Like so many other things in our lives, work on the Comprehensive Plan has been impacted and slowed by COVID-19. We recognize the importance of this work towards a more equitable Durham as even more essential now as COVID-19 has most heavily impacted our low–wealth residents and residents of color because of systemic racism and inequity. We also know that because of how this pandemic is impacting residents, this is an even more challenging time to equitably engage our community.
Back when we thought this pandemic might be short-lived, there was a commitment to wait on engagement and any final decisions for the plan until in-person engagement was safe again. Over the summer, we’ve realized that it may be many months before in-person engagement is safe. In response, we started developing equitable engagement strategies with the Office of Performance and Innovation (OPI) and Neighborhood Improvement Services (NIS) to try out. These engagement sessions were held with community rooted partners – folks who were already meeting virtually and had a relationship with NIS. These were opportunities to better understand the possibilities and challenges of engagement during this time.
In August, we shared what we learned with the Joint City-County Planning Committee (JCCPC) and together determined that continuing to move forward with engagement to develop goals and objectives is necessary. We will continue to monitor and provide updates on how that engagement is going to the JCCPC and through these news posts.
It has been a challenge to share information during this time as things shift and change so quickly that information is often out-of-date or incorrect just as a we begin to develop communication around it. However, we are committed to share information more regularly going forward, knowing that at times that information may change as the reality of the pandemic changes.
Upcoming Engagement (Comprehensive Plan and Transit Plan)
In addition to continuing to work with the community rooted partners, we are getting ready to begin further engagement for the Comprehensive Plan. The rich input we received during the first phase of engagement are the foundational piece of out next phase, writing Goals and Objectives for the Comprehensive Plan. We will share more information on this process soon! Concurrently, the Transit Plan team has formed objectives for the new Transit Plan for resident input.
The Planning and Transit teams are creating coordinated community input opportunities through a survey and engagement ambassador work. The two most discussed topics in our first engagement sessions were Transit and Housing. These topics will be the focus of the work of Engagement Ambassadors. If you are interested in being an engagement ambassador – please reach out here.
We are also getting a digital engagement website in place for the Comprehensive Plan project called Social Pinpoint. This site will help to create more transparency in the process of developing objectives and will be an opportunity to broadly engage residents around work forming objectives and goals for the Comprehensive Plan. There will be online opportunities for comment on the Transit Plan goals and objectives as well.
Anti-Racist Action Update
In June we shared out an Anti-Racist Action plan for the City/County Planning Department. We have been making progress on those commitments during this time and want to share an update. Since early July, Planning staff have had four hours per month of work time to dedicate to anti-racist learning and optional weekly shared anti-racist learning and discussion sessions. Work has begun through the Department’s Racial Equity Workgroup (DREW) to developing a racial equity action plan for the department. In addition the DREW is working with staff and management towards revising the department’s mission statement, developing a racial equity pledge for management, revising our hiring, contracting, and purchasing practices, and trying to better understand impacts of COVID-19 on racial inequity in Durham. We also continue to work to incorporate the Equitable Community Engagement Blueprint into our engagement strategies, working in coordination with NIS.