William V. "Bill" Bell | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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William V. "Bill" Bell 

Candidate for Durham Mayor

Name as it appears on the ballot: WILLIAM V. "BILL" BELL

Full legal name, if different: WILLIAM VAUGHN BELL

Date of birth: JANUARY 3, 1941

Occupation & employer: EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT/COO

Email: BILLBELL@UDICDC.ORG; BILL.BELL@DURHAMNC.GOV; WBELL51126@AOL.COM


1. 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 approximately 38 combined years of positive leadership and experience as an elected Durham County Commissioner and as the Mayor of Durham. I provided leadership as Chairman of the Durham County Commissioners for 12 years and in 1992, I was the leader in merging the Durham City and County School system into what is now the Durham Public Schools. I have provided positive leadership during times of crisis in our city, such as during the "December 2002 Ice Storm" which paralyzed most of our city for almost a week. I have demonstrated the capacity and ability to provide strong leadership which helped diffuse what could have become a very explosive event in our city during the recent Duke Lacrosse incident that captured much local, state, national and international attention.

During my leadership as Mayor, Durham has received numerous national awards and positive recognitions as a good place to live, raise a family and for businesses and careers. We continue to be one of few cities nationally that has an AAA Bond rating from the 3 major bond rating agencies. On the state and national level I have served as Chairman of the NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition (Comprised of 27 mayors that represent 27 of the largest cities in NC). I was chosen by the National Conference of Black Mayors to Chair the Conference's Health Care Reform Committee. I have also served on various national committees on the "US Conference of Mayors" (a national organization that represents Mayors of cities of 30,000 population and above throughout the nation).

Additionally I have served as a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army Signal Corps (1961 1963); have worked as an electrical engineer in the private sector where I managed and provided leadership for many projects and retired from the IBM Corporation in 1996; have also worked in the non-profit sector where I now am the Executive Vice-President/COO of UDI/CDC a 501C3 non-profit Community Development Corporation. These experiences in both the private sector and non profit sector have given me a broad experience for continuing to serve as Mayor of the city of Durham, NC.

2. How do you define yourself politically? How have you demonstrated this political philosophy in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am a registered life long democrat. Politically I consider myself to be knowledgeable, qualified as a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. I have always tried to be fair in carrying out the duties of all of the political offices to which I have been elected. I have tried to be both representative and responsible to the people. I tend to be bottom line oriented especially when it comes to the delivery of core city services and budgetary matters. I work to see that once a plan has been developed we take the necessary steps to execute that plan. The downtown revitalization and neighborhood revitalization that has occurred in Durham since I became Mayor are some examples. My efforts to engage law enforcement and the community to reduce crime in our city are another example.

The basic precepts of my political philosophy about representative government include my strong belief that its elected officials are public servants who are obligated to serve with integrity. As public servants, they must acquire sufficient knowledge and understanding of all matters subject to their jurisdiction; be open to the ideas of others, including especially those of their colleagues, staffs, and constituents. They should be honest and scrupulous in carrying out their duties; and remain ever cognizant of the fact that politics, according to Otto von Bismarck (1867), "is the art of the possible." Elected officials should ever remain consistent about the major ends they seek, such as effective and efficient delivery of the services they are required to provide their constituents. The means chosen to reach those ends may be flexible (changed, e.g., by improved technology), but they must always be morally appropriate. Elected officials should strongly support the rule of law, always applying it justly and fairly, and fully justifying the need to eliminate or modify any rule. They also should encourage their constituents to participate actively in their government, and keep them as fully informed as possible about the workings of their government, using such measures on the municipal level as open meetings, availability to the media, and being reasonably accessible to their constituents. Finally, in my judgment, all elected officials should always bear in mind that, according to the Declaration of Independence (1776), ". . . all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness....[and that they govern with] the consent of the governed...."

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

I would not like to list three (3) most important issues by priority facing Durham, to the exclusion of other issues that may be equally important. The overall important issues facing Durham in my opinion can be summarized in the City Council's Strategic Plan (over the next 3 years) and that can be found on the web site: WWW.DurhamNC.gov/STRATEGICPLAN

STRONG & DIVERSE ECONOMY

SAFE & SECURE COMMUNITY

THRIVING, LIVABLE NEIGHBORHOODS

WELL MANAGED CITY

STEWARDSHIP OF CITY'S PHYSICAL ASSETS

One of the issues that has a very high priority for me is embodied in the strategic goal "Safe & Secure Community". This involves working to continue the reduction of crime, particularly violent crime (e.g. aggravated; assault, rape, robbery, homicides). We as a community and law enforcement have made progress in reducing crime in our city and the overall crime is down. The trend of Crime reduction is down and is moving in the right direction. However, I am of the opinion that, for us to be a truly great city we have to do more in reducing overall crime.

Another issue that is of a very high priority for me is reflected in the strategic goal "Thrivable and Livable Neighborhoods". Increasing the amount of affordable housing and continued neighborhood revitalization efforts, particularly those neighborhoods that have been depressed for long periods of time is very important issue for Durham. I continue to believe that strong neighborhoods make a strong city and contribute greatly to the quality of life in our city.

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

I have stated before that throughout my service as a Durham County Commissioner and as the Mayor of Durham, I have demonstrated that I am always willing to take a principled stand and lose some votes. Two notable examples are my support as a Commissioner for merging the Durham City and Durham County public schools, and my support as the Mayor for establishing a policy on domestic partners rights as city employees. Additionally I have supported the stance taken by the city council accept Mexican national identification cards as an official ID in traffic stops and other city-related business, as well as voting to oppose statewide effort to ban same-sex marriages.

A more recent issue that I took a stand on, which was controversial and fell into the category of persons either supporting or not supporting was my intervention with the developers of the 751 project to get a more favorable position for the city and future city councils on this development. The developers presented the compromised proposal to the city council and it was defeated by a 4 - 3 vote. I could have easily stood by and done nothing and let the General Assembly force the city to provide the extension of city water and sewer services to this development. The positions I have taken as a public elected official over the years has in most all case been driven by my convictions and my integrity to not sacrifice ethical or moral principles just to win votes or not dong what I believe because in doing so I might lose votes. I was convinced that the NC General Assembly was going to require the city to extend water and sewer services to the 751 development. I proceeded, with the knowledge of my city council colleagues and the majority of the members of our local delegation to the General Assembly to seek a compromise that would have a been amore favorable proposal for the city than the legislation that was going to be introduced by the member of the General Assembly to force the city to extend water and sewer services to the 751 development. The end result was that the General Assembly did adopt legislation (Senate Bill 315) which forces the city to extend water and sewer to the 751 development, but with additional terms similar to what the city council had rejected and, in my opinion, is an improved bill over what had been considered by the original sponsor of the bill.

5. The city's updated panhandling ordinance has been criticized for being too stringent. If you were to revisit the ordinance, how would you balance public safety with the needs of the homeless? As a follow up question, Durham is seven years into its 10-year plan to end homelessness. What are the pros and cons of the plan? What are the greatest obstacles to ending homelessness and how should the city overcome them?

The Committee on Homeless is presently is reviewing the ordinance, with the thought of how to divert persons away from criminal courts into a community life court, with alternative resources being made available to persons appearing before the court and which is less stringent. I could support that process. I will wait to see their final recommendations before committing to supporting their recommendations. The Pros of the city's 10 year plan to end homelessness is the fact that we recognize homelessness as a problem and have been willing to work to set goals and action plans to end homelessness in Durham. The cons are that to date, while we have made some progress, we have not made enough. In my opinion the greatest obstacles to ending homelessness is the availability of sufficient public funding and affordable housing for those that are homeless and jobs for which the homeless might qualify. Ending homelessness is not an issue that the city alone can overcome. It will require the city working in partnerships with other for profit and non-profit organizations to help solve this issue.

6. Neighborhood Improvement Services has embarked on the PRIP, the Proactive Rental Inspection Program. Assess the progress of PRIP. Also, do you think PRIP can adequately address the quality of rental housing in Durham?

In my opinion this has been a successful program. It has been implemented initially on a small section of Durham and it has improved the quality of rental housing where it has been applied. It has worked because it has been a collaborative effort among the city, rental property owners and the tenants.

7. Durham's strategic plan calls for a well-focused annexation policy. In your opinion, what should Durham's annexation policy look like? What areas and developments could be annexed and why?

Last year the N.C. General Assembly changed the laws for involuntary annexation which has greatly impacted the ability of cities to annex areas outside of its city limits. The legislation particularly has had a deleterious effect on the ability of Durham to annex doughnut hole areas. Doughnut hole areas are areas in the county surrounded by the city limits and, before the legislative change, could have been easily annexed. As a result of the 751 development and the involuntary annexation laws, the city has changed its annexation policy as follows:

A section outside of the city limits that wishes to be annexed must do the following:

It must make the request to the city council and it has to abide by the city council's rezoning decisions and

if a section out side of the city limits wants water and sewer extensions, it must request to be annexed and must abide by the city's zoning decision. Exceptions for water and sewer extension request can be made for health issues that involve a hardship.

The effect of the legislation is that the city no longer has the sole option on deciding as to which areas it wishes to involuntary annex. Prior to the involuntary annexation legislation, the city and county had define Urban Growth areas outside of the city limits which would be preferred areas of annexation with the extension of water and sewer services at the appropriate time. Since the 751 development issue occurred we have removed the definition of Urban Growth areas.

One good aspect of the 751 legislation (Senate Bill 315) is; it changed the city's charter on annexation so that now the city has up to ten (10) years to make an annexation effective once it has agreed to annex an area that request voluntary annexation. Prior to the Seante Bill 315, the city had up to three (3) years to make the annexation effective. This gives the city more time in which it has to provide city services as well as allows the annexed area to be a net gain for the city financially.

8. In 2011, Durham voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase for public transit. Assess the success of the transit improvements. What should the next priorities be?

I am a member of the TTA board and we are proceeding with a planning process that incorporates defining the light rail route, expansion of bus services all in collaboration with Durham and Orange County (who has also passed the ½ cents sales tax) and its municipalities.

9. Over the last two-months, Durham's violent crime rate has increased nearly 8%. In July, there was a controversial incident in which a DPD officer shot and killed a man who was allegedly brandishing a knife. However, witness and police accounts of the incident are in dispute. Assess the level of professionalism and proficiency of DPD and recommend ways it can improve.

There has been an increase in violent crime in July 2013, but overall violent crime (i.e. the total of Criminal Homicides, Forcible Rapes, Robberies and Aggravated Assaults), is down year to date 2013 as compared to July 2012 year to date. I will withhold any public appraisals of the level of professionalism and proficiency of DPD, as it relates to the July issue you raised, as that issue is presently under investigation.

  • Candidate for Durham Mayor

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