DURHAM — Mayor Bill Bell, in his 11th annual State of the City address, called on Durham residents Monday night to lobby Washington for “common-sense” gun reforms.
“We must unite and get serious about protecting our communities,” Bell said.
Naming crime reduction as one of five city priorities for 2013, Bell reiterated the firearm-law measures he and other members of the Mayors Against Gun Violence called for in January.
Those measures are required background checks for all gun buyers, a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.
“We have to say enough is enough and we have to have the fortitude to get it done and get it done now,” Bell said.
Dealing with continuing “budget challenges” was another of Bell’s priorities. He said the city faces a “not insignificant but manageable” deficit of $5.2 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“We must plan for unpredictability in state and federal revenue sources,” Bell said.
The city may have to take up funding for services that are historically responsibilities of the state, such as judges, district attorney assistants and forensics labs, he said.
Bell’s other priorities were neighborhood revitalization, expanding the city’s tax base and an “efficient and friendly” public-transit system.
“Transit is an economic driver,” Bell said.
He pointed out that Durham and Orange counties have approved half-cent sales taxes for improved bus service and a light-rail line connector between UNC Hospitals and downtown Durham. The taxes go into effect April 1.
“Then the real work must begin to implement the service improvements we promised,” he said.
Bell also had a message for Wake County, which has yet to hold a referendum on a sales tax to support its part of a planned regional transit system.
“We must also remind our neighbors to the east that we are truly one interconnected region that is home to millions of people who cress back and forth across all three counties each and every day,” Bell said.