Durham city council candidates at forum differ on marriage

Durham city council candidates at forum differ on marriage

By Harlan Brown
Oct. 23, 2011

Updated Oct. 28, 2011

DURHAM, NC — City Council candidates attending a public forum yesterday expressed differing viewpoints on the issue of marriage. When questioned on the subject, only one candidate defended the biblical definition of marriage.

Marriage amendment

Victoria Peterson was the sole city council candidate supporting the state marriage amendment, which reaffirms the traditional definition of marriage. "Marriage is defined in God's word," she said.

(The mayoral candidates were not questioned about the marriage issue yesterday. Sylvester Williams has supported the amendment throughout his campaign.)

Of the seven city council members (including the mayor) who voted unanimously in July of this year to condemn the marriage amendment passed earlier by the North Carolina General Assembly, three are running for reelection. The marriage amendment, which goes to the voters in May of next year, reads as follows:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

In yesterday's forum, Solomon Burnette said that marriage is not a local issue and that he would abstain from such a vote.

Opposition to the marriage amendment

Eugene Brown said that he opposes the amendment because it is "unnecessary" and "divisive."

Steve Schewel said, "I support same-sex marriage."

Diane Catotti said, "I strongly support same-sex marriage."

Donald Hughes, who was not present at Saturday's forum, has previously taken a stand in opposition to the amendment.

The three incumbents who oppose the amendment and are up for reelection are Mayor William (Bill) Bell and council members Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown.

Right to life

The right-to-life issue was mentioned only indirectly in the questions to candidates. Bell and Williams were asked regarding the documentary Maafa 21, which has been banned from the Durham County Library: "Although the county and not the city funds the library, do you think it is appropriate for the mayor to speak out against such censorship?"

Both candidates said that they are against censorship. Williams indicated his awareness that Maafa 21 documents the use of abortion to commit black genocide, and he expressed concern that such information is being suppressed. Bell seemed unfamiliar with the content of the documentary.

Maafa 21 traces the history of black genocide in the United States. It has been shown to the congressional Black Caucus and at North Carolina Central University. It documents the targeting of blacks for birth control, sterilization, and abortion and includes an interviews with various persons, including Elaine Riddick, one of the African American females sterilized by North Carolina's former eugenics program.

Tax increase

Six of the seven candidates who participated in Saturday's forum said that they support the county’s proposed half-percent sales-tax surcharge for public transit. The lone exception was Sylvester Williams. Although the candidates were questioned only about the transit tax, incumbent Diane Catotti volunteered that she also supports the proposed additional quarter-percent county sales and use tax.

The following table summarizes candidate information:

Candidate When right to life begins Marriage amendment Tax increase Website and email Phone (919)
Mayor (Vote for one)
William V. (Bill) Bell At birth Against For www.ci.durham.nc.us/mayor; wbell51126@aol.com 544-5597
Sylvester Williams Conception (fertilization) For Against www.sylvesterwilliamsformayor.com; info@sylvesterwilliamsformayor.com 596-2682
City Council (Vote for up to three)
Eugene A. Brown See footnote1 Against For www.ci.durham.nc.us/council/brown.cfm; teton@earthlink.net 688-9314
Solomon Burnette See footnote2 Abstain3 For www.SolomonBurnette.com; sburnetteforcitycouncil@gmail.com 638-6923
Diane Catotti "I am pro-choice" Against For www.dianecatotti.com; campaign@dianecatotti.com 490-0984
Donald Hughes At birth Against For www.HughesforDurham.com; hughes4durham@gmail.com 410-7721
Victoria Peterson Conception (fertilization) For For4 petersonforpublicoffice.weebly.com; vbpeterson@nc.rr.com 949-3867
Steve Schewel "I am pro-choice" Against For steveschewel.com; steveschewel@gmail.com 286-0116
  1. Eugene Brown: The right-to-life issue "has nothing to do with city council. That's above our pay grade! ($18,000)."
  2. Burnette: "Life is precious. Everyone's choice takes consideration."
  3. Burnette: "My upbringing, faith, and ideology place me squarely within the exclusive endorsement of heterosexual union. We must also make sure that no one's civil liberties are infringed upon. If asked to vote on this position, I would probably abstain so as not to offend many friends."
  4. Peterson said that she supports the tax only if the City Council puts it in writing that Durham contractors and subcontractors will given first priority in the jobs to be created and that at least 60% of the workers will be from Durham.

Saturday's forum was sponsored by the HK on J Local People’s Assembly. Fred Foster, president of the Durham chapter of NAACP, was moderator. The event was held at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Weaver St.

Another forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at North Carolina Central University.

According to the Durham County Board of Elections website, Durham's municipal general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 8, from 6:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m., and early voting (One Stop No Excuse Absentee Voting), which began Thursday, Oct. 20, is being held at the following locations:

  • Board of Elections Office at 706 W. Corporation St. Durham, NC 27701
  • North Regional Library at 221 Milton Rd. Durham, NC 27712
  • South Regional Library at 4505 S. Alston Ave. Durham, NC 27713
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