2 Durham leaders cancel Costa Rica trip after backlash from McDougald Terrace families

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Two Durham city council members who were planning a city-funded trip to Costa Rica this week have canceled their plans after families displaced from McDougald Terrace spoke out to CBS 17.

City council members Jillian Johnson and Javiera Caballero had planned to go to Costa Rica on February 7 as part of a sister city cultural exchange.

But on January 22, CBS 17 spoke with McDougald Terrace resident Ashley Canady who called it “disgusting” that two city leaders were going to Costa Rica while hundreds of families remained displaced due to the problems with carbon monoxide.

“When they’re over there, they’re going to be having a good time, while we are still living over here in poverty,” Canady said. “We are still living with mold, we are still living with carbon monoxide issues, that is unacceptable.”

CBS 17 did an open records request and found that the city council members planned to spend nearly $1,000 on plane tickets and $643 on hotel rooms

City officials told CBS 17 that they learned the money comes out of the Durham City Council members’ travel budgets and the funds cannot legally go toward making repairs to Durham Housing properties. 

After CBS 17’s story aired, the city leaders decided not to go to Costa Rica.

Jillian Johnson told the Herald Sun, she did not want to be “insensitive to the situation at McDougald Terrace.”

Briana Holloway was displaced from McDougald Terrace and on January 10 she gave birth to her son while she was staying in a hotel.

Holloway said she doesn’t think it was right the two city council members planned to go in the first place.

“I don’t feel like that’s right because we are in a crisis right now,” Holloway said.

She said she thinks the pair have now made the right decision not to go.

“I guess they don’t want to go now because people spoke up about it,” Holloway said. “They know it’s not right for them to be going up there splurging money when people down here are in a crisis because of them.”

City council member Jillian Johnson told CBS 17 last week that once they get a request from DHA for more funding, they would do what they could to help the families at McDougald Terrace.

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