Gun violence top of mind in Durham mayor's State of the City address

Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Durham mayor delivers State of the City address
Gun violence was just one of the topics touched on Monday evening by Durham Mayor Elaine O'Neal.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Mayor Elaine O'Neal delivered her State of the City address on Monday night.

Gun violence was just one of the topics touched on Monday evening by O'Neal.

She also talked about affordable housing, and what the city has to do to make the city work for everyone.

Some of the words on gun violence were personal. The mayor said she knew the person killed during the weekend not too far from Ninth Street.

"All our young men I call reformers ... stand up here ...," the mayor said. "And they are helping each and every day, other young people change their lives, so that's why I am here."

CJ High was hard to miss when asked to stand by O'Neal. He was dressed in a Carolina Blue shirt and wore a UNC hat.

"All of it ties into certain problems we're dealing with," High said. "We're listening to the problems, and what we do is see individuals out in person, what would help your situation because every situation is different."

High spent time in prison and now works for Love & Respect Recovery, a nonprofit organization.

"When I get a few days off, I try to give my time back to my community, the community I love, the people I love and families I love," High said.

High was part of a packed house as O'Neal gave her second State of the City address.

"The moment has come ... let us not let anyone else's child have to die on the streets of Durham, North Carolina," the mayor said.

Gun violence was one of the foremost issues the mayor addressed.

"Each person taken away from our community continues to tear holes in the very fabric of who we are," O'Neal said.

The mayor contended that the city needs to get to the root cause of the issue, and cited poverty, housing and jobs.

"Durham's prosperity has not been shared equitably across our community," she said. "Our most vulnerable population is feeling effects the most."

The mayor also touted a variety of affordable-housing projects on the way as well as the work being done to find homes for people leaving the justice system.

That's something that High dealt with himself when he was getting out of prison,

"I'm proud that they are actually addressing housing ...but it's not just me," he said. "It's thousands and thousands of citizens in the City of Durham dealing with the issue."

O'Neal also announced a collaborative day of remembrance at 10 a.m. on May 15.

She addressed transportation for those coming out of the justice system as well as the aforementioned housing.

"We're trying to have one main street. Not the tale of two main streets we have right now," O'Neal said.

People who live in Durham say they're concerned about the effects of gentrification.

As the Bull City attracts more people who like the city's character, others can no longer afford to live here.

Her speech tonight could touch on a multitude of topics.

"Where's the affordable housing going to go? How are we going to have mixed-use opportunities? How are we going to make sure Durham becomes a "one city" as opposed to two different cities," said Durham resident Jessie Maxwell.

There's also concern about crime that continues to plague some Durham neighborhoods.

"I think any change in Durham is going to have to come from the people. The people in Durham are going to have to be the ones to step up and make the change. Everyone can be part of the solution," said Minister Paul Scott.

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