About 50 percent of the city's $1.8 billion general fund budget is spent on salaries and benefits. Is there a way to address an accumulated deficit of at least $300 million and avoid the risk of insolvency without significantly reducing those worker costs? If not, by what percentage overall do you think they should be cut?
Before this can be addressed a forensic audit must be completed. This will show which city departments can be merged and/or eliminated and where improper use of funds and illegal activity are occurring. Currently, this is being called for by the unions and I believe this will provide clear direction on where cuts can occur.
Do you have any other ideas as to how the city can either significantly cuts costs or raise revenue?
Currently, The City Detroit spends nearly $80 million per year subsidizing the Department of Transportation. The Amalgamated Transit Union is in favor of combining resources with the SMART system. This would eliminate this subsidy from the budget and place us on the right path to balancing the budget.
The City of Detroit must be more aggressive in collecting court and attorney fees whenever the city is sued and wins. Not only will this help defray the cost of litigating these cases, it would also discourage people from filing frivolous lawsuits against the city.
As of July 2010 all new city employees (except police and fire) should be placed in a 401k plan. This would lower our pension costs.
The city leases office space for many departments to the tune of 100's of thousands of dollars per month. These departments should move into city owned buildings or these leases should be renegotiated to lower the costs.
One method to increase revenue is to enforce many of the laws and ordinances that are currently on the city's books. This includes fining and collecting from those who illegally place signs on public land and light poles.
The Detroit brand is very popular. It is on clothing, furniture, food, etc. Licensing a ".dtw" or ".det" domain is a minimal cost method of providing revenue to the city.
Would you support changing Detroit's city charter to allow district elections for some or all council members?
I strongly support council by districts. I am the only candidate that joined with the League of Women Voters early in the process to push for the ballot initiative. Specifically, I joined the communication committee that was tasked with shaping the message as to why Detroit needs to go back to council by district as well as how to effectively get media attention for the cause.
I believe that a hybrid system of 7 by district and 2 at large is a fair and equitable system.
The Detroit International Bridge Co. is attempting to purchase a section of Riverside Park so that it can build a new span adjacent to the Ambassador Bridge. At the same time, a publicly owned bridge is being planned for the Delray area. Explain your support for or objection to each plan.
Currently, the state of Michigan is in a severe deficit and to date has not budgeted the money necessary for a public/private bridge in the Delray area.
All parties involved must come together and agree on a plan that will benefit the southwest Detroit area and the Detroit International Bridge Company. The bridge company could build a new span with the guarantee of substantial investment in the community. This investment would include a plan that will keep truck traffic off of residential streets, the establishment of a recreation center and parks, new housing and a business park.
The City Council has twice voted to send the city's trash to landfills instead of the incinerator, and is exploring its legal options in an attempt to make that happen. The administration, meanwhile, is considering purchasing at least a share of the facility, and possibly all of it. As a council member, would you support or oppose continued use of the incinerator?
I oppose the use of the incinerator and would like the city to go to a 100% recycling plan and landfill. All other major cities have a substantial recycling plan and Detroit must do its part to become more environmentally friendly.
Given the city's fiscal crisis, what, if anything, would you do as a council member to help support the arts and culture in the city?
Detroit has a great arts culture. We are second in the nation in the number of theater seats and in the top 5 cities in the country in the number of art galleries. As a private citizen I support many cultural institutions in the city. As an elected public official I would not only be a strong supporter and patron of the arts but also find ways to bring more funding to our great art organizations.
What have you done personally or professionally to help advance civil rights, regional cooperation, race relations, poverty reduction, pro-environmental efforts, or any other similarly significant cause?
As a business owner I provide jobs to people of all races. I believe that one of the most substantial ways one can be part of the solution is to allow a person the opportunity to earn a wage that help provide a bright future for him/her and their family. Many people that I hire come directly from Detroit public schools and are trained in a professional environment. Some stay, while others go on to work for larger companies.
I am also an officer at my church, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, a board member of New Center Community Mental Health Services, which provides no cost mental health services to low-income residents. I package and deliver meals for meals on wheels, and am also involved in the Detroit Police Department's adopt a family program.
I am also a cofounder of a young boys mentoring group, Project Exposure, which mentors young boys from elementary school through adulthood.
As a council member, what could you do to help Detroit capitalize on the burgeoning green economy?
We must market the amount of vacant land in the city of Detroit for use by companies that provide "green collar" jobs. This includes encouraging renewable and alternative energy businesses to move into existing empty plants and/or buildings, marketing our existing population that is familiar with manufacturing processes (which can be easily changed to fit the green manufacturers requirements) and the potential to provide green services to an area of the country that needs to move quickly to catch up with the rest of the country.
What innovative ideas do you have in regard to dealing with the massive amounts of vacant and abandoned property in Detroit?
The majority of abandoned homes are owned by non-resident individuals, banks and real estate companies. They must be held accountable for the condition of their homes and severely fined if these homes are not kept to a certain standard.
The homes that are owned by the city that are in decent shape and within viable neighborhoods should be offered to city of Detroit police officers and firefighters for $1. We need to have these essential people live within the city of Detroit.
The Veteran's Administration provides money for housing for our valued veterans. Currently, the old Studebaker plant is being refurbished and designed to house veterans. Abandoned homes should be refurbished and offered as housing for our veterans using the money available from the VA.
Homes that are beyond refurbished should be deconstructed by firms that hire Detroit residents. The materials should then be recycled and used in other city projects.
Name one of your favorite movies about politics? What is it about this movie that made an impression?
The American President
This movie made a lasting impression on me for several reasons. It presented the compromises and tough decisions the president had to make to get one of his campaign promises enacted. It also presents how a team of people galvanize around their leader and dedicate themselves to his (and their) success. Finally, it shows how multifaceted one must be to be a successful politician.
What book dealing with politics or government — either fiction or nonfiction — would you recommend others read? Why?
Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, by Cornel West. I read it many years ago but it was very influential in developing my perspective on government and how we can form a better democracy.
What piece off music (other than Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On,") has affected you in a political, moral or social sense? Please explain why.
There are several songs that affected me in these ways. "Wakeup Everybody" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in its call for us to educate ourselves, get involved and change the world. James Brown's "I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open up the Door I'll Get It Myself") calls for equality and fairness, and, especially, his desire for self determination and self reliance. Finally, "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who in its call for change and the irony that after the revolution was successful and was televised the new boss is the same as the old boss.
What question should have been included in this, but wasn't? And what would your answer to that question be?
Question: "Do You Believe that Regional Cooperation is important to the survival of Detroit?"
Detroit has lost over 1 million people since 1950. Currently, Detroit is reported to have around 850,000 people and the US Census bureau is predicting that after the 2010, we will officially have 750,000 people. We will lose millions of dollars in funding from the Federal Government and possibly 2 – 3 congressional seats.
I would like to form a Regional Collaboration committee that will work to establish cooperative policies between Detroit and the surrounding cities. This includes finding ways to synergize services and purchases to lower costs and promote a climate of shared vision for the region. Detroit is the most important city in Michigan and laying the framework for ideas such as a Regional Transportation Authority to develop mass transit for the area, promotion of green manufacturing and a green lifestyle, effective use of technology and utilizing our international border and vast waterways to increase revenue in the region are all factors needed to move our region economically forward so that we can compete globally.