‘Building the Future, Honoring the Legacy’: City Council Candidate AJ Williams Focuses on Community Solutions to Public Safety
Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of profiles of candidates for mayor and city council. Check back for more throughout the week.
Durham City Council Ward III candidate AJ Williams wants to unite community members as he works to reduce violence, tackle the affordable housing crisis and honor the history of the city.
Williams, a native of Durham, said his platform “will gain buy-in from community leaders, church leaders, elected officials, community organizers, families.” He hopes to bring together community members and leaders for the purpose of “holistically [changing] the way we think about public safety.
Its gun violence prevention plan focuses on addressing fundamental issues of criminalized behavior such as poverty, mental illness, homelessness and unemployment. He also plans to invest in community initiatives as an alternative to policing.
“We need to be prepared to invest more, in an equivalent and meaningful way, in community solutions, as we are doing in law enforcement,” said Williams. “The real solution comes from changing the living conditions of people where people are not in a state of despair, grief, hunger or homelessness. These are the things that cause people to engage in criminal behavior. “
Specifically, he wants to allocate funds from the police budget to the hiring of skilled and unarmed health workers and increase funding for the community safety and well-being working group, which works on prevention and community intervention as alternatives to maintaining order.
Currently, community security accounts for 3.25% of the public security budget, while the police account for just over 55%.
Another major goal of the Williams platform is to increase the supply of affordable housing in Durham. He hopes to work with local state-level delegates to overturn preventative state laws that are slowing Durham’s enactment of policies that create more affordable housing, he said.
Williams wants to implement inclusionary zoning, where developers can set aside a percentage of their units as affordable housing units. In addition, he wants to fight the ban on rent controls, which allows rent increases at any time and threatens the housing of low to middle income residents.
Another of Williams’ solutions to the affordable housing crisis is to set up a committee focused on developer accountability and oversight. The committee would be led by members of the community and would aim to establish “a standard for developers who wish to invest in our city”.
“The reason the city is so rich and amazing is because of the people there. If you push these people away, it won’t have the same texture, ”Williams said. He explained that this proposal would help protect Durham’s historically black neighborhoods and neighborhoods.
Williams’ passion for the city of Durham extends beyond his own life, he said, as his family has been here for four generations. His grandparents lived in the historic community of Crest Street and he spent a lot of time in Haiti as a child.
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Beyond his own roots in Durham, Williams said he feels a cultural connection to the historical legacy and the rich cultural fabric that makes up Durham. Its slogan for the campaign is “Build the future. Honor the legacy.