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Clement reaches milestone on Durham council

City Manager Tom Bonfield took a moment during his budget presentation last week to recognize a milestone: the 30th anniversary of Councilman Howard Clement’s tenure on the City Council.

Clement was not on hand, though, due to the extended illness that has kept him away from almost all council meetings since late 2011.

“Thank you for this longevity of service to the City Council and this community,” Bonfield said, addressing Clement who had promised to be watching on television.

Clement was appointed to a council vacancy in 1983 and has won election to the Ward 2 seat seven times. His current term expires this year.

“We miss your presence and hope to see you back with us soon,” Bonfield said. “Mainly, we want you to know this great milestone was not missed … because you could not be with us.”

Beasley will run for Clement seat

Omar Beasley, a bail bondsman who ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 2012, said this week he plans to run for the Ward 2 City Council seat currently occupied by Howard Clement.

Beasley said he made the decision to run for City Council soon after the November election. His campaign committee still has $1,320 in hand, according to a report filed Wednesday with the county Board of Elections.

Victoria Peterson, a citizen activist who has made unsuccessful bids for several offices in the past, said she is "looking at" a run for Ward 2 as well.

"I have not made a final decision but I have been thinking about it and I will be praying about it," Peterson said.

Clement has been on the City Council since 1982, the longest tenure of any council member in Durham history. However, health issues have caused him to miss all but a few council meetings for more than a year.

Clement makes Council comeback

After more than six months' absence, City Councilman Howard Clement was back in his seat for Monday night's meeting.

"It's good to be back, folks," he said. "It's good to be back."

Clement, Brown speak up on court feud

 The City Council doesn't have any authority over the courts in Durham, but two council members spoke their minds about the ongoing feud between District Attorney Tracey Cline and Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson.

"I've practiced law in this town for close to 39 years," said Councilman Howard Clement, "and I've never seen anything like this.

"I don't think the council can do anything specifically about it," Clement said, "but I just couldn't let the evening pass without mentioning it."

Last week, Cline accused Hudson of "moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption," and said she will seek to remove Hudson from overseeing any criminal case in Durham. Councilman Eugene Brown had similar comments.

"This has become an embarrassment that needs to be resolved in a fair and equitable manner as soon as possible," Brown said.

"We're better than this, folks. We're better than this."

Clement still pushing for city-county merger

City Councilman Howard Clement (below left) hasn't forgotten about city-county merger. He revived the subject in 2008 during a meeting of city and county officials, and brought it up again when they met again this week.

"I would like to know where we are," he said, reminding City Manager Tom Bonfield and County Manger Mike Ruffin that they were asked to be "looking into opportunities to merge our operations."

Bonfield mentioned fleet management and a fiber-optic network, and Ruffin mentioned purchasing as areas considered for cooperation.

"The process has not been concluded because it is a continuing process," Bonfield said.

Over the past three years, Clement has repeatedly spoken out in favor of a complete consolidation of city and county governments, an idea advanced from time to time since the mid-1920s. Twice, in 1961 and 1974, merger has gone to a public referendum and both times was overwhelmingly rejected.

"I know there's been resistance here in Durham to even consider merging operations," Clement said. He maintains, though, that combining governments would improve efficiency and save taxpayers' money.

"The question is not will we merge, the question is when we merge, how we merge," Clement said.

Councilman Eugene Brown, though, said the two managers' approach is a good one.

"It may seem incremental," Brown said, "but incremental progress is better than no progress at all."

Keep your job, but --

Police Chief Jose L. Lopez reported that the city’s crime rate reached a 10-year low when he spoke before the city council this week. At one point he referred to Durham as the greatest city in the world, eliciting a response from Councilman Howard Clement:

“You just earned a five-year extension on your contract,” Clement said.

“Does that come with a pay raise?” Lopez asked.

Clement replied, “I didn’t say that.”

Water supply has Clement concerned

With one warm, dry day after another, City Councilman Howard Clement is concerned about Durham's water supply.

The city's reservoirs are at only 79.5 percent capacity, he said at Monday night's council meeting.

"I was alarmed," he said. "That seems awfully low to me, and I don't see any prediction there's going to be any rain."

Clement (right) asked City Manager Tom Bonfield to have a report on the situation and what the city staff is doing about it in time for Thursday's work session.

Now, according to the Water Department's website at 1:30 this afternoon, Durham has 158 days' worth of "easily accessible, premium water" in Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir, plus 12 days' worth in the Teer Quarry. There's also 39 days' supply of water below the reservoirs' intakes that could be accessed with some effort. Total supply, 209 days.

That, however, is based on the past 30 days' average demand: 30.68 million gallons per day  Monday. September demand is averaging 31.72 mgd -- up more than 4 million gallons per day from the 27.36 average of September 2009.

Lake Michie is two feet below its 341-foot full point; Little River is 7.5 feet below full; those levels, though, are considerably higher than they were at this point in the major drought years of 2007, 2005 and 2002.

Clement, though, is thinking ahead.

"We need to take more proactive steps to deal with this," he said. "I just don't think we're in a position to go through what we did three years ago (below)."

Howard's heard enough

Bull's Eye correspondent Virginia Bridges reports:

During Thursday's City Council work session Thursday, Councilman Howard Clement asked whether the city could prevent the digital-billboard issue from coming before the council again, despite last Monday's unanimous vote against allowing them in town.

“In my 27 years on this council, there is one issue that has been consistently dealt with fairly and comprehensively,” Clement said.

“I don’t want to hear it again.”

City attorney Patrick Baker said that there is no such mechanism that could prevent someone from bringing the request back.

Clement: no tax support for beer festival

City Councilman Howard Clement (right) doesn't think much of having an annual World Beer Festival in Durham, and he made his feelings known during Friday's retreat on the city's 2010-11 budget.

When Deputy City Manager Ted Voorhees reported that the city spends $26,350 a year in set-up, take-down and maintenance services for the festival, Clement said, "Why should the taxpayers incur the cost?

"I'm not comfortable with that festival," Clement said. "I just don't think that adds to Durham's persona the way I would want Durham's persona reflected.

"I just hope in 2010 we have an opportunity to vote up or down on whether we should support this," he continued. "I vote no."

Steering committee wants more say in Rolling Hills/Southside project

The Rolling Hills/Southside Steering Committee staked a claim Tuesday for more say in the multi-million dollar redevelopment project.

"We're the ones who are going to have to be living with this," City Councilman Howard Clement said during the committee's meeting with Karl Schlachter and Esther Shinn of the development firm McCormack Baron Salazar.

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