Rachel Hardy, Durham CAN – *VIRTUAL* Regular Club Meeting Online
Rachel Hardy gave a brief introduction to Durham CAN, which she has participated in since at least 2013.
“CAN stands for Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods. It is a non-partisan association of organizations that is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Durham.”
“It listens to people. It identifies the issues and challenges, and it does research to identify the following:
§ people in power,
§ solutions, and
§ how to bring people affected and power brokers together to enact solutions.”
As an example, Rachel showed a video of Mike Broadway, pastor of Mount Level Missionary Baptist Church. The video illustrated how CAN brought together hundreds of people concerned about affordable housing with elected officials. As a result, more than 1,000 units of affordable housing are being planned for downtown Durham.
These are some of Durham CAN’s issues: Affordable housing, criminal justice reform, jobs and living wage, education, and food security.
Rachel gave an example of her involvement in the affordable housing issue through Durham CAN. The organization identified the former Durham Police headquarters site, at 505 W. Chapel Hill St., as an excellent spot for affordable housing since many people who work downtown cannot afford to live there.
Rachel’s journey toward a solution began last year. In June 2019, Mary Fulkerson and Rachel, both of New Creation United Methodist Church, gathered with several hundred others from Durham CAN in front of the former headquarters. The press conference highlighted the city’s role in developing the vacant building, and that this should include units affordable to people earning 60 percent or less of the Area Median Income. In June 2020, Mary, another church member, Fran Lynch, and Rachel submitted comments to Durham City Council in support of a restrictive covenant at 505 W. Chapel Hill St. As a result, the council approved requiring developers to reserve 80 units of affordable housing in perpetuity.
Durham CAN’s leaders are everyone who participates. Rachel urged fellow Rotary Club members to get involved to become leaders also by taking one or more actions:
· Join CAN email list: https://www.durhamcan.org/contact
· Join an Action Team: (email organizer email@example.com). These are current action teams:
o Affordable housing
o Criminal justice reform
o Jobs and living wage
(Other action teams we have had in the past include Education and Food Security.)
Questions, answers, and discussion about Durham CAN
Mary asked about the status of the old police headquarters and the ideas that had been floated about converting this to affordable housing.
Fran and Rachel replied that the site is in the process of becoming housing. It needs a designated developer. The city, which owns the land, has put a stipulation in place that 80 of the units must be reserved for affordable housing (and be similar in style and quality to all other units, per the presentation). They are beginning the process of deciding how to do it.
Fran said that the city must take bids. Submission requirements have gone out. It is hard to attract developers.
Todd asked, are there redevelopment credits? Fran said yes there are, to sweeten the pot to attract developers.
Rachel was asked when Durham CAN started. In April 1999, she replied; her church, then called Asbury Temple United Methodist Church, was a founding member.
Kaye asked how many teams and how many people are involved with Durham CAN? Rachel replied, “We have three active action teams: Affordable Housing, Criminal Justice, and Criminal Justice. I am not sure of the numbers, but that is a good question to ask our organizer, Tinu Diver.”
She added that there are several ways to get involved, such as joining an action team. Rachel was on the Food Security Action Team (no longer active) and currently belongs to the Criminal Justice Action Team. If you attend the Durham CAN Metro meetings, you hear the action reports where updates are given by each team.
Fran and Rachel said the organization invites candidates to speak, and CAN packs the auditoriums and church sanctuaries with members. Although candidates are given questions in advance and submit their answers to CAN, the questions are repeated at the forums, so the candidates’ answers can be heard publicly. This is how before and after elections, CAN holds those politicians and other officials accountable for their publicly spoken commitments.
Rachel was asked how she got involved with Durham CAN. She heard Mary Fulkerson speak about it at their church. Several years later, she got more involved by joining the Food Security Action Team. That team identified a solution to children going hungry, which was implementing a universal breakfast program in Durham Public Schools. This was the superintendent’s initiative, but he needed for the school board to vote for it. Durham CAN put pressure on the school board, helping to make it a reality.
Michael commented that he was heartened by seeing from the video that CAN is a very diverse group, particularly racially. Rachel responded that it is diverse by design; some congregations are predominantly black, some predominantly white, and some mixed, such as her church. Many speakers who come to CAN meetings comment that CAN is one of the most racially diverse groups that they visit.
Sally asked whether a list is developed as a guide to voting, like People’s Alliance does, naming those politicians who commit publicly to the CAN list of issues.
Rachel commented that CAN is serious about being nonpartisan. Sally replied that this list can be strictly non-partisan. Rachel said that CAN is focused on promoting issues, not promoting people, and that the website gives insight on this.
Fran said that they don’t issue a list, but perhaps one could be generated—they do have press releases they’ve relied on getting into the newspaper and various social media. She acknowledged that CAN needs to improve its publicity and said it would welcome anyone who has the expertise to help publicize and promote this.
Michael pointed to his work with non-profits and acknowledged that it is hard to move those issues from “page 6 or 7 to page 1” of the newspaper.
Both Fran and Rachel encouraged our Rotary Club members to get involved by attending the Metro Council meetings. The next one will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, August 20, 2020.
[Notes by Rachel Hardy]
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