CHAPEL HILL — Dante “D.C.” Swinton wants to bring a new perspective and fresh ideas to the Chapel Hill Town Council.
At 25, he wouldn’t be the youngest person on the council; Lee Storrow was 22 when elected in 2011. But Swinton said he would represent many residents who are not regularly heard: young, black, working class and unemployed, non-student bus riders. He’s also a relative newcomer, having moved here last year from his native Greenville, S.C.
Older candidates may have experience, but that doesn’t mean they have all the answers, he said. Swinton said he’s always had ideas for improving places.
“I pride myself on that. Even though I’ve only been here since August 2012, I’ve always observed the community and think what could be better about it,” he said.
His top issue: Building local support and resources for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. He also wants to improve local and regional bus routes, encourage more conversations and develop affordable housing, businesses and jobs that will keep the local population socially and economically diverse.
This is not his first campaign. He ran unsuccessfully for the S.C. House of Representatives in 2010 and 2011. He would like to be governor one day, he said.
Chapel Hill leaders are very progressive but need to go into the neighborhoods and talk to people who lack time and money to be politically involved, he said.
One of those under-served groups is sexual and domestic violence survivors, he said.
Swinton was raised by three women – his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – and has friends who’ve survived sexual violence. He’s also an Orange County Rape Crisis Center volunteer.
“It’s very traumatic and it’s very embarrassing, and people feel very ashamed of themselves,” he said. “I don’t like the fact that we don’t have a community that allows for people that are affected that way to feel that if they say something they will get justice.”
Orange County survivors face a number of hurdles, he said. Protective orders are only available on Wednesdays when the Hillsborough magistrates’ office is open, he said. The one bus from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough has limited hours, and there’s no local shelter for battered women or place for the children affected by violence, he said.
Better transportation also is vital, for social and economic diversity and to reduce traffic’s effects on the environment, he said.
Swinton is a regular bus rider and doesn’t support building a light-rail line line from UNC Hospitals to downtown Durham. The money should fund more bus routes and hours, which also will attract new businesses, he said.
Swinton left his part-time job with the town’s Parks and Recreation Department to run for the council. Before that, the environmental studies graduate held a variety of retail and restaurant jobs. Commercial development will help the town’s tax base but also give more residents more job opportunities, he said.
The town should ask for what it wants, whether that’s energy-efficient buildings, affordable housing or density, while avoiding long-term tax incentives that can be harmful, he said.
“I feel like there are ways to build up without obstructing too much of the view, and that we should not push those buildings right out to the town’s edge. We can find places within town limits that could be developed and these developments would be very sustainable,” Swinton said.