Published: Aug 26, 2012 07:10 PM
Modified: Aug 26, 2012 07:11 PM
DURHAM - Only two of six Durham County Commission candidates attended a Saturday forum intended to inform and engage local youth.
Incumbent Commissioner Brenda Howerton, a Democrat, and unaffiliated candidate Omar Beasley attended the 10 a.m. event at the Stanford L. Warren library.
Incumbents Michael Page and Ellen Reckhow, and Wendy Jacobs and Fred Foster – all Democrats – said they had scheduling conflicts.
The six candidates are vying for five seats in the November election. Commissioners serve four-year terms and earn $20,618 a year. The chairman earns $24,271.
The event was co-hosted by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People’s Youth Committee and the Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice, said Youth Committee Chairwoman Anita Keith-Foust. The event was unrelated to the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People’s pending political endorsement process.
“The intent was to be able to give our youth the ability to interview the candidates about issues that would impact the youth,” Keith-Foust said.
Keith-Foust, Howerton, Beasley, and 25-year-old moderator Courtney Jordan said they were disappointed the other candidates didn’t come.
“It is disheartening,” Jordan said.
“I guess it shows their priorities,” Beasley said.
Only four of the targeted youths attended, rounding out the total crowd to 15.
Candidates who didn’t attend said youths are a priority for them, but scheduling was a problem.
“It doesn’t mean we don’t care about the issue,” Page said by telephone.
Keith-Foust said the event was a first for the Youth Committee, which she is working to strengthen.
Some of the anticipated attendees may have been in a line down the street, where a limited number of tickets to President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at Democratic National Convention were being given away, she said.
During the 90-minute forum, Beasley and Howerton answered questions about leadership style, how leaders can create safe schools and why young adults should vote for them.
Beasley touted his volunteer work as a youth track and field coach and his service on the Durham Crime Cabinet and the Durham Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.
“I am also a bail bondsman,” Beasley said. “So, I care deeply about the youth not coming into the (legal) system.”
While the other candidates are on the November ballot after they won the May Democratic primary, Beasley gained his unaffiliated place by securing nearly 7,000 signatures from qualified voters.
Howerton, an executive coach and consultant who was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2008, said she is passionate about youth.
“I constantly look to see what is it we can do to impact their lives in a positive way,” she said.
Howerton also suggested that Durham County create a junior commissioner program for local youths.
Keith-Faust said the Youth Committee will review questionnaires and a recording of the forum, which she plans to submit to a local cable channel, in a process to endorse one of the candidates.