises included striving to bring about positive, common-sense changes to City government; restoring fiscal accountability; listening to all citizens and acting independently.
Our work is far from finished, but I believe I have helped Durham in the past four years make tremendous progress, including: revitalizing our downtown; creating beneficial public/private partnerships such as American Tobacco; enhancing our Police Department by adding 30 officers and hiring a new chief; offering home ownership to moderate income citizens with our Eastway and Hope XI complexes; passing a $110 million bond that addresses (partly) our deferred maintenance; and utilizing the occupancy tax and not tax payers funds, to construct our 2, 800 seat Performing Arts Center.
4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Let me give you two principled stand positions. The first, the Walltown Community Center, which I voted against; the second, the real estate transfer tax which I supported and which could be on the ballot in 2008.
5. Last year, the city withheld testing data that showed that the citys drinking water failed to meet federal health standards. What can the city council do to increase transparency in city administration and prevent future breaches of the publics trust?
Put pressure on our City Manager. The City Managers Office needs improvement, particularly in the area of communications. We, the Council, sent them a message two weeks ago when we voted to give our City Manager less of a raise than our other two employees.
I was especially concerned with the City Managers reluctance to be forthright about two issues: not only the lead in the water that you mentioned, but also the fire in the landfill. Both were issues that should have been dealt with swiftly and succinctly, as in: heres the problem, heres what we did wrong and heres what we are going to do to correct it.
Unfortunately, that was not the approach taken and as a result, those two issues dominated the news and cast a negative light on Durham city government for too long. The Administration also made a major mistake with the findings of the Police Department report in the Lacrosse case. The honeymoon for the Manager is over. I look forward to improvements in this Department.
In addition, I have also been an advocate of transparency in government. As part of the answer to this question, I am enclosing my op-ed article that appeared in the Herald-Sun (March 23, 2007), entitled Sunshine is the Best Disinfectant.
6. What specific policy solutions would you advocate to abate Durhams problems with violent crime?
7. Durhams south side is experiencing rapid growth. What impact do you expect that growth to have on our city? What are your plans for handling that development?
Economically the impact of Durhams south side is very positive. It has become one of our main engines driving our economic train and the City is reaping major revenues from this area, including South Point Mall (nearly half of the visitors to the mall are from outside of Durham County). In speaking with Steve Medlin, who may become our new interim Director of Planning, the Comprehensive Plan is well established to prevent further commercial creep in this area, especially along Fayetteville Road, which is one of my major concerns.
Some of the existing infrastructure has been programmed and paid for by developers. This funding has assisted in the development of roads, additional turning lanes, storm water facilities, etc. In addition, environmentally sensitive areas are currently being protected and there should be no infiltration into them, at least not on my watch. In summary, further expansion will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but I believe the planning is in place to handle environmental, traffic and density issues. My role will be to act as a watchdog to insure good planning in this area.
8. Private developers are in the process of revitalizing Durhams Tobacco District, just as city crews are putting the finishing touches on the downtown streetscape. What kinds of policies should the council implement to ensure that downtown becomes a thriving commercial and residential neighborhood?
Im proud of the role the City is playing in helping to revitalize our downtown and recognize the fact that to really become a thriving commercial area, it needs to become a residential neighborhood as well.
Four years ago there was no American Tobacco Complex. This demonstrates that public/private partnerships can work! We are making progress: Blue Devil Ventures completed their 240 unit apartment complex on Duke Street four years ago; Blue Devil Ventures II along Duke and Main Streets will soon bring around 400 residential units and commercial space to downtown. This was a public/private partnership with the City; American Tobacco and Greenfire Development will hopefully, within the next four or five years, develop another 600 units in the downtown area; in addition, our 2,000 seat Performing Arts Center, which is being funded by our occupancy tax, will open and add economic vitality to our downtown. The lights are bright in our city and will become even brighter in the future.
9. What are Durhams most pressing capital improvement needs? Please be specific.
Like most cities, Durham faces tremendous capital improvement and deferred maintenance needs.
10. What steps can the council take to promote strong town-gown relations, especially regarding infrastructure improvements in the neighborhoods adjacent to Duke University?