Durham Mayor Steve Schewel will run for 2nd term. Here’s why.

Durham mayoral candidate Steve Schewel thanks supporters and his mom

Durham mayoral candidate Steve Schewel thanks supporters and his mom during his campaign election party. He and Farad Ali were competing to be Durham's next mayor.
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Durham mayoral candidate Steve Schewel thanks supporters and his mom during his campaign election party. He and Farad Ali were competing to be Durham's next mayor.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel will seek a second term.

His priorities as mayor have been helping to make Durham a welcoming, inclusive “progressive beacon for the South” and promoting affordable housing. Schewel wants voters to pass a $95 million affordable-housing bond referendum the City Council plans to put on the November ballot, too.

“I’m happy to tell you that I am planning to run. I am definitely planning to run for re-election,” he told The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun on Monday.

Local leaders in recent months had emphasized how important the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project was to Durham’s growth and affordable-housing plans. Even with light rail no longer happening, Schewel said the affordable housing bond is his first priority.

“That is what I hear from everyone in Durham all the time: that housing affordability and gentrification are still the number one issue in Durham,” he said.

Schewel was first elected to the Durham City Council in 2011. He also served on the Durham Public Schools Board of Education from 2004 to 2008.

A Duke University graduate, Schewel is a visiting assistant professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. He is the former owner of Indy Week, which he founded in 1983 as The Independent, a weekly alternative newspaper. He sold it in 2012. He also co-founded the Hopscotch Music Festival.

“It has been my great honor and joy to be the mayor of Durham for the past year-and-a-half,” Schewel said in his announcement. “I’m just getting started moving my agenda forward, and I’m running for re-election so I can help lead us towards the realization of our common vision — to make the city we love a city for all.”

People moving to Durham have driven up housing prices, but the housing bond could “create an affordable future for our city,” the mayor said. “And we will also greatly reduce the number of people who become homeless in Durham.”

The bond would fund a five-year plan that includes the redevelopment of downtown Durham public housing communities into mixed-income, mixed-use developments.

The mayor’s term is two years. The six other City Council seats — three ward seats and three at-large seats — are all four-year terms.

The 2017 mayoral race was a high profile one, given that former Mayor Bill Bell was not running for re-election after serving since 2001. Schewel faced challengers including then council member and businessman Farad Ali as well as local musical artist and activist Pierce Freelon.

Steve Schewel talks about his Durham mayoral campaign and making it through the primary. He was one of two top vote getters in the Durham municipal primary.

Along with Schewel’s mayoral term came four new council members. DeDreana Freeman, Mark-Anthony Middleton and Vernetta Alston all won their first terms in Wards 1, 2 and 3 seats respectively. And the new council appointed Javiera Caballero to Schewel’s council seat term, which ends in 2019. Caballero has already announced her first campaign to keep the at-large seat this fall. She is campaigning together with two other at-large incumbent council members — Jillian Johnson, who is mayor pro tem, and Charlie Reece.

With the mayor, that makes four seats — a majority of the council — on the ballot in November.

Schewel said other major issues of his re-election campaign will be:

“To continue to reduce violent crime in Durham at the same time that we have policing that wins the trust of communities, especially communities of color.”

“To work to ensure that everyone in Durham can share in our newfound prosperity.”

“To build a beautiful Phoenix that can rise from the ashes of the Durham-Orange Light Rail.”

Schewel said Durham needs to think carefully about how to proceed on transit and not rush into anything. He said figuring out what’s best for Durham could mean enhancing the existing bus system, along with bus rapid transit, commuter rail and new technologies.

“Certainly we need a transportation system [that is] affordable as well, and gets people out of cars, but affordable housing is the number one issue that I hear about the most,” he said.

Candidate filing starts July 5. The nonpartisan municipal primary is Oct. 8 and Election Day is Nov. 5.

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