Thursday, January 11, 2007

Right Person, Right Time

I suppose any of us at any time could be the “right person at the right time,” but few step forward. E’Vonne Coleman-Cook did. Since her days as head of the Durham Arts Council, E’Vonne has participated in discussions DCVB has led over the last 16 years to shape consensus about uses for a 1% prepared food/meals tax.

Now everyone knows that, when a funding source is on the table, people act crazy, often losing any sense of logic or fairness.

As chair of the DCVB Tourism Development Authority, E’Vonne stood firm and prevented the process from fragmenting into political push and shove and zero-sum thinking.

Sure she was adamant for the portion for tourism marketing to protect and grow this new revenue stream and to offset the burden on the businesses shouldering the tax. But she seized her intimate understanding of Durham’s cultural landscape to argue just as passionately for its sustainability. While some began to dismiss and attack the needs of others in favor of their own and others dove under the table to avoid anything controversial, E’Vonne stood strong and vehement in support of each of the allocations including workforce training, beautification and cleanup.

E’Vonne was also relentless in advocating for the need for additional funding sources that can help relieve the burden on local governments and free up general fund revenues for core services.

There is still a long way to go and the carping and backstabbing may not subside. Many people live only on one-way streets. But if this new funding source comes to be, no one will deserve more credit than E’Vonne. It takes courage and integrity to stand up for what’s right and what’s fair. She was the right person at the right time to shape a new funding source that not only is fair to those who will pay it but also may just be the salvation for Durham’s unique cultural identity and sense of place for decades to come.

People like E’Vonne who think holistically and free of special interests, yet are willing to be firm when many are selling out, are the people who have and will continue to make Durham great.

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