Steve Schewel for Durham


The issues we need to advance together to realize our shared vision for Durham.


Affordable Housing

"I work on this every single day."

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We are finally making some real progress on affordable housing but there is so much to do - here are some of the priorities I will focus on as Mayor: We must double our local expenditure on affordable housing this year from $2.75 million to $5.5 million. We must support the redevelopment of the aging Durham Housing Authority units that serve 6,000 of our most vulnerable residents. We must leverage publicly owned land downtown to build affordable units. We must support our local non-profits as they build new units and preserve the affordability of older ones. We can do all of this and much more.

What Steve has done.

  • Authored a comprehensive affordable housing strategy that has fueled and focused the community’s work.

  • Brought the Authority and the council into close cooperation on the redevelopment of the Authority’s aging housing communities.

  • Advocated for the “penny for housing” in 2011 and for the doubling of this funding source for affordable housing in the current budget. This produces $5.5 million annually for affordable housing.

  • Fought for the inclusion of Rapid Rehousing funding in the City budget to quickly rehouse homeless families and provide them with services.

  • Successfully advocated for City support of the Housing Authority’s redevelopment of Damar Court and Morreene Road public housing communities.

  • Led the effort in cooperation with Durham CAN and the surrounding neighborhoods to allocate $4 million for the Housing Authority to repurchase the 19-acre Fayette Place site for future affordable housing and jobs.

  • Advocated for City funding of $250,000 to support the Housing Authority’s housing voucher program so that all vouchers could be issued and used.

  • Annually leads a team in the Homeless Point-In-Time Count to search out, count, and offer assistance to homeless residents of Durham.

  • Forcefully advocated for the use of City land downtown for affordable housing.

  • Brought together leaders of Durham Public Schools, the State Employees Credit Union, and affordable-housing provider CASA to develop 24 units of below-market rate rental housing for new teachers.

  • Has been a leading voice for the funding of second mortgages for Habitat homeowners and the funding of Habitat land purchases.

  • Works closely with private landlords who are interested in keeping their properties affordable and in upgrading them.

  • Led advocacy for the City’s adoption of the Pro-Active Rental Inspection Program by which City inspectors have brought hundreds of properties into compliance with the housing code.

  • Worked closely with non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, CASA, Durham Community Land Trustees, Housing for New Hope, Urban Ministries of Durham, and Families Moving Forward to help them move their agendas forward, obtain City funding for their affordable housing work, and strengthen their capacity.

  • Led the effort to get funding for Durham Community Land Trustees for the rehab of nine rental units in Southside.

  • Recruited local non-profits, including Housing for New Hope, to fill the breach and help residents get re-housed when the Lincoln Apartments went bankrupt and started evicting their tenants.



Jobs & Wages

Steve fought for this worker who

went unpaid by a developer.



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Everyone in Durham should be able to make enough to support themselves and their families. While the legislature prohibits us from enacting a City-wide livable wage standard, there is much we can do right here in Durham. We can support the Living Wage Project’s recruitment of businesses to voluntarily comply with the $15 minimum. We can work with the schools and Durham Tech to make sure that our young people are educated in the skills they need to get the great jobs available in Durham. We can ensure that the City’s job training programs are effective and that our NCWorks career center does a great job connecting job-seekers to local employers.

What Steve's done.

  • Supported the City’s new plan to pay all staff at least $15 per hour by July 1, 2018. Steve made the motion to establish this timetable.

  • Spoke out about the condition of Latino sub-contractors who went unpaid by the developers of a local hotel and picketed with these workers. He successfully advocated for the city attorney to put a clause in all future incentive contracts to regulate this kind of behavior.

  • Proposed that the City ask the General Assembly to allow people with felonies to get a Commercial Driver’s License. This is now on the City’s legislative agenda, and its passage would benefit both the individuals involved and the companies which need their services as drivers and equipment operators.

  • Pays close attention to the minority hiring and contracting practices of City contractors, and he has on many occasions asked contractors to come before the council to explain their hiring practices and to pledge to pursue hiring minorities.

  • Supported City funding for Made in Durham which involves our youth in job shadowing, job training and internships.

  • Advocated for the expansion of the summer YouthWork program, which hires hundreds of teenagers for City and private industry jobs and trains them in financial literacy and critical soft skills.

  • Supported the City’s new policy of 12 weeks of paid parental leave.


LGBTQ Rights

Steve has an unwavering commitment to

LGBTQ rights







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When the state legislature seeks to diminish the rights of LGBTQ+ people, we must stand as a united community to vigorously defend those rights. But in Durham, we must defend and embrace as well the liberation of our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors that goes far beyond the essential but narrow guarantees of rights. We must nourish the strength of LGBTQ+ institutions and support a flourishing LGBTQ+ culture.

We particularly must stand against the recent attacks on the transgender community, both by our state and our national government. Recent action by the state legislature on HB2 allows for continued discrimination against our trans residents. We must speak out and stand together against the recent threats on a national level to the rights of transgender individuals to have basic protections in our schools and the ability to serve in all areas of employment, including the armed forces.

On a local level, Durham must continue to be a leader in supporting our LGBTQ+ community, including reinforcing our city-wide anti-discrimination policies, supporting the school board in increasing protections for our transgender children, and making sure all of our residents feel safe and celebrated in our city. We must make it breathtakingly clear to the people of Durham, to North Carolina and to the world that in Durham, all love is beautiful. In Durham, LOVE WINS.

What Steve's Done.

  • During the battle for marriage equality, Steve and his wife Lao held a fundraiser at their home in opposition to Amendment One. More than 200 people attended and contributed over $20,000 to organizations fighting Amendment One.

  • Introduced resolution to City Council to defend marriage equality by opposing Amendment One.

  • Nearly thirty years before marriage equality was affirmed by the Supreme Court, Steve personally wrote North Carolina’s first “wedding announcement” for a same-sex couple and published it prominently in his newspaper, The Independent.

  • Made The Independent a crusading champion for LGBTQ rights over three decades.

  • In 1973, as president of the Duke student government, Steve advocated for and won the first allocation of student activity funds to a gay men's organization. 

Immigrant &
Refugee Rights

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Our Latino community now makes up 15 percent of Durham’s population and nearly 25 percent of our school children. We must advocate and stand in solidarity with these neighbors and friends. We must reach out to these residents by providing access to City spaces in Spanish and by encouraging Latino residents to get involved in civic life. We can’t prevent ICE’s presence in Durham, but we can do everything within our limited power to protect our neighbors.

What Steve's done.

  • After Trump’s executive order cutting back severely on the number of refugees admitted to the US, Steve met with representatives of the local refugee resettlement agencies. From that meeting arose the idea of a City-endorsed Durham Refugee Day. Steve joined a small group of organizers of the first Refugee Day which drew hundreds of refugees and their supporters to Durham Central Park.

  • Introduced a resolution to City Council to welcome to Durham unaccompanied minors coming across the border fleeing violence in their own countries.

  • Introduced a resolution to offer City Council support to El Centro Hispano for the issuance of the Faith ID to be provided by El Centro to undocumented immigrants who are not able to get a driver’s license. This resolution included the Durham police department’s recognition of this ID.

  • Introduced a resolution to City Council to welcome Syrian refugees to resettle in Durham.

  • Connected the family of an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum to Rep. Butterfield’s office. Rep. Butterfield was able to help the young man get released from detention, and he is now living happily in Durham.

  • Frequently participates with programs at El Centro Hispano and championed City financial support for El Centro’s relocation to Lakewood.

  • Has marched on many occasions in support of “Dreamers” and local youth facing deportation.

Police Reform

On FADE's recommendation to de-prioritize marijuana enforcement:
“I think we ought to do it. I think we ought to do it soon.” 



Durham needs strong council and community oversight of our police force to ensure that everyone lives free from fear. I support Chief C.J. Davis’ reform of our police department and her emphasis on de-escalation and racial equity training. I will continue to work towards a police force that effectively fights violent crime while actively seeking to build the trust of our entire community and enforcing the laws free from racial discrimination.

What Steve's done.

To listen to Steve's remarks on police worn body cameras, forward to the 3:12:38 mark.

  • Leading advocate of the written consent to search policy that has been adopted by council and implemented by the police department. This policy puts Durham in the national forefront of progressive policies on consent searches. Total searches of cars have fallen by 44% - which means hundreds of people are being spared jail and criminal records for minor violations, such as marijuana possession, that might result from a search.

  • Voted for the adoption of body cameras for use by the Durham Police Department, and worked closely with police department leadership and City Council Members Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece to craft a body-camera policy that would be a national model for the privacy and accountability in the use of the cameras. The NC General Assembly pre-empted this policy by passing its own weak body camera regulations.

  • Ridden several times on Saturday nights with young officers on the police force to better understand the experience of policing in Durham.

  • Strongly advocated for the cooperation of the Durham Police Department with the Misdemeanor Diversion Court.

  • Spoken out for transparency and accountability whenever there is an officer-involved shooting.

  • Spoke out against the way the Durham Police Department responded to demonstrators after the death of Jesus Huerta, and met with department leaders on several occasions to make his views known. Subsequently, the Durham Police Department has made improvements in how it deals with peaceful demonstrations.

  • Was the only City official to meet with the Huerta family, which he did on several occasions.

  • Advocates publicly and often for the decriminalization of marijuana possession.

  • Supported pay increases for our police officers so that Durham can hire the best and retain them.

  • Supported take-home police cars for officers who live here in Durham as an incentive for Durham’s police officers to reside here.

  • Strongly supports Chief Davis’ emphasis on de-escalation and racial equity training.





Durham needs a mobility strategy for the next 50 years. I am proud to have led our region’s support for the 18-mile Durham-Orange light rail project, and this year we must push it over the finish line for federal funding. We must also provide an expanded, efficient bus network for our 22,000 daily riders—and it’s time to begin the work to make the system fare-free.

What Steve's done.

  • As chair of the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Steve has had a key role in strategy, negotiation and funding plans for regional rail transit -- including the Durham-Orange Light Rail and the commuter rail line to Raleigh.

  • Led efforts to keep the fares low on Durham’s buses -- at $1 per ride or lower on a pass. Now Steve has proposed that Durham begin planning for buses that are fare-free.

  • Supports the City’s planned expenditures of $20 million on new and repaired sidewalks in the next five years.

  • Has been a leading voice against the NC Railroad plans for enormous grade separations on major streets in downtown Durham.

  • Led the support for the “road diet” on Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

  • As MPO chair, has led the region’s advocacy for multi-modal transportation funding to replace the state’s highway-centric strategy.

  • Supports a complete streets policy for Durham, the expansion of bicycle boulevards, and the continued rapid expansion of bike lanes.

Trails & Trees

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Steve is committed to expanding Durham's green spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone. Durham lags far behind our neighboring cities when it comes to trail miles - funding and building them in all parts of town is something Steve constantly works to drive forward.

What Steve's done.

  • To advance funding for parks and trails, Steve pulled together a breakfast meeting at his home of diverse advocates. The group campaigned for and won a half-cent on the City’s tax rate to be annually dedicated to improving our parks and trails, and this has greatly enhanced the quality of these important City assets.

  • Steve recognized the necessity of replenishing the city’s tree canopy and making sure it was equitably distributed across the city. He brought together a meeting of residents who organized themselves into the Durham Tree Advocates. With Steve’s leadership, this organization has successfully advocated for City funding of tree management, surveying and a master plan, and it held the Trees Over Durham Forum this past year. The Tree Advocates are now organizing as a 501(c)(3) organization to establish and implement a bold goal for Durham’s tree planting over the next 30 years.

  • Steve has championed the purchase and development of a trail along the two-mile Beltline, a rail line running through downtown and the neighborhoods to the north and east. The Beltline will soon be in City hands, and its development as a crown jewel accessible to all residents will begin.

  • Durham has a dearth of athletic fields, especially soccer fields, as Steve knew from his 18 years coaching youth soccer. So Steve called together a group of soccer coaches and parents at his house for a breakfast meeting, and this group soon became the Durham Soccer Council. The council has advocated for soccer facilities in Durham, and that encouraged the City’s recent purchase of 50 acres of land in East Durham that will be the eventual home of four new soccer fields.

  • Pushed hard for several years to get the Ellerbe Creek West Trail extension fully funded, and he persuaded the city council to condemn the rights-of-way for the trail on land below COSTCO—which in turn persuaded the owners of the land to negotiate for the land.

  • Got $25,000 inserted into the City budget two years ago for the preliminary survey of five priority trails. This study led to the funding of four of five of these trails in the state’s transportation priority system. These trails will be built in the next few years.

  • Initiated the tree canopy study by the Environmental Affairs Board.

  • Advocated for the City’s bike-ped study and for the City’s adoption of a complete streets policy.

  • Got the developers of the Durham ID District to commit to the preservation of publicly accessible green space to be designated as a public park.

  • Supported the stronger federal water quality regulations over the weaker, conflicting state regulations in a recent council vote.


Trash is an opportunity.



Steve believes we can find opportunities in trash. In the Age of Trump, it is imperative that cities lead on climate change, and one of our best opportunities lies in diverting more recyclable material from landfills. Steve has been a relentless proponent of new recycling initiatives—especially the recycling of organic material—and is pleased that the City is initiating a pilot food recycling program this year. This has enormous promise. We should turn our attention to other waste categories as well, including textiles which make up 10% of our waste stream.

What Steve's done.

  • Worked for several years to get funding for a waste characterization study into the City budget so that the City could identify recycling possibilities.

  • Participated in a pilot waste characterization study separating and weighing trash.

  • Rode with trash and recycling crews on the back of their trucks to understand our solid waste work.

  • Led advocacy for a pilot program to recycle food waste in Durham—which makes up about 25% of our waste stream and costs the city lots of money when it is shipped to a landfill in a rural area. The City is conducting this pilot program in the next year.

  • Continuing to encourage innovative thinking on the part of staff about the opportunities provided to us to recycle more of our waste stream.

  • Voted to fund the solid waste department with tax dollars instead of a regressive solid waste fee that would have hit low-income people the hardest.

  • Gave the keynote address at the N.C. Solid Waste Consortium.